|:||Sun, 26 Jan 2003 06:06:16 -0600|
|:||Sun, 26 Jan 2003 06:06:16 -0600|
|To My Family and Friends,
I have just returned back to Cape Town from a trip on the Garden Route. As I had mentioned in a previous newsletter, the drive takes you across the southern part of the country/continent along the Indian Ocean. I was expecting amazing views and pristine beaches. It was that, but so much more. There are actually wetlands along the coast. So on one side you have the Indian Ocean, sometimes calm along a palm-lined beaches and sometimes extremely rough along the rugged, rocky coast. On the other side are wetlands with small rivers and lagoons and pine trees and mountains. It is lush and
I will tell you about a few highlights…We stayed in Mossel Bay in a train the first night. It is a bed & breakfast that was once sleeper cars for a train. The tracks run adjacent to the beach. The tracks are no longer in use and now the train is a place to stay. Very cool with a little restaurant and bar with a deck right on the beach. The beach is of the tan/brown fine sand variety. It is not so white and powdery, more brown and spongy. Very soft on the feet. Stunning! Also there is the first Post Office Tree in the world!
The ships en route from Europe to India used to leave messages and letters on a tree in Mossel Bay for returning ships to bring home back in the 1500’s & 1600’s!
We also stayed in Knysna (pronounced nighs-na). It is a hot spot on the Garden Route. There is an estuary or lagoon that the town borders. We took a boat ride out the “heads”. The heads are the immense rocky outcroppings that guard the lagoon from the Indian Ocean. Our tour guide said that they are the most dangerous heads in the world. There are many boating deaths through there every year as they are smashed against the rocks trying to pass through. They also have oyster farms in the lagoon….Bunches of them.
The Knysna oysters are famous year round. And delicious! But don’t drink the water. I took a bath in our hotel and the water was brown. Not sure if I was clean or not when I got out!
In Plettenburg Bay I went to an elephant farm. They saved the lives of 7 elephants that were to be killed to cull the herd in Kruger National Park. These elephants are very tame. At the farm you can walk with them and pet them and feed them. It was scary at first to have this massive breathing trunk coming at you to get a handful of fruit. They are such sweet beasts, though. They have a female that is ready to breed and a male that will be ready in a couple of years. The gestation period for an elephant is 22 months. So they should have a baby elephant in about 4 years!
About 20 minutes east of P. Bay is Tsitsikama National Park. It is about 80 kilometers along the coast and the borders go 4kms into the ocean to protect the marine life…yes they are sharks! We hiked in the park and took a boat ride up Storms River. The river is in a huge natural gorge made of sandstone and ore. There is so much ore that the waters from the mountains run through the rock and turn the river black. The black river runs into the coral blue-green Indian Ocean. It is quite a beautiful sight.
On the way back to Cape Town we took a more northerly trek through the Karoo. The name sounds cooler than it is. The terrain became much more arid. The vegetation was like the small west Texas scrub brush. In fact, I could have been in Texas if it weren’t for the higher mountains We did have a wonderful experience in Oudtshoorn. We went to a wildlife reserve there that focuses the breeding of crocodiles and cheetahs for research and to supply zoos, etc. I was able to go into a cheetah enclosure and pet a cheetah. Yes, they are tame, yet still dangerous animals. It purred then I rubbed it behind the ear! Just like a domesticated cat.
The guy that was our guide was like Steve, the Crocodile Hunter. He was in those croc enclosures getting them agitated so they would snap at him. No thanks! Interesting note…Did you know that when a female lays here eggs, the sexes have not been decided? The eggs lower in the nest (where its cooler) become female and the eggs on top become males because it is a bit warmer. Also the males will eat all of their young when the mom carries them in her mouth down to the water for the first time after they hatch. Seem like a strange instinct for the survival in the crocodile. Interesting!
My time in South Africa is winding down to just a few more days. There are a few farewell events, bye to my friends at the Red Cross, packing, cleaning up and then it’s on the road again! I am so thankful for experiences that I have had here. I would not trade anything for it. It has been an amazing learning experience that few people on this earth ever have or make the time to do. Immersing yourself in a strange and foreign culture forces oneself to get stronger. To do things you might not want to do, but have to do survive. It forces you to communicate in new ways. It also gives you time to look into yourself and realize how thankful you are to live in a place with so many freedoms. And yet also hate some of those very things about that culture from which you come.
South Africa is a country of total contrast. Extreme wealth vs. extreme poverty. Tall mountains vs. sandy beaches. Raging oceans vs. dry desert-like air. Some of the worlds worst violent crime vs. most of the friendliest people I have ever met. The people are knowledgeable about world politics and economies and yet we know very little about this forgotten land at the bottom of the African continent. It is an amazing place. An emerging country that has so far to go in some ways. If the government can remain democratic and stable, they have a great chance to continue moving forward to creating a large middle class to sustain the economy.
I am feeling a bit sentimental as my time here disappears. My friend, Caroline, said that time will move very slowly because I do not have to rush around and be at appointments, etc. She is right, it has very often moved painfully slowly. Now the rest of the week will fly by and I will be gone, but a better person. Thanks again to all of you who gave suggestions to me and introduced me to people here. It has really helped out immensely.
I will have access to e-mail for a few more days here. Then I will try to find an internet café in Mauritius to send an update there. I hope all of you are well. I miss you all and see many of your personalities in people I meet here. Funny, we are all human and in many ways, the same everywhere in the world. We are all products of our creator.
Pray for peace.