Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Did you know that The United States of America, Western Europe, Argentina, China, British Isles and India can all fit inside the continent of Africa and there will still be land leftover? Did you know that Africa is the name of the continent, but it actually has 54 individual countries within it's borders?  What an amazingly complex continent--which in October of 2009 we were lucky enough to visit!
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived in Jo'burg, South Africa (that is what the locals call Johannesburg) was how similar it was to the many large cities throughout the world.  (I guess I was expecting it to look like what Accra, Ghana looked like!)  As we were lucky to be arriving in October, the Jacaranda Trees were in full blossom, and oh, what a delight to behold.  It was like a purple canopy had been hung throughout the city! 
We had a wonderful social gathering at this residence.  It was like a colonial oasis nestled in the midst of concrete and steel--oh, what a glorious view!
On Sunday I attended church in this historic chapel.  IF I am remembering correctly, it was the first chapel built in JoBerg.  It was charming and you would have loved meeting the saints that attend there!
In between our South Africa trip and our West Africa trip, we had a day, a night and the next day to take in a Safari.  We traveled for about 4 hours to get to the Madikwe Game Park Reserve.  It is a smaller game reserve,and not as well known as some others in Africa, but it was pretty wonderful all the same.
When we were about 30 minutes from the reserve, we had a tire blowout on our van!  It was pretty exciting; however, what was really fun was watching our crew change the tire in white shirts and ties!  Dad did try to help, but they wouldn't let him!  
When we arrived, we were given instructions on how to get to and from our rooms to the main structure where we would have our meals and leave for our evening and morning safari. 

We were told that it was an open animal reserve, and therefore, we could not walk to and from our rooms without an armed guide (our ranger man is the one standing with his feet apart).  Apparently, large game frequents the premises and we needed to be protected from a possible attack!
When we were taken to our room, I thrilled!  Don't you think it looks like something "Out of Africa?"
After we unpacked, we met back at the main house for the evening safari.  We were told that under no circumstances were we to stand up in the vehicle to take photos.  The animals were used to seeing the vehicle, but anyone standing would signal danger and they could attack.  Of course, we were all obedient and elected to remain seated.  Our ranger had a rifle set on the dashboard, along with lots of bullets--size? Huge!  I guess if you are going to take down a rhino or a lion, you want to make sure the bullet will get the job done!  Seated on a chair attached to the front hood of the vehicle, was our scout.  He was a young African man who has made it his life's work to study tracking animals.  It is not like being at the zoo, where they are all contained in certain areas.  On safari, you just start driving through miles of wilderness bush until the tracker spots something and tells the ranger to stop. I could find the animal when we were almost on top of them...our scout spotted them well before that!

Our biggest thrill on the night drive?  LIONS!

We were so close--within 6 feet!  And they couldn't care less that a truck full of people were whispering, pointing and snapping photos of them.  (Not even one person stood up--I wonder why?)  They looked a little on the lean side, but I am sure their nightly hunt fixed that!
About 2 hours into the safari, we stopped in the middle of the bush and had a cold drinks and appetizers to keep us sustained until dinner.   My camera wouldn't cooperate taking photos of this event...but this picture will give you an idea of what I am talking about! 
 Civilization in the middle of bush country!
After the evening safari was over, we came back to the main house, had a marvelous outdoor dinner surrounded by a very high fence and then were escorted back to our rooms when the evening was done.  When we opened our doors, this is what greeted our eyes...Magical!  I almost expected Meryl Streep to be lounging on the couch, ready to tell us a story!  

The next morning we were up at dawn's first light--anxious to see more animals.  Our goal was to see the "The Big Five"--(safari talk for the five prized big game animals-- the Lion, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard because they are the most difficult to hunt on foot!  We managed to see that morning:

  Cape Buffalo
Zebra and Red Lechwe (deer)
Love those stripes!
Check out his magnificent coat and the wee friend taking a breather!

 Did we get to see the all of the Big Five?  Well, we did see a leopard, but it was running so fast that no one was able to get a photo of it.  I know, I know, likely story...just like the one that got away, but I speak the truth!  To sum it all up, we saw the Lion, the Cape Buffalo, a Leopard--which makes three!  However, on our way back to our rooms, we heard some shouts from our neighbors to come and see a herd of elephants that were drinking water out of their jacuzzi.  This was so much fun to watch!  Their trunks were writhing like snakes as they all vied for a place to get a drink!   I was sad we didn't get to see the Rhino, but four out of the big five is not too bad!

They got their drink and now they are ready for a relaxing water bath at the nearby pond!

After the Safari, we left JoBerg for Accra, Ghana.  This is beautiful country is more African looking than JoBerg.  The men and women carry lots of different things on their heads.  They set up their kiosks on the side of the road--no one need ever leave their car to go shopping.  There is a magnificent temple in Accra, and the most beautiful children anywhere.  Their names often reflect character traits...Like Happy, Blessing, Joy, Kindness...well, you get the picture.  This darling little girl is aptly named Happy!  Don't you love it?
This magnificent sister is Happy's mommy!  She only speaks French, but we loved each other from the moment we met!  Oh, I think everyone should plan a trip to Africa!  I know I want to go back...

Up next?  France!