Wilson Family News & Travel http://www.wilsons.id.au Postcards to our Friends Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:14:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 http://www.wilsons.id.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cropped-EM181907-32x32.jpg Wilson Family News & Travel http://www.wilsons.id.au 32 32 4110874 Visiting Van Gogh http://www.wilsons.id.au/visiting-van-gogh/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/visiting-van-gogh/#comments Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:14:54 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9097 Last week, we visited another superb exhibition at the Victorian National Gallery in Melbourne. This is one of the regular art exhibitions organised by the Gallery of famous works from around the world. The last time we visited the Gallery was to see the David Hockney Exhibition.

This Van Gogh exhibition is about the life of Vincent Van Gogh through the seasons. He was very connected to nature with nearly 50 paintings and drawings (shown in this exhibition), that  depict significant places or activities in his life across all four seasons.  They were lent by a number of museums, mainly from Europe.

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Van Gogh made paintings and drawings depicting the different seasons throughout his career, although not necessarily as a series, and continued to link them to the life of his favourite subject –  peasants. He had a habit of studying nature and was skilled at  observing the smallest of changes within the landscape.

He continually suffered from some sort of seizures or crises, and in one of these attacks, in 1888, he cut off part, or possibly all, of his ear. Following that attack, he was admitted to a mental hospital in Arles. No one seems to be sure of a specific diagnosis of his illness. It may be that he suffered from epilepsy, bi-polar disorder, or perhaps some other disease resulting from lead poisoning or maybe Meniere’s disease.

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Our visit to the Gallery was timed during the second last week of this exhibition and the it was very busy. There was a long line for tickets but fortunately, Jill is a member of the Gallery Association, so we could queue jump and get in the express line which made things much faster. Once inside, we watched a summary of Van Gogh’s life in an auditorium with a giant screen, and from there, it was off to the various rooms in which his works were displayed.

I’m always fascinated at the different ways in which people observe paintings at a gallery like this. Some stand right up close and lengthilly examine every brush stroke in infinite detail. They  block everyone else from seeing anything. Others hover over the description to the side of the painting as if the words have some magical ability to enhance their understanding of the work. Some, like me, prefer just to stand back a little and view the picture in its entirety and see it in some overall context. My height certainly gives me an advantage here.

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Some people doubt that Australians are very cultured. A common joke by New Zealanders is to ask ‘What is the difference between an Australian and a pot of yoghurt?” Their answer, is is that the Yoghurt some has culture. It’s great that we are able to have access to this type of exhibition and occasionally get to enhance our ‘cultcha’ in Oz.

The Victorian National Gallery was founded in 1861 and opened in its current building in 1968. I clearly remember it being open around the time of our wedding in 1972 as my mates dunked me in the moat, at the front of the building, after my buck’s night on a rather cold August night.  One of its loved features has always been the ‘Water Window’ near the main entrance. I Understand that unfortunately, this is to be removed for the next few years as the government is building an underground train line under the road outside the gallery. They say the it is prudent to remove this window during construction in case the vibrations from the construction site damage it.

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Dark Tourism http://www.wilsons.id.au/dark-tourism/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/dark-tourism/#comments Sun, 18 Jun 2017 11:27:36 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9090 I was listening to the radio yesterday, when, on a travel program, the subject of ‘Dark Tourism’ came up. A man who was being interviewed was talking about his recent experiences in visiting Chernobyl. I had never heard this term before, so when I got home, I looked it up via ‘Tour Guide Google’ to see what it was all about.

I found that ‘Dark Tourism’ is defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with some form of tragedy – death, suffering, murder, pain, disaster or the macabre.

Two obvious destinations include the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and the Cambodian killing fields, both of which I have visited.

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Auschwitz Entrance Gate – Krakow

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Killing Fields Museum – Phnom Penh

There appears to be quite some debate as to whether this type of tourism is ethical or appropriate. Some people believe that the commercialisation of death, at sites such as these is improper because much of the attraction is the association of death and suffering at the expense of the victims.

If I look back on my own travels, I am surprised to find that I have visited so many places that could be classified as Dark Tourism destinations. Some of them are:

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp
  • Cambodian Killing Fields
  • Anne Franke’s House in Amsterdam
  • Hanoi Hilton Hotel
  • Port Arthur in Tasmania
  • Somme Batlefileds
  • Alcatraz
  • Eyjafjallajokul – the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland
  • Hiroshima
  • Soweto
  • Cu Chi Tunnels – Vietnam
  • Pompeii
  • Vietnam War Memories Museum in Saigon
  • and probably many more.

I think many tourists have visited these sites like me, and I wouldn’t think that we were all ‘Dark People’. I bet most are just people who are interested in learning about this life and this world.

People who visit sites such as these probably do so for a number of reasons: they have some form of connection with they place or an intrinsic desire to learn. Some may have a morbid curiosity, but others have an empathy with the victims, a desire for historical validation, they want to explore of their own mortality, or they have a sense of social responsibility.

For me, the emotional affect of visiting these places was quite profound.

I remember my emotions after visiting Anne Franke’s house in Amsterdam. All I could do for the next 30 minutes was to sit on a seat by the canal, process my thoughts, and reflect on the pain that Mr Franke must have felt when he returned home after years in a concentration camp, only to find that he was the sole survivor of his entire his family. All the others had perished.

Or at Auschwitz, seeing piles of suitcases, spectacles and other personal belongings that had been taken from victims before they were murdered. They made the stories so much more personal.

Or in Cambodia, seeing the skulls of hundreds of victims who were brutally murdered because their lifestyle was simply inconsistent with the values of the ruling autocracy.

All these sites were very sad, but none of them were distasteful. To me, they served a number of purposes:

  1. The first was an eduction in the terrible things people can do to other human beings. They showed suffering that cannot be ignored and which should never be repeated. I would challenge the most hardened bigots to visit these places and remain unmoved.
  2. Secondly, they keep alive parts of our world history that should never be forgotten.
  3. Thirdly, they help people to understand more about current affairs through a greater understanding of the past.

Maybe these places do fall under a definition of ‘Darkness’, with all the politically correct ramifications of the critics. To me they are important for keeping memories alive and reminding us of morals and values that we should strive to uphold.

Let us learn and not forget!

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We Just Missed a Disaster http://www.wilsons.id.au/we-just-missed-a-disaster/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/we-just-missed-a-disaster/#comments Fri, 09 Jun 2017 05:30:00 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9085 Barbara, one of the people who regularly follow my blog alerted me, yesterday, to a severe weather incident that has caused destruction and devastation in many areas of South Africa. We visited the same places just two weeks ago.  It’s so sad to see some of the areas that we most enjoyed visiting being devastated by storms and fire.

The strongest winter storm in many years in Cape Town has claimed the lives of at least nine people over the last few days. News reports say that destructive winds of over 80 kmh, flooding downpours and frequent lightning have battered the region early this week.

Wind gusts of over 80 km/h were apparently common throughout the Cape Town, causing extensive damage. Eight people died and there were many injuries due to flying debris. Flooding occurred from more than 25 mm of rain falling quickly in some locations. While the city desperately needs rain to alleviate its current drought, this a very harsh way for it to receive relief.

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Along the Garden Route, and especially in Knysna (silent ‘K’) up to 10,000 residents were forced to flee their homes as fires fuelled by the same storm winds and dry vegetation ripped through the town. Many of the places that we visited, and enjoyed, have been devastated, or severely damaged by fires that would rival any of the severe bushfires that we get in Australia. At last four people have died. We stopped for two nights in this town and visited a number of local attractions.

This news report shows just how bad these fires were.

I’m so glad that we were able to see this area without this devastation and our thoughts go out to all those affected by this terrible natural disaster. If we had have chosen the next tour on our tour company’s departure schedule, we may have well been caught up in this disaster. How fickle the weather can be!

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Soweto http://www.wilsons.id.au/soweto/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/soweto/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 01:57:54 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9080 We left Johannesburg on Saturday night but before  we departed in the evening, we had some time to do a morning tour of Soweto.

Soweto (made up from the initials of the English name, South West Territories) is the black township established by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1948, South Africa’s National Party was elected and their social policy was based on apartheid, the Afrikaans word meaning separateness. Their plan was to separate the various racial groups in South Africa. Blacks and coloured people were then forced to live in Soweto, away from the white population in Johannesburg.  The township borders Johannesburg’s mining belt in the south and was originally the place where mine workers lived

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It is now far more than a township. I’m not sure of the exact population, but estimates are around 4 million people. It is a huge city in its own right with train stations, car dealerships, shopping malls and residential areas. Some parts are very poor and consist of shanty towns like those that we have seen in other parts of South Africa. Other suburbs consist of big areas of government supplied housing and others have middle class homes. One other area is very wealthy. People now live in the township because of affordability as well as it being the centre of their network of friends and culture.

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It took us about 30 minutes to reach Soweto from our hotel near the airport. We drove down a a road, similar to any four lane city highway and passed  the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, listed by the Guinness World Records in 1997 as the largest hospital in the world. Across the way were the Orlando Towers – two old cooling towers from a previous power station that are now used as a bungee jump. It was a busy time as funerals are held on Saturdays. These are huge events, attended by family and large circles of friends and other members of the community.

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We stopped at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church –  the largest Roman Catholic church in South Africa. Its ‘A’ shaped exterior looks quite ordinary, but its vast interior can accommodate as many as 5000 people. About 2000 people attend church here on Sundays.  The stained-glass windows are decorated with scenes of Mary’s life and were donated by thew wife of the President of Poland. This church played a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid. Since political meetings in most public places were banned, the church became the main place where Soweto people could meet and discuss issues. Even funerals often ended up as political meetings.  During the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976, when students were shot by the police in Orlando West, many demonstrators fled to Regina Mundi. The police entered the church, firing live ammunition. No one was killed, although many were injured and the church itself, as well as its furniture, decorations, and symbols were damaged. Both the interior and the external walls of the church still bear the signs of the shootings with bullet holes clearly visible in the ceiling.

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Our second stop was at the Hector Peterson Museum. This museum commemorates the struggle for black people to be educated their own language, not in Afrikaans as was forced on them by the apartheid government. Hector Peterson was one of the first children to die in the Soweto Uprising.  On 16 June 1976, school children like him protested the implementation of Afrikaans and English as dual medium of instruction in secondary schools in a 50:50 basis. This was implemented throughout South Africa regardless of the locally-spoken language and some exams were also written in Afrikaans. Many children failed because they could not read, or answer, the questions.

Students gathered to peacefully demonstrate, but the crowd soon became very aggressive when the police arrived, they then started to throw stones. A crowd of approximately 13,000 started rioting, killing two West Rand Administrative Board members, and burning a number of vehicles and buildings associated with the police and the Transvaal Education Department. When the police arrived the crowd became violent, throwing rocks at the police. The police in turn fired tear gas into the crowd in order to disperse them. There are conflicting accounts of who gave the first command to shoot, but soon children were turning and running in all directions, leaving some children lying wounded on the road. The photo of Hector’s body  being carried by another man accompanied by his sister is one of the iconic photos of black struggle.

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Our final stop was at the famous Vilakazi Street, perhaps the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived – former president Nelson Mandela and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. There was a big crowd at Mandela’s house. It is clearly important to black people in South Africa. He lived here before he was imprisoned and for just eleven days after his release (before he was moved to a safe house somewhere else in Johannesburg for security).

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Victoria Falls by Helicopter http://www.wilsons.id.au/victoria-falls-by-helicopter/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/victoria-falls-by-helicopter/#comments Sat, 03 Jun 2017 15:05:01 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9067 Before leaving Victoria Falls to return to Johannesburg, I had time for one more activity.

We had a booking for the first helicopter flight of the day over the falls. We left the hotel at 7.30 am and by 8.30 am we were weighed and checked in for our ride.

Our pilot was a spunky Zimbabwean woman who normally (because she was a woman) would have been at the bottom of the social pecking order. Today she was in charge and doing a great job. Good luck to her for her success!

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The flight lasted about 15 minutes. We did  a couple of loops over the falls so that people on both sides could get a good view and then flew along the Zambezi River for a short way before retuning to the helipad. Some of this flight took us over a small section of the national park, so there was a member of the national parks staff at the helipad to collect US$13 from each of us for the privilege. I can say that today, we all made a contribution to President Mugabe’s slush fund.

We were back at the hotel by 9.00 am so that we could pack and go to the airport for our 1 1/2 hour flight to Johannesburg.

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Waterfalls, Elephants, School and a Local Lunch http://www.wilsons.id.au/waterfalls-elephants-school-and-a-local-lunch/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/waterfalls-elephants-school-and-a-local-lunch/#comments Fri, 02 Jun 2017 20:28:43 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9058 On our final day at Victoria Falls, we had a compilation of activities before a grand dinner in the David Livingstone Room of the hotel.

Our day began with a walk along the top of the gorge on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls which were discovered by David Livingstone. A statue of him stands at the entrance of the National Park at the falls. He named the falls after Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The local people call them Tokaleya Tonga: (The Smoke That Thunders),  They  are formed where the full width of the Zambezi River plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The spray from the falls rises as much as 400 metres.

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While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls are classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1.7 kilometres and height of 108 metres. The resultant flow of water is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls.

We had a good view of the water falling over the edge of the falls at the Devils Cataract. Beyond that point, there was so much spray that it was impossible to see anything along the length off the gorge. It is only in the dry season that the view is relatively clear.  It was quite awesome to be standing just a few metres away from the enormous torrent of water dropping over the edge. Along the walk, the spray falls like a constant mist and rain. In some places, depending on the wind, you can get some momentary clear views but the best way to see this spectacle is from the air. This photo shows only 100 metres of the falls; there are another 1600 metres like this across their total width.

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At the Zambian end of the falls is the famous Victoria Falls bridge. Its carries both trains and road vehicles. The train route was designed by Cecil Rhodes and was intended to go all the way from the Cape to Cairo. I think, however, it was only built as far as Nairobi in Kenya. Rhode’s vision waa that the train travellers would be able to experience the spray from the falls as they passed over the bridge.

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After our visit to the falls, we drove to the edge of town to visit the Wild Horizon’s Elephant Sanctuary. This sanctuary was founded in 1992, when they were offered an initial herd of 4 elephants in need of a new home after culling operations in one of the national parks. These 4 elephants, together with many other young animals captured during the culling operations, had been sold to a local Zimbabwean farmer and after spending a few years on this farm, they had outgrown the property and a new home was needed for them, which would be more suitable than a commercial farm. Now there are over sixteen elephants at the sanctuary with some being prepared for re-release into the wild. 

Our visit began with a talk about the Sanctuary’s operations  and then we were led outside to meet the elephants. About seven of them came up to the deck on which we were standing and very gracefully allowed us to touch them and talk to them. Most laid out their trunks on the deck so we could touch and feel them.

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From there, the elephants were taken to a feeding area where we were able to give them some pellets made of corn and molasses. Apparently, this is just as much a treat for the elephants as it was for us. These elephants actually understood English! We could give them the command ‘trunk up’ and they would raise their trunk over their head and open  their mouth. Then we could throw a handful of pellets right into their mouth. If we gave them the command ‘trunk down’,  they would hold out their trunks with the nostril twisted upwards and we could place some pellets into their trunk for them to put it into their mouths themselves.  This was a very enjoyable encounter. 

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Once we had run out of food, the elephants sauntered off into the bush to spend the day grazing. They would be brought back to some yards overnight and then allowed to graze again naturally on the next day.

Our third stop was to visit a local primary school. It had 57 teachers and over 1000 students. It runs two sessions of five hours each per day.The school was only partly funded by the government, so parents had to contribute to some of the costs. Every child wore a uniform. If a parent couldn’t afford the fees, they could work them off by doing some work within the school. Some classes were held outdoors as there was a shortage of classrooms. We were very proudly shown the computer room, the home economics room and the woodworking room. Children are obviously taught the ‘three R’s’ but a lot of focus is on ‘life skills’. Both boys and girls, for example, do woodworking and home economics classes.

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We then left to visit a local family for lunch. Our tour company has a program to introduce its customers to local people so that both get an understanding of each other. We went to Edwina’s house for lunch and experienced a typical meal and gained a much greater understanding of the domestic life of local people. We sat in her lounge room as she described her family and the way that they lived.

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Edwina was 45 years old and had four children ranging from 21 years down to 5 years. Her husband was a cook in the army. She was incredibly ‘house proud’ and described how she swept the floors every day and polished them twice a week on her hands and knees. Her electricity was purchased through a pre-paid meter although she still used charcoal for some cooking and ironing as it was less expensive than electric power.

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Our meal was served after Edwina poured water over our hands to wash them – kneeling and washing the men’s hands first, starting with the oldest in our party out of respect for elders. She introduced us to our dishes which consisted of polenta made from corn as a staple, various vegetables, peanuts and some common forms of protein. {Protein consisted of a small serve of beef curry, chicken and some blackened grilled crispy caterpillars. All of this was eaten with our fingers by rolling the polenta into a ball and then dipping it in the gravy of the curry and adding some vegetables as we went. You would certainly need to add something to polenta as it has no flavour of its own and is very boring. Edwina explained that there was a clear delineation of work around the house. Her husband was not allowed in the kitchen. That was where women’s work was done. Washing, ironing and housework were women’s work. Tending the vegetable patch and repairs around the house was work for her husband.

Fortunately our dinner back at the hotel at night was very much a ‘silver service’ meal with beautiful food and some very nice wine. 

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A Day in Chobe National Park http://www.wilsons.id.au/a-day-in-chobe-national-park/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/a-day-in-chobe-national-park/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 20:09:15 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9045 On Wednesday, we went on a day trip from Victoria Falls to the Chobe National Park in Botswana. It was a long day and certainly one of the highlight days of our entire trip. Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa and is the third largest park in that country,

For the first 35 kms, we drove along the two lane highway towards the Botswanaian town of Kasane. This road carries a lot of heavy trucks because it it is part of the main freight route from Botswana to South Africa. Nevertheless, it has a good surface and  was easy to travel on.

Just out of Kasane, we had to pass through the border post between Zimbabwe and Botswana. This meant standing in a queue in the sun while the immigration officials inspected our passports and stamped them so we could leave Zimbabwe. This was repeated again (with another form to fill in) just down the road where went through the Botswana immigration post. In the afternoon, when we returned to Victoria Falls, we repeated this procedure in reverse.

Fortunately, tourist vehicles don’t have the same problems as the semi-trailers and trucks. At the Botswana post (coming back into Zimbabwe), I noticed a white truck driver sitting in a deck chair reading a book. Assuming he would speak English, I walked across the roadway, and fairly congested parking area, to speak with him. He told me that he was carrying a load of iron and steel from Botswana to Pretoria in South Africa. He had been waiting for four days for his permit to be approves to enter Zimbabwe. I don’t have any idea as to how he might have costed this delay into his freight price. All he could say is “This is what to expect in Africa”

Just down the road, we reached Kasane which is close to Africa’s ‘Four Corners’, where four countries almost meet: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is at the far north-eastern corner of Botswana where it serves as the administrative centre of the Chobe District. It has a population of around 8000 people and briefly obtained international fame as the location of the remarriage of Elizabeth Taylor to Richard Burton, in 1975. Across the other side of town was the lodge where we would be based for the day. Our morning activity was a three-hour game drive through the National Park and then lunch and an afternoon cruise on the Chobe River (a tributary of the Zambezi).

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The original inhabitants of this area were the San bushmen (also known as the Basarwa people in Botswana). They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who were constantly moving from place to place to find food sources, namely fruits, water and wild animals. You can still find San paintings inside rocky hills of the park. At the beginning of the 20th century, a major part of the park’s area was classified as crown land. The idea of a national park to protect the varied wildlife found here as well as promote tourism was first raised in 1931. The following year, 24,000 km2 around the Chobe district were officially declared non-hunting area; this area was expanded to 31,600 km2 two years later

The park is widely known for its spectacular elephant population: It contains an estimated 50,000 elephants, perhaps the highest elephant concentration of Africa, and part of the largest continuous surviving elephant population.

This day was a wonderful time for us to spot animals. We were a bit disappointed on our game drive that we only saw one elephant but we soon made up for this on our afternoon river cruise. Apparently in the cooler months, the elephants move inland and away from the river.  Wildlife is generally prolific in this area and I’ve included a sample of some of the animals we saw below:

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The solitary elephant we saw on our game drive

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Warthogs are everywhere.

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Egyptian Geese are so named because of the dark ring around their eye which is supposed to look like Cleopatra’s make up.

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A female Kudu. Every animal has unique stripes

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A pair of ever present female Imapla

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Cape Buffalo

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A Superb Starling with its iridescent foliage reflecting in the sun

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An elephant grazing on the swamp gras in the river. Elephants need to graze all day. They need to drink about 100 litres of water per day.

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A mass of water birds

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Elephants having their afternoon drink at the river 

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Giraffe walking along the river bank 

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Hippopotamus mostly stay in the water all day as they are sensitive to the sun, They come out to graze at night.

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A Water Buck with its white ‘target’ on its bum

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Male Kudu (the female does not have horns)

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Three metre long Nile Crocodile basking in the sun.

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Baboons are smart animals that live in ‘Troops’

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Victoria Falls http://www.wilsons.id.au/victoria-falls-2/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/victoria-falls-2/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 13:54:38 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9024 We are getting to the end of our trip now, but we still have a few days in Victoria Falls to conclude our adventure.

We flew to Victoria Falls  from Johannesburg on a South African Airlines Airbus A330, arriving just after lunch. It looked as if most people on the plane were also tourists as I could hardly see any people who looked to be ‘locals’ on the flight. There is a brand new airport here at Vic Falls and it’s much nicer than the old shed-like structure that I remember from a previous visit. (it hasn’t done anything to speed up the bureaucratic immigration process however).

Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe and although the country is in dire economic straits, the tourism in this town is one of the major sources of income for the country. It is no good going to any of the banks right now as they don’t hasvd any money and all the ATM are dry. Some time ago, Zimbabwe moved away from its own highly inflating currency and now bases its currency on the US$.

It is a very safe town and we can see lots of tourist police in the main street. They recognise the financial value of tourists, unlike the police who man roadblocks on the highways and who will pull up drivers for briberies based on spurious infringements such as wearing your sunglasses on a cloudy day.

Afteer we arrived here, we headed down to the river for a cruise on the Zambezi River. This is the fourth largest river in Africa after the Nile, Congo and another river that I forget. At the moment (mid winter), it is in high water and carrying huge volumes of water to the East.  Here at the town of Vic Falls is its most noted feature, Victoria Falls. Across the there side of the river in Zambia is the town of Livingstone but the falls are more spectacular on this side. You can see the spray rising from the falls for miles.

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We travelled for a few kilometres upstream enjoying some occasional glimpses of wildlife – giraffe and hippos. Then we drifted down the river for almost an hour as we listened to a local historian tell us the history of David Livingstone. He is certainly the ‘hero’ of this part of the world.

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You can read all about David Livingstone in Wikipedia. He was a great explorer, missionary and liberator. He spent many years exploring this area of Africa and he also found the source of the Nile River. Part of his story is also based in Zanzibar although I don’t think that Livingstone ever went there.

In the middle of the talk, I actually found the answer to a couple of questions that I had been pondering upon.  I had previously been to Zanzibar which in the 1860 / 70’s was the headquarters of Arab slavery. Slaves were traded from there to the Middle East and Asia. (The was long after the slave trade to the America’s had been outlawed). The Anglican cathedral in Zanzibar is built right on the old site of the slave market. Near the alter is a round stone, set into the floor, that marks the exact place where the slaves were chained. On the side wall is a wooden cross commemorating Livingstone’s life and work. I didn’t understand the history of the cross nor exactly how Livingstone was able to stop this rampant human trafficking. Now i do!

Firstly, In relation to the cross, David Livingstone died in 1873 at the age of 60 in Chief Chitambo’s village at Ilala, southeast of Lake Bangweulu, in present-day Zambia, from malaria and internal bleeding due to dysentery. His loyal porters Chuma and Susi removed his heart and buried it under a tree near the spot where he died.. The cross in the cathedral is made of timber from the same tree.

(The rest of his remains were carried, together with his journal, over 1,600 km by Chuma and Susi to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, where they were returned by ship to Britain for burial. In London, his body lay in repose at No.1 Savile Row, then the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, prior to interment at Westminster Abbey).

Secondly, Livingstone had been ‘kidnapped’ by Arab slave traders after discovering hundreds of murdered bodies in the river he was exploring. They did not want to kill him and turn him into a martyr, but instead they kept him away from others for six years so that the could not expose their trade. He had joined up with them because of his mission to find the source of the Nile which he did not want to abandon. Over this period, he wrote 42 letters to his mentor, an Anglican Bishop in England. None of them ever reached him. Fortunately he had written a duplicate of each letter and when he was discovered by Henry Morton Stanley, he was able to pass them on to him. When they were finally read in England, the parliamentarian Wilberforce caused a warship to be sent to Zanzibar, The Arab Sheik surrendered and the slave trade was finished.

It was indeed a fascinating story, not only because of Livingstone’s fame but also because our boat was drifting past the very site of a village where some of his porters and exploration party originated from.

Our day finished with a vivid sunset over the river and we returned to our hotel for dinner.

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Travelling to Johannesburg http://www.wilsons.id.au/travelling-to-johannesburg/ Wed, 31 May 2017 19:24:05 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9018 On Monday, we had a long travel day from Kruger to Johannesburg. It was a long driving day, just to get positioned for our next major destination at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. This is just a brief post as we were travelling for most of the day with just a few stops.

We left Lion Sands Lodge early at 7.15 am and travelled in our safari vehicles to meet our coach on the main road. The road was too rough and narrow for the coach to be able to use. Our local guide and driver had been staying in a nearby town while we were at Lion Sands. 

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For the first part of the day, we traveled through a mountainous region with forests and enormous plantations. By mid-morning, we were at a rest stop for a scenic view of the Blyde River Canyon. We had a very impressive view from a lookout along a little walk-way.

The Blyde River Canyon is a significant natural feature of that forms the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 25 kilometres in length and is, on average, around 750 metres deep. The canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. While it is difficult to compare canyons world-wide, the Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth. The view below is taken from a lookout called ‘God’s Window’.

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As usual, in the parking area, there was little market selling local handicrafts. It seems that local people across South Africa eke out a living selling goods in markets like this.

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Some kilometres further on, we stopped at another scenic site at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Potholes are caused when a rock in a river is spun around like a spin-drier in the water. It grinds into the rock in a circular fashion and a ‘pot hole’ then forms. At this site, they were quite amazing, measuring several metres in diameter and just about as deep. A track took us from the car park to the narrow gorge in which these pot holes had formed. They were quite spectacular.

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We stopped in another little town for a bite to eat and then continued to Johannesburg. The country became flatter. At first it was used for grazing but d by the end of the day, we found ourselves in an industrial area with large coal mines and huge power stations. Our final few kilometres into Johannesburg were in bumper to bumper traffic.

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By 5.30 pm, we had reached our hotel (Emporer’s Palace) which is part of the large casino complex near the airport.  This was convenient to the airport for our flights to Victoria Falls on the following morning.

Food in South Africa is cheap by comparison to Australia because of the very good exchange rate that we enjoy. Jill and I shouted ourselves to a lovely meal of Chateau Briand wh a couple of glasses of nice wine and the bill only came to $70 (Aud). We were in bed very soon after dinner after an early start and in anticipation of another early day to catch a morning flight to Victoria Falls.

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Lion Sands Safari Park http://www.wilsons.id.au/lion-sands-safari-park/ http://www.wilsons.id.au/lion-sands-safari-park/#comments Mon, 29 May 2017 10:27:41 +0000 http://www.wilsons.id.au/?p=9010 We have just spent some wonderful time at a very opulent and decadent safari lodge adjoining Kruger National Park.

Two days ago, we left Swaziland, travelling through some hilly country that was forested with both pine and eucalyptus trees. We exited through a much more humble border post than before and  came back into South Africa. We reached Kruger National Park by late morning after a fairly long drive. After checking in at the gate and watching all the private vehicles undergo anti-poaching inspections, we drove north through the park to an airstrip where we left our coach and met up with the safari vehicles from the Lion Sands Lodge, where we would be staying. Its opulence was quite a contrast to the more humble environment we had experienced in Swaziland.

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The drive though Kruger was a slow paced one. The speed limit in the park was 50 kmh and this gave us good opportunities to look for wildlife. It wasn’t ideal trying to photograph them through the windows but it was still quite exciting. We saw some rhinoceros, a few elephants in the distance and many assorted antelope.

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Our safari vehicle was driven by a gorgeous ranger named Tohvie. She had a degree in Zoology and was to be our guide and ranger for the each of our game drives. It took about 30 minutes to reach the Lodge from the airstrip and when we arrived we were met in true ‘pucka’ fashion with a hot towel and a warm welcome. We were told that our package included all food, drink and lodge experiences. We were free to walk anywhere on a boardwalk (but no further) and after dark we would need to call for an escort to and from our rooms. The Lodge its unfenced so animals  including elephant, at times, can occasionally be found in the area.

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The resort at Lion Sands is quite palatial. In the central area, there is is a large open deck that overlooks the Sabie River. Alongside ii is a covered dining room and bar. Boardwalks led us from there to  our individual houses /rooms which were extremely comfortable.

Our room was large and round shaped – similar to the design of traditional village huts. Our bed was totally surrounded by a mosquito net and decorated with a note made out of flowers and leaves  that welcomed us by name. The room maid had left a little black board on which we could leave any messages about things we needed. The back door of our room opened onto a small deck that overlooked the river. The adjoining bathroom was something else entirerly.. Not only did it have a large walk-in shower, it also had a big double bath in front of large windows that also overlooked the river. 

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I understand that the lodge is a favourite place for honeymooners and it had all the trappings of being a very romantic place – lovely linen, toiletries, bathrobes, candles and accessories. It was indeed a very luxurious place. I doubt that tour companies like ours pay the full rate, but I saw in the room directory that the standard rate for our room waa $1000 per night!

immediately after an afternoon tea, we headed off for a game drive wirth Tohvie and our tracker, Lloyd, who sat on a seat at the front of our Lanadrover looking for animal tracks. We spent about three hours driving around and didn’t get back to the lodge until after dark. Our animal count on this first game drive included Rhinoceros, Zebra, Impala, Kudu, Bushbuck and a lot of birds.

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Part of the tradition of game driving is to stop at around sunset for ‘Sundowners’. We stopped in an open area where we could see some Rhinos in the distance and within a few minutes, Tohvie had set up a bar on the front grill of the Landrover with wine, gin and tonics along with other assorted drinks and nibbles. It was very pleasant sipping a glass of chilled wine in the middle of the bush and enjoying the romance of a safari.. It was getting quite dark as we packed upon the bar and we noticed there were three rhinoceros moving towards us. I managed to get a couple of shaky shots in the darkness. Returning to the lodge, just after dark, we came across a couple of Giraffes. We couldn’t light up their eyes with our spotlight as they are daytime animals and the light would blind them.

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On our second day, we were up at 5.00 am for coffee and a muffin and then off at 6.00 am (dawn) for our morning game drive. First up, we found a large herd of Zebra which we watched for a while and I took a few photos of some breeding herds of Impala. These little antelope are everywhere. They have three black stripes on their bum which are jokingly referred to as the MacDonalds sign for Lions. 

Sometime in the middle of the drive, we heard, over the radio, that some animals had been sighted nearby. We drove on at a quick pace and came across a pride of about 16 female lions resting in a dry creek bed. They looked very satisfied, as if they had just eaten and were relaxing after their meal. Occasionally, some would walk across to a nearby waterhole so we followed them  and watched them drinking. We sat only a few metres away from and they were totally non-plussed. They don’t recognise the shape a jeep as a threat and Tohvie asked us not to stand and break up the pattern.

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We had breakfast out in the bush where a large wooden deck formed a lookout over the river. It was a ‘full on’ breakfast with cooked food, juice and a glass of champagne. Then it was time to head back to the lodge for a shower, rest and then lunch. Soon after, it was time for afternoon tea and then another game drive. (There’s not much time to rest at a safari lodge).

This time, we visited a site along a power line where a giraffe had electrocuted itself on the previous day when its head came in contact with the wires. We knew. from a distance, that it must be nearby as there were dozens of vultures sitting in nearby trees. When we found the giraffe (very dead) it ws being devoured by a pack of spotted hyenas. They were ferocious. Hyenas have the strongest jaws of all mammals and we could hear them crunching on bone as they tore strips of meat from the giraffes head.

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A little later, we had a wonderful find. We were driving along a track when I managed to spot a female leopard, just a few metres away. If I hadn’t had my eyes open, we would have continued on in complete ignorance. This find started a series of frantic radio cals and within minutes a number of safari vehicles were driving through the brush to get a look at it. This meant pushing over small trees with the bull bar, driving around thorn bushes and across rocks. We sat within a few metres of the leopard as it appeared to be stalking some prey a little further ahead.

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Sundowner’s that night were beside the river, near a hippo pool. It was almost dark and we couldn’t spend too much time there as it now the time of day when hippos move out of the water to start grazing on land. They can be quite dangerous, so Tohvie loaded her rifle with five rounds and escorted us down to the rocks by the river’s edge to see them.

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On our way back tom the lodge, we found a male leopard sauntering along the road. This time we could shine our light on him as his eyes are designed for night vision.

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We arrived back at the lodge after dark to find the car park illuminated with dozens of lanterns, A fire-pit had been set up in the centre and barbecues were loaded with a variety of meat for dinner. It was a cloudy day but it was almost dinner under the stars. Although I was stuffed full of food, I felt quite sad having to leave this lovely outdoor feast to be escorted back to lour room to pr-pack for our departure this morning. 

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