Our adventure in South Africa officially comes to an end today. Who knew 12 months could go by so fast? But what an incredible year it was! We visited a total of 12 countries, 16 UNESCO world heritage sites, saw some old friends and made some great new ones. Continue reading “Out of Africa”
Traveling without a detailed itinerary can be exciting and the best way to experience a country. It can also be foolish and even downright dangerous, as we learned on our recent trip to Lesotho.
To use a very South African phrase, Spencer’s education at Wits has been a bit “hectic” for the last couple of weeks. That’s because all classes have been postponed and the campus shut down on account of student protests under the banner #FeesMustFall.
Alright folks, it’s time for another history lesson! You might remember from school, or from playing Oregon Trail, that during the 19th-century hundreds of thousands of Americans loaded up their wagons and headed west to the American frontier, to strike out new homes for themselves and fulfill “Manifest Destiny.” As it turns out, around the same time thousands of South Africans were making similar wagon journeys across their country. These were the Voortrekkers who undertook the Great Trek during the 1830s and 1840s.
Wedged between Zimbabwe on one side and South Africa on the other, the Tuli Block is a narrow strip of land on the south-eastern edge of Bostwana. It is where we finished up our Botswana road trip, and despite the crippling effects of a drought, it is also where we had some of our most exciting animals encounters to date.
My favorite African animal is the rhinoceros, so I was very excited that our first night’s stay in Botswana was that the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. Khama is a wildlife sanctuary east of the Kalahari that is committed to saving the quickly vanishing rhino.
There is a place in the middle of Botswana that is unlike anywhere else on earth. It covers an area the size of Connecticut, and it is as featureless and devoid of life as the surface of the moon. These are the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the largest salt flats on earth. It is also where we spent a night as far removed from the rest of world as is possible on this planet. Continue reading “Makgadikgadi Pans”
My parents made the big trip out to visit us, and we didn’t let them have a moment of rest. As they had already been to South Africa twice before, we decided to take them along on a road trip to Botswana. For two days, we drove north through the middle of the country, across the Kalahari Desert. It was the end of winter, the dry season, and the great Kalahari was desperately parched. The landscape was nothing but flat, dusty plains as far as the eye could see. We would go hours without passing a single town, the only signs of life being forlorn donkeys and cattle, and even they looked achingly thirsty.
I have been researching illegal gold mining in South Africa for the past few months, trying to understand this illicit industry and see what drives people to become zama-zamas (illegal miners). To help me get a better sense of what their underground lives are like, Spencer put me in touch with Lloyd, the owner of the mine he used to work at. Lloyd granted me a useful interview, and then invited us to visit his mine and meet with some of the illegal miners working on the property. We jumped at the chance, as it was also a great opportunity for Spencer to revisit the site where he worked from 2010-2011.
When not busy traveling and blogging, I have been working on an investigative report about the dangerous practice of informal gold mining here in South Africa. Here is the final story, published by GroundUp, a news website focused on social justice news.