Randy, this cubs for you!

Trip Start May 09, 2008
Trip End Jul 15, 2008

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Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hello Everyone!

I am sorry I haven't written in so long. Things got a little crazy there for awhile. Since the last time I posted A LOT has happened. I don't know if I can fit it all into this blog.

Rick and I drove the Garden Route from the Western Cape of Cape Town to the Eastern Cape to Port Elizabeth. Its about an 8 hour drive but we broke it up by stopping in Mossel Bay. Mossel Bay is a lovely little town on the sea. We did not have to much time there because we were pressed to get to Port Elizabeth. If we could do it again we would definitely take more time, but there is just too much to see! On our way out of town we stopped by a cave, where there were Hyrax running everywhere. If you haven't seen one, then you need to google a picture of them. They are the cutest little creatures you have ever seen! They look a bit like chinchilla's in my opinion. Then, we got on the road to Port Elizabeth to meet our friend Gay. Now, Gay is from Port Elizabeth but we met her in Charleston by happen chance at a Rotary Club meeting. She invited us to come and see her so thats exactly what we did!

We got to Port Elizabeth in the afternoon and got settled in to her house. The next morning, she took us to Addo Elephant Park. We spent the whole day there. It was incredible! There were HUGE elephants everywhere! There were also zebra, hartbeest, warthog,Kudu, Ostrich and we were lucky enough to see a Jackal. There was wildlife everywhere. It was awesome. I have to say, what I liked almost just as much, was seeing Ricks face when the elephants came walking by the vehicle. I knew right then it was all over. He's been bit. I am so EXCITED! There really is nothing like it. Nothing like being so close to nature. Seeing these animals out in the wild, in the open. Doing whatever they want and knowing that they are unpredictable. Just watching them and observing them. It for me is where I feel the closest to God. Nature...

Then next day, Gay took us to a place called Missionvale. Now, this was a truly humbling experience. Missionvale is a mission organization in the middle of what is called a town ship. It was set up by Sister Ethel, a woman who came to Port Elizabeth from Ireland with only a backpack and a desire to help the needy. She has set up this organization so that people in the township can come and get food, but only raw items. Sister Ethel believes that the mother still needs to be seen as the one who cooks the meals. They also have to bring something. A bottle cap, a scrap of something. In exchange they get a chip which allows them to get food. They have a church, a garden, a clinic and a place for children to play.

These town ships are almost indescribable. Some of them have up to a million people. They are found all over South Africa and originated because of the Apartheid. The blacks were forced out of the white areas. They were not allowed to be on the streets after a certain time in the early evening and they had have a pass to even be on the streets. If they did not have one they were beaten and arrested and sometimes even killed. This went on folks up until 1994. So the town ships are large areas of people living in shacks made out of not much more than aluminum siding. There is usually only one way in and one way out. They are fenced in and and while they do have electricity at night and a water inside, the living situation is not good. The government has put the areas together.

Nelson Mandela, who is greatly respected by both whites and blacks. Nelson Mandela was a political activist who was imprisoned in 1964. Basically, he they were afraid of his power to encourage black africans to rise up and fight for their freedom. He was also a lawyer. Many political activists were imprisoned. He was sentenced to life and was sent to Robben Island which was a maximum security prison. There were mostly political prisoners there as well as the worst types of criminals. Robben Island was a brutal place with a lot of torture. There was a great pressure from the people of South Africa as well as an International pressure to release Mandela. He was released in 1991. He became the President of South Africa in 1994 and put an end to the Apartheid. He is referred to many people as "The Great Man Himself." I was joking with Rick and said, "They need to make a movie about him and have Morgan Freeman play him." Ironically, they are, and Morgan Freeman is! He wrote a book called "The Long Walk to Freedom" which I can't wait to read.

So, there is a little history lesson. Obviously, there is a long road to hoe for South Africa. Its interesting because its what America went through more or less except, RECENTLY. After we left Missionvale Gay took us to another Game Park. This is also sad because...my camera died. Machine Gun Kelly shot it to death folks. The shutter would no longer open. I am just thankful, as my friend Diane pointed out, that it did not die four days into the trip but only when I had four days left. Luckily, I did have my Canon G9 as a backup and used Ricks camera for a few shots as well. It worked out in the end. I guess I need to get another D3... ;^ ) I guess I need to win the lottery...

RICK AND I GOT TO PET A CHEETAH! The park houses Duma (which is swahili for cheetah) who is a tame Cheetah they use for movies. It was insane! Duma is 6 years old and I must say, I was a little timid at first. When the guide told us we could put our heads on her belly and listen to her purr - we declined. After all, it was our first cheetah. Then, as if this could not get better, Gay took us to a lion park. The lions are there to basically breed and get released into the wild. Randy, you asked me to pet a lion and I couldn't leave Africa without doing that for you. Rick and I got to hold 2 1/2 month old lion cubs. You may have noticed the new image. They were so playful and mine kept biting my sweater. The guide was going to take her away because of it, and told her it was okay. I wouldn't mind if she ripped it. Then I could come home with a story of getting bit by a lion! Just kidding...

When we left the park we went to Gay's Rotary meeting which was really neat to see. I have been thinking about joining, but may wait a few years. I am very impressed with their organization and all the good they do. It was our last night with Gay. We were a little sad. She is a truly outstanding person. She loved her visit to Charleston, so Rick brought a copy of his book of Charleston that just came out to give her as a present before we left. They are on sale now so get them quick while they are hot off the press!

So, Friday morning we got up early because we heard that one of the largest surfing competitions in the world was going on in Jeffreys Bay, which was conveniently on the way back to Cape Town. So, we said goodbye to Gay and Port Elizabeth and went to shoot some surfers! It was so cool! We got there when the american surfer, Dane Reynolds was up. The waves were huge and the atmosphere was very chill. We stayed a few hours then had to get on the road to get to our Backpackers (we call them hostels, but they apparently don't care for that) by 10 pm and we still had about 7 hours of driving.

The Garden Route was beautiful. Its winter, so I can only imagine it in summer. When we got to Cape Town, we went to long street. This is where I was with the american girls except I had booked the backpacker place where their friends stayed because the environment was more social. They had brai's (which we call barbecue) for everyone in the backpacker you had to supply your own meat though. There were people from all over the world staying there.

Saturday morning we headed out early for Robben Island to see where "The Great Man Himself" was imprisoned. If you go to Robben Island now, your tour guide will either be a former Guard or a former prisoner. We had a former political prisoner. When the prison was closed the political prisoners were released and the criminals were transferred. Our guide was very informative and even shared some of the brutality that he went through with us. The visit just made us even more hungry to learn more about Mandela. The current president of South Africa was also in prison with Mandela. Its all very interesting.

When we left there we walked along the waterfront for a few hours before heading back to long street. We had a great evening on long street. Sunday we had a tour to see the wine country! A bus picked Rick and I up (as well as two american girls) from our backpackers (see american girls travel all the time!) to give us the grand tour. We visited three wine vineyard Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. It was so beautiful. We were lucky because there was a festival going on in Franschhoek so we got to walk around and have a look.

Our guide was awesome. Not only did she give us a tour of the vineyards but she filled our heads with information on South Africa. She was so informative. I think it was one of my favorite days. The weather was beautiful, it wasn't too cold that day and the countryside cant be beat. I think she was right when she said it was one of the most beautiful Countries on the planet. I won't argue.

Monday was our last day. ; ^ ( Don't get me wrong, I was ready to come back to the states, but I was also a little sad and overwhelmed. The only thing we hadn't done yet together was go to the top of table mountain. Fortunately, the cable car was closed so we got to HIKE! I am so happy that my last day in Africa ended with a beautiful hike. Our flight left at 7 pm and we had to meet the rental car guy at the airport at 4:30. So we had to book it. It took us four hours round trip. It wasn't an easy hike either. It was pretty steep and rugged. By the end we were almost running to the car. Okay, well maybe not running... We only had two hours to get our luggage and make a few stops until we had to be at the airport. Sorry, no shower! We had to fly the next 23 hours like that. Luckily we had the two seats on the side of the plane alone together so no one had to sit next to us.

The good thing is we made it. It was one of the 15 flights I flew on this trip. It didn't really hit me that we were leaving Africa until we got to DC and I saw a Starbucks. I immediately got emotional and it wasn't because I wanted coffee. I suddenly was just very sad of what I was leaving behind. I met some truly amazing people who have so much to offer this world and some who went through things I don't ever want to imagine. I met people who changed my life forever. I met some of the greatest people I've ever met. I saw some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, some of the strangest things I've ever seen and had thrills that I have never experienced. My friend Jeni asked me this morning if I was going to go back and I said, "Im already planning my next trip."

I am forever changed and feel so fulfilled right now. I am hungry to help those that I know I can and eager to share these images with all of you as well as the stories. We are so lucky. We live in a great country. We live in a very privileged country. We have free water with endless refills as restaurants, electricity 24 hours, no malaria and no genocide. We can and do things everyday most of them don't even dream of because its too far of a possibility. We are filthy rich compared to them monetarily. One thing I can say, is I saw some of the poor smile like they are Kings and Queens of their world. Some of them appear to feel rich inside.

When I leave Africa, I leave smiles behind and feel whole. I feel like I am leaving a whole huge new family. I can't wait to go back!
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