April 10, 2023
After an afternoon of travel – Kasane to Johannesburg and Johannesburg to Durbin, we arrived back on the ship last night, unpacked and had a quick bite to eat. When we arrived back at 7:50 PM (predicted 7:45 so very impressive timing) there was a huge thunderstorm with lots of lightning.
On Monday, we arrived in Richard’s Bay and had a tour to the St. Lucia Wetlands Nature Reserve. Most of these cities in South Africa offered one day safari drives and there were lots of people out on overland trips for several days.
Richard’s Bay is situated on a lagoon of the Mhlatuze River which makes it the country’s second largest harbor. It also has the deepest natural harbor on the Africa continent.
Our guide was Emanuel and he was very proud of his Zulu heritage. He told us a lot about the country on our one hour trip to the river. the. population of this area of South Africa is 11.5 million and about 80% are Christian, largely due to the influence of missionaries over the years. Many people still practice the local religions secretly. Unemployment is high, it was as high as 40%, now it is more like 31%. A huge export is eucalyptus wood. In fact we saw miles of trees during the bus ride – all planted there – they are not natural to the area,they were first planted here in 1870. We also saw many avocado trees. Along the road, you see lots of small structures where people sell the products that they grow on their own land to make some money as there are no jobs for them.
The social structure is interesting. Polygamy is widely practiced here. In order for a man to take a wife, he must provide a dowry of 11 cows. If the woman is not a virgin, it is 10 cows. If she has children, subtract some more cows.
There is a stipend for children that the family gets until the child reaches 18. Emanuel said this is both good and bad. It does help with child poverty, but now the teen pregnancy rate is high because young people want to have children for the money. There is a development project which provides housing in townships for those in need.
Many homes have what they call “holy huts” in which the families pray for fulfillment of their needs and wishes.
Once we reached the river, we boarded the boat for the 2 hour trip. The boat captain provided us with information about the river, the water tables and the threats to the environment. For example, the water level is falling and the river water is not brackish enough from the sea so all of the mangroves have died.
After 5 days on safari, this trip turned out to be basically a nice boat ride. The most fun part was having an Australian family on board with us. They had a 1 year old girl, Olympia, and she was a delight as were her cousins – in the 10 year old range.
We saw some birds and several hippos. It was exciting for those who had never seen them, but after our many hippo sightings, this was very underwhelming. We learned on safari and again here that hippos live 40-50 years and can hold their breath for 6 minutes under water.
St. Lucia is South Africa’s third largest park and is a world heritage site due to the 5 ecosystems here – swamps, beaches, wetlands, woodlands and coastal forests.
After the boat trip, I looked at the craft shop but did not purchase anything. Many of the items are the same in every port and I only bought from the shops at the safari or actual shops, not street vendors. Much of the merchandise at those is mass produced in China.
There were some interesting art pieces and a mosaic walkway – and a hippo skull on display in the boat.
Tomorrow we will be in Maputo, Mozambique. We will do a walking tour with several friends. I looked at my post from 8 years ago, and it seems that we will visit pretty much the same places. We will see how much has changed.
Enjoying the photos and narrative. Happy all is going well Don and Jan