Read Rebecca's anthropologically awesome adventures!See reading materials and other websites that makes Rebecca tick!Search through Rebecca's anthropologically awesome adventures!Meet Rebecca and follow her lead!

2019 Adventure – South Africa

Wednesday: November 20, 2019

(Results for selected topic.)

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!

See other entries with similar topics:

2019 Adventure – Swaziland

Thursday: October 31, 2019

(Results for selected topic.)

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 13th, we entered Swaziland (which recently changed its name to Eswatini, but the locals we met still called it Swaziland and thought the change was silly). Out of any place I’ve ever been, Swaziland is the most rural in the agricultural kind of way – little self-sustaining farmsteads with crops or livestock (often both) were the norm and the roads were dirt farm trails bordering the farms. I will also never forget the roads – the dirt ones are near impossible to navigate without all-wheel drive and sometimes were too skinny not to scratch a car. The paved ones are abysmal – the pot holes we read about were in truth larger than we imagined, and multiplied to such an extent – potholes within potholes with no way to avoid them – that driving was incredibly slow and quite uncomfortable. I’m talking literally the size of bathtubs – or more! – and deep enough where a cow could sleep in one without you seeing it. One or two here and there wouldn’t necessitate a comment, but, oh Swaziland, your roads are nightmarish! The photo you’ll see is a pretty decent road, actually. We also almost got stuck crossing a stream. Some local kids helped add more stones while we were out and about to make navigating it again easier on our return.

Our first two nights were spent with a farmer who introduced me to the actual granadilla fruit I had been enjoying through drinkable yogurt – the fruit was super tart and I loved it! He invited a local late-teenage girl to tag along with us all one day to visit Phophonyane Falls and then have dinner at a nearby resort. Her English was quite good so we chatted a lot and I was surprised that her goal after graduation was to join the military. We dropped her off and I was struck by the complex cultural collision I witnessed; she reminded me of any other teenager: on her phone with selfies and texting, wearing skinny jeans and a graphic tee. But her “house” was a small one-room wood shack (maybe as large as a king-sized bed?), a smaller wooden shack nearby (perhaps storage for the kitchen?), a basic outdoor cookfire, no evidence of a bathroom (no evidence of plumbing at all, and definitely no wired electricity anywhere, though maybe a solar battery was hidden away), and a chicken coop. She lived there with her mother and several siblings (when she wasn’t away at school, which is normal in the African cultures we visited – to send children of all ages to boarding school). You can read about this stuff, but seeing it and meeting the people who live this way is both humbling and jarring – so similar and yet so different!

On our trip overall, we learned that it is not always easy to find a place to eat, and one of the things we had to sometimes look for are resorts (of the fancy expensive type). We stumbled upon the most beautiful one I’ve seen anywhere and had a wonderful meal. I must also add that Swaziland landscaping culture is gorgeous – I noticed it at all the places we visited. I am sure it helps to be inspired by all the natural beauty the countryside offers!

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:

The places we stayed at were both designed for tourism, though the second was still in development and was built strictly for that purpose. The first, though, was still on a working farm, so of course there were farm pups to enjoy (and wayward chickens and roosters)! The littlest (turned away from the camera) was a little too crazy and got in trouble a lot. The oldest (not pictured) was super big and scary looking (as all rottweilers look), but was sweet and had a major open wound on her leg from an abusive neighbor (though perhaps she was attacking some livestock so they did what they had to). And this golden girl was super friendly – at night, when I had to walk down to the bathroom hut in the dark, she always guided and guarded me. We didn’t stay long in Swaziland, and my memories of it were really just finding peace in nature, so no adrenaline-pumping stories to share!

See other entries with similar topics:

2019 Adventure – South Africa

Thursday: October 24, 2019

(Results for selected topic.)

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 :)

I did add some photos I finally got from my brother to the two previous posts so check those out!

On July 9th, we bussed from Maputo, Mozambique to Nelspruit, South Africa and found a taxi to take us to the rental car office. From there, we drove straight to just outside one of the gates of Kruger National Park. For the next three nights, we stayed in rondavels (little round houses) at the Park’s camps. Do you remember the very first time you saw the original Jurassic Park? The beginning scenes, before it turned horrifying, that is. The goosebumps you got when the characters witnessed dinosaurs for the first time, emerging quietly from the jungle? Yep. That is what Kruger is like. I had mistakenly thought we would be lucky to see a few animals over the course of the entire time in Kruger. How amazed was I, when we saw almost everything before we even found the camp to sleep! I also mistakenly thought the roads would be crammed with tourists, but in fact we were solitary much of our journey (in Kruger and everywhere else!)! You can be greedy with your wishes here. Kruger, as I would find out for the rest of Africa, delivered.

When I saw the original Lion King way back, I remember thinking “that’s not what nature looks like” and took it to be artistic license. But, Africa really does look that way. I need to seriously invest some time in learning why the geography and topography is what it is – vast plains with enormous bald rock outcroppings. And the animals really do all mix together at waterholes or just when they are out and about. Of course, I’ve seen this in documentaries and whatnot, but it’s just different in real life. Too cool.

While we did a self-drive safari (as in, you drive in your own car wherever you want on the roads and stay for however long you want at each spot), we also booked three other kinds through our camps: a night drive, a morning drive, and a bush walk. As a self-drive, it is illegal to be outside of a camp after dark, yet a lot of animals aren’t active during the heat of the day. Plus, without a tour guide, you just don’t learn much! My favorite is, of course, the bush walk. At first I did have to pause and question my life choices when the reality struck me – I mean, I was just simply walking around out in the wild where dangerous and frightening animals hang out, afterall. Our two guides were very professional about safety measures though (stay quiet, stay in single file, and do exactly what they say even if they come off as incredibly rude yelling at us and treating us like a baby – if they say climb a tree, climb the effing tree!), and they taught us a lot about different plants (it is cooler than it sounds, trust me!) and tracking animals. In fact, though no one in Kruger will tell you how many rhinos there are because of heavy poaching problems, I can say there are at least two – That’s right! We walked up to a pair of rhinos! It was exhilarating (and when I say “walked up to”, I mean we were still quite far away as the image will attest).

Keep in mind that I mostly enjoyed being there, being present, rather than trying to document it for others to see. While I do have some of my brother’s photos, you should still check his stuff out for more/better images. And I’ll write more about South Africa in future posts – Kruger is just a lot all by itself!

The places (for all maps: Red = airport; Blue = overnight; Pink = short stop; Green = Day trip; Yellow = Border crossing; Brown = Train, or in this case, the car rental office):

What we saw:

What I ate:

And most notable memory:

I already said how awe-inspiring the safaris were. I could mention that neither my brother nor I knew what a Dom Pedro was, and decided to order it without asking (icecream + amarula liqueur). MmMmMMmmmm. Or, I could mention the one morning I was awoken before the sun rose to some loud vocalization out in the wild. I couldn’t sleep and it was driving me bonkers. I finally got up and stood on my stoop watching the sun rise, to finally find the source: two hippos in the river, fighting by yawning wide to show their teeth and yelling. They were at a standstill – the river was wide, and there was plenty of space to go around each other, but neither wanted to leave the skinny little path. Silly hippos. But instead I will talk about the driving.

I had expected driving anywhere in Africa to be this nightmare of aggressive drivers, packed pedestrians, roaming animals – loud and a definite sense of pure and utter chaos. I based this on my experience as a passenger in other countries and what I’ve seen in movies. As with much of my expectations for this trip, I was totally wrong. I felt more at ease driving there than almost anywhere back home (“there” being in South Africa, Swaziland/Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and Bostwana)! Let that sink in for a minute or two. African people (referring to those regions I visited, not the entire enormous continent, of course) have a gentle culture (well, in truth like a million cultures), without a sense of hurry or self-importance seen here in the States. So, driving was super easy.

What else I did not expect was the mental effort it took to drive on the opposite side of the road. We had a mantra to remind each other “stay on the left” to the tune of “Staying Alive”.  A major joke is that because the car is reversed, so are the knobs and buttons. You know how many times windshield wipers were used instead of turning signals? Countless! And the joke really is on me, because the intense concentration I endured for the month of driving upwards of 8 hours a day has slithered its way into my subconscious. Do I admit that in my very own car, though I have been driving now for over 20 years, the windshield wipers have been flipped whilst turning multiple times? Or, how when I am walking on the road, deserted at the time of cars, I cannot picture which side a pedestrian should be on, even though I’ve been home now for over a month? Who knew I would be left so confuddled! The best advice I found, which I discovered back when I was researching driving in foreign countries, was that the driver stays in the middle of the road, no matter what. That I need to remind myself of this just astounds me.

I am also glad we bought the extra insurance – before we left Kruger, we already had a hole in the tire from a thorn. Thank goodness our camp had a motor station! And by the time we returned the car, we had a cracked windshield from a rock along the high speed highways in Namibia. Oi.

See other entries with similar topics:

2019 Adventure – Mozambique

Wednesday: October 2, 2019

(Results for selected topic.)

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 :)

Before I get into anything, I want to remind everyone that Mozambique recently suffered greatly from Cyclone Idai (along with Zimbabwe and Malawi). While there, we had been asked where we were from by a local. To our response of USA, he thanked us for our help in funding efforts to restore communities. It really does matter where you donate your money to, and the people really do appreciate it. Do your part, when you can, as we are all on Earth together.

On July 5th, we took an overnight flight on TAP to the capital city of Mozambique: Maputo. We had Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to explore. As our first foray to the African continent, we were unaware of a major cultural difference that really hindered our exploration – people stay home on weekends which means stores and activities are closed, too. We didn’t know this at the time, though, so we interpreted the dead capital city center as a dead city. It really cast a negative shadow on our perspective of the city and how safe we felt. One of the techniques I use when traveling around in the States is to look at the type of cars in the area I’m in – if they look alright, then my safety is probably alright; if they are junky cars, maybe I should be more on point in security-minded awareness. That doesn’t translate well, though, to an economy less fortunate where cars are luxuries, even the “junky” ones. My brother suggested one of the techniques he picked up on in his travels: look at the male-to-female ratio. In essence, if women are out and about, it’s probably fine (though I did also watch to see how closely guarded they kept their purses, another layer of understanding safety in strange environments I picked up). This really added to the shadow feeling, though, because we really only saw single young men or groups of young men. Some were clearly destitute (washing themselves in a plugged storm drain), and others seemed to glare at us. It felt very unwelcoming, even though our host assured us that we would be safe. Our apartment was literally adjacent to Mozambique’s presidential palace (their White House equivalent), but that only added to the matter as the area seemed quite run-down and the palace grounds blocked all easy walking routes to downtown (it provided a lot of wandering peacocks, though!). Looking back, it was all just a bit of culture shock and my brother and I agree that we need to give Maputo and Mozambique another go before we make any claims to our experiences there. But I mention all of this to explain why the only photos I have don’t involve the outdoors at all – we were naively too afraid to take out a camera and snap a photo. How unfortunate!

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:

Most notable memory:

I don’t have a photo for any favorite memory, but I included this one just to show that I tried something new on this trip, which did begin in Maputo. I usually keep a travel log of my activities (in the hopes that I’ll make a scrapbook someday), but this time I decided to try a visual log. This is the title page, and, if you are curious for more, it will be shown some on my other site (whenever I get around to that). As for memories, well, you read in the introduction that we didn’t have the most exciting time here. We planned several things, and mentioned them to our host, and I guess there was miscommunication all around because she didn’t explain that certain things were closed – we made the journeys to get where we needed to be, sometimes even arranged by her for a taxi, only to find the place closed each day. It was frustrating! So my favorite memory, I guess, happened the day we left Maputo. We were unsure our arranged taxi would be timely, based on a prior experience, so we scheduled it to be quite early. Of course, he wasn’t just on time – he was early, too! What luck. Because of timing, the office wasn’t open yet and we felt very conspicuous with all of our bags just hanging on an empty street in a place we felt (at the time) like we were surely targets of a crime about to take place at any moment. I mean, it was still pitch black. After a while, as the sun attempted to say hello, the employees came and let us in to sit for a while until the bus arrived, where we faced the desk rather than the window. Eventually, we loaded the bus and were finally able to see the street in the light of day. We were both happily shocked to see the city had become a bustling and vibrant place (with women!) and were sad we didn’t get to experience that part of it. It was just a fun surprise that turned our perspective back around (especially once we learned about the weekend culture of the region! Every country we visited was pretty much closed down for the weekends.).

 

See other entries with similar topics:

2019 Adventure – Portugal

Thursday: September 26, 2019

(Results for selected topic.)

Here is the first post for my 2019 Adventure! I want to keep it simple, because there is actually so much I could talk about, so I’ll just post a small introduction, a bunch of scenic photos and food photos (because everyone’s main question is always “yes, but what did you EAT?!”), and then add my favorite memories at the end. That way, if you have a question, you can simply ask in a comment or contact me here. And for higher quality images taken by my brother (because sometimes I wouldn’t take any at all since he’s the pro), check out here for now, or check back later here (he isn’t sure when he will have a chance to update it).

Before we begin with any of that that, though, I want to shoutout to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, which allowed me to get all the Lonely Planet travel guides for my trip without breaking bank (thanks to Boy again for the kindle!). I usually collect these books for the places I go, but I just couldn’t do it that way this time. Now that my trip is over, I cancelled my subscription and there was zero hassle involved.

People have also asked about my luggage, since we were backpacking with some long walks or cramped public transport possibly involved. I took my brother’s advice and got the same bag he has been using for the last five years (and all the abuse he’s put it through, it is still in great condition!). So, I bought the Osprey Porter 65, which let me pack for any occasion (as in, super overpacked) and prevented me from breaking my back (though I will never say that hauling it around while it weighed 40 pounds was easy, especially in Lisbon!). I have packing cubes also to keep it all organized. I love it!

And yes, I had to get vaccines. I found it ironic that I had all the ones I needed up-to-date, as my doctor and I decided I wouldn’t need the cholera one, but my tetanus (which I need here) was out-of-date. Whoops. I also got malaria pills, but luckily, mosquitoes weren’t a huge issue (of course, if one was in a ten mile radius of us, it bit me, but that happened few and far between).

Anyway, now the travel bits:

On June 30th, my friend and my brother and I left for Portugal flying on TAP Air Portugal. For the first time ever, beginning in June, TAP was running direct flights between Chicago and Lisbon so there was an amazing promotional deal. And, because the Portuguese have a colonial history in Mozambique, the flight between those two countries was also pretty stellar. The only reason I was able to do this trip was because of TAP – less than 500$ to get to Africa and we were allowed a five day stay-over in Portugal between! The flight was perfectly fine and enjoyable from what I can recall (we all dosed on melatonin to help with the time change so I slept most of the way), so if you have the opportunity to try TAP, take it. After all, they are one of the world’s safest airlines!

We spent two nights in Lisbon, a city of crammed stone alleys built into the side of massive hills along the coast of a bay. The time difference was 5 hours ahead, and it wasn’t too difficult to adjust to with the melatonin helping us sleep at night. On the third day, we took a train to Obidos, which is a castle city in amazing repair. The name sounded familiar, and once there I realized I had seen it on tv – it is the home of probably the world’s coolest renaissance fair, the Mercado Medieval do Obidos. And we just missed it by a day. I blame my brother for his lack of planning on that one! On that same day, we took the train farther, to Coimbra. We didn’t have much time here (see the end of this post about the train) but we did get to run through the University of Coimbra’s Botanical Garden. Then we finished the day by taking the train to Porto, a city built right onto the banks of the Douro River. Then we spent one more night back in Lisbon before saying bye to my friend who flew home, while we flew south to Mozambique.

Because of jetlag and rushed schedules, we didn’t interact with the locals much at all. Other than amazing historic architecture and fish being a big part of their diet, I can’t comment too much on the culture of the people. Anthropology fail! We also did not do a great job at keeping a cheap budget, as you might notice with our food options, but it wasn’t unexpected since it is Europe, afterall.

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 thought I’d have to eat:

What I actually ate:

And most notable memory:

It doesn’t look like much, but let me set the scene. We left most of our luggage in Lisbon for our Porto trip. Lisbon has rentable lockers near the train station which we used after check-out before going to the airport our last day, but for our one night stay in Porto, we had our last night accomodation in Lisbon hold our bags for us early. That means that we had to carry our small bags for the whole part of the train ride (Obidos and Coimbra). It was hot (you may have heard that Paris was hitting highs of 112F this summer; we weren’t that unlucky but it wasn’t pleasant). We got off at the train station in this photo (the building in the distance) and then had to hike up the mountain to visit Obidos (along a steep road). Our party got separated and that ate up some time to find each other so that we could catch the train to Coimbra so we could catch the train to Porto. When we met up, we were at the other side of the castle and felt it might be faster to descend from that side rather than finding the way we came in. Well, it turns out that maybe wasn’t the best decision, so we literally were running to make it on time – because as my brother foretold, European trains run like clockwork. And the road wasn’t a simple down hill road; it was gravel and meandered a little and went upwards at places. We contemplated running through the grass straight down but thought better of it. Near the end, we were running as fast as possible, in a gleeful haven’t-done-this-since-childhood kind of way, dropped a notch only by the anxiety of what missing our train might mean. We arrive, completely breathless, guzzling water, drenched in sweat, to see one other person waiting. Phew, we hadn’t missed it!! … And then the train was late by over an hour, maybe even two, as we sat there doing absolutely nothing. That’s why we didn’t have much time in Coimbra, and why, yes, we practically ran through the botanical garden there, too. But, it was an adventure! :D

See other entries with similar topics:

My greatest journey

Saturday: December 8, 2018

(Results for selected topic.)

I am going to Africa on June 30th, 2019.

Planning is currently ongoing but it may look a little like this: Here to Portugal, to Mozambique, to Swaziland, to Lesotho, to South Africa, to Namibia, to Botswana, to Zimbabwe, to Zambia, to Tanzania. Ideally also to Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Morocco, but safety and time constraints apply so we’ve nixed those. In fact, I might not be able to get all the way to Tanzania but I am sure as heck trying to make that work!

Life goals possibly fitting into this trip are seeing: 1) amazing animals in the wild including the Big 5 and gorillas; 2) archaeology sites like Great Zimbabwe and human evolution sites like Sterkfontein, Kroomdrai, Rising Star, Laetoli, and Olduvai Gorge; 3) breathtaking nature like the Kalahari Desert, Victoria Falls, Serengeti Plain, and Mount Kilimanjaro; and 4) the numerous diverse and unique cultures from traditional tribes to Portuguese/Dutch/French/British colonial histories.

Thank you, dearly departed gramma and grampa, for always having National Geographics laying around!

Stay tuned.

See other entries with similar topics:
World Map World Map
australopithechic.anthroclub.com: copyright 2011 and beyond