As I write this, I am in a lovely 300-year-old renovated farm house in a small village, St. Vivien (click on the link for a googlemap of where we are), in the South West of France (the Dordogne). What, say you? Well, we had planned this 5-week adventure late last year, when the idea of staying for a lengthy period of time in another country seemed like a novelty. Our plans to travel to South Africa, which is the primary subject of this post, came later.
As a result, 2018 has looked like this:
- 3 weeks in San Francisco,
- 6 weeks in South Africa,
- 5 weeks in San Francisco, and
- 6 weeks between the east coast of the US (1 week) and France (5 weeks).
So much to share! It has been a very rich time for us. I also have to say that I am looking forward to being back in San Francisco in June for more than 5-6 weeks!
What follows is one of four final posts on our trip to South Africa, interspersed with pictures. Stay tuned, please, to those posts because there is a punch line coming, something quite surprising even to us that we initiated before leaving…I plan to get them up for your reading and viewing pleasure over the next two weeks. And I have to hurry so I can catch up on our adventures in France!
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We had numerous adventures while in South Africa. In spite of being there for six weeks, we wanted to go deep, instead of wide, in our experience of the country. As an important example, we consciously decided not to visit Cape Town due its historic drought, as well as being an additional 1000 km of our furthest excursion to the west. It just didn’t seem right for visitors to add to the water burden. We have saved Cape Town, considered one of the jewels of South Africa, for another trip. (And yes, there will absolutely be another trip!). We had a short list of things we really wanted to see, including the wild animals, and had wonderful experiences.
A few days after arriving, we piled into our little rental car with our hosts, Steven and Cindy, and drove into the Province of KwaZulu-Natal and towards the Drakensburg Escarpment (click on the link for a googlemap of where we were), on the other side of the mountainous (and landlocked) country of Lesotho. We stayed one night in a mountain lodge in one of the few remaining indigenous forests in South Africa, and had a terrific nature walk with a local expert. We also took a zip-line canopy tour that I was sure would first terrify and then kill me. I survived and even enjoyed it!
The following two days were spent in a cottage on Lake Naverone, at the base of the mountains leading up to Lesotho. David and I had a wonderful hike across rain swollen rivers up to several outcroppings with San rock paintings. The excess rain had made the trail crossings deep and/or swift, so we had to leap from one large boulder to another to cross the river. Gripped with fear, I jumped but held back (the way that fear can make you do!), and my iPhone and I went swimming when I didn’t quite land solidly on the other side. Only my pride was injured, and my iPhone still works, but throws shade every now and then (literally: half the screen goes a little dark…).
The San were nomadic hunter-gathers who lived and wandered throughout South Africa, tracking the many animals that populated the area. They painted their experiences on rock outcrops protected by overhangs, detailing tribe gatherings, group hunts, large (and very specific) animals. The paintings are remarkable, and relatively easy to access, assuming one doesn’t fall into a river and give up! The San no longer exist as a people or tribe, essentially disappearing when the twin colonial powers of the Netherlands and Britain annexed land “no one was using,” and when other African tribes traveled down from Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
After Lake Naverone, we drove down to Durban (click on the link for Durban’s location), a vibrant, cosmopolitan city on the Indian Ocean. Many cities in South Africa host a 5 kilometer “park run” on Saturday mornings, and we watched people of all shapes, sizes and colors walk and run on the Durban beach boardwalk. We also enjoyed excellent food (Mozambique/Portuguese and Thai). David and I walked to one of the Saturday markets, delightedly watched a small group of students performing Zulu dancing, purchased spices at an Indian market and beaded jewelry from a Zulu woman’s stall.
Our next adventure – just the two of us this time – was to Kimberley (click for the link to googlemaps) in the Northern Cape Province, and the center of the diamond industry for many years. Although the mines still exist there, the local industry is diminishing in its scope. The Big Hole, which helps keep Kimberley famous, was created by miners digging by hand (and pickaxe) at the beginning of the diamond rush in the late 1800s.
The history of Kimberley is similar to many places in the world where mineral resources have been found: whites had the upper hand in establishing the business aspect of mining, and controlled how the mining was governed and profits shared. They essentially limited the ability for blacks to own stakes even though whites were dependent on black labor. For many years, the company owners even limited the ability to travel freely from the workers camps (to limit theft). Later in the 20th century, labor unions gained strength and were able to improve conditions for miners, setting the stage for important union participation in the ending of apartheid.
Next up? Our visit to Mokala and then Kruger National Parks. Stay tuned!