Exploring the African Continent

Trip Start Oct 26, 2007
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Trip End Oct 26, 2009


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Flag of South Africa  ,
Friday, April 4, 2008

BBC country profile: SOUTH AFRICA
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1071886.stm

AFRICA.. this is the segment of my trip I've been most excited and curious about. Well, here I am! I arrived in Cape Town after an unexpected two-day delay in Perth, Australia. My plane time had changed, and I had not called ahead to check! Won't do that again. The airlines were very good in that they booked me on the next available flight to Johannesburg, in two days time, at no charge.. which was lucky for me and generous of them. The delay was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me time to mail excess baggage to the UK, finish postcards to mail from Australia (I do have a tendency to mail postcards from countries other than the one they feature in their photo!) and do laundry. Life was good.

I spent just the one night in Johannesburg, then flew out the next morning to Cape Town. I had an interesting night in a B&B about 20mins outside of the airport. My white South African B&B owner picked me up, and whilst very friendly and nice enough, his racist views were made apparent early on when he told "a little racist joke" as he called it, about why "pop" (think cream of wheat.. but thicker) is white. I'm just as pleased I didn't spend too much time in Jo-berg, a city full of housing surrounded by barbed wire and security gates. It depressed me.. although I understand the need. The highlight of my short overnight stay in Jo-berg was meeting an American couple who were touring South Africa. Frank and Nancy from Michigan were retired schoolteachers who had spent much of the last ten years teaching in countries like Kazakhstan and China. We spent hours talking about the state of the States.. from the perspective of Americans who had spent much time outside of the States. I marveled at how similarly our views were, even more considering Frank was ex-military, and in his 60s. He and his wife were open minded, liberal, compassionate and thoughtful. We talked about the upcoming elections, about the lack of simplicity of life and compassion in general in the USA. Also we spoke of the joys of traveling and learning about the world we live in. Conversations like these that make my traveling a pure pleasure.

CAPE TOWN - My friend Gary Gorski's first cousin Val Markowski has lived in Cape Town for the last five years, and when I contacted her to say I was going to be in the area, she promptly invited me to stay with her. I lucked out to be in the company of a knowledgeable, local person. And a funny, lovely person to boot! Val works for a non-profit organisation called "Beautiful Gate" which provides nurturing shelter for orphans from Cape Town's townships. Many are AIDS orphans, who in the past may have been life limited.. but due to the administration of anti-viral medicines many of the the children now expect to lead long, healthy lives. Val's role there is heading up the child sponsorship programme. Their website is www.beautifulgate-rsa.org, to find out more.

Val took me on a Cape Town tour. A township was located across the street from Beautiful Gate, so she's used to the extremes of the country. She took me for a drive along millionaire's row, where homes on the cliffs overlooking the ocean cost millions of rands and dollars. Cape Town's coast is exquisite. Val sees herself living there forever, and I can see why she's fallen in love with the place, although the incredible disparity between the haves and have-nots delineated by the walls, barbed wire and guard dogs is something I could not live easily with. The place affected me, as well as impressed me and inspired me.

I'll write more about joining up with the group of 23 other travellers wanting to discover more of Africa.. until then, here are some photos of Cape Town.

For those worrying about me.. please know I'm in a MONSTER overland truck, in the company of savvy and secure fellow travellers. We're in safe hands, and having a brilliant time. I neglected to remember that this overland tour would be a CAMPING trip.. primarily.. with about 5 of the 40 nights involving beds.. the rest involving putting up and taking down a two man tent every day! Lordy how my selective memory has kicked in my old age! I'm not sure I'm up for the challenge.. but so far so good!

Talk to you soon.
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