Zulu Dances in the Mountains

March 31

After breakfast, we leave at 8AM to drive (216 miles and approximately 4 hours) to Tugela Falls in the northern Drakensberg Mountains, arriving in Tugela Falls after lunch. Roads are perfect and views lovely. We stop at two roadside service areas, both of which surpass US service areas in choice, cleanliness and appeal. Our guide, Ndoda, gives us historical, archeological, cultural and political information along the way. He’s very informative,and the excellent sound system in the van makes it easy to understand him. This afternoon we transfer fro our compact, but comfortable, van to a tractor trailer to be transported partly uphill.

From there we are told that we have a short walk to where we will meet some dancers. This is a lie. It’s not short, it’s rather steeply uphill on rocky terrain. We were not adequately warned about this hike and, as a result, I don’t have proper shoes on (not that that would have made it a piece of cake). I would not have made it except for Ndado’s help.

At the top we see very energetic dances by eleven young Zulu women, ages 21 to 44, against a beautiful mountain backdrop. Here are a few of the several hundred photos I took, to give you an idea of what we saw. The first is our photo group in position to capture the dances. I’ve also tried (unsuccessfully, so far) a slo-mo video done by one of my fellow photographers, Stan Begley.

http://dualartspress.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/medium-1.movAfter the dancing we take a less steep downhill route. Again I’m helped by Ndoda, who is an impressive and delightfulfellow, raised with wonderful values. Time spent with Ndoda is a very pleasurable addition to,what was planned for the day, an unexpected treat.

Against a backdrop of untainted skies, green and brown-hued mountains are met at the foot by extensive farms and grazing animals. Crystal clear lakes throw back a reflection of both mountain and sky, picture-postcard in their beauty. Bright, warm days, can be shattered by the sudden onset of afternoon storms, which clear rapidly becoming cloudless, starry nights. Extending up from the Eastern Cape, the imposing uKhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains form a natural border between Lesotho and the Free State. Dubbed the “Barrier of Spears” for its impenetrability, the Drakensberg is a World Heritage Site broken into north, south and central regions. Each region possesses its own distinctive rock formations and impressive vistas. The Drakensberg mountain range stretches more than 620 miles in extent, and at its peak, commands an altitude of close to 11,483 feet above the sea to the east and south.

We are driven to our hotel, the Orion, where we have a buffet dinner that is fair. But the beer is cold, which is the important thing. Room is more than adequate, large and decently appointed.

Revitalized Joburg, a Market for Healers, Art and Meeting the Photography Group

March 30

Freedom picks me up after breakfast and we meet Angus to explore the revitalized areas of downtown Joburg. We start our urban exploration in Braamfontein, where on Saturdays a parking garage is transformed into a happening area of food, music and boutiques, which attracts crowds to the area.

After exploring and tasting, we walk around the area and notice some colored lights in the basement of a hotel. We a walk down and are welcomed in to the rehearsal of a rock group from a church. We are brought chairs and we listen in for some time to the rehearsal, which is great fun, and rather good.

From there, we drive to the Faraday Muthi Market, a fascinating area of people selling all kinds of animal parts, herbs and god knows what else to traditional healers. This is not a place for tourists and Freedom warns that they are very serious about not wanting photos. Angus and I sneak some photos, but are caught at it. They make Angus delete his photos from his phone, but, for some reason or another (I think Freedom’s sweet talking), they don’t bother me. The principal reason that they are so adamant about no photography is that some of the animal parts being sold are from protected species, and if it were known that they were killing and using them, they would be in deep trouble. Here are some of the photos that almost landed me in shaman prison (not really).

After this market we drive to see Maboneng, an example of efforts to revitalize modern, inner-city Joburg.  Angus was producing radio stories on inner-city revivals in 1994 – it’s been a long time coming.  Maboneng is for the trendy and adventurous traveler alike. Loaded with boutiques, restaurants, t-shirt sellers and the like, it feels (and is) very commercial, but also very successful.

After this, Freedom drives me to the Kim Sacks Gallery. Kim is a longtime friend of my travel agents, Jean and Ahdina Zunkel, who urged me to try to stop by. My quick stop by turned into two hours, largely spent in conversation with Kim over tea. Her gallery is terrific, a blend of modern and old. Kim is an accomplished ceramicist and still teaches ceramics two days a week. She’s traveled widely to see and explore ceramics, ancient and new, in countries around the world. She’s something of a character, so talking with her was a treat. If you’re going to be in Joburg, go have tea with Kim, kim@kimsacks.com. If you want to look at her website, it’s www.kimsacks.com. I can’t say whether I bought anything, because Carol is reading this blog.

Freedom then drove me to Hallmark House, where I am meeting the photography group for orientation, drinks and dinner tonight.

Seems like a good, congenial group. Seven of us. I went to Colombia with Stan, one of the group. Nevada is a terrific leader and our South African guide Ndado seems good.

Out to dinner at a large, okay restaurant in Nelson Mandela Square. Below are photos of the statue of Mandela with the Hard Rock Cafe sign in the background, and of children playing in the fountain between the statue and the cafe.

Return to the hotel to retire.

Angus and Photographing in Joburg

March 29

My travel agents, Jean and Ahdina Zunkel, have kindly arranged for me to spend the day with Angus Begg, a CNN award-winning television producer, and the first South African broadcast journalist to report from the chaos of Somalia in 1992. He went on to cover the Rwandan genocide of ’94 and South Africa’s first democratic elections the same year, for which he was nominated for the national public service radio awards.

 It was these episodes in Somalia and Rwanda that took him the roundabout route to the fields of travel and environment, in which he now writes, produces and photographs. He found that the experience was as much a travel story as tracking gorillas or reviewing a luxury lodge in the Kruger tPark. He learnt about the role of people in travel too. With considerable experience in the various media since then – TV, print, radio, photography and the internet – Angus has gone on to cover every aspect of travel, whether rural communities clashing with wildlife, tracking the Serengeti migration, hiking Table Mountain or searching for that perfect the sauvignon blanc.

After breakfast, Angus and I meet at my hotel and are driven by Freedom to Mayfair and Fordsburg, areas of Joburg that tourists do not see. Angus is easy to be with, flexible and has a journalist’s knack for engaging people in easy conversation. The areas that we visit are full of a mix of Somali, Indian, Pakistani and Chinese. There we interact and have conversations with locals, including an older Somali fellow who does not want to have his photo taken. He thinks we take pictures because “we think they are monkeys.” After conversation, he allows that he doesn’t think I fall into that group, but still does not want to have his picture taken. An older couple from Botswana sits having coffee. They have been married for 48 years and seem to be enjoying the morning. A young Pakistani fellow stands, arms folded, in his food shop and a young Indian father is happy to show off his two young children in front of his pratha shop. At a coffee shop, two young women are inhaling hashish in order to relieve the stress of their bank jobs. A man and young boy have their hair cut on the street. A woman does beadwork at a downtown market.

We walk around downtown Joburg, which looks much like any large city on a Friday afternoon. Though the city has a reputation of not being very safe, I would not have felt that way except that Freedom and Angus repeatedly warned me to guard and hang on tight to any valuables.We had lunch at a venerable old club, the Rand Cub, that was a power center, not open to women until a few years ago, in the days when gold ruled Joburg, in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Here are photos of me with Angus and of Freedom.

After lunch, we visited the fascinating and well-designed Origin of Man Centre at University of the Witwatersrand. We needed at least twice the hour and a half that we had to devote to the museum, but I am very glad that we visited it because I think it will give me an appreciation for some other things I will see on the photo trip that I will be embarking on Sunday.

After the museum, I went back to the hotel to rest briefly. Freedom picks me up and drove me to the Oxford Synagogue, where I had been told that the eveningm the restaurant service would last 45 minutes. In fact, it lasted an hour and a quarter. Some 80 or more people attended in a room that looks like a social hall. The rabbi was from Israel and the Cantor played a guitar. Some of the melodies were familiar and others were not. People are very friendly and I’m glad to have gone. I was invited to stay afterwards for a meal at the synagogue, but I could not because my hotel had made a dinner reservation for me at Bellagio Restaurant. The restaurant and dinner were both first-rate.

I return to the hotel to finish blogging. Of course the way I got back to the hotel from the restaurant was by calling for an Uber. The world is getting very small and very similar.

Thoughts on the Flight to Joburg

March 27-28

Well, here I am, sitting on a plane, only about nineteen hours from landing in Joburg. I have a 2-hour flight to Atlanta, about a 2-hour layover there, and then a 15-hour flight to Joburg. So, whattayoudo?

Well, there’s certainly no rush. My current plan is the following:

Do a little blogging

Perhaps read a bit

Perhaps text a bit (Delta offers free texting, which may or may not be a blessing; we’ll see)

Then, en route to Joburg……

Perhaps eat a little

Perhaps look at photos from Morocco

Perhaps look at one or more movies

Try to sleep (I’m generally not successful, but I’m gonna try an Ambien)

So, there’s a lot of “perhaps,” which I think is just fine.

A few further reflections on Morocco. In the eight days we’ve been back, we’ve been asked by many friends how our Morocco trip was. Our general answer, “very good, but not one of the top few we’ve taken,” is accurate, but not really fair. Not every trip we take can be one of the top few. Fact is that Morocco was damn good by any reasonable measure. We saw many interesting things, experienced some street life and probably had the best accommodations, overall, of any trip we’ve taken.

Though I need to spend a lot more time on photos, the time I’ve spent already indicates that I’ve got enough decent shots to satisfy me. Maybe I’ll wind up with twenty, give or take, that are worthwhile. Here’s are three that I like. I did not take many photos, compared to what I might usually take on a trip of that length, probably 800-900. I look forward to spending a lot more time with these photos after this trip. I expect that I’ll take many more photos on this trip, since it is, specifically, a photo trip.

So, I’ve learned a few things since Morocco, from a Japanese poet, artist and peace activist and from a Lyft driver from Mexico City.

Recently, Carol and I read “Painting Peace” by Kazuaki Tanahashi. It’s quite an interesting book, dealing with his fifty years of active engagement in International peace movements, his schooling in aikido and in Buddhism, his poetry, his translation of Dogen poetry and his approach to painting. As a long-time lazy person, I love his take on laziness, “It’s a tough job to be lazy, but somebody has to do it. Industrious people build industry. Lazy people build civilization.” He says that laziness does not mean doing nothing but doing less. It can also mean being effective, as in, “I’m too lazy to be ineffective.” And, in Dogen, Tanahashi says, every encounter we have is a miracle. Nice.

My Lyft driver on the way to the airport today, on hearing that I was going on a photography trip, said, “I love photography. When you take a picture it no longer lives just in your mind. You can look at it and think about it. It’s like capturing time.” I love the concept of photography as “capturing time”. I suppose that it also allows us to relive moments of our lives, and to share them with others.

My Lyft driver was from Mexico City. Still is, actually. He comes here to earn money and every two months goes back home to be with his wife and two children for a couple weeks. The type of person our president wants to protect us from.

So, less than four hours from Joburg now, I can report that I did a little bit of most of what I thought perhaps I’d do. For the most part, not worth expounding on, with one exception. Flipping quickly through over 9000 photos I have on my iPad was pleasurable, recalling prior trips we’d taken and seeing photos of the grandchildren in various stages of their growing up (funny how there are many pictures of the grandkids and almost none of their parents).

But there was one photo, in particular, that I was looking for that I thought might be there, and I found it. This photo, of Albie Sachs and his partner, Vanessa, was taken 16 years ago in Capetown, on a trip we took with our friends, Judd and Linda Miner and Bob Bennett and Harriet Trop. This was Carol and my first trip to Africa, and may well still be our favorite trip, ever.

I think it was Bob who had a connection to Albie, a prominent activist in the anti-Apartheid movement, who lost his right arm in a car bomb explosion. Undaunted, Albie continued his activism and became a member of the Constitutional Court in South Africa. Vanessa is a practicing architect. We spent a delightful evening, drinks at Albie and Vanessa’s home and dinner out, one of the most memorable experiences of a very memorable trip.

Thirteen years later, when we took our granddaughter, Zoe, to South Africa, Albie hosted us for tea at his home and invited us to an art opening of paintings by the wife of the Spanish ambassador to South Africa at which Albie was giving some remarks. Vanessa joined us at the opening and at the small dinner afterwards to celebrate the opening to which Carol, Zoe and I were invited. As we entered the restaurant, Vanessa whispered to Zoe, asking her whether she would mind if Vanessa sat next to her at the dinner. How sweet is that!

In his eighties, Albie had not missed a step, flying all around the world to consult on peace issues. He had recently been to Colombia and the day after our dinner was flying off to deliver a major address in Toronto and then to meet with some professors at Harvard Law School. Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing Albie on this trip. But I’m thinking about him, and Vanessa.

Upon arrival in Johannesburg, I am met at the door of the aircraft with my name on a paging board and assisted through immigration, baggage collection and customs. These special services really help on long trips like this. I am then shown to the Arrivals Hall to meet my driver, Freedom Dube, who has driven for me twice before on trips to Joburg.

Johannesburg is Africa’s commercial and industrial powerhouse, as well as the heart of the political struggle against apartheid. No more than 2 hours flight from Cape Town, Windhoek, the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, the Kruger National Park and the Mozambique islands, it is an ideal springboard into the rest of the sub continent. Affectionately known as Jo’burg (or Jozi or e’Goli – City of Gold) it is the largest city in South Africa, and surprisingly also one of the greenest – more than 6 million trees have been planted here in what was originally flat grassland veld. Jo’burg’s origins are firmly ensconced in the mining industry, with particular reference to the discovery of gold in 1886, which saw an unprecedented gold rush and the city literally burgeoning overnight.

Jo’burg boasts a colourful and multi-cultural mix of people with an energy that gives it the moniker the ‘New York of Africa’ and is currently undergoing large scale rejuvenation and renovation, particularly within downtown Jo’burg, where the Newtown precinct has received an injection of cash and creativity. Here, the emphasis is on arts and culture, theatre, dance, music, crafts, restaurants and bars and is easily accessible by the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which is itself worth a visit. I’ll be going to this area tomorrow.

Freedom drives me to The Parkwood, a boutique hotel highly recommended by my travel against. It seems cozy and comfy, and hopefully will afford a good night’s rest. Dinner at he hotel was, surprisingly, absolutely delicious. It may turn out to be the best meal i have in SA. I’m hoping not, because that would mean that I’m in for one or more terrific meals.

Preparing for South Africa

March 26

Well, tomorrow I head to South Africa.

Yes, I know I just got back from Morocco a week ago, so it may seem a bit strange to be heading back to Africa, but here’s how it happened. My trip to South Africa is with a small photo group, and I’d booked that trip, along with air reservations, before Carol and i decided to go to Morocco.

When we decided on Morocco, I looked into going straight from there to South Africa, but found two obstacles. First, the run from Morocco to South Africa is not exactly a commuter run. It’s far, not well traversed and would have required about thirteen hours of flights, through Dubai or Europe. Second, changing my existing flights from the US to Joburg (Johannesburg) would have been difficult and expensive. So, I decided to fly back to the US for eight days and keep my original flights to SA. I think that was the right decision.

The trip I’m taking is being led by Nevada Wier, a world class photographer with whom I’ve traveled four previous times—to SW China, to Cuba, to Namibia and to Colombia. https://www.nevadawier.com/ There will be seven of us, plus Nevada and guides. Here’s a photo from one of my two prior trips to SA. You’ll see nothing like that on this trip, because, having done a half dozen or so safaris, I’m not doing the safari extension to this trip. I’m going to see people.

And a good part of this will be in Lesotho, not SA. You’ll learn more about Lesotho, if you follow the blog.

So, get ready for the long flight to Joburg. It’s rather daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. But it’s a helluva lot easier than swimming.