Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

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I’ve been in South Africa now for around two months, but haven’t written a single word about it, so I’ll share some thoughts about the last place I visited.

In summary: I’ve been volunteering at an orphanage in South Africa, ran by an old school friend, lived on a lion park for a few weeks, sat in the bones of a dead whale, been cut to pieces in knife self-defence classes, and had all my money stolen.

Recently, myself and my good friend Harrison Nash visited a place called Nieu Bethesda, to do outreach work with the local community there. It is around four hours drive north of Port Elizabeth, into what is known as the Great Karoo (an arid semi-desert plateau), and is about as close to an old western town as you can get.
The local gang in the township even ride around on horses.

As we drove there, the big trailer we were taking broke and snapped off, leaving me and Harrison by the trailer, and the rest of the team setting off to find assistance. It was just long enough to find a few scorpions.
All the roads pass through grooves in the mountains, which dominate the landscape. The Karoo has very few trees, some low lying shrubs and loads of different cactus, yet it is surprisingly colourful.
Despite an annual rainfall of 39mm, the land is teeming with life; big fat lizards scurrying everywhere, snakes of all varieties, leopards, baboons, rodents, small predators and wildcats, springboks and other game.
After spending the first day there getting settled, I set off to conquer one of the peaks nearby.
I’m sure the place already has a name, but after my venture, I have decided to rename it ‘Snake Mountain’. I’ve included some photos so you’ll have a better idea:

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When I say it was like an old western town, this is what I mean: there were no street lights in the town, no means of paying for things except by cash or trade, and the town was split between the 60-70 permanent residents, on one side of the river, and the 1000 or so coloured people living in the township/informal settlement on the other side. The town was even complete with a strong breeze, and big gusts of dust sweeping through.

The mountains really were incredible to look at, and very enticing for a person such as myself. So one morning I left before dawn to make it up one that had caught my attention. I had been warned about baboons, and advised that they would approach a person walking alone, so I had plenty of time during my walk to contemplate how I would handle such a confrontation. Ofcourse, in my head, I always figured I could just beat one up if it came down to it, but having never seen them up close, I got myself a massive stick, and decided I could use my rucksack as a shield and try to find a hole/cave to defend helm’s deep.

Anyway, I got to the base of the mountain in just over an hour, but it was surrounded with thick cactus and I was not wearing a cactus-proof outfit. So I eventually managed to weave my way through, following the path of some sheep. The climb itself was not challenging, but the last 30m was steep, and complete with an intimidating sudden drop and stiff breeze. As I made my way up, I was deliberately trying to catch a glance of where I was putting my hands (to avoid snakes), and I got a glimpse of my first very dangerous snake here. Coiled up, 20cm from where I was about to slap my hand down, was a Rinkhal, which is a highly venomous spitting snake, similar to a cobra. It was jet black, with two white stripes behind its head. The snake seemed nonchalant.

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I was under the impression that due to the time of year, snakes such as this would be very hard to find, but this guy was part of the Nieu Bethesda welcoming committee, and dedicated to his job.
I gulped and moved on, making it to the peak, and keeping a mental note of the space where I’d seen the snake. The view was incredible, and definitely worth it. I didn’t have a camera on me, but even if I did, I’m sure I would’ve taken a rubbish photo.

Upon my descent, two big black eagles rose on the hot air in front of me, about 7 meters in front of where I was. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting to see if I fall, so they could get a free meal, but it was breathtaking nonetheless. On the way down I disturbed a few other snakes, a baby puff adder and a grass snake. I decided not to tempt fate, and started walking back home.

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The children in the town were full of life, and willing to play any game I could think of. In comparison to children in Australia or England, these kids were content to play the simplest of games. Even running for no reason whatsoever, not even being chased, just running around like crazy people. I didn’t see any men, and just assumed they were working or drinking. One game that they really enjoyed playing was a kind of monster game.
Basically, you are allocated a particular animal, and you must behave like that animal, and go and catch the other children. There were only a few animals I could say in Afrikaans, these would be – baboon (bobbejaan), crocodile (crocodil), hippo, leo (lion) and hond (dog). It usually ended up with all the children chasing me, or me chasing all of them.

There’s not enough time to say everything that’s happened, so I’ll have to write a few more things like this, especially about the kids I’ve spend the most time with, here in Port Elizabeth. God has been good throughout it all.

I look forward to telling you some more.

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