A Travellerspoint blog

San Francisco in Africa

Cape Town, SA.

My Amma says that she may have lived in Cape Town in a previous life...the city felt familiar, it made her happy, and she felt at ease. Now that's what a city should make you feel. After seeing a bit of South Africa, you realize how Cape Town is not South Africa. It's San Francisco - cool, hip, pretty, good food, odd people.

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Table Mountain dominates the mind, the eye and the heart in CPT. You can practically see it from everywhere, the weather report specifically covers Top of Table Mountain, the best pictures are of the mountain, from the mountain, with the mountain. And it is truly spectacular...imagine Nelson Mandela on Robben Island looking out at the Mountain covered in a thick tablecloth of clouds. Uff.

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And then there is the other side of South Africa - not urban, but ancient. The Cradle of Mankind, where man began to evolve. There is a truly eye opening, interactive exhibit at the site of one of oldest human fossils found. Intriguing display that gets us to think about who we are in the context of others and what our role in the larger human community is. Made for good car talk on the way to Kruger National Park.

Pictures, for your viewing pleasure.

We also went to Durban, actually North of there to a sea side town of Umhalanga. Aside for the usual comparison of beaches around the world, also had interesting chat about Indians. A white South African told me that her view of Indians is that we are scheming, and up to no good! Surprised me, because the view that a Swiss friend shared is that in Switzerland, Indians are an educated class, well-respected, but often confused for Sri Lankan refugees. Indians are smart and respected, in Botswana. And they are the immigrant workers at construction sites in Singapore. So who are Americans? Does the world have just one stereotype, that of a loud Texan? Or are there more variations to this? and I happen to like Texans!

Posted by Goofy9 01:44 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

The blue, blue sky of Botswana

Chobe and Okavango Delta

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Susan introduced me to the Number One Ladies Detective Agency in 2003...Mma Ramotswe is a wise, detective who solves domestic mysteries like missing cattle and errant husbands in the country of Botswana. I firmly believe that Mma Ramotswe channels my grandmother - she is wise, warm, simple, and loving. Ironically, every time I miss Coorg, a book with a Botswanan protagonist can make me feel better!

And then a few years after I began reading the series, my brother and his family moved to Botswana - who would have thunk! As enthusiastic my brother is, he drove around Gaborone and took photos of places that Mma Ramotswe lives around - Kgale Hills, Grand Palm Hotel, Princess Marina Hospital (where my brother's wife worked!). Not sure if my beloved Book Club members saw these photos...

BBC or HBO then filmed a few episodes of the book into a TV show. That was it- I was hooked. I now had direct access to my grandmother! Sounds like a seance, I know. But my grandmother (like everyone's) really loved me the best! So that's how the love affair with Botswana started.

And almost a decade after Botswana registered in my consciousness, I briefly visited the country. The first thing to strike me is the blueness of the sky. Now, those of us frm Denver have immense pride in the blue skies of Colorado - Botswana is just as spectacular! Wide expanse of land, still waters of the Chobe and Okavango rising up to meet the blue skies. The people are calm, Vinay says sluggish, but I am going with content and calm.

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More pictures, if you are interested.

Camping is kinda fun...sitting outside my tent, looking out at the delta, a calmness crept in to my brain; that no decision we can make is ever a wrong decision. Every decision is a blessed one.

Posted by Goofy9 03:02 Archived in Botswana Comments (2)

OMG, OMG, OMG!

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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Victoria Falls: Feeling like a 14 year old at a celebrity sighting, texting my girlfriends repeatedly with "OMG!" But seriously, OMG! Got to be the world's most thunderous falls. Many millions of gallons just competing to fall over the edge. And it's not just one falls-- it's multiple falls. My camera lens couldn't even take in one shot of the whole falls. I wanted to jump and down and say OMG. Actually, I did jump up and down and say OMG at least 19 times.

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There is nothing much to do in the town of Vic Falls- the Water that Thunders seems to predominate ones conscience. You hear the falls from quite a distance away, you can see the mist from the thundering water rise above the trees, and often you can feel the spray against your skin. And the constant water in the air, makes for pretty rainbows in unexpected places.

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Was a 10 minute stroll from the hotel to the falls...along the way, enterprising young men tried to tell me everything from carved water hogs to raincoats. And when I showed no interest they changed their tack, and asked if I would trade my shoes for some beads! My ordinary shoes seemed to be quite the hit- even the flight attendant on Air Botswana commented on my shoes.

Zimbabwe is so poor that they have completed given up on their currency - sorta like Vietnam- where a bottle of water can cost 1,00,000 Zim $ or 2 USD. Which makes it sad and pathetic that the town of Vic Falls has a casino-- and it's all empty! Not a soul, not one.

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Some additional pictures of the falls, with my wide angle lens and fancy panorama shooting ability!

And here's a remarkable thought: Vic Falls is a wonder of nature - not quite as accessible as the Grand Canyon or even cities like Paris, or London, or Zurich. You feel almost intrepid standing at the edge with no railing, nothing, and staring down at the boiling water. And that very spot my brother has stood. And then my father and my mother. And now me. How rare is it for a whole family to travel in each others steps!

Posted by Goofy9 12:24 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (4)

This is Africa - sort of

Observations of a halfway-visitor

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Am driving downtown to visit SAB World of Beer. Like taking the Coors tour in Golden. Idiot GPS tells me to turn right, which happens to be the wrong way down a one-way! And idiot me actually turns. Cars honking, people angrily waving their hands, and that's when I notice that it's only black people. No white ones, no brown ones. 

This is not the first time I have wrongly turned. Happened once in Chicago and the angry people were white and were black. And in India, where there are only brown people, you expect to see only brown people. But in SA where there are 3+ definite shades, it's shocking to see only one! How does a nation so effectively mark out stretches of neighborhood where the colors dont bleed over...

So, now I am driving back to the zhooosh (meaning posh, in Afrikaans) neighborhood, and I start noticing that for a city, Sandton, a suburb of Joburg (aka Africa's richest square mile), seems to have the highest concentration of Mercedes and BMW than an average city. Think Cherry Creek in Denver-- even there you wouldnt see as many. I cannot think of a single city that I have been to that has these many. Not even Zurich! So there is some truth to when South Africans are quick to point out that South Africa is not Africa!

Now, here's where I feel that I am in africa...woke up to find my bed crawling with 10s if tiny, tiny ants. And the bathtub regularly has at least two spiders, and the floor has some icky looking "silver fish" crawling around, and there typically are half a dozen dead bugs outside the garden door.

And I leave you with South Africa's version of Don'ts - on the door of a post office.

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Posted by Goofy9 10:59 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Tough travels makes a tough traveler

Maputo, Mozambique

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Mozambique for a week of work. Well-intentioned people told me all sort of stuff…

Don’t wear jewellery - well, the girl who told me that was wearing a big ring and pretty earrings and a necklace.
Don’t take your iPad or fancy phone or anything - and I was the only one on the plane who didn’t have gear with me.
Don’t take more than $50 as that's all you will need for 4 days of food - and I spent $30 every night for superb shrimp dinners.

As a first-time traveller to the country, I took all the advise I got very seriously, and I am happy that I did as I felt safe, but I will know better next time. The smelter I went to work at has a safety policy of pants only (no skirts), flat shoes/no heels, etc. But because of the advise I got, I really dressed down, to the extent that I didn’t even feel like a girl anymore. And that was really hard for me psychologically. Far harder than I ever thought it would be. When I got back, the very next morning, I wore a girlie dress, make-up, did my hair pretty. It's amazing how just 4 days of frumpy can mess with your mind.

Then my cellphone didn’t work and there was no internet connectivity in my hotel room. The distance between me and the rest of my life widened. The feeling of disconnection was extremely disconcerting. Last year, in New Zealand I felt the same way - that was far away, too far away, from the people I care about. By Day 4, the feeling of isolation was exhausting. Of course, perhaps I am being melodramatic because I had a cold and a constant sinus headache. But I didn’t put two and two together and just thought that I was stressed. And stress used to be bad word in my vocabulary. I don’t feel stress, only silly people feel stress. Hello reality! I feel stress too.

For all the confusing stuff I am feeling, the view from my hotel room was spectacular, the beer decent, the Portuguese pleasant on the ear. And all this while there is poverty all around. Click to see the video I took from the bus, it's quite like India.

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Now that I am back "home" am sorting through what I learned - that it's good to take advise seriously, but not too seriously. And that connectivity is the #1 thing that contributes to me happiness. So don’t be surprised if I am skyping with you - because I have missed you. XOXOXO.

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Posted by Goofy9 01:14 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

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