2008 – ZS
SANBONAMI - “Hello” in Zulu
YLs around the world were invited to come to South Africa in October, 2008, for the 9th YL International Meeting. Word quickly spread, and 30 YLs and 15 OMs came from 10 different countries to meet with the organizers, Vee (and OM Peter) and Janet (and OM Edwin) to see what they had planned for us. Christine, VK5CTY, and I (VK3DYL) represented VK and ZL – we had a ball together, hi!
We started off in Johannesburg and surrounds for a few days, then across to Durban for another few days, ending up in Cape Town. With 2 Canadian YLs, I then flew north to a Safari Lodge near Kruger National Park to see more animals in the wild. I managed to see the 2 main animals on my list – lions and a giraffe (one only!). Other people saw lots of giraffes but not me! My other ambition was further away – to see Table Mountain with/without the Tablecloth. I didn’t think the latter was going to eventuate – day after day the clouds were down on top of the mountain EXCEPT for my last day in Cape Town when they lifted and all was clear and lovely. The easiest way of getting up the mountain was in a revolving cable-car. I was not terribly impressed by that but photographers can’t be choosers! That was one morning I didn’t mind getting up early but it is not in my normal routine to be up by 5 am or 6 am – hi!
However, back to Jo’burg. Vee took us to the Lesedi Cultural Village where we stayed 3 nights – each of us in a little traditional beehive hut complete with untraditional luxuries such as electricity and an en-suite bathroom. Very comfortable though the problem was that there were so many huts, all looking the same, that I could never find mine except I knew it was next to a chook pen, the inhabitants of which woke up earlier than me each morning. The local people took us round the village and showed us their way of life. From here we also visited the local elephant sanctuary where I met Themba, (meaning Trust), a 7 year old orphaned elephant who thanked me for the handful of nuts I gave him by giving me a big, sloppy kiss with his trunk. Ugh!!!!!
Other tours took us to the Cullinan Diamond Mine (no free samples unfortunately!), where the streets of the little township were lined with colourful mauve jacaranda trees (Christine and I felt quite home-sick) and then, as a complete contrast we went to the Jo’burg suburb of Soweto. I find it hard to put into words my feelings about Soweto. It is the most populous black urban residential area in the country and where Nelson and Winnie Mandella had their first home. I have seen slums in other parts of the world though never at close quarters like here. Street after street of tin 2-roomed houses with the only water available coming from ONE tap down the street where everyone had to line up with their jugs etc. to get their day’s supply of water. One of our YLs, out of the kindness of her heart, gave a sweet to one small child – the next minute she was just about flattened by all the other children! We also toured the Apartheid Museum. If you want to know more about South Africa’s troubles, I suggest you read Nelson Mandella’s book (abridged version!) Long Walk to Freedom.
Our evenings in Lesedi were spent listening to the singing (loud!!!) and dancing (frantic!) of local native groups, both in the Village and at the UMOJA show (check Google if you want to know more of the latter.) After a couple of days we headed to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve – stopping for lunch at a super pancake parlour attached to a couple of very good craft shops, little knowing about the fabulous Flea & Craft Market Janet was taking us to in Durban!
Before we were let loose in the Flea Market, we visited the Ushaka Marine World where we saw trained seals, dolphins and penguins putting on amazing displays. Another visit was to the Shakaland Zulu-village , which is a reconstruction of a 19th centurary Zulu krall – one thing of particular interest to us YLs, was to watch the local women creating necklaces, bangles, etc. out of coloured beads. Not too expensive to buy either! Again more traditional singing and dancing. And here I saw my first witch-doctor – I don’t quite know what one calls a YL witch-doctor!
Saturday morning we invaded the local Flea Market. Oh, the goodies for sale were numerous and fantastic – we had to be dragged away! In the afternoon we went to an ABBA/Queen Concert. I didn’t know what to expect – brown Abbas? But no. Loud and noisy?, yes. I think I only recognised 4 ABBA songs during the whole afternoon’s programme.
Next morning we were on a plane heading for Cape Town. Our accommodation here was in a 19th century prison building, now a sparkling white hotel even if it did still have bars on the windows! It was near the V & A Waterfront, so very handy for shopping, eating and drinking! Everything seemed so cheap to us Aussies that it was hard not to over-indulge in any way.
Just across the Bay from the Waterfront is Robben Island with its maximum security prison where Nelson Mandella spent most of his 27 year prison sentence. Only the rabbits and penguins ran freely around the island, now a mecca for tourists.
We visited one of the local vineyards (and tasted its products of course), and drove through fabulous country to get back to the city. My aim to see Table Mountain without its tablecloth appeared to be thwarted until the day before I was to leave when we all woke up to a clear blue sky. No tablecloth!!!!! I think our bus was the first up the mountain to the cable-car station, and then it was literally “up and away”. When we returned back to earth, the queue stretched for “miles”.
Then for Diana, VE7XYL, (an ex-Aussie), her non-ham friend, Maureen, and myself, it was on a plane again back to Jo’burg and then on a smaller plane to a safari lodge on the edge of Kruger National Park. From here we went on day and night-time safaris in open vehicles with drivers who had eagle eyes for spotting the wild life. Elephants would cross the road in front of us, and other animals lie by the side of the road. One lion got woken up by our vehicle, opened one eye, looked at us then went back to sleep! And my one and only giraffe was camera-shy and hid behind a tree until we had passed by. Our beehive huts were very comfortable, though all looked the same again, and I kept getting lost, again! Each hut, luckily, had its name out the front – I was in “Herron”. I believe there were 120 people on the staff, and most seemed to be gardeners. Wherever one looked there was someone down on his knees pulling up weeds. I was green with envy, BUT nowhere I went in South Africa did I find crayfish on the menu, and Elizabeth knows that crayfish and red wine are my perfect menu selection. On one of these tours I met my 2nd witch doctor – (again a female) - and saw the wonderful job church groups were doing for the children.
After 3 weeks of travelling, I was mighty tired, and have had the biggest dose of jet-lag ever! A problem with flying west to east and crossing time zones. I believe the next International Meet will be in Munich in 2010 though there will probably be a SYLRA Meet next year in Oslo – I’ll still be recovering from this one but I intend to be fit for Munich