Saturday, May 10, 2014

Holiday Explorations

I have a ton of photos collecting dust on my laptop so it's about time to share some more. We had several holidays on the school calendar from April to early May, so I took the opportunity to explore some other areas of the country:

First I ventured out to the Western Cape.

Cape Town is an incredible place to visit, it could be one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

Overlooking Camp's Bay beach on the way up Lion's Head mountain..

C.J. and Grace and me before our climb

We wasted no time in exploring the scenery.  The views on the way to the top of Lion's Head Mountain were pretty spectacular.

Halfway to the top of Lion's Head

Taking it all in from the top

Lion's Head was awesome, but Table Mountain is the main hiking attraction by the city.

We had a good sized crew of ETA's, friends, and family members for this hike

The official flower of South Africa was to be found along the way
The mist on the mountain made for an awesome hike
Made good time to the top

The beach isn't too bad either

Even more stunning in person
Sunset over the Atlantic

Nearby to Cape Town is the rolling countryside of Stellenbosch which is where one of the teacher's in our program is placed.  

The ETA men, plus Justin


We also took some time to visit the cheetahs in the area.

Preparing ourselves for a Cheetah encounter

Nap time

just a big kitty cat

Robben Island

The island where Nelson Mandela was held captive is a little less than an hour's boat ride from the shores of Cape Town.

The ride to Robben Island

Welcomed to the prison in Afrikans

We were able to see the cell where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his 27 years in prison.  

Madiba's cell

Long swim back to the mainland

Dr. J was against apartheid

The skies cleared up on the way back, but the waters got rough
Simon and I braving sea-sickness with a smile

  Cape Point/Simon's Town

We also traveled to the most South-Western point in Africa

boardwalk to the Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good hope is where European explorers first arrived in South Africa as stopping point on their way to India.  This is also supposedly where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.  I've also heard that is not entirely true, but either way the waves were massive there and persistently crashing against the towering, rocky cliff faces.

The seas are violent but it's peaceful up here 

Found these guys enjoying the sunset

We saw some African Penguins along the way too.

Only a few weeks after arriving back from Capetown, I took a trip to Rustenburg.

The drive takes about 9 hours and I was able to ride with Mfana, who I teach with at Zwelibanzi.  We picked up his parents along the way who both happen to be deaf, so I had the chance to learn some South African sign language from them.  The trip there was a blast.

me and Mfana 

The King of the Bafokeng people owns the platinum mines in the area and he is insanely wealthy.  The ETA's from my program that teach in the area took me to see one of the secondary schools that the King single-handedly funded.  The school was unbelievably nice.

Courtyard of the school we visited

The areas near Rustenburg are not without their beauty.

We also made it out to a self-drivable game reserve.

met some giraffes

These two Elephants were dueling, and I only caught the tail end of the battle.  I was too pre-occupied with wondering if they were going to tumble onto us in our compact rental vehicle.  I missed the good parts of the fight, but I thought I should share it anyway!

Finally, I explored Lesotho and the Drakensberg Mountain Range 

Lesotho is a land-locked country inside of South Africa.  At one point they were supposed to become another province of SA, but corruption in the leadership prevented it.  Life is quite a bit different across the border.


Crossing the border

Lesotho is mountainous and windy.  It's not uncommon to see snow in the wintertime.

My favorite part of the visit was getting to see the primary school.  Mama Bope, the principal of the school and a former student shared with us about her experiences being an educator there.  The area of Lesotho that she teaches in has no electricity, no paved roads, and no access to proper health care.  It's uncommon for students to continue on to highschool if they plan to stay in the country because there are basically no job opportunities in Lesotho.   Most children return home to help their families with farming.   All that being said, none of those obstacles stop Mama Bope from having an amazing attitude and being an incredible teacher.  I hope I can come back to visit again. 

Mama Bope showing us the classroom she learned in as a student.  The outside.

No electricity means digital photography is a rare commodity.  The kids know to take full advantage of the opportunity to photo-bomb when it arrives.

Jumping photos were highly requested

one nice one

back to photo-bombing

After my visit to Lesotho, I decided to hike to the top of one of the peaks in the Drakensberg Mountain range.  The 'Berg is a special place and I was floored by the scenery. 

Looking out to Cathedral peak in the distance

Truly it was the most visually inspiring areas I have seen in the country so far.  My adventure there was also the most dramatic I have had here so far, but that is story for another post. 

 Stay tuned.

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