Hello to all!
This is my long overdue trip report, our third trip to SA.
We started in johannesburg, where we stayed at Liz at Lancaster.The room was very nice,comfortable, and the welcome very professional.
We found Joburg a bit difficult to navigate because we didn't have a car and had to rely on cabs all the time, but we had an ok lunch at Moyo's in Melrose Arch , followed by an interesting visit to the Origins center at Wits University.
The highlight of our 3 days was the Apartheid Museum where we ended up spending about 6 hours and we still had to rush through the Nelson Mandela special exhibit! Another wonderful day started at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto where we were taken for a Sunday morning service with Soweto Cycle Tours. We then spent the rest of the day cycling around Soweto(40 kms) , just the 2 of us with 2 young guides from Soweto, Pule and Ishmael, who were extremely motivated and interested in what they were showing us. We asked to be taken to an orphanage and to visit a sangoma and just biked around a lot, going thru Vilakasi st, the Hector Pietersen memorial etc...
However we both feel that we need more time to figure out Joburg because of the huge distances and lack of real center.We'll be back!
Then we took a flight to Richards Bay in KwaZulu Natal and rented a car to drive up to the Amangwane Camp in Kosi Bay. It is about 2 kms before the border with Mozambique, the last camp on the bay .One can just walk down the sand dunes to the bay and snorkel,walk for miles on the deserted beaches on the Indian Ocean.IOne can also visit the fish traps which are a special feature of Kosi Bay, spend a day in Ponta d'ouro in Mozambique (what a wonderful place with great tipo tinto rhum and prawns with piri piri, thank you Kim!) I cannot imagine a more perfect location than Amangwane..The camp itself is very basic and rustic but that is what gives it charm.The cabins are made out of reeds , the beds are comfortable, the water hot and there is a generator for a couple of hours at night.
What makes Amangwane special is that it is a joint venture between the local community and Emma and Anton Roberts.The land is owned by the local village and the camp provides employment for the villagers. at night you see and hear people lighting their fires in the village and cooking their dinner, kids playing, people chatting and laughing, it is a peaceful area and you feel close to nature. Nicola is the manager, she is amazingly dynamic, friendly and makes sure you are happy and very well fed.We had many interesting conversations about South Africa with Nicola and Elmon and Tembe from the village...
We were really sad to go after spending 4 nights at Amangwane but we had to drive back and catch flights to Polokwane in the Limpopo. On the way we did stop at Ilala Weavers, a worthwhile visit, has a nice lunch there and also went to St Lucia to see plenty of hippos and crocs but we felt privileged to have stayed at Amangwane instead, so pristine and un touristy!
Then back to Madi a Thavha in Louis Trichardt, also one of our favorite stops (see my hotel review from 2008 and/or my trip report from august 2008 also).Marcelle and Aart continue to be wonderful hosts and to be committed to the concept of Fair Trade Tourism, the food is always delicious and they are now building a beautiful art gallery to display their Venda art collection.We were lucky to visit some old artist friends, Thomas Kubayi in particular and also honored to meet Noria Mabasa in person!
We then left for a brief but interesting visit to Mapungubwe and the confluence to be at the Pontdrift border by 3 o'clock to meet with our dear ranger and old friend Jerry from the KwaTuli island camp (see trip report from 2008 and various posts on Tuli forum in Botswana)
Kwa Tuli was just as amazing , we saw so many elephants and walked everyday.We also noticed a greater variety of animals than 2 years ago but ellies are really the animals one goes to Tuli to see,,,up close, even in the camp at night as we sat by the boma! Jerry also took us to meet his family in Mathatane, for which we felt really honored!
We left Kwa Tuli after 5 days to go to Lesheba,way up in the mountains between Vivo and Louis Trichardt, another incredible place , a Venda village reinterpreted by Noria Mabasa! Joyce, the young (and beautiful )manager was actually born there , it was her parents 'village which was later abandonned and bought and rebuilt by the Rosmarin family.We stayed in the beautiful Mwedzi suite, self catering , cooking in the boma at night while listening to the rhinos and the leopards sneezing...we also took a very informative walk with a young Zimbabwean ranger Trymore, who showed us rock art and explained to us about many medicinal plants.Let me add that The Rosmarin Vaughan family is also involved in Fair Trade Tourism and the lodge is run by local people, and very well!
Then it was back to Polokwane, Joburg and Geneva!Till next time, we did get bitten by the Africa bug!