on the way to krueger national park, we plied the panoramic route. we visited the blyde river canyon along the way. and guess what, we were greeted with motor racing competition in one town. the road was simply closed for the race to take place and everyone stopped work to take a look. we spent the night at a tribal village and slept on the floor of one of the many huts made of cow dung. LOL. we also visited a wildlife conservation sanctuary.
johannesburg & soweto township
we heard so many bad news from other backpackers as well as in the newscasts the whole time we were in south africa, especially joburg. the unsuspecting backpacker who was stabbed in the back by a drunkard. there was a girl staying at our backpacker hostel whose house was burgled and she sought refuge at the hostel. there was a shootout that resulted in death of four cops and four bad guys. crime was rampant, a normalcy.
being asians, we stuck out like sore thumbs and invited stares wherever we went. the worst thing was that everyone thought we were either koreans or japanese (richer asians). and that's fricking scary, because we're NOT rich at all. so, we decided to do away with our hats to look "less japanesey", despite the scorching sun. yeah, it's winter and it's cold in joburg, but the sun rays were also very strong. but we didn't want to get mugged so the floppy hats would have to go!
we also visited the infamous soweto, and saw the slums and street children.
krueger national park
we saw loads of wonderful animals in botswana. we also saw quite a bit in south africa. it was frigging cold in krueger. when we were out on a night game drive, i was wrapped up like a taliban and was still freezing. in chobe (botswana), i was chased by warthogs (wild boars) while i was hanging out clothes to dry. i didn't realise they were just behind me. we also had baboons for company. in krueger, we heard a lion roaring the whole night. it was so close - only 100metre away from our campsite. and was quite hungry. that was quite an experience.
i mentioned we stayed in tents half the time in africa, it's the cheapest way. the following video is a "tour" of our tent. it's kinda messy, apologies. haha.
lost in the mountains
i experienced altitude sickness, bled from the nose, and lost my way while going down the mountain - alone, by myself. my height phobia worsened the situation. as background, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people have gotten lost in the mountains of drakensberg. these block-like peaks don't look as threatening as the himalayas so many people think they can walk there on their own. without realising that the paths aren't as clearcut as they imagined. and weather changes really fast, the clouds, winds and frost come and go without warning. how glad i didn't end up as part of the death statistic. ha!
meeting the cape malays
but of course, how could i not visit bo-kaap where the cape malay-muslims were! i simply had to see the malays. :D and indeed, we went back twice to bo-kaap because the people were so hospitable. we met a mr lateef, who was so upset that we came too late. "if you could stay here for a week more, i would have packed both of you in my car and take you to a cape muslim wedding! so you can see for yourself the eastern and western influences!" he told us that if we ever come to cape town again, we must visit him "and i will tell all my children to come home and we will have a big feast together!" said mr lateef, the guy in the last picture in this entry. mr lateef's wife's grandparents were imams at the oldest mosque in south africa, the green owal mosque. mr lateef stayed just beside the mosque and when he saw us, he quickly invited us to the mosque. we told him that he's too nice and he said "it is nothing, it's what i am supposed to do as a muslim".
the people here no longer speak indonesian, the earliest "malays" to have been imported to south africa as slaves. they looked middle-eastern, thanks or no thanks to intermarriage. the cape malays are just like malays in singapore, very house proud. they have very pretty, colourful homes.
we wanted to visit the keramat, or the grave of the tuan guru - the prince who re-wrote the whole koran based on memory... but halfway up the slope, we were followed by three teenage boys, who were spotted earlier smoking weed. we saw many more "bad boys" waiting for us at the hilltop. we were told by the locals these boys were only waiting to ambush unsuspecting tourists and would steal cellphones, cameras and valuables. we decided to make our way back down. along the way, we saw many more guys smoking weed openly. they were "high", and staggering as they walked. they were from other townships, and not local cape malays, we were told. we hastened our pace because we kept seeing random groups of boys tailing us.
it was a "minor mug", but it scared the shites out of us. it happened after dinner one night. we were walking back to our backpacker's at the end of Long Street, the "happening" street lined with pubs. two police officers were stationed at every 10-metre intervals along the street, known for muggings and what-nots. we chose to stay there because it's within walking distance to everywhere. and we were not planning to do much in cape town, except to just walk around, chat with people, and watch the world go by. afterall, we were at the end of our trip and we were left with about $20 each.
i told my friend i craved chicken. and the only foodplace with halal chicken was Nando's. so we went to Nando's and i had my quarter-chicken meal. when we left, my friend asked me why i had my shirt collar up covering my neck. she said i looked like a turtle. i told her it's to protect my neck from the blade if some crazy mugger was going to hold me at knifepoint. she laughed, and i laughed too. then i asked her a hypothetical question "you know, so far, we have been really lucky this whole trip. what will you do if we ever get mugged?"
and suddenly, we heard footsteps from behind us. FRICK what was that! i told my friend to hurry up. but she said she ate too much and felt a stitch. the whole street was deserted but we heard footsteps behind us. when i turned back, i saw a shabby-looking woman, and she asked me to give me the drink i was holding. i pretended not to hear, and i walked faster. she hastened her pace, too. i started running, and she ran after me!!! frigging hell!!!
i turned around again and i was horrified that my friend was lagging behind. behind me was that shabby-looking woman. she cupped her hands together and said "DRINK!" i didn't know what to do! i was very scared about passing to her my drink because she could be holding a knife. what if she stabbed me with it? and i was afraid that the woman had other friends lurking about. so i threw the bottle towards her. she grabbed it, and stopped pursuing me. and by then, my friend caught up. and we started walking as fast as we could. my heart was thumping so hard. i was glad we didn't carry any valuables except ourselves. surely the woman could have asked for more stuffs if she saw me with a bag or something.
the next day, again we found ourselves in a risky situation. it was the weekend and the whole street was deserted. we were making our way back to the backpacker's from the waterfront, a 30-minute walk. we did not want to take the taxi, because we had no money left. LOL. really, no joke. ZERO CASH. we spent all on rooibos tea jam spread that we were going to give our friends as souvenirs back in singapore. near the waterfront, i told my friend i saw a group of dodgy boys tailing us. we should walk faster, i said. we bumped into a white african and black african, who showed interest in us "hey ladies, want to come with us? we are single and independent!" they hollered. we just walked on. "HURRY HURRY! it's getting late. i don't want to be harrassed like yesterday" i told my friend.
the Long Street walk was the scariest walk i had in my life. everyone on the road was dodgy men. they had bloodshot eyes, they wore long jackets which looked very dirty and had hoods covering their whole heads, except their faces. we even spotted one with leather jacket and a long metal chain which he jangled in front of him. we believed it's used as a weapon to choke people with, before robbing them. we were stopped at least 10 times. men were hooting at us left, right centre. some were calling out "konichiwa!" and two stopped us in our tracks, and said "MONEY!" we pretended not to understand. my friend and i did not speak to each other at all, we were walking so fast like Flash Fry. it's like playing PacMan. when we saw dodgy hooded men walking on the pavement, we went onto the road to avoid them. and when we saw people approaching us, we would cross the road and make a U-turn.
all the time i was going "girl, liang-ge nan-ren on road, masuk pavement!", or "san-ge nan-ren on right, jalan cepat!" or "nan ren lai ler, behind pillar, cross road guai dien!" we were cautioning each other in simple malay and mandarin. finally when we reached our backpacker's hostel, we both just crashed on the bed with a huge sigh of relief. my heart had never beaten so fast. craziness!
for my africa pictures, click here