Monday, May 12, 2014

29: Safari South Africa!

Gary is ready for our safari!
The hat is a new addition to his wardrobe, something I picked up in one of the shops
at the V+A Waterfront in Cape Town while he was on a Field Lab to Cape Point
with his Oceanography class (they got to see penguins!)

In the early days of planning for all the places we would experience on our Semester at Sea voyage, I was the most interested in seeing the Angkor Temples of Cambodia. But after that, it was the safari in Kruger National Park - something so far from anything I could even imagine - that I was looking forward I had a new telephoto lens to try out, just for the occasion.

The Faculty Liaison for this trip was Prof. Brigham. Not only were we looking forward to spending some time off the ship with Bob, Monica and their daughter Taylor, we were also looking forward to enjoying the freedom of Gary NOT being the liaison. So we settled in for a relaxing trip.

It was a long one. Departure from the ship was at 4am. We were to catch a flight to Johannesburg, and then get on a bus for a 6 hour drive to Kruger National Park. Most of the students napped the whole time, but the landscape was varied and interesting, so Gary and I stayed awake. The six hours seemed to go by faster than we had expected.

Looking out the bus window...the cosmos all over the country side made us feel at home,
since it blankets our yard at home, after the California poppies have waned.

Contrasting juxtapositions: coal burning power plant in the distance, beyond the fields of maize and cosmos,
with power lines connecting to all points...

Bryn, Vivian and Erin find a beautiful old tree to climb at our lunch spot
Our destination was the southern tip of Kruger National Park, Nkambeni Safari Camp. We had individual tent cabins with baths, and even an outdoor shower. It was all quite pleasant (well, except for the two bats I discovered on our ceiling late that night...).

We were fortunate. As far as safaris go, ours was quite short, especially with all the travel time involved. But we managed to see all the "Big Five" before 11am!

In South Africa, wildlife is still called "game" even though at places like Kruger, the animals are no longer hunted. And it was US President Theodore Roosevelt who coined the name "Big Five" to denote the animals that are most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot. They are the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the rhino and the cape buffalo.

Our guide and driver also had a list of what he called the "Beautiful Five," and the "Ugly Five." The Beautiful Five included the giraffe, the impala, the kudu, the zebra and the waterbuck. The Ugly Five were the hyena, the wildebeest, the baboon, the maribou stork and the warthog. Our guide had a sense of humor...

Maybe the next time we have a chance to go on Safari, I will have saved up enough to spring for a 500mm telephoto lens. Well, maybe not...they are just so heavy, and there's no way of getting around using a tripod.

The sun rises on the morning we hope to see what they call the "Big Five"...the Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhino, and Cape named by Teddy Roosevelt, big game hunter (and US president...)

Our first glimpse at wildlife: the beautiful Impala

Impalas again...we learned that Kruger is chock full of Impalas...but that never dimmed our happiness at spotting them.

And again...this one has two Red Billed Oxpeckers along for the ride....they feed off the Impala's ticks.

Cape Buffalo!

Rhinos...but they seem to be hiding...

Guinea Fowl. I was captivated by their graphic colors.

A Leopard mom...her cub is off to the left, but not visible.

Hyena mom...

And the adorable baby hyena!

Giraffes...amazing creatures. We were thrilled to come across them.

There is something a bit amusing about animals, especially big ones like giraffes, crossing a street...

Love that look...

King of the Jungle...resting. We were not able to get too close to him...

Or to the two lionesses in the shade of a molar shaped boulder...

Crocodile alert....

Baby elephants crossing the street...

Taking a break from eating to look right at us...

They seem to spend all their time eating...

Elephant parent and child.

Hippos hiding...

Beautiful Zebras!

It's Zazu from Lion King! Not quite. This is a Yellow Billed Hornbill, and Zazu is purportedly a Red Billed Hornbill.

Kudu from the front - looks like he's wearing war paint...
Kudu, from  the rear, looks like he is dripping paint...

The rest stop, where we got coffee and snacks, also had a heard of Cape Buffalo, Rhinos, and an Emu!

More beautiful countryside on the way back to the airport.

28: Cape Town...Carpe Diem!

Cape Town cradled by Table Mountain - very few cities can claim such a dramatic and recognizable backdrop.

From Mauritius, we were at sea for six days before we docked in Cape Town, South Africa.

But way before then, there was a frisson of excitement resonating about the ship when an announcement was made, calling on all students who act, sing, dance or play an instrument to sign up for a musical show that would be directed by our next Interport Lecturer, Michael Williams.

Michael Williams is the Managing Director of the Cape Town Opera. An engaging storyteller, Michael's first lecture delved into the rich complexity of South Africa - it's history, his childhood and coming of age in the Apartheid era, and the great hope - even joy - that welcomed the release of Nelson Mandela, a new constitution, and democracy. His second lecture was about making theatre in South Africa, in particular the role of opera in South African society, and how the great masterpieces are reinvented through the lens of South African sensibility.

Both talks were beautifully presented and thoroughly thought provoking. His love for South Africa was clear, and my curiosity was definitely peaked. A day or so later, Gary and I watched the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man," which was on the ship's TV loop. Wow. How is it that we Americans didn't know anything about Sixto Rodriguez when his music was the soundtrack of life for the youth rebelling against apartheid in South Africa?

In Pre-Port, Prof. Byerly spoke about how excited she was to be back in her native South Africa, how incredibly beautiful Cape Town was with the backdrop of Table Mountain...and that even when it was cloudy, it was beautiful still...Table Mountain was just draped with a white "table cloth"....

The city lived up to all we had heard. We docked on a beautiful crisp Fall morning. The temperature was perfect, the air fresh. And we had almost a week to enjoy it all, including a safari to Kruger National park, to boot!

Our dockside neighbor...

The V+A Waterfront is a happening place - full of interesting shops and restaurants.
They are geared toward tourists - but still, it's fun place to spend some time
after having been on a ship for three months.

Adjacent to the V+A Waterfront, giant concrete tetrapods are put to good use,  protecting the shore
by breaking up the wave energy of the South Atlantic Ocean. Cape Town's World Cup Football
(soccer) Stadium is at the left.

Proteus are sold in grocery stores!

Long Street in Cape Town.

Art Deco (The Mutual Building) in Cape Town

Cape Town Skyline.

The Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town was originally constructed along the coastline in the 17th century and moved
to its current location in 1936. It is considered to be one of the best preserved of Dutch East India Company castles.

Detail view of the tower gateway, Castle of Good Hope.

Forms, colors and textures at the Cape Town Docks.

On the recommendation of one of Gary's students, we spent most of a day in a lovely cafe - the Bedouin.
It's in an area of Cape Town called Woodstock (known for the Biscuit Factory) that is full of artists.
Internet was free, the service was wonderful, and the food delicious.

One last glimpse of Table Mountain as we left Cape Town...