I HAVE just flown into Johannesburg and then to Cape Town in South Africa to join a safari that will take us through four countries over 24 days and travelling over 6,000km.
Our starting point, Cape Town, is a thriving city with so much to see and do. Standing over the city is Table Mountain, a massive formation of sandstone and cape granite that is said to be older than the Himalayas.
You climb to the top in a cable car that revolves as you go up giving a 360 degree view as you climb. The system has been in operation since 1929 and it’s estimated some 26 million visitors have made the ride.
From the top the view over the city is spectacular. In the bay you can see Robbin Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for so many years. On his release, Mandela became president. During his time on Robbin Island he had formed the view it was no use hating those against you and so he embraced the guards and tried to work with them. On becoming president he took this view into government.
He encouraged black and white to work together for the sake of the country and so the Rainbow Nation was born. Nothing is perfect but it seems to be working as South Africa moves ahead. Yes, thousands of black Africans still live in shanty towns while many whites are rich, but the black middle class is growing and so is their future.
It’s Saturday night and it seems everyone is out on the town. At the V & A Waterfront the restaurants are full, the bands are entertaining and the crowds are out to play. The atmosphere is great. It’s one big party.
The next day we head off to explore the Cape Peninsula. We travel along the Atlantic seaboard via Hout Bay originally surrounded by forest but as houses were built the trees came down. The forest has gone but the tourists have moved in and housing prices have gone through the roof.
We now reach Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa and the Cape of Good Hope first rounded by the Portuguese in 1488. The winds up and so are the seas. The massive waves are spectacular to see and it’s easy to understand how so many lives have been lost at sea rounding the cape.
It’s spring and the wildflowers are coming out in force. As you drive along the highway there is a flush of colour each side of the road. It’s the weekend and people are out walking through the fields photographing the floral display. There is something about spring that seems to put a vibe in the air, the wild flowers are the signal it’s here.
But it’s time to move on. We head to the Hantam Region and the town of Calvinia. It’s like it’s been caught in a time warp. Many of the old buildings have been turned into guest houses and furnished with antiques. I stayed in one that was owned by a rich grazier which features a number of self-contained buildings, with their own kitchens and lounge rooms set up just for his guests. I think I have hit the jackpot I’m staying in what was the owners quarters. It’s huge and the bedroom is dominated by a four poster bed with a canopy and the ensuite has a claw foot bath. The mattress is so comfortable that sleep comes quickly.
We now move into the Kalahari Desert Region. This area is known as the green Kalahari as the Orange River that flows through it brings irrigation to the crops.
The irrigation system uses concrete lined channels to bring the water to the fields. The major crop seems to be grapevines, many covered with shade cloth to keep the birds off, wineries abound, and the wine is good with much of it being exported to America.
The un-irrigated land is vast and so are the number of sheep that roam the land.
The massive Orange River puts on a spectacular display at the Augrabies Falls where it plunges 56m into the gorge below. There has been drought here for some time but the falls still manage to impress.
It’s time for our first game drive. Officially leaving South Africa, passport control is at the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, covering 3.6 million hectares, and it’s one of the largest reserves in Africa.
The reserve is bordered also by Namibia and Botswana. Originally home to the San People and later the Meir People. The land was in danger of being taken from them until a high court case awarded them the land. They have now established a Game Lodge that is community owned, profits from which goes to the community’s needs for education, health and provides jobs. We are going there.
As we enter the reserve it soon becomes apparent that there are many animals here. Springbok join us, an eagle, giraffe, jackals, and then ostrich and in a rare moment two ostriches play the mating game.
It’s quite an impressive display that the male puts on, prancing around then lowering his head and lifting one wing high in the air dropping it then lifting the other. Up until now the female has looked quite bored with the whole affair but the wing lifting display has had its effect. She turns her back on him and drops to the ground, the male moves over her they join with necks entwined. All the ladies on our safari let out a deep sigh.
The animals abound this is going to be a great game experience.
*To be continued
Until next time,