A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

South Africa

Hoedspruit/Safari

sunny 95 °F

We met up with the group we are traveling with at the airport in Johannesburg. They had just flown 15 hours non-stop from JFK, and had to transfer to the domestic terminal for our South African Air Express hour long flight to Hoedspruit and then another hour drive to the four star Shiduli Safari Lodge in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve - a private animal reserve of more than 22,500 acres (35 square miles). You do two game drives per day in the park - a sundowners tour at 4:00pm for three hours, and a sunrise drive leaving at 6:00am to see the animals start their day. The goal is to see the 'big five' - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, water buffalo. We saw all and added two more - hippos and cheetah with her kittens, all in the native habitat.

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It was a wonderful two days - hectic but wonderful!

Posted by rpickett 07:15 Archived in South Africa Tagged game private reserve karongwe Comments (0)

South Africa

Johannesburg

sunny 68 °F

We both had trouble sleeping last night, and I always maintain the second day is harder than the first. Our guide today, Theo, met us promptly on time at 08:30am and we headed out into the city. On the way into town, we picked up two Philippino gentlemen who were touring with us. We traveled through the more well to do parts of the city and stopped briefly at the compound where Nelson Mandela ruled from. It hasn't been used since he left office as the area was becoming too congested. We then drove by the house where Mr. Mandela is currently staying, having been moved there last week from the hospital so that he could die in his own bed. As you would expect, there was a collection of news services camped out on the side of the street, ready for the inevitable announcement that will be forthcoming. I could feel a sense of greatness around the compound, knowing that there was a human of such great achievement resting there.

We then toured the city a little more before stopping at Constitution Hill, the location of the Old Fort Jail, the women's jail and numerous jails that the black South African political protesters were incarcerated in in horribly overcrowded conditions up until the jail was closed in 1987.
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Constitution Hill also houses the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land equivalent to the US Supreme Court. They sit for six month sessions. Their next case to be heard will be on Monday.
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After seeing some of the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, where there were many small shops and street venders selling produce, clothing, and much more, we finished our tour with a stop at a mall housed in a 50 story building where we were able to view the local area from on high!
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Back to the hotel, and after lunch, a well deserved nap. We are taking some comfort knowing that as I write this, late afternoon Johannesburg time, our group of traveling mates have just left JFK on their way here, arriving tomorrow morning at 8:15am (non-stop). We fly to Hoedspruit tomorrow at 10:15am to start our search for the 'big five' animals of the National Parks.

Posted by rpickett 08:28 Archived in South Africa Tagged johannesburg Comments (0)

South Africa

Visit to Pretoria (Tshwane)

sunny 75 °F

After a recovery morning, our guide Nelson met us for an afternoon tour of Pretoria. There has been a long term movement to change the name of the city to Tshwane, and in fact, all the buses feature that name on them. Our first stop was the Paul Kruger museum, in the house where he lived while he was the first leader of South Africa (from 1884 - 1900, when he and his family went into exile). When the Boer republic became annexed by the British in 1877, he became more and more involved in the politics of the country and was elected its leader.
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We then headed to Kruger Square for a quick history of the area.
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Our next stop was the very historic Melrose House, the headquarters of the British Army during the Boer Wars and where the peace treaty was signed ending that conflict.
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Then on to Union Hill, the home of the South African Parliament for six months. The other half of the year is spent in Cape Town.
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Our final stop of the afternoon was Freedom Park, a brand new museum - a concept of Nelson Mandela to tell the story of South Africa from the birthplace of the human species up through the horrible trials of apartheid. It has only been open since April and will soon be on the 'must list' for all the local school children. We learned a great deal about the ordeal the the black South African population had to go through to gain their independence. Nelson Mandela's acceptance speech as President of South Africa is truly remarkable.
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Our drive back to the hotel was about 30 minutes, followed by some relaxation time and bed. We are doing our Johannesburg tour in the morning starting at 8:30am.

Posted by rpickett 07:45 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

South Africa

Charleston to Johannesburg

sunny 70 °F

It's official - it's a long way from Charleston, South Carolina to Johannesburg, South Africa. We flew from Charleston to Dulles and had about a four hour layover in the International wing of Dulles. It was quite nice as there were surprisingly few people. After lunch, we headed to the Lufthansa club, which was hosting business class from South Africa Airlines. We ended up riding in the elevator with some old friends from my Navy days, who were on there way to St. Petersburg Russia for a rivercruise on the Volga (I will be doing that trip in August of 2014). We had a great time swapping old navy stories and catching up on mutual friends for a couple of hours until they had to board their plane. We boarded our A340-300 on time and took off for the first leg of our air journey to Dakar Senegal, where some folks were getting off and the plane was refueled. After about an hour on the ground - no one was allowed to get off because Senegal is on the WHO list of Yellow Fever countries. The second portion of the air leg was another 8 hours or so. The bottom line, is that we got on the plane in Dulles at 5:00pm eastern time, and got off the plane at 5:15pm Johannesburg time (which is six hours ahead of east coast time. Even in business class, it was a long flight. We were somewhat concerned that there would be a hassle about yellow fever vaccination certification (neither of us had any!), but yellow fever never came up during the whole process. Our bags were among the first to come off, we breezed through customs and immigration, and our driver was waiting for us for our 30m minute trip to our hotel. Like always a good shower and dinner were in order, before turning in for the night. Tomorrow is trip to Pretoria in the afternoon as we continue our battle with jet lag!
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Posted by rpickett 01:30 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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