Monday, August 25, 2008

2 weeks in a rental car

After a teary farewell, made even more dismal in the rain, we attempted to drive out of Cape Town. I say attempted because dad was driving. He'd been driving the truck for months and was used to being on the left side of the road, but suddenly finding himself behind the steering wheel on the right side of the car was totally disorienting and we thought we were going to die. There was lots of screaming of directions and advice and just plain screaming, until the passengers unanimously voted to put mom in charge. She hadn't driven since Ireland, but at least that was the same driving system as here so she was much better and we all felt safe again. Dad did later get the hang of it but is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the truck again.
Our rental "car" was a Toyota Avanza, which doesn't seem to really fall into the car or minivan category but was barely big enough to hold the 5 of us (first time it has been just the 5 of us since just before Sky arrived in Morocco) and all our junk. We've picked up so much stuff in the last couple of months that we'll never fit it in a bus. We now have new clothes, big blankets and after a quick count, over 20 books (we've become serious James Michener junkies)!
About 1 hour out of Cape Town the rain stopped and we haven't had any since. It was still cold and in an attempt to minimize backtracking and passing any cities, we stuck to the back roads as much as possible visiting only Oudtshoorn again (that's where the ostriches were). The road ran parallel to the coastal one, through some beautiful mountain and valley scenery, initially on what is called the wine route, for obvious reasons. Lots of grapes and farms with horses. Our first night out we stayed on a farm that had converted its stables into a dormitory, one of the more interesting dorms I've ever seen. We continued along the Wild Coast region with the weather getting progressively warmer, through places like Coffee Bay and other popular backpacker hangouts but we pressed on quickly, not particularly impressed until Port St. Johns where we stayed a couple of days to relax. Maybe it's just the winter scene and the water being too cold to entice us to surf but we just relaxed and I went undefeated at the ping pong table.
I was also able to have a very interesting chat with a white guy who had dropped everything in his former life to become a witch doctor and is now living out in the boonies with the locals. Very interesting to hear how such things work. The witch doctors operate on a mystic level very similar to advanced yogis and they claim a complete understanding an respect with witch doctors from other regions and cultures, including South America, despite language barriers. They still have a lot of power within the communities and hence the country, with the majority of the black population still using them.
From there we went to Pietermaritzburg to visit James, Patrick and Sarah. They live there and we were able to stay at their step-father's farm, not far out of town. He was quite the character and we enjoyed staying with him and all his stories. In 1994 when the government changed in S. Africa there was a large period of unrest and 27 of his neighbours were murdered within the following few years. I can't imagine. As one of the old timers that remembers "the good old days" he is not very optimistic for the future of the country. All I can say is that S. Africa is not really a happy place to live and everyone has to live here in too much fear. I can't imagine living behind bars, awaiting the worst my whole life. With Patrick and Sarah we spent a day touring around countryside, culminating in the purchase of some very nice cheese. Mmmm. Our cheese days are coming to an end very soon.
From PMB we went northeast to Dundee where dad and I spent a day going to Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana, sites of some of the more famous Zulu battles with the British in 1879. The whole region is full of historical battles but seeing as these are the more famous ones and in the movie Zulu (which I've never seen btw) we felt we had to go. It was interesting as there has been almost no development in the area so you can easily picture the land as it used to be at the time of the battles. Isandlwana was where ~15000 Zulu surprised and massacred ~1500 British troops in a couple hours, as they invaded Zululand. Later that night ~4000 Zulu attacked Rorke's Drift (a hospital and staging post for the British military) which was successfully defended by less than 150 British for over 12 hours. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded, the most of any battle in British history. This battle is also the plot of movie Zulu.
From Dundee we drove into Swaziland. It was most significant in that it is my 100th country I've been to. The country is nice but also developed like S. Africa in many ways, certainly more than Lesotho, which I wasn't totally expecting. We stayed a couple of nights at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, a small park with lots of antelope, zebras, hippos and crocs to see. It's nice because it is cheap and you can just drive around on the dirt roads, get out and chase the animals if you want (though I don't recommend it). The main camp in the park has a restaurant overlooking a small watering hole with hippos in it so you can see them from very close range. One even got out of the water and rested its head on the little wall that keeps them from running around the camp! The hostel inside the park was also the only place where we were able to watch any of the Olympics. We'd considered staying for 2 weeks just to watch them. I like international competitions. We also picked up a Mozambique visa in Mbabane, the capital. Even the same-day, express service is cheaper than getting it at the border.
From there we reentered S. Africa only to have mom get a speeding ticket on the last day with the car, on our way to Nelspruit where we had to turn our wheels in. One thing we've noticed lately is that eveyone seems to be burning a lot of the countryside and the air has been incredibly hazy. Not good for our views of the mountainous countryside. For the most part, the entire area since entering the Wild Coast has been hilly or mountainous but very dry, barren and brown. The Wild Coast and part of Zululand that we saw were not as fenced off and organized as the rest of South Africa, very poor and dirty (lots of litter for the first time in a while), mud huts (rondavels), bad roads and few whites. Much more "African" but in all honesty I was looking forward to getting out of S.A. and moving on.
Ammon

1 Comments:

At 2:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ammon,
You should have seen your Mom drive when we used to commute to Seattle on the weekends. LOL So no suprize she got tagged, hope the ticket wasn't too much.

Love and Hugs
The Bear

 

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