Saturday, April 16, 2016

South Africa - beautiful country struggling with its past

We recently traveled to South Africa for a combination of watching our daughter (Darbi) compete in IronMan South Africa as well as do some touring. South Africa was quite the surprise in terms of its natural beauty, history, variety of places to visit, and the nature of its people. We planned on a good visit but the trip far surpassed our expectations.

We started the trip in Capetown and then traveled to De Hoop nature reserve, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay, Tsitsikamma National Park, and ended our eastern push at Port Elizabeth which is the end of the Garden Route across the southern end of the country.

The coastline is absolutely spectacular in so many places. The picture here is at De Hoop but this kind of vista was repeated many times. One of the biggest surprises was the course for the IronMan. The swim was in the Indian Ocean as the surf crested on Port Elizabeth beach. The bike was on a wonderful stretch of road mostly looking out to the Ocean. The run was on Marine Drive, a stretch of hotels, restaurants, and homes that ran the entire distance of the city of Port Elizabeth. This was the first time I was able to cheer Darbi on at an IronMan competition - an experience that resulted in enhanced appreciation and respect for the sport and Darbi's commitment to it. The sacrifice of IronMan competitors is amazing and the spirit among all was kind, welcoming and a real joy.

After the IronMan we toured Addo Elephant Park where we saw elephants in the wild along with zebra, monkeys, kudu, and other animals native to the area. It was incredible to drive through the park and see the animals completely undisturbed by our presence. Following Addo, we traveled to another beach town, Knysna, and then spent the last of our days in Stellenbosch visiting vineyards, Stellenbosch University, and more Capetown sights.

We struggled a number of times when the legacy of apartheid was so visible in poor housing and obvious separation between the Blacks who are native to South Africa and the White immigrants and visitors. We asked several people about the conditions for Blacks and were told that much of the problem that persists today is the result of immigration from other African countries that do not have the breadth of employment opportunity available in South Africa. The result of the influx of others is sprawling slums and high unemployment for many Blacks. We were also told that numerous efforts have been undertaken to improve education and housing but that change is slow, especially with the current government. Many spoke of their disappointment with the current President of South Africa and the hope is that elections will result in his removal soon.

A number of other pictures are posted in my Picassa albums if you would like to see more of South Africa. The pictures provide a way to remember but the people made a more indelible impact on me - generous, hopeful, welcoming, and eager for a better life. South Africa is a promising country seeking to provide ways for its people to pursue their dreams.

1 comment:

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