Friday, September 30, 2016

More Drakensberg

Jordan, Jordan's mom (Gramma Judy), and I noticed a lot of road construction and bits of rural life throughout our road travels of South Africa. This flag girl in Drakensberg caught our attention and she chatted with us for a few minutes as she allowed us to snap her photo.

Embellished flagger (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Hut in the hills

When we arrived at Cathedral Peak, an area popular for hiking and mountaineering, we stopped for coffee at the resort to take in the views and then continued on our return journey towards Johannesburg.

Cathedral Peak ahead

At the resort, Jordan watched workers atop a thatched roof as they precariously moved about, using boards to shift from point to point...


Another pleasant surprise to come across was a schoolyard full of colourfully dressed kids. We stopped and asked the teacher if we could come into the schoolyard for a visit. The students were dressed up to celebrate Zulu Heritage Days. They were wearing hand-beaded outfits that included neck, head, and/or body adornments. Some also wore head wraps made from the back fringe of a Kudu pelt (a type of African antelope).

The students seemed quite thrilled to see us and their teacher had them perform for us with their traditional song and dance. With gleeful pride, they would take turns in the center of a circle showing us how high they could kick to the chants and clapping of the others. The height of some of the kickers was unbelievable!

Upward extension

2 with Kudu head wraps

When Gramma Judy joined them, they refused to kick high as they knew that she wouldn't be able to!


Before leaving to show appreciation of our visit, the students all chorused into a warming Thank You song.

Back in Johannesburg on September 30th, 2 weeks since we left Langkawi Malaysia, Jordan and I parted ways with Gramma Judy. We flew back to Sea Turtle at Malaysia and Gramma Judy flew in the opposite direction back to Canada.

This South African journey, I think the 3 of us would agree, has been an adventurer's prize!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Drakensberg

Continuing our road trip through South Africa with Jordan's mom (Gramma Judy), we had arrived at the breathtaking scenery of Drakensberg, a World Heritage site of 243,000 hectares with fern-carpeted forests back-dropped by miles of colossal escarpments compounded with cascading waterfalls.

Drakensberg scenery

Our first night in the untouched beauty of Drakensberg, we stayed at a quaint wooden cottage facing a small lake where the vibrant peacocks made their home in the serene landscape. Beautiful!

Wandering (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Working the curved rural roads in the rolling hills one day, Jordan spotted out of the corner of his eye a vintage Morgan poking out the open door of a barn. Being a car buff of such, he wheeled in to check it out. What we saw was unexpected - a barn full of very collectable cars.

We met an older couple who invited us in for tea and a look at their private collection that included a Jaguar E-Type, Porsche 930 Turbo, Healy, Ford GT40, Lamborghini Countach, 3 different Lotus, 69 Mustang Fastback, etc. He was a self-admitted addict.

Car crazy (a Lamborghini Countach)

Another serendipitous roadside encounter was the 2 women carrying a load of heavy sticks or poles on their heads across a field. We pulled over to talk with them and Gramma Judy tried to lift the poles - but it was an impossible feat as they were so heavy.

Muscle mania

Striking a pose (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Their faces too were coated with some sort of cream to help prevent sunburn as we have seen previously on other folks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Along the way

We awoke to a bright and sunny day and continued our road trip along the east coast of South Africa heading towards Port St. Johns. The road to this sleepy port was very scenic, winding through some impressive canyons.

The little town center was bustling with women carrying babies on their backs, women carrying products on their heads, young kids and teens having fun, and many vendors. We have never seen cabbages so big!

Big cabbages...

...and big smiles

Along certain parts of our journey, we observed a more indigent populous though no less happy it seemed. Flamboyant colours are possible their expression of their gaiety!

Definitely flamboyant!

Bright houses

Flashy African dresses

Vibrant youngsters

Monday, September 26, 2016

Continued journey

Any items on your bucket list to fulfill? One of Gramma Judy's (Jordan's mom) was to visit Africa. Of course Kruger National Park was a highlight but there was much more of South Africa to see as we continued travelling by car all around...

At the very south on a blustery day, we found a monument on the shore that showed we were at a junction where two great seas meet, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Off that point, we saw two large freighters on their journey just like so many ships that have passed here since long ago.

Meeting of the seas

Here the immense Agulhas Lighthouse serves as a safe beacon for sea-goers as it has for many decades. We climbed the flights of stairs to the top of the lighthouse tower for a quick peek at the amazing view in the strong oceanic breeze.

Agulhas Lighthouse

The Dutch have a long history in South Africa and we could see some of the white-washed architecture that reflected that heritage.

17th century architecture

As evening approached, so did the storms packing a gritty wind emphasized by bolts of lightning. We were trying to find a place to stay but the power was out and no street lights. Try to find a place in inky darkness in a large, strange city! We finally saw a big hotel with generator power to decided to stay in the City of Mthatha even though it was a bit expensive...too dark and tempestuous to scout around for another place.

A moody night

Sunday, September 25, 2016

More sights

As we continued on our road travel of South Africa, our next stop was about 70 km NW of Cape Town to !Khwa ttu (yes, that's spelled correctly, explained below). Here at this cultural center, we learned about the San people, original South Africans. Our tour started with the history and life of these people whose language included a clicking sound. If you saw the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, you know how they talk. Written English uses an exclamation mark for the click.

We were taken to a replica village by a tractor-trailer and a short walk where we were shown how the Sans interpreted footprint and markings in the earth for tracking their fodder as well as how they make jewellery, clothing, fire, etc.

Lessons of a simple life

On the tour, we met a woman who said if we liked South Africa, we should definitely visit Namibia and her home country of Botswana. Hmmm, plans for the future?

Proud of her heritage

From one main highway to another, Bruce suggested we take an intrepid shortcut through Bain's Kloof Pass. The 18 km narrow winding road was cut into and through rugged mountains with truly spectacular scenery.

Approaching the Pass

Scary overhang

Occasionally we would pass by a township where the poor were crammed together and made their home. They varied from pitifully decrepit to new government-built simple abodes. In any case, the distinct density promoted an appearance of segregation.

One of the nicer townships

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Road travel of South Africa

On the morning of January 20th from 06:00 to 09:00, we did our final game drive in Kruger National Park of South Africa. With a last breakfast and goodbyes to new friends, Gramma Judy (Jordan's mom), Jordan, and I were soon on our way back to Johannesburg with a driver from the Park.

Having seen the wild animals of South Africa, we now wanted to see the civilized ones (human). We rented a car the next day so we could travel around the country and see the local culture, sights, and diverse landscapes that we had read about.

Johannesburg and Kruger are in the NE part of the country and Cape Town is in the SW. So our plan was to do a big circle, down to Cape Town, then east up the coast of the Indian Ocean through an area called Drakensburg, then back to Johannesburg for our return flight.

Stocking up with a few groceries, we made lunch at shaded stops along the roadside. Much more fun than sitting in noisy, busy restaurants - and more economical too!

Time for munchies (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Scenery included vineyards, bright wild flowers, the occasional shantytown, flat scrub land, and rocky mountainous landscapes. A real variety - we never knew what to expect.

It was a bit of a jaunt down to the Cape but the highways were excellent so we made good time. Cape Town has been a strategic port for centuries and today is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. The residential areas rise up the slopes with grand views out over the bay and ocean beyond where it is easy to imagine how it was hundreds of years ago where old sailing ships plied these waters.

The next morning, we had to visit the infamous Table Mountain that loomed large over the city, a distinct and unique geographical feature used for centuries by sailors as a landmark while rounding the Cape of Good Hope. This is one of the oldest mountains in the world.

Approaching Cape Town and Table Mountain

The three of us boarded one of the round, rotating cable cars for the ride to the summit of the flat topped mountain. The cable car bases have built-in water tanks carrying 4,000 L of water for facilities at the top as well as ballast in windy weather!

At the top looking down

From Cape Town, we headed an hour and a half west to Port Owen to meet up with our good friends, Bruce and Jeannie of SV Jabula. They are building their beautiful waterfront home in this charming area that reminds one of Cape Cod. They showed us around the quaint fishing area stopping for, what else, freshly caught fish and chips.

Beautiful waterfront (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

Leisurely shopfront (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

It was unfortunately a short visit with our friends but we needed to make tracks - only so much time to visit this great country of South Africa. So onward we went, with suggestions from Bruce of great places to see on our sojourn...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

More game of Africa

There are many impressive animal sights in addition to the famous Big Five of South Africa. During our 4 days at Kruger National Park, our guides and the participants of our group spotted many interesting and unusual creatures.

Gramma Judy (Jordan's mom), Jordan, and I found it peculiar that for most part, these very wild animals ignore vehicles and the gawking spectators within. But put one foot outside the vehicle and you would immediately be dinner. By the way, what animal kills the most people each year? Keep reading to find out. You may be surprised!

First photos are of the giraffe, the tallest mammal of the world, which have the same number of vertebrae in their long necks as do humans! They live in small groups and can go for long periods without water which is good as they are very vulnerable when stooping to drink. And a group of giraffes is called a tower - how suitable!

A tower of giraffes

Free kisses

Are hippopotamuses dangerous? Well, they have killed more humans than any other animal! Hippos are very territorial and unpredictable.

Sedentary and amphibious

We were also fortunate to come across a nursing hyena and her male partner along the side of the road. Their three pups ran around and played with each other when not nursing.

A patient mom

Impalas will perform long zig-zag leaps, jumping as high as 3 m and as long as 11 m, over and across others, to confuse and escape predators.

A herd of impalas

Bull kudus are a very handsome type of antelope with its long spiralling horns. They lock their horns in combat and occasionally are unable to disengage. The cows are hornless but have extremely large round ears.

A young bull

Sable antelopes, which live in groups, are rarely seen as they are a critically endangered species. They have dagger sharp horns that can reach up to 154 cm (60 inches) in length.

A rare sight

The warthog, as its name suggests, is neither graceful nor beautiful, having several facial warts. They can live without water for several months of the year.

Watch out for those 4 tusks

Not truly aquatic, but the waterbuck inhabits areas close to water. Their ringed horns curve up and forward - not backward.

Wrestling waterbuck

Zebras, like elephants, maintain strong family relations, and they will mutually groom each other. Their stripe patterns are as individual as human fingerprints.

Is it white with black stripes...

...or black with white stripes!

Zebra stripes may help to regulate its body temperature and also visually impair predators.

Monday, September 19, 2016

SOUTH AFRICA

September 15th - the day is finally here. We said goodbye to Jordan's brother Tory, then Gramma Judy (Jordan's mom), Jordan, and I headed to the airport. Our first flight was from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur, both in Malaysia. Next was from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, and finally Hong Kong to Johannesburg in South Africa. We were so pleased when no comment was made regarding the lack of pages left in Jordan's passport. We made it!

After many hours travelling and arriving midday the following day, we just spent the rest of the day relaxing in our Johannesburg hotel.

We had pre-booked our safari to Kruger National Park which included a pick-up at the hotel for scenic 5-hour ride east to the Park. We were staying for 4 days and 3 nights at camp Pretorius Kop within Kruger.

At the gates of adventure (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

We could have chosen to stay in different styles of huts...


...but we preferred the more basic tent life...


We were soon informed that after dinner provided by the camp's chefs we would be going on what is called a night drive to spot game from 18:00 till 21:00. Many night drives are very successful for observing game but the animals were elusive for ours.

From here on, the routine for the each day was typical. It started with a very early coffee/tea and biscuits with the group of participants that we would be sharing our drive with, and then off we all went in search of the wild beasts in the open-air-vehicle from 06:00 to 09:00. Then it was a late breakfast and some rest and relaxation. The afternoon drive was from 15:00 to 18:00 followed by dinner and excited exchanges of our sightings.

This time of year can be quite chilly and I luckily brought my winter jacket. Jordan piled on extra clothing and Gramma Judy was lucky enough to ride in the front seat with the guide and a heater! The rest of the party was in the back subjected to the chilly wind - but which is great for snapshots.

All bundled up

On our drives, the guides were excellent at spotting game and educating us on the habits and life in the wild. The photo ops were great and we got up close to many of the animals. Of the Big Five, we spotted four: elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard. For us, the lion was skillful at eluding our view.

The Big Five are determined by being the most dangerous and the most difficult to hunt on foot. Thankfully today, they are now hunted mainly by photographers.

We came across many giant elephants which are destructive to the environment, eating an abundance of field grasses and pushing over large trees to eat the roots and the lower bark, consuming as much as 135 kg (300 pounds) of food per day.

Push harder...

Big and small crossing the road

Beastly beauty

There are white rhinocerous and black rhinocerous. The white is NOT white but is identified by its broad lips. The early Dutch referred to its wide lips as wyd which was later misinterpreted as white. Rhinos leave huge yucky heaps of dung along the roadside to mark their territory. These 2 started walking threateningly towards our jeep and our guide slowly backed up...no guessing who the boss is!

Horny white rhinos

We came across a massive herd of Cape buffalo, at least 400, chomping long grass in a field and leisurely crossing the road in front of us. An impressive sight.

Moody, magnificent, and dangerous

Yep, a long tiring day

The leopard is the least seen of the Big Five. Even though it barely turned sideways, we at least saw it! It's a very beautiful and charismatic animal with amazing markings.

Perfect camouflage

Solitary and stealthy

As well as the above, our guides found several other animals in Kruger National Park...