Like many, I had the high hopes of starting the year with a bang, hit the ground running…full steam ahead. Just ticking off items and singing affirmations. Then I got ill and was pretty much home bound on painkillers while I waited for a specialist to come back from leave. I missed Christmas, New years and every festive event. Basically, the universe said “just sit down, you’re not going anywhere.” So I did that (well, it was more like lying in foetal position). Once on my feet again, I eased my way back into life with a weekend getaway to Weltevrede estate in Bonnievale.
Camping was never my thing (and to be clear, it still isn’t). It was one of those experiences that I liked to see locked in a cupboard with the other things of the past labelled “do not do that again.” This particular experience, however, doesn’t seem to want to stay in its place. I don’t have any deep-seated sociological reasons about why I don’t like camping, I’ve really only gone camping a handful of times and I just don’t like it. Despite that, it is my relationship compromise – I can commit to one night without complaining, provided the loo is not dodgy. That’s how I discovered the Bontebok National Park.
We sit quietly on our game truck and watch in awe as the lion duo commandeer the road, owning their space calming and purposefully. We are on an early morning drive and spent some time tracking the lions. We caught them at that time of the morning when you really couldn’t be bothered with visitors and yet there the knock goes anyway. We stare intently, amazed at this opportunity to see these great lions in the wild.
Jazz, kwela, fashion and culture, all encompass the colourful character of old Sophiatown. Located to the west of Johannesburg, this freehold township of homes owned by blacks, coloureds, Indian and white people was a unique occurrence in a time when the separation of races was enforced by law. Although heavily populated and poor, the circumstances created an integrated, vibrant community.
In February 1955, this jazzy spirit was shattered when two thousand armed policeman bulldozed the suburb and forcefully removed its inhabitants to Meadowlands. Years later, with song, storytelling and entertainment Mbali Zwane transports us back in time on her walking tour through Sophiatown.
A couple of years ago, while paging through a travel magazine I came across a stunning picture of the Lisbon Falls in Mpumalanga and became obsessed with taking a trip up there to see for myself. Each time we’d start planning a trip I’d throw Lisbon Falls in the mix but it never seemed to pan out…until late last year when the coin toss was finally in my favour. I was beyond excited.
The drive to Mpumalanga has a mystical feeling to it and I love driving through there. The roads hug the rolling forest hills, meticulously lined with pine and eucalyptus trees. Each curve on the road reveals another angle of amazing views as you make your way up and down the winding valleys.
It’s 4 am on a cold morning and I’m on an early morning game drive (I seem to be making a habit of these cold morning rides). I made sure that I was dressed warmly and have tightly wrapped the blanket, provided by our friendly Rhino River Lodge ranger, around me but the cold still seeps through. So, I sit extremely still and try meditate for the duration of the 50 minute drive to the northern part of the reserve where we will be tracking wild dogs with Wildlife ACT.
As cold as I am, I’m also very excited because we are camping, hiking or just driving in a reserve that is said to have wild dogs, we always joke about this being the time we see them. We joke because we know how extremely lucky we would have to be to spot one. The African wild dog is the second most endangered wild dog and there are less than 550 left in South Africa. This time the odds are largely in my favour, leaving my friends green with envy.