Posted by: haleymulf | January 29, 2009

Seeing South Africa…

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I was lucky enough to be able to travel my second week in South Africa. A group of 17 exchange students from Germany, US, Netherlands, and Turkey went to Durban for the beaches and a nearby national park called Umfolozi. We organized the trip to leave from Pretoria by bus and arrive in Durban eight hours later. The bus ride was only 345 rand which translates to about 35 US dollars. I have to say that if you are traveling in South Africa, this is the way to do it. The buses are safe and very affordable. Unfortunately for us, when we arrived in Durban it was raining and cloudy. We checked in to our hostel (or backpackers as they call them in Africa) and paid our 80 rand for the first night. I’m sure most everyone is starting to understand the rate between the rand and the dollar, but I’ll say again that 80 rand is about eight dollars. The best way to travel is by going from backpacker to backpacker. It is incredibly cheap and the accommodation is not like a five star hotel but it is bearable.

Later we went for a walk around the city and had a definite culture shock.  Aside from being the most uncomfortable experience I have ever had, it was one of the most eye opening. We were walking in a group of 11 students and every eye on the street was fixed on us.  Of course business went on as usual… vendors on the street selling everything from underwear to fruit and trying to pull you aside to look at their products. Little boys would follow us around weaving in and out looking for an opportunity to reach their hands in our bags and grab something. We also passed an alley where men were standing behind boxes of old clothing and there was a huge crowd of people (mostly women and children) going through them and taking what they liked. There was so much poverty and at the same time people were dancing and singing on the sidewalks and in the streets.

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The next day we decided to try out the beach. Of course it was still very cloudy but it was nice to walk around and see the ocean and surfers. Umfolozi  was next on our agenda and we took a van three hours to the park. We split into two groups and climbed into the tall jeeps with our tour guides. It was a two hour drive and we were told that to see the entire park it would take a total of 24 hours. I’ll admit that the only time I have seen wild animals was at the zoo… which is actually not true because I guess if they’re at the zoo then they’re not really wild. But in any case, I was definitely excited. The park isn’t fenced in so the animals are free to roam about or come and go. We saw impalas, baboons, buffalo, lions, giraffes, rhinos, wildebeests, boars, and many species of birds.

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The park has within it all of the “Big Five” animals of Africa: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino. These are the animals that are among the most dangerous. They also appear on each of the South African banknotes. For instance the lion is on the 50 rand, the elephant on the 20 rand, and so on and so forth. The animal in Africa that has killed the highest amount of people however is the hippo. They are very aggressive and can run at an incredible speed considering their size.dscn0732 After the park we were taken to a river where we went on a boat tour of St. Lucia (not to be confused with the St. Lucia, Carribean). Here is where we saw many hippos and a few crocodiles. There was a sign when getting on the boat that says Beware of Hippos, so we knew we were in for a treat. The boat ride was very relaxing and we were able to sit on the roof and look out at the wildlife and to enjoy the cool weather.

My roommate Sila and I

My roommate Sila and I

Finally on the last day of our trip the weather was beach worthy. We swam in the ocean, played cards, talked, laughed, and had a great time. I figured out that the best way to get to know people you will be spending several months with is to go on vacation with them.
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Responses

  1. Emily,

    I am really enjoying reading your blog. You tell the story of your travels so well! Keep up the good work, I can’t wait to hear some more.

  2. HALEY,

    Sorry for calling you Emily; I tried to edit, but it was too late. Emily G. forwarded me the link, I guess I had her on my mind when I responded. Have fun~!!!

  3. Haley,

    Once again, very interesting!

  4. Haley,

    What an awesome experience. It is so fun to read your blog and see your pictures. You will see so many amazing things and meet people from all over. You will be so worldly. Be careful and have a great time! Keep us posted on your next adventure. Kris

  5. I take it from your blog you won’t be working as a messenger this session. And who’s footing the bill for you being on the beach? Please be careful and enjoy this wonderful opportunity. But don’t think you can come back next year. That ship has sailed sister! XOXO

  6. Wow!! I hadn’t had a chance to read this one yet. How cool that you got to see those wild animals! I swear your life is like a movie!
    Love you and miss you!
    Shannon


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