As many of you know, our daughter, Elizabeth. and her family moved to Pretoria, South Africa in July, 2018. The move was made because of her husband Ben’s job. So far, they have been very happy with their decision to make this move. Although Randy and I feel sad at times that our family is so far away from each other we are thrilled that our grandchildren (ages 8, 6, 4 and almost 2) are getting to have the experience of living and going to school in an international setting.
Last fall, Randy and I decided to make plans to visit South Africa for the holidays. We invited our sons, David and Josh, to join us. David had to work so he could not travel with us but Josh was able to join us.
On December 20th I took a one hour flight from Tirana to Rome, had a 6 hour layover, then took a six hour flight to Abu Dhabi where I waited 5 hours. It was then an eight hour flight to Johannesburg. Exhausting!
I always think it is interesting to read the airport monitors to see where all the flight are going. This is one of the monitors in Rome.
Look at the cool looking control tower in Abu Dhabi.
Until flying on Etihad Airlines, I had never been on a plane that offered so many individual plugs for each passenger, very nice!
Gauteng is the name of the province where Pretoria and Johannesburg are located.
What a wonderful welcome we received!
The day after we arrived the 9 of us loaded into two cars and made the 4 hour drive to Kruger National Park. This is where we stayed for our four night visit. Our guest house had a thatched roof which is very common throughout South Africa.
Two of the mornings we were picked up at 5:15AM in this vehicle so we could drive around Kruger looking for wildlife until noon. Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves (8,000 square miles) and is known for it’s high density of wild animals including the Big 5. The Big 5 are the leopard, lion, rhino, Cape buffalo and elephant. The term Big 5 was coined by game hunters to refer to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. To give you an idea of where Kruger is: the northern border of Kruger is Zimbabwe and the eastern border of Kruger is the country of Mozambique.
We saw all of the Big 5 except for a leopard plus lots of other cool wildlife. It was an amazing experience driving through the park. Loved it!!
Here is a sampling of what we saw starting with the Big 5.
Although we did not see any leopards we were fortunate to see two cheetahs. Here are more pictures of some of the animals we saw along with some family pics.
We had lots of monkeys visit us on our deck! They were such fun to watch!!
One of the days that we were in Kruger, Randy, Josh and I took a day long Panorama Tour of several gorgeous settings around the area. Here are a few pics from the tour.
Although visiting Kruger was fabulous, I think going on a bike tour of the Soweto Township was my favorite activity while we were in South Africa. It was informative, heartbreaking, depressing, gut wrenching and inspiring all at the same time. Johannesburg and Pretoria are surrounded by townships. Townships are where the black population was forced to live during apartheid. Even though apartheid was terminated in the early 1990’s, most black people continue to live in these townships. The living conditions in the townships can at times be okay but from what we could see most of the people living in townships have very poor living conditions. There is 70% unemployment. It is common for many of these people to live with no electricity or running water. There are many volunteer organizations working to improve the way of life here but the problems seem to be overwhelming.
The township of Soweto that we visited is one of the largest in South Africa and is where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived at one time. These bike tours were started as a way for the people of Soweto to make money and as a way to let the general public become more aware of the problems in townships.
Many of the homes in Soweto were well kept and adequate but most were not…
Trash collection is an ongoing problem in Soweto. There is no regular service so the people have no place for their refuge.
We are standing in front of the former home of Nelson Mandela.
When we were biking through the center of the township, near Mandela’s home, our guide had us stop so we could see this performance. so cool, we LOVED it!!!
At the end of our bike tour we were given African headwear and then all drank from this bowl which signified well wishes as we left to go home.
Finally we were served a traditional African meal that included chicken feet!
This young man was our tour guide. He was born and raised in Soweto. He was smart, well educated and provided hope that the township of Soweto will grow in a positive way in the future. If you visit South Africa you need to consider touring a township. It was eye opening.
We visited the Cradle of Humankind which is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa. 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils are located here, some of them dating back 3.5 million years. Wow! We all wore hard hats and headed down into a cave to see where these fossils were found and to view more fossils that are still there.
Outside of the cave were some statues of past African leaders.
Flowers of South Africa…
Randy and Josh took a day to tour a diamond mine.
The Coca-Cola company has started a campaign in South Africa to help people learn how to accurately pronounce African names. Each of their cans has a different African name with the phonetic spelling. If you look closely at the cans above you will be able to see the phonetic spelling. Hats off to Coca-Cola for such a great idea!
Playing with Uncle Josh, something all the children loved doing.
These beaded wire African animals were being made and sold everywhere. In the picture above we are standing with some of these amazing artists.
Random billboard along the highway. Love it!!
Juliet loves her Grandaddy!
I usually run by myself but when we were in South Africa I ran with these two guys which I LOVED!
Saying good-bye was not easy. 😦 We are already counting the days until we see everyone again in June.
One last picture, this is the view from the plane as we are getting ready to land in Serbia on our way back to Albania. So beautiful, it almost looks fake.
My blog posts seem to get longer all the time. Sorry about that. I simply had a hard time deciding what to put in and what to leave out. You are amazing if you actually made it through to the end of this blog post.:)