A Travellerspoint blog

Hello from Kruger National Park!


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Okay I’m not actually sitting in Kruger Park right at the moment but I did type most of this up yesterday during our free afternoon. In fact, I’m sitting in a mall right now that is like any mall that you would find in North America. It was a strange feeling when we got off the mini van and a sign close to the entrance says: “Sushi is Sold Here.” Am I really in Africa????

Indeed I am. Today is our only day off over this 28-day field guide/park ranger course to come into town to buy things and to use the internet café. We arrived here Monday night from Johannesburg (~4.5 hour drive). After 6 days, it is still a bit surreal that I am actually living right inside Kruger National Park where there are elephants, lions, rhinos, hyenas and giraffes roaming around freely. There are seven of us including me taking the course this month. All really great easy going people: 2 from Germany, 1 from UK, 1 from Holland, 1 from Belgium, and 1 also from Canada (Halifax). We are staying in Nkambeni Tented Lodge, located close to the Numbi gate in the southwest corner of the park. It was a complete surprise to me when I heard that there are keys to our tent!! A “tent” that can be locked plus it has a bathroom?!?? WOW, is this luxury style camping or what! As it turns out, the so called “tent” is more like a canvas style cabin. There are two beds in each plus ensuite bathroom (I must add that there are two showers, yes TWO, one indoor and one outdoor!!)
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bunch of hippos sunbathing by the water edge

The temperature varies greatly throughout the day. At night and early morning, it is below 10C and in the afternoon when the sun is beaming on you, it feels more like 25C. The weather has been gorgeous, sunny and cloudless every single day---great for star gazing at night :) (actually today is cloudy). If you don’t mind the cold evenings, it is a really good time of year to come to Kruger, plus there are no bugs!

Over the past four days, we have both hiked and driven through the park. When we hike, in case we run into problems with any animals, we are accompanied by two guides that carry rifles. So far we have seen three of the BIG FIVE---an elephant (saw it at breakfast in our first morning here!), several buffalos and a white rhino (a young one during our night drive), we have yet to see a lion and a leopard (the guides said we probably will since we’ll be here for a month). Other animals that we have encountered include hippos, warthogs, and many from the antelope family: zebra, steenboks, waterbucks, impalas, and kudus. I wish to see more elephants (have seen many sightings of their poo/droppings on the road---yes we are learning how to identify animals from their poos and tracks!) I would really like to see a giraffe as well---such an elegant animal!

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Adding on, last night we had an amazing game drive in the evening. The highlight was following a cheetah on the road for about 20 minutes!! We think it was a male. We followed quite close to it in our Landrover, closest was probably ~15 m away. It certainly knew that we were there because we had a spot light shining on it, but it knows that we are not a threat, plus we guessed that it had just made a kill (its belly was quite full, wallowing side to side as it walked....if it was a female, it certainly looked pregnant!). It was just taking it easy patrolling his territory, giving us quite a rare experience to observe a cheetah so closely. Very impressive!!

I am really having a great time here and really looking forward to all the activities planned for the next three weeks including two full-day safaris through the park, plus camping out for two nights under the stars in the last week of August! The Kruger adventure has just begun, I wish you could all be here :)

Posted by RobertaS 05:47 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Province built on gold

Gauteng (Johannesburg, South Africa)


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I am writing this blog from my room in a hostel in Johannesburg. The temperature displayed on my travel alarm clock shows is 11C in here! Blurrrr…… Outside is probably only ~5C! That’s winter in Johannesburg. During the day it does go up to ~18C.

Johannesburg is often simply known as Joburg. It is the business center of South Africa. It’s where gold was discovered back in the late 1800’s, hence making it the wealthiest province in Africa, and according to a brochure, it is the source of 40% of all the gold ever mined from the planet (really!?!) It is a city that is very spread out (I didn’t see many high rise buildings), made up of many neighbourhoods/districts with each having its own unique characters. It is unfortunately also a city that you can witness the huge disparity between the very poor and the rich in South Africa, and ironically they live within eyesight of one another in the neighbourhood of Soweto (read on below to find out more).

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view of city from Top of Africa, tallest building in Africa

It is always great meeting people from around the world as I travel. There is someone staying here at the hostel who will be travelling to Toronto in a couple of weeks, and someone else who has been to Toronto commented on how clean Toronto is! (so to all those living in Toronto, you should be proud that we live in a *clean* city!) Yesterday I went on a city tour with two people from Amsterdam. We were driven around by a local guide (Joburg is definitely not a city that you could wander and explore independently. I saw many tourists who were similarly driven by local guides at many of the attractions that we visited.)

It was a very interesting day. There were many highlights:
-we went to the Top of Africa, tallest building in Africa, to get a view of the city (there are only 50 floors, so cannot be compared to the CN Tower)
-spent a couple of hours in the Apartheid Museum (excellent excellent museum! Must go if you ever visit Joburg.) It outlines the history of the system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race that was the law in South Africa from 1948-1991. Only 20 years ago since this was lifted (1991 was the year after when Nelson Mandela was officially released from prison.) Racial classification was the foundation of all apartheid laws. Individuals were placed under one of four groups: African, ‘coloured’, ‘Asian’, or ‘white’. The ‘white’ had all the privileges over the other groups. It was definitely an eye opener for me. In the museum, there is currently a Nelson Mandela exhibition outlining his life and his accomplishments. Excellent as well!
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entrance to the Apartheid Museum illustrating the racial classification at the time

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“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela

We spent the afternoon in Soweto, a very diverse neighborhood of roughly 4 million people. This is the place where a lot of the ‘non white’ was placed during Apartheid (there is even a partial wall built from leftover mine materials to block them from seeing into downtown Joburg). Now it is an area where the rich and the poor collide. We did a brief visit to the Motsoaledi camp (aka the “slum”) where the poor live in small shacks. We were able to tour through the camp because they have volunteer guides who live in the camp themselves that want to share their stories. In return, we give a small donation that goes back to the community. Our guide spoke English very well. There were small children that followed us asking for candies and money. The experience was unforgettable.

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I wish I have time to write more. It is a fascinating place, definitely worth a visit.

Goodbye Joburg. See you again in early December (in much warmer weather!)

Posted by RobertaS 23:51 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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