Thursday, December 27, 2007

South African Holiday

In September 2007 our family travelled to South Africa for a 5½ week holiday. Niall was born in South Africa and has many cousins and Aunts still there, so we visited all of them. It was a fantastic time of getting away from work and everyone’s commitments and spending time as a family with another part of our family.

We stayed with Niall’s dad’s sister (Mary Jill) and her husband in Johannesburg for the beginning and end of our trip. We enjoyed the relaxation, poolside (although it was a little cold), spending time with the cousins and their children, eating (too much) and some sightseeing. We spent 5 days away near the Kruger Park Game Reserve, borrowing Joe’s ute (very kindly lent to us!); one night in the Game reserve and 2 days driving around (that was enough driving for the kids), and a few nights at Pilgrim’s Rest in an ex-manse cheaply rented out. This was an amazing time for us – the landscape was phenomenal (so many mountains, canyons - see Blyde River Canyon in photo), spotted with huts, houses, shops, livestock) and the game reserve was full of animals to see. We saw more animals than we ever have before (and usually over a longer time) – giraffe, elephant, springbok, warthog, wilderbeast, mongoose, hippos, zebra (crossing the road!), and many more… but most excitingly we saw cats – lionesses and a leopard! The lions were lying near a kill just near the road (so they were really close). The leopard was a long way away up in a tree – but we saw it! The kids loved all the animals and had a wonderful time here. We were so very lucky to see so many animals in such as short time.

We also spent three weeks in Cape Town, staying in Sommerset West with Niall’s Aunty Elaine (his mum’s sister). During our stay we did lots of day trips, spent time with the Shepherd family and their children. Niall and Fi went out for dinner (in the BMW pavilion, sitting under a BMW in the air above us) and a show (thanks to Francois who manages the restaurant and theatre!). The show was a history of Rock – live music and lots of fun without the kids!

We enjoyed a few days at Pringle Bay staying at Elaine’s beach house (‘The Barn’). We drove to Hermanus to see the whales – unfortunately it was raining, but we managed to shelter in a restaurant called “The Cave” – in a cave overlooking the ocean and the whales (it’s a hard life!). So beautiful. Had a lovely dinner at Betty’s Bay at a restaurant called “The Whale Station” – we were the only guests and they bent over backwards for us. Laura and Niall climbed Leopard’s Kloof (a cliff with a waterfall) while Connor and I wandered around the beautiful gardens below checking out the amazing flowers, tortoises wandering by and of course had a sit on the tractor. We had a visit from a baboon, trying to open the sliding front door – luckily Fiona happened to come in the room as he was doing it and got him out! A very close call with the kids watching TV just a few metres away.

One of the best days was driving down to the Cape Peninsula National Park. We followed the coast (thanks for the car Elaine!) all the way and saw lots of whales really close to the road (just a few metres away - in back of this photo) and of course lots of baboons. It was a gorgeous day and absolutely fantastic scenery with high cliffs on one side and the sea on the other side. We stopped at The Boulders to see a penguin colony (very smelly!), then continued on to the very tip of the peninsula. Niall walked up to the lighthouse while the kids and I took the Funicular (cable car). You could see the different air flows and conditions from the two oceans colliding (one side very cloudy, the other clear) – it was an amazing sight. Later in our stay Niall enjoyed climbing Table Mountain with his cousin’s husband, Peter. We previously all went up in the Cable Car, which the kids enjoyed. Laura and Connor really enjoyed the Aquarium (especially the kids play area) at the Waterfront, and we were fascinated by the boat trip and tour of Robben Island (where Nelson Mandella was kept imprisoned).

The length of our visit gave us time to see all the family and do some touring, but also gave us time to learn about the real South Africa and its issues. The disparity between the whites and blacks and coloureds (ie. not white, but not black – from Asia, India, etc) is decreasing, but there is still so much poverty. We visited a church in a black township where they spoke Zulu for most of the service (except for “hello everyone”) – wonderful singing! The houses were all shacks made out of tin and scraps. The townships sprawl for kilometres. We noticed a big difference in the amount of public housing built this time and so much more development in general.

Black Economic Empowerment has meant that many blacks have found jobs (they’re given preference over whites and coloureds, in many cases with little experience), but still many more need jobs. And now the whites and coloureds are left struggling for employment. I was interested in the amount of people that speak Afrikaans – mainly whites of course. We attended a few churches, many of the people speaking Afrikaans (Sunday school in two languages is interesting!). We have continued to watch with interest the politics of the ANC – the recent announcement of the new ANC president Zuma has many worried (he had been caught sleeping with an Aids sufferer, but said it was ok because he had a shower afterwards). Many in the government still turn a blind eye to Aids and deny that it is sexually transmitted, instead encouraging healthy diets as a way of prevention.

So much is changing in South Africa, some for the good and some for the bad. It was great to be there to get a feel for what is happening – so different from Australia. SA has so many refugees from Zimbabwe and the tumult happening there, as well as the many other African nations – and Australia has so few refugees in comparison. The trip has given me a whole new understanding of cultural differences and how we perceive our world. We are so lucky to live in a country of opportunity and richness where people are generally treated equally and fairly. A country of relative safeness, as opposed to SA where there is high disregard for the fragility of life. 1,500 people are killed a month in car jackings – usually just for the car or even just the mobile phone. It’s so violent and inhuman. So hard to understand and comprehend. Nothing bad happened to us in SA (in any of our visits). We stayed in gated neighbourhoods and houses (with armed guards) most of the time – but those same houses have had car jackings and break-ins in the past few years. No one can be guaranteed safety. Despite its problems, I love South Africa and the people there (of all colours). There is much hope for the future and there is so much in the natural environment to enjoy and wonder at. We had a wonderful time thanks to our many hosts who made us all so welcome; it felt like home! Connor keeps asking to return to "hannesburg" - unfortunately the cost (and time) is too great at the moment. Maybe in another few years.
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At 9:36 pm, Anonymous Calantha said...

Good for people to know.


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