Tuesday, December 27, 2016

[The Life of Shaun #543] Four out of five ain't bad

Requisite on a trip of any length to South Africa is a safari.  Sushil didn't get to do one on his first visit to Cape Town, so we added it to our itinerary.  But first it was a quick overnight in South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria.

Unlike most countries, South Africa has three capital cities.  This is a result of "negotiations between the British Empire and the defeated Boer republics that ended the second Anglo-Boer war [creating] the Union of South Africa...Parliament meets in Cape Town, the former capital of the British Cape Province.  The administration is based in Pretoria, the capital of the Boer republic of Transvaal, and the judiciary is based in Bloemfontein, the capital of the other Boer republic–the Orange Free State".  However, since 1995, South Africa's highest court, the Constitutional Court, has been located in Johannesburg, adding another layer of complexity to the bureaucracy.  Most embassies are located in Pretoria, and it is often considered the de facto capital.

However you slice it, as Johannesburg boomed, it merged with Pretoria into a single megalopolis, and many of its residents commute down ten-lane highways into Johannesburg's business districts to pay the mortgages on their leafy suburban homes.  Dominated outside the modest downtown grid by large roads and ho-hum shopping centres, I would charitably call Pretoria one of those cities that is better to live in than to visit; it is pleasant, orderly, clean, green and prosperous, but like Stein's Oakland, there's just no there there.

The Voortrekker Monument towers above the city to commemorate the Dutch colonists' successful great trek from Cape Town into the interior.

This panel inside sensitively depicts the slaughter of 12,000 Zulus by the Voortrekkers.

Pretoria, from the monument.

A large complex of flats in the city centre has sat unfinished for many years as the developer and city council are unable to resolve differences on who should own them post-completion.

Pretoria was merged with several adjacent municipalities, called the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, after the pre-colonial name for the area.  A bill was recently passed to officially rename the city itself to Tshwane as well.  Not totally unjustified, but much like with India's scrubbing of colonial names from the map, often not considered by the renamed locals to be their most pressing unmet need.

Mama Sharifa: coming soon to a red state near you.

Church Square, Pretoria's heart.

At its centre, the statue of Paul Kruger, the first President of the Union of South Africa, has been gated off to protect it from the protests of 2015, aimed at removing reminders of and monuments to white, colonial and Apartheid leaders.

Nelson Mandela in front of the Union Buildings.

At our Pretoria hotel, they take South Africa's creation of a post-racial society very seriously.

From Pretoria, it was about a five-hour ride to Kruger National Park, where we stayed for two nights for our safaris.  The implicit goal of most people on safari is to see the Big Five, a name given by hunters to the five largest and most dangerous African mammals: elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, lion and leopard.  In the private game reserves bordering Kruger, it can be easier to see all five as the populations are not totally left alone to fend for themselves, but in Kruger, it's all a matter of luck -- luck which we were somewhat thin on.  The people who went out the day before us saw all the big five at least twice.  But when our turn came, it ended up being the hottest day of the week, which meant the animals weren't moving around much, so we were much less likely to see them about.  We managed to see all but the leopard, our sightings providing gleeful moments of relief on the hot, windy drive along the park's roads.  Quite exciting at first, by the start of the evening Sushil and I were ready to be back in camp for a cold beer, a cool shower, and a good night's sleep before heading back to civilisation in the morning.

One: mother elephant with two babies.

Bonus action shot.

Two: rhinoceroses

Three: buffalo

Four: lions

Five: leopard

Bonus: zebras

Bonus: giraffe

Bonus: warthogs

Bonus: hippopotamuses

Bonus: baby hyena

Bonus: mother monkey and baby

We had the honeymoon suite.  :-)

​On the way back to Johannesburg, we stopped at Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons on Earth.

It's a personal choiceShaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~ shaunism.blogspot.co.uk

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