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.
Just south of Dorset, VT is a great old quarry that has been adopted as the local swimming hole. Kids of all ages leap off the cliffs into the green bottomless pool. Girls scream as they get talked into jumping…boys try to outdo one another with flips but the overriding sound is laughter.
In the spirit of summer fun. If you are in any of these photos you can just click and save them to your computer. No need to pay me. Watching you all have fun was payment enough.
I had the privilege of going to Cuba in March to photograph the Cuban Olympic Diving Team. While the Cubans only have two divers who have had Olympic experience (José Guerra has been to 4 Olympics) I was able to work with the Olympic development program and got a chance to photograph future Cuban stars. Here are photos of Yenkler Aguirre and José. These guys and the others on the team are truly amazing in that their practice venue, equipment, and travel are all very make shift. Their coaches, who are paid little are committed to these athletes and themselves sacrifice considerably to make the team happen.
I took a lot of photos on my recent trip to Hong Kong, Macau and China…as I always do. However, I am not going to share most of them but chose only a few that meant something to me.
This is a fisherman at the end of the day organizing his boat and his catch. With him in the boat looked like an elderly woman, perhaps his mother. As I walked past, he looked up and smiled. He had seen me taking some photos and knew that some were of him. This scene was in the section of Hong Kong known as Stanley. It is an interesting confluence of economic cultures. Some of the most wealthy Hong Kong residents live here. Much of the white population lives here away from the hustle of the city. Just behind me is the Hong Kong Sea School that takes the less privileged boys of HK and gives them an education. The theme of the school revolves around the sea which is at their front door. Along with teaching them to sail, canoe and windsurf it gives the boys a well rounded education that they can take to university if they so choose. The bay to my right here is the site for the 2013 Asian Windsurfing Championships. In the town just over the ridge behind me in this shot is the village of Stanley, famous for its market. Stall after stall of hardware, clothing, trinkets, food and wares that people flock to daily. And then there are the fishermen. Tied to the sea through generations of people who have made the sea their source of food and income. Much of what is done today is similar in many ways to what their grandfathers and great grandfathers did years ago. Next to the push cart with this day’s catch, a Lamborghini revs its engine and peels out of the seaside village.
This is the image I am left with after my day in Macau. Located a few miles south of Hong Kong on the China coast, Macau is similar and different to HK. Similar in that it is an independently governed province of China that will revert to China 50 years after its separation from Portugal in 1995. Different in that where HK is the financial whirlwind of the area, Macau is the Las Vegas of China. Thousands of the nouveau riche of China swarm here to play with their new-found wealth. In the middle of this wealth was this magazine stall of this boy’s mom. She exhausted, is sleeping next to him. He being the good son is reading his comic book while he keeps an eye on the stall and giving his mom a break. All around him tourist children were laughing and playing but he kept his focus on what he knew was his responsibility.
The Peak is the tourist must for all visitors to HK. One way to get up to the top of the island is by the Peak Tram. A funicular rail way of two cars that alternate their time at the top and bottom of the mountain. I took the tram up to the top and wandered around for a bit taking photos and enjoying the view and lunch. I saw a path heading down and asked if it went all the way…it did and it would take me an hour to get to the bottom. So I set out down the hill. Not far down was Barker Road station. The station gave a great view of the tram track and I figured I would catch some good shots of the next tram up the mountain. The tram approached and I clicked away. As the tram got to Barker Road, it stopped. There I was with 70 or so passengers in the tram looking out toward the city below and me, alone, standing in their view on the tram station platform. I looked the length of the cars: some people giggled, some ignored my presence and some looked annoyed that the tram was paused. But there was this one woman who I could see was trying, discretely to raise her camera in my direction. She obviously didn’t want to be intrusive to me, but when I saw her motion, I smiled. That gave her permission to take her photo of me…I waved; her smile broadened. When she had taken it, I lifted my camera and took this photo…this is her pose, such a warm appreciative smile. She made my day, I hope I made hers.