We flew via Amsterdam and arrived in Johannesburg in the evening. We were upgraded from a 3-star hotel to a 4-star one. This was probably not a personal recognition, but merely a sign that the tourist season was slow. The next day we were joined by our friend from Virginia, Marion Dembling. She didn’t mind being stuck at the 3-star place. Note: Marion is the only friend who has had the courage to travel with us.
We stayed at the River Club, on the Zambezi, half an hour’s drive from the city of Livingstone. It is a lovely place, right in the river, and we wish we had stayed longer. The food and accommodations were excellent. There was a whistle in the room, for use in the event of being trapped by a wild animal. Advisory: “Should you find a hippo in your path, do not attempt to pass it.” This didn’t happen, but we did see our first giraffe.
The big attraction is Victoria Falls, which we found at about 65% of flow volume.. They drop some 360 feet and are more than a mile wide. In this season, the “smoke”--the huge foam kicked up by the fallen water--prevents a view all the way across the falls. Zimbabwe is right on the far side.
From "The History of the River Club": “In 1911 William Arthur Clarence Stewart, while leasing the farm, murdered his wife Betty in what is now the dining room, on unfounded suspicions that she was having an affair with the Roman Catholic priest in town. His daughter died of blackwater fever and is buried alongside her mother behind the site of what is now a honeymoon suite.”
Note on entering Zambia:
Alone among the countries that we visited, Zambia requires a visa. You get it at the border for $50--cash. We had brought two crisp bills for this purpose. But they didn't look right to the agent: the portrait of General Grant was from a previous issue. Fortunately, Marion had some newer ones. I expect we would have got in anyway...
You get there by ferry. This is where four countries meet: Namibia and Zimbabwe as well as Zambia and Botswana. A bridge is planned. In the meantime, trucks line up on the road to cross. Some are said to wait weeks. I wish that I didn’t believe this.
Botswana is the former British protectorate of Bechuanaland, just north of South Africa. It is a large place (232,000 square miles) and lightly populated (about 2 million). It is a relatively prosperous country, with a life expectancy of 62 and a literacy rate of 82%. The per capital income is almost $16,000. Apart from the recent surge of refugees from Zimbabwe, its biggest problem is HIV/AIDS. The infection rate is the second highest in the world (Swaziland wins): at least 24% of adults, possibly far more. Free condom dispensers, many of them empty, are common.
A huge portion of this very flat country has no human population, but plenty of birds and animals. The government is developing these areas for inquisitive tourists. In our week in the country, we visited three game reserves. We traversed them in a southwesterly route, after crossing over from Zambia. Transport was by “light aircraft.” That means pretty small planes. You are to notify the tour management if you weigh more than 195 pounds. Not clear what will happen if you do. We also were in a helicopter for five minutes.
The general drill: wake up 5:30 or earlier and have a small breakfast. Then off in the Land Rover to look for animals. You have a driver and guide, who can spot almost anything, from a herd of elephants to a chameleon disguising itself as a green leaf. You return mid-morning for brunch, followed by free time. For me, this meant a nap. The next event is tea, about 3:30, followed by another animal pursuit. This is punctuated by a “sundowner”--a fine tradition of drinks before darkness. (Drinks are free at all times--that is, you have already paid for them.) Then back to camp for dinner, followed (in my case immediately) by sleep. I found this regimen pretty trying, but the animals decide the schedule. In the mid-day heat, they are sensibly asleep and not on display.
There were few tourists in the camps--in the last one, none but ourselves. This is because: 1) The camps are small; 2) The global economy is bad; 3) February is off-season. It is summer, and the abundant vegetation hides the game. It is also rainy. Once the dry season begins, in March or April, the vegetation dies off dramatically. Everything turns brown, and the animals cluster around the water holes, where they are easy to view.
The animals were generally hospitable. We saw almost everything except tigers (not in Africa) and rhinos. The Land Rover could approach within a few yards of some them, like lions. They have nothing to fear and pay you no attention. Once we say a pride of 10; also a mother and cubs. Note: you do not stand up in the car much less get out of it, except for sundowners. Our first day we saw wild dogs. They are not beautiful but endangered and hard to find. Elephants, parents and children, are all over the place. They will ignore you unless you get close, which you don’t. Impala abound, but they are understandably skittish, because they are so often prey. Occasionally you can see them pronking. We spent some unusual time with a leopard (reclusive); it strolled about and once jumped in the air after a bird. We also followed a pair of cheetah as they prepared to swim across a channel. Then there were hyenas, wart hogs, giraffes, hippos, kudu, baboons, zebras et. al.
Bird watchers: Botswana is the place for you. My favorite was the beautiful carmine bee-eater, with its red and blue body. Flocks of them would follow our vehicle. We like to think they were being friendly, but more likely pursuing the insects we stirred up. Also, as recorded in Susan’s species checklist: secretary bird, hooded vulture, tawny eagle, pale chanting goshawk, greater kestrel and A WHOLE LOT MORE.
The camp staffs were very welcoming. Once they serenaded our arrival. They also escorted us back to our cabin after dark, in case we encountered a big animal (quite possible--at one camp a leopard slept within hearing distance of us). At each camp we were assigned a guide. In the first case it was an older man, a real veteran of the game reserves; at the other two, they were younger and part of the modern world. (BTW: just about everybody, regardless of age, uses a cell phone.)
The camps themselves varied considerably. The first, Duma Tau, was the most elaborate, with long wooden walkways between the residences. Animals would imperturbably cross beneath the walkways. Game was particularly varied and abundant. The next place, Xigera, was quite different. It is in the middle of the Okavango Delta and therefore very watery. Water levels are highest in the dry season, because the rainfall takes its time seeping down from Angola. It has not reached the sea for over 20,000 years, but disappears among the dry lands to the south. One morning we were taken in a mokoro: a long canoe steered with a long forked pole. The mekoro (that’s the plural) are fiberglass made to look like traditional wood. This afforded us a good look at hippos, who spend much of their life at least partly submerged. They do, however, spend some quality time on land. NOTE: do not stand between a landed hippo and its water.
We had eagerly anticipated the final camp, the Kalahari Plains. We had read about this area in the well-known, and fascinating book, Cry of the Kalahari . The authors, Mark and Delia Owens, were a young couple in the 1970’s when they spent seven years studying brown hyenas and other creatures in this neighborhood. How they managed this with little money and facing endless obstacles is hard to believe, even after you have read the book. The Kalahari is beautiful but dangerous ground. Droughts, flash floods and fires are among its hazards. We visited the site of their camp, a lovely grove of acacia trees in Deception Valley. A photograph appears in their book, described as “tree island.” The area receives about 10 inches of rain annually, so it is not a true desert. But it feels very dry in all seasons. The rain--we had several dramatic thunder storms--quickly evaporates or disappears into the earth. It was here that we saw many oryx, plus the one leopard. The three of us were the only guests in this camp, which had opened only a few months earlier. Its site was temporary--it would be moved as soon as adequate water was located in the vicinity. You need to drill down a couple of hundred feet but no farther, lest you hit salt water from an ancient sea.
After leaving the game parks, we flew to Maun, in the northern part of the country. This is the frontier outpost where Mark and Delia Owens went for supplies and occasional social contact. It is now a small city of 50,000. We asked to see the place, not just the airport, but were told that nobody ever wants to see Maun. And our flight to Jo’burg was leaving shortly. We just had time to access our e-mail, for the first time since we had left Zambia.
Another Game Park (three more days):
Ten days later: We left Jo’burg at 5:00 a.m. (!) to be driven northeast to Kruger, South Africa’s largest game reserve. It is very large indeed, now that many fences have been removed. Animals can now roam far into neighboring Mozambique. We were not in Kruger Park itself, but in “Greater Kruger,” which consists of privately-owned reserves. Our accommodations a little less comfortable than in Botswana, and the toilets were outside. Think of that! The entire staff was two guides and a cook. We also got up at 4:30 a couple of times. And we paid for own drinks too. The main difference was that we went on “walking safaris.” This meant abandoning the security of the Land Rover for foot travel. Both of our guides carried heavy rifles, which was not entirely comforting. One of them, Isaach, mentioned a lion that once “wanted to kill me,” but said that only mambas and water buffaloes truly scared him. We tracked a lioness for some time, but she refused to be found.
The Other People in the Parks:
As often on our travels, we met an international variety of fellow tourists. A good proportion were German or Canadian. On was a young Californian who had been visiting a Peace Corps friend in Madagascar. He arrived just in time for the unrest that started in January. He found being trapped in a hotel room during a rebellion both boring and scary, so he tried another country. There was also, atypically, a Russian with great stamina who made his living as a journalist. Also a (white) family originally from Zimbabwe. They called the country “broken,” a description few would refute. The father lived in Dubai, where he trained pilots for Emirates Air, by all accounts an excellent airline. Wife and two sons had moved to Perth, Australia, along with other refugees from their country.
The visit to this park began end ended at a “bush pub,” where you can watch rugby on television, drink beer and greet the velvet monkeys. They clamber into the trees in hopes of a free feed.
The Ndebele Village:
When Susan was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin in 1963, she had a classmate named Pallo Jordan. He was a black South African whose father was teaching at the University. He told Susan that South Africa was a beautiful country to which he could probably never return. She thereupon resolved that, if she ever got to the country herself, she would do at least a week of volunteer work. Recently, while on a train trip, she wondered aloud whether this would really make sense. A young black South African woman, overhearing her, said, “Anything you can do will be helpful.” That is how she, Marion and I ended up in the Mapoch Ndebele Village, population 281.
The village is only about 25 miles northwest of Pretoria; the city lights and buildings are visible. The place still feels remote, because the access roads are so rutted that few taxis venture upon them. For most commuters, Pretoria is an hour and a half away. There is no mail delivery. The village focal point is the Multi-Centre, a large circular structure with a kitchen and a leaky roof. Our instructions having arrived only after we left the U.S., we had no idea what we would be asked to do. I envisioned everything from teaching computer programming to lecturing on Hemingway to filling potholes. Our assignments were quite different. As social workers, Susan and Marion were to deal with the village’s 11-year-old “problem child.” In hopes of his rehabilitation, I shall refer to him simply as F. He had a handsome but nasty face, with a small mouth that rarely smiled. He was a slow school learner and beat up smaller kids in frustration I rarely saw him without a slingshot. He was an apprentice thug, if ever there was one.
Susan writes: “We were assigned to Mapuche Village in part because of my family therapy work (and Marion has also worked in mental health). We were asked to work with F, who was described as the ‘naughtiest boy’ the village has ever had; only towards the end of our stay did people tell us that, indeed, there had been naughty boys in the past – no surprise to us! Meeting with F and his family gave us an incredible opportunity to get to know one family in some depth. F lives in the village with his extended family of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins; however, his mother lives near her job and his father, who lives nearby, does not acknowledge him. This is not an unusual family makeup for the village. The family, recognizing the seriousness of F’s angry acts, was very eager to meet with us. Our discussions really didn’t seem that different from meeting with concerned families in my office in Metuchen, NJ! We also had the opportunity to visit the nearby school – 40 children in a class, very clean, beautifully maintained flower garden, computer room boarded up as computers had been ‘removed’ from the school – why, we didn’t ask. Teachers say that F does no work and is far behind his peers. They don’t have resources to give extra help. “Our first recommendation was tutoring but that just didn’t seem like enough, especially with the huge amount of unsupervised time the Village kids have when they’re not in school. We were exploring options when Jeremy (of Voluntourrs) thought of Peter, the local pastor who has a bicycle shop in the community. This shop is a real success story. Started with contributions of bikes from England (a box car full!) sent by a volunteer who had taught Peter how to repair them. Peter now has four local men working with him and was very interested in taking on a difficult boy. The family was also eager to give this a try. We left the Village having discussed several other (less appealing) alternatives if this didn’t work out.”
My own tasks were various. One was to teach literacy to the gogos: older, grandmotherly women. But there was always a reason that they could not come: they were in town collecting their pensions, it was raining (not hard), etc. I had better luck with a covey of 5th-graders who showed up after school. They wanted help with division. They hadn’t yet mastered multiplication, but that did not diminish their enthusiasm. They raised their hands constantly, even though they rarely had the right answer. “What is 27 divided by 3?” “12!” “Let’s try something a little smaller.” “15!” After each answer they bowed their heads and giggled. At least they were having fun. I did more usefully tutor an 8th-grader about prime numbers. Perhaps my best contribution was to help a couple of young women with their word-processing. But this exposed some of the difficulties of our task: the village has a single computer (in the Multi-Centre). It is old, not connected to the internet, and is useless when they electricity fails (often). The situation of one of these women is typical: she is 30 years old with a child. She gets up at 4:00 every morning to take a bus and train into Pretoria, where she works as a maid for a (white) family.
The village’s main activity is beading, undertaken entirely by the women. Their obvious leader is Salome, a very large woman, about 70. She gave lessons to Susan and Marion, who produced several small bracelets. One day a van of French tourists showed up for lunch. Many women spread out bead-ware for them, but there seemed to be few buyers. We bought some of the work, which is brightly-colored and beautiful. The bead colors are also painted on the buildings.
We stayed in a comfortable motel-like guest house. The rooms had showers and even television, though with almost no reception. We slept well except for one night, when a nearby radio was playing at fantastic volume. Probably celebrating a soccer victory. Meals at the Multi-Centre were not great, but improved after we complained about the cheese and baloney.
The whole experience was overseen by Voluntours, based in London. The Village contacts were a white South African couple, who manage several other projects. Their task is daunting. They can only hope that appropriate people volunteer. Volunteers do make a payment, which goes for meals and lodging, plus village needs. A number of the villagers suspect they are not getting their fair share. They drew up a list of not altogether realistic requests. The first was for a swimming pool.
Our main regret was the amount of time that we had nothing to do. This included most mornings, when the kids were at school, the men at work elsewhere and the women beading or doing family chores. But what we did was, we hope and believe, helpful. It was certainly appreciated. One of the school children wrote: “I love you Steve when I see you I see a chocolate is nice to see you again you teach us nice I want to see you where I you going I want to say happy valentines day Steve and you family go well Steve and Susan and Marion.” Johannesburg:
Widely known as Jo’burg, it is the biggest city in the country. Inexorably crawling north toward Pretoria, it is one of the largest conurbations on the continent. Greater Jo’burg alone has about seven million residents. Unusually, it lies on no body of water. It emerged in the late 19th century in a gold rush. We found it a rather unattractive sprawl, but if we had had more than two days there, we could have seen much of its pulsing life. As it was, we took a couple of car tours with a very helpful driver/guide. We visited in the Constitution Hill prison, where many foes of apartheid were incarcerated. It looked bleak and brutal, even by prison standards. We had lunch at a local restaurant, Shivana. It was nearly empty, a victim of the reduction in the tourist trade. Our guide reported that we were the first clients he had had all season. He drove us through Soweto, the township notorious in apartheid time for squalor and violence. Some sections of the place have changed little, but others are quite up scale. Soweto has the only street in the world with two Nobel Prize winners: Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
Do not miss the astonishing Apartheid Museum. On entrance, you are randomly given an entrance card. One kind is for whites, the other for others. The entrances, of course, are separate. You are thus provided a tiny taste of what was endured in those terrible times. The museum--integrated, to be sure--is extensive and enlightening, and shocking.
On Our Own:
After Kruger, we rented a small car and hit the road. But by the time we had waited for the Budget manager to appear and clear the formalities, it was 1:30, almost two hours later than we had hoped. The delay had a disagreeable consequence. Barely 15 minutes after starting, we were stopped by a policeman. He asked for my driver’s license. It was from New York. I produced it. Then we moved aside. I knew we were in for trouble. He plonked down his own license next to mine on the hood of his car. “Now,” he said, “if I came to your country with this license, would I be permitted to drive?” I felt like saying yes, but. (Background: an international license used to be required in South Africa, but no longer is.) “Where are you going?” he asked. “A great distance, to our lodging for the night.” “Well,” he said, smiling very politely, “I am going to spoil your day.” By this time, I had opened my wallet. A few minutes later, it was lighter by about $20.00. After more than 50 years of driving, I had bribed my first policeman.
For a moment I felt proud of myself. I had kept cool. I had completed the transaction quickly, so that we could resume the trip. I had not got angry, nor provoked the cop. But then: it really is not a good thing to co-operate with corruption, is it? And I bet I could have done it for less. NOTE: we were not stopped again.
Soon we were at the Ardmore Guest House, in the Drakensberg mountains. We had out own two-story cottage. It had three bedrooms, but one proved sufficient. The place has nine cottages and could accommodate 40 guests. The view is lovely, although the mountains were sometimes clouded over. And the food was excellent. Unhappily I did not get to enjoy all of it, because I got sick (not very). A major attraction of Ardmore is its ceramic studio, the largest in the country. It displays work by some 50 Zulu artists: animals, vases, teapots, exotically designed and painted. We were told that these are sold at Sotheby’s for lots more than they cost here. We bought a number of items and brought them home carefully bubble-wrapped. They were reportedly unlikely to survive the South African postal services. We had an excursion to the Drakensberg Park, which we entered at pensioners’ rates. We had lunch at the Cathedral Peak Hotel--a lovely place, but it had an uncomfortable colonial atmosphere. There is beautiful hiking in the area, but the Park pamphlet, “Take Care in the Mountains,” would daunt even the adventurous: If you me with a group of people who may be in transit through the Park,a brief friendly greeting is recommended. Do not stop, take photos, prolong eye contact or interact with the people in any way and keep valuables out of sight. These groups may be armed... “If you see a fire approaching, ACT IMMEDIATELY. Either seek out refugia--rivers, forests or valley floors OR light the grass at 90 degrees to the wind and then stand up in the burnt area.... “There are three types of dangerous snakes in the area, the Puff Adder, Berg Adder and Rinkhals. The Rinkhals is capable of spitting and in case of poison in the eyes, rinse with water, milk or urine....” There is further advice about sleeping with your clothes on, planning an escape route and having “an identified meeting point in case your group becomes split up.” Despite these allurements, we did not hike here.
Lesotho is a small kingdom completely embedded in South Africa. Its population is a little over two million. Literacy is high (85%), but not income ($1300 per capita). Like the rest of the region, it his a high HIV/AIDS rate, and life expectancy of barely 40 years. The country’s great attraction is its lake-and-mountain character. A long day’s drive took us to the Katse Dam. (Water power is Lesotho’s main export.) The view from the hotel, down to the big artificial lake, was lovely. The hotel was not. It had some fancy features (white table cloths) but resembled one of those barracks-like places I recall from Tibet. The large dining room had only about ten other guests. The waitress announced the two dinner options: mixed grille and martineck.
Martineck? She pointed to her neck. Of course: mutton neck. We ordered the grille--wisely, only one portion. It consisted of lamb chop, sausage, beef (perhaps) and a large hunk of some unidentifiable animal. Later we went to the television room to watch the Sharks and Lions play rugby.
Our next day’s goal was the Malealea Lodge, some hundreds of mile west. How to get there? We decided to avoid repeating much of the previous days journey and take our chances on a more direct route, which was said to be in good shape. At least that is what some motorcyclists told us. The first part, however, was badly rutted dirt. Before long we hit a rock and had a flat tire. (To protect her identity, I will omit the name of the driver.) In fact, the tire may have been intact, but the rim decidedly was not. It had been years since I had changed a tire, but I did recall the basics. Susan skeptically looked for assistance, but we were some distance from anything, and traffic was sparse. Eventually a young man walked by. His arm was in a cast. I was making slow progress when another car pulled up. A man, a boy and two women, immaculately dressed for church (Sunday morning). One of the men was a former army officer, who was better than I at tire-changing. When he was done, his white shirt and tie were somehow unsoiled. I sensed that, unlike the South African cop, this man did not want money. Happily, however, Susan had a couple of scarves she had woven. The women were delighted with them. The man left us his e-mail address and stayed close to us until we had found the proper turn-off to the west.
We wondered what to expect. The map was not to scale, but it clearly indicated the Baboon Pass and the God-Save-Me Pass. The road was highly inconsistent. Parts were dirt, other parts smooth new pavement. The question was whether we would reach our destination and whether we could fix the tire. The answers were yes and no. We did drive into the capital, Maseru, only to find that the Budget car office was closed Sundays. Happily, we were able to reach Malealea on (mostly) good roads by late afternoon.
We stayed several days and made several excursions, each with a guide. The first was to a lovely waterfall, more than a hundred feet high. Getting there entailed cross a stream on a slippery log. Steps had been etched into it, but it was still a bit scary. The hike there was easy enough; getting back--it was all uphill, and hot. Susan said that I looked about to collapse, but I was only faking. Nevertheless the next day we traveled on horseback. The horses were small and amiable. They took us down to a canyon where we could see many San paintings on the rock. Although very ancient, they remained very clear. The final trip was the most unusual: it featured not only San paintings, but a barefoot walk through a canyon with a curving stream.
Malealea was a lovely place, high on a hill with great views of the mountains to the east. At sunset, they turned a golden yellow. Every evening local dancers performed for the guests. Our big round hut of a room was very comfortable, except that something seemed to be biting us. Susan thought it was fleas and requested other accommodation. This had no bugs but was smaller and had less of a view. And the food, though abundant, was boring. So we left a day early and headed back to Maseru.
Maseru is by far the biggest place in the country, with a population of a couple hundred thousand. It is a sprawling African town, with little shape or beauty. It is pretty lively, however. We stayed in the Lancer’s Inn, right in the center of town. It was a little disorganized, but comfortable. The restaurant is excellent. There we were startled to see a (white) man wearing a yarmulke. He was from the Centers for Disease Control (Atlanta). We talked with him about the AIDS problem. “We do what we can,” he said, without intonation.
The next morning we left for South Africa once more. But first we had to drive some miles to find a weaving shop for Susan. This one had walls constructed, or at least fronted, with old beer cans. The interior walls also looked like beer cans. Susan made several purchases. Then we drove back to South Africa, to the Bloemfontein airport where we left the car with its dented wheel. That evening we flew down to our last stop:
No photographs can convey the spectacular quality of the setting: the ocean on one side, Table Mountain looming on the other. It is about 3500 feet high and only a mile or so behind the city. Its top is, to be sure, amazingly flat, and about two miles long. The city itself is quite attractive as it slopes down toward the sea. We stayed in the Cape Cadogan Hotel (highly recommended) in the center of town. It is a small place with excellent breakfasts (smoked salmon!) served outdoors if it’s not raining.
There is much to do in town. The most crucial destination is off shore Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent many of his 23 years of incarceration. It is now a very popular tourist destination. Be sure to get tickets in advance. (We did this on-line before we left.) It is a 45-minute ferry trip to this sandy, bleak island. After a bus tour, a guide--a former inmate--shows you around the cells, including Mandela’s. It’s all pretty sobering. Back in the city, we visited the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Museum, also sobering. That night, in need of some uplift, we had dinner at the Cape Colony restaurant in the city’s most luxurious hotel, the Mount Nelson. Thanks to the friendly exchange rate, dinner for two was only $80, wine and tip included. Our waiter, Phineas, was from Zimbabwe, a country that many people have left.
The next day it was time for Table Mountain. We hired a guide, Randall, to show us the way. Platteklip Gorge ("Flat Stone Gorge"), is said to provide “an easy and direct ascent to the summit.” It is the route taken by Antonio de Saldanha on the first recorded ascent of the mountain in 1503. It may have been direct and easy for him... Randall drove us close to the trailhead. There we found an American who had spent an hour looking for the start of the route. It was time I met someone I knew: Phil Erard, from the American Alpine Club. I was glad to see him, because he is about my age and therefore slow. The four of us started up the trail. Phil asked Randall for his fastest time to the top. This was a bad sign. Phil took off like a rocket, and we never saw him again. Our plodding rate was fast enough for me. It’s just a trail, but it steepens, with many switchbacks. By the time we reached the summit plateau, clouds had started to move in. The weather can be deceptively dangerous--it is like Mount Washington in that way. Randall warned the numerous other hikers that they should not linger. The cable car system, which can zip you down to the city in a few minutes, had been suspended because of the high wind. So we spent little time admiring the stupendous view in all directions. On the way down (hard on thighs and knees), we encountered a young law student from Chicago, who had was lagging behind her group. This was her first hike ever, and she was not ready for it. She was dehydrated and very tired indeed. Randall helped get her down.
Atop Table Mountain
It was lucky that we did the hike that day, because the next one was the second hottest of the South African summer. We rented a car and drove an hour and a half to an excellent restaurant, Le Petite Ferme. The food was fine, and so was the rural view. But our real aim to meet Mark Solms. Mark is a psychoanalyst/neuro-scientist/vintner and a whole lot of other things. To hear his fascinating (and accessible) lecture on Freud and neuroscience, go to: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5989403073929802664&hl=en.
Impressed by these achievements, Susan insisted that we not drink the night before and do everything we could to appear highly intelligent. Happily, Mark was entirely welcoming and unpretentious. He had just finished presiding over an organizational meeting for a South African psychoanalytical association, and in two hours he had to leave for London. He nevertheless seemed completely relaxed. He offered us three choices for his time: a vineyard tour, a wine-tasting, or a discussion of South African culture and politics. To the subsequent amazement of some of our friends, we chose the last. We were joined by a Viennese analyst who was moving to South Africa and by Mark’s partner in farming, Richard Astor. There are three farms, one owned by Mark, and adjoining one by Richard, and a third owned co-operatively by local people. They will rise or fall together. This is an audacious experiment in a very conservative part of the country.
We now had one day remaining. At breakfast we were surprised by our travel agent, Diana Schneider. She lives in our building in Brooklyn, but was in Cape Town, checking out accommodations for our clients. Then a last drive, for which we had hired a driver/guide. We went south to the Cape of Good Hope, very beautiful, and then back north up the peninsula, We stopped at the penguin beach, a big tourist draw. Twenty-five or so years ago a couple of mating pairs of penguins had showed up here. They must have been good at their work, because now there are some 3000 of them. We saw a pair busy making another penguin, and a one-legged one hopping around valiantly.
And finally: the beautiful and expansive botanical gardens. Not to be missed.
It is hard to imagine what life was like in the apartheid years, although the museum gave some notion of their enormities. More immediate for us were personal observations. One of our (white) guides said that the end of apartheid had meant little to us because she had always had black friends--her parents’ maids. In the Ndebele village, older residents told us they no longer feared being arrested when they went into town. It was Randall, our Table Mountain guide, who made most vivid the absurdity of this social experiment. His family is “coloured,” but of differing shades. So when they walked along the beach, two of them were confined to one side, the rest to the other. And now: the society seemed to us neither segregated nor integrated. Inner Johannesburg is almost entirely black. Most of Cape Town looked white or coloured. It has still been a remarkable transition.
Pallo Jordan returned to South Africa and is currently a cabinet minister.
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