Thursday, March 7/19– Janet flew down to Toronto from Ottawa a day early. Craig Travel preferred she do that to make sure she was there for our flight tomorrow. Ottawa weather has been very bad this year. She stayed overnight at the Airport Hilton. It is only a minute or two from the airport. Quite large room with a king sized bed. Only downfall were the very expensive prices in the restaurant at the hotel. The person on the plane beside her turned out to be Mrs. Woolaver from Grimsby. She had just returned from Capetown two weeks ago where she was visiting her daughter who is a professor there. She showed Janet photos of some places we will be going to. Her husband is the Anglican priest in Grimsby who I have met before.
Friday, March 8 to March 9
I was up at 6:30, had breakfast. Janet had ham and eggs for breakfast at the Hilton Airport Hotel. The Airbus was supposed to pick me up at 8:20 but came at 8:50. The Air Canada flight to Washington was delayed because one of the lavatories had to be fixed. Apparently it was frozen. We were supposed to leave at 2:10 and we finally departed about 4 pm. We flew low over Oakville and then Burlington and the Niagara peninsula. It was neat to see the escarpment covered with snow. Lake Ontario was blue but Lake Erie was all white, still frozen.
When we arrived in Washington it was snowing. We got off the Toronto flight had to walk quickly to make our South Africa Airways flight but were kept waiting on the tarmac for a slot to have the pI lane de-iced. We were supposed to leave Washington at 5:40 but finally took off about 7:30 pm. Once up we were given supper. I had the chicken, Janet had meatballs and pasta. I watched the movie, A Star is Born but it was hard to hear because at times, the noice of the plane was unusually loud. We stopped in Dakar, Senegal about 2:30 am our time to let some passengers off and to refuel and change the crew. They thanked us and ended their speech with “God Bless”. Very nice and they serve really good tea! We saw the sunrise and very dry dessert below. There is now a 7 hour time difference.
We then flew another 7 hours to Johannesburg. I had to go to the bathroom so badly, found a washroom but then had to run to catch up. We had to get our luggage and check in and then run like we were on The Amazing Race to get the connection to Cape Town. We made it and flew another 2.5 hours landing in Cape Town about 5pm Cdn time March 9th – 27 hours from when we were supposed to leave Toronto! A bus drove us to The Presidents Hotel where we checked in and went to bed.
Sunday, March 10 – Cape Town
We had breakfast in the hotel and were ready to leave by 8 a.m. because there is a huge International Bike Marathon with approximately 40,000 bikers in it so a lot of the streets will be closed to today. We boarded the bus and drove around the city because Table Mountain was closed. There was a large white cloud sitting on top of it like a tablecloth. It was also very windy so the optional boat ride to Robbens Island was cancelled.
Cape Town was built because Dutch and English ships sailing east for spices needed to stop and refresh their stores of fruits and vegetables so the sailors did t get scurvy. Sailors could see Table Mountain from 250 kms away. The mountain is 1589 m high and very flat on top. The population of Cape Town is 4 – 4.5. million. In 2003 Cape Town was voted the best city in the world. But now the unemployment rate is 27%, and up to 42% in some areas and for the young it is 67%. There are 13 million illegals living in South Africa. We drove by a several very poor sections of shanty towns where every third shack is inhabited by illegals. There are some Govt housing projects but the people have to be taught how to clean and look after the house as many have never lived in one before. They have 360 days of sun but solar power is very expensive.
Businesses are pulling out because of the crime, there are beggars on the streets. They blame ex president Jacob Zuma for the corruption and bad decisions. He had 4 wives and many girlfriends and 22 children. South African Airways has been bailed out of bankruptcy 5 times. Many other big businesses like the transport, and electric are also going bankrupt, partly because of the BEP Black Economic Power. McDonald’s is solely BEP. We passed the hospital where Dr. Christian Bernard performed the first heart transplant.
The bus dropped us off at the waterfront where we were free to wander around and shop. Then we all met at 1 pm at the Quay Four restaurant. The choice was fish curry or steak (Janet had) or feta cranberry tart which is what I had. Even though we had ordered ahead, it took a long time for the meal to come, but we were told this is how things are in SA, very relaxed! After lunch Table mountain was still closed so we drove to the Kiershbosch Botanical Gardens. Our guide showed us around pointing out native species of plants and flowers. It started to drizzle rain. Janet had forgotten her jacket and we both forgot our umbrellas. The bus took us back to the hotel where it got very windy and rainy. We went to our room for a bit and then down to the restaurant for supper. Two ladies from Collingwood joined us.
We heard one of the cyclists was killed on the bike ride yesterday. Also a Ethiopian Boeing jet crashed on its way to Kenya, 157 dead and 18 were Canadians.
Monday, March 11 – Cape Town & Penguins
We had to be up early to catch the bus at 7:30 so we could try and fit everything in that we didn’t do yesterday. Table Mountain was foggy again so we drove north to Bantry Bay. Beautiful houses overlooking the sea where celebrities like Paul McCartney, Oprah, Charlize Theron and Steffie Graffe reside. Michael Jackson wanted to build on the coast but they turned him down. Cape Town is 70% gay. We carried on to Hout Bay which means wood. There is a section of shantys that were being evicted but one of the rich sections caught on fire. The people from the shantytown helped out out the fire so they were allowed to stay. We drove along .chapmans Road, one of the worlds most scenic drives. There are 3500 bird species. No one is allowed to buy the scenic parts. Oprah tried to buy the Sentinel rock but the people protested so loudly they couldn’t have the auction so it was squashed. Ryan’s Daufhter was filmed on the beach here. There are 45 lighthouses, some still manned. The white homes with gray roofs are the old Dutch architecture. The blacks say the nations, sport of SA is soccer but the whites say it is rugby. Ballroom dancing is second. We continued on to Simons Town which was a naval base. Quirky, creative, hippie types, book lovers live here.
We stopped at Boulders Beach where there is a penguin colony. SA penguins bray like a donkey. For a little bird they can be very loud! We walked down a path in the wind and the rain to see them. Penguins mate for life after a 3 week courtship. Some were sitting on eggs and some had babies. Janet went a little too close to one and it bit her leg! There were also many black gannets sitting on the rocks. The wind was blowing our umbrellas inside out. On the way back through the flooded path I had a heart palpitation but it went away. We drove to Simons Town and lunch was on our own. We found a cafe and I had pizza while Janet had lasagna.
There are 3 capes, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point and Cape McLear. We drove to Cape Point first and rode the funicular to the top where we hiked around the stairs overlooking the cliffs. I climbed up to the lighthouse at the top. We rode the funicular back down to the bottom. There were some gray baboons sitting on the sign. We also saw groups of baboons along the side of the road. We drove on to the Cape of Good Hope. Sir Francis Drake made this famous. On the way we were thrilled to see 11 elands on the side of a hill. Beverly the guide had never seen this before! We also glimpsed a caracel, a red predator cat with long ears and a bald headed ibis. The Cape of Good Hope is called the fairest I. The world and is very green. The nature reserve is 7715 hectares with 40 kms of coastline. Cape Hope is where the 2 oceans, the Atlantic and Indian meet. It is the most southerly tip of the continent. Cape Point is where the 2 currents meet. We passed 2 old stone crosses erected by the Portuguese.
We returned to Cape Town for a short city tour. We saw the steps where over 100,000 people came to see Nelson Mandela give his first public speech after he was finally released from prison. We stopped at St. George’s Anglican Church which was the see of Bishop Tutu who now lives in Toronto. We admired the only black Madonna in SA. We then rushed through the archway made up of 14 wood arches representing the 14 black tribes and is a tribute to Desmond Tutu. We passed the House of Parliament where our guide regaled is with stories of meeting Bishop Tutu and being a guide for the Queen and becoming friendly with her footman. We then hurried on to the museum and got there just as it was closing but they let us in and she gave us a quick history of ancient cave drawings etc.
We returned to the hotel to freshen up and then went out to dinner at The Africa Cafe. It was decorated with African Art and the waitresses were dressed up and their faces painted. They came around and painted all the ladies faces too. We were served bowls of typical foods from different parts of Africa along with some good African wine. We went right to sleep when our heads hit the pillows.
Tuesday, March 12 – Stellenbosch
We had breakfast and were on the road by 8. It was rainy and foggy, so couldn’t go up Table Mountain. We drove passed shantytowns where 13 out of every 100 people have HIV. If you die of HIV it does not state it on the death certificate because there is still a stigma. There are 17 million on social services grants. There are 14 black tribes and Zulu is the largest. There are 11 official languages. On the drive to Stellenbosch winery we saw antelopes, mountain zebra and guinea fowls.
Stellenbosch is a large winery on over 2000 hectares of land. Besides grapes they also raise free range chickens and Angus Beef. The grapes are picked by hand. We were given a tour of the red cellars where over 2 million bottles of wine are produced. We saw the oak barrels and also the wine library where so many bottles are housed for the owners each year so they can check on how the wine if progressing. We then went in the large house for a wine tasting. We tasted 5 different wine starting with white, rose and then red. Next we drove to Roca for lunch. Janet and I both had the sirloin steak. It was very good. We then drove 4.5 hours through the mountains to Mimosa Lodge, Montagu. We didn’t have supper as we were still full from lunch. It is a quaint hotel with rickety stairs and not many lights and plugs that didn’t work.
Wednesday, March 13 – oudtshoorn
We left the Mimosa Lodge at 9 am today. It used to be the Town brothel. About 9 passengers were feeling sick this morning so Jim, the tour guides husband had gone to the store and bought Imodium and pepto Bismal for anyone who wanted it. We drove about 20 minutes when one of the ladies, Nancy Cleveland became very ill, she got up to go to the bathroom on the bus and couldn’t make it and fainted in the aisle right beside Janet. We yelled for the bus driver to stop. He pulled over and they got her water etc. Some of the others were really feeling sick so the tour guide decided to go back to Montegu because there was a doctor there. We drove back and everyone who was feeling sick got off. The bus took the rest of us back into town where we walked around. We went to the pharmacy and got some hand sanitizer and used their restroom.
After about an hour everyone was back on the bus. The doctor had given them a shot and told them not to eat anything for 24 hours. He told them to drink some coke. We carried on through the Karoo or semi desert. World reknowned lamb is produced here. There are 18,000 farmers that farm 14 million sheep. In the black Culture a man has to pay for his wife, regular payment is 11 cows. The more children a man has, the richer he is. His children are his pension, they will look after him in old age. The women do all the cooking, putting cow dung on the floor to dry hard, thatching the roofs, looking after the kids, washing. The men only look after the livestock and protect their family. This is why they sometimes have 3 or 4 wives because the women have so much work to do. Ronnie has 1 wife and 4 children.
We drove to the next little town where we had a break and Janet and I purchased some Rooibis Tea which is supposed to be very good for stomach troubles and different things. We drove on another 1.5 hours until we reached the VonKraas Winery. Here we sat outside in the shade of a grapevine arbor and tasted 4 different kinds of port wine. Port wine has brandy alcohol added to it to make it stronger. We were each given a platter with bread, cheese, curry chutney, figs, olives, grapes, ham and ginger jelly. It was delicious!
After lunch we carried on another 1.5 hours to the Queens Hotel in Oudtshoorn. We got our rooms and then went down to the pool about 5 pm. The air was warm but the water was a bit cold but not bad, quite a few of us went in swimming. Then we walked down to the Pic and Pay store to buy our supper.
Thursday, March 14- Ostriches
Janet was up most of the night with diarrhea and a nauseous stomach. I went and got Karen the tour guide who said there were others going to the hospital at 8:30. So Janet decided to go too. I had a cup of tea and a piece of toast in the lounge and then we boarded the bus to go to the Congo Caves. We walked around the caves with a guide, but each chamber got smaller and smaller. The 4th and last chamber was very crowded and hot and I was feeling claustrophobic when suddenly Sheryl fainted! The cave guide cut the tour short and we walked all the way back out. I was hot and breathing heavy by the time I got to the bus. Once I cooled down, I was alright.
We returned to the hospital to pick up the sick people, except for Margie and Karen as they are keeping Margie overnight again. They had run blood tests on her, given some of the IV drips, shots, pills etc. Janet was feeling a bit better but was really tired.
We drove to the Ostrich Farm where we walked around and learned about them. They are the largest flightless bird in the world. They are curious and like shiny objects and they eat stones and things to help with their digestion. At one time 1 kilo of ostrich feathers cost more than an ounce of gold. Their eggs can hold 230 kilos. The meat has no chorestoral, only the eggs do. One ostrich egg equals 24 chicken eggs! They are vegetarians and don’t drink much water as they are desert birds. They live to be 60-70 years old. There are 180 ostrich farms in SA. The leather made from their skins never wears out and is made into purses, wallets, belts. It is smooth if you run your hand one way and rough the other, also the flaps can be lifted – not with plastic. We had lunch at the ostrich farm, carrots, white corn which was like homily, salad, buns, and an ostrich steak. Unfortunately so many weren’t feeling well so a lot of the food went to waste. Even Beverley the guide was t feeling well.
We drove a couple of hours up the coast of the Indian Ocean to the Protea Knishna Hotel. Janet didn’t want any supper so I went down to the bar and found some of the others and had a chicken salad like they were having. Then back to bed. Have pains in my stomach and feel tired.
Friday, March 15 – Rest Day.
We were supposed to rest this morning and then go to the food kitchen, and the crèche (kindergarten)where some kids would entertain us and then have supper in a local family home. The feeding scheme is in a large garage where they cook food to hand out once a day at 2 pm. The kids line up and receive their bag of food and take it home to share. It is supported by Canadians but since we are all sick, we can’t do this as we don’t want to make them sick because they don’t have access to a doctor or medication or anything so we are just resting at the hotel today. It is on a lagoon with sail boats and has a nice heated pool.
Janet was feeling much better today but I was not feeling good. I had bad cramps and couldn’t eat. I had tea and toast for breakfast. We sat around the heated pool and read until noon. I went up to put my swimsuit on and hydro went off. SA is very short on hydro, they predict they will have none by April 2020. Most hotels have generators for when the hydro goes off for a few hours. When I came back down 5 of the group plus Bev were going to the doctor so I said I would go too. We walked to this nice clean clinic where a lady doctor fit us in between regular patients. She pushed on my lower stomach and it hurt. She gave me 5 prescriptions, an antibiotic, a probiotic, an anti cramp one, a hydrator and another hydrator. When we were all done we walked to the pharmacy and stood in line for a long time to get them filled. The cost was 500 ZAR ($34 US)for the doctor and 468 rand ($43 Cdn) for the drugs I was not feeling good, just wanted to go lie down but then we had to walk all the way back to the hotel.
I found Janet in our room and we ate our banana and dry toast we had pilfered from lunch and then went back to the pool, swam and read until supper time. We walked around the waterfront and found a restaurant and ordered a seniors portion of chicken fingers and fries. Then we went back to the room and I went to sleep. I woke up at 10:20 pm and thought it was morning!
Saturday, March 16 – Bus and Airplane
We woke up at 5 and packed up and had breakfast. Janet was not feeling well again, had diarrhea, thinks she ate too much yesterday. She just had tea for breakfast. I had one egg and one piece of toast, yogurt and tea. We drove along the coast through a nature reserve with mauve mountains in the distance past some gorges, and over a bridge that has the highest bungee jump in the world. Further on we stopped at a gorge and walked across the bridge, around and under and back the other side.
We had a short tour of Port Elizabeth because we were a little early. It is the third windiest city in SA and the population in 4 million, mostly Afrikaaners. It has a large automotive industry, making BMWs, (66% of Mercedes Benz are made here) and Volkswagen’s. The British brought 520000 of their own horses here when settling it but 300 k of them died because they couldn’t eat the hay that was here, too dry. We drove past railway lines that are all in disrepair, and left to rust.
We continued on to the airport to find our flight has been delayed 50 minutes ( the story of this trip!). We arrived in Durban about 3 pm and drove to our Protea Marriott hotel in ————. We walked down the street to the Beach and waded in the Indian Ocean! There were lots of families with kids swimming and playing in the water, some were fishing off the rocks. The waves were quite rough, the water was not warm but not cold. We stayed until the sun set and then walked back up to the hotel and changed for a buffet supper.
Sunday, March 17 – Durban
We left at 7:30 after breakfast for a city tour of Durban. A lot of the city is built on top of where sugar cane plantations used to be. It is very humid in the summer months. It is a wealthy city, 7 th best place to live and is the busiest port on the African continent. There are 450 km of shark nets along the beaches. The nets are knitted by the blind and are checked daily for trapped sharks. If found alive, they are freed but if dead they are taken to sell as food mostly to Asians. South Africa has 6% of the land mass of Africa but supplies 38% of the food. It feeds Zimbabwe.
It is a very English part of the country, discovered by Vasco de Gama on Christmas Day so was called Natal. It is now called Kwazulunatal. The British arrived in 1823. The Zulu boundary was 100 kms north of Durban and they tolerated the British because they traded with them. The Zulu are anti ANC, nobody tells the Zulu what to do!
We drovenorth of Durban on the King Shaka Highway through fields and fields of sugar cane. There are 3 silos in Durban port that contain 600,000 kilos of sugar and 1500 kilos are shipped out daily to Canada, England etc.
The Zulu Chief owns 6 million hectares of sugar cane plantation in trust now and makes a fortune renting the land to his own people to farm. King Shaka was born frail, illegitimate and because of this was bullied when a kid. He grew to be 6 ft 6 inches tall. He took over, and united the Zulu nation, stopped all circumsism. He got rid of the leather thongs the men wore as shoes to harden their feet. He controlled his warriors, he was disciplined, ruthless and his own people were afraid of him but they also revered him. He was killed by his half brother when he was 41. A good book to read about Mandela is “Goodbye Bafana” by Gregory. Wedrive on to Ghost Mountain Spa. We are all on the ground floor in a compound with 2 swimming pools. We had a delicious supper of lamb, chicken, curry, rice, salad, dessert.
Monday, March 18 – Safari and Zululand
The alarm went off as usual at 5:37am. We sprayed ourselves with Deet, had breakfast and at 7, boarded 4 land rovers (9-10 people each)for our safari into Makuzi Nature Reserve. Our guide was a Zulu named Patrick who spoke very good English and was very knowledgeable. We saw monkeys, impalas, wildebeest, zebras, Nyla’s (brown with stripes), Kudo, and giraffes but we missed the elephants. We went to a blind at a watering hole where there were turtles in the water and all the animals came to drink but not the elephants. The birds we saw were: Franklins, 2 blue starlings, red back shrike, black and white swallows, grey bird in the thorns, a yellow bird with red, and we heard the other one see pics. We also saw a giant carrion flower that is pretty but stinks like death.
We returned at noon, not and sweaty, had lunch and then I went for a quick swim in the pool. It was very refreshing and then got changed to go on the Zulu culture tour. Janet opted out and decided to relax by the pool instead. At 2:30 we headed out in the land rovers again. We drove for about 45 minutes up and around the mountains on a winding dirt road. It was cooler up there. We finally arrived at a little village of Zulu and were shown into one family’s area where we met Justice who told us all about his culture. The round huts are the spirit huts where the eldest zulu goes to pray to his ancestors. The door is low so that you have to bend down and so are. bowing to the ancestors opposite the door.
The other square huts are rooms of the house but instead of having them all under one roof like we do, they have them separated because in ancient times if someone was attacking they wouldn’t know where the man was with the spear. The huts were made of grass and mud with cow dung floors but now are made with cement, stones, and tin. There is a corral for the cows, chickens running around everywhere and a fenced in garden of vegetables. The kids go to school some had flip flops, some bare foot. The women are supposed to do all the cooking etc. The men go out to work in the sugar cane or Joburg and come home when they can. There is a bus for public transport. They bury their dead right there on their property, digging a deep hole, covering and then piling stones on top.
We returned to the hotel again hot and sweaty. I found Janet by the pool, had a shower and went to dinner which was a bbq, very good. After dinner some Zulu dancers performed for us. It started to rain so returned to our room.
Tuesday, March 19 – Swaziland
Swasiland is the smallest country in Africa, completely surrounded by South Africa and uses all SA airports etc. It is 17000 square kms. Just before the border crossing we saw a warthog and her babies at the side of the road. We had to walk across the border, showing our passports. The Swazis are very friendly people. Nobody really knows he population but it is estimated at 1 million. 39% of the pop are HIV positive. It has its own currency but takes ZAR too. They don’t plant grass or flowers around their houses, just dirt as they are superstitious and they have to sweep away the evil spirits. They got their independence from Britain in 1968 and are part of the Commonwealth. The walls of the houses have stones in them and staggered thatch rooves. The King came to power when he was 18, was educated in England but has become spoiled and a spendthrift. He has many wives. One king had 100 wives. The crown had red feathers from the Kury? Bird.
We stopped at a market and did some shopping. I bought a necklace, earrings and a scarf. We carried on to the _______? Valley where we had lentil soup, chicken and rice for lunch. We then had time to look in a jewellery shop where Janet bought a ring and bracelet made with giraffe hair and giraffes on them. We carried on to Piggs Peak Hotel and casino up in the mountains. We had a buffet dinner paid for by Craig travel to make up for not going up Table Mountain.
Wednesday , March 20 – Kruger
We left at 7:30 driving through the mountains of Swaziland to the border. We are now in search of the Big Five: Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Elephant and Cape Buffalo. They are the big 5 because they are the most dangerous to man. It was 34 degrees. The first inhabitants of Kruger were the Bushmen. The oldest rocks in the world are here. In 1838 the Dutch came from the Cape to get away from the British rule. In the 1900s the big game hunters came. Paul Kruger realized what was happening and decided to make a park where everything would be protected, everything is close to nature. Kruger is 19000 square kms (2 kms bigger than Swaziland) and is in the low svelte therefore there is a risk of malaria. On the way through the park we saw:
Kudu – brown with white stripes
Crown Plover 762
Brown snake eagle 763
Lilac breasted Rolla 765
Red billed Ox Peckers – picks the ticks off other animals 766
Hummer Corp – brown birds with heron
Dung Beetle – iPhone- eats dung
Big 5 #1 – Buffalo! 777
Blackbird fork tailed Durango
White back Vulture
Battler eagle – stealth bomber was designed after them by a SA
African Crown Eagle
Big 5 #2 – Elephants!
We got our rooms at the Protea Marriott Kruger and went for a swim. We had supper at the hotel outside with lights and a fire. There was way too much food! Bev showed us the Southern Cross in the clear night sky.
Thursday, March 21. – Big Five
Our wake up call was at 4:30 am. We were each given a box breakfast and boarded 4 land rovers. Our SA guides name was Andrew. Not far inside the park there were several hyenas next to the road and I go some good shots of them. We drove on and the Jeep’s ahead of us spotted a leopard. We caught him just as he turned around to leave and went behind some trees. We carried on to where a pair of lions had been seen up on a rock. We could only see the female. The guides watch the road for signs of the animals like paw tracks in the sand and fresh dung. We saw some more buffalo at the side of the road and a rhino down in a creek amongst the trees. He was really big. Further on we found some elephants in the trees. So we saw the Big Five! All before breakfast! We stopped to eat our box breakfasts at the store where we had stopped yesterday and then carried on until 11:45 when we stopped for lunch at a picnic area. The guides had brought cold chicken, meatballs, potato salad, buns and bananas for us. Half the group decided to keep going, including us, and half decided to return to the hotel. We went another couple of hours and saw the Black and white birds standing in the water are Blacksmith lampweeds. And we saw a brown snake eagle. We also saw some giraffes and more elephants. Back at the hotel we went for a swim and then dinner outside again. The hydro went off again during dinner but only for a couple of minutes until the generator kicked in.
Friday, March 22 – Blyde River
We left at 8 am heading towards the Dragonsburg Mountains, 1400 kms above sea level, up into the high svelte and we don’t need Deet up here. Yeah! We entered the Blyde River Canyon Nature reserve and got out for a short hike to the Gods Window lookout. We continued on to another lookout where again we had a short hike to look out over the mountains and canyon. There were vendors here selling wood carvings, bowls, jewellery dyed cloth etc. We continued on to Nature’s Potholes. Again we walked along a path to a deep gorge with bridges overlooking huge potholes carved out by the swirling meeting of 2 rivers. Janet bought her bowl and morrocas here. We drove back to ________? To a pancake house and Bev the tour guide paid for our lunch. Janet ordered an apple raisin cinnamon crepe with icecream and syrup and I ordered the cherry liquer crepe with icecream and syrup and we split them. They were very good, We wandered around the shops, including the one demonstrating silk worm weaving until it was time to go.
In 1898 the Transvaal republic was established by the Boers and Paul Kruger became President. He hated Rhodes and the English. Kruger minted the Kruger rand made of gold and is still legal tender. He hid millions of these gold coins and people are still looking for them.
We got to the Fortis hotel Malaga up in the mountains so it was a bit cooler up here. We changed and had cocktails (wine) provided by Craig travel and then dinner in the hotel. There was no internet in the rooms. We just got into bed when the hydro went off. It was off from about 9 until 11, it was off again during the night and when we woke up in the morning it was off again. We had to use the flashlights to dress and pack our bag. We went down to breakfast and the generator was on in the lobby and dining area. It came back on about 7am .
Saturday March 23 – Pretoria
We left at 8 heading through the mountains for Pretoria. This is the Boer War area. The British tried to take the Transvaal away from Paul Kruger because of all the gold discovered there but the British uniforms were bright red and the Boers were into guerilla warfare so they won the first war. The British came back with khaki uniforms but they still had white helmets so the Boers just aimed just below the white and had lots of bullseyes. Thus war lasted 4 years. 8000 Canadians came to help the British and the Canadians graves are still well looked after. Lord Kitchener put the Boer women and children in concentration camps and burned the farm crops. The English were called rednecks because the back of their necks got burnt between their hat and shirt collars. Cosmos seeds were brought over in the horse fodder brought from South America and is now a noxious weed.
In 1910 the four provinces of Transvaal, Free State, Natal and Cape came together to become South Africa. In 1994 they had a free vote, one person, one vote. They decided they needed a new flag for the Olympic As they were being let back in. It has Y representing 2 people becoming one, red for the bloodshed, green for agriculture, yellow for the minerals, blue for the sky and white for peace. They also concocted a new anthem from 2 different songs and 4 different languages. ( See the movies Invictus. And the 16th Man. ) also check out music and video, The .African Dream.
We. Arrived on through the mais triangle where 16 million tons of corn are produced. We stopped for. Washroom break and were surprised to see rhinos and Blesbok, Black Sable Antelopes and gemsbok on the surrounding farm.
We arrived in Pretoria which is known as the Jacaranda city. They are planted in double rows and have beautiful purple blooms. We stopped at the Houses of Parliament where Mandela was in augurated and also where his body lay in state for 3 days when he died. Hundreds of thousands came to the inauguration and also to the funeral. There is a huge statue of him with open arms, embracing his rainbow nation.
We stopped for lunch at a fancy restaurant. Janet had Cajun chicken, I had sole. Janet and Juan Pedro Amarula milkshake, I had salted caramel, fruit marscapone cheese crepes. We were also able to access the internet and discovered Tania had her baby, a boy,Arthur Watson 9lbs 8 oz!!
Next we drove to the Foretrekker ( or as we would call them pioneers) Museum. We learned how they fought the Zulus and refused to go back as the women said they would rather go over the mountains barefoot rather than go back to British rule. We headed on to Johannesburg to the Fire and Ice Melrose Hotel. Beautiful hotel, everything seems to be working . We just had a few snacks for supper as we were full from lunch.
Sunday, March 24 – Johannesburg
We left at 9 and drove through Johannesburg where the big money is. It was established because of the gold rush which was the biggest the world has ever seen and it is still going 136 years later. To get a green pea size nugget of gold they have to mine a ton of rock. They use sulphuric acid to remove the gold. The yellow hills around Joburg are the slurry leftover from the mining. We drove to the Apartheid museum. We were each given a card, white or non white and had to go in the entrance accordingly. Janet and I were both non white, and walked through a caged aisle with photos of old registration cards and ended up in front of the panel of 4 judges who would decide your fate. Then we walked up a ramp with mirrored pictures of different people symbolizing the road they have come up. Inside Beverley our guide told us the history as we looked at the photos and movies. It was so interesting and our guide Beverley who had lived through the apartheid years relayed many stories to us, was fascinating and so knowledgeable and had us in tears at some points. It was a moving experience.
We carried on and had a tour of Soweto which stands for the south west township. During the apartheid years the blacks had to live here and the whites in Johannesburg. It was established in 1904 because the people were brought there from the gold mines to live. Now it is divided into 54 townships with 9 African languages and a population of 4 million. It has 30% unemployment rate, 300 churches and 1 mosque. The biggest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere. It is 5 km big and has 7000 staff. It is the third biggest hospital in the world (China has the biggest and Serbia the second). Soweto was electrified in 1983. The 2 towers we passed are the cooling towers for the hydro. They bungee jump between them. Some people in Soweto got TV in 1976. We had a traditional African lunch in Soweto including lamb, squash, potatoes, pap, and chukaluka. A singer sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight and a couple of dancers did a traditional dance. They had the cocoons of the emperor moth filled with stones around their ankles.
We drove back to the hotel. Some of the group went to see the diamond and tanzanite store but we opted for the pool. We stayed until it started to rain, changed and went for dinner in the hotel. We had a chicken burger and fries with an Amarula milk shake. Yum!
Monday March 25 – Botswana
We left the hotel at 7:30 driving through the busy city traffic to the airport. Our Airlink flight actually left almost on time at 11:45. . We said our goodbyes to Beverley who stood and watched that we all got through security okay. She said she will always remember us because of the poop parade! Karen thanked her and said she has new respect for her since learning she shoots a gun and keeps a pistol in her bra! I was in dire straits to go to the bathroom after going through security so I ran back but couldn’t find the women’s only the men’s! I almost went in but thought I better not, so I asked someone and they pointed it out. I raced back to where Janet was thinking I had got lost.
We arrived in Botswana about 1:30. Janet and I were pulled aside because we each had a banana in our bag! We had to sign a form saying we knew they took it from us. It is much hotter here, 34C. They loaded our bags onto a little trailer and we all boarded land rovers to take us to the Chobe Game Lodge. We bumped along sandy rutted, pot hole ridden, washed out roads. Upon arrival we were given our rooms and then had tea on the terrace viewing platform where I took a picture of a White Browed Robin. About 4 pm we boarded some boats to go for a leisurely cruise to see some wildlife. The river is the border between Botswana and Namibia. We saw an African Data (cormorant), Pied Kingfisher, African Fish Eagles, Guinea Fowls, White Tailed Swallows, Greater Egret, whistling or white faced ducks, Egyptian geese, and a Speckled Egret and a Goliath Heron. We saw many hippos submerged in the water and a herd of elephants including a baby on the beach and watched the sun set over the savanna. There are 45,000 elephants in Chobe Park. We returned to the lodge and had a buffet supper under large lit up umbrellas on the lawn.
Tuesday, March 26 – Chobe
We got up at 4:45 and boarded the land rovers for a morning game drive.
This was the main one and I had put in another CF card in my camera, taken a few pictures and then it said it was full! Ugh panic! I deleted a couple I had taken in case we saw a lion because I thought I had left the other card in the room, but I had it. So I switched them, and started deleting crappy pictures to make more room. It didn’t matter because we didn’t see any cats. We saw lots of birds including the national bird of Botswana, the Kori Bustard. We saw many other birds including the Grey Hornbill, Red billed Hornbill, pink backed Pelicans, and a Grey Growl. At 8:30 we returned for breakfast but Janet wasn’t feeling good so she decided not to go on the boat cruise at 11. I went though and we saw many more birds like the Pied Kingfisher, the Reed Cormorant, etc.
At 1 pm we returned for lunch. I had told Mary Anne and Don about my camera card troubles and Don had an extra 2 GB one he gave me. And thank goodness because at 3 pm we went on another game drive and we saw a leopard just lying in the grass at the side of the road!! awesome! It just lay there while we took hundreds of photos! Further on the guide saw a lot of vultures up in a couple of trees and said that was a sign that a cat was nearby because the vultures wait for the scraps after a lion or leopard kills something. As we drove closer, we could smell dead meat and then someone spotted a lion in the distance and then we saw the dead buffalo with 2 cubs feeding on it and the mother lion lying in the grass next to it panting. She looked very hot and tired. The kill was fresh today so she was probably exhausted and guarding it while the cubs ate. We were so close it was amazing! We drove over to another tree where there were 4 more lions lying in the grassy shade. We took lots of pictures then moved so others could get in closer.
We saw some Maribou storks, a Senegal Coucal and a _______ tail Shrike. As it was getting late, we headed back to the lodge but Margy had to go to the washroom. The guide was going to let her out at one spot but it was blocked with a herd of about 600 Buffalo. We carried on and found a quiet spot and she squatted in front of the vehicle. A while down the road we came upon a poisonous Puff Adder snake in the road! We got back to the lodge at 7 in time for dinner set up down at the jetty on formal dining tables lit with lanterns and lights in the trees under the night sky. A great day!
Wednesday, March 27 – Zimbabwe
We were up at 5:15 and out on a river cruise at 6. We saw the sun rise over the river and savanna. The guide kept stopping to look at a troop of baboons etc and Julie finally told her, no, we want to go straight to see the hippos in the hopes of seeing them up on the shore before it gets too hot. So she drove into the channel on the Namibia side and found a pod of hippos just coming up out of the water. There big ones and babies, all eating grass for breakfast. It was great but none of them opened their mouths. We slowly returned to the lodge for breakfast, viewing some crocodiles with Water Thick Knees behind them on the way. I ordered what I thought was French toast with bananas but when it came it was like a fried banana loaf with bacon and marscapone on top. Janet ordered one scrambled egg and got three.
We left in land rovers at 10 am heading for the Zimbabwe border. The roads are so bad it feels like riding a bucking bronco at times. The sand is part of the Kalahari desert, 84% of Botswana is Kalahari desert. There were about 30 transport trucks waiting to cross the river but they had to go on a ferry one at a time, so they could have to wait for days. We were told to get out at the border and line up to get our exit stamp on our passport, then back on the Land Rover to the Zimbabwe security where we had to get out and line up to pay $75 US for a visa. We walked across the border and climbed onto a bus with our new tour guide Michael. Cars were lined up to get gas in queues a mile long to pay $3.27 a litre as it is in very short supply here. Zimbabwe has 85% unemployment rate, there is much corruption mainly stemming from the Mugabe era. It was 38C and they have been having a drought. We drove through the Zambezi National park to Victoria Falls which has a population of 40,000. We are staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a beautiful old hotel built by the British in 1904 originally to house the workers building the Cape to Cairo railway. We had lunch on the terrace with views of the gardens and the spray of the falls in the distance.
We were assigned rooms and told to meet at the bus at 2:30 for a walking tour of the falls. We drove a few minutes to the entrance of the park to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a UNESCO site. “Victoria Falls is one of the wonders of the world, stretching 1.7 kilometres wide and shared by the countries of Zambiaand Zimbabwe. The falls are formed as the full width of the Zambezi Riverplummets into a 108 metre high cleft. During the wet season, the spray from the falls can be seen nearly 50 kilometres away, hence the local name Mosi-oa-Tunya (the ‘Smoke that Thunders’).” We walked along a path for about 3 kilometres with misty rain soaking our clothes as we viewed the magnificent falls with a rainbow over it. Part of the path doesn’t have a fence or wall and the wet cobblestone path is very slippery.
We returned to the hotel and decided we had enough time to go for a swim in the beautiful deep pool. As Janet was walking along a garden path a warthog who was eating grass on the lawn happened to chew through an electric wire going to a light, the poor thing squealed and the light exploded shattering the glass and scaring Janet! We got ready for dinner which was a buffet outside under the stars in the Jungle Junction and it included creamed cauliflower and cheese! (To eat in the main dining room, men had to have dinner jackets and ties and women dresses…la de da).
Thursday, March 28 – Return Home
Since we opted not to go on the helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, we could sleep in this morning! We had breakfastand our bags were to be out at 9:30, leaving at 10:40 for the airport to fly back to Johannesburg, 1.5 hrs, 3 hour wait, then Joburg to Dakar, Senegal, 8.5 hrs, Senegal to Washington 8.5 hrs, 3 hour wait, Wash. to Toronto 1.5 hrs. Arrived in Toronto 6:15 pm SA time Mar 29. But our luggage was left in Washington! Ugh!
Trials and Tribulations – Good Grief!
Our SA Trip was great but was plagued with delays, mishaps, bad weather and illness. One lady in the group hurt her back a couple of days before leaving so had to walk with a cane. Then at the airport just before leaving another lady in the group had some sort of attack and the authorities wouldn’t let her on the plane without being okayed by a doctor so she and her daughter didn’t make the flight, they arrived a day late. Our Air Canada flight was delayed 2 hours by a frozen toilet, we arrived in Washington just in time to board our connection but were delayed 2 hours waiting for the wings to be de-iced. We stopped in Dakar, Senegal for refuelling, got off the plane in Johannesburg and had to run like we were in The Amazing Race to catch the connection to Cape Town.
Our Canadian tour guide didn’t get her luggage for 3 days after arriving in SA and the first day a man in the group fell and hurt his arm. In Cape Town it was so windy and foggy that both the cable car to Table Mountain and the trip to Robbens Island were closed, and when we went to see the penguins on the beach it was pouring rain and so windy our umbrellas were turning inside out while trying to take photos and keep cameras dry. One of the penguins bit Janet on the leg. There was also a bicycle rally with 40,000 entrants so many of the roads were closed around Cape Town. Everywhere our bus tried to go we were blocked!
Then one by one 30 out of 36 of us came down with some kind of gastrointestinal virus, one lady was taken to hospital and given IV drip and blood tests, we all saw doctors in different towns, had pills, shots in the butt, shared prescriptions and were popping Imodium like crazy! No one was eating much except tea, toast and bananas. There was a scramble every morning to get a banana before they were all gone. The conversation at breakfast was, how is your poop this morning? LOL. We got to know our fellow travellers quite well! lol. One lady fainted on the bus as we were driving, one lady fainted in the 4th chamber of the Congo Caves and the SA tour guide fainted in the bathroom of her hotel. One man pooped his pants in the bus, another in one of the hotel dining rooms, one lady soiled her bed and woke the guide at 1:30 in the morning to go to hospital. We had cramps, nausea, diarrhea. The poor bus driver had to clean the bus toilet out which would be out of water to flush because of so much use everyday and he would sterilize the bus every night. When we did feel better and eat, the problems come back again! The SA guide said she had never seen anything like it and she had been giving tours for a long time! She called it The Poop Parade. LOL. We don’t think it was food or water we drank because everyone caught it at different times. The blood tests came back not showing anything. We were supposed to visit a school and a soup kitchen near Kniessen but had to cancel because we couldn’t chance giving the people there our germs as they would have no access to medical care. Gradually we all got over it.
One of the ladies lost her purse with all her money and credit cards in it. Also a cyclone hit Mozambique and Zimbabwe while we were in SA. At Chobe we were on a morning game drive, the main one and I had put in a spare CF card in my camera, taken a few pictures and then it said it was full! Ugh panic! I deleted a couple I had taken in case we saw a lion because I thought I had left the other card in the room, but I found it in my purse. I switched the cards and frantically started deleting crappy pictures to make more room on the card. Later one of the men gave me an old card he had extra. To top it off, we are home but our luggage is still In Washington! LOL! Hopefully it arrives tomorrow. Other than that it was an awesome trip!! I took over 2000 photos so it will be a while before I post them.
I should have mentioned that Craig Travel (Can) and Why Not Travel (SA) were wonderful, finding doctors and hospitals and trying to take care of us! Just super! And our fellow travellers, in true Canadian style remained positive, upbeat, gracious and uncomplaining throughout, a great group of people!