Going Native

Trip Start Aug 15, 2011
Trip End Sep 02, 2011

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Sunday, August 21, 2011

Following our fabulous four days in Cape Town, your adventure girls on the go headed to the airport to catch a flight to Durban, a large metropolitan area in northern South Africa. From there we boarded the ever present handy tour bus to head out into the "real" Africa, the northern bush lands of KwaZulu-Natal. This is an area first discovered by Vasco de Gama on Christmas Eve in 1497 which is a lush, green subtropical land very different from the Mediterranean and colder climate we were experiencing to the south.

At first glance the Durban area could have been any city back home and in fact we stopped for a lunch break outside of the city at a "lifestyle center" which is their term for shopping mall. It had all your typical shopping mall type places including a Payless Shoe Store and an italian restaurant called the Olive Oil where we had lunch. While eating there, we commented on the fact it was almost like being at home and eating at an Olive Garden except for the fact they had ostrich fillet and ostrich carpaccio on the menu!

Driving northwards along the Indian Ocean coastline and then into the heartland of KwaZulu-Natal, we began to see the vast economic disparity that is rampant in South Africa. Many of the homes are extremely humble, the majority of them being small circular huts with thatched roofs (they are circular because ancient African tradition says that having round walls wards off evil spirits by not allowing them to hide in corners) and more modern homes being simple square block like structures. Almost all of them in the rural areas still have outhouses, very little modern conveniences and it is common to see more people walking than driving as cars are very scarce.

A few quick facts to consider about South Africa: It has a population of about 44 million people with 11 official languages and traditions from across Europe, Asia and Africa. It is 80 percent black, 10 percent white, and 10 percent coloured (their term for mixed race people and anyone who does not fit into either of the other categories). Only 10% of the population earn 10,000 rand or more per month ($1 US = 7 Rand at the moment) which means most people are living at or below poverty level. Also, 80 percent of the tax revenue paid by 10 percent of the people. Meanwhile 25.7% of working population is unemployed according to official government reports, but it is really more like 40% unemployed so making ends meet is very tough.

All of this was very apparent during our drive and subsequent stay in the Zulu nation. It is a very agricultural area so we saw hundreds of acres of sugar cane and pineapple in addition to traditional grain crops. The tribal influence is still very much alive as we could tell by the traditional dress of the villagers and their way of living in a more traditional manner. I am posting several pictures so you can get an idea of some of what we saw along our route today. All of this culture and tribal pride can be traced back to the great Shaka Zulu, the warrior who was involved in the great Boer massacre of British troops in 1838 which led to them breaking off to become their own nation. It is also the subject of a most excellent Michael Caine movie, Zulu, which you can watch to learn more! :-)

Well that covers the update of our nearly 300 km trek into the bush. The next installment will cover our days "in the bush" and at a Zulu village as well as our first forays into South African safari land! Your soon to be going tribal travel correspondent
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