History Lessons

​Monday, August  22, 2016

Our last day in Africa, we lingered over breakfast at the guesthouse – an engaging conversation with the facility’s director – first about how someone from France acquired the property and turned it into a museum detailing the friendship of Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach. This explained the high number of French speaking guests and staff. Then we veered into politics – theirs and ours – interesting perspectives.

We took a walk to a recommended cafe for lunch which allowed us to see some everyday life. Most striking is how heavily walled and gated the homes in this Johannesburg suburb are.

Then we uber-ed to Liliesleaf Farm. This was a secret meeting place for the ANC in the early 1960’s. The renovation tells the story of the activism planned there and the eventual raid that disrupted the movement to end apartheid.  Much to learn. 

Uber to the airport and we are on our way back to the states… head and heart full.

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Satyagraha House

​Today was the end of our organized tour (Ultimate Africa with Overseas Adventure Travel). We started the day with a very interesting talk about David Livingstone, his explorations, and his work to end the slave trade. 

On our way to the airport, we stopped by the home of our guide for the last 2 weeks and met his beautiful (and tolerant) family…his wife and 3 daughters (2 teens and a toddler) as well as his mother who happened to be visiting from South Africa and two cousins visiting for school holiday. We saw their current home and the expansion underway and the many fruit trees in the front yard and the chickens in the backyard.  We also met the two dogs… one of which is a Rhodesian Ridgeback… and Zimbabwe used to be Rhodesia, so there’s that.

We flew from Victoria Falls back to Johannesburg.  4 group members are continuing on a trip extention to Cape Town. 6 have headed home. 4 of us are spending the night in Jo’berg. Charlie and I are staying at Satyagraha House.  (http://www.satyagrahahouse.com) The house where Mahatma Gandhi lived in 1907-08 has been turned into a small museum with guestrooms added around a beautiful courtyard. Our vegetarian dinner this evening was served in the original dining room where we enjoyed conversation with 2 young women (sisters) from France… one of whom currently works in for UNICEF in South Sudan.

Here is our room looking out at the courtyard and original house.

Here is Gandhi’s attic bedroom as set up in the museum today.

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Adding Pictures

After 12 days in the bush, we are now back to (mostly) reliable, though not speedy, WiFi. I have posted a blog entry for every day and now am in the process of adding the pictures. There is much detail left out but it gives you the highlights.

As a reminder, blogs read backwards, so the most recent entries are at the top. Scroll down and click on earlier entries if you want to read in order… not that it matters that much.

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Optional Tours

Today we could choose optional tours in Victoria Falls.  Charlie & I started with a short helicopter ride over the falls. Amazing views.

Then we did a zip line across the gorge just west of the falls – starting in Zambia and ending in Zimbabwe. 

For our last evening together as a group, Bex surprised us with a sunset/dinner cruise in the Zambezi River, above the falls- a beautiful  way to end our time together. 

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Victoria Falls

Friday, August 19, 2016

Today,  on our way out of the bush, we stopped at a village school supported by the tour company we are traveling with. 800 students from pre-school through 7the grade. 22 teachers and staff. We learned about the Zimbabwean education system, visited the computer lab with 27 workstations provided by the tour company, heard some students sing, and visited with a 7th grade class. Delightful! Most students are on break but 7th graders are preparing for their national exams so were present.

On the 2 hours bus ride from the school to Victoria Falls,  Bex tried to teach us to say some words in Ndebele, his native language, which involves clicking. So hard to do but interesting… and rather amusing to try.
We had lunch at the entrance to the Victoria Falls scenic walkway and then spent 2 hours wandering through the 15 view points. Stunning. Because it is “dry” the falls are not as impressive as other times, which is hard to imagine,  but…  we could see them. Sometimes there is too much mist.

After dinner we had a performance by an a capella men’s group… and Bex was one of the 7 singers. They were excellent!
At dinner, some of our group members tried the warthog.  We did not. We did indulge in birthday cake… it being Charlie’s day and all.

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​Thursday,  August 18, 2016

Our last full day in the bush. We had a long outing 7am – 4pm. Twice we went on walking excursions, which were primarily a chance to see things up close… mostly dung… which is more interesting than you might think after almost 2 weeks in the bush. 

Our local guide helped us know about the eating habits and digestive processes of the animals we have been seeing, as well as what the guides can tells about their health and that of the environment. We also learned more about tracks, holes, and the ever popular termite. 

Only one walk was planned but it was interrupted by radio news that a cheetah had been sighted. We cut our walk short and sped off to watch the cheetah lounging on a termite mound and then wandering off into the shade. (My photos aren’t  clear. May borrow from a group member with one of those awesome cameras.).I was surprised to learn that cheetahs are not really cats but rather something between a cat and a dog. Huh? 

Hwange National Park, founded in the 1920’s, is the largest park in Zimbabwe but has no river. Instead it has 60 watering holes, some of which have human assistance. Today we stopped by two with scenic overlooks that attract lots of wildlife. Hippos,  elephants, crocodiles, impalas, kudu, turtles, warthogs, zebras, and, as always, lots of birds. My favorite was a warthog having what appeared to be a delightful mud bath. 

Other highlights of the day included a baby hippo, less than a week old, and an elephant charge stopped by our guide (I have video of this one).

We have seen more animals than I expected but for anyone considering such an expedition, I will mention that there are long periods of driving through desolate terrain over very bumpy roads to accomplish this. We are in the optimum season… not too cold in the mornings  (though I wore a fleece hat and gloves) and not too hot mid-day (though sun hats and sunscreen … and lots of water were needed.) No rain in this dry season so animals are easy to see as they congregate around the limited water sources. 

This evening we had a very interesting talk on the status of women in Africa. Things are improving. I am impressed by the personal sharing of our speakers who are camp staff. Then, for our last evening in this camp, we had a chance to drum a bit before the staff did some wonderful drumming, singing, and dancing. Our “rapper” did a great tribute to our guide for the last two weeks, Bex.

One last thing about Zimbabwe, guides are required to carry rifles, so the guide carried one in the bush, there was one on the jeep dashboard,  and they were carried as we were walked to our tents each evening. Also, we have tried to avoid American politics for the sake of of group unity (most, but not all, of us lean liberal) however the Africans clearly don’t understand gun issues to be “political” for us. When we have discussed American gun laws, the Africans seem to find them incomprehensible lax. 

It has been wonderful but I am ready to head back to “civilization” and our 2 days in Victoria Falls. 

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Village Visit

​Wednesday,  August 17, 2016

This morning we visited a homestead that is part of a local village. They are used to American visitors as the organization we are traveling with supports their school. Many neighbors joined the welcome and we had a nice tour of the fenced compound that Francisca (age 63) and her husband head. We presented the groceries we bought yesterday. Many children and grandchildren were about. We heard about a typical day, saw the goats and chickens, and learned about home construction (“cement” made from termite mounds of different colors (which the women build) topped by thatched roofs (which are made by the men). Bex told us it was very much like the village he was raised in… by his granny. We have heard many stories about his growning up days.

When asked about challenges, we learned that few homes have paid the water connection fee and so walk to the river to fetch it. Also, although the power lines run right by the village, they do not have the fee for the connection ($5000) or the monthly service fees. They would like electricity so children could study after their chores are done and it is dark. The strongly value education. 
As usual, Pepper made friends with some of the children (wasn’t sure she was coming home with me.)  They enjoyed being photographed with her and watching her climb a tree. At one point, one of the little boys took my hand and took me to play a jumping game. They were also amused by seeing their own photos as well as photos of our 2 year old grandson, Atticus.

After siesta,  we had a talk about the cultural practice of polygamy… by a male practioner.  He has 3 wives having divorced a 4th. He was very candid and it was quite interesting. It seems to be a common but not majority practice. And… only men get to have have multiple spouses… not women. He talked about how this blends with the majority Christian practices and how it is changing in the next generation to a practice of mistresses rather than multiple wives. 
Then we had a wildlife drive. Saw where aardvarks had been digging… but no aardvark… plus dwarf mongoose/mongeese/mongooses. (Also more elephants. There are about 5 times as many elephants here than appropriate to the carrying capacity.) Then appetizers and beverages in the bush with yet another classic African sunset before driving back to camp for dinner. Amazing.

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