Before we left we visited with out friends Sandile and April.   As Sandile is South African (and from Durban) we were excited to know as much as we could learn beforehand to enhance our trip and frankly how not to embarass ourselves.  They were tremendously gracious at a hectic time in their life.  We mentioned that we had no idea what the itinerary would entail and Sandile asked if we were going to go on safari.  He mentioned that is usually a place just for tourists.  As he put it, “We have heard stories of lions from our grandfathers, and we are not too excited to see them.”

Yet, we are learning, that nothing overcomes our host’s desire to please us, which is truly a South African trait.  Of course, they had never been to a game preserve either.  On the way, we stopped at one of the most beautiful places we have been to and another remarkable story of this country in this remarkable time.  Mpume’s friend Zondile was a teacher for 14 years.  Suddenly and miraculously, she came into an opportunity to own a sugar cane field which she has turned into an incredible plantation of 180 hectares (whatever that means.  It was really big.)  The lush greeness against a dramatic sky was breathtaking.  After another wonderful South African meal we continued into Zululand on our way to the game preserve. 

On the way us, we experienced our first rain.  As we first entered into the preserve we almost immediately spotted impala ( the leading deer in Africa) and antelope.  We learned the next day that Impala is a source of food for 80% of the carnivores in the preserve.  The poor things have three stripes on their hind quarters that resemble the golden arches of McDonald’s and so it must seem to the animals chasing them.  We settled in with rain falling on our charming chalet.  I made a strategic decision.  No morning  run through the big game reserve. 

The weather the next day was like a cold and rainy early Spring day in Albany.  You are welcome, South Africa.  Bundled against the elements, we settled into a day that was likely to include rhinos, elephants, buffalo and leopards.  But they are not fond of the weather and despite the heroic efforts of our guide Francios and his Land Rover negotiating the mud, we found few of the animals we thought we would.  We did see wildebeats three times, but twice it was the same pack.  Yet, none of this could dampen (pardon the pun) our time together.  In the end, we really would like to be like South Africans so not seeing these animals actually makes us feel like them!  

Tomorrow, finally to KwaNdebeqheke for mass and a celebration of Momma Zondi’s birthday.

PS  Mpume’s great friend Stanley has driven us all over.  He too is part of our South African family.  Tonight, his son Abdul, won the nationwide reality show “Class Act.”  I was trying to find ways for people to vote him form the US but could not figure it out.  I am now friends of