MY GAP YEAR 2007/8

OPENING MY EYES TO SOUTH AFRICA

Here I am, on the 29th April 2007, sitting in our tent writing this blog post. On Friday morning we left the city of Pretoria to see the South African countryside, heading east towards the tiny bush town called Sabie which is on the edge of the Kruger Park. This would serve as our base for sight-seeing around Mpumalanga. About 50km out of Pretoria on the highway I had my first real taste of poverty, I saw my first Township, nothing really prepared me for the size of these places, and how these communities live. Miles and miles of shacks made out of odd bits of tin and wood, open sewers washing the shit down on to the road, and kids trying to flag cars down on the highway for money. It’s a sorry depressing state. I asked Ellie how bad things can get in these townships and she pointed to the road signs warning drivers not to stop as it’s a ‘highjacking’ hot spot. I don’t think I want to visit a township and feel like a rubber necking tourist. Feeling like a naive white tourist who really doesn’t have a clue about the world, I sank lower into my seat, and for the first time in a few days I was as quiet as a mouse trying to get my head around it.

Being in South Africa I couldn’t wait to see some wild animals, I wasn’t disappointed. On the way I saw herds upon herds of (Pause) cows, a few bulls and one horse. Amazing, just amazing… Not even one dead zebra on the side of the road to tell you about. I’ve seen more animals on the side of the A12 from London to Colchester than I have in South Africa so far. I know, I’m being unfair because this part of the country is farm land for hundreds of miles. However this all changes when we reached the province of Mpumalanga and their I saw my first wild African animals,  A family of monkeys. I was so excited I didn’t shut up for the next 15 minutes. I can’t wait until I see my first lion…… I’m sure Ellie can’t wait for me to see them too. teehee.

Mpumalanga, what can I tell you about this part of the country? Well, driving the roads which snake up and down the mountains and into the valleys feels and looks like the roads in the Alps. We haven’t got lost yet, thanks to my quite remarkable map reading skills (yes, i’m shocked as well). Mpumalanga is a beautiful area of the world, we hiked up a cliff called ‘Gods Window’ which is at 2200 meters high, and has breath-taking views of the whole valley below.

Just a quick note about the bread in South Africa. As you know ‘I love bread’ and I must say South Africa has some of the best bread I have ever tasted. So the score card follows.

  • Taste – 9
  • Presentation – 7
  • Soft to the touch – 8
  • Tastes good after one day – 8

30th April
Another cold early start, who would have thought South Africa would get as cold as Iceland in the night. The temperature touches 0 degrees by midnight, luckily I bought my arctic sleeping bag… unlike Ellie with her £6 one which looks like my old 1980s shell suit….. black and purple, Yummy. I know what you are thinking, Sam, surely you would have done the gentleman thing and given up your sleeping bag, well no, are you flipping mad, its bloody cold out there. However I gave her my hat, hoodie, and socks, Aren’t I a nice boyfriend?

Today we traveled around the Blyde River Canyon area. I must say the view is magnificent. We had been driving all day, well I haven’t, bless Ellie, I hope she’s not getting sick of all the driving, we still have a long way to go. We found ourselves at the coolest campsite I have ever been to. It’s located at the bottom of the canyon very close to Blyde Lake, we love it here so much we’re going to stay another night so we can do a few treks . As I write this blog I can hear monkeys in the trees and hippos snorting by the lake, It really is paradise. It’s only 6pm and it’s already pitch black, but that doesn’t really matter as the stars are out, and we are chilling listening to the sounds of the bush… as I said, it’s paradise.

Next stop, Kruger National Park,  I will tell you more about that in the next few days.

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