South Africa Part 4

This trip was very different from the ones before. In 2012 I went to South Africa with my friends and we tried to make a difference. For the first time, we got to see the real Africa, the small villages, the citizens of which have nothing. The schools in tents and the students that walk four hours to get to those schools, but they are so dedicated, they don’t mind. It was a very different Africa. It was the poor side. The empty side. The type of place where you could drive for hours without meeting anyone at all.

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We chose a school in Ubhevu, and small town in the eastern part of South Africa, because of connections we had to the school. Ladysmith is the closest major town. It is about 20 minutes from Ubhevu.

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As we approached the school we just stared for a little bit, until we remembered the cameras we were holding in our arms. They had three tents and they used a church as classroom space. On the first day there we got to know the head of the school, some of the teachers and some of the students. We found out what they would need the most and what how we could help with the budget we had. To help them, we bought them a fridge, a freezer, paint for the building and sports equipment. The fridge and the freezer was the most important thing we could get for them, because the students at the school were very dependant on the food they served at the school. Their options were limited, since it was usually the director of the school who brought the food in every day, because they had no way to store it there. The sports equipment was a way to bring a little bit of fun to the academic day, since their PE classes were very limited without any equipment. The paint was a way to bond with the students. One of the days we spend just painting their one building and putting the handprints of all of the students and us on the walls to mark our time there.

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On our last day there we gave the best students some gifts to support academia in the school. After a long day of hard work, we walked around their village, met new people and saw some of the houses they lived in. We got to walk with some of the students to the well, where they all had to go each day to get water. They tried to teach us some Zulu, their language.

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This was a very important trip for me, since I got to find out how schooling works in South Africa. I could only help a little bit, but they were so grateful for the little help we could give.

Come back soon for more stories from South Africa!


READ MORE:

South Africa Part 1

South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 3

 

South Africa Part 3

On this trip, we took advantage of being in Africa, and we decided to go to some new places. We always wanted to see the Victoria Falls, so we headed up to Zimbabwe and Zambia, details of that trip to come :)! It was a great adventure, including lots of dead insects in our open hotel room, elephant rides, helicopter rides and sunsets over the river.

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In Johannesburg we went to some new places too! For one, we went to Soweto, a very important place for the history of apartheid and how it got overthrown. Nelson Mandela lived in Soweto, his house is open to the public and should definitely be on your “to see” list if you go to South Africa. You will get some background information on the area in the museum, but most importantly about Mandela’s life. There are several museums in the area, each dedicated to something else, I suggest you visit some of these because the history is so rich and important for everyone to know.

_DSC1153We also drove around downtown Johannesburg and found some tucked away markets. Eventually we made our way to chinatown and got some Chinese food!

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Another new place we went to this time was a crocodile farm in Johannesburg. There they have several large rather evil looking crocodiles. Over their enclosure is a rickety wooden bridge that you can cross and imagine all the great ways the crocodiles would chew you up if the bridge collapsed. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit, it wasn’t that rickety. They also have large snakes and lizards that you can hold. This time they even had a baby crocodile that they let us hold and pet. On top of all of these reptiles, they also have tarantulas and yes, you can hold them, if you want to. I personally refused to do that, but my little, then 6 year old, brother wanted to hold one. Apparently they are very fragile and can’t be dropped, because that would instantly kill them, so the caretakers make sure the people that want to hold them don’t drop them. So if you decide to hold them you have to be certain you won’t freak out too much. On top of having some lectures about the animals they take care of, the farm also offers dance shows where dancers perform traditional African dances. Also a great show to go to, if that is something you are interested!

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Lastly, we went for safari to Pilanesberg. The drive there is beautiful, through some small rich towns and by some shantytowns. It’s quite a long drive from Johannesburg, so I suggest you leave really early in the morning, so you have the full day there to drive around the park, but so that you aren’t too tired to drive back. If you time the trip back well, you can see the sunset over the Hartbeesport Dam. That view is priceless! With that I concluded my third trip to South Africa.

After my third trip, I knew there was still much more to see, so I was already planning my next visit. An article about my fourth visit, during which my friends and I helped out at a school in Ubhevu, is coming soon! Check back to read about it!


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South Africa Part 2

South Africa Part 1

 

South Africa Part 2

My second trip to South Africa was in the summer of 2010. This trip was very similar to the first, because I went to all the same places, Kruger Park and Cape Town. I did get to experience a couple of new things though.

In Cape Town I went to Robben Island, the prison that was used during the Apartheid. Robben island was originally used as a place for Lepers, it isolated the sick from the populated city. So one of the places we saw was the graveyard specifically used during the epidemic. We also saw the prison that was used during the Apartheid. The tour guide used to be a prisoner on Robben Island, so he gave great insight into the recent history of the island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years.SA6

In Cape Town we also took advantage of the sunny, cloudless skies and we went up to the top of Table Mountain. We were amazed at the beautiful view from the top. The city spanned below us and we could see all the way from the small township on the outskirts of the city to the rich parts and even the soccer stadium where FIFA was hosted.

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While we were in Cape Town, we also rented a car so that we could go see sights that were slightly more removed. On our way to the Cape of Good Hope we got slightly lost. Instead of getting on the highway that would lead us to the Cape, we drove along the coast, with the ocean on one side and a township on the other. Getting lost actually worked in our favor, because we got to see more of the city and the towns surrounding it. As we drove through the different towns we noticed that they were very Dutch, still maintaining the look the first Dutch settlers brought with them in the 17th century._DSC1742

The Cape of Good Hope is one of those places that is a must see. Definitely go up to the lighthouse, from there you will be able to see the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. From the lighthouse you can clearly see the difference between the two oceans, because of the temperature of the water. And, of course, it is a great place to take pictures! :)

Another trip we took was to some of the wineries in the area, Klein Constatia and Groot Constatia. Both were great and both were just gorgeous. Whether or not you like wine, this makes a great trip, trust me, I was too young to drink when I went! South African wine is delicious, so I definitely recommend going to the wineries!

Read even more about Cape Town here!

Kruger National Park was a very different experience this time around. It was the dry season, which mean fires. Every year, fires take over the Kruger National Park and a large percentage of the land is burned, destroying the natural habitat of thousands of native animals. It was a huge difference to the never ending sea of green that I saw just a few months earlier.

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Kruger Park concluded my trip this time and it was a great way to end it. That was the last time I went to Kruger Park, but I went to so many other interesting places the next time I visited, so come back for more stories from South Africa!


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South Africa Part 1

Charles IV 700 Anniversary Events

 

South Africa Part 1

South Africa is one of my favorite places I have traveled to! That is probably why I have been there six times. Although, that also has to do with the fact that I had family living there. With each visit I saw something new or even went to a new country! I will break down what I did on each trip, so here is what I did the first time I visited:

February 2010, my first trip to South Africa.  It was amazing and beautiful! We saw so many things in that one short week. We stayed in Johannesburg which became a headquarters of sorts, but we also went to the Kruger National Park  and Cape Town. 6 years later and I still can’t believe we managed it all.

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Landing in South Africa was like entering small paradise. Absolutely Beautiful. We enjoyed the traveling and the wonderful weather, before we had to go back to the cold February weather in Prague.

24209_370421519249_4916125_nWe didn’t get much of a chance to explore Johannesburg, because left for Kruger Park at 3am the morning after we landed. We did get a chance to go the Lion Park. This was a great way to set the mood for the entire trip. Not only did we get to see grown lions, whose caretakers were casually drinking coffee by the open gates into the lion enclosure, but we also got to pet and hold lion cubs!

Kruger National Park was another great trip. Although we got lost on our way there from Johannesburg. So good luck, don’t get lost, because it doesn’t feel all that safe when you are driving at night past signs that say “hijacking hotspot”. So, one important tip make sure you know where you are going and get a GPS!

We only had a couple of days, but we managed to go in the Park in a Jeep with a guide as well as on our own, in our car. There were a couple of scarier moments when we were in our own car, one of which included an angry looking elephant that did not look like it particularly cared for us. In fact, it looked quite mad that we were on that road at all.24209_370436149249_3604956_n

We also had time to go to a evening/night safari, which was a whole new experience. This was in a private park with a guide, which meant we could go anywhere in the park and follow the animals into the bush. For the first time in my life I even saw giraffes sleep, which looks absolutely amazing, because there were like 10 giraffes lying on the ground, with their necks still sticking up. Not something you see all the time. This private park was a great place to go, because it was just us, possibly one other tour happening at the same time. Even though there were roads for the jeep, the nature had an untouched feel to it. I definitely recommend looking into these private parks.

SA5One short flight took us from Johannesburg to Cape Town. A guide took us to so many beautiful places around Cape Town. Since we had a local guide, he managed to take us to several little places, that would have been so easily overlooked if you didn’t know they were there. Not only did we get to see the Cape of Good Hope, but we also saw the penguins that come to the cape of South Africa, when it’s too cold in Antarctica. He took us to some small towns around Cape Town, some of which looked like they belong in the Wild West. The guide also took us to a Cheetah Outreach center, where they take care of and breed cheetahs.

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After we got back, we got one more taste of Africa when we went to a local market. The market was in a garage parking lot and the locals were selling all sorts of products. Anything from little souvenirs to practical clothing and kitchenware.

More about South Africa and Africa in general coming soon! Check back to learn more about where to go and what to do!


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Cape Town in 72 hours

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We went to Cape Town a few years ago, but thanks to my travel diaries and the bajillion pictures we took, I can definitely write about it even now. I distinctly remember seeing Table Mountain for the first time. There is something majestic about it that none of the photographs, postcards or posters capture. At that moment, I knew I was in love.

We rented a car and decided that, for the sake of time, we would commence our first adventure:  the trip down to Cape Point. This proved to be an adventure, as the GPS decided to guide us through a web of side roads and right past a township.  Even though we didn’t quite know where we were headed, we got to see the Indian Ocean and the adorable little towns along the coast that seem like they were taken straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. Many stops were made along the way, including a war memorial and a penguin watching spot. But, we were there during the wrong season, so no penguins for us.

We continued the journey southwards, towards the point that was feared by many explorers centuries ago, with a breathtaking view around every turn. All of a sudden, were entering the Table Mountain National Park. As we were driving through the park towards the famous lighthouse and Cape Point, I didn’t know in where to look first – we were on a strip of land and could see the Indian Ocean on our left and the Atlantic on our right.

 

After reaching the parking lot, we braced for the cold and headed towards the lighthouse and then down to the beach. We were freezing, but we got to see the two oceans meet and learned a lot about the history of Cape Point. Did you know that New Delhi is about as far from Cape Point as Paris?DSCN1635

As much as we wanted to stay, it was time to head to our next destination – The Groot Constantia Vineyard. On the way, we experienced and an unexpected delay in the form of a turtle crossing the road. All traffic stopped until the turtle was safely on the other side of the road. It was great to see this level of appreciation for the local wildlife :) And the turtle was adorable.

We wrapped up Day 1 of our visit by wine tasting at the Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia Vineyards. I tasted their local specialty – a desert wine. It is the sweetest wine I’ve ever tasted and you can drink only a little at a time, but buying a bottle or two is definitely worth it.

On Day 2, we woke up with the sunrise. To avoid long lines, we headed straight to Table Mountain. As drove upward towards the cable car, the city covered in fog came into view.

The cable car ride up the side of the mountain lasts less than five minutes and you rise more than 700 meters. The view from the car is beautiful and most of the ride is pretty smooth. The scariest point comes when you arrive at the side of the mountain and the car dramatically slows down, making it seem like you stopped mid-air. Slowly, the car rises to the station. I got off, knees shaking, and needed a few minutes to adjust to standing on firm ground again. If you’re afraid of heights, brace yourself, it’s not a super pleasant ride, but totally worth it.

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Once you’re on top of the mountain, everything below you seems tiny. On one side, you see Cape Town, which was slowly emerging from the morning fog. On the other, there is a clear view of Cape Point and the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Most of the clouds were below us, so I could see the amazing cloud formations above the Atlantic. We walked around on top of the mountain, which was surprisingly warm and headed back.

We devoted Day 3 to history. In the morning, we left to get on the ferry to Robben Island. We first took a bus tour around the island, where you can see the layout of the prison, see where some famous prisoners were held, see the lime quarries and hear about the history of the island. The bus tour is then followed by a tour of the inside of the prison.

We entered a large room and a former prisoner greeted us, as only former prisoners and wardens serve as tour guides, which gives the tour an interesting perspective. He told us his story and where it fit into the history of South Africa and the Apartheid. We then walked through the prison and saw some of the famous places, which were decorated by photographs from the time it was still a prison. We saw individual cells, each with a story of an individual who resided there, including the cell of Nelson Mandela. I got goose bumps while walking through these spaces and reading the stories.

DSCN1651As the tour finished, we were told that one of the largest penguin colonies in the world resided on Robben Island, but that this was out of the way and we had only 15 minutes before the ferry left. To be safe, we headed for the ferry and, once again, missed seeing the penguins.

Cape Town offers a lot more than I expected, with its natural beauty and history, that spending three days there is simply not enough. I definitely plan on going back and seeing what I missed. If you haven’t seen it yet, it should go on your bucket list!


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