Out of Africa

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”

Robben Island

Just off the coast of Cape Town, there is a small, rocky island. During its history, this island served as a leper colony, a military base, and a quarry, but it is famous (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for another reason. Robben Island was a prison where South Africa’s apartheid government kept undesirable political prisoners. Nelson Mandela was one of these prisoners, and he lived and worked on this chunk of rock in the Atlantic ocean for 18 of the 27 years he spent imprisoned. Continue reading “Robben Island”

Voortrekkers

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.

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Klipwal Gold Mine

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.

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Lethal toll of informal gold mining

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. 

Lethal toll of informal gold mining

While deaths on formal mines have come down, zama-zama fatalities have gone up

Photo of informal mine
Informal Mine in Mpumalanga

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Animal Encounters

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With 13.2 million people living in Johannesburg’s province of Gauteng, it’s no surprise that the city is not exactly a refuge for wild animals (these creatures excepted). No elephants wander the streets, no zebras munch on our grass. The roars of the lions at dusk from the zoo down the hill are the closest thing we’ve got to real African wildlife in our neighborhood.

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