The Ultimate trip to South Aftica
by Sally Pawlik, Tour Leader
When you look at this picture, do you think of a beautiful island in the Caribbean, or perhaps a stunning city located along the Florida coast? Well, this stunning view is South Africa, and the body of water is the Indian Ocean. On March 20 there were eighteen FICers who traveled to Johannesburg to begin their 20-day tour of South Africa, Swaziland, and for most of the group, an extended trip into Zimbabwe.
Our journey began in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa. Our city tour included a stop at Nelson Mandela’s home, the Hector Pieterson Museum, a boy of 12 who was killed during a student protest of the mandated use of Afrikaan in black schools, and the Apartheid Museum dedicated to Mandela’s struggle to end apartheid. We also visited the township of Soweto which was created to move the black people out of Johannesburg during apartheid.
From Johannesburg we traveled to Kruger National Park for our safari. We boarded open jeeps and headed into the jungle. During our three plus days in the parks, we saw lions and zebras and giraffes, oh my!! We also spotted many elephants, rhinos, hippos, as well as the ever present baboons, impalas and warthogs. Herds of Cape Buffalo crossed the road directly in front of our vehicle. It was an incredible adventure. To see these animals in the wild up close and personal was really the thrill of a lifetime!
Our next stop was Swaziland, an independent monarchy bounded by South Africa and Mozambique. We visited a small, rural pre-school and played games with the children. We also had the opportunity to serve lunch to the children. The children had one meal each day that was provided by the World Health Organization, and they depend on donations and the charity of organizations for their other meals.
Our following days were occupied with traveling along the Indian Ocean down to Port Elizabeth and eventually working our way to the Cape of Good Hope. One afternoon we enjoyed a boat cruise down the St. Lucia Estuary where we saw hippos all around us. We knew they were hippos when their heads came out of the water. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is likened to a sub-tropical paradise, and we also spotted herons, turtles, pelicans and other waterfowl.
We stopped one day at an ostrich farm, had an opportunity to sit on the large, flightless birds, and even enjoyed lunch with ostrich steaks. While we were there, we even observed an ostrich derby!
We eventually worked our way down to the tip of South Africa, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The southernmost point of the country is known as Cape Point. Also in the same area is Boulders Beach, a famous area where the African penguins congregate. Who would have known that there are penguins in South Africa!
We had the rare occasion to be able to experience two of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World on this trip. The first was our cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain. We traveled up 3,563 feet up the sandstone mountain to the flat top. From there we could enjoy the ocean views and see the city of Cape Town.
As you are aware, FIC has a fund, called the Small World Fund, that is set aside specifically to help disadvantaged people in different parts of the world. Prior to leaving on the trip, one of FIC members, Chris Provost, had a contact with a missionary who worked in an orphanage in South Africa. This woman, Valerie Markowski, came and spoke to our group about the AIDS/HIV situation in the country and her own personal story of how she came to work with the children. At the conclusion of her talk, Pete presented her with a check to be used for the orphanage.
One of the most memorable evenings of our tour was when we participated in a home-hosted dinner. We went off in groups of 8 to different homes for a wonderful home-cooked meal of traditional African dishes. This provided us the opportunity to visit with folks, learn about their culture and customs, and enjoy lively conversation. We all had different stories to share about the evening, but everyone loved the experience.
Our group enjoyed 3 weeks of excitement, thrilling sites, and sheer exhaustion!
Most of the FICers then traveled on to Zimbabwe for another 3 days, where we experienced Victoria Falls. This is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and it is the largest waterfall in the world. This recognition comes from combining the height and width together to create the largest single sheet of flowing water. The locals called the falls the “smoke that thunders.”
As someone who lives near Niagara Falls, and has seen the falls many times, I was so excited to see this majestic wonder, hear the roaring thunder of the waters, and experience the mist that was so strong we were all soaked through! Do you see the beautiful rainbow in the picture?
As you can see from these very few pictures, we did it all, we experienced it all, and now we have fabulous memories of our trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. The greatest gift of all, however, was being to travel with fellow FIC friends. From the moment we saw each other in the hotel in Johannesburg, till we said goodbye at the airport, it is so much more meaningful to be able to travel with friends. What a wonderful organization and we’re happy to be a part of it.