Last days in Africa :-(
Today was our last day in Kruger and final stop in the tour: we were heading back to Jo’burg after a jam-packed full two weeks. It was a bittersweet journey as we were extremely happy to be going back to a lovely hotel with all the creature comforts we’d missed, but sad to say goodbye to all the friends we’d made on the tour. I can’t say I wasn’t ecstatic about having a delightful double bed to sleep in that night, rather than a cold uncomfortable tent that we had to erect ourselves! Upon arriving, the first thing I did was flop down on the bed and barely moved from there for the next 14 hours! We’d had a great tour around southern Africa but I was exhausted from all the early mornings and lack of sleep.
Our final full day in Africa, sadly. We spent it on a guided tour of Soweto, the south-western townships of Jo’burg. We visited an informal township that was mostly hand-constructed with metal and wood, occupied by many immigrants from war-torn African countries. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like such a tourist before in my life as I wandered in with a camera around my neck and felt extremely awkward. The people live in tin huts no bigger than a garden shed, and can sometimes have a whole extended family living in there. They have no electricity or running water, they share long-drop toilets with 4-5 families and the unemployment is 60%. It was a dismal and humbling experience, although that was to continue as we visited a church that had been the epicentre of the apartheid clashes in the 1960s and 70s, with bullet holes scattered throughout the building: scars of a former life. Continuing on, we visited Nelson Mandela’s house and then the apartheid museum.
The playful kids that came running out to greet us
The memorial for the first person that was shot dead by apartheid police - a school boy, being carried by his brother
A symbol of peace in Soweto's church. A juxtaposition of serenity and terror
It was saddening to see how cruel and evil people can be and I felt quite guilty being a white European. On the way back to our hotel, we were driven back by a different driver. It was rush hour and he was steaming along like a taxi driver in Egypt and I felt quite unsafe. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, when we heard a noise coming from behind the car: a taxi had hit the central reservation and span in the three-lane-road. Fortunately I don’t think it hit another car, but it was scary to watch. Thankfully we arrived back to our hotel safely and in one piece.
Our very last day in South Africa, and we spent most of it in the hotel packing and sorting our things out. It has been a fantastic journey across the southern part of this amazing continent and I don’t think I’ve ever done so many different things in such a short amount of time – it almost feels unreal. This hasn’t been a holiday by any stretch of the imagination, but it has certainly been an adventure of a lifetime and I will never forget it. All the animals we’ve seen, the places we’ve visited, the people we’ve met and the stories we’ve heard have been eye-opening and thrilling. I can’t say that I’m going to miss camping, wearing dirty clothes or not knowing when our next shower will be, but I am extremely glad that I’ve had the opportunity to do this trip.
The friendly Rotties at the hotel we stayed at in Jo'burg