Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The 178th good thing about Lagos: Opportunity for a fabulous R&R trip to South Africa!

Well, I've been on a quite extended blog vacation and I'm very overdue to get back to the blogging world. I had a very busy spring and summer and Lagos didn't factor in much to it, but now I'm back to life in Lagos and I just need to do a couple of catch-up posts so years in the future when I'm looking at my blog, I can remember all the fun things I've done these past few months.
The first few weeks of May were spent in the wonderful vacation destination of South Africa. We flew to Johannesburg and met Jordan, our college student son. We spent a day touring Jo-burg and had a visit to the very interesting apartheid museum. The next day we were met by our safari guide who drove us to Kruger Park, a national park that is a safari destination. We spent the next few days getting an up-close view of elephants, zebra, giraffe, water buffalo, baboons, lots of impala (they were referred to as the "cockroaches" of the park) and other variety of antelope, as well as other smaller mammals. We had not-so-close views of rhinos, hippos and some lions eating a water buffalo. There were lots of beautiful birds and wildlife. It was great to see the large expanses and herds of animals and such variety. Our driver/guide was fabulous at spotting and a spouted a wealth of information about all the wildlife. She was also a great cook for our meals!

We then left Kruger and went to the adjoining private reserve of Sabi Sands, where we stayed in the quite luxurious Arathusa safari lodge. This was a somewhat different safari experience, as in Kruger park all animal viewing must be done from the roads. But in the private reserve, the vehicles are allowed to leave the roads for viewing of some animals. This allows for up-close viewing which proved to be pretty incredible. Our first game drive we were driven right next to a pride of 4 lionesses and 9 cubs finishing off a zebra. It was pretty amazing to be so close to these animals, who were totally unconcerned that we were there. Many had eaten their fill and were laying with bulging bellies and panting heavily as their metabolism speeded up to quicken their digestion.

Our next viewing was a female leopard resting in a tree. When the leopard was ready for a prowl, we became the leopard papparazzi, following her through the brush.

The next few days were full of spectacular sightings were we saw 3 different leopards, got up close with a rhino, followed the pride of lions several more times, saw more zebra, elephants, and more, all in between some great pampering and food back at the lodge. When it was time to leave, we had a beautiful drive back to Johannesburg through the Panarama Route, which has waterfalls and beautiful scenic vistas.

The next day we had an interesting tour of Soweto, a township which factored heavily in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. We were impressed by the energy in the area as they were gearing up for hosting the World Cup next year. Our tour company supported revitalization efforts in the area, so we were able to visit a nursery school they founded and visited a home and saw their educational efforts in a squatter camp in Kliptown. I think many Americans may have been a little shocked by the poverty, but the people in Kliptown really have it much better than many Nigerians, and there was a much cleaner feeling to the place than we experience here in Lagos. People in Soweto seemed to feel hope and optimism, which is mostly lacking in Nigeria. We also enjoyed a visit to the market, where we tried mopane worms - a crispy snack -- and some other street food. And, of course, we visited the sights that factored into the battle against apartheid, a church, Nelson Mandela's house, now a museum, and the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum. This was quite a moving and informative day.

The next day we rented a car and drove out to an area called the "Cradle of Humankind" where in some caves they had found skeletons of prehistoric man. There was an interesting museum there, as well as a tour of the cave.

The next day we flew to Capetown and started a week visit to this beautiful city. The sun was shining when we arrived, so we went directly up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain where the view was spectacular. The next day we had a very interesting trip to Robben Island, the prison island where Nelson Mandela spent so many years. Our guide there had been a former prisoner on the island and the story of his experience was fascinating.

We had to rearrange our driving tour to the Wine Country and Garden Route a bit to allow me to get an unscheduled but necessary root canal. But, rest assured, dental care in South Africa is quite good and it was better to get this done there than in Nigeria. In Cape Town and the surroundings we saw beautiful scenery, enjoyed wonderful food and just enjoyed ourselves immensely. It's a city I would love to return to again and again.

All in all, the trip was just about perfect (the root canal being the major exception...) and it's something we wouldn't have been able to do without our hardship post subsidy -- one of the perks of living in Lagos. That's a good thing!


Melissa F said...

I'm glad you had such a great time. I love the picture of the leopard!
We had the same feeling visiting a township and seeing a squatter town as you did - we felt in many ways it was better than Nigeria. We felt guilty because the people showing it to us wanted us to think how bad it was, but all we could think was how good it was in comparison.
Welcome back to Lagos - maybe one of these days I'll actually see you. ;)

Tove said...

Hi Carolee,
I love looking at your wonderful pictures on your blog.
Looks like you are having an interesting time in Lagos.

I have some sad news that I need to share with you.
Could you please email me at ?
Hope you see this, I don't have your email address.
Hope to hear from you soon.


Kathy DeFord said...

I just finished reading "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle". Wonderful book but disappointed at the ending. Kathy DeFord