South Africa
April 13-26, 2002

Hi, all:

Just a quick note (okay not so quick note -- turns out this is the diary version) to touch base. Some of you know that I am recently returned from a 2-week vacation to South Africa, and for those of you who didn't, well, I am. We had a great, albeit exhausting, time trekking across rock, sand and savannah (not to be confused with little girls by the same name). A friend, Richard, provided an opportunity to attend a weekend wedding in Durban which he skillfully bordered with a relaxing week at the estate of a family friend near Cape Town, followed by an almost as long holiday in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve (which differs from a 'preserve' depending on around whom you place the cage).

After a rather interesting evening at a Micro-tel in Atlanta (details which are purposefully being left out, but a strong recommendation not to repeat an error in our travel agent's judgment -- not Liz, whom we thank for getting us a rate better than our web-savvy searches came up with), we proceeded to Cape Town to complete the first leg of our 9,000-plus-mile flight.

There, we encountered the generosity of Sholto Cross, an Africa-born, Scottish gentleman, who graciously opened his home to the son of a family friend and his two American compatriots. At his suggestions, we were led to find the finer arts of wine tasting, bed tea, beach strolling (once, accompanied by baboons), and mountain climbing from the flower beds. All these activities provided for equally exhausting as they were exhilarating experiences. Even the touristy exploration of Robben Island seemed to hold up well with the trip -- informative, and not too preachy. The estate of Morning Valley could have kept our attention for the whole of the trip, but we had other venues to explore, so off we flew to Durban and a wedding.

Again, the Americans found themselves welcomed into a family affair that afforded a chance to gather more insight, and hopefully some much-rumored gossip and embarrassing life moments, about our friend Richard. However, the Johnson family seemed about as normal of a family that usually defies normal as a description. Gran is a wonderful human being that raised her children through war-torn England. Richard's father is a risk-taking journalist searching for the truth behind the darkness. His new bride is a former Soviet lieutenant teaching in a University as the head of the History Department. Richard's sister is an emerging filmmaker working in the service industry. You know, normal.

They treated us as honored guests to their private wedding ceremony at the house and placed us with a group of entrepreneurial-spirited people at table six at the reception. A reception, mind you, that was full of current and former politicians, historians, big business capitalists, and journalists. A very interesting group of people to gather to begin with, but these were the friends of the bride and groom. And a great group of people they were indeed, honestly. Conversation went easily from one to the other and we were presented with a list of things to do and see or confirmation that we were doing the right things but should have planned for more time to do these ten other things as well. But, that was that and off we drove to the next locale.

Hluhluwe Game Reserve (http://www.africasafari.co.za/hluhluweparkm.htm) -- We stayed at the Hilltop Resort that sets inside the park about a half hour drive from the Eastern (Nyalazi) Gate. The first night we spent on a game drive and saw giraffe, zebra, rhino, wildebeest, a number of the more than 2,400 impala, and other assorted things with horns. I should have some great pictures that I hope to get back in a couple of days and on my site shortly after to show you that we did, indeed, have a wonderful time around a chalet that has no key. I loved it. We took two guided drives, two walks (yes, that means we were on foot in the reserve very near to the wild animals with only our elephant-gun-toting guide, Elliot, watching and waiting to point us toward a tree to scramble up if necessary while searching for rhino and lions to show us), and a boat ride down the Hluhluwe River. Again, pictures to come but go visit www.elfjunction.com for a taste.

That just left a morning flight up to Johannesburg, a quick stopover at Richard's former school where he volunteered, and then on to a plane for the return. Happy, healthy and tired home again to pen this much longer than expected account of 14 days of travel to see the Southern Cross, meet a man named Sholto Cross, and cross the many paths of the wilds of Africa.

Until the next trip,

Erik

With love from the road lest traveled. ;-)
April 2002

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