Sunday, August 15, 2010

Adventures in South Africa

I know that you have all been anxiously waiting to hear about last week’s trip to South Africa.

Let me start by saying it was AWESOME! OMG. I want to go back ASAP. If anyone is even considering going there, I say DO IT!

I should also mention that I was there for work and it was a very quick trip. But even so, we managed to fit in a Safari and that was absolutely a top ten life experience! I can’t wait to go back.

Can you believe I ate these?
After a crazy long weekend in Sweden with the girls, I got back to London late Sunday night and then my colleague and I flew out of London on Monday evening, landed in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning and worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from the office. Needless to say that after a long weekend of partying and my small problem of not being able to sleep on airplanes, I was VERY tired by the time I arrived. So tired in fact, that one night, our South African host managed to convince me to eat worms! For real. Check it out. I ate one of these. It didn’t taste like anything really besides the sauce it was in. But it was very crunchy. I swear that if I didn’t see or know what I was eating, I would still have known that I was eating a worm.
Overall, despite being tired, we had a very productive time at the office that culminated in a team training and a team bowling activity followed by a fantastic dinner where we got our faces painted with African face paint and listened as the waiters and waitresses formed an amazing drum circle! Totally cool.

On Friday morning, we had a working breakfast on Friday and then drove up to Pilanesburg Game Reserve where we arrived just in time for lunch at the fabulous Ivory Tree Lodge. If you are going to Joburg and don’t have time to get up to Kruger (the really big game park) then I totally recommend Pilanesburg (just a two hour drive from Joburg) and if you are willing to spend a bit of extra cash, then I absolutelyy recommend that you stay at the Ivory Tree Lodge.* It’s a five star hotel and the service was fantastic and the huts we stayed in were so cute -luxurious but simple with a huge bathtub and an outside shower. So great to shower under the African stars. And would be an oh-so-romantic getaway to share with that special someone. I did not have a romantic someone to share it with. BUT there were lots of hot Rangers. If I had just had a bit more time to work it...
Yum! A dead Elephant!

After lunch we climbed into our jeep for our first Game Ride (aka Safari) that started at 5pm and ended at 9 so we had a chance to look for animals in both the daylight and night. Before starting the ride, the ranger reminded us that this was not a zoo so she could not guarantee that we would see what we wanted to see. But I was determined that we had to see some lions. And boy did we see some lions!!! In fact, we saw 7 lions from 2 different pride - which is considered quite a good feat for a game ride. The first 3 lions were eating a dead elephant -see picture to the right. The elephant had been dead for 7 week and they were still eating the meat! Gross! Apparently the elephant had died of cholic.  

We saw lots of other animals as well (see pictures below) but suddenly the ranger started driving really fast. She said now we are going on a “Ferrari Safari” (ha ha - how cute is that)... Anyway, apparently the other rangers had spotted the lions from the other pride. So, we raced over and there were 4 lions sitting right in the middle of the road just in front of us! And then, the most amazing thing happened! They walked right by us!!! I could have touched them. It is so cool (and so scary) to look a lion right in the eye who is standing 1 foot away from you. Wow! The safari completely exceeded my expectations.
This Lion walked right past me
After the game ride, we had dinner, did some more work by the fire (it’s winter there) and then slept a few hours before a 5:30 am wake up call from the ranger. We piled on layers of clothes. Brrr... it was chilly in the South African winter morning! And then we piled back into the jeep for a sunrise Game Ride that lasted 3 hours. We did not see as many animals in the morning ride but it was still exhilarating. It was lovely to be out in the fresh morning South African air - even if I couldn’t feel my toes for the entire ride.

After the game ride we had a huge breakfast and then took Quad Bikes (also known as Four Wheelers) through an African village. I had never driven one of those before. But after a few mishaps in the beginning, I got over the feeling that I was going to die and got the hang of it quickly.

After the Quad Bike adventure, we headed to the spa and got a very relaxing massage before driving back to Joburg and catching the Saturday night flight back to London. Whew. What a whirlwind trip! We certainly packed as much into the trip as we could. But it was so worth it!

At this point, I have to mention that the main reason that this busy trip was so fabulous was due to our awesome hosts B and W. B is someone who I have worked with for years and we became close back when we worked together in Shanghai back in the day. But it’s been years since we properly caught up. B and W welcomed us in style and were the best hosts ever. B patiently explained about South Africa’s history and culture and answered our endless questions and she was fabulous at spotting animals and birds and telling us their names. We were much impressed with her bush skills. Thank you B for such an an amazing introduction to your country!

And what a history South Africa has. I mean apartheid only ended in 1994 when South Africa held their first democratic elections and Nelson Mandella became President. Other interesting facts about South Africa include that 80% of the country is of black ancestry. South Africa is ranked sixth out of the world’s seventeen mega diverse countries, with more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species of plants on Earth. Yet only 1% of South Africa is forest. Also, despite the fact that South Africa has the biggest economy of all the African countries and is one of the richest countries in Africa, about a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives on less than $1.25 a day. South Africa recognizes 11 different languages in its constitution, has some of the world's oldest archaeological sites and is the most populous country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage throughout the entire territory. Alright. Enough facts for you. Sorry for geeking out a bit but I found South Africa just so interesting. Thanks Wikipedia for your help.

I should also mention that the weather was amazing. A bit chilly in the mornings and evenings (ok it was down right cold on the game rides but that’s because we were driving fast in an open air jeep) but during the day it was warm and sunny. And the air was so fresh and crisp. It reminded me of New England in the fall.

So, without further ado, I will bring you on a photo Oddessy** of my South African adventure! Enjoy!

A big old Elephant
Zebras are really beautiful
Mama and Baby Elephant
Hello Mr. Warthog
A Big Bird
Here comes the Lion!
Time for some 7 week old elephant meat!
African Sunset
Lions on the Road
Sunrise Safari
Herd of Wildebeest
Look carefully at this picture and then check out the next one
Do you spot the difference? He he... he must have realized we were there and
gotten excited cuz this elephant now has a fifth leg!
Sorry I can't resist. Here's an up close picture of his "Man Glory" as the ranger called it. He he..
Mr. Giraffe

He is so cute! I can't resist posting 3 pictures of him
Apparently this is the most photographed bird in the world because it's so beautiful

*It’s recommended that you stay at least 2 nights and go on 4 game rides. I think that’s the perfect amount of time. If time had permitted, I would have loved to stay another night. Unfortunately, work in London was calling so we could only stay 1 night

**I took these photos with my point and shoot camera that I generally use to take party pictures. I have never had a need for a better camera although I seriously consider getting one if I go back to South Africa. So, I apologize for the less than stellar quality. They still came out ok considering... Although I kinda suck at taking pictures. Also, I struggled with getting these pictures up on blogger. So, I apologize for the big old elephant repeating twice. I couldn't manage to delete him! Very frustrating!


Jazz Stanton said...

This is awesome! I wish I could travel like this. I still wouldn't eat worms though. That actually looked gross...LOL. If a lion got that close to me, I'd pee myself! Great post!

International Woman of Mystery said...

Thanks for reading! It was an awesome trip. I can't wait to go back. The worms were kinda gross. But I had to try...