March 31, 2008
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
Aquila Game Preserve
We are just back from our first Safari; the dusk patrol followed by dinner, a shower and now a late evening blog update.
First off: Safari is a Zulu term meaning Journey. On this journey we saw Hippo's, Zebras, Springbok (similar to an Impala) White Rhino, Wildebeest, also known as a Gnu (but then you already Gnu that), Cape buffalo and Lions. The big 5 are the most dangerous animals to hunt and they are: Rhino, Lion, Elephant, Cape buffalo and Leopard.
Interesting animal information: Hippos have very short stubby legs and are very heavy, which is why they like the water which buoys them. They can stay underwater for up to 6 minutes at a time and are said to have no friends as they are ferocious and have very big teeth with which they attempt to impale you. There were two baby hippos that were cute but probably will still grow up friendless.
Zebras are particularly interesting as the reason for their stripes is threefold: the main reason is recognition, each stripe pattern is distinctive (like fingerprints), the second reason is control of body temperature as the white reflects heat and the black absorbs heat and they can utilize this to regulate body temperature and lastly the stripes are to camouflage so that they may better hide from predators. A herd of Zebra is called a Dazzle; it does catch your eye when you see a large herd of them. Zebras almost always gain too much weight when they are young, (like people) and never will get if off so they remain overweight their entire lives. You cannot ride a Zebra as you would a horse as their spine is very weak and in order to ride an animal you must form a bond with them; the problem is Zebras bond through biting. They are more like a donkey then a horse. The Afrikaan word for thank you is "dankie" so Donna thought everyone was calling us an "ass" for the first few days.
The Cape buffalo is also very dangerous and indeed at one point came close to attacking the Range Rover. The Zulu call them Niyadi; Black Death.
Donna's comment: How fun is this?? She was the only person hoping we didn't see anything. She opened the window at night (hot flash) and I told her I had seen a spider the size of a king crab. Now I had to shut the window and we both were awake the rest of the night. Our next ride out was at 0600..
We were up before sunrise because early morning is the time the lion cubs play which was great to watch. The early morning ride is so cold and we all were given blankets for the ride. It is nice that they stop and give us tea, coffee and the night before a glass of wine.
We moved on to revisit the Rhinos, and found two young elephants intent on stripping food off of a tree. Although unsuccessful, one of them was intense and tried every way he could to get the food.
We found two pride of lions one with two, one year old cubs. One of the cubs has a game he plays, attempting to bite the tires of the Range Rover. He was prancing around and took turns jumping on his brother and lunging at the truck. The Drivers are in on the game and will turn toward the lion at low speed and the cub will leap backwards into the air like a regular cat.
The second pride of lions had three month old cubs. They were playful and the mom would pick them up and carry them around. as well and we enjoyed watching them for about 20 minutes.
It was touching to see how much all of the workers caring for the animals feel towards the animals. They love them, but respect how wild and powerful the animals are. We were warned about leaving the lodge at night as the buffalo sometimes wandered into the camp area. After witnessing an aborted charge on one of the Range Rovers and seeing all of the dents from successful ones we also had a better idea of how beautiful, powerful and dangerous these wild animals are.
"There is no place like this place anywhere near this place: so this must be the place".
T shirt philosophy
March 30, 2008
Ceres, South Africa
Aquila Game Reserve
After driving to Stellenboech, we spent a nice evening walking the town square near the University. Although it is a nice wine country city, it lacks the charm of Franschoek, where we stayed the previous day.
On Saturday Morning, we had a lovely breakfast at the Avenue Inn B&B where we stayed and which is run by Neville and his wife, along with their 2 dogs Chippie and Charlie with whom I spent time throwing tennis balls. We had a candid discussion regarding politics (Neville and I; Chippie and Charlie had no opinion) and personalities as they relate to different nationalities.
The topic arose as we have had extremely different responses when people discover that we are American. The other day a group of German tourist heard us talking (regarding the beauty of the area, it was nothing negative) and immediately began berating us in German (the term dumbkoff Americans came up several times) for some perceived slight. We finally just moved away. This is ironic as the day before, we met a German gentleman who thanked us (USA) for protecting the world from terrorists. He feels that his Government is either reluctant to get involved, or does not realize the danger presented. Neville said he gets very few Americans and asked us if it is true that most Americans only get two weeks of vacation??? Most Europeans get at least a month. What are we doing wrong?
After buying some gifts at the Saturday morning market, we drove for two hours to the Aquila game reserve. We will write much more on the safari later as we are preparing right now to go on a trip into the bush of deepest, darkest Africa (not that deep or dark here really).
As far as the exchange rate goes; we have been getting around 8 Rand to the dollar. Of course the Euro exchange is 16 Euros to the Rand - again what are we doing wrong?
We had lunch yesterday at an exclusive restaurant (La Petite Ferme) which is comparable to The Spiced Pear in Newport. Donna now is saying this is the best chicken she ever had in her life. With a bottle of wine, plus 2 glasses of wine, 2 appetizers, 4 entrees (Ostrich fillet, Steak, Duck and Lemon Grass Chicken) plus desserts it came to under 1,000 Rand or approximately $125 dollars with a generous tip. A comparable lunch at home would have been at least $600.00.
Despite all of the research we did, I am shocked at how beautiful it is here, how modern the conveniences are and how good the food. The wine flows easy and we are getting used to having some with all meals.
We are really enjoying ourselves, so this must be the place.
March 27, 2008 (in metric, 27/03/08)
"The real secret of patience is to find something to do in the meantime."
Now for our boat update: It is not ready. Not even near ready, nor will be ready anytime soon despite all of the assurances and promises. We went to visit the factory on Tuesday, and I could see Wayne's expression of disappointment. South Africa is very similar to the Caribbean Islands in that no one is in a hurry. For Easter everyone has Friday and Monday off, so one would think on Tuesday it would be; ok let's hit it everyone. There is clearly no "hitting it" here. Wayne best quote was "don't they have overtime"? When we went on the boat to check it out, all the workers stopped and got off! We did meet with the person who is going to make our cushions (he is on vacation for 3 weeks beginning Friday but has others that will do the work, hopefully) the woman that orders things for the boat - flooring etc. had a baby last week, the flooring is unavailable but hopefully is being ordered, and we have a meeting on Monday with the sail maker.... In all I am optimistic that everything will come together and be perfect in the end whenever that may be... We are trying to post the pictures of the boat but are having a difficult time; the map is also incorrect so we will try again. We have to go to an internet café to get on line.
The "Chico" was too much for everyone, so it was returned for a much more comfortable car. Although Wayne was getting the hang of it, it was painful to watch him shift, turn the wheel (no power steering) and listen to all of us yelling at him to keep left for every trip we took. Our vehicle now is much more comfortable, and Wayne is clearly getting the hang of it.
Yesterday we drove to Cape Hope and the scenery was unbelievable. This country is absolutely beautiful. The mountains just coming out of the ocean are spectacular. Today we went to wine country and after a few testing "flights" we all needed a nap. We are staying at a bed and breakfast in Franschhoek which is a quaint town in the middle of wine country. In a 24 hour period we saw quite a bit of wildlife in their natural habitat. It started with penguins at boulder beach, little gopher like animals called dabbies , Ostriches, and we saw a deadly African cobra one of the most venomous snakes in the world in the vineyards today. We just had more wine.