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2005 Holidays in South Africa

Prolog (?)
First of all for the native English speakers, I'd like to apologize for my poor English. All www-links to be clicked to be forwarded.
Bei den deutschsprachigen Lesern möchte ich um Nachsicht bitten, dass der folgende Text nur in Englisch erscheint. Ich habe so viele Leser, die nur Englisch verstehen. Und da die meisten deutschsprachigen Leser auch englisch verstehen, spare ich mir die Mühe der Übersetzung. Wer's nicht versteht, ist um so herzlicher zu einem Besuch bei uns eingeladen. Es ist aber auch interessant, sich die in Deutsch gehaltene homepage von Felix (www.kuehekippen.de/southafrica/) anzusehen, der ja der Grund für unsere Reise war. Alle www-Links sind einfach anklickbar.

Why South Africa?
Neither Iris nor me had ever thought to visit South Africa. One reason is the virtually gone apartheid. The next is the fact, that we always try to live in a way, that also many later generations will find an earth, which is worthwile to live upon. And flying over thousands of kilometers does not correspond with that.
But Felix, my sisters son, decided to go to South Africa as a volunteer. He worked there for nearly a year now and is not only proud of "his" children, but went also into raptures about the environment, in which he is living. So Iris and me decided to visit him and his project and also to see a part of Africa.

The start (planned for July, 29th)
When searching in the internet for the phone number of SAA (South African Airways) to order vegetarian meals, I found there is a great chaos in Frankfurt due to a strike of the employees of SAA and we would not have any chance to fly on friday. - As our travel agency advised us to go on Saturday and just say: "Hello, here we are, please fly us to South Africa." we did so and SAA was astonished, that we had been there, although nobody had phoned us to come. - SAA shifted us to Lufthansa and Lufthansa told us that we were booked on standby for Saturday as well as for Sunday, as there are still people waiting since last Wednesday and we shall wait until the evening, when the plane will start. So we had "a very interesting day" at the air port. - I know, it's not quite correct, but thanks to kind people of our travel agency (www.atlasreisen.de) and of Lufthansa (who shifted our priority) the following happened: We had to wait to the evening until all people had boarded. Then for the few empty places in the plane some people were announced and Iris and me were so happy, to get some of these places.

We flew from Frankfurt to Cape Town and from there to Durban, as Felix' project is in Inchanga, which is in KwaZuluNatal, near to Durban. Felix was so kind to welcome us at the airport. But as we rent a car, I had to drive it myself. 1/2 hour in Durban and then with a rent car on a three lane highway "on the wrong side". Remember, in Germany cars drive on the right hand side, in South Africa on the left hand side. Shocking, but we survived. At the end of our holidays we had more than 2500 kilometers on the "wrong side" without any accident.
For the first days we stayed in Hillcrest and had a very warm welcome by Rob from Fawncastle Estate (www.fawncastle.co.za). Not only had we all the time nice rooms at Rob and a fascinating breakfast, but also was he always on hand to help us in every situation. Rob, thank you very much!!
But to be honest, at Fawncastle I had one of the first impressions, what South Africa means: Fawncastle Estate is secured by a wall with barbed wire upon. Everywhere there around you find things well secured by security guards and barbed wire (it's not such a nice feeling to stand next to a guy with a pump gun, although he is a security man). On the other hand blooming bushes everywhere, although it was winter during our stay. - But this was one of the warmest winters and confirms that there is a climatic change with the responsibillity of mankind. But still there are people which are not convinced and let the engines of their cars run while talking and waiting and talking.

Ethembeni school (www.ethembeni.co.za))
This is, where Felix is working together with Sebastian as volunteers. It is a school for physically handicapped and visual impaired children. Of course, as we were in Africa, we expected to see only black skinned children. But there were also others: White skinned. But these children have not white parentes, but are so called albinos, thus causing extreme problems for their skin in the sun. - Can you imagine to remove yourself from children, who are hungry for love and care? That was, what we experienced. Although already knowing white skinned Felix and Sebastian (also the director and some other teachers are white skinned), the children came, carefully touching our arms and legs and the hairs there above and then taking our hands in a way, as if they were never willing to free us again. - And this school has a choire, which wins prices and makes professionals astonish. Children of this school share the New York marathon, although they need 13 hours to make it. We experienced a sport contest, where children with crutches run against such with protheses and such with sound legs. Of course, they had no chance, but they smile and made it. The totally blind did a 100m run. Each one had a collegue to guide him/her. You would not believe, what we saw. Such a lot of good willing children. But later on they will have nearly no chance in a world, where lots of not handicapped adults have no job. But nevertheless it's worthwile to teach these children and give them love.

The friendlyness we experienced there, was nearly everywhere, when we just used one or two words in the Zulu language. Then the hearts opened and people smiled.

Another project is "streetwise". This is, where the third volunteer, Manuel, is working. They are looking for children on the road and try to get in touch with them. Then they try to clarify the situation in the family, which caused the children to leave their homes, and try to bring the cildren back into their families. If it is not possible, due to unavailable families or problems which cannot be solved, they are invited to live in a shelter, where there are also lessons held in mathematics and other sciences.
Lots of the children on the road as well as in the school can be taken for sure to be infected with HIV. But nevertheless they use the dangerous way for tattoos: Mixing ashes and rubber and make it melt. Then carving themselves and bringing the blood of one into touch with the blood of another and so infecting each other. Manuels work is not that easy.

But there were also wonderful moments. Near to Inchanga we hiked through the Krantzkloof valley. A very small valley in that region, which is called "1000 hills". Just a few minutes away from civilisation and you have eagles and lots of wild animals. Not large ones, but much more than in our home region.
To see also large animals we spent 3 nights in the wonderful backpackers "Isinkwe" (www.isinkwe.co.za). It offers small lodges direct next to the African bush. From there we had a 1/2 daytour to see the largest animals on earth. We had the luck to accompany 2 whales on their way. Maybe the weather was not ok for them, maybe they had a lazy day, we did not see them jumping. - Another 1/2 day brought us to St. Lucia to see crocs (crocodiles) and hippos (hyppopotamus). I guess that only less people will know, that more people come to death by hippos, than by any other animal. - The second day there started very early in the morning. It was rather cold and no one would believe, that we are in Africa; but it was Africa in winter. A safari car brought us to the wild game park of Hluhluwe. Except the very rare leopard (that's why it is on the 200 Rand note. This sheet of paper is as rare to be seen as the leopard itself) we saw all the wellknown African animals: lions and rhinos (rhinoceros), giraffes and zebras. When we thought the day is nearly over without any elephant, we saw 100's of them. The pitty was, that it was already too dark to get them with an analog photo camera. This was a very fascinating day. It needs to take time. Not to hurry from point to point. You will never know, what will be next. As an example, nobody of our group had seen the giraffes until they stood suddenly and unexspected in front of the car.

As Iris is a real water woman (likes swimming, sailing, diving), Felix had organised 2 days at the cost. Also in a backpackers, called The Mantis and Moon lodge. It seems, Felix has a good hand to find out the nicest places. They also have small lodges between palm trees with a bath under the open sky. They also have a tree house. You can't imagine, that nearby is a road and standard civilisation. And as a compensation of the stormy sea together with a lot of rain, which made diving impossible, they have a whirl pool below palm trees too. It's a pitty, that they have no website, but you can contact them under travelsa@saol.com. When you do that, you can talk in German to them, as the owner and the manager are German guys.

Then drive away a few kilometers from the waterfront and you have again fascinating valleys. With waterfalls of a height of 170m. And with people doing bungee jumping this waterfall.

What is recommended to see if you are in Durban, is the UShaka Marine World. It is South Africas greatest aquarium with a large bassin for sharks. You can see them from above and in the underground through gigantic windows. Not to forget of course the american stylish dolphin show. It seems, the fishes there have a lot of space to swim. Much more than I saw in other aquariums.

One of our trips brought us to the Drakensberge. European people could compare it with the alpes. On the hilltops layed snow. May be that's the reason, why the Irish owner of the "Drakensberg International Backpackers" calls himself "Snowy". If you ever go to this backpackers, do it during daytime. Otherwise you may past it, because it's just miles from nowhere. But when you leave, you will leave with Snowy having as a new friend. - To make sure, that Africa is the start of mankind, you can see drawings in the Drakensberge of different generations of people. - And you can see antilopes as large as a cow. That's why they also are called cow antilope.

If you are interested in spending money in SA, it is no problem. Everywhere in the green fields temples for consumation grow. You may think you are in the states instead of a land with lots of townships where people earn their money by selling golf balls to the rich.

The time of our stay at Felix ended to soon. But we had still two days in Cape Town. Claire, this is your paragraph. As Felix organised nearly everything for us, we just had to book the flight and the car. But a few days before we started, I remembered that it would be nice to sleep in a bed in Cape Town too. So I surfed the internet for a hotel in Cape Town and was very lucky to get in contact with Claire Muzelle (claire(at)siyabona.com) from www.siyabona.com. She did more for us than just reaching a standard helping hand. She organized a hotel direct at the waterfront with an amazing view not only to the sea but also to the table mountain. And she organized a famous tour for our second day. - When we arrived there, it was raining. But the next day sun and clouds changed in a moderate way. So we took the chance and visited the table mountain. The view is much more spectacular, when there are sometimes clouds and you see the town and the sea just like through holes. The next day we had sun for the tour, which Claire had organized for us. And we had the pleasure, that the guide was a typical "Frankforter Mädsche", which means, that Christine comes from Frankfurt, Germany, but lives in the meantime for 14 years in SA. That gave us the possibility to ask in German, if we did not understand something. With Christine we drove to the cape of good hope, which is a must for a sailing loving woman like Iris. Of course we saw the spectacular penguin colony, which is horrible for the inhabitants of Simon's Town at the False Bay. Before Christine dropped us off again, she accompanied us into the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden and we learned a lot about the plants around there. Claire, thank you very much. Now we understand why you love this country.

Returning home
The journey back home was as interesting as the start. We drove during rain to the airport. And when we had been there it was raining cats and dogs, so that you nearly could see less than 500m. Boarding time was given for 17.00 o'clock. But nothing happend. An announcement told us, that there is a hole in one of the landing lights, which has to be repaired first. So boarding began at 18.15 o'clock. The flight then was ok, but the plane landed just 25 minutes before our train was leaving. Somebody must have held a good hand above us, because our luggage was under first, which appeared on the conveyor belt. We ran through the airport to the train station. Just when we entered the escalator to the rails we heared a gong and a very polite and nice voice said: "attention at track 4, your train is leaving now". I waved and shouted "stop" and "wait" and indeed, they waited until we entered the train. But directly after entering the doors closed and the train left. Thank you DB!

And what about the people?
About which people? This theme is very complex. Lots of black skinned people have no jobs. The money seems to be in the hand of the white skinned people. But most of the black skinned people seem to be happy nevertheless. And, as said some lines before, a few words in Zulu open their hearts. - What is amazing, but not in the positive way, is the fact, that apartheid seems still not to be over. Black skinned people often act as if white skinned people were the sovereigns. A friend told us of a conversation with white skinned people in Vryheid: They had spoken of the heads of black skinned people as of trophies. It is unbelieveable. Can people really be so damned daft and inhuman? What's vice versa? Would they agree to have their white skinned heads as trophy too?
Another point is the crime rate. Being in the car, the first thing is to lock the doors. Everwhere security people with guns. Everwhere walls and barbed wire. It's a pitty, that this land is so conflicting. So the result is, that we can only hope, that the relations will change; that the large amount of black skinned people will get chances for work and a better live, and that the white skinned people will recognize, that they are not longer the sovereigns. And rich have to share their money. All over the world.
© by Hans Fabritius