The Armchair Traveler's Club discussion

5/15 - Southern Africa > Hear it - Taste it - Touch it - Feel it

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message 1: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments This is a place to discuss non-print discoveries about South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and St.Helena. Movies, Music, TV, Food.

message 2: by Talia (last edited May 04, 2015 12:43PM) (new)

Talia (co1ytm) I actually got to go to South Africa in the summer of 2010 (not for the World Cup). My parents were living there at the time and I went to visit them. I got to see a lot of neat places and try some of the local, traditional food. By far my favorite was the cheese and tomato sandwich. My parents' landlady's family made a traditional Afrikaans meal for us of lamb and pap (pronounced kind of like pop), a corn dish that is similar to polenta. At a hotel in the Kalahari, I had traditional boerewors sausage.I wish I could say I liked it. But I'm kind of a picky eater. I have a lot of pictures and stories if anyone is interested.

message 3: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments I would love to hear your stories! Feel free to post a few photos on the page too. How long did your parents live there for and in which city were they?

I have been fortunate to see a bit of the country as well, but I was more of a tourist. One year I flew there and rented a car with some friends. We spent a couple of months driving around South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

I don't remember much of the local food. I remember there was a kind of dish where you scoop out a loaf of bread and make a stew inside. We were eating on a budget and camping. Some of my travel buddies were vegetarian, so we mostly ate vegetables roasted in tinfoil the fire. I do remember it was pretty difficult to buy vegetables in some parts of Namibia. It was so remote, the stores just didn't have much in them.

message 4: by Talia (new)

Talia (co1ytm) My parents were there for two years. They lived in Hartbeespoort in the Magaliesberg Mountains, west of Pretoria. My dad is a chemical engineer and the company he works for has a plant in Pretoria.

When I was in the Kalahari, I was close to the Botswana border. We actually drove to the border then down a dry riverbed that was parallel to the border. The border was protected by barbed wire. It was kind of funny considering what our borders are protected with. The whole trip was eye opening.

We kind of did the tourist-y thing, we traveled all around the country, but we stayed in locally owned bed and breakfasts or park chateaus and ate in locally owned pubs and restaurants. I loved it. I wish I could go back or live there.

The political situation wasn't that great when I was there. The refugees from Namibia and Botswana were flooding in uncontrolled and putting a strain on rural resources. Resources that could barely sustain the people already living there. On two different occasions I saw men, that were not military, with AK-47s. One was in a market (like a cross between a mall and a flea market. They sold new stuff, but it had the atmosphere of a flea market.) and kind of scary. It was crowded, so I was alarmed when I saw him.

I'm at work at the moment (don't tell anyone!) but when I get home I'll post the Facebook notes I made with some pictures. We took so many that it'll be hard to choose!

message 5: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments Summer of 2010 - I think I was there about 2002? When I was there the atmosphere was very hopeful. I don't recall refugees from Namibia or Botswana, I think those places were doing pretty well at that time? Or perhaps I just didn't see it with my tourist goggles on.

That's great that you had the opportunity to view the place as an insider. I would love to go back as well.

What was the Kalahari like?

message 6: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments For rhapsody users -check out my playlist of music from this region

message 7: by Talia (last edited May 08, 2015 10:04AM) (new)

Talia (co1ytm) Sorry it took so long to do this! These are the Facebook notes I made while I was on my trip to ZA.

South Africa Trip 6/14/10

Made it! Spent last night at parents' house in Hartbeesport. Left there at 5-ish-am to go to Oslo Beach on the Indian Ocean. On our way we saw blesbok, a kind of antelope that is endangered. Ate lunch at Wilson's Warf in Durban. I tried a hamburger and found it disgusting. It tasted gamey, I guess hamburger is supposed to taste like that, but I like it the American way.

This is the port at Durban.


The beach was beautiful yesterday. More pictures of that will come when I get home. The internet is too slow and unreliable to upload any pictures, so no more pictures until I get home.

We left Oslo Beach at about 8:30 or 9 and headed to Underburg. We had to stop in Kokstad for a phone for me and a bathroom. It was an adventure because it was an all black town that wasn't a township. Townships are basically shanty towns. The houses can barely be called shacks, they're halfway falling down. The tin roofs are held down by cinderblocks and thatched roofs leak all the time. Townships are the ones you have to be REALLY careful in.

We ate lunch in Underburg, which was another experiance. I had a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich with chips and cream soda. The cream soda was green, but its made by the Coca-Cola company.

After lunch we headed towards Rosetta where we are spending the night. We took a dirt road that was completely horrible with rocks sticking up out of the road. We saw some reedbuck and springbok. We couldn't get pictures of them because they were too far away.

A portion of a township we passed through. This is not Kokstad, but it should give you an idea of what life is like in townships.


Today is baboon day because they were out on the road from Giants Castle to Golden Gate Park. There must have been 20-40 of them. Dad and I first spotted them on the trail were were hiking in Giants Castle to see Bushman Art (the art was amazing btw, got lots of pics). I had a few second staring contest with a juvinile, there were 5 baboons on the trail. We also saw fracolins (think partridges) on the trail.

Rewinding to leaving the cottege this morning. On our way out we say bontebok(I have apparently seen most of the population now) and wildebeast. We also saw Hardeda Ibis( South Africans that have moved out of the country say they miss the squwack of the hardeda the most. Its a horrid sound until you get used to it.)

After Giants we headed to Golden Gate and in the park we saw springbok, blesbok(again, seen most of them) zebra and elands. The elands were the highlight of my day. There were three of themn. They are hard to spot because of their coloring and Mom and Dad had only seen 3-4 of them previously. John didn't see any. I spotted them, couldn't see though my binoculors and had Dad focus them. He said "that's an eland" and then we noticed the other two. We got awesome pictures.


Rock art at Giant's Castle



After breakfast We went to the Bushman Rock Carvings site about 20km outside of Kimberly. I think the guide said there were about 400 carvings in Wildebeest Kuil. After the tour we headed to Witsand.

Wistsand is a provincial park where the red sands and white sands meet. In certain conditions the dunes there will roar or hum. We didn't get that to happen. The three of us climbed the dunes, which was a challenge. Our shoes were completely filled with sand by the time we got back to the car. THe park offers dune boarding if you want to sled down the dunes. We spent the night at Witsand before heading to Vanzylsrus. The meekat reserve is located near here and the tours are reserved at the hotel.

Rock Carving at Wildebeest Kuil


Nerd moment: I got to pet and take pictures with Zaphod, the oldest meerkat in the project!!! He's 12 years old and is the current dominant male of the Aztecs. There are 29 meerkats in the Aztecs, 6 of them are pups. Tonight all 29 were accounted for. The scientits catalog what time the meerkats get up, who is grooming who and who started it, how much they weigh, where they sleep, who is feeding the pups, what they feed them and how long they look at them while the pups are eating.

The experiance was just amazing. These creatures are normally very skittish in the wild, but at the project you can walk between them while they're digging for food and pet them at the burrows. The scientits tell the meerkats apart by hair dye marks on their bodies. Zaphod also has a scar on his face that makes him easy to distinguish.


Meerkats at their den waiting to be weighed.


Back in Hartbeespoort (wouldn't you know that I've been spelling that wrong the whole time?). 9 days until heading home. Nothing of note happened today, but yesterday I forgot to mention that we took a drive along a dry riverbed. Its been dry for about 20 years and is now a habitat teeming with bird and mammal life. I once again have left the critter list in the car. Something was burrowing in the middle of the road. There were several burrows that were hard to dodge. We got lost going back to Vanzylsrus (Spelled that wrong too) and the TomTom lost its mind and told us that we had 30km to go to get back to town. We had 30km to go for about 30minutes before finding our own way back.


We had a traditional Afrikaans Braai with MieMie's family. There was a kind of corn mash called pap, lamb shank, some kind of soup and a cake of fried pumpkin. It was pretty good, except, I don't eat lamb.

Before the braai Mom took me around Hartbeespoort for shopping. I didn't find any clothes that fit except for a skirt and two shirts at a flea market type thing. The biggest thing to note was when she took me to the curio market run by the blacks. They aim to please and will knock their prices lower if you try and bargin. They were really trying to get us to buy everything. I felt like I was being suffocated.


Thea, MieMie, Mom and I went to the oriental market in Johannasburg. It is run by Indians and there is a lot of curtain shops and leather shops. I didn't find much for clothes there either.


Mom and I went to the Lion Rhino park for the day. It was pretty cool. I have no idea where my list of critters I saw is, probably sitting in a box in the product shipping dock outside of Britz. We saw a lot of critters though. At lunch we discovered that there is a petting zoo. I decided on the year old white lion cubs. Awesome experiance. Also got to see hippos for the first time.




Pilanesburg day!!

Best part of the day were the giraffes, elephants and.......the 6 lions eating on a dead elephant. I don't think the lions killed it, but it was pretty cool to see wild lions.


View from a bird hide at Pilanesburg



Cheeta Run day with Dad.

I took a video of a king cheeta named Shaka running, he didn't put his heart into it, but he's still fast, I'll post it when I post everything else. Also got to see African Wild dogs, various vultures and I got closer to an Ostrich than I ever wanted to.

Best part of this day was getting to pet Byron. He is an ambassador cheeta that they use to raise money to keep the farm open. Feeling him purr was like putting my hand on a running engine.

This happened to be the only place that I found a souvenier clothing article that I liked. Yay for nice sweatshirt!!

African Wild Dogs


Shaka running


Spent the days helping Mom and Dad pack and left SA on 6-29 to come home. I miss the place and am glad that I got to go. It is definately something that I will treasure for the rest of my life. There is nothing like it.

Plane rides were uneventful except when Dad and I got chosen for extra screening at the Johannasburg airport. The hand lotion that I used set off the alarm thing.

"Did you use any hand cream recently?"


"Do you have it with you?"

"No, the cream I have with me isn't what I used. The one I used my mom has."

"What is her name?"

They went and hunted her down, took the hand cream, it set off the alarm and the two of us got a lecture on why you don't use hand cream before a flight. When Dad went through the process of being screened for explosives (same one they did on me) he got to hear the lecture that the guy that lectured me got from his boss. The guy that lectured me got told to lighten up and not to worry about hand cream.

*All pictures in this post are ones that were taken by myself or a member of my family.

message 8: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments It's so fun to read about your experiences!

Ach - the baboons! hahahahaha - babboons crack me up! On our trip we were 5 in the car. At one point we had gotten out of the back seat and were taking photos - then the babboons ran into the back seat! So the people in front ran out of the car - then the babboons got out so the people in the back seat climbed in - but they couldn't shut the doors before the babboons climbed into the front seat! It was like something out of Laurel and Hardy! The minute the people tried to get in -the babboons got in and the people ran out - it took us several tries before we had all 5 people in the car with the doors shut and a babboon trying to get into the window while my friend screamed and pulled away! They actually have really big teeth, but we were not dinner that day.

I'm jealous of your meerkat experience, one friend I was traveling with was Nuts about meerkats - he would have flipped if he would have gotten to pet one!

I can't imagine GPS in Africa! Here in Idaho it sends us down some pretty questionable roads sometimes. I can imagine in Africa you could end up in some pretty unusual places driving down the random dirt road that the GPS feels is a little shorter than the highway!

No hand cream before a flight!? Crazy, I've never heard that one. I think without handcream my hands would fall off!

You saw some great animals! Thanks much for sharing - I really enjoyed reading it.

message 9: by Talia (new)

Talia (co1ytm) My parents had an episode similar to that! They got out of their SUV to take pictures and because they had the windows down a monkey took the opportunity to rob them. He grabbed an open bag of chips, jumped out the window and over the guard rail. My parents jumped in their car. They could hear the monkey eating the chips. A few moments later, the bag flies over the guard rail. They never left their windows down again.

I love meerkats! I want 20! They're so cute. At the Rhino Lion park, my mom and I found a lone meerkat in the petting zoo area. He was so lonely that he was squeaking. I wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home. It was so sad. I wanted to cry.

I've had my GPS do some pretty strange things in Arkansas/Louisiana. There are some places in AR that don't get a GPS signal. In South Africa, the GPS had my parents going to some pretty questionable places. They drove through townships, corn fields, dirt roads. It was an adventure.

I need my hand cream! I was terrified for awhile in that situation. It helped that my dad was with me. It was also embarrassing, but it makes for a good story.

You're welcome. I enjoy sharing, the trip had a huge impact on my life. We saw a lot of animals. I didn't include the list I was keeping. I can't remember what I did with that, but I think we saw most of what was mentioned in the average guide book. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

message 10: by Talia (new)

Talia (co1ytm) I've been trying to remember my favorite Afrikaans word for the last few days and I finally remembered it!

Slaggat - literal translation "death place". Pronounced as slaghat. Used to refer to potholes.

The potholes in the roads, paved or unpaved, in rural areas were huge. The government doesn't have the money to repair them, so they just get bigger. On occasion, blacks (I'm not sure of the politically correct word here) will take it upon themselves to fill in the potholes and stand by the road for tips from drivers. If they can't find work, they make jobs for themselves.

message 11: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 673 comments Clever!

message 12: by Talia (new)

Talia (co1ytm) I was going through my Read list and found a couple books that you guys might find interesting if you want to learn more about Southern/Central Africa.

This one is short stories:

This one is a field guide, but it gets down to the nitty gritty of anthropology and other sciences.

This one is modern, but it's a good read. If anyone has seen Invictus and wants to know more about Mandela, it's a good way to see into his mind. However, he did not approve of it's publication.

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