In transit

The last day at bush camp was rather uneventful. The streak of 5-hr-a- night sleep this whole trip is getting to me. It's been rainy and cold since last evening. Bad time to do laundry. Half the clothes are not dry and probably won't be till I get to Port St Johns. Smelly shoes too. Ick.

Bushwalk nugget of knowledge:

Buffalo thorns: it is believed by the Shankans that when one dies his spirit remains at the place of death. Until the spirit is taken back home bad luck can come to the living family. To do this one family member must travel to the place of death and bring along a twig of buffalo thorn. Perform a ceremony on location to invite the spirit into the twig. As the family member travels back home, he must buy two bus tickets, get two meals, etc - one for him and another for the spirit. Another ceremony is then performed upon arrival at the house to ensure a safe passage of the spirit to move on to heaven.

Buffalo thorn leaves taste like guava.

If you get an ear infection here, the witch doctor will take a live millepede, split it in half, suck the insides of it, and spit into your ear to heal. Mmm.


Saw a lion family last night and a rhino family this morning on the way out. Funny how the excitement dissipates so quickly with game spotting for me. But the night drives in to the heart of darkness? Those will forever be in my memory. I said goodbye to the rangers and Vlad. It has been a tremendously rewarding 9 days.

Got a ride with Mike and learned a bit more about the history of South Africa and the various racial groups. Not only are there pecking orders among white-black, but also subsegments of the same racial color as well as region. Durbanites shit on Jo'burg peeps. English don't mess with Afrikaans. (btw I felt like an idiot not knowing that Afrikaans are white people with dutch descent).. Interesting perspective. Very different from the melting pot mentality in coastal cities of America.

Lesson: if you have to choose between 7 hr of thirst or 7 hr of having to pee on a cross country bus ride, always go for the former. Especially when you have no idea when the rest stop is. The chicken mushroom pie for breakfast was only eaten half way before I realize that it probably shouldn't taste sour. I'm expecting a visit from montezuma soon. Hopefully not before I get off this bus and in jo'burg. A part of me really want to just drop in to a swanky hotel for an extreme salt scrub spa session so I can get 9 days worth of caked up deets off my skin, but that would be a total cop-out wouldn't it? :)

.. Wow. Jo'burg city center is truly a shit hole. People litter everywhere. The Mbizi hostel is in a nice quiet suburban hood of boksburg, dotted with houses, big lawns, and strip malls. In actuality it is the owner Patrick's parents's house. He grew up here. It definitely feels like someone's home - super comfy and perfect for lazy summer days. It is way east of town and is far from everything which makes traveling logistics within joburg somewhat of a nightmare. I miss makalali already. :(

Finally, a 7hr sleep, a shower you don't have to wear flipflops in, AND a free dryer for my damp clothes. Triple whammy. I felt like a late bird waking up at 6am. Did a morning 3k run in the hood before heading to town with an Aussie dorm mate name peter to the aparthied museum and newtown. 3k was tougher than i thought at 1400m elevation. Also desparately need to buy new flipflops.

Despite the fact that the aparthied museum was built by a gambling mogul as a "recommended donation" to the city of jo'burg in exchange for the right to build the city's only casino, the actual experience was awesome. The building itself was superbly architected - using elements like light, material, elevation, lines, and relative position to the city itself to immerse visitors into the theme of the story. (More on the actual topic of racism in south africa will be written later as parting thought of the trip)

One would never peg jo'burg as once being an art deco town. The rise of the city came about as a response to the discovery of gold back in the days. They actually had the largest gold mine in boksburg, producing up to 27% of world's gold at it's height. You can still see remnants of this bit of history by the random giant yellowish hills scattered around town. These hills are dirt dug up and piled as a part of the mining process. The deterioration came about as a result of non stop political uprising and racial segregation. Other interesting fact: the tallest building in town is only 50 stories high. No real reason to build larger ones. Right on.

Newtown was lack lustre. It probably equates to Newark NJ. Nuff said. Went to eat unknown stew at a random street bodega. That was pretty tasty. The amount of illusion SA government has in thinking that the town with 2 world cup stadiums will be ready for the world at its current state amazes me. Look at what china has done for the olympics. This is an embarrasment.

Then I headed over to eastgate mall - boasted as Africa's largest shopping mall. It was smaller than Short Hills mall. On the way the cabbie got stopped by cops just to "check license". Cops here are criminals in uniform. They will try to get your money whenever humanly possible. It is a big discussion topic amongst locals. Everyone hates the cops - all for the right reasons. The cabbie car stalled after the pullover so the cops had to help push it along. Ghetto. I did get a pair of flipflops though. Mission accomplished. Can't wait to get out to the wild coast already. Ugh.

Back at mbizi, lives of the occupants sailed by as lazily as when I had left them in the am. No one seem to go anywhere, always lounging around happily.

I spent most of the evening chatting with a lovely British couple. John is 72 and Caroline is 52. The conversation was deeper than most random backpacker conversations. John revealed much of his life, his losses, and his adventures. He has traveled around the world 3 times, twice before he married his second wife Caroline. They spoke of their love - the first time they met, the circumstance, and the key that kept the sparks going for more than 16 years. They have 2 homes in the UK and are on their way to the wild coast (whaddaya know) to build their third home. They are religious, but practice according to their own interpretation of the old testament rather than just going to church. We discussed creationism, evolution, intelligent design. I didnt reveal that i do not believe in any of it. I simply listened with open ears. It is, afterall, a new perspective from people who are different from me and I completely embraced and appreciated it. The power of human belief is fascinating.

I told them this trip was an attempt to find myself. In response, they told me their take on what 'love' is. Something tells me I would somehow meet John and Caroline again.