Hurricane Matthew has left a trail of destruction from Haiti up the southeastern seaboard of the United States. Savannah, GA, where my family lives, took a significant battering on Saturday, but I am grateful to say that they are all safe and their homes are all relatively unscathed. Many of their neighbors cannot say the same, and many people are still dealing with the aftermath of the destruction.
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.
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.
We have been off the grid for the last few weeks on a Zimbabwean safari with Spencer’s parents and siblings. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so excited to share it all. The adventure started at the seventh natural wonder of the world, Victoria Falls.
Spencer’s parents and sister are visiting, so we are trying to show them as much of Joburg as we possibly can in a few days. In doing so, we discovered just how eclectic and diverse this place is. It was, as my Father-in-law described it, an urban adventure.
There is only one way to reach the town of Luderitz by car. It is a 125 km drive west from the nearest town of Aus, and for the entire length of that drive, there is virtually nothing but sand as far as the eye can see.
Just a short drive outside of Johannesburg, unassuming tracts of farmland and rolling hills hide the scientific garden of eden. Here, an area of just 180-square miles has produced some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found. More than 40% of human ancestor fossils found in the world have been unearthed here, and they have provided vital clues in piecing together the story of where humans came from. It was from this sites that science was able to determine that all of humanity came to be in Africa. The scientific discoveries made here, some as old as 3.5 million years, and the discoveries that continue to be made in the area, are why Cradle of Humankind is included as part of one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO world heritage sites.
Spending a year in Johannesburg makes us not-quite-locals and not-quite-tourists. We have been spending a lot of our time in the city trying to get a real feel for the place, finding hidden gems and our favorite spots. But when visitors come to town, we get to do all the real tourist stuff, like visit a lion park and ride around on the red tour bus. This is also how we ended up booking a night’s stay at the Lesedi Cultural Village.
There is a small kingdom that is circled on all sides by green mountains, shrouded in mist. It is ruled by a benevolent King who tries his best to take care of his people with the help of his wise mother, though he has a penchant for collecting wives and fine things. The people here are not rich, but they are happy with their king and proud of their land. They live according to traditional customs as they have for hundreds of years, but wonder about life outside of their tiny kingdom, and yearn for more opportunities.
This place is the Kingdom of Swaziland, a mountainous country sandwiched between northeastern South Africa and Mozambique. Driving through this tiny country on our way back from Mozambique, we were treated to an inside view of this incredible place that we never expected.