06 October 2007

My Last Visit to Kruger National Park

Debbie, Lola and I drove to Kruger National Park for a couple of days towards the end of their trip. They were lucky indeed. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon (12th Sept) and had a couple of hours driving time in the park before we had to be at our rest camp (gates close at 6.00 pm this time of year). We had a full day of driving on Thursday, and a couple of hours on Friday before we departed. And in that time, they got to see all of the so-called Big Five -- elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. These are not called the Big Five due to their size, but because of their worth to hunters of old.

We also saw lots of the regular things -- impala, zebra, giraffe, warthog, vervet monkeys, baboons, and loads of birds. On the first afternoon, we also saw a couple of cheetah lazing in the afternoon sun. That was a first for me, and the leopard we saw on the final morning was closer than the one I'd seen on my first visit. Still didn't get great photos of the leopard because I need a better camera! And I didn't even try to get the cheetah; they were just a bit too far away and blend into the bush too well for my camera to pick them up.

I've been back in the U.S. for one week now, and it was while I was uploading these photos that I cried for South Africa for the first time since being home. I so loved going to Kruger. My trips there will be some of the highlights of my life.

Steenbok. As you'll see from these first photos (added in chronological order), the first afternoon and next morning we were in an area that had been extensively burned. Uncontrolled bush fires are often a problem in South Africa, especially during the dry winters.

A magnificent male kudu.


A big herd of Cape buffalo. They crossed the road nonchalantly, unaware of the cars they were holding up.

More buffalo.

A southern ground hornbill. This is a closer photo than the one from April, 2007.

Gosh, he's a funky bird.

Two female lions, taking a morning break.

A bungalow at Skukuza Rest Camp, the largest camp in the park.

The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library. They're an EBSCO customer! Named for James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first warden of what was originally called the Sabie Game Reserve. It was renamed in 1926 and became South Africa's first national park.

Lola and Debbie at one of the few places in the park where you're allowed to "alight" from your vehicle.

Blue wildebeest, also called gnu, at a watering pan.

Rhino, impala and zebra at the same pan. There were lots of animals at that pan!

A Swainson's francolin chases a yellow hornbill.

That same yellow hornbill.

A steenbok rests in the shade.

A pond that was full of hippos. Crocs, too.

As you know by now, I love the guinea fowl!!!

Big and weird nests, and an Egyptian goose drinks.

We wait for the elephant to cross the road. Wouldn't you?

More elephants.

You know I love a good sunset. Hi, Bonnie.

Sunset over the Lower Sabie Rest Camp, where we stayed the 2nd night.

A big guy.

Leopard in the center of photo. Really.

Trust me, she's there.

Still there.

05 October 2007

District Six Museum

On Monday, I dropped off Debbie and Lola at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront so they could do some last minute shopping (we returned to Jo’burg that afternoon), and I went to the District Six Museum. It opened in 1994 at the former Buitenkant Street Methodist Church, and is operated by the District Six Museum Foundation (formed in 1989).

The area in Cape Town known as District Six was formed in the 1860s and was the sixth municipal district in the city. For many years, it was a racially integrated area. The predominant group were coloured Muslims, known as Cape Malays. They were descendants of southeast Asians (from Malaysia, Indonesia and so forth) brought as slaves by the Dutch East India Company to the Cape Colony. But District Six also included whites, blacks and Indians.

In 1966, under the Group Areas Act, the ruling National Party (which came into power in 1948, and began the apartheid policies) declared District Six a whites-only area. Forced removals were begun in 1968. The government declared that the area was dangerous and crime-ridden, and used “slum clearance” as an excuse to remove people to newly developed townships in the barren areas east of Table Mountain known as the Cape Flats and Mitchell’s Plain. These new townships offered substandard accommodation, and they still exist today. There was, and is, inadequate space, community services, roads, lighting, etc. The rent was higher than in town, the construction was poor, and people now had to budget for commuting costs as well.

In the meantime, the entire District Six area was completely razed. Homes and businesses that had been there for generations were torn down. The few buildings that were allowed to stand were churches and mosques. Much of the land stands empty today. While apartheid was still in effect, a group called Hands Off District Six emerged to protest against new development in District Six, calling the land “salted earth.” The government did, however, build the Cape Technikon (now part of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) for white students. The District Six Beneficiary Trust, an offshoot of Hands Off District Six, is now helping previous landowners reclaim their land. Proving ownership is sometimes difficult, although the municipality will allow clinic cards and old electricity account bills as proof of residency.

The museum, which features displays about the lives of District Six families, is moving. It also serves as a sort of community center for previous District Six residents.

District Six Museum.

On the floor is a large map showing the layout, streets and landmarks of the former District Six neighborhood, and it includes handwritten notes from former residents.

Some actual street signs from the old District Six.

Table Mountain National Park - Cape Point

Below are more photos from the trip to Cape Town that Debbie, Lola and I made in September. One day we drove down to Cape Point Park, which is actually part of the larger Table Mountain National Park. At the park, there are actually two "capes" or points -- Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. It is the second that is the most southwesterly tip of Africa. The southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, which is across False Bay and to the east.

Cape Point is considered the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. I know it's probably my imagination, but I swear I can see a difference in the color of the water going out south of the point. I've mentioned this to some folks, and they say, "No, you can! It's because the Benguela current (from the Atlantic to the west) and the Agulhas current (from the Indian to the east) meet there."

The Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias was the first European to sail around the cape in the 1400s. This opened up a new trade route. It's also a very treacherous area. The 40s latitudes are apparently quite windy and dangerous, and so ships would sail closer to the coast in order to avoid the "naughty 40s". But the coast itself is quite rocky, and there have been many shipwrecks along this coast, including the Lusitania in 1911.

Debbie at the signpost for Cape Point.

A view of the Cape of Good Hope, from Cape Point.

Cape Point -- the new (1919) lighthouse can be seen about halfway down the cliff.

Another view of Cape Point, with False Bay in the background.

False Bay.

Debbie at the signpost for Cape of Good Hope, the most southwesterly point of Africa. Please note that she is wearing an Acoustic Café t-shirt. The Acoustic Café - serving hot licks since 1996.

Katy at Cape of Good Hope signpost.

The rocky beach at Cape of Good Hope. This is where Jeff and I watched a beautiful sunset back in April.

Beach cabanas in Simon's Town, or Fishhoek, I forget which.

Tidal pool near the cabanas. The water is trapped within the confines of the brick and/or stone walls, making it warmer and safer to swim in. There are several of these in the coastal resort towns.

The view from At Villa Fig, one of my favorite B&Bs in Constantia (a suburb of Cape Town). This is the eastern or back side of Table Mountain. That's Devil's Peak to the right.

Another view from At Villa Fig.

Some lavendar at At Villa Fig.

At Villa Fig.