Monday, March 17, 2008

Dear Friends and Family,
Please excuse the long lapse in correspondence but we have been in places where there was no internet!! Hard to believe, isn't it? But of course, we have been mostly in game parks and rural areas.
The good news is that our luggage arrived just before our group left Pretoria, and right after we had bought a few items of clothing, so now we are really overloaded. Our group of 16 turned out to be very amiable, with 5 Canadians, 3 Swiss, 4 Americans, 3 Aussies, and 1 English man. Our guide, Arthur, is South African. I guess I should be talking about them in the past tense because we are now in Durban where all but 6 of us are departing, and we get 10 more new people for the second half of the trip.
It has been fabulous seeing so much game. When we get near a game area, we start to see exotic animals, even alongside the road. Prior to Kruger National Park, we did 2 game drives in a smaller reserve and the first animal we saw was a rhino right on the road. Then we did several game drives in Kruger and by the time we had done all this we had seen the big five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo. Add all the other animals such as giraffes, zebras, and the many types of antelope and we are seeing LOTS of game. Unfortunately, in our camp in Kruger, when I went out to take a picture of the monkeys right near our hut, one of them chased me and gave me a nasty bite right in the calf of my right leg. It still isn't healed, but it is not infected and is healing slowly. Rabies is not a problem here.
From there we went into Mozambique, which is extrememly poor and over populated compared to South Africa, and also it was very hot while we were there. The terrain and the way the people live outside, even the shape and style of their huts, reminded us a lot of Belize and other parts of Central America. We had several beach experiences while there, including one where there were bedbugs in all the beds of the communal houses we shared.
From there we went to Swaziland, and the minute we crossed the border we could tell that it was much more affluent and westernized than Mozambique. They have much more substantial houses, and also English is the main language, whereas in Mozambique it is Portugese. We stayed at a very nice game park there where they served us good food, including some game dishes such as bleisbok and impala. The Swazi crafts are very good and we bought a couple of small baskets. Can't carry much though! So far, in these other 2 countries, we have observed that all the businesses seem to be owned by white South Africans and most of the work is done by blacks, who receive very low wages. For example, in the last place we stayed, a gardener there works 6 days a week, and earns 600 rand, which is less than $100 a month. It probably blows their minds that they work in places where people like us pay 95 rand for a dinner buffet which is a lot to them. As we drove out of that place yesterday, there were 12 giraffes in a field right next to the road.
There have been many long drives on the bus. We were supposed to have a van and a trailer for the baggage but that didn't happen. In fact, the first day of our trip, we all sat in the hotel waiting for the van which never arrived and after 6 1/2 hours, they finally produced the big bus which we now travel in. Luckily, it has a toilet because starting 2 days ago, Elaine and one of the Aussie gals have had a touch of an intestinal bug and have been unable to keep much food in. Today I feel like I am getting it too.
We have had good weather except for the past few days when it has been raining off and on. They really need the water here, so they are glad to have it. Yesterday we took a boat trip on the St. Lucia Estuary and saw lot of hippos and crocs and some interesting birds: storks, huge goliath herons, eagles, etc. The rain held off until afterwards, which was nice.
Today we leave Durban at 10AM with our new group. Luckily, 2 of the people going on with us to Capetown are 2 ladies of about our age from Victoria and we are enjoying their company. More travel reports later if and when internet places are available. Thanks to those of you who have sent us short newsy messages. We always appreciate hearing from everyone. Sending big hugs.
Love, Mary & Elaine


John & Cathy Robnik said...

What an absolute adventure you are on. By the way did you get the pic of the monkey? Sorry to hear about the bite!!

Jerry and Nancy said...

So glad to see your news. We've been anxiously waiting for a report on the trip ever since we new you landed and lost your luggage. The animal sightings have to be exciting. love ya, Nancy and Jerry