Posted in travel

The sun couldn’t stay. The day was done!

What is your daily routine. Time spent in the office, labouring over heaps of papers and dictated by statistics. The standard office job that we strive to get one day. University, disguised by the sports, state of the art lecture theaters and the hustle and bustle of campus life. Now don’t believe what you are reading to be pessimistic. Neither is it about university or where you work. Its about seeing that life is like chart topping song. We listen, the thumping beat draws us in and the melody loosens our bodies, ooh don’t you love it. Yet the melody and the beat are only one part of the song. Listen more carefully and the words begin to stand out and that’s the real essence of the song, giving it meaning. I’m clearly not a philosopher judging by my comparison. Although the point is that we are easily caught up in the flow of the song but we don’t hear the message.

Sitting at my poorly finished, pine wood desk in my tiny box of a room, it’s 12:30 am says my watch. Around this time my thoughts get deep and with every puckering key stroke, different emotions come and go. While I hear about Justin Bieber more important matters are fighting for my attention like squabbling children with the TV remote. I find myself wondering how to escape it all. The only idea that calms my thoughts is the childish awe of adventure in all of us.

Imagine a scenario. You wake up with the sun rising over the distant ridge and chirping birds outside your window. Yet there is no time to listen because its 6:30am and you are late for work. Today is presentation day and out comes that special suit. It fits a bit more tightly than the last time you wore it but it will have to do. In the car and off to work but you miss the morning traffic because you are a legend and know a secret route. Yet your focus stays being on time and not the thrill of the adventure on your secret path. You have arrived and striding through the door and somehow there are 7 minutes left. Just enough time to sort out your desk in the office overlooking the boutique coffee shop, a story below, as the steam wafts off in the cool morning air. A glossy red envelope on the dark wooden desk stares at you. What is it. You open it, it’s a letter. Meaning of life disappears, as it reads: “your services are no longer required”. You have been made redundant! What now? Emotions are wild. But you will be payed out a considerable amount for your services to the company over the last 12 years. Where do you go from here? Either look for another job, or accept it as a challenge and opportunity? You listen to the words of the song and see the meaning of the situation. Most people would love to leave their job and discover the world, the courage is destroyed by the “what ifs”.

Lately I’ve been watching “Sailing La Vagabonde” on YouTube. Its about a young, quirky Australian couple who left their jobs to sail around the world, chasing the sunset. They hop from Island to Island, having an adventure. Although what gripped me more than the amazing scenery and adventure, is the courage it takes to leave the structure of society and having an adventure. There is so much meaning in these type of life choices, even if we don’t realise it at the time. Its definitely worth a watch.

So the point of this whole blog as it stretches into the early hours is simply to share my view of how life can be seen as there is so much more we can take advantage of in life. Sorry to every reader but YOLO! Do you agree? Any thoughts on my late night / early morning mental and emotional theft I share with you.  Lewis Carroll had it so right:

“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have,and the decisions we waited too long to make.”- Lewis Carroll

Adventure is in everything we do, every day. The sun will rise every day and today it couldn’t be more beautiful.

DCIM104GOPRO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in africa

The embodiment of controversy: Cecil John Rhodes

Rhodes Essay                           : A painted shadow referring to the colonial legacy left behind from                                           the podium where the statue of C J Rhodes once stood.

A desire for wealth and power leaves a legacy of hardship and a poor call for a national identity. There is an amazing ability of individuals to affect the course of history, leading to greater socioeconomic impact than ever envisioned. One’s legacy outlives one’s life, benefiting some and oppressing others through generations to come. Over time it transitions into its most dangerous state, cultural hegemony. For insight I interviewed a current student majoring in African history.

From Rhodes to Rhodesia

Cecil Rhodes was born in England on the 5th of July 1853. He was one of nine sons to a priest. Cecil’s health was poor and stayed close to home attending the local school. later he was sent to Natal, South Africa to help on his brother’s cotton farm. As all stories have a twist of human desire, so does the life of Cecil John Rhodes. Realising that cotton was not going to make him a wealthy man and thus followed the money in mining.

He trekked to the new diamond fields now known as Kimberly. He worked the mine for a while and opened De Beers mining company in 1880. His wealth was set into an upward spiral from there. Returning in 1881, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, from England, his most influential ideas were conceived while he roamed the unsettled plains of the Transvaal, alone for six months. He dreamed of white British imperialism where Britain ruled all of her colonies and eventually the United States of America.

Moving into the land of the Ndebele people (Zimbabwe) and manipulated their king, Lobengula, to mine in the area through the Rudd Concession. Very cunningly he used the language barrier to get Lobengula to sign a document, handing the land over to Cecil J Rhodes. Legend has it that Lobengula, being illiterate, signed the document using a simple X. Upon discovering the true meaning, Lobengula tried to renounce the document but it was too late.

Rhodes took political interest and after six seats opened in the ‘Cape House of Assembly’, Rhodes became a member of the ‘Cape Parliament’ in 1880. Later becoming the Prime Minister of the Cape in 1890. With his wealth and influence he created the ‘Glen Grey Act’ to push black Africans off their land and “stimulate them to labour”. Black people who were previously allowed to vote, could no longer.  Eventually in 1913, one of Rhodes’ main projects materialised, the ‘Natives Land Act’. Dissalowing black people from buying land and also from leasing “white owned land”, forcing black people in these areas into wage labour. This was the cornerstone of ‘Apartheid’ that disallowed white and black people from sharing the same areas and officially implemented in 1948.

From liberation to oppression: why these go hand in hand

After the independence of African countries, the leaders, liberators, becoming oppressors. Their ideals were shaped by colonisation, yet this is what they fought against. Where ideals of capitalist society cause greed and destroy a nation, evident in Zimbabwe.

However, Cecil John Rhodes was only a cog in the machine, that was colonialism and imperialism, built by Europe. An extremely central cog nonetheless. Europe wanted to expand their territories. However, with total disregard to Africans, perceived as ‘savages’ and ‘barbarians’. Desiring wealth and power, humans were dehumanised. With the arrival of the Europeans, the people who called Africa their home had their world turned upside down. Consequently, this greed gave birth to a social epidemic affecting society, long after colonisation seemed to be over. Apart from social inequality to this day, colonialism still effecting almost every country in Africa and hindering their progress as a nation due to the colour of their skin. The effects of colonisation is clearly evident outside Africa. The Northern and Southern Americas are faced with the same social division.

Botswana opposed Rhodes. It was a British protectorate, governed by England and did not fall under Cecil Rhodes’ empire. Three kings traveled to England to oppose the incorporation of Bechuanaland (now Botswana). They won and defeated Rhodes who stated “it is humiliating being utterly beaten”. Botswana has turned out to be one of the most politically stable countries in Africa.

The ultimate rhetoric question must be asked. What if Europeans had left Africa alone? What would we find if we arrived today? However, it is too late for what ifs! The damage has been done. Although I seem to wonder if this machine knew what legacy it would leave behind and the destruction it would cause or just concerned with personal gain? Who knew that the actions of one man would have such major repercussions long after he has come and gone? But one thing is certain, a terminal illness in the form of greed paved the way for a raging social issue driven by factors that seemingly were only skin deep. With a generation in a search for answers and capitalism driving onward, I ask myself how it could all have been different.

Responding to this, my interviewee (Jamie), shared his point of view in context, stating “Ordinate 50 of 1828, gave Khoisan and other people of colour the ability to choose where to work and limited power of ‘masters’ and ‘mistresses’ over them. They could own land and move ‘freely’ within the Cape Colony. However, it seems as though Rhodes managed to reverse this, almost completely, later. So had it not been for Cecil John Rhodes, its arguable that South Africa could have been a more unified country, possibly a true ‘rainbow nation’”.

Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

The Tourist Factor- South African Relationship

It’s been a long week at university and nearing the end of the semester. Along with most students, of all shapes and sizes, races, cultures and ages, Jamie agrees. The

adjective ‘long’ is given to the week thanks to tests and assignments due, robbing students of some of their precious eight hours of beauty sleep. This is a common agent causing stress among this community of students at the University of Cape Town in the city of… Cape Town, as the name may slightly hint. Although, when the test is written and the assignment is submitted, we go home to a bed for some much needed R&R. Having just been paid that monthly allowance, why not a night out to celebrate with friends. A lifestyle we take for granted!

The university is a boiling pot of cultures, boasting people from almost every nation. Jamie Rood, is a UCT student hailing from England, the land of opportunity. It is afforded this name for the multitudes of Africans who are Europe bound straight out of high school. So why would a British boy come to South Africa to study?

South Africa happens to be one of the major destinations for all foreigners wanting to experience the ‘motherland’ first hand. We boast all the characteristics of other African countries in terms of wildlife and village culture, even if it is staged in some aspects in order to appeal to the tourists. Dancers in traditional wear, performing for tourist landing straight out of Europe.  The tourists think ‘this is Africa’ and walk by the performers who also live real lives and try to make a living. Tourists can have the ‘real’ African experience whilst still enjoying the modern infrastructure. Most are oblivious to the semi-staged reality and even if they were aware, their main concern is to go back home with a good conversation starter about ‘what the real Africa is like’ and ‘by some miracle not having contracted Ebola’, what a story. Tourists are labelled with this selfish badge quite often, seen as rich snobs coming to have a good time with their dollars or pounds. However, others are drawn back and decide to stay or study, which is the case with Jamie. He is in his second year of university but has been here for four years. He is one of many who pay their fees in pounds, dollars or euros which then circulate in the country’s economy. Thinking about this I become tempted to say the label becomes invalid, if not unjust.

   Screen shots from my video about the relationship between tourists and immigrants. On YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXC0nev6vss

Because tourism plays a much bigger role in society than the lives of university students. It impacts the whole of South Africa, crossing borders leading to the rest of Africa. This is because there is another side to people who come into South Africa. Apart from tourists who come into the country for leisure purposes, others come here not because they want to but because they need to and are in search of a better life. These are the immigrants from all over Africa, hoping to escape the poor conditions brought about by colonisation and poor leadership by some current leaders. Who wouldn’t follow suit if they were in such a position. After all, this is actually evident at a global scale with the current European refugee crisis being a prime example of this. In South Africa however, this immigration in search for work conflicts with the already work scarce country. Xenophobia is the manifestation of this and is a clear issue. Is there a need for this? Maybe, but on a wider scale, this immigration may only be temporary and resolve the bigger problem. People are connected to their home countries and don’t leave by choice but necessity. The idea being that once they have improved their lives they will go back home, providing jobs there and preventing others from having to leave their countries in this way. Then there is also the contested notion that competition is beneficial for society.

I had the privilege of encountering both sides of the spectrum. I gained a basic insight into the lives of both tourist’s type people in Jamie and also the lives of immigrants. I spoke to various immigrants, mainly at curio stalls around Cape Town, selling handmade arts and crafts to the tourists. Two of these immigrants shared a deeper story with me. Gabriel from Congo and Philip from Zimbabwe. Both of their stories were much the same in that their countries were economically unstable. In Congo, a war and in Zimbabwe, the hyperinflation with which the whole world is familiar. Yet with a true African, never say die attitude, in an effort to provide for their families, they made the trek to the closest tourist hot spot which would be South Africa, specifically Cape Town. What was striking was that Gabriel and Philip didn’t know each other yet both told me how vital tourism is to their lives and thus their families. Gabriel even has a degree in economics with which he graduated in Congo, although not even this qualification allowed him to get work at home. What is one to do?

Just as the sun rises every morning over the Atlantic ocean’s endless horizon, so does everyone with the need to progress in life, however endless that horizon may be. Whether as a student, tourist, immigrant or humble citizen in South Africa. Everyone benefits from everyone in one way or another. As Jamie the tourist buys a curio from Phillip, he uses this to buy food from a local resident in Gugulethu, who then pays for her child to go to school and the circle goes around. Thus it’s not impossible to say that this relationship creates a powerful force driving the people towards their horizon. Therefore the tourist can figuratively transform from a snob into a saint.

 

 

 

Posted in africa, travel

Where the Stars come alive…(pt 2)

Its 6.30 am and I am asleep on a couch in the bar. I have slept for a grand total of nearly two and a half hours but the day seems to be overeager to get going. The cage gates protecting the bar shake and rattle as they are opened, with the sound seeming to echo inside my head. This is the life I chose after all and the river calling my name. Although in the same way as that, mental and emotional thieving ex-girlfriend may call one’s name.

The first job was to drag my canoe down to the river, pack a cooler box and a small drybag with the bare necessities for the two-day trip. Everything on the canoe should be tied down to avoid losing it all in the inevitable situation that one tips in a rapid somewhere along the way. I carried the most important content in my box, the beverages. Needless to say,  were I to lose these, I would not be the most popular member of the expedition! Let me just say that.

After the packing process, we were set to depart down river. I expected the worst and didn’t feel much better thanks to my ambitious night, but hey it’s an adventure. We set off around 7.30 am with the paddle breaking the surface for the first time of the 40 km trip that lay ahead over the following two days. The trip was not a luxury trip of sight seeing, but the mission was to clear the rocks from the rapids to make a channel for groups coming soon in the upcoming peak season. The river was low which just meant the rapids were faster and stronger and walking around moving stones becomes ten times harder in low water. After the first rapid cleared, I felt awake and ready to move on. The rest of the day consisted of a lot of paddling, trying to make it to camp before night fell. We cleared two more rapids before lunch which consisted of a well-deserved beer and sandwich.

Sitting on a rocky island of the rapids in the middle of the river, my feet in the cool rushing water with a cold beer in hand and the laughter of good company, I discovered a truly happy place. Just as amazing were the surrounding mountain ridges, towering above me on either side, creating the snaking valley through which the Orange River flows. The steep mountain slopes were completely bare. Not a single thing grew on the slopes, covered in fragmented layers of red sandstone. Then at the bottom of the barren red slopes and dry sand, flourished a dark green oasis, running alongside the snaking shimmering blue water of the Orange river. There was no civilization anywhere near enough to walk to and since we were going downstream, paddling back up would be impossible due to the rapids we had already come down. All I could see was the blue vein skirted by lush grass and trees covering the riverbank, feeding off of the water in the Richtersveld Desert, flowing on into the distance and disappearing behind the bends in the river behind me. The valley flanked the sides, leaving anything behind the towering red slopes to the imagination. It almost seems as though I was going into the unknown. Not knowing what was around the next corner was both exciting and daunting, but altogether an awe-inspiring.

With the next hour spent trying to keep up with the other two, shoulders on fire and sun beating down, another rapid was approaching, worryingly named King Kong. This rapid was only a scale 2 and after hearing this, my fear sense started tingling as all the previous rapids were not considered big enough to even be afforded a number on the scale. Following behind the first man, I took on the rapid, paddling faster than the flow of the rapid in order to stay straight and avoid taking on a rock side-on. This had already happened on a smaller rapid, where my canoe drifted sideways into a rock and the flow of water dragging the one side down, rolling the canoe. All of the loose pieces fell off and luckily drifted, which we swam after like a scavenging hunt. Although King Kong washed over my canoe and threw me around, the speed kept the canoe steady and I was through in one piece in no time.

Coming around the next bend, strained by the riding and cleaning the rapids and the 20km paddle, tired but not wanting to seem fragile I pushed on, taking the odd break when no one was looking. As if the river heard my prayer, we pulled through a shallow reed bed into a small lagoon. At the lagoon’s edge was a riverbank with wild grass growing like a manicured lawn. Pulling my canoe up the gentle grass slope, our first day was done and it was right on time. We set up camp under a bush on the lawned bank. Sleeping bags laid out on the grass, the sun was setting. There was no time to reflect on the day because each moment as good as the next without fail. Sitting on the grass, the sound of the crackling fire and water flowing filling the air, sealed off by a cold Windhoek Lager in hand made the moment perfect. The water reflected dramatic hues of red and orange in the warm evening light. This is the true birthpalce of Nostalgia.

Orange-River1

 

Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

Where the stars come alive… (pt 1)

 

The dew soaks seeps into my sleeping bag. My feet are freezing and my body forces me out of slumber time. My one eye opens slowly, the second flies open to make sense of what I am seeing. The red tinge of the sandstone peaks turns orange in the early morning sun. The cool breeze on my face and nothing but the quiet sound of the egrets and weavers fill the air, paired with the distant tinkle of the bells hanging from goats’ necks across the river.

I find myself on the banks of the Orange River where wild  grass grows as though it has been planted by a skilled gardener and in a  camp site to rival those fit for a travel magazine. I am here for a short break from the hectic hustle and bustle of Cape Town and University. my adventure is not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Now anyone who travels would know how central travel documents are when it comes to enjoying or hating one’s stay in another country. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep it, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.

My adventure started not because I had an urge to escape the city but because of passport issues. Anyone who has traveled will know how much travel documents can affect one’s holiday. Being a Botswana citizen, at 21 and wanting to keep my citizenship, I had to renounce my South African citizenship as is the law in Botswana. However, it turned out to take much longer than expected leading to my passport expiring. Traveling on a non-citizens travel document meant I was to get a visa to enter South Africa, taking more time. With the visa, I would be allowed to stay in the country for 3 months but I had to leave on a strictly monthly basis.

My first month was up and I needed a plan to cross the border. A concern was where I would sleep, how I would get there and how I would explain crossing the border and  crossing back the other way immediately afterward. The answer came in Umkulu Safari and Canoe trails. The camp is on the South Africa – Namibia border near the border post of Vioolsdrift in the Eastern Cape. Being the nearest border to me, only 680km from Cape Town, the next story was to get there. The best option, taking into account the finances of a student, was to get on the Intercape bus, a bus company linking Southern Africa with their routes. The ticket was reasonably priced at around R850.00. The deal seemed good, with the only downside being the duration of the trip. In a car, the trip would take around 6 hours whereas the bus it takes around 10 hours.

I made my way to the bus early on that Friday, beyond happy I had stayed in the night before, boarding at 10 am. The adventure had begun, so I settled into my seat for the journey. What I didn’t expect was the scenery. From the wide, endless plains to the mountain passes and rustling Karoo flora along the whole way. This along with good company made the time fly by. The road forms the Cape-Namibia route which links Cape Town directly to Namibia all the way to their capital of Windhoek. A good option for self-drive holidays as well.

Arriving at the border post around 10 pm I was ready to relax. As anyone could imagine, my documents were new to the officials and thus my attempt to cross quickly went anything but smoothly. With a bit of smooth talk, I got through and was on my way to the camp, standing on the back of a rattling pickup, flying over the gravel road with the cold evening air on my face. The night was dark but it was possible to make out some of the features along the way like sheer cliff faces that the road hugs at the bottom.

Upon arriving at the camp I was impressed. Beautiful lawns, sloping down to the river only 15 meters from the bar. The building style is rustic, incorporating wood, metal and stone. The beer was cold, the music was good and the food was delicious. The camp grows its own vegetables, meaning vegetarians are well catered for. Above all the staff were all welcoming and made me feel at home. Maybe too much so, as the night flowed on so did the beer carry on flowing. The morning was fast approaching and each sip of beer was colder than the last, sweet nectar. Clearly the next day would not be my best. Scheduled to get up at 7 am sharp my head only found the pillow at 3. 45 am. The next two days on the river were going to be very long and instill respect in me.Umkulu Bar (2)

End of Part 1

 

Posted in africa, travel

Botswana’s helping hand to South Africa

Southern-Africa

Pieter van Wyk- Student travel reporter

Cape Town- Botswana has recently singed to become the partner country of ITB Berlin 2017, the biggest travel show in the world. Signed by Botswana Tourism Minister H E Tshekedi Khama II and Dr Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin. Along with the relaxing of Visa laws by South Africa should see the country gain more tourists for 2016 and especially 2017 onwards.

Botswana’s tourist gateway comes through South Africa because the country is land locked. Tourists will travel through to Botswana via O.R. Tambo airport and also spend time in the country. However, with Botswana as a partner country of the ITB travel show, their assets will be showed off. Long term international interest will be gained as they are put in the spotlight. Surrounding countries will also benefit such as Zimbabwe which was called the best “adventure destination” for 2016. Not to mention Namibia and Zambia and South Africa of course.

As one of the most financially stable countries in Africa, Botswana has made huge leaps and Bounds to come from one of the poorest nations after independence 1966 and with a current GDP of US$38.819 but US$18.02 per capita vs South Africa which has US$13.32 per capita of which both are estimates for 2016. This has been a factor which has given Botswana credibility across the world and thus is now the first African country ever to be a partner country in the ITB Berlin.  David Ruetz, has been quoted saying that “Botswana is Africa’s best kept secret with the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Basin with its many animal species, large forests, and innumerable streams that empty into small lakes.”

Along with this South Africa is planning on relaxing Visa regulations in order to try boost tourism. Tourism saw a low in South Africa in 2015 with a drop in arrivals by 6.8%. This is set to help the suffering economy. Tourism has gone down as South Africa’s extremely strict Visa requirements means that tourist who would otherwise be happy to visit the country will choose to go elsewhere. The new regulations will make South Africa a competitor for tourists from Russia, India and China and could possibly include visa exemption overall.

Therefore, the combination of relaxed visa regulations and Botswana, and consequently its surrounding countries, being in the spotlight for the world to see and explore, will only mean well for the Southern African economy through tourist numbers in arrivals.

Posted in africa, travel, Uncategorized

Living another language

africa.png
“DEEP DARK AFRICA”- How Africa is perceived.

If Africa was a country and had a population made up of naked women and men in war dress, getting ready to go hunting for the African delicacy which is nothing other than primate meat of some sort. Captivating at least it would be, but to visit would surely equal a near death experience at the hands of an indigenous tribe nestled away in the deep jungle. Enter the classic term “Deep Dark Africa” and your expectation would be something worthy of a Wilbur Smith novel.

Ignorance would be an apt description. Contrary to most of the western discourse of what Africa is, it’s mistaken and it is about time that a beautiful place called Africa and simultaneously home, is revealed. The focus of my blog is to open up this place I call home to others, focusing specifically on Southern Africa. Simply because I don’t know enough about what lies beyond the reach of Southern Africa to give my opinion. Therefore I wont pretend to know much about what goes on outside Southern Africa. However it is not primate eating tribes.

Living in Botswana and having been in Zimbabwe throughout school and now being in Cape Town, South Africa for university has been a true eye opener to the various cultures and dynamics at play in these countries. Not to mention having traveled across all countries in Southern Africa except Lesotho and Swaziland. I have seen a fair bit of Africa but what strikes me the most is the little knowledge South Africans have about what lies outside their borders. Cape Town is the closest to Europe, in terms of atmosphere, cultural diversity and climate, that one can get in Africa. Thus it seems that Cape Town residents seem to know the least of all South African’s and don’t seem to mind at all. Who would blame them? Knowledge is key however and it is worth knowing.

In an attempt to share my knowledge, which is not expert at any level, I will give opinion on what is worth doing and experiences in Cape Town and Botswana as well as other countries that I have visited and know anything about. This blog may be seen as a journal of experiences and opinions about them and adding a bit of current affairs to the mix and is from my point of view. This is important because each person will experience it in a different way.