Fat Bottom Girls

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Nov 09, 2009

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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's 6 AM when we get an unexpected knock at our door. It’s a wake-up call but we have not asked for one.  We think it is for others in our group who do not have an alarm.  Thinking that the knock is for them we knock on their door only to find out that they too have received a wake-up knock.  We find out later that the wake-up calls were received by everyone in our group and organized by our guide. 

We decide to have a cup of coffee on our balcony overlooking the bay and try to watch the sunrise.  However, it is overcast and the sun is weak and only peeks through occasionally.  We spot some dolphins playing just off the shoreline and watch them for many minutes.

After breakfast we depart at 7:45 AM and head back along the pot-holed road for just over an hour to meet the main highway (route N2).  The road travels past a series of unorganized settlements of rondavels (a traditional round dwelling with a conical roof).  Within a half an hour of our departure, the clouds start to dissipate and the sun starts to exert its dominance for a few hours before the high clouds wrestle back the skies.

We reach Qunu, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, and stop at the Nelson Mandela Museum.  Nelson Mandela was actually born Rolihlahla Mandela on July 18, 1918.  Although he was a member of the royal household, he was not among the privileged few who were trained for rule.  Instead, he was like his father, one who was trained to counsel the rulers of the tribe.

On the first day at school, the teacher gave the children English names and his was changed from Rolihlahla to Nelson.  In 1939, Nelson Mandela was admitted to the University of Fort Hare.  After a dispute over marriage (Mandela did not want to marry the girl who was chosen for him), he fled to Johannesburg where he found employment at a white law office.  In 1943, he matriculated at Witwatersrand University where he was the only African at the law faculty.  In 1952, he and Oliver Tambo opened a law practice at Chancellor House in Johannesburg.  They were the only African lawyers in South Africa.  Africans were desperate for legal help and Mandela and Tambo became a place where they could come and find a sympathetic ear and a competent ally, and a place where they might actually feel proud to be represented by men of their own skin color.

 Mandela married in 1958 and had 3 children before he was arrested for crimes against the state in 1962.  He spent more than 27 years in prison, many of them at Robben Island next to Cape Town (like Alcatraz and San Francisco).  He was released in 1990 and, in 1993, he and Prime Minister de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for breaking down apartheid and its barriers in South Africa’s legislation and practice.

From Qunu we ascend high into the mountains.  It is a semi-arid and non-populated region.  We eventually come to an area of rolling parkland, again mainly non-populated, On our descent from the mountain area the landscape changes to green scrub brush, grass and forests.  The rondavels seem to be larger and better built.  Some even have window frames with glass in them.  All the while the sun is playing hide and seek with us.

It is 9 hours from the time we left until our arrival at the Zuurberg Mountain Inn.  The weather is considerably cooler and there is a strong cool breeze.  We are met with a welcome fruit punch and a nice fire in a beautiful stone fireplace to keep us warm and cozy.  Our room is essentially a double room separated by an open doorway.  One room has a queen-size bed, large four door closet, foot chest, and patio doors leading out to the gardens and the pool.  The other room is a sitting area with a pull-out sofa, bar fridge, a serving table with complimentary liqueur, sherry, coffee and teas on it, and another set of patio doors leading out the gardens and pool as well.  Right outside our patio doors, we have a pair of chairs, a sofa and a coffee table.  What a room and what a setting.

The air is chilling so we have a hot shower to warm up before dinner.  Our group meets in the large sitting area in front of the fireplace for a pre-dinner drink.  Our dinner is a buffet consisting of a variety of salads, cheese board, vegetables, wedge potatoes, lamb and chicken, and several deserts including malva, a traditional African desert which is steamed pudding (usually apricot) and served with a hot custard sauce.   Everything is wonderfully home made.

The Inn provides complimentary sherry after dinner along with coffee.  We all partake in a sherry and soon the fire does us all in for the night.

It is a relaxing start to the next day, Thursday, September 24, a national holiday in South Africa which is celebrating Heritage Day.  The weather is a bit cool but looks promising for a warmer afternoon.  We arrive at Addo Elephant National Park at 9:30 AM.  Addo Elephant National Park is right in the middle of a citrus growing and horse breeding area 72 km. (45 mi.) north of Port Elizabeth.  This park is home to mainly elephants indigenous to the region, but It also has buffalo, black rhino, kudu and other antelopes, and a few lions.

 At present, the park has about 121,410 hectares (300,000 acres) but it is expanding all the time and is intended to reach a total of about 360,183 hectares (890,000 acres).  As soon as you enter the park you are faced with the following road sign:  DUNG BEETLES HAVE RIGHT OF WAY.  Addo Elephant National Park is home to the almost endemic and extremely rare flightless dung beetle, which apparently can be seen rolling its unusual incubator (a ball of elephant or rhino dung pushed across the road by the beetle’s hind leg).  It must be quite a sight.  Try it sometime at home in the back yard when no one is looking (use a beachball if sufficient dung cannot be found).

Addo is about elephants (native to this area, and many are tuskless) and it does not disappoint.  Within minutes of arriving we see a family of elephants at the watering hole with many babies in tow.  Just down the road we come across another watering hole with a herd of elephants and we spot a lot more traveling on their way from the treed area.  This particular watering hole is quite entertaining as the elephants are splashing themselves, spraying mud, and bathing.  Some young bulls are locking their tusks in playful fun until one of the adults steps in between them.

Watching them with their backsides towards you, you can just picture this scene with two female elephants at the watering hole:

 "Madge, do think these wrinkles make my butt look big? “

“Of course they do Bertha.  What were you thinking?  You should have started using that white moisturizing clay years ago."

These fat bottom girls are always a treat to watch, particularly at the watering hole.  But we also see zebras, ostriches, warthogs, buffaloes, and, for the first time, tortoises including one pair that were mating.  Talk about a slow process.  Although the park has lions, we do not see any again, batting a perfect zero in South Africa in that department.

We have lunch at the park and we come across a new beer, Mitchell’s Foresters, a lager brewed locally in Knynsa (pronounced “nighs nuh”) where we will be staying tomorrow.  As today is a national holiday, the park is a bit crowded.  We decide collectively to head back to our mountain retreat where we can enjoy the scenery and outdoors of the Inn.  It is a good decision as everyone finds a way to relax and take in the natural surrounding beauty.

We have yet another great meal, pour a glass of sherry and then chat around the fire with some of the other guests until the fire loses its warming effect and fades into ashes.  Off to the room for a liqueur nightcap and some zzzzz’s.  This is too much like a dream – pinch us.
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