A Travellerspoint blog

The Long Walk to Freedom

Visiting Mandela

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It's a sunny day and we are ready to experience a glimpse of the Soweto neighborhood, home to Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. I'm finding what I see and hear a bit hard to process. The day starts with a drive through the affluent areas near our hotel. People live in beautiful houses behind solid walls , topped by razor wire.

We stop at Nelson Mandela's house in Houghton Estates, a beautiful house with lots of windows overlooking beautiful gardens. OK, a house is a house, but what strikes me the most are the little stones placed around the trees, curbside to his home with messages written on them by visitors from all over the world. They were placed there when he was ill and after his death. I find this to be an endearing tribute.

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We continue on and take a drive through the old downtown of Johannesburg. At first sight, it looks like any other city but a closer look reveals deep poverty and decline. All of the storefronts are just storefronts...nothing is occupied above street level. Some buildings have squatters living in them without utilities and other buildings have been bricked up. Companies have abandoned their businesses and moved to the outskirts to start new.

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We make the drive across the Nelson Mandela Bridge to the outskirts of Soweto. Charl, our guide points out the great distance this township is from the main city...a deliberate tactic of the apartheid government to separate themselves from the Black poplulation. A typical type of house here is called a matchbox. We walk to Nelson Mandela's house, now a museum. It consists of a living room, two bedrooms and a tiny kitchen area and pantry. Four people lived in this home. The house has had some restoration but the residue of a fire-bombing by the police was left on the brick face as a reminder of history. It gives me goosebumps!

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We make a stop at the Hector PIeterson memorial, the first child killed and his body picked up by a teenager during a protesting of the sudden government decision to deliver lessons only in Afrikaans (meant to oppress Blacks).

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The Apartheid Museum is an amazing place. It very much reminds me of the Holocaust Museum. The story of South Africa from the Black perspective. As we enter, we are each given a ticket labeled "Black" or "White" and directed to the appropriate entrance...(to help us experience that feeling of racial segregation). Very well done in my opinion...I actually do experience that whiff of fear, despair and hope. And activism!

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On the ride home, Rick notices signs that read "hijacking hotspot" in several different areas on the highway. Charl, explains that these are dangerous areas....definitely do not stop your car here and good luck to you if you run out of gas or your car breaks down. People are known in these areas to get mugged, robbed and/or worse!

We also notice people practicing their religion in the woods, off the sides of roads and various other areas. They are part of the peaceful resistance movement. This is part of Ghandi following, they dress in white, practice the freedom to worship, receive no government aid and their motto is: " what is important is what is inside you....nothing else". And how true is that!

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Farewell dinner with those returning home tonight...hugs all around..let's stay in touch!

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Posted by Linda Fluckiger 09:28 Archived in South Africa Tagged soweto Comments (0)

I do windows

The Panoramic Route to Johannesburg a.k.a. Joburg

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Up at the crack of dawn, breakfast and hit the road! With spots like God's Window, Blythe River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes, it's not called Paradise Country for nothing! The entire panoramic route is just that....one beautiful ride! It is referred to as "the place where the sun rises" and has beautiful gorges, waterfalls, forests....magnificent scenery!

God's Window is situated on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga .... even though our day is beginning a bit overcast, with slight fog....one look and you can see why this place is so aptly named. The view is over 900 miles down into the lush forested ravine. The cliffs are plunging over the Lowveld and it seems as if you can see for miles.

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The Blythe River Canyon is just another area of this beautiful red sandstone escarpment, considered one of the largest canyons on planet earth and it may be the largest green canyon due to its lush foliage. It is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the African continent. The best "window view" of the whole canyon is of the "Three Rondavels", huge round rocks resembling the houses or huts of the local people.

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As we continue our trek to Johannesburg on this beautiful route, we visit Bourke's Luck Potholes, another wonder of nature, plunging pools have eroded a number of potholes which we view from the rock formations above. It was named after a local prospector, Tom Bourke, who predicted "there is gold in dem rocks"...although none was found. Pedestrian bridges connect the overlooks of the potholes and the gorge.

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We arrive in Joburg (previously called Johanessburg) where we part ways with a few people from our group. Some are proceeding to Victoria Falls with us and others are heading back to the States. We are in the mood for a celebration tonight so six of us are heading to an African restaurant known as MOYO. This is where you can get a taste of African food and feel the essence of the continent. It is a fun and lively place. Someone comes to the table with a wooden bowl and asks you to put your hands into it. They pour warm water over your hands and then hand you a towel. This is a ritual there. Another woman comes and does some face painting on each patron....we have some laughs. All the while, there is great music playing with that African beat. A great memory as we end the first leg of our tour. "We'll always have MOYO!"

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So, most people don't do windows; but, with " windows" like this....it affords me great views into a great world..so, yes..."I do windows!"

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 04:58 Archived in South Africa Tagged canyon river window luck god's potholes blythe bourkes Comments (0)

Safari Time!

Kruger

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Wake up call..5:00 a.m Why not? We are on vacation and don't want to miss a moment. I've been up since 4:00 a.m. ready to go!

Kruger National Park has a rich history, both natural and cultural which can be traced back to early mankind. There is quite a bit of evidence that prehistoric man roamed this region between 100,000 and 500,000 years ago. Kruger National Park is one of the worlds greatest game parks. It is also known for its efforts in nature conservation, professional management of wildlife and the safeguarding of African cultural heritage.

The safari vehicles have arrived to cart us into the "bush"! It is still dark out... and a bit chilly but the excitement overrides all of this (for me anyway).
Coffee and rusks to get us started:

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Lunch bags filled with snacks to keep us nourished during the day:

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Time to hop in the vehicles:

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And off we go!

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We are on the looked for the "Big Five" today! We spot 2 of the 5...the cape buffalo and the elephant and lots of other wildlife! We are happy with what we see today, after all, its a safari, not a zoo.... animals will come when they will

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This is only the beginning! We thought we spotted a rhino but it was a rock ... we will call that one "the big six"! Nice try, though....

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 15:11 Archived in South Africa Tagged park national kruger Comments (1)

In my previous life, I was a jam jar

Swaziland

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We are crossing the border into this tiny land-locked country; a Kingdom which has ancient and unique traditions. The people are peaceful, warm and friendly. We experience what the Swazi character consists of: good manners, they ask how you are and are genuinely interested . . . you can feel the warmth of these people. Speaking of crossing the border...At the immigration checkpoint are dispensers offering condoms to everyone who crosses into Swaziland. This country has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS per capita in the world.

This nation is lead by a monarchy, which is a dual one...the balance of power lying with the King and the Queen Mother. Family responsibility and discipline are instilled in children at a young age and the authority of the father is respected and obeyed. Boys enter regiments where they train with their peers and develop with this same group throughout life. The members of each regiment are expected to support each other. When a young man achieves mature warrior status, only then may he consider courtship as his earlier responsibilities involved participation in national projects and rituals. Old age is treated with great respect in this culture. A few more Swazi facts: 20 years is the average age, 50 years is life expectancy, 26.5% of the population is infected with HIV AIDS, most every person in Swaziland survives on $1.25 per day, they are known for their beehive hairstyles.

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Among the mountains that encircle this African Kingdom of Swaziland is a mountain that resembles a basking crocodile. At the summit sits the worlds most ancient mine (it dates back 43,000 years!). At the foot sits the remote village of Ngwenya "the crocodile". We make our way to Ngwenya Glass, a charming little area where glass collected by the children of Swaziland is recycled and blown into beautiful works of art. I (and everyone else) purchase a few pieces to take home. My purchase is wine stoppers (blown glass animals). Ngwenya Glass was started by Swedish aid in 1979. The place was built, all the machinery was imported and they employed and trained Swazi's in the age old art of glassblowing! The story is: Ngwenya glass is so special because only recycled glass is used....every piece is totally handmade and mouth blown. People from all over Swaziland collect bottles and jars and are paid per kilo for clean glass. Then, this small group of talented Swazi craftsmen and women breathe new life into enchanting interpretations of the animals of Africa giving each their own irresistible personality. Ngwenya must be the cleanest area since any bottle that catches a childs attention finds its way to the glass works. This glassworks "factory" launched the most successful wildlife conservation fund by donating a percentage of profits from it's worldwide sales. It is known as the Ngwenya Rhino and Elephant Fund and it's proceeds goes directly to Mkhaya Game Reserve...a refuge for endangered species in the Swaziland lowveld. Ngwenya glass also uses waste newspaper as effective packaging, re-uses grey water and has rainwater catchments, uses purified old engine oil to fuel the furnace, plants indigenous trees around the "factory", has staff HIV/AIDS awareness programmes, supports orphanages and charities regionally, and is a proud member of Fair Trade (Cofta).

There are other stores in this little area that are great to check out. Everything is unique and handmade. I discovered a store where everything was made from magazine paper. They sold jewelry made of magazine paper...it's a great way to recycle the trash there and provide an income for the local families....it's beautiful. Stacks of magazines with a glass top were used as tables in the store and they wrapped your purchases in bags made of recycled magazine paper. I've already received many compliments on my earrings!

There were basket, pottery and several other shops. I also purchased a batik pillow cover depicting a big, fat, yellow moon with the African Acacia Tree on it. It is beautiful. I fell in love with the trees as well. (I'm loving Africa, can you tell? I think Skye was right....I am a white African!). My favorites were the recycled magazine jewelry and, of course, the recycled glass. All of it was beautiful and the fact that proceeds go toward conservation of the wildlife makes it that much better.

www.ngwenyaglass.co.sz

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 12:37 Archived in South Africa Tagged glass swaziland ngweya Comments (0)

The Big 5

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

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This reserve is famous for it's conservation of black and white rhinos and home to "The Big 5" (Rhinos, Elephants, Cape Buffalo, Lions and Leopard). The Big 5 refers to the animals that are the most difficult to hunt on foot and are also the most dangerous.

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We spotted several animals today. It is very exciting to see these creatures in their natural habitat. Our ranger told us that the animals think these jeeps are another animal and as long as we don't leave the vehicle, we should be fine. However, were we to step out...no telling what could happen.

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After a day in the bush and spotting some wildlife, 2 of the Big 5 (Rhinos and Cape Buffalo), and a few of the Ugly 5 (Warthogs, Dung Beetles) we are off to the Kingdom of Swaziland.

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 11:12 Archived in South Africa Tagged the white big black 5 rhinos hluhluwe-imfolozi Comments (0)

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