It rained and rained and they were happy. We were happy for them. South Africa has been caught in a four year drought. There was a cyclone up in Mozambique and the spin off from that was making it rain in Thula Thula. But even with the rain the rivers weren’t flowing yet. The ground was absorbing it all. The wet roads did limit our driving tours of the preserve, however. The preserve was the private grounds of Zulu King Shaka about one hundred years ago. Today it is a private 500,000 acre endeavor to care for African animals, some endangered, particularly rhinos. The Thula Rhino Orphanage has been caring for young rhinos whose parents are poached for their horns by filthy rich Chinese who think that the rhino horns have some magic sexual power…idiots. But with 25% unemployment in South Africa the Chinese have plenty of people who are willing to risk their lives to poach for them. The last night we were there two poachers attacked the Orphanage and killed to baby rhinos for their one inch horns. There was a world outrage and now the Orphanage is guarded by US Marines. Thula Thula has a wide variety of animals: elephants, rhino, gazelle, zebra, antelope, wildebeest, giraffe, velvet monkeys, nyala, impala, steenbok, leopard, crocodile, Cape buffalo and various other animals. We didn’t get to see them all; two days to cover 500,000 acres isn’t adequate. The acquisition of elephants at Thula Thula is documented in the book The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony. Nanna the matriarch of the elephants who was the first elephant at Thula is still there. Her “bargaining” with Anthony is a great tale. You will notice that some of the elephants have a crook in their tales…these are offspring of Nanna who also has the crook in her tale.
Evan and Muzi were our guides both for our morning walks and afternoon drives.
Personal note: My trip to South Africa got me thinking about a lot of things. Firstly, I wasn’t at all sure I would be able to go nor should go on this trip. A year ago when my high school friend, Jeff Coulson and his wife, Betsy asked me to join them biking in South Africa, I was quite excited. Several months after booking the trip I got diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer. One of my major questions for the doctors was: “will I be able to bike around South Africa three months after having surgery to remove this thing?” They encouraged me to keep my appointment with Africa. However, as late February drew near, I had second thoughts. Would it be a waste if I couldn’t do all the riding? Would not riding give me a less than complete view of the country? Would I look like a weenie? I concluded that I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from going. I knew that if I didn’t go I would regret it. As it turned out, I was able to do the biking and completely enjoyed myself. It also told me don’t wait around for my end but go out and do what I have always wanted to do. Screw cancer! Please no notes of sympathy. Word of my death is premature.
My recent trip to South Africa began with several days with a wonderful family. My traveling companions, Jeff and Betsy Coulson, had an exchange student live with them back in the late 1980s. That boy is now an accomplished man in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. He has a family of his own…an extended family. Luthando comes from a very rural town of Indawana up in the hills of Kwazulu Natal. Not only does Luthando have his own children and wife, he has taken in the children of his brother who died of AIDS several years ago, he cares for his employees who run his transport company and he cares for his sisters. We spent three days with Luthando and got to meet all this family, if only briefly. Part of the problem for the briefness of our interaction, was that Luthando and his wife live about three hours apart. Not that they are estranged but out of economic necessity, Luthando lives in the large city of Pietersmaritzburg and his wife lives with some of the children in the village Indawana where she is an elementary school teacher.
Luthando, Jeff Coulson, Nonyaniso, Tebugo, Betsy (Coulson) Evans
Luthando and Nonyaniso with Tebugo
Manchester United 2 – Named after the iconic British Premier League team, this is local soccer/futbol team. These guys play when they can raise enough money to pay the other team. Whichever team wins the match wins the pot. It is one of the ways that men in this community of Indawana can make a living.
I have just returned from three weeks in South Africa on safari and bicycling. As I often do, I took many, many images; it’s going to take me a bit to edit and post them, plus some of my travel mates are going share some of their images here, too. So, come back soon to see a beautiful country.