Saturday, April 22, 2017

Awaking Happy in Africa – Dispatches from South Africa

Ernest Hemingway was onto something when he confessed that he never knew a morning in Africa when he awoke and was not happy. Before arriving here I would have questioned if such a thing were possible. I’ll stand by it now.

I have arisen happy each day since our arrival. From our first morning in country, when we set off for a drive through central Johannesburg to teeming Soweto, the black township situated on the southwestern edge of the city; to the mornings in Brits, in the shadows of the Magaliesberg in northern Gauteng province near the national capital of Pretoria in the Cradle of Humankind, when we set off to spend time with elephants and monkeys; to the chilly mornings near Dullstroom, high up on the western fringes of the Drakensberg Escarpment in Mpumalanga province, where we explored the Blythe River Canyon with its beautiful waterfalls and dramatic mountain scenery and where I had a chance to do some fly-fishing for native trout; to the early morning treks into the bushveld of the Kapama game preserve in Limpopo province, in South Africa’s far northeastern corner, where I watched the African wildlife come alive. Isak Deneson, writing in Out of Africa (1937), said: "You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions." I did not how true this is until I saw them with my own eyes in the natural habitat they share with elephants, Cape buffalo, white rhinos, and large herds of antelope and a variety of birds I had never seen before. I was happy right through to the evenings when we trekked out into the bush to watch how these animals end their day.

And now I arise happy on these mornings here in Cape Town and the West Cape, in the country’s most southwestern corner. I awake and watch the sun’s early light bathe the imposing face of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head while smelling the briny perfume of the South Atlantic as it laps the rocky shores of Mouille Point on Table Bay just outside our front door. It is autumn here in the southern hemisphere yet the weather is gorgeous . . . bright sunny days with low humidity and comfortable sea breezes blowing over the cold South Atlantic waters.

How could one not wake each morning in Africa with a smile on one’s face. The people I have met are so friendly and courteous and always willing to share a broad smile. To quote Ms Dinesen again: "Here I am, where I ought to be."

Check out the "Looking Toward Portugal" Facebook page for more information and photos.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Looking Toward the Antarctic - Dispatches from South Africa

Sally Ann and I arrived in South Africa eleven days ago. Since then we have spent time in and around Johannesburg, the country's largest city with 8+ million inhabitants. We toured the historic Soweto township on the city's outskirts, visiting the Nelson Mandela house and also seeing the current homes of Winnie Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. A single street in Soweto was home to two Nobel Peace Prize laureates!

After a couple days in Gauteng province which is home to both Johannesburg and the capital city of Pretoria, where we visited an elephant and monkey sanctuary, as well as the Cradle of Humankind, we headed to the northeastern provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, visiting a fly fishing resort near Dullstroom where I caught a beautiful rainbow trout which the chef prepared for me for dinner one evening. And then on to the private Kapama game preserve near the Kruger National park for several days of game trekking in the lowveld bush country where our ranger and Shongaan tracker put us on several herds of impala, kudu, blesbok and other varieties of African antelope, not to mention four of the "Big Five" - elephants, Cape buffalo, white rhinos, and lions. Only the leopard proved elusive although we had a chance to have an up close and personal encounter with a pair at a game park near Johannesburg, including their feisty newborn cubs.

After an intense safari experience in the northeastern quadrant of South Africa (I'll be posting more about that so stay tuned) we returned to Johannesburg early yesterday morning to catch a two hour flight to the southwestern corner of the country . . . Cape Town and the West Cape. It is like being in a whole different country. We have rented a lovely little flat directly on the water on Green Point with a splendid view of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. This will be our home for the rest of the month until it comes time to head back to the States and our regular routine.

Last night, after settling into our flat, we took a short walk along the seaside promenade (see photo) and enjoyed our first Cape Town sunset. And then again this morning to the Green Point Light House (also pictured). The promenade is lined with palm trees and palmettos. From here - just a few miles north of the Cape of Good Hope - I can stare out into the South Atlantic knowing that the next land mass in Antarctica! The sunshine is intense and the air is warm - it is autumn here in the southern hemisphere, after all. But the water is remarkably cold.

Cape Town is a beautiful city. I could very easily get used to this lifestyle.

Check out the "Looking Toward Portugal" Facebook page for more information and photos.