Self-Drive Safari, Week Four

We’re not sure we will have Internet access while on our safari, so we’ve scheduled a few posts like these to automatically go out.

During the final week of our safari, here is where we are planning to be:

Day 22 – July 29

We leave Sesriem and start our long haul back to Joburg. Tonight we stop in Keetmanshoop, Namibia at the Mesosaurus Fossil Camp.

Day 23 – July 30

A very long day of driving – all the way to Kuruman, South Africa where we spend the night at the Red Sands Country Lodge.

Day 24 – July 31

We will drive almost all of the way to Joburg, stopping about an hour away. No camp booked yet, but we are expecting to stay somewhere near Magaliesburg.

Day 25 – August 1

Explore the Cradle of Humankind archeological park, where there is a visitor center and a cave where ancient hominids were found,. Once done, we drive to Joburg and return our truck to Bushlore – hopefully in one piece! 🙂

Soweto Bicycle Tour

This post was pre-scheduled to publish while we are off on our self-drive safari

While staying in Joburg, we decided to spend some time in Soweto. Soweto is outside and to the southwest of Joburg. Soweto in fact is the name for the southwestern townships- the cities populated by the black population of Joburg during apartheid. It began during the 1940s when the black settlements outside Joburg were destroyed by authorities. The people were forcibly moved into Soweto.

Soweto gained its fame during the 1970s when it played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid. It is also well known as the home of Nelson Mandela before he went to prison.

One of the best ways to see Soweto is to take a bicycle tour offered from a local hostel. We decided, despite it being a little pricier than we hoped, to do it. We were able to pick a bike (we both chose red cruisers) and, with a local guide, we headed out into the city. Soweto was really like many other cities around the world. There were some areas with clean, comfortable looking bungalows but also areas of abject poverty: people living in shacks with only shared bathroom facilities. In these areas, there was much trash and running sewage that we had to pick our way carefully over.

The people, in all areas, were unbelievably friendly. They all continually waved, calling out to us and welcoming us to Soweto. They seemed very proud of their free city and happy to share it with us. The children were adorable, running up to us hoping to give us a high five as we rode past. Many times the kids shouted for us to “shoot” them. We were a bit taken aback until we realized what they wanted was for us to take a picture of them.

The tour wound through the many areas of town until we reached Vilakazi St. Here we stopped to reflect on the Hector Pieterson Memorial. In 1976, students of Soweto came together to protest the use of Afrikaans in their schools. There was a movement by the apartheid government to make Afrikaans (the language of the white Afrikaaners) the only language used in black schools. Students did not read or write in Afrikaans, so they wished instruction to be in English. During the large protests, police opened fire into the crowd, killing many, including the young Hector Pieterson (only 13 years old). This event led to nationwide demonstrations, mass arrests, and riots which took cost many lives. Our guide also explained that this lead to a famous picture, one of a student heroically carrying poor Hector to safety. He explained that this photo was spread on an international stage, helping to let the rest of the world know what was happening here in South Africa which helped bring new support and pressure on the apartheid government to change. It was a beautiful memorial, and we were able to spend a bit of time reflecting.

Also on Vilakazi St, we visited the old home of Nelson Mandela, which has now become a museum. A little farther down the road is the house of Desmond Tuto, making this street the only one in the world to host two Nobel Peace Prize winners. We did not see much of Desmond Tuto’s house as were told that it is actually still his Joburg residence, though he spends most of his time in Cape Town.

We found it interesting also that Vilakazi St has blossomed into a true tourist locale with large, hip restaurants and bars which look much different than the area surrounding.

At the end of our tour, we were treated to umqombothi (the q sound is actually a click which makes this a very fun word to hear and very difficult one for us to say) which was a traditional beer served in a shebeen during apartheid. It was illegal for black people in Soweto to drink anything except beer in government established places. A shebeen was where people continued to make and serve their own traditional beer. It was very interesting – a milky white color and a sour taste. It was also drunk in a very traditional way, everyone sharing from one cup, or calabash. We sat in a circle and when it was our turn to drink we had to assume the traditional stance, which was kneeling for girls and crouching, one foot slightly in front of the other, for boys.

We very much enjoyed our tour, and learned quite a lot. We would definitely recommend it for anyone getting a chance to visit Joburg.

 

Our Self-Drive Safari Truck

We wanted to show you all our self-drive safari truck… or our home on the road currently. We picked up our trusty Toyota Hilux in Aug 8 in Joburg. We promptly named her Hennie Hilux for the duration of the trip. She has everything we need to live comfortably for the following 25 days. Here is a series of pictures to show you how we’re living.

Packing List: The Rest

This post was pre-scheduled to publish while we are off on our self-drive safari

There are some items that we share in our packing that didn’t really fit onto Eric or Della’s personal list.

Packing Items Shared

1 first aid kit

  1. creams (anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-itch)

  2. pills (anti-diarrheal, laxative, allergy, motion sickness, ibuprofen, sudafed, gas relief, some general cold relief [to be augmented as needed on the road], higher strength pain killer, vitamins)

  3. prescriptions (malaria pills, two different antibiotics for diarrhea, 1 prescription anti-diarrheal)

  4. band-aids and other bandages, ace bandage

clothes line and hook

clothes washing soap and drain plug

Plugs

  1. international plug set

  2. 2 small power strips

  3. car charger

duct and monkey tape

sunscreen and bug spray

water bottles

Steripen for water purification

books

toiletry kit

extra toiletries

Swiss army knives

Tupperware

two fork/spoon combination

wine opener

4 fold-able water bottles (3 small, 1 big)

Victoria Falls

When planning our self-drive safari, we knew that a visit to Victoria Falls was a must-do. These gigantic falls are definitely a unique attraction within the world.

The falls are a nice day trip from the town of Kasane in Botswana, where we were staying for three nights. The falls themselves are on the Zambezi River, which forms the boundary between Zimbabwe and Zambia. So, to visit the falls you have to go into one of those countries for the day. All of the tours offered in Kasane go to the Zimbabwe side, which was convenient since that’s where we wanted to go anyway!

We booked our day trip as “unguided,” meaning that the tour company would get us to the park and back from Kasane, but we were on our own inside the park. We priced a few companies in town, then went with one that was cheap and already had a large group going (meaning we were less likely to get lost). After paying though, we began to have regrets for going through a random company we found on the street. What would we do if the driver didn’t show up the next day?

Luckily, our worries were unfounded. Our driver showed up the next day right on time. He took us to the border, where we first had to get a stamp to exit Botswana. Then, he drove us a little down the road to enter Zimbabwe. Both stations were very crowded with tourists trying to do the same thing! The visa for us to enter just for the day was $30 US, which seemed very high!

We were then handed off to our driver from the Zimbabwe side. It is cheaper for the company to have a separate vehicle in Zimbabwe than to pay fees for taking a vehicle through.

At the falls park, one of the first things you will notice in the parking lot is vendors attempting to rent you ponchos. We had our own so we were prepared.

The entry fee to the park was also $30 US per person. This plus the visa fee plus the tour fee made for an expensive day!

There are numbered viewing areas that you go through as you get closer and closer to the main falls. First,  you start off near the Devil’s Cataract. Then as you proceed down the stations, it starts to get mistier and mistier. At some of the final stations, the mist from the falls is so powerful that it feels like rain is falling. We don’t have pictures from these stations because we didn’t want to get our cameras wet! Even with our ponchos, our lower legs got soaking wet. We’d recommend for future visitors to wear sandals!

We also took a little bit of time to walk out on the bridge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia. At least we didn’t have to pay a fee for this – just a “bridge pass” is enough even though you are technically leaving the country. There was a bungee jump available from the bridge, but we decided to pass :).

It was a quick visit, but one that we won’t soon forget!

Self-Drive Safari, Week Three

We’re not sure we will have Internet access while on our safari, so we’ve scheduled a few posts like these to automatically go out.

During the third week of our safari, here is where we are planning to be:

Day 15 – July 22

We spend the day exploring Etosha National Park in Namibia, again spending the night in Halali Camp.

Day 16 – July 23

Another full day in Etosha and a night in Halali.

Day 17 – July 24

We leave Etosha and head to Twyfelfontein, spending the night in Abu Huab camp. Hopefully we have some time this day or tomorrow to explore some rock art in the area.

Day 18 – July 25

We drive to the coastal town of Swakopmund, spending the night at Alte Bruck.

Day 19 – July 26

We drive from Swakopmund to the town of Solitaire staying at Solitaire Guest Farm.

Day 20 – July 27

We drive to Sesriem and and explore Sesriem Canyon. We spend the night in the campground here.

Day 21 – July 28

Another day in Sesriem which we will use to explore Soususvlei.