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Archive for August, 2010

In a country where a $50,000,000,000,000 dollar bill might get you $1 USD from a tourist (only for a souvenir, the currency is worthless) and unemployment reaching 90% in some areas, the future might seem bleak. In fact most tourists don’t seem to travel anywhere outside the Victoria Falls area along the Mighty Zambezi for safety concerns. Zimbabwe might be considered a country with little hope. But one stop on my travels changed my mind.

walking in to the school...

When traveling with Vantage Travel in Africa, part of your packed itineary involves a cultural connection. A chance to visit local communities and interact.  And in fact, whether in Africa, Asia, or the Americas, the company works with the local communities and makes a difference.

In Zimbabwe – it was a visit to the Chinotimba Primary School.

a class meets outside...

After our arrival, we were warmly received by students with song and dance. Local customs proudly remain on curriculum. Also, the students learn in both their local language and English. This enabled it much easier to converse. We learned about their life and they asked abut ours in an structured Q&A session. Then afterwards, its free time – we walked around and visited other classrooms and library (donated by Vantage and tourists) to talk with the students. We even had the opportunity to donate supplies or funds to the school directly. Most, if not all, did.

ah, so glad to see Brittney in school....

But the joy for me was watching the children. You see the shy smiles and the joy in their soul. You see surprising western influences and the pride when they show their workbooks. You see kids being kids. You see kids being happy. A future does exist for the country in the kids of this community and places like it.

As the bus pulled away, I stared out the window. My thoughts reflected about my good fortunes in life. From my education to my life as an American. I am very thankful.  But I smiled, there I was on the adventure of a lifetime across Africa, and all I really searched for and wanted at that moment – to be as happy as those kids. And feeling that, I know there is hope for Zimbabwe.

a student shows off his work with pride...

Stay adventurous, Craig

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In description, few people or places receive the word Mighty with regularity. When describing rivers I only knew one before my trip to Africa, the mighty Mississippi. But as an alliteration fan myself with my writing it seemed to make sense.

capturing the moment along the Mighty Zambezi

But when African’s described the rivers of Africa, not once did the guides or locals call the Zambezi just the Zambezi river. It always received the adjective Mighty. The Mighty Zambezi. And if you see the awesome power at Victoria Falls, you might agree.

a boatload of Aussies prefer the moon instead of the sun

One evening, our tour group took an open bar sunset cruise along the river (not too close to the falls). The river seemed full of boats. And although we enjoyed nature, Hippos, Elephants similar to the Chobe the most amusing animals were fellow tourists who decided that a sunset would only be better with a full moon. It turned into a party on the Mighty Zambezi. A party in Z’s of Africa; Zimbabwe, Zambia and the mighty Zambezi.

Stay adventurous, Craig

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Umqombothi. Say that three times. In fact even say it once. Not easy. But a lot easier to drink? Well maybe not, but it’s an adventure.

After my 1/2 day tour via Acacia Africa that took me to visit the District Six Museum and a local township outside of Cape Town, our last stop, not like any other last stop – a pint. Here our tour guide showed us a local brew house. We walked to a small wooden shack in the middle of the township where people gather to enjoy a locally brewed beer.

a fire warms and the large tin awaits....

Over a fire made from the scrap wood we sat on benches and gathered around to socialize. Our delicacy, an enormous tin filled with Umqombothi. Made from maize (corn), maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water the thick, creamy and gritty consistency contained a distinct aroma.  And even with the low alcohol content (usually less than 3%) it can hardly be classified as a light beer.

i also learned it is  often used in ceremonies.  Respect is expected when taking a sip. Of course, I paid some. A few times naturally.

I kneel down to pay respect and enjoy a sip among new friends...

And although New York is a city that has (nearly) everything, I realize I might not be able to find this brew. So this Friday my drink might be different, but I still plan to toast to you South Africa. Cheers.

Stay adventurous, Craig

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Cape Town, South Africa serves as an initial entry point for many travelers to Africa.  But some argue it’s not “True Africa,” Ok, then I ask, is New York true America?  The answer in both cases: Yes.

America as a nation cherishes variety and today so does South Africa. And both cities serve as a place where cultures mixed and continue to do so.

Cape Town, the modern cosmopolitan experience, provides a chance to see amazing views from Camps Bay or Table Mountain, entertain delightful and delicious dinners, and sip some of the finest wines. But, Cape Town also allows visitors to take a historical peak into the recent injustice under apartheid. It provides a chance to look and learn from the past. Two such powerful places now serve as museums and are must visits. One really shook my foundation.

Certainly, the prison on Robben Island, a place where Nelson Mandela spent seventeen years, is nearly on everyone’s must see list for Cape Town. I agree. The place tells the stories of the lives of the many political prisoners that worked to free the country from its racial divide.

inside the District 6 Museum

But when you get the chance to see the city, don’t miss the chance to walk through District 6 museum. The mere forty-five minutes I spent there left a more powerful impact on me than any other place in Cape Town.

As part of a ½ day tour of the city provided by Acacia Africa, the museum became our first stop. Here, my guide spoke about the injustices and the history of the mixed race district. A district eventually destined to be demolished by the government.  A place where all buildings were destroyed. A neighborhood essentially removed from the map.  Today, only a few churches and mosques (untouched) still stand on the empty grasslands.

A vibrant Richmond Street...

Inside the museum pictures display the districts history from its vibrant times to its post demolition. Street signs appear as art displays and also mark each stair as people climb up to the second floor.  Displays describe the history of the district, highlight the people who called it home and tell of the reason for flattening. Yet, some of the most powerful statements, the ones that initiate water in your eyes (and make you put back on your sunglasses) did not come from these artifacts. They were not from the pictures or historical text explaining this dark chapter in South African history. They came from the quotes.  Real people and their real words discussing the district years later.

after the demolition... just mosque and church remain...

Across the museum, quotes from ex-citizens of the district describe their experiences. Not the just the horrors, but more importantly the good times.  They speak of laughter and joy.  They speak of work, love, and music. They speak of  life. Humanity.

At times, it makes you unable to comprehend what happened. It makes the point needed to be made. Perfectly too.

That day, I left the museum in a different mood from the world cup fever I felt just the prior night on Long Street. I left knowing why Acadia recommends and offers this tour prior to traveling to the “Real Africa” on Safari or via an overland tour.

Then later that afternoon, I thought about it once again getting ready for the night on the town. On the very spot where division was the law, now the world united for its greatest spectacle – the World Cup. Incredible actually. A change for the better.

Stay adventurous, Craig

I’d like to thank Acacia Africa for opening my eyes to the District 6 Museum.

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A visit to Cape Town or South Africa that matter is not complete without a trip to the country’s wineries. On the Blue Train you pass straight through the heart of the countryside dedicated to producing some of the best wines I ever tasted. But you need to get up close and visit the towns. You need to walk the quaint streets, take in the incredible views, enjoy the delicious foods, and of course taste the wine.

And although I spent most of my time touring, Stellenbosh visiting Mooiplaas and Amani. (article coming). I also enjoyed the views and from Dieu Donne Vineyards (translates – a gift from God) in Franschhoek. And the tasting with this view was just that. A gift.

the views from Dieu Donne were truly God's Gift...

Not to mention, I was also very fond the peace and quiet I found spending 5 RND to visit the Huguenots memorial in town. Sometimes it is important to get away from the herd and just reflect.

peace and quiet at the memorial....

stay adventurous, Craig

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As an American, the Atlantic represents the sunrise, the Pacific, the sunset. But when one travels east, you can witness the sun set on the Atlantic. Although technically, my African adventures would not mark my first sunset on the Atlantic Ocean, (e.g. San Sebastian, Spain), it would mark the first time I really thought about it.

After a day at leisure in Cape Town, I made sure I positioned myself with amble time to catch a sunset in Camps Bay, the glitzy part of Cape Town. The neighborhood, part South Beach and part southern California provided more than an amazing sunset, fantastic seafood offerings, and cocktails. It provided a sense of sunset adventure.

That evening, a tandem parachute sailed directly across my line and I took this photo. Apparently, in South Africa you can watch the sunset from the sky and land on the beach just as it descends out of view from the horizon. Something to put on the bucketlist for certain.

a perfectly timed landing

Stay adventurous, Craig

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A trip up the cable car to Table Mountain is one of the highlights of visiting Cape Town. And if it’s clear in the morning, you must consider making the trip that day as weather can change quickly on the Cape.

a trip up to the top of the table...

Once above on a clear day you can see for miles in every direction. A walk provides visitors with such beautiful panoramic settings. It’s a lovely time to take a coffee, enjoy the view and do what I love to do – ponder ….

one of the many panoramic views from above

stay adventurous, Craig

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