Here I am in South Africa! As I flew over the country from Johannesburg to the airport at George, I looked out the window – plenty of spare seats in this plane! – to look down on a country that looked as if all the green had been sucked out of it. Even the trees that I could see from up high, looked black. The other thing that struck me was how vast this country is. Everything about it is large – even the power plugs!
George is a small town, tucked in under the Outeniqua mountains and a little inland from the coast. cars registered here have the number plate CAW….short for “cold and wet” I am told by the locals! I even saw a couple of car stickers saying that. A short drive (thankfully) from the airport found me at the Protea King George Hotel. A little way out of the town centre, with fences and gates, this leaves one without a car being rather isolated. My room was not in the main block below, I had to walk across about 100 metres of grass to get to my block. Things are so spread out!. I went to dinner to find that meal sizes here are enormous! tomatoes are so much more tasty than in NZ, as are many of the other vegetables and fruit that I have eaten this last week. It is to do with the amount of sun they tell me.
The next day, I was taken around the district by the local Trinity rep. This meant seeing lots of coastline, looking a lot like NZ beaches and having lunch at a restaurant right out at the heads of Knysna Harbour. (I am writing this from Knysna now) and feeding and “hanging with” elephants. It was a lovely day – warm but windy. Lunch was (as expected) far too large, but it was great to sit, smell the sea and watch the waves breaking on the rocks.
On Wednesday, we travelled over the immense Outeniqua Mountain range , by the Four Passes through the semi tundra desert to Oudtshoorn. Famous for its ostrich farms (the meat is quite common in this area), it is also very high – nearly 800 metres above sea level. I found the air rather thin – and Johannesburg is higher still!! It was also extremely dry and hot. On the trip I was able to see the colours up close. there are greens of course, but also many other colours with my overall impression being that I loved the blues that I saw. It is amazing to see how the plants and animals manage to survive in such a demanding environment.
Onwards the same day (after examining) to Knysna where I am now. This is a tourist beach place. Thesen Island is a place for those with money. The rest of us live on the mainland, surrounded by restaurants and tourist traps. My apartment here is gorgeous – huge and well set up. I would love to take it home with me! I have not had any opportunity to look round Knysna as I have been working fairly long hours here. I do not feel confident enough to walk around at night. Last night on the way home from one of the close restaurants, I was talked to be two beggars – one on the side of the road, so I crossed to the other side to find another one about 40 metres further along. I slunk past them both as quickly and safely as possible. Tonight I am going to eat even closer! The hotel restaurant is being re-furbished, so I have to go out to eat. I am able to cook here, but the supermarket is a long way to walk so I have not gone there.
I have finished my examining stint here. many of the students wanted a photo, so here is a photo of lots of happy (relieved?) people – this is of course BEFORE results are sent out! 😉 Thanks to all concerned. this has been a wonderful introduction to a fascinating country.
Tomorrow I travel to Port Elizabeth – where I stay for about three weeks. Again it is a long trip. Everything about South Africa seems huge – meals, distances, mountains, people – it can be a little intimidating, but the people I have met so far have been extraordinarily kind and helpful. Still the impression remains that this is a huge country.