Sthn Africa Uncovered
Sitting here tonight I'm reminded of one of the most stunning 7 weeks of my life, I have(had) friends who have more money than is needed by any human.
A straight couple, married for 6-7 years and unable to have children, they buy themselves a stunning holiday every year and every year they take themselves to Sthn Africa for 4-6 weeks holiday to go game viewing and relaxing.
They had always wanted to share this experience with me but because of a shortage of funds I had never been able to join them. So for Christmas last year, guess what I was given? A return ticket to Johannesburg and a seat in their own private 4WD tour of Sthn Africa.
OK, I had to contribute money for accommodation and spending but, a free ticket to Africa?? How often does one get that in life. And recognising my "desires", they threw in a week in Cape Town for me on arrival before joining them in Swakupmund, Namibia on Christmas Eve.
Starting out in Cape Town (such a beautiful city, breathtaking along the coast and water so cold your balls disappear even during the hotest summer rendering the water totally a no-go zone) for a week of "R & R". I met the most beautiful man and we had 36hrs of incredible holiday romance. The sort that one only has when one knows that there isn't going to be another time.
Our combined holiday started with a week in Swakupmund, Namibia. A land of sand dunes and stunning sun sets. Nothing can compare, surely, to a sunset viewed from atop a 1,000m high sand dune 100m from the Atlantic Ocean while drink Gin & Tonic's.
But Swakup. was also the lowest point of the entire journey. Staying with a friend of my friends, Afrikaan and totally homophobic I became a shadow of who I really was. I wasn't told of his homophobia until I arrived at Swakup. and was then asked by my friends to hide who I was, what I was, take the ring off, hide the neck chain and pretend about the girlfriend.
I was cornered and had no say or choice in the matter. My anger and resentment grew from that day. With the realisition I had allowed myself to be bought and was forced into a situation I had no control or say over.
Sadly due to car troubles we were delayed leaving there by 3 days. Total agony and our friendship suffered because of the fact but eventually we managed to get out of there. Enough with the sand, already!!
From Swakupmund we ventured north to Etosha National Park. My first true sighting of Game in the wild. Springbok quickly became the Game of choice. Such beauty and grace coupled with a dainty spring across the park. How stunning. Driving through Etosha we had the luck to experience approx 6-8 giraffe running along beside the car as they tried to find a route off the track.
During our 3 days there I saw my first Elephant in the wild, Lion x2, Gemsbok and so much "Plains Game" it became a case of "not another f**ing Springbok".
From Etosha we drove north-east across the Caprivi Strip to Kasane and Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Driving through Chobe, my friend Pete said that there appears to be a few elephant up ahead. We slowly made our way and as we did so, more and more elephant appeared out of the bush. We ended up parking close to what we feel was certainly 150-200 elephant.
From old males, mothers, single mature and adolescent males, there were 100's of the beasts. baby elephants who couldn't climb out of a water hole without Mum's help. Young guns fighting and even younger guns having attempted charges at our car until Mum stepped in to stop them.
Imagine having a full grown elephant staring at you from 5m away with nothing between you and her but a sheet of glass and video camera? And you're in her space.
In Chobe the first sighting of Hippo's but that was it for Game.
From Chobe we travelled through Livingstone (Victoria Falls) for an hour or so just so they could show me the Falls. Spectacular but if you've ever seen Iguasu, they pale in comparison. And as for Livingstone? What a tragic place. It is where to poverty of Zimbabwe hits you right in the face.
We travelled down to Hwange where we spent 3 nights at the "Hwange Safari & Boating Camp" on the banks of the Zambezi. Driving through the Game Park the animals were so un-used to vehicles they ran at the sound of engines. But we were fortunate enough to come very close to Water Buffalo (Cows as my learned friend called from the back seat when she first spotted them!!)
To and from the camp we had to drive through village after village which were surrounded by plain brown dirt, no foliage, no sign of any crop, the huts made of scraps of wood/ or tin. Whatever they could lay their hands on. And yet each village had the most magnificent Catholic Church which was beautifully kept. This blog is not about to get into the rights and wrongs of organised religion but.....
From Hwangie a drive through Zimbabwe to join friends on a houseboat on Lake Kariba for 4 days. Servants to do everything but sleep for you, what a perfect break.
Woken at 0600hrs one morning, a flotilla of local fisherman approached the houseboat in their manmade dinghy's to sell us their fish and to try and earn some dollars.
Our whole time in Zimbabwe we were confronted with their poverty v our wealth. The raw beauty of a country that has been destroyed by Mugabe and the blind faith of a people starved into submission and too gentle to rebel or raise against him. Zimbabwe is truely one of the worlds beautiful countries and as soon as Mugabe and his henchmen are gone, a country we need to flock to to inject some badly needed funds.
From Zim we crossed into Mozambique where we then had 10 days travelling though the country. What a contrast. An agressive and angry people, we were robbed, we were spat upon, we were treated with contempt by the locals. Money, cell phones and clothing lost, Mozambique became a sad postscript to our travels.
Finally back into "South", we stopped for 2 nights in Kruger where I finally saw up close and personal, the mighty Rhino. He/she was trying to cross the road as we came around a corner and for approx 200m we quietly followed it down the road until it found a gap in the brush and ran off. Wow! There really is no other word for it. Wow! I giggled like a school girl!!!
From Kruger we returned to Pretoria to stay with friends befoe flying out. 7,500km round trip. In awe of a land that left us feeling small, insignificent and completely in awe of the sheer beauty of the continent.
From Pretoria, my friends returned to Sydney and I flew back down to Cape Town. And that, gentlemen, is a whole new blog!
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you AFRICA!!"