Monthly Archives: April 2019

It’s All About the Animals, Baby or “THE BIG FIVE”

A little geographic information.

Where in the world is Waldo? (Ok, Cindy, Gary, Terry and Geoff)

To be a bit more specific, within the blue square above.

The red square is where we stayed for the first few nights (Hazyview) and the red oval where we spent the day driving around looking for the animals.

With the sightseeing part of our tour over, we embarked upon our first African Safari. It was amazing, truly amazing. We saw over 32 different species of animals and birds in our 5 or so hour game drive. Luckily for you I didn’t get photographs of all of them.

Before I get to those shots though, here are three from the first day we arrived at Kruger Park Lodge.  As we were driving into the lodge, Shaun pointed out the hippos in the pond alongside the 2nd hole of the golf course. They were very cool.

Not sure if they were friends playing or not so much friends and arguing. Still, very cute.

And now, finally, we hit Kruger National Park. Our goal was to see as many of the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo as possible – and we had already seen the rhino so we were off to a great start.

Within 10 minutes of entering the gate we say our first kudu.

Cute, aren’t I?

Beautiful spiral horns

and then it was the Cape Buffalo – wow! (#2 on the Big Five list!)

And so our day continued. We spent about 4 hours driving around looking and looking, dashing from place to place when someone let Shaun know of a siting of some animal or other.

Here’s some of what we saw.

Three down and only two to go! A very pregnant elephant. (#3 on the big five list!)


This fellow started walking toward the car and Shaun started talking him down and he backed off – it was very interesting.


Giraffe 1

Giraffe 2

Giraffe with birds. The birds are very important as they eat the ticks that are on the giraffes.

What majestic animals and incredibly graceful

This little hyena was just lying by the road seemingly without a care in the world.


Warthogs are the funniest little animals. When they start to run – which they do very easily, their tails go straight up to say “Follow me”


On the drive from Johannesburg to Hazyview, Shaun was telling us how he loves crocodiles and Terry was telling us how she hates crocodiles. Shaun said that by the end of the trip she would love crocodiles.

Our first croc – lying in wait or just resting? We didn’t get close enough to find out.

There didn’t seem to be an awful lot of storks around – perhaps because of the croc.

Wooly-necked stork

On the other hand, we saw literally thousands of impala, which are considered the food for almost every predator above it on the food chain. They are very skittish and yet will also just stand there looking at you from 20 or so yards away. What is interesting is that when one of the takes off, they all take off in a leaping flight.

Impala – the basic food group

I’m not sure exactly what kind of vulture this is – maybe the great white?


A pregnant zebra who was moving very slowly

They also look good in black and white.

Zebras in black and white

Steenbok will stand watching from a perch until leaping away. I think they are steenbok – they could just as well be springbok – who can tell with the South African accent.


Just a little minkey as Inspector Clouseau said.


Mother and baby



Springbok and wildebeest – why can’t people get along so well?

And finally for today

One short anecdote. For the first two nights we stayed at the beautiful Kruger Park Lodge at Shaun’s family’s summer home. We were scheduled to stay at a lodge in the park for the third night. Before we had arrived at the lodge Shaun had asked us to give him feedback for future safaris on whether or not we would have preferred the one hour drive back to Kruger Park Lodge or to stay at the in park lodge. We checked in, unpacked and then he came around to ask if we needed anything. We told him that in terms of feedback, we would choose the K.P.L. We were packed up and out of there in ten minutes. Then he told us that when he talked to his wife the night before, he had told her that we would be coming back the next night to the Lodge. He was getting to know us very well.

And that brings us to dinner at the Pioneer Grill – a fantastic meal. We enjoyed crocodile, springbok carpaccio, ostrich, the best beef steak Gary has ever had, kudo and a fantastic wine.

Our Sightseeing Safari

I have not necessarily been negligent on writing blogs but rather we have not had any kind of decent wifi since we left Johannesburg, so I am about to try and catch up.

Day 1 and we are off. We head for Panorama Ridge where Shaun – have I mentioned Shaun? Well let’s get that out of our way. Shaun is our guide for our South African safari. He is every inch of 6’5 and, well let’s just say that I have noticed at least three (not including Terry and Cindy) women of various ages checking him out! He has a fabulous personality (we have learned a new phrase – “Just chillax, everything is good”) and wonderful sense of humour. We are having a great time with him already.

Anyway, back to Panorama Ridge. Our first stop is, Panorama Ridge. There are few stories but here are some photos. Unfortunately it was quite a hazy day – due to recent rains! The Watts strike again, alleviating another drought stricken area.

No picking the flowers or swimming (on the top of a cliff?) but please feel free to use the handrail or fall off.

Just one of the many new friends we have made

Three views from what is called God’s Window. Sorry about the haze.

Bourke’s Potholes at Blyde River Canyon – the start of third longest canyon in the world

Four intrepid travellers

Wherever music plays you will find Terry.

Not much height difference.

Some waterfall shots

Lisbon Falls

Berlin Falls

That’s it for now. we are getting back to Capetown soon so I will write more tomorrow – and it’s all about the animals, baby.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Soweto…

Subtitle – Remembering Sam

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for some time. I always wondered what Soweto (South West Township) was like. We have all heard the stories of the riots of the late 1970s and the incredible violence which occurred then, starting with the murders of 15 year old Hastings Ndlovu and 13 year old Hector Pieterson. We’ll get to that in a bit. But lets’s start at the beginning – getting picked up.

Louis is a very nice man – mid 50’s I’d say and quite soft spoken. He lives in Soweto. Driving out of the driveway the first question is “Why do you want to see Soweto?” Ok, is this a trick question? Am I in trouble already? So I say “Well, doesn’t everybody want to see it? Is there something else you would recommend?” I can back pedal with the best of them. “No no, we’ll go to Soweto but first a couple of stops.” The first one is Nelson Mandela’s house – the one he lived in after he got out of jail after 27 years. Louis wants to point out a couple of things – the first is the paucity of people on the streets at 10 on a Sunday morning in a heavily white community. We get a good talk on Mandela – how he never supported any of his children – neither before, during or after his prison experience; how when he came out many whites fled the country thinking he would be looking for revenge instead of expounding the peace and co-existence he talked about; how many of the young people today don’t understand the struggles he and others went through – they think he sold them out. It was quite interesting. Anyway this is the house friends of his bought he and Graça Machel (the only woman who has been married to two African presidents.)

Interestingly it too is behind a big wall.

The stones around the small plants on the boulevard all have of tribute messages which have been written and left there since his death in 2013.  (Keep this one in mind.) When he died he left an estate of about $3.7 million US$ and several properties. Just imagine how those children reacted. Much strife ensued.

From there (interestingly, one of those upscale mostly Jewish neighbourhoods) it was off to Soweto. Our first stop was in one of the upscale Soweto neighbourhoods. During Apartheid blacks weren’t allowed to live in the white neighbourhoods, but there were still many professionals who wanted nice homes.

There were many like this some with walls around them and some without – but none had barbed wire or electric fences.

Then we had our first look at the “real Soweto”. The buildings below are referred to as Hostels. Originally they were built to house the gold mine workers who were brought in from the country to work the mines. The mines are all gone now, but the hostels still remain and are lived in. It is hard to see, but the toilets are the Johnny-on-the-spots we all know and love. There are rows and rows of the hostels going up the hill.

Soweto Hostels

Here are five shanties – still being lived in. Slowly – and I mean slowly- the shantytowns are being replaced by the fourplexes behind them. As you can see below though, there are still many of them around.

Louis then showed us a community of newer homes. There are hundreds if not thousands of these around Soweto and if you look closely you see broken windows and inside vandalism. These are alongside the shantytowns. Talk about bureaucracy gone wild. The local governments have lists of people who qualify for these homes but it takes many months/years to go through the lists. In the meantime, people aren’t allowed to live in them because they have to be ready when the list says it’s time and so they get vandalized, stripped of things people can sell to support themselves (there is 27% unemployment in South Africa). Just insane!

Inside the fences are still hundreds of shanties and they “steal” the electricity.

Each of the lines you can see are going to someone’s home.

BTW, just for comparison, here is the junction of electricity lines in the upscale multi-million dollar homes neighbourhood we wandered around yesterday.

Same Same but Different

Okay a break in the Soweto history lesson for a bit and just some photos of what we saw.

Zimbabwean Hair Dresser – you know she is Zimbabwean because of the bright clothes, apparently

Just in case you’re driving by and need a new tire …

or maybe a bed or set of drawers. I love this – with the satellite dishes behind.

Want an adventure?

How about bunjy jumping ($55.00) from the now decommissioned coal-fired power stations? These two towers  belched out coal based smog from 1942 until 1998 in order to provide electricity for the whites of Johannesburg. Meanwhile the blacks of Soweto went without electricity until 1976 – but at least they got to live in the smog.

Good grazers. Since many people living in Soweto have recently moved from the country, they bring their goats for food and even sacrifice (really, according to Louis)

Playtime in the driveway

Okay back to the history lesson.

In the mid 1970’s the government of South Africa attempted to force black students to take their education in the Afrikaan language. This was a foreign language to them which was designed specifically to ensure they had difficulty learning the academic subjects and thus to keep them down. There weren’t even enough teachers proficient to teach the maths and sciences in Afrikaan. In 1976 for every white student the government spent somewhere in the range of 650 Rand and 42 Rand on blacks. Whites had all supplies, uniforms etc paid for, blacks had to buy their own. Classes of blacks could have up to 100 students and age ranges from 7 to 20.

On June 16, 1976 black students from elementary and high schools staged a walkout to protest the policy and were planning a non-violent march to a stadium to stage a rally. The police, fearful of violence opened fire, killing anywhere from a confirmed 176 up to a suspected 700. Two of these children were 15 year old Hastings Ndlovu and 13 year old Hector Pieterson. Hastings was killed during the march, but Hector was simply going home because the teachers had dismissed the classes.

Hector Pierson, Antoinette Pierson and Mbuyisa Makhubo.

Antoinette had gone home to check on her brother and when she discovered he wasn’t there started back to the school, only to come upon Mbuyisa who had picked him up after he was shot and was running to a nearby clinic, where he was declared dead. Many photographers were out that day and this iconic photograph went around the world – something the government tried to suppress. It was the first time the world in general saw what was happening with apartheid. Ironically, Antoinette does tours of Soweto and the Hector Pierson museum, which talks about the Soweto Uprising and we saw her there today giving a talk to a group. It was amazing how much she looked exactly like her photo from 43 years ago.

And now to move away from the history lesson. Those of you who have followed us for a while, may remember our trip to Hong Kong where we had some clothes made at Sam’s.

Roshan, Shirt cloth, Shorts, Jackets and Slacks

Well, thee we are in Johannesburg watching a CNN travel show and the host -Richard Quest – says “If you are in Hong Kong you must go over to Kowloon and get some clothes made at Sam’s” and off he goes into the shop and there they are, Sam and Roshan!

Enough for now. More about our first trip on safari later.



The 10,000 Most Walkable Cities in the World…

and Johannesburg didn’t make the list. A few years ago we were in Seminyak, Bali and we commented on the “quality” of the sidewalks – see below

This is why it is dangerous to walk the sidewalks of Semanyak.[/caption]

Here’s the thing though – Seminyak HAS sidewalks. We were out exploring yesterday and many parts of where we were just didn’t have them. Jan Smuts Road – a four lane, major arterial route with homes along it – no sidewalks. In residential areas sometimes yes, sometimes no. It was almost as if the homeowners (more on them in a minute) had put them in themselves. We find it fascinating, given that walking seems to be the most prevalent method of transportation for many many people.  Crosswalks are also at a premium.

Now about those scallywag homeowners. We are staying in a reasonably upscale, affluent area where 99.9% of the homes have walls in front of them and either barbed wire or an electrified fence running along the top.

A lovely street nicely bordered with lovely walls.

What is particularly heart warming are the frequent signs on the walls.

Note the electrified fence on top

Note the sign promoting safe suburbs

I’m thinking safe means behind those walls and not a sense of security due to a high sense of community.

Beautiful door

Bur even the beautiful door is behind bars.

Many of the homes have an interesting way of announcing the address

Yes, that is the address.

Oh, did I mention the gates?

They were definitely spectacular gates

Now, to be fair, there may very well be a reason for this security. Liz, our lovely hostess, has been very clear that if we are out after dark we are to take Uber home. Last night we decided to go up the street to Dolci for dinner. It is a 5 minute walk, 400 yards away. When Liz heard we were going she said that Tagala, her assistant could run us up and the restaurant would likely run us home. When we mentioned that we were staying at Liz’s, the restaurant owner said that when we were ready to leave, to wait and he would have someone walk us home. This is a level of security/possible danger or whatever we have never felt anywhere.  (Let’s be honest here.  Geoff tends not to worry about even these clear and definite warnings.  It’s Terry who pays attention and insists that we ask for an escort.)

Ah yes, the restaurant. It was interesting. When we walked in and said we didn’t have reservations we were given a choice of two tables. Ours looked very much like this one:

Note the chair.

Other than ours and this one, every other chair looked like this one.

Nice cushion, don’t you think?

We were given four (4) 1 inch cubes of bread for dipping in the oil and vinegar. The couple next to us had a plate piled high with them. Just as our server was about to chat with us, the owner came over and sent her away and took our order. Clearly, he was doing everything to make sure we were in and out quickly, while other tables who were there before us hadn’t even had their orders taken. (On the other hand he did provide us an escort home.) From the time we walked in the door until we were finished our starters was 35 minutes. Luckily we had not yet ordered our mains. Then Mama from Ravenna came out. Picture the prototypical Italian Mama and that’s who she was. A lovely woman who informed us that at 9 months of age she either: 1) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started eating Tagliatelle al Ragu or 2) stopped taking her mother’s milk and started making Tagliatelle al Ragu. We weren’t sure which one it was. When I asked what I should have to eat she said “Me” and wandered away. Thank goodness because I had no idea how I would have responded. (My spicy chicken livers and Terry’s salad were fabulous, the entrees a 7.5 and the ginger buttercream torte with ginger ice cream fantastic.)

Side note observation from Terry – the only people of colour in the restaurant were the servers. An interesting observation given that the urban population of Johannesburg of 7.8 million is 78% Black African or Coloured and only 14% White. BTW Wikipedia terminology, not mine)

This guy came to visit yesterday. He wasn’t all that scary though.

At one point all you could see was his head peeking out from under the plug on the left hand side.

Not all that big, but patient.

Liz has a serious bird feeder in her yard. Yesterday there had to be 40-50 birds at different times come to eat. Terry is quite jealous – but then Liz has a veritable forest on her property.

What was interesting was that whenever the big one below showed up, the pigeons all scattered. Guess there is a definite pecking order…

Terry here.  About the art in the galleries we visited–very often dark themes, as one might expect with the history of South Africa.  Mostly, it was discouraging to view.  Then we came upon some light-hearted ones–larger than life size sculptures of hares, foxes and dogs; ‘paintings of giant flower heads made by stretching various tones of pantyhose artfully over canvas.  I could have put to use some of those old Cameleon multi-coloured stockings to good use! ( Note:  you had to be there.)

Today we are off on a tour of Soweto which should be interesting.



Just Another Trip Around The World – Day 1

Well here we go again, off on another wild adventure. And off to a good start we are. Terry forgot her noise reducing earphones at home, I forgot a firearm I was supposed to deliver from Penticton to Coquitlam, Terry’s phone didn’t make it from the car to the airport and the first of the 11 flights on this trip was 45 minutes late getting out of Vancouver. Then we had to eat our way cross the country.

Some basic info for those of you who don’t know what the heck we are doing now. We are going on a couple of safaris – Kruger National Park in South Africa and another one in Namibia. In between a four day wine tour. We travel right around the world getting there and getting home (Vancouver-Toronto; Toronto-London; London-Cairo; Cairo-Johannesburg; Johannesburg-Addis Abbas; Addis Ababa-Seoul; Seoul-Seattle; Seattle-Vancouver – a total of 44714km in the air (that includes three internal flights in Africa). 52:12 in the air there and back, 6:25 in Africa and 30:54 in layover time totalling 89:31 of our lives. BTW the circumference of the earth is only 40075km.

I convinced Terry all this flying would be fine since it was all business class (points not cash!). We are presently in London and so far so good. In Toronto we went to the Air Canada Signature Suite and were very politely told we needed to go to the Maple Leaf Lounge – the suite was for “full paying business class patrons only” Well la ti dah!

Contrary to many experiences we have had with Air Canada, both legs so far have been excellent – both the food and the service. Hopefully it will continue on the next two legs with Egyptian Air.

Two shots of Windsor Castle.

We are sitting in the Maple Leaf Lounge now watching construction of what is likely going to be another terminal. It is fascinating. If I didn’t know better I’d say it was a government make work project.

This is the way it works:

In the foreground there are three front end loaders which are loading three earth moving trucks. These trucks then take the earth to the large pile of dirt near the centre of the photo, but on the right hand side and dump it. The front end loaders then gradually move it up to the top left of the large pile where it is then loaded onto the truck between the black and yellow blocks. After that truck is loaded and the earth tamped down it then drives off for who knows where. Most definitely an interesting process.

Earth moving on a peculiar scale

After two more flights – and 27 more meals (well that’s how it seemed to us!), we arrive in Johannesburg. Has this ever happened to you? You get on a plane and by the time you arrive at your destination you discover that the airline has lost your luggage? It has certainly happened to us – see our trip to Amsterdam or Singapore to Shanghai. I figure, 4 flights, halfway around the world there is no way our two bags are going to show up. And they didn’t – well they weren’t the first bags down the chute on to the conveyor – they were the 2nd and 3rd! Unbelievable. We are now on a high. We get in to the arrivals area looking for our ride to our B and B. No ride. Look around and wait ten minutes – we were early after all. No ride. Wait another ten minutes. No ride. Finally phone the B and B. Liz answers – “Oh did we arrange – just a minute – okay someone will be there in 20 minutes.” Great. 55  minutes later Abey shows up and we are off.

The trip in to Johannesburg, totally uneventful with the exception of hearing about how the Chinese are taking over Africa by bringing workers in to develop projects and then leaving them here. (Hmmm, sounds familiar somehow.)

We finally arrive at Liz’s on Lancaster – what a fantastic place and Liz is so apologetic about the airport fiasco, even I begin to feel guilty. We have a quick shower, a fabulous breakfast (it’s almost 10am) and collapse in to bed – and get 4 1/2 hours sleep falling asleep to the sound of teeming rain – harder than most Vancouver rains. Clearly, we haven’t lost our touch of bringing rain to very dry areas!

After our rest, we chat with Liz. “Where can we walk?” “Well, if you are going to take your back pack/camera bag, don’t go in to the park. In fact, you may not want to walk anywhere with that – just take your cell phone.” And we are in one of the nicer areas of Jo’burg. (Like that?) We wander off to Parkhurst – an upscale area full of restaurants and lots of people.  We enjoy a very fine meal (Veal Limone with incredible vegetables for Terry and Filet Medallions with fantastic french fries for Geoff. Add a bottle of Fat Bastard Sauvignon Blanc – $57 including tip) and then we order up an Uber to get us home. The Uber bill is $2.06 Cdn –  to go the same distance in Vancouver – $10.40. No wonder the taxis don’t want any part of Uber.

We are now home, Terry is soaking in the tub and I am listening to the thunder and pouring rain while enjoying a glass of lovely red wine provided by Liz as an apology – and Terry’s white is cooling in the fridge. What could be better.

Tomorrow – who knows!

(BTW Photography through dirty windows doesn’t show off my developing (LOL) skills!)