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2019 Adventure – South Africa

Wednesday: November 20, 2019

Here is another post for my 2019 Adventure! Remember, I plan to keep these simple with a short introduction, then show the sites and the eats, along with a favorite memory or two. If you want more details, just ask in a comment or through here :)

On July 16th, we left Swaziland, popping back into South Africa. I only have Harrismith to talk about this week, but it was fruitful enough that it can have its own post. We stayed a couple nights here (not pronounced “Harris-mith” but instead “Harry-smith” – I dig the South African accent) and enjoyed Wimpy’s for the first time. Ironically, Wimpy’s is originally from my home state! I also found I love to eat “patty pans” and “baby marrow” :)

I was amazed at the geography of the continent once again – enormous tableaus rising from completely flat terrain (the farm we stayed at is in the first image below). I can’t say I know what the region normally looks like, but even in a major drought, it is beautiful. On that note, people from the tiniest villages to the largest cities that we visited all commented the same – global warming and climate change. We didn’t know it here in South Africa at the time, but the drought situation in southern Africa is becoming an epically huge deal – even though there has been periods of rain occasionally, some areas have been affected for upwards of a decade. I’ll bring this up again in a later posts.

We stayed on a working farm, home to export foods using a cool worm technology and disease-free “wild” animals such as water buffalo, sable, and roan antelopes. Our host, Graham, showed us around part of his farm so we got up close and personal with some of those beauties. He also showed us some ancient San rock art on his property and WOW. They have not been formally studied yet, and after seeing other examples, he is the steward of a notable site. While it may look like my hand is touching the art, rest assured that is only an illusion. I even discovered surface artifacts so I have implored him to contact a local San/rock shelter archaeologist to look into ways to protect the site and how to share it with the world. He offered it up to me – would if I could!

Graham spoke several languages and communicated with his employees in their home language rather than strictly using his own. I really appreciated that, both as an anthropologist but also because I don’t see that being the norm here in the States (I won’t get political here, but you can guess where I stand on the language issue). Most of his employees lived nearby, in what South Africans call “townships” – a euphemism to me for what could often be called a shanty-town (or worse). Townships are an effect of the apartheid policies (which only ended in 1994) and are home to black citizens. Some are as described already – teeny hodge-podge metal or wooden shacks piled on top of each other with garbage filling the alleys. Others, though, have nice but small homes with landscaping and clean streets. So we asked Graham some questions about racial issues in South Africa. For instance, beyond the dangers in cities like Johannesburg, you may have heard that white farmers are being murdered by black locals. That snippet doesn’t encapsulate the reality, at least how he described it to us. It is more about poor people stealing from rich people, and, like here, poor people often are not white, while rich people often are. Sometimes murders happens, true, but it isn’t seen as racially motivated like our news outlets often proclaim. Perspective matters.

The places (for all maps: Red = airport; Blue = overnight; Pink = short stop; Green = Day trip; Yellow = Border crossing; Brown = Train):

What we saw:

What I ate:

And most notable memory:

This little beast is named Maxwell. Graham’s sister rescued him off the street – a Russian Blue! – in Johannesburg, and he must have seen some warfare because he’s got issues! In fact, that is why Graham has him, because his bad attitude was too much for his sister. I didn’t get it at first. But then, I did. He would snuggle you like a lost childhood friend and then attack without provocation. And I don’t mean the type of cat that loves to be petted until his nervous system goes on overload and he wigs out at you. I mean: he is sitting on your bed, four feet away, napping in the sun while you quietly draw, and then he opens his eyes, large and possessed, and lunges at you with open claws. There were many instances of that. I really did like Maxwell overall, and I would consider him my little buddy, but I learned quickly to not trust him whatsoever. Cats!

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