Archive for May, 2010

Hluhulwe Game Reserve (and Touring South Africa)

Monday, May 31st, 2010
We went on both a sunset & sunrise game drive in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Africa's oldest established protected area.

We went on both a sunset & a sunrise game drive in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Africa's oldest established protected area.

“You must be very careful. It is very dangerous there.”

I was hoping to begin my summary of our travels in South Africa by writing “Though we heard this warning again and again from so many people our experience was very different. We found only a warm, embracing hospitality from everyone we met.” I would like to write it now with the addition of “except for those few moments in Mtubatuba when we were mugged” (see David’s blog for May 28th). And really, that was our experience of South Africa. We talked with very many wonderful people from very many different walks of life and cultures who were interested in us and wanted us to feel welcome and to enjoy their country. Their hospitality rivaled anything we found in South America. Speaking the language has made it so much easier for us to ask questions and have conversations about people’s lives, families, philosophies, apartheid, politics, the World Cup, religion, racism, culture. South Africa has been a fascinating and beautiful country to visit.

To ignore our mugging, however, would be Pollyannish of me. It was a scary and maddening experience, though the picture I carry in my mind of brave Glenda chucking groceries at the muggers still makes me laugh. After knowing we were unharmed, my first reaction was anger, that though I yelled “Rogue, rogue, rogue, help, help!!” at the top of my lungs and people were around, no one came to help. Later, our hosts at the backpackers explained that people don’t help because they are afraid of retaliation. That understanding made me feel better but it also makes me think there is a hopelessness and acceptance of crime which helps to fuel it. Though I feel that some of the warnings we received were more about fear of “the other”, segregation, and racism– theft (petty and grand) is a huge issue in South Africa. The majority of victims, however, are not tourists, or even relatively well-to-do South Africans, who can afford security systems, guard dogs, and high walls topped with barbed wire, but they are average people living in poorer neighborhoods.

Glenda’s visit with us was one of the highlights of our tour in South Africa. It was geat to catch up with her on her life and to share our journey, seeing it a bit through her eyes. In the two weeks she was with us I felt she had a good taste of what our experience has been, from the warm hospitality of the bike shop owner and staff who picked her up, toured the city, had lunch and dropped her back at the backpackers with her rented bike, to climbing 1000m with the bike in the beautiful and peaceful Swazi countryside. We had great conversations with Ebby and Joanne, South African business women, with Sumeshini, the widowed hotel owner, with Mlonde the manager of the bar and restaurant next to the dive hotel we stayed, with the cook Tulie in the fancy hotel we stayed, to name just a few of the people we met. We also had fine interactions with countless school children and people along the road. Finally we toured a game park and wetlands area where we were treated to sights of some of the African animals Glenda had first been introduced to long ago on the Sunday night TV show “Wild Kingdom” and I got to see my first rhinoceros.

We fir.st spotted "the almost impossible to see" African Wild Dog (this one lost his tail).

We first spotted "the almost impossible to see" African Wild Dog (this one lost his tail).

Baboons sauntered right past our Land Rover.

Baboons sauntered right past our Land Rover.

A Cape Buffalo.

A Cape Buffalo.

Nyala

Nyala

Giraffe

Giraffe

Hluhluwe, South Africa

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Blessings for a safe journey.

Blessings for a safe journey.

Cycling through Mfekayi village on Sunday morning a man stepped out of his car saying “Do you remember me? It was Bekezelani Mfekayi, the Good Samaritan who drove us to the police station after the mugging Friday night. His father is the Chief here and Beke invited us to a church service in a large tent from which we could hear singing. He presented us to the congregation as guests of honor, explaining how we met under unfortunate circumstances; speaking in both Zulu and English. When he gave the mike to me I greeted the congregation with “Sawubona”(I see you) and they replied “Yay-bo! (yes)” in unison; just like when we greet people all day long while cycling through Zululand. The service was full of amplified music and emotional singing, much like African-American Gospel. They prayed for us to have a safe journey and blessed us before we left on our bikes. This moving experience was a silver lining to the mugging incident that introduced us to Beke.hluhluwe5hluhluwe4hluhluwe9

Hippo & Croc Boat Tour

Saturday, May 29th, 2010
Heading upriver to Lake St Lucia, Africa's largest estuary.

Heading upriver towards Lake St Lucia, Africa's largest estuary.

Hippos!

Hippos!

Julie holds a hippo tusk.

Julie holds a hippo tusk.

A very large crocodile (4 1/2m).

A very large crocodile (4 1/2m).

Fish Eagle

Fish Eagle

Giant Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher

The Water Monitor is a lizard who hunts on land & water.

The Water Monitor is a lizard who hunts on land & water.

Something like a Preying Mantis.

Something like a Preying Mantis.

A large beetle

A large beetle

A herd of Impala.

A herd of Impala.

Bunny Chow is a meal of curry served in a loaf of bread.

Bunny Chow is a meal of curry served in a loaf of bread.

Mtubatuba, South Africa

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Departing Khumbulani Lodge in Mtubatuba (2 days after the mugging).

Departing Khumbulani Lodge in Mtubatuba (2 days after the mugging).

I was mugged in Mtubatuba and the two rogues gained nothing from the attack. We had walked to the grocery store and returned at 6 pm, after dark, eating corn-on-the-cob. While crossing the railroad tracks, Julie started yelling. “That must have something to do with this arm around my throat choking me”, I thought; then wondered if they had a knife. One thug checked my pants pockets while the other restrained me. First Julie threw a corn cob at them, then Glenda started throwing groceries…two cartons of juice, broccoli, a box of cookies (that hit me). The muggers grabbed my change purse with keys attached before running off within half a minute. They never found the wallet zipped in my breast pocket, containing only 30 rand ($4); nor the 700 rand ($96) hidden in my hat. Two security guards watched, and did nothing, but asked if we were okay afterwards. Two cars stopped, and Beke offered to drive us to the police station where we filed a report. That was when I noticed my glasses were missing. As the police drove us home in the paddy wagon, we stopped at the scene of the crime to look for my glasses. They’d been smashed on the other side of the road, where the muggers had fled. We also found my keys and change purse, containing 22 rand ($3). We would not have walked in the dark in a city, but felt that in a small town we’d be safe. Kay, our lodge proprieter, said that with three of us it was better than going alone, which she would not recommend. Before we left for the store Kay had said we could pay our bill later, but I said that I’d like to pay her now; in case we were robbed I did not want to have all that cash on me. Julie thought I meant it as a joke, but that is how I think in a place like South Africa. The night before we arrived here the local bank’s ATM had been blown up. My throat was sore for a couple of days; and then again a week later.

John & Kay, our lodge hosts.

John & Kay, our lodge hosts.

Framed at the scene of the crime.

Framed at the scene of the crime.

Mpangeni, South Africa

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Picnic after a dip in the Indian Ocean.

Picnic after a dip in the Indian Ocean.

We took a two-hour lunch break on the beach in Mtunzini, near where legendary white Zulu chief John Dunn lived. He was a British hunter, explorer and tradesman who acted as an intermediary with King Shaka Zulu during the Zulu wars in the 1830s and later became the regional magistrate. He had 49 Zulu wives (and one mixed-race coloured wife) and 163 children. Jacob Zuma, the current President of South Africa, is Zulu and has five wives and twenty children.  Trials and tribulations about his sex life make the headlines; the latest being that one of his wives was impregnated by her bodyguard, who then killed himself.

Zebras roam the Mlalazi Nature reserve at Mtunzini.

Zebras roam the Mlalazi Nature reserve at Mtunzini.

The tiny Red Duiker deer (this is an adult).

The tiny Red Duiker deer (this is an adult).

We did not swim in the river here, across the dunes from the beach.

We did not swim in the river here, across the dunes from the beach.

Gingindlovu, South Africa

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Kids walking home from school in Nyona

Kids walking home from school in Nyoni

Gingindlovu means elephant in Zulu, and this is called the “Elephant Coast”. It is sugar cane country with a large population from India. Mahatma Ghandi grew up near here and began his passive resistance protests against the pre-apartheid racial policies in South Africa before going to India. Sumeshini Naiker, owner of the Emrick Guest House here, drove us to the supermarket before it closed; and then took us out to the bar/nightclub she also owns. We met Ben there, who gave us directions when we first entered town and is a high school vice-principal. We also visited with Godsway, a biology teacher from Ghana who wants to save enough money working in South Africa to buy a fishing boat back home.

Children in Amatikulu

Children in Amatikulu

Shaka’s Rock, South Africa

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Departin Durban on a beachfront bikeway being built for the 2010 World Cup

Departing Durban on a beachfront bikeway being built for the 2010 World Cup

We are cycling with our Rover friend Glenda Marsh, from Sacramento, California; whose plan to meet us in Cape Town for two weeks was altered by the Icelandic volcano. We had to rush to meet her in Durban on May 23rd after our six-day delay in Stellenbosch for medical tests; taking only two days of rest in the last 23 days. We normally rest two days out of seven. She rented a bike from the friendly folks at Cyclesphere bike shop who also introduced us to Kevin. Kevin drove out to meet us here at The Secret Spot backpackers lodge to talk about his plan to cycle from Cape Town to Cairo, departing the first of July (www.cape2cairo.com). He may well catch up to us somewhere in the heart of Africa.

Durban, South Africa

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Sugar cane fields along the R102 near Nomakhanzana.

Sugar cane fields along the R102 near Nomakhanzana.

The old highway wound through hills with sugar cane fields and monkeys along the road before returning to beach towns along the coast south of Durban.  We started early and pushed hard, but still entered this city of three million late in the day.  Luckily it is a Sunday and we took an eight-lane highway with little traffic to a downtown decorated with banners and flags for the upcoming Soccer World Cup.

Hibberdene, South Africa

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
The Indian Ocean along the South Coast (S of Durban).

The Indian Ocean along the South Coast (S of Durban).

We took our first anti-malaria pills yesterday (mefliquine) which have the side effect of causing vivid dreams.  I like that side effect, but Julie woke up at 4:30 am and could not get back to sleep.  I think she is dragging today because of it;  she thinks it may be her flat tire with a slow leak that took me all afternoon to find. (At first I gave up and just pumped the tire back up with the air slowly leaking).  The backpackers lodge we had planned to stay tonight was full (it is near a popular surfing spot on Saturday); so we pushed on to the last of the seaside towns where we wandered around from 3:30 until 5 pm looking for affordable accomodation.  We finally found a nice place and negotiated a lower price, and were the only guests in the restaurant.

Port Edward, South Africa

Friday, May 21st, 2010
This mute man was running on the highway barefoot, pushing a cart containing only a spare shirt.  He seemed to be going for some distance.

This mute man was running on the highway barefoot, pushing a cart containing only a spare shirt. He seemed to be going for some distance.

We’ve been starting early because the sun sets at five pm (and rises at 7 am), so we have only ten hours of daylight and long tough days of cycling in the Transkei. We’ve learned how to pace ourselves, taking shorter breaks, so we make it to our planned destination before dark.  We met Ebby and Jo-Ann from Durban here at the Ku-Boboyi River Lodge and Backpackers.  They offered to show us around Durban when we get there.


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