Saturday, January 10, 2009

Malmesbury, SA but London soon.

I'm sitting at my friends' computer in Malmesbury, about an hour north of Cape Town. The family that I'm staying with graciously took me into their home for a few days shortly after I arrived in SA. Now, before I leave, they have invited me back for a short visit. They are dear people and have blessed me in so many ways! During my time here in Africa I have had to, like Paul describes, learn how to be abased and how to abound. The Viljoen family has certainly done their part to make me abound. I couldn't be more grateful to have such friends.

Just to fill everybody in on my latest travel plans: I'm not arriving back in the states at the originally stated time. That shouldn't be news as that date has already past, but still stating the obvious can be helpful sometimes. My friend Caleb predicted that instead of coming home when I said, that I would fly back a year later from Japan after trekking across the whole globe. I'm still a avid proponent of that plan, but at this point my plans are not quite that extreme. Instead of flying back directly from Cape Town to the US, I am instead going through London. I hope to spend nearly a week with a friend in London before finally arriving back in the US on the 19th of January. That's the plan. I'll let you know what happens.

When I look back of the past 12 months it truly boggles my mind. There was a time not so long ago when I felt like my life was over. Since that time God has swept me up and taken me on the best adventures of my life to date. He's enlarged my world and taken me to the most incredible places. Since January of last year I've had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles, New York, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and now London!

Thank you all for keeping track of my as i'm roaming the globe. I've been so blest by the prayers that I know many of you have said for me. My friends make me a wealthy man!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Strand, SA again

Hello everyone. It's Jared here from Strand, SA. Right where I started this whole African adventure. After a giant circle tour of southern Africa, I'm now finishing out my last week in the Dark Continent. There are so many memories that I now carry - moments that I'll try my best to share, but that sometimes just have to be lived. Watching the paintbox hues of the sunset in the Drakensburgs. The trumpeting of wild African elephants as they crash out of the bush. Sharing lunch in a mud walled Mozambican house. Dancing with ecstatic believers until sweat soaks my shirt and drips in large drops. Worshiping in Sesotho, Makua, Portuguese, Afrikaans, Zulu. New Years by the Indian Ocean. Jogging by the beaches of False Bay. So many stories that I'll love to tell for years to come. For now just a few more pictures.

These from Free State, QwaQwa, and the the Drakensburgs.

Africa VIII

And these from Lesotho

Africa IX

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Southbroom, SA

Wind and spitting rain are moving in off the Indian Ocean and the moisture is fogging the upper story windows at the beach house where I'm sitting. The leaves of a palm are waving in the salty breeze. I'm staying with my friend Caitlyn and her family at the house where they have been staying for the New Years holiday. Last night I greeted 2009 with hundreds of revelers who were dancing out the old year down by the beach. Some of the dance tunes are distinctly non-american: "You are my mate and I will stand by you". Still the omnipresence of American music is unavoidable. I couldn't help but note the slight irony as I was dancing in the middle of a throng of South Africans dancing and shouting along to "Sweet Home Alabama". I wondered if anyone else there had ever been to Alabama. The deafening bass of dance music was almost jarring after coming earlier in the day from the absolute and almost tangible quiet of Lesotho's mountains.

Christmas I spent in the Kruger National Park. On the 22nd I arrived in Nelspruit, the town that serves as primary gateway in the massive park that sprawls along the border between SA and Mozambique. The 23rd I spent kicking around at Nelspruit Backpackers and then on Christmas Eve I set out on my bush adventure. At the Backpackers I met Jimmy, a guide with 20 some years of experience in the African bush. Though he could be teaching college classes on the environments that he guides in, he spends his time at a ramshackle backpackers and does occasional freelance excursions with odd folks like me who want a less "touristy" visit to the big park. We spent Christmas Eve driving through Kruger and ended the day at the guest house of the Manyalete Reserve which borders the Kruger. On Christmas day the real adventure began. Setting off in the morning we parked the car and went on foot back into the bush. Way back. Through a drizzling rain we hiked 20km through some of the most untouched country I've ever seen. For hours we tracked wild rhinos and finally came upon the mother and child contentedly grazing on the new grass. We came close to the always skittish stenbok and saw the rare sidestripe jackel. Christmas dinner was steak on the grill back at our lodge.
During our last day in the park we drove to the eastern side of the park and saw the basalt flats. Hippos fighting for territorial dominance, a whole herd of elephants surrounding our car, and families of zebras - some of them scarred from their encounters with lions. We saw all of the big cats - lions, cheetahs, leopard, but only in the most remote of ways. They were there and I do have pictures to prove it, but I can see them better in my pictures than I could in real life.

The next morning I left Nelspruit and drove south-west to QwaQwa. While in Johannesburg I made a friend who invited me back to visit him as he visited his family in how home town. QwaQwa (which is said with a click that I can't manage) was one of the "homelands" during the Apartheid era and to this day it is still an almost exclusively black area. As a white man i was a definite novelty. People would look up and take notice when I drove through the community. David made a point to introduce me to as many people as possible. Meeting a white from the US was an event of some note in the community. I tried to be obliging and friendly, but it was distinctly awkward to be such a novelty. Still, i had a wonderful time with the dear people who so warmly welcomed me with such open arms. I was asked numerous times about Barak Obama, had extended political discussions about Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, and visited numerous churches. At one I was give a place at a table on the stage for after service lunch. The love that I was showered with was so undeserved and so special. I was showered with love, but not with water. :) A shower is a rare thing in this part of the country, and I had to become comfortable with bathing from a basin - in water heated in an electric tea pot. David took me everywhere and wanted me to become familiar with all aspects of his community. He took me down to watch the holiday celebrants spinning their cars until their tires were literally gone. They were until the police showed up and put an end to the fun that is... He took me up to the Drakensburgs where we climbed Sentinel Peak. We went shopping all over town. I even got to be a tag along on a date. I guess you're the perfect third wheel when the conversation is in Sesotho and you only speak English.
Leaving QwaQwa I made my way to Lesotho. This had been one of my most looked forward to elements of my trip. For some reason that tiny country that most people don't even realize exists captured and fascinated me. It was beautiful. I hope i get a chance to write more about just that place - I think i fell in love. Beauty indescribable. Smiles like I have never seen. They light you up. Oh, and then there was the Sani Pass. From the moment I heard of it, there was something in my man's heart that wanted to take it on. This winding grueling mountain road is perhaps the most notorious mountain gateway between Lesotho and South Africa. I could probably go in to the halls of Imperial Rental Car's worst customers of all time. Amazed and bemused loads of South African men in their 4x4s gaped at me as I started down the hairpin road in my little white 2wd Hyundai Getz. Half way down I was thinking they might be right, but I was having the time of my life. I won. I made it all the way down and the car survived!! Just barely, but I made it! They say it can't be done but the little car made it. And I have the passport stamps to prove it. Ok - maybe I'm a little too excited about this, but I guy can have his fun, right?

Coming down from the mountains I made my way all the way to the South African coast where I brought in the new year with Caitlyn and her friends. Caitlyn was one of my companions while at Iris in Pemba. Her family is staying at the beach house that I mentioned earlier. Early tomorrow morning I'll leave from here and begin the drive back towards Cape town.

Here are pictures from Kruger.

Much love to all. Blessings on your 2009!