Saturday, April 28, 2018

Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa

Fortunately there is a new bus service that will take my bicycle, called Lime Time Shuttle. They have 20 person vans and a trailer for luggage. And pick-up and drop-off points on major highways or at a shopping mall. In Nelspruit, with a population of about 58,000, it was a rideable distance from Old Travellers Inn, although hilly. 

But in Johannesburg, which is 210 miles away, has a population of 10.5 million in the metropolitan area, the nearest drop-off point is on the highway six miles from the nearest affordable hotel, $100 a night, that is on the list of pick up points for my next bus service, the Baz Bus.

There are cheaper places to stay on the list, but further into the city. And more expensive hotels, like at the airport.

It was interesting on the bus because people were South Africaan, not the foreign tourist because you do need someone, or a taxi, from wherever the departing point is. And they like to chat. One conversation was in Africaan, meaning they were all white, but I could pick out the word Trump. And it was easy to pick out the derision and contempt from every single person on the bus, because each person had a strong and obviously negative opinion. Even people who had just listened to the chatter about sports, chimed in. I was embarrassed and said nothing. And could only speak English anyway, although by now I can pick up the gist of some conversations. Sports and politics, are the usual mainstays of casual conversation.

We reached Johannesburg a couple of hours late, running into heavy traffic at rush hour. I was dropped off at a gas station just off the main highway and put the panniers on my bike. Made sure all the quick release levers were tight, as these hold on the seat, the handle bars and each wheel. Those monkeys could get them loose and I was taking no chances on traveling in the luggage van could knock something loose, too.

The bus driver had asked if I had a ride, no, I told him I am riding my bicycle. He asked again, not quite believing his ears. If I was not nervous about the ride, it would have been amusing.

Thank goodness I had an iPhone with maps so I could figure out my way and where I was. I could tell I was headed through an industrial area before coming to a nice suburb and hoped the traffic would not be too heavy. 

It was surprisingly easy to find my way and the traffic not bad. There were black workers coming out of factories, but on foot not in cars. The roads were wide where there were trucks. Except once it was single lane over a bridge, everyone waited politely. There were corrugated shacks and women carrying loads on their heads. Totally a black community. Once when going up a hill a big black man called out to me, “Faster mama, faster mama, faster, faster.” and made his hands go around like pedals. Men everywhere will tease! I had to laugh.

Passed a bright red Hindu crematorium set in a lovely green park. And finally reached the Thulani lodge in a lovely suburb. It looked nice but the room was a bit tattered. I made the most of the nice towels, big bathroom, made tea in the sitting room and locked my bicycle to the chair in the bedroom, as recommended by other travelers. Bikes are a rare and prized possession here. Rarely have I seen one.
I like to meet people at the hostels and campgrounds but having a private room occasionally is a treat.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Swaziland day tour

When came out to get in Dave’s van, at 6 am, I was surprised to find us taking the same one we drove yesterday. Because toward the end of the day the van was hiccuping when shifting and Dave would pump the clutch and say, the clutch is going out. Well, it will be interesting to see WHERE it totally quits today. I will let Dave deal with it. 
$168 for the day, including lunch. And more adventure when the clutch did go out and we could not move.

Cave drawings. 

Our guide to the Swazi living cultural village, where people still live and keep their cattle in a kraal, or corral. Except it was muddy from rain, so the cattle were out in the grassy hills. It would have been fun to see them. 
On the front of his tunic is the Nguni shield and two spears symbolizing protection for their country, which are hard to see from here.

Grass huts look pretty sturdy and well woven. 

Peeking into a vacant hut.

The dancers were incredible. I have a video of them, and will have to post it another way.

They did this several times in a row! Amazing!

The men dance separately, and fast.

We entered through the northern border, through a gate that opened at 8 am. There were guards and we got out to enter an office where our passports were examined and stamped. There was a photo of the king in the office. Dave said to be calm and serious as we go through the process. We were good and went well. The road was gravel and rough for a few miles. Once years ago the English mined gold here and had a little town with a club and golf course. The buildings are now a school. Dave offered two women waiting along the road for a ride. One had a baby, which a woman in our group got to hold the entire time. The women were strangers to each other, and got off at different places. Dave said this is a common mode of transportation in the country and everyone was happy about it.

After the cultural village we went to a really local place for lunch. Dave chose out meat for barbecuing and it was cooked over a wood fire out back. Also, we had several salads and two kinds of stew, beef and chicken. Which we poured over paap, the very thick grits. This is sticky and easy to eat with your fingers. Although I used a fork, one woman went native with her fingers. Delicious and with Coca Cola!

We stopped by a candle factory, a glass making factory. A few years ago some Swedish glass makers came and taught them glass making. It is all recycled glass and it is collected along roadsides and everywhere by local folks, some of whom live solely on this income, which is but little. And there were many souvenir stands and shops, which is what I was trying to draw.

In the van I sat in the front with Dave and talked to him about where to bicycle in the country. This area was rugged and mountainous with lots of traffic and people walking along the busy roads. He recommended the Drakenberg area, south of Johannesburg. I told him one of my friends said it was crazy to cycle here. He said INSANE!

And sure enough, on our way home, after crossing the border back into South Africa, the clutch totally went out and our van stopped along the road. It was early evening and we strolled along the road, watched a beautiful sunset, and I drew a picture to remember the beauty. After about an hour and a half, Dave’s taxi friend came and got us. When we arrived at Dave’s Old Travellers Inn, we were treated to a steak dinner and felt pretty good about the whole experience. 

Dave’s receptionist is a black woman from Swaziland and she recognized the countryside in my drawing. She is married and has a child who lives in Swaziland with her mother. Every 20 days she goes home for 10 days. There is not much work in Swaziland, thus the arrangement and it is very common.

The next day I was so tired I just went to the botanical garden in Nelspruit, wrote and mailed postcards and relaxed. As of April 24, not one has been received!

The botanical gardens in Nelspruit.


Candelabra trees of cactus.

View from the botanical gardens.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Leaving Kruger Park, we stopped at Blyde Canyon, Lisbon Falls and the Truer River. Beautiful spots with many souvenir shops and sellers on the streets.  The drawing is inspired the local art. 

Blyde Canyon.

On the second and third day of our safari drive were a Canadian couple, on the left, then an Irish couple, an Israeli man who is teaching at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. He speaks several languages and studied Japanese while we were driving.  His girlfriend had just left him. And the malaria medication he was taking in preparation for a trip to Mozambique made him a little sick, but he managed to some cheerfulness and seemed to enjoy the trip. It was interesting to hear of his travels all around the world.

This memorial plaque is at the base of this huge rock formation.

The impala is the symbol of the South African National Parks. The memorial is in English and Africaan, the two main official languages. There are 13 other languages as well, from the tribal communities. 
The former President Zuma has five wives, which is legal because of his African background. But a man with European hertiage, like Dutch, German or English can legally have only one wife. Even if his family has lived in South Africa for 350 years. 
I was assured things are as confused one might expect.

The Protea is the National flower. 

Ahh, a moment to relax.

The great horn bill is a common bird here.

Kruger National Park, day one

At 5 am our guide and driver, Ted, picks me up at Old Vic’s Travellers Inn, along with a young German couple. By 6 am we are at the southern gate to Kruger Park, the Malane Gate. He knows all about the animals, is interesting and drives slow enough so we can see everything. Sometimes I take a photo to shie the GPS coordinates, just for fun. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kruger Park, South Africa, day 2, Safari

We entered the Malalane gate at the bottom of the map, drove around most the day, stopped for lunch, and spent the night at Preterluskop. I was on a tour that Dave at Old Vic’s Travellers Inn gives. Ted was our super guide, then he went home and Dave arrived and cooked us a BBQ dinner. It was pleasant enough to sit outside. 

Another wonderful day filled with wild animal sightings.

Our guide and driver is Ted on the left. The couple in the middle were Irish and the other couple is German. 
Fun travel companions.

Hippopotamus in the river.

Sofia is South Africaan and was on the hut next to me. Somehow, I got a private hut. Sofia, her husband and two young children live near the Malalane gate, but they are enjoying a few nights away from their kids. She was very sweet and friendly. It was great to meet her and her husband. They speak English, but not Africaan, although Sofia is learning so she can converse with the Africaan folks.

A kudu buck.

Crocodile on the rock.

Kruger Park, South Africa, day 3 Safari drive

Dave bought some local Amarula for us. We saw women picking up the fruit off the ground in the campgrounds. It is really sweet and this is with cream.

Just before we left the park, six male rhinoceros came grazing along, passing across the road right in front of us. Dave said do not move and do not make any noise. We did not!

A herd of water buffalo grazing.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sweden, Strolling through Stockholm, Vaxjo and Kalmar

France, walking the pilgrim path to Santiago, Spain. Way of St James, P...

Kruger National Park, day one

At 5 am our guide and driver, Ted, picks me up at Old Vic’s Travellers Inn, along with another’s couple. By 6 am we are at the southern gate to Kruger Park, the Malane Gate. He knows all about the animals, is interesting and drives slow enough so we can see everything. Sometimes I take a photo to sow the GPS coordinates, just for fun. 

Chimp Eden and Sudwala Caves, South Africa

Jane Goodall spreading her message and giving a better life to abused chimps. I was thrilled to be here.

The Sudwala Caves are the oldest Caves in the world. See how the staglitites and stigmatites meet in the middle, forming a column. That kind of formation takes zillions of years to form. Now you know. 
The lights are to guide you and jazz it up a bit.
It was also huge and people can rent it out for a special occasion, like a wedding or concert.