Posts Tagged ‘Touring


Desert, Red Sand & Wild Animals

Oryxes, wild, free oryxes on the run

Namibia, which we came to after a 6 hour drive up the road from Cape Town,  is my favorite African country of the six we visited.  Wild, open and simply ravishing to the  photographer’s eyes.

Namibia became a free, separate country, breaking away from South Africa in 1990 – four years before the end of apartheid in South Africa. Namibia was a political football at the end of WWI. The Germans lost as you recall and they lost on the continent of Africa as well. Namibia, was from 1884 to 1915 known as German South-West Africa and the native people suffered like the Aztecs in Mexico or the Incas in Peru – they were conquered by a handful of Europeans with modern firearms. It must be said that it doesn’t seem South Africa was terribly interested in extending its territory over Namibia.

Between 1904 and 1907 the Herero and Namaqua people took up arms against the Germans and in a bit of breathtaking brutality ended in the expulsion from German SW Africa of those peoples and their decimation in what is known as the Herero and Namaqua Genocide.

“Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot” – Lt. General Lothar von Trotha, commander of German forces. Who would have known what happened in this far away corner of the world? Not I.

It ended with the loss of 50-70% of populations of the Herero and Namaqua. The survivors of the Battle of Waterburg (ironically) were driven into the deathly dryness of the Kalahari desert to perish. Some survived and made it to British territory where they were given asylum on the grounds that they lay down their arms. Check that link out and the picture at the top: holocaust redux.

Witness - Sossus Vlei

Namibia is an enormous country and we visited many parts of it over a ten day period: it is the size of New Zealand plus Italy plus England and Ireland or it you’re of a US frame of mind, bigger than Montana and California combined. It is, withal, very, very dry. If you have water, as we did, no problem. Even when we got stuck in the middle of nowhere, we had plenty to drink.
We will visit Orange River and paddle our canoes, Goegap where strange plants are silhouetted against the Namibian sky, the Fish River Canyon which looks like the Grand Canyon, White Lady where we will be chased by elephants, Sossus and Dead Vleis for the most photogenic spot in Africa, Dune 45 (tallest in the world, so I am told – I knew as much about dune heights as the Waterburg massacre), the German bakery at the ends of the earth in Solitaire, the cape fur seals along the coast (smelly, but you are protected), and Swakopmund where we unwind in a cabin with hot, running water in a room just off the bedroom almost like home.

Flat tire - Namibia

Impala buck - Etosha waterhole

We will also pay visits to Etosha (you may have seen the National Geographic or Nature specials on public broadcast. Etosha is a very special place and home to the “big 5” which will be explained in detail. Finally, before exiting Namibia for Botswana we will pay a visit to the vast Etosha Pan and learn what the word endorheic means. The Etosha Pan, you will be pleased to know, is similarly king-sized: bigger than the state of New Jersey or the country of Isralel. Bet you never heard of it.

Namibia, in addition to being very dry is second only to Mongolia as the least populated country on earth. I wouldn’t have known that earlier but after driving its length and breadth, it’s easy to believe. Namibia is one of the only places in Africa where wildlife runs free. No fences that the wildlife cared about, no national parks to protect them, not many people to harass/hunt them.

Etosha, it must be admitted is the kind of African side-show that we came to know and appreciate. It’s nature distilled, on the rocks, attracted (by water) and fenced in for your touristic pleasure. Don’t get me wrong: the continent is much better off for all that. We crossed great expanses of Botswana, Zambia, Malawi (the entire country is devoid of wildlife), and Tanzania. There is nothing, nothing, nothing outside the parks: or almost nothing. Occasionally a vervet monkey sidles up to you looking for some Velveeta or Marmite but other than that, nothing, nada, zip.

Male springboks dueling

Come along! The flat tire is fixed and we are ready to roll


Africa In Focus – On The Road At Last!

Finally!  Almost free of South Africa – not that you’d really want to be free of it.  One couldn’t ask for a more a beautiful country and we wish we’d seen more: Cape Town and environs, Citrusdal and the countryside in between were about it. But we are free in a sense of moving on toward large, hairy mammal-creatures and especially the “big five”.

It is the morning of Oct. 14, 2009 when the largely unacquainted tourists pile out of the Bellevue Manor B&B at 7am sharp and head for the truck, loaded with all their possessions.  This is the first day of 21 spent together: the routine truck/camping life were unknown at this point, what exactly we’d see and where precisely we’d go, unknown.  North, north to  Namibia and beyond which was as well because from Cape Town it is quite impossible to  go south.

Piling out of the Bellvue Manor the first morning

The “truck” or referred to as “bus” by numerous people was named, Benji. All trucks carrying tourists on the route from Cape Town to Nairobi have name: Billy, Benji, Tigger. Ours was Benji: this is he.

Benji in front of Bellevue Manor the first morning

You can see Chiyemi listening to the driver and guide. Also you may see that we would be sitting waaay up high, that there is a row of compartments visible below, probably a meter or so off the ground. These latter were our personal storage lockers – reachable only when the bus, er, truck stopped. The passengers were separated from the crew by a small pass-way and I’ll try to dig up a photo of that later. It’s buried in the 8500 Africa photos. Here’s our storage compartment. It’s lockable and required a bit of thought to get what you needed into the truck before taking off for a drive – until a pee stop, say, when you could snag something from down below.

Terry and Chiyemi's exterior storage: 1m wide and 1.5m deep more or less

We had a nice big storage locker inside also and I will try to dig out a picture of that, as well, unless one of our companions happens to have a picture I can use. Imagine a space in front of our two seats (we’re all in rows two abreast with an aisle down the middle) with a 1.5m wide locker, roughly .6m deep and similarly tall. Nice for putting what you’d need during the day. Good place to rest your feet, as well.

The four days we spent on the Cape of Good Hope were a memory. Everyone (16 tourists and crew of 3) loaded onto Benji our intrepid truck with the estimable Will at the wheel where he would spend the next 7000 miles or so, reaching Nairobi, Kenya November 29. After a stop at a grocery store, we hot footed it out of South Africa like our tails were on fire.

First Supermarket Stop - South Africa

Shopping at the supermarkets along the way (you might have envisioned primitive little mud huts selling bags of potato chips, six packs and bars of soap, but that would be Central America). Along the Cape Town to Nairobi “tourist highway” large, clean, well-stocked supermarkets like Choppies were the rule and where we would stop every couple days to stock up – 19 people eat a LOT of food!

We also looked for ice quite often to put into one of the various coolers (or as the Brits or the Aussies called them “Eskies” as in Eskimo, I suppose). Sometimes we even found it but not always. Then what meat, cheese and very perishable veggies were popped into either the smallish freezer compartment loaded in front of us passengers or back in the kitchen storage which was on the back of the truck: both small but better than the alternative.

Last view of Cape Town - Day 1

Water you might ask? Well, we all carried our own water bottles with us on the truck and could refill these in the clean water tank on the back of Benji. Not cold, not even cool, but wet!

The occasionally iced “Eskies” held sodas, water that we hoped would cool before we were compelled to drink, beer (I must say, African beer was nearly a total loss but we drank it nonetheless), tonic water for the gin fizzies we shared along the hot, dusty trail. Cries of “Where’s my Tusker (a local brand)” were not uncommon as someone had grabbed the wrong longneck.

First lunch on Benji by the side of the road - South Africa

I will, with your permission, spend a bit more time on the kitchen-karma details of the trip because you might be asking yourself: “What would it be like to travel through Africa for 42 long days, hot rainy weather, cold dark nights with wild animals wandering about, camping, cooking, cleanup, bathing and eliminating in unknown lands with a great lot of total strangers?” Well you might ask. I would frankly worry about you if you didn’t ask!

South African vista - from the road day 1

To begin: there were duties assigned by George, our nominal tour leader.  A daily list  rotating through 1) bus cleanup, 2) food prep (possibly at each meal), 3) dish washing and cleanup (yuk! everyone hated this for multiple reasons).  Plus there were duties involved in setting up each meal and individual tent/sleeping setup at each place we camped.  This kept everyone together (at least on the 1st half of the trip) as we were assigned to teams of three.  No husband/wife combos were permitted: Chiyemi was on one team, I on another.  There were 5 teams total and two of them got to relax each day.

Having two slack days in  a row was nice as the other three teams did one of the previously mentioned chores.  Everyone got to set up their own tent, drag out their own mat (we had a 8 cm foam mat  provided), and set up their own sleeping location.  This occasionally led to races for the “best possible camping location” for the fleet of foot.  Everyone also got to set up for breakfast (if we weren’t set up from the night before) and everyone set up for lunch (chairs, tables, water, silverware, etc).

Meanwhile, there was plenty to see on the road – though taking photographs “on the fly” was a challenge!  Everyone had a nice big window next to them (or next to their seat-mate).  We had airline style, reclinable seats that were extraordinarily comfortable.  I reckon we spent 150 to 200 hours in these same seats over the next 6+weeks.  What we saw was nothing less than remarkable!

Approaching Namibia - Day 1

I think that’s quite enough for one day. Here we are on the road at last and furry mammals in our sights.


Where Is Robben Island?

For any student of black history, Robben Island is an essential pilgrimage. It’s stuck in the middle of Table Bay a few kilometers off the coast of one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Cape Town, South Africa. Windswept, rocky and only 7 square km (under 3 square miles) Robben Island is washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean, lapping up from south.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” – Nelson Mandela

Low and brushed by the tides Robben Island is more than a shrine for the memories of apartheid. For example, it’s precambrian metamorphic rock is the site of a great deal of bird life and imported mammals from the mainland. Robben Island has a wonderful view of the city of Cape Town and must have served as a constant reminder of South Africans living there of those  imprisoned and exiled there: political prisoners and lunatics.

It has served, in the  past, as a leper colony first voluntary and then compulsorily after 1892.  It was an early place of exile for the Dutch by the British and for the Muslim imam Sayed Abdurahman Moturu sent there in the mid 1740’s (see the memorial image below).  As early as 1525 it is reported that a Portuguese ship dumped prisoners there.

As recently as 1994 the apartheid government of South Africa maintained Robben Island as a political prison.  Nelson Mandela, later president of South Africa and still later Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent 18 long years there under appalling conditions.  We visited his  cell block and could peer into the cell furnished much as Mandela had left it in 1990.  In 1999 Robben Island became a UNESCO world heritage site and today is a pilgrimage for those who reject the hatred of the past.

Today Robben Island is a popular destination for tourists and you need to book reservations in advance for the half hour ride in one of the boats leaving from Victoria and Albert waterfront.

Once you get there you board a bus and are given the broad tour of the island and then ushered into the cell block.  First we see from the bus the black and white ibises nesting, the Muslim shrine, and the rock quarry where Nelson Mandela and others worked digging out stone and meeting in secret in the small cave you can see in the picture.

We see the “reunion cairn” was started in 1995 when Mandela and over 1000 political prisoners revisited Robben Island.  Mandela picked up a rock, carried to the site of the cairn and dropped the rock, followed by the others.  At each 5 year reunion, the cairn is enlarged.

Then we are led from the bus into the cell block…imagine: 18 years.

Robben Island Bus

Catamaran Transport to Robben Island

Former Political Prisoner and Guide Explains Prison Life In Large Cell

Quarry and "reunion rockpile" started by Mandela in 1995

Robben Island Diet Card Blacks and Coloured

Nelson Mandela's Cell

Former political prisoner explains life in the "yard" outside cellblock

Robben Island Moturu Kramat Muslim Shrine

Robert Sobukwe - Leader of Pan African Conference resistence movement

Robben Island - Freedom Boat Picture

Robben Island's Eye View Of Cape Town

Robben Island Leper's Cemetary

The Robben Island Gallery – Click on image to enlarge – hover pointer/cursor over an image for a bit more information.


Victoria and Albert Waterfront Bronzes – Cape Town

Nelson Mandela - 1993 Nobel Peace Prize - President South Africa 1994-99

Nelson Mandela : Imprisoned 27 years, 18  years on Robben Island. Arrested 1962 with help of CIA tip.  Sharpeville Massacre 1960 – police shoot 69 people. This ends Mandela’s peaceful resistance and his entry into the armed front of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe). Mandela was released 1990, after rejecting an offer for freedom 1985 if he would give up armed struggle. He was elected 1994 as president of SA, first in a multi-ethnic vote. 90 years old. married 3 times. Co-winner of 1993 Nobel peace prize with his opposite number, De Klerk.




F W De Klerk - 1993 Nobel Laureate - President South Africa

F W De Klerk president of South Africa at the end of apartheid. De Klerk  actively aided and was a positive influence in the transfer of power to the 79% majority black south Africans. Co-winner of 1993 Nobel peace prize with Mandela.








Bishop Desmon Tutu - 1984 Nobel Peace Prize - Anglican Archbishop South Africa 1986-96

Bishop Desmond Tutu:  born 1931, Anglican cleric, fought against apartheid, disease and homophobia. Winner 1984 Nobel peace prize.









Albert Lutuli - 1960 Nobel Peace Prize - President ANC 1952-67

Albert Lutuli is the least well known of the four.  Son of a Seventh Day Adventist farther, reluctantly elected chief of his tribe, President of the African National Congress, and anti-apartheid activist Lutuli won the Nobel peace prize in 1960 in recognition of his struggle against an unjust government.






South Africa composed of 49 million  people over470,000 sq miles (1.2 Million sq. km) or a little smaller than England and France combined. There are 11 official languages: English 5th most popular and Afrikaans is alive an well.

Terry’s take on the artwork: beautiful sculptures,  I think capturing something of the soul of each man although I’m  unable to match the historical photos of F W De Klerk with this statue. Tutu’s  bronze is a study in  body language – accurately embodying the man.  Mandela’s peacefulness (to me) comes through clearly and distinctly.  I cannot speak of Lutuli but he seems rendered a peaceful, elegant man.

Here’s the square with the four South African Nobel peace prize winners commemorated in bronze: located in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront Wikipedia.

TIP – Hover the mouse/pointer/cursor over the picture for a bit more info.
Gallery 748


Robben Island Gallery

Here are pictures taken Oct. 16, 2009 on a visit to Robben Island whose long history is well documented on Wikipedia.
TIP – hover your cursor/pointer over each picture for a bit of info!
Gallery 715


Cape Town: 34 S, 18 E

of Africa
Just before landing: here’s the view from the Emirates 777 about to land in Cape Town. That’s the white sand beaches of the coast of Africa with the mountains surrounding Cape Town in the distance.









Taxiing up to the jetway in the airport at Cape Town….








The first foot we step into Africa is in the Cape Town, South Africa airport.  Minutes after clearing the pleasant and easy customs/immigration we ran into a lady who dogged our every step for the next 6.5 weeks.  Actually she became our good friend and we hers, spending the entire time in Cape Town before we focused on the trip in Benji, the truck in our Africa-in-Focus tour:  three weeks from Cape Town up through Namibia, turning into Botswana where the Number One Ladies Detective Agency hangs out or so we’d heard and on to Victoria Falls, thence east and north to Tanzania.

We shared the owner Gary’s ride back to the B&B, the Bellevue Manor, which maybe isn’t quite as grand as one might think – perfectly comfortable and reasonably priced. It’s a twisty little maze of old houses ratcheted together into a great many rooms and no overriding sense of architecture. I have not a single picture of the interior and barely one of the exterior of the building. Chalk it up to jetlag.

Cape Town is a gem of a city: sandwiched between the cold, deep blue Indian Ocean and a range of mountains behind. 3.5 Million people live in a prosperous looking, modern city with wide streets, clean and, as far as we could see, bearing no scars of the troubled past.

School kids crossing the street. Maybe the lady with the flowing blue dress is their teacher and the man on the left is very intently talking to the man standing next to him who seems not to pay attention. The signs and the language are all Afrikaans. We’re looking down on them from the top of the double decker city tour bus.






Geographically, geologically the city is stunningly situated: Table Mountain rises 3500′ or nearly 1100 m. over the city and the deep blue waters. Cape Town wraps around Table Mountain and presents visitors with 270 degrees of ocean front.
Nicely provided for viewing is the cable car, a breathtaking ride to a very windy place. Glad we took our jackets! The view is out over the bay to Robben Island and south toward the Antarctic. Probably that’s the origin of South Africa’s penguins (unseen by us).





Downtown streets: Mama Africa’s nightspot on the right. Downtown: new cars, well-dressed people, businesses occupied, sidewalks full. Everything was as is should have been. South Africa, if represented by the streets of Cape Town was the most prosperous country we visited of the seven. The most prosperous came first and the poor came later. Easy to point the camera and snap a shot of ease – not so with poverty.



Nicely provided for viewing is the cable car, a breathtaking ride to a very windy place. Glad we took our jackets! The view is out over the bay to Robben Island and south toward the Antarctic. Probably where South Africa’s penguins (unseen by us) come from. There is a trail up the side of Table Mountain – not for the faint or weak of heart. We paid the rand and rode up in 10 minutes having ridden the city tour bus to this point. Great vistas and a must do if you go to Cape Town.






Although Cape Town is exactly as far below the equator as Los Angeles is above it, it felt much cooler even though there are palm trees in both – more like San Francisco to us. Cape Town is much the prettier place than the LA, IMO and feels more like SFO, being on the water and lovely architecture preserved from the time of colonialism.









Below are pictures of Cape Town – Using one of the two red city tour buses we visited the botanical garden, bird world, the waterfront, and Robben Island (separate post).

CLICK on pictures below to enlarge and USE YOUR BROWSER’S BACK button to return to view MORE PICTURES.


Cape Town Gallery

You can click on the individual pictures to view larger. This post is intended for insertion to another post and due to the oddities of WordPress, this is the way to get a separate “gallery” of photos into another blog entry. Enjoy!

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Dead Vlei - Namib-Naukluft National Park

Copyright 2010 – Terry Doyle