Friday, 11 August 2017

Starting our South African trip - late January 2017

We arrived in Johannesburg by plane from London on 28 January 2017; our friend Cathy kindly met us at the airport and drove us back to their home.  The first photo I took was that evening, reminding me  (as if I could forget!) of the wonderful African sunsets.
As always, spectacular colours!

On the following morning, we all walked up the road to a popular local suburban cafe for breakfast.  Here are Cathy, Steve and Nigel ordering up a feast in the warm southern summer sunshine!  

Standing on the cafe's corner, I managed to get a shot of the high rise office blocks of the Johannesburg CBD in the distance - this was the closest we ever went to the city centre, the largest city in South Africa. Greater Johannesburg has a population of 10.5 million and is the capital of Gauteng province.  Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, is some 30 miles (50km) to the north, but the two cities are today almost joined by development. We can remember the days in the early '80's when many miles of countryside separated the two  cities!

For the next 3 days, I  hardly picked up the camera; we were visiting friends, partying and shopping!!

This is part of the Cresta shopping centre, always one of our favourite places to shop.  It was first opened in 1977 and over the years it has grown and grown, to become one of South Africa's largest shopping malls.

On 1 February, with thanks to Cathy for letting us use her second car, we drove the 300 km (180 miles) to Mahikeng (previously Mafikeng and before that, in the days of Queen Victoria, it was Mafeking!)  to meet our friends Christelle and Patrick.
En route we saw many overloaded vehicles!! Toyota have long had a factory in South Africa and have invested lots of money in improving their designs to cope with the extreme uses to which their vehicles are put. It is not uncommon for their pickups (or bakkies, in SA slang) like the one above, to run for up to 1 million kilometres before an overhaul.

Acres upon acres of maize (or mealies, as they are known locally), the staple diet of most country people....

and a typical African-style stop sign where there were road works.

On the following day, we took a tour of Mahikeng centre, reminding us of the time we lived there in the early '90's. Taxis like those on the right are everywhere, and are vital to the majority of the population for getting around.

It seemed much busier than when we lived here,  but the badly potholed roads made driving more like an obstacle course!

Police vehicles were conspicuous,  but we were not sure if they were working or shopping!  We  had to carry out the final replenishment of supplies, as the next day we were off to Botswana for a week of game viewing. The border is only 26 km (15 miles) away, but Botswana itself is a big country, about the size of Texas in the USA.

Arriving in Gaborone, the capital, there were signs everywhere celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence. It was on 30 September 1966, that Botswana (then known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate), was granted independence from British rule. A generally quiet and peaceful country, with kind and courteous people, its wealth comes principally, I would say, from the diamond and cattle industries.

Our first stop was a two night stay-over at the rhino sanctuary, where the local  Batswana people are being fairly successful  at present in keeping the scourge of poaching to a minimum. Long may they continue!

We chose this isolated A frame chalet a kilometre away from the full amenities of the main camp - hence no electricity!  Nigel and I were lucky, we had the downstairs, while our friends had the upstairs.  The toilet and shower were in the open wooden building, just visible to the left of this shot.  A little scary going to the toilet at night, as what had Patrick spotted just outside the front door?....

Yes, this was the paw print of a leopard - see the claw marks at the front!  Sadly we did not get to see one at all on our whole trip, as they are not often to be seen in daylight!

Enjoying the dinner that Nigel and Patrick had cooked on the barbecue, or braai as it is known in South Africa. Head torches are pretty much essential if you want to see what you are doing! On a moonless night, it's almost pitch black away from artificial lighting.

I hope that this gives you a taste of the episodes  which will be following. Thanks to our friends, we spent most of the remainder of our holiday deep in "the bush", looking for wildlife of all kinds. Following very heavy summer rains, the grass and undergrowth was unusually tall and thick, making the task of taking photos more than difficult! However, I managed to snap a good selection of animals and birds, plus some incredible views!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually!