Friday, August 15, 2008

Durban highlights

Sorry for the long delay in posting. Our internet access lately has been limited. We've left Durban and just finished our first day in Cape Town. It's a great city so far. We saw our first rain in 6 weeks today though! Zac's planning to blog about South Africa politics and Zulu culture soon, but for now here's the higlights of our week in and around Durban.

Our seven day tour started with us being picked up at backpackers hostel, which served as our home base during this trip. When we were picked up it was only Zac and I plus one other traveler, Steeve (yes, with a double E), and our driver, Petros. Here’s the highlights of the tour:

Day 1: Drove to St. Lucia and did a half day game drive in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (pronounced “shloo-SHLOO-we im-FOLE-oz) National Park.
- On our game drive we saw several rhinos thus completing our ‘Big Five’
- Before supper Zac was not feeling well so he went back to our room. During supper I was able to get to know the other man traveling with us. Steeve is a very interesting man who originates from Montreal. He has been traveling throughout South America, Asia, Antarctica, and Africa for the past nine months.

Day 2: Morning estuary cruise, Zulu craft village, big cats rehabilitation center
- On our estuary cruise we were able to get up close to both hippos and giant crocs.
- The Zulu craft village was pretty expensive but it was fun to look around.
- The big cats center was very unique. It was located outside of St. Lucia and was composed of individual pens that housed cheetahs, african wide cats, caracals, and servals. Most of these animals were still very completely wide and while we were there they did the evening feeding. After our guide feed the cheetah we got to go into its pen and watch it eat its food. This was much more intimidating then it sounds.

Day 3: Complicated
- I have titled day 3 complicated because we were suppose to go on an all day game drive from 5:30 am to 5:00 pm. Zac had not been feeling well, and we had not enjoyed this game park as much as the one in Botswana so we decided to skip this event and stay in St. Lucia for the day. This ended up being the best thing we could have done because at breakfast I ended up not feeling well. After resting for awhile we went hiking through some nature trails that led to where a river met the ocean. Before beginning this walk we befriended a small dog that ended up following us for a couple of hours. We named the dog Lucy and I had started to plan how I was going to bring the dog home with me. Luckily we found the owner. We also visited local shops and had a nice relaxing day.

Day 4: Zululand (for this second lag of the trip it was only Zac and I with a tour driver)
- After leaving St. Lucia we traveled to a remote Zulu village. This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire trip. We spent the day walking through the village with a guide. Our guide was born and raised in the village and educated us on every aspect of life there (religion/beliefs, sacrifices, celebrations, healers, etc.) . One of the things that we were fortunate to be apart of was a pre-marriage ceremony. In the Zulu culture, when two people decide to get married there are 4 payments to be made. 1. The man must give the girls family 11 cows. 2. The woman must shower the man’s family with gifts (and I mean hundreds of gifts). 3. The brides’ family makes a list of the things they want and the groom must fulfill their wishes. 4. More cows plus some goats to be used for the wedding, again paid by the groom’s family. We were able to celebrate the third payment with a bride’s family. As gifts everyone received a variety of fruit and we were each persuaded to dance the traditional Zulu dance (infront of everyone).
- I would have to say the best part of this experience was that we spent the night at a local family’s house. That night we joined them for supper, sitting on mats and homemade benches, around a fire. We talked about the differences and similarities of our cultures and this was enjoyed by everyone. We slept in the traditional Zulu rondavel which I must say was absolutely freezing. However this was all part of the experience.

Day 5: Drakensberg Mountains
- Zac and I were picked up from our Zulu home and spent the first half our day driving into the Drakensberg mountains. We did stop along the way to hike down to the base of a waterfall.
- When we arrived at our backpackers (which was a ranch in the mountains) we were able to get settled and then we departed for a horseback ride through the hills around our accommodations.
- Our horseback ride was amazing. The scenery was breathtaking and our guide taught us how to trot. We stopped at a waterfall halfway through our ride for a tea break and then continued the second half our ride as the sun went down. By the time we got back to the ranch the sun was down and the stars were out.

Day 6: Drakensberg Hike
- Today Zac and I completed and all day hike up into the Drakensberg mountains. We were lead by a guide to Bushman paintings (much like caveman paintings) found on the rocks in the mountains. These paintings were 10,000 years old.
- After our hike we were exhausted and decided to spent our evening relaxing at the backpackers.

Day 7: Sani pass and Lesotho
- This morning we joined two lovely people from Pretoria and a guide for a drive up the Sani pass. This pass is basically a rough mountain road that leads into Lesotho. It is the third steepest pass in the world. The pass can only be safely traveled in a 4x4 vehicle. Along the way we passed frozen waterfalls and spent sometime in a Lesotho village.
- The village was quite different from other places we have been. It was composed of about 10 rondavels. The landscape is so barren that when building these rondavels they need to buy trees from South Africa.
- After having lunch at the highest pub in Africa we ventured back down the Sani pass and headed back to Durban.

After these exhausting days, it's been great to relax in Cape Town. More to come about our African adventures...

Leah

1 comment:

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