Danger can be anywhere
26.04.2015 - 26.04.2015
It was so sad to leave the most natural environment I have ever experienced with my mind, body and soul. Wilderness Safari prides itself on conservation, community, commerce and culture and they do an excellent job. The lack of connection with the outside world alone is worth the trip, the way they interact and nurture the environment enjoying all of nature's gifts along the way is just beautiful. Imagine very little ambient light, no city sounds, no TV, no telephone and no internet, what an amazing way to settle down and see how you really feel. It's a rare experience and I hope to be able to close my eyes from time to time and get that feeling back.
So here is how the day went, 5:30 wake up, 6:00 coffee and light breakfast and again we climb up onto the vehicle for the game drive with the amazing ST, Allan,Clive, Tee and Penny. It was a cool morning as they are heading into winter. ST was in search of Cheetah and Leopard but we did not see them before it was time to depart from the drive. The camp sent a vehicle to pick us up right in the middle of what seemed like no place in particular to me, but apparently our guide and the guide who picked us up were excellent at recognizing, trees, pans and the different sandy or wet roadways. Allan and I said good bye to Clive, Tee, Penny and ST, it was very sad, but we had such a wonderful time we were going with the full experience and a peaceful feeling deep inside. We got back to the camp to wash up and to grab our bags and we were then escorted to the airstrip. Several of the managers came out to say good bye and they sent us a boxed lunch for the plane with a little note on each one. Waving good bye we knew we would come back again.
The small plane picked us up along with half a dozen other people for the short flight to Chitabe where we landed and did a quick drop off and pick up with the engine running. Less than 10 minutes later we were back in the air heading for Maun the fourth largest city in Botswana. We had to go through security and customs as we were leaving the country and then we proceeded to the little un air-conditioned departure lounge. Much to our shock CNN was reporting about the massive earthquake in Nepal from the day before. We had no idea that it happened. It made us think about what else we may have missed and I think I can speak for both Allan and myself when I say a small part of us wished we were back in the bush.
We soon boarded the South African Airways Air Link Jet to Johannesburg OR Tambo airport. After they closed the doors they spray the plane with bug spray which is required by South Africa on all aircraft coming from abroad. Yikes, no place to go, so we covered our faces and held our breath till we could not hold it anymore. It reminded me of when I was little in Miami and they came by with the mosquito fog, we would hide in the cars until we couldn't stand it and then run into the nearest house.
The two hour flight was uneventful and after the little planes this medium sized AVRO RJ 85 seemed huge, it takes about 100 passengers. We hardly noticed the take off and landing. Gotta love it!
So now for the urban jungle... Johannesburg is not the safest place on the planet and we were mindful of that everywhere we went. We stayed in Sandton City which is near our relatives and the area Allan grew up. We drove past his old house, school, sports fields and more, it was fun watching him remember where things used to be and what streets we were driving on. Always cautious, we used a car service and never brought a big camera along. We used the cell phone camera to take pictures from the car and made sure we weren't obvious when at a stoplight (robot) or if a car was next to us.
In addition to going out to do some souvenir shopping we also visited with family. We had an amazing time and loved every minute with them all. But I couldn't help but notice the heavy security that they live with, walls around the house, barbed wire and or spikes on top of the walls, electric gates and cameras all around with a monitor to view them placed somewhere prominent in the house. No one complains, but many people we know have had major robberies at gun point. The thugs usually follow them in their yard as the electric gate opens, with guns to their heads they are told to open the safe . Fortunately those we know who have had this experience have no physical wounds, but I can tell the psychological wounds are deep.
With rolling black outs I wondered if people are even more vulnerable than ever, I was told that many people have back up generators. My cousins mother and father in law came to the Braai, (BBQ) and she said she heard reports of people stealing the generators so you have to attach them to a pole in the ground. It is not an easy life in Johannesburg.
The reasons for this are complicated and I know there is hope for the future here. The driver that took us to the airport told us that the future of South Africa is dependent on eduction and both his boys have gone to college; one is an accountant the other in med school. This gentleman had an interesting story. His father was german and his mother black, she was a domestic in the home of his fathers parents. I would say his grandparents, but I doubt he ever met them. The couple had six children and the dad supported them all. His parents had to meet in secret as this was during apartheid and it was illegal to walk down the street together, live together or meet in any public place. Steven (our driver) said that his father did visit from time to time, and when he did they always said he was the milk man. I asked him if felt resentment or anger and he said no, and I am paraphrasing this, " There is no purpose for anger or resentment, I thought it was normal to grow up the way I did and my parents died before the laws changed."
Steven studied political science and economics in college and had a keen knowledge of current events and South African politics. We asked him about everything from xenophobia to rolling black outs and he had such an amazing perspective on things that I asked him why he didn't run for a political office. He said, " My skin is the wrong color." It's complicated.
The irony of all this is that when we left the states for SA, people asked if we were worried about so many things from Ebola, Boca Harem and the dangerous city of Johannesburg, and here we are on the last day in Johannesburg and major violence is happening in the streets of Baltimore. What a sad state of affairs and again, it's complicated. We are sad for all those affected by the violence and in addition to that our son lives in Baltimore so we are concerned for him and all of the people we know there through him as well.
The reality about safety is a delicate matter and it can change in a heartbeat.