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Published: August 25th 2019
African Diary 2016
Thursday, February 1, 2016
Saturday, January 30 was a strenuous day. At 3:30 AM I had to get up in Burgdorf at Ilsabe’s.
The cab picked me up at 4 and I was at the Hannover Airport by 4:30 AM, 90 minutes before
departure of a KLM flight to Amsterdam. The check in with a business class ticket was a breeze,
I felt privileged and grateful for Nicky that he made me take this step. Also Martin and Ilsabe
are supportive of me spending their inheritance.
We landed in Amsterdam in stormy weather around 7 AM and I had three hours to kill. The way
to the lounge was long and even this early the stores were already busy. I had a cup of coffee in a
comfortable chair. A few minutes after my arrival in the lounge there were no more empty
chairs and this was just one of three or four KLM lounges.
Before embarking around 9:45 AM I had my miles registered with Delta after finding - thanks to
Google - an answer how to get my frequent flyer number. The gate agent was helpful.
The flight boarded on time but did not depart punctually. We were delayed in Amsterdam for a
whole hour. From the maps on the screen I could see that we flew across Germany, almost
precisely over Frankfurt, then Austria, the former Yugoslavia and Albania, where the cloud cover
lifted for the remaining journey. We crossed over the Ionian Sea, and the Peloponnese
Peninsula. In the distance must have been the Corinth Canal and further east Athens. Then we
crossed the Mediterranean Sea flying directly over Crete before reaching the African continent
near Tobruk, a name associated with the German North Afrika Korps and Field Marshall
Rommel. I remember visiting the Italian, British and German war cemeteries with my friend
Jack Wright several years ago.
Below are the flight paths and an image of the Khartoum area, with many fields
We then crossed the large expanse of the northern Sahara Desert. I saw mainly sand, a few
areas where rocks dominated and occasionally there was a green spot, an oasis. We reached
Sudan and surprisingly saw agriculture near Khartoum where we crossed the Nile a second time.
The Nile near Sudan
Finally it became dark so that we could not see Mount Kilimanjaro as we were practically next to
it. However we landed close to it in Arusha, a small airport with one story buildings but a
landing strip long enough to accommodate our Airbus. A number of passengers disembarked,
new ones arrived and the plane was refueled. All this took about an hour and we landed 45
minutes later in total darkness in Dar Es Salam. Since I had obtained a Visa for Tanzania in
Seattle and since my luggage had been labeled “Priority” I was one of the first passengers to
leave the terminal. After getting my luggage and before leaving the airport I had to go through
another screening, a new experience to have luggage checked after arrival. Someone had
warned me only to take an official cab. However I found no official cabs. Instead a group of
twenty plus men came running to me wanting my business. It was a little scary especially since
the parking lot was pitch dark. One of the men persuaded me to trust the ID tag with his picture
that supposedly identified him as an official taxi driver. I had no choice. About twenty minutes
later he delivered me securely to the Sarena Dar Es Salam Hotel.
Coincidentally at the same day another Sarena, namely Sarena Williams, had lost against the
German Angelique Kerber in the final of the Australian Open and deprived Sarena of a record
held by another German, Steffi Graf. In my e-mail I found a message from my Australian friend
Gerry Frangi congratulating me (?) to the German woman’s win.
The Sarena Hotel in Dar Es Salam
At checking in, by this time it was after 11 PM, an attendant brought me a cold glass of apple
juice. A friendly lady found my registration and handed me my room key. With a Tylenol PM I
slept until 9 AM the next morning.
I was under the impression to have booked the hotel for two nights because on February 2 the
train was scheduled to leave. Unfortunately I had forgotten that January did not only have 30
but 31 days and so I thought I had to book another night. When I tried to do this the
receptionist assured me that I had booked for three nights. At home in Puyallup g my brain had
been in better shape than in Germany when I repeated my calculation - wrongly.
The surroundings of the hotel, which had been built in an Arabian style were expansive and
wonderful. Large palm trees swaying in the wind surrounded a large lawn area and swimming
pool. The guests were about half African and European. I decided to walk to the Indian Ocean
but soon changed my mind. On the street I met the waiter who had served my coffee and he
assured me that although across the hotel a police car had been stationed he recommended
against walking toward the Ocean. A boy about 14 or 15 with a large can of water on his arm
approached me asking for something that I did not understand. He then returned to a traffic
island where with a wet rag in his hands he offered drivers to clean their windows. Next to him
was a man sitting on the ground: his legs had been deformed by polio and he was begging.
During the five minutes of my observation he was successful in one instance but the boy with the
wet rag was not.
A few feet away a young kid not identifiable if male or female with rags instead of clothing stood
listless leaning against a post. Another young boy also dressed in dirty clothing was limping
across the street.
The contrast of these people on the street to me could not have been bigger: At their age I had
also been poor although definitely not that poor, but here I was well-nourished and wealthy and
happy. Simultaneously I felt shame and gratitude, pity and helplessness. I was reminded of a
healthy appearing teenager at the Alexander Platz in Berlin that I had observed just a few days
before who sat on the ground on a pillow with a blanket covering her and her dog, a cigarette in
her hand. The downtrodden in Berlin and in Dar Es Salam surely were different.
Do I rationalize when I hope that the money I spend in Tanzania will “trickle down” to these
poor creatures. During the Reagan years trickle down economics did not work in the US.
Friday, February 2, 2018 Day 1
The results were reported from the Iowa caucuses last night. The media, in this case CNN, made
the outcome appear important and decisive for a good reason; they want viewers who are
subjected to ads so that CNN can profit. Lately however Fox is outdoing them. Trump did
worse than expected (thanks Iowa Republicans!), between Hillary and Bernie Sanders there was
a virtual tie. Next up would be New Hampshire where Sanders might have an advantage since
he lives in neighboring Vermont. Nothing will probably be decided before I return home at the
end of April.
Because I tend to forget things when I leave a hotel I carefully checked out my room and
bathroom. Everything seemed to have been packed, but it was not. Later on the train I realized
that I had hung up my swim trunks and a pair of washed underwear over the tub! Later I missed
my hat, but that definitely was not left in my room. I wonder who will enjoy it now.
A bus picked up the luggage at 9:30 AM and supposedly took ninety minutes to make it to the
station. We made the distance of six miles in a third of the time. The traffic in Dar Es Salam
seemed to be incredible dense and chaotic. Part of the reason was that no one followed the
rules. The police just gave tickets to people with expired license numbers.
Dar Es Salam did not appear to be much different than most large African cities. There was dirt
and chaos, half finished construction, trash and poverty. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle, the
unpredictability of traveling, the colors, the salesmen in the middle of the road selling sun
glasses or pop. We finally made it to the station which was a huge building such as the Seattle
King Street station but gapingly empty. There was another passenger train but not a single
passenger. The only people present - there were seventy-two - were we and the train staff. Oh, I
forgot the band consisting of about ten people playing drums and a guitar swaying back and
forth and singing just what I would expect: Guantanamera. Some of the ladies in our group
moved in front of the band and moved synchronously with the entertainers. Their mood was
probably loosened by the South African sparkling wine which flowed without abandon.
Arrival at the Train Station in Dar Es Salam with a band playing and refreshing
drinks being served
Lunch in the dining car, the excursion car and the lounge car next to it
Part of my “mini” compartment and the lounge car
I had been assigned to the very last passenger car before the service cars on the Rovos Rail train.
Later in the trip, after the train would turn around it would be the first. My compartment was
named Wembley. It really did not make any difference to me if I was in the first or last car
because the distance to the dining car and the excursion car was the same, namely long.
Moreover, the open excursion car and bar cars were on the other end more than a quarter mile
away. So I was forced to exercise, I had to walk to my meals. often in swaying cars. Fortunately
the dining cars were in the center and I had to walk only through four moving cars on a track
that was described by the train manager as poor. If I was lucky if I would not break anything, a
few bruises were acceptable. My watch was damaged when I hit the wall on the second day of
The train left the station on time but the train manager warned us that punctuality is a foreign
term in Africa. He assured us however that we would reach Cape Town by the end of the month.
There should be one recurring theme in this diary and in my reports and that should be the
feeling of gratitude. How lucky was I to be able to make this journey? I was truly grateful to the
many people who have made this possible: parents, teachers, friends, patients but most He,
whose hands I have felt throughout my life. This feeling of gratitude is felt most intensively
during the first days of a journey and then again after a safe return.
Contrasts have always stimulated me and so it is with the African scenery. The first hour when
we passed the outskirts of Dar, we saw the air traffic control tower and a few crashed planes,
which rotted away on the side of the airfield. Then we came on scenery dominated by brush.
Everything was lush green. A group of monkeys watched as we passed by at the gentle speed of
about 35 miles per hour. We surprised them just a they surprised us. The train climbed an
incline for about an hour through rolling hills but the scenery did not change. The highest trees
were about fifteen feet. There was no agriculture initially. After a few hours we descended into
a valley and reached a fairly large river. Unfortunately, I had not yet found the detailed map
available on the train and my digital map could not be accessed because internet was not
Passengers had been encouraged to leave computers or i-pads in their compartments. Phones
could be used only to take pictures. As I looked at my fellow passengers I was inclined that most
guests are not digitally literate. Most were older than I. I did not find anyone who was more
than five years younger than I.
My initial compartment was small and crowded, later Rovos upgraded me
One problem for me on cruises or rail journeys have been the endless meals. I thought to
circumvent this by selecting a table for two at which I planned to eat by myself. There were
many tables available so I deemed myself lucky. But then the surprise came: Each course -
lunch and dinner consisted of four courses - was served for all before it was the turn for the next
course, i.e. the lunch meal lasted almost two hours. But why complain when I could not change
The second surprise during this first meal was that there was no choice of courses. One could
skip one but could not ask for an alternative. When I considered the difficulty of preparing food
in a train moving on poor tracks this even made sense.
After lunch I trekked to the excursion car at the other end of the train and found a delightful
coach, half of which was open although directly behind the water tank car and the Diesel engine.
A friendly hostess offered drinks and I enjoyed the fresh air and passing scenery.
Late in the afternoon we stopped in our tracks waiting for a train coming from the opposite
direction. We waited about two hours. I was able to open my window and took the opportunity
to take a few photos of children. One girl about eight or nine years old carried a younger sibling
on her back. The one difference between African and European children is that the Africans
seem to smile most the time, first it is a somewhat timid smile, then it becomes more open and
finally is shows happiness. But how could they be happy? Many had lost parents to AIDS.
What were they thinking when they saw our white faces?
Finally the sun disappeared and a brief dusk set in. It was time to go to the bar to have a drink.
I had to pinch myself if I was dreaming or really traveling through Tanzania and Africa.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 Day 2
During drinks before dinner I met an interesting couple. He - as I found out today - like the
majority of guests was also a physician. He was born in 1931, which made him six years older
and gave him a different life experience especially since he lived in East Germany - the DDR -
where he trained and practiced. For dinner his daughter joined us, who also was a physician,
both were ENT specialists and both were listed as “Professors”.
Above are some wildebeest in the distance, a large termite hill and the skull of a
Fritz, as I will call him, also lost his father shortly after the end of the war when he was fourteen.
After the Abitur he wanted to go to Medical School but that proved impossible initially. Through
both the connection to a former Nazi, who had to leave Berlin and another person, a
Communist, named Zetkin (the son of the famous Clara Zetkin) he finally was admitted to
Humboldt University in Berlin. Our dinner conversation was spent with his story how he
became a surgical assistant, then an ENT specialist, an Oberarzt and finally a “Chief” and
“Ordinarius” (Head of a University Department) in Cottbus in far East Germany, a town known
primarily for its ugliness. After the Wall came down he left his appointment and went into
private practice for financial reasons. I must confess that I had some doubt because the position
he had would most likely have required party membership and his departure from academia
thus unlikely would have been voluntary.
His daughter was head of an ENT department in Kassel. She complained that she did not have
the resources to run her department effectively. As an example she said she had only one half of
a secretary. She was caring lovingly for her mother with whom she shared a compartment.
From certain behavior I assumed her to be Lesbian. The dinner menu was complicated and I
had to translate it to them. We had a lively evening together.
The next morning we had to get up early because a game drive was on the schedule. The train
had stopped at a deserted station in the middle of the night. Initially there was no soul to be
seen but after sunrise a number of jeeps appeared with drivers. Instead of 7 AM we left closer to
eight. One of the vehicles was delayed because it had been stuck in the mud. This meant that
the optimal time of day for game watching had passed. Nevertheless we saw antelopes,
wildebeest, zebras, a wart hog and many, many giraffes, unfortunately most animals were so far
away that my photos were not comparable with those from last year in the Kruger National
The four-wheel drive vehicles were very uncomfortable and I had a bad seat so that I was glad to
return to the train by about 1 PM. The staff welcomed us with some cold towels and a refreshing
drink. All drinks and alcohol was free including beer, wine and hard liquor. During the whole
trip, however, I would not see anyone being inebriated.
The train ride in the afternoon took us first through the kind of country that we consider typical
for Africa. Steppe or savannah with mainly brushes, acacias, and lots of termite hills. Many
trees seemed to be paired with those huge or small termite colonies. The bigger the tree the
higher the termite mound. I had not observed this phenomenon previously in Africa or
Australia. Later in the afternoon we entered a valley. There were fairly high mountains (est.
3-4000 feet high) on each side. On the valley floor there was agriculture: corn, rice and sugar
cane. Then the valley became narrower and the scenery reminded me of a dense jungle. It was
not hard to enjoy Africa from an air-conditioned train, being retired and free from the worries of
the world. We received no television, had no radio and also no internet.
Thursday, February 4, 2016 Day 3
We still traveled through Tanzania stopping occasionally to change drivers. In the US they
would probably be called engineers. They slept in a compartment neighboring to mine.
Occasionally we had to stop at a station to take on water.
When there was little going on outside we had the opportunity to listen to lectures. Nicholas,
the lecturer who formerly was a professor at at black South African university was illuminating.
He joined me at my table for lunch. He was a third generation South African whose grandfather
immigrated in the early 20th century from Britain as a classically trained musician who became
a member of the first Cape Town symphony. The grandfather bought and ran a grape farm on
the outskirts of Cape Town, which made the following generation rich as the farm became
suburbia. Nicholas was married to a lady from Portugal, making his, as he described it, a
typical South African family.
Nicholas focused in his lectures on the countries, which we visited beginning with the history of
Tanzania. The former colony of Deutsch Ostafrika was carved out at a conference in 1884 to
which Bismarck had invited the colonial powers of the time to divide up the remaining Africa
with the goal of maintaining German interests. The Germans began occupying the coast, then
Emperor William II, asked his grandmother Queen Victoria if he could not include Mount
Kilimanjaro, which she generously granted. Can anyone imagine a deal such as that today?
Nicholas told us about the Heligoland treaty, which brought the island of Heligoland to
Germany and made Zanzibar a British protectorate. He reported on the history of Zanzibar,
which had become a supplier of slaves for Arab countries after West Africa had been eliminated
when the British outlawed slavery. When the same happened to Zanzibar the ruler had his
subjects grow spices and produced 80% of the world supply of cloves. Since the rulers of
Zanzibar originally had come from Oman at a time when the slave trade had been lucrative the
predominant religion was Islam. Even at the time of our trip the union between the former
Tanganyika and Zanzibar (TANganyika ZANzibar) was tenuous. The democratically elected
head of Zanzibar was also Vice President of Tanzania.
According to our lecturer the greatest two influences on the current Tanzania was firstly that not
a single tribe dominated this country and secondly, that the German influence was still strong
although it was a colony merely between the 1880s and 1918. It was one of the large African
countries with a fairly functional government. The lecturer was concerned about the influence
of fundamentalist Moslems in Zanzibar and along the coast of the Indian Ocean north and south
of Dar Es Salam although I was not sure if a certain bias influenced Nick’s thinking.
During lunch Nicholas developed an interesting thesis, which he claimed purely as his own. He
divided societies into those where people had a trust in each other and those that do not. The
best example of a “Trust” society was Japan, where doors could be left unlocked and large
business agreements were sealed with a hand shake. He contrasted such societies with those
where “distrust” was dominant, namely corrupt societies such as many African and South
American countries. He based his theory somewhat on studies of Max Weber, the sociological
and political philosopher of the last century who postulated that a society based on protestant
ethical thinking was more successful than those societies who would not subscribe to such
principals. If one follows his thinking the current US society with the large number of lawyers
and the almost equally large number of lobbyists would speak against Nicholas’ theory because
the US are still one of the most successful societies on earth.
A lunch conversation brought another interesting immigrant story me. Tony, who shared our
table with his wife again told us how his grandparents arrived in Glasgow at the beginning of the
last century. They had come from Jewish Stedtls in Poland wanting to immigrate to the US.
They were fairly uneducated and were made to believe that Glasgow was indeed the US and were
made to disembark. Apparently such deception was not unusual at the time.
In the meantime our train had climbed to an altitude of 5500 feet and the temperature
decreased so that I felt cold and definitely turned off my air conditioner. The scenery was
alternating between park and agriculture. We began to see the first Baobabs, this strange tree
with a huge trunk, that suddenly stops being huge and branches out into much smaller branches
than one would expect from such a large trunk.
Harm di Blij, one of Crystal Cruises’ favorite lecturers, mentioned once that many visitors to
Africa have a deeper affection for this than for others. He based this on the fact that once, many,
many million of years ago our ancestors came from Africa. He may or not be correct, however I
tend to agree with him because I have an affection not only for Africa but for all those places
where my ancestors once lived be it the Alsace or the Westphalian countryside.
In the afternoon we listened to a story that I had not heard in detail, namely the discovery of the
source of the Nile. This river basically has two sources: one is called the Blue Nile and is shorter
and the other the White Nile, which is considerably longer making the Nile the longest river on
earth. This river was the basis for the development of the Egyptian culture and it still is of great
importance to nourish 85 Million people who live in close proximity to the river and its delta.
The two explorers who deserved most of the credit were Richard Burton and John Hanning
Speke. They began their adventure together but ended up bitter enemies. After reaching a
certain Lake Burton assumed that this lake was the source of the Nile. Speke however continued
north and found a waterfall leaving a large lake he called Lake Victoria. He pursued this body of
water which ended in large seemingly impenetrable papyrus plant maze, through which no boat
had made it. Speke however was able to combine manpower and boats that were pulled through
on the papyrus maze with ropes. Only at that time such a feat could have been accomplished.
After they reached the end of what they called the “Sud” they arrived what at the time was
commonly the beginning of the White Nile, although definitely not its source.
Speke’s former partner Burton could not have disagreed more. A scientific symposium was held
where Burton presented his side on the first day most convincingly. At the end of the day, Speke
who had gone on a hunt to relax died in a hunting accident. For the next twelve or so years
Burton’s opinion had prevailed until finally Stanley (his most famous saying: “Mr. Livingston I
presume”) established that Lake Victoria had no other outlet and was indeed the source of the
After Nick’s lecture I went on what I call my “Long Migration” to the front of the train. The
quarter mile walk in a train moving on poor tracks takes a while. In the excursion car there was
always a lively atmosphere thanks to the freely flowing drinks. Even the German ENT Professor
was able to converse in English, amazing! A fellow speaking English with a Spanish accent sat
down next to me. He had been a foreign exchange student to the US in 1955 and after returning
to Spain attended Medical School. On a Fulbright Scholarship he returned to the US and
became a vascular surgeon. The scholarship required him to again go back to Spain but after
some years he returned to the US and practiced Vascular Surgery in Florida. If one changes a
few places and periods the story sounded similar to mine as those of you who know me will
During the next night the train was moving off and on. Around midnight we passed the border
between Tanzania and Zambia, the former Northern Rhodesia. We had filled out a barrage of
forms and did not have to leave our comfortable compartment when crossing borders. By
breakfast time we traveled through a somewhat different scenery: there now was only little
agriculture and bush country dominated. We briefly stopped at the town of Chozi. The train
stations all look the same: large white building but no people. Along the train tracks I observed
a local man taking a picture of the train with a small digital camera. Children of all ages were
everywhere. Near the big stations the students were dressed in uniforms, the boys above ten or
so even wore ties. They looked formal and professional. I guess a good education begins with
clothing. In the poorer areas the children wore mainly rags and the youngest ones were carried
on the back of the 7 or 8-year olds.
Sunday, February 6, 2016 Day 5
We traveled through Zambia for a whole day. The country was more hilly than Tanzania and
there seemed to be more agriculture. The land appeared fertile. That has both advantages and
disadvantages. While the advantages are obvious the disadvantage was that the farmers have to
remove the deep-rooted native plants to clear a field before he could begin planting. The vibrant
plants just like our weeds were always threatening to take over the farmers’ fields. They had to
work hard especially in wet areas where they had to heap up the soil in large rows to prevent the
plants from drowning during the rainy season. Many times Westerners presume these farmers
are “backward”. Surely they do not go to sophisticated agricultural schools but they make the
best of their adverse conditions, which include heat, floods, poor implements (mainly the hack),
illness (mainly Malaria and AIDS) and poor nutrition.
We were traveling through this country but many questions regarding agriculture, the people
and their health, the prevailing health problems, contraception, birth rates we could only
attempt to answer when we connected to the net. Occasionally some data was getting through
on my phone lines but only unpredictably. I received some phone messages on our bus ride to
the Chisimba Water Falls.
We stopped in Masama. The station was built cookie cutter style by the Chinese when they
constructed the rail road. The stations would look identical if the name of each station would
not be different. The bus took us through the town of Masama along churches, health clinics,
stores (one sign said “Butcher and Hairdresser”), many kiosks probably representing banks
because the signs said that you could pay your bills and get cash.
The main road through town was lined by a cemented gutter, which was necessary because of
the monsoon floods. We had to cross a bridge on our way to the falls that had just opened again
after having been flooded and was still under construction. The road bed had been washed away
also and our bus made it barely past the bottleneck .
The Chisimba Falls were impressive. Within the distance of a mile three stages of falls dropped
down about 600 feet. With great difficulty I negotiated a rough path and climbed up a rocky
outcrop from which I could see the first stage. As it began to rain I found a smoother path to the
second and third stage but decided not to climb down to the bottom of the last stage. I returned
to the spot where the Rovos people had set up a drink station where I had a coke with rum.
A German couple who are from Hannover were also relaxing there. The world is small. Martin
would have found him to be typical of the northern Germans: very factual, no smile, seriously
talking about the 25 African countries he and his wife had visited. Like with many German
tourists a complaint has to be part of every conversation. For him it was the wrong information
he received in Germany about the formalities of entering Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is
easy to talk to most people some Germans are hard core in this respect. Although I do not
consider myself German in this respect, my speed of judgement is - I have to admit - very
On a sad note: my best camera, the expensive Nikon, is not working appropriately. Most images
are not in focus. After it was damaged on the Alaska trip the repair in Seattle must not have
Sunday,February 7, 2016 Day 6
We continued to travel through Zambia. The scenery had changed and we passed large farms
obviously run by Europeans. We even observed a giant field that was being irrigated. I wish, I
could identify the crops. We are experiencing the problem that the lectures to which we listen
are good but incomplete. Our thirst for knowledge cannot be quenched on such a short trip, that
at one time I considered to be long.
Between meals I mainly sit in my compartment watching the world go by. Yesterday we had to
take on water, which became a significant problem. After turning on the giant faucets it took a
considerable amount of time for the pressure to come up to flush the water into our large tank
car. Then the pressure went down again. Our train manager suspected that it might be a money
problem because after paying a certain amount the water was flowing again. Instead of
accomplishing the task in 90 minutes it took four hours. The town of Kapiri Mposhi gave us the
opportunity to turn the train around so that I ended up in very first compartment after the
engine, the supply carriage and the one serving as housing for the personnel.
During the morning our lecturer Nick presented the story of Cecil Rhodes. We were still
traveling through Zambia, the former Northern Rhodesia. Rhodes can be viewed as a colonial
pragmatist. At the time of our journey attempts were being made to remove his statues from
Ariel College in Oxford and from the University of Cape Town. Rhodes was the son of a
minister, a poor student (so far I identify with him) with charisma and great judgement of
people and of business. While our lecturer agreed that he may have been a ruthless, he insisted
that Rhodes could not be viewed with current standards. He was generous in dealing with his
business associates as he purchased and then consolidated the deBeers Company, as he
expanded the British interests past South Africa into the current Zambia and Zimbabwe with a
vision to anglicize the whole continent. His greatest although still unrealized dream was to build
a railway from Cape Town to Cairo. Rhodes died at age 48 in 1902 most likely to a malady that
at the time could not be diagnosed: Coarctation of the aorta. With the deBeers company he left
behind a diamond empire. Secondly, Northern and Southern Rhodesia became British colonies.
The scholarships to Oxford College carrying Cecil Rhodes’ name have been called an Empire of
In the morning we stopped in Lusaka. Looking out of my window I saw high-rises on one side
and the most primitive market stands one could imagine. There were were children everywhere.
Apparently some were orphans due to the AIDS epidemic. Many waited for the passage of the
train and greeted us loudly and enthusiastically. We could only imagine the troubles of their past
and the difficulties in their future years. Traveling in luxury and seeing this land of poor
orphans again aroused the most ambivalent feelings within me.
Now a little report about life aboard the Rovos Rail, the Pride of Africa as it is called. The
carriages are all historical. The owner, a Mr. Ronald Vos, made his hobby his business. He
found old and dilapidated carriages from between the 1920s and 1950s and restored them
completely. They were brought up to a minimum of modern expectations: they have suites of
various sizes, some like mine - the smallest one - can be compared with that of the Blue Train
and the Silk Road train. It was a single compartment with a sofa, which at night could be made
into a bed. The small refrigerator came in very handy to cool my water during the high tropical
temperatures. The bath room had a small sink, a shower and toilet. The windows with shutters
prevented the worst heat. With the windows uncovered or open the heat was intolerable. A
small air conditioning unit could be regulated easily but blew cold air on my neck, which
resulted in stiffness. My compartment was closest to the front next to the utility units. I had to
walk through five cars just to get to a lounge car. I had to pass it to reach the dining car. It is a
long way with the poor tracks especially in Zambia and Zimbabwe pushing me from one side of
the train to the other. In order to avoid those walks I spent most of my time looking out of the
window of my compartment. Occasionally I made an excursion to the open car at the very end
of the train.
Most meals I had by myself. Occasionally I joined another single person or a couple. It was
easy to talk to people at other times than during meals. The breakfast was fairly brief but lunch
and dinner were served differently than on cruises. With limited space to prepare meals we had
no choice of the lunch and dinner menus. All were four course meals and they were imaginative
and took into consideration the area through which we travel. The galley served springbok filet
and Strauss carpaccio. Had I had a choice I would not have ordered it and thus would have
deprived myself of a new experience. Lunch and dinner were accompanied by a white and a red
wine and an after dinner liqueur. The staff was most professional and quickly learned my
preferences. One disadvantage was that all people in the dining room were served each course
simultaneously. It meant that I had to wait until the last person had finished a course before the
next one was served making the dinner an at least 90 minute exercise. This was way too long
especially since I ate by oneself. However it served me well to practice my patience. As soon as
the dessert was served I was off to my compartment.
A couple of times I had lunch with Nick, the lecturer, a most interesting and interested person.
From his presentation it was clear to me that he was familiar with European history especially as
it related to Africa. However he knew as much about the Middle Ages, about the Reformation
and US history. We had several stimulating conversations.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016 Day 8
On February 8 we arrived late in the afternoon in Victoria Falls. The last town in Zambia had
been Livingston. Between the two towns and a large suspension bridge crossed the deep, deep
valley over the River Zambezi. From the train we had our first view of the Falls. The train had
stopped right on the bridge and we could get off and walk to a viewpoint from which we had a
great view of the two part of the Falls: on one side the river descends 75 meters (250 feet) from
the other 100 meters (330 feet). The river rushes through the smaller part with a rapid current.
Yours truly at Victoria Falls, the spray rises hundreds of feet
After we reached the hotel and signed in it was my first priority to check my mail and download
the NYT and the Spiegel. Then I took my first bath in days and rested. The train people had
seen to it that the little hand luggage was transferred from the train directly into my room. We
enjoyed the welcome drink and then had a great buffet lunch. The other guests bragged about a
German sausage that I had passed.
In the afternoon we cruised the Zambezi in a large pontoon boat, which accommodated our
whole group. Wine, beer and drinks were flowing but our attention was focused on the wild life.
We observed several birds, saw a monitor on the beach, also a small crocodile and lots of hippo
families. The part where we cruised had been called jungle junction: it used to be a stop by
British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC) on their way from Johannesburg and Cairo.
Jungle Junction also was the name of the restaurant in the park outside the hotel. Near its
entrance was an outdoor exhibition of sculptures by African artists. Right away one carved from
serpentine stone caught my attention: a pregnant woman cowering down and protecting her
abdomen. After passing by it a few more times I could not resist. The dark Serpentine rock will
contrast well with the sculpture of the yellowish pregnant woman on the credenza at the
entrance of my home.
In the evening I had dinner by myself in the hotel formal dining room. It had been in operation
since 1914 and I contemplated what conversations the colonials before World War I broke out
must have had there. The food was not as good as the service, which was without comparison
anywhere. The staff had been trained extremely well and would not shy a comparison with
The following morning we toured the Zimbabwe side of the Falls. We had to wear ponchos
because of the spray that was carried up high into the air and a distance of half a mile a way
from the falls. Only a poet could describe the falls, even my camera images can only help to
recall the memory of my visit. Nothing could compare to standing right there in the mist.
On our walk we first passed the narrower and shallower part, then walked for half a mile or so
and could view the wider and higher part of the falls. Because of the mist it was difficult to take
decent picture of the rushing masses of water, no image can capture the noise so that I can only
encourage anyone who reads this to visit Victoria Falls at least once during their lives.
But even that walk near the falls was topped. Later three of us climbed into a helicopter and
viewed the Falls from the air. The trip lasted only about 12 minutes but it gave us a spectacular
overview, which cannot be obtained from the ground. The Zambezi after being wide and fairly
shallow narrows down toward the falls and then from the ledge drops down deeply into a narrow
canyon, which ziczacs around, not roundly like a meander but in the sharpest curves one can
The helicopter operation was run extremely well. At the end of the flight we could buy a DVD,
which contained a movie of our arrival, as we walked over the tarmac to the helicopter and then
even during the flight a small camera at the window had recorded our reactions. Who would
leave such a DVD behind?
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 Day 9
The Victoria Falls definite had been a highlight of a previous journey to Africa. My first visit
during an excursion from the Crystal serenity had been so meaningful that I wanted to return.
This return confirmed my impression of the grandeur of this great geographical miracle.
Additionally, the Victoria Falls Hotel confirmed my previous opinion as the hotel where it was
possible to get a feel for the colonial time of Africa.
We left Zimbabwe behind us. It was a country of extreme contrasts: the government i.e. its
leader have made monumental mistakes by virtually expelling the white farmers. It will take
generations to recover. One feels poverty everywhere except on the island of the tourist industry
in Victoria Falls. Here one is transported back into the colonial period with silent but efficient
customer service at its best. One encouraging aspect is that most seems to be under the control
of local Blacks. During dinner the Food and Beverage manager approached me and we had a
brief conversation. She was a thirty year old woman, who might have well been a model. She
appeared confident and well educated. She seemed to be ambitious and had demonstrated this
by reaching her position after several years of training and working previously in a hotel in
Harare, the capital. It was her dream to work internationally but at the time it definitely was
out of her reach. Although she wanted to have children, her career was her priority.
When I mentioned to her the many children we had seen along our journey she insisted, that
this was “country” and the larger cities had good schools and ample opportunities for education.
My curiosity if contraceptive techniques and tools were available in the poorer communities she
unfortunately could not answer.
Later the next morning we ascended the train and reached Botswana. We quickly noted a
difference in the train tracks. Our ride became significantly smoother. We began to see fences
and cattle. The houses were bigger and better constructed. The road signs were not dilapidated,
remarkably they had the same green color with white lettering with which we are familiar in the
So far we have seen the Africa of the tourist. In the afternoon we had the opportunity of visiting
a Botswana Farm. Just like the German farms of my childhood, who grew grains, had a dairy
production and raised pigs for slaughter this South African farm produced Brahma bulls for
their semen; they slaughtered cattle, had 4000 chickens, whose eggs they sold to local
supermarkets and additionally provided cottages for vacationers who could even enjoy a golf
course on the premises. The visitors could also tour an adjacent wild life refuge. The owners’
son with a huge prize bull standing behind him, gave us an introduction into reasons for
breeding the brahma cattle. For this region of Africa the animals were well suited since they
were resistant to insects, they could survive longer times without water than European cattle
and they produced meat without marbling. While the marbled beef tasted extremely well it also
had a much higher fat content and raised cholesterol levels. The Brahma meat according to our
farmer had none of these disadvantages, the fat was not between the muscle fibers but on the
outside of the muscles and could be trimmed off easily.
The third generation farmer who had an obvious interest in the Brahma bull breed also
explained how these huge animals could be handled so easily. When they were young they were
tied head to head to a donkey, who was so obstinate in being led by the young bull that after a
few days the bull gave up and the donkey would lead the bull and then could be fairly easily led
by a human handler.
One of the “assignments” of the huge bull in front of us was the production of semen. Each time
after it was obtained it was separated into smaller samples and filled into thin canulas called
straws. Every two weeks the animal supposedly produced about 400 “straws”, which could be
sold for up to $ 150 a piece. These samples could also be stored indefinitely and our farmer
explained that semen produced from his grandfather’s bulls was still being sold.
The next morning we arrived in the capital of Botswana called Gabarone, which was close to the
border of South Africa. Before boarding our bus I had an opportunity to visit a street market
across the street from a large shopping center. The large area of the market was packed with
taxi cabs. I have never seen an accumulation of hundreds of cabs in one place. The visitors had
to meander between cars to get to the primitive stand selling tennis shoes, sweets, electrical
motors, fruits etc in the typical African way. The shopping center across the street was
according to a fellow traveler neat, clean and modern, in other word contrary to our prejudicial
We then drove through town toward the border and through the wide streets. I hardly saw
litter, again a new experience for me in Africa. People in general were well dressed, one could
even say fashionably. The same impression we had as we crossed the border: the departure
building in Botswana was neat, clean and organized, the arrival building in South Africa unkept
and unorganized. However all of us had cleared the border within forty-five minutes and were
then on our way to a “Tau” Lodge in the fourth largest national park in South Africa called
Madikwe. At the entrance of the park we left our buses and boarded the typical Toyota jeeps
carrying about ten people and the driver-guide. For the first time I had the opportunity to sit
next to the young, enthusiastic driver. He was raised by his guide father and was somewhat
hesitant to stop for elephants, antelopes, zebras and giraffes that we saw along the way. He
promised us four three-hour game drives during our stay where we would have ample
opportunities to view and photograph the wildlife. He assured us lunch was waiting for us.
As we drove through the gate of the lodge we found one of those luxurious resorts that are
typical for all of Africa. As we ate our lunch a family of about seven elephants with three babies
took a bath in the lake maybe hundred feet away from us. They sprayed each other, lay in the
water, one of the older animals on top of another. The babies did the same thing but all
remained close to each other. I wonder if they were aware of the crocodile we observed in the
water just minutes before. After lunch - the best thing was a chicken salad with curry and
ananas - we found our cottages. This time I was lucky: my room was the closest one to the lodge
and even closer to the lake than all others. I was in heaven. If I just had not left my swim suit
hanging and drying at the Serena Hotel I could have joined the other guests in the pool.
February 13, 2016 Day 12
The Tau resort where we spent two nights was located in the Madikwe National Park. It was a
giant area of 300,000 acres. As in the Kruger the operators have only permission to use a small
part of the park, which is still so large that it would be easy to get lost. That is really what
happened to one of the rangers. He ventured away from his vehicle and his guests, left gun and
radio behind to follow some lion tracks trying to locate the animal. After he had not returned for
more than one hour his group became worried, notified some other Rangers over the radio.
They then had to spread out to find him. Is it obvious that he did not see a lion? Our Ranger,
Michael, who seemed to be a senior guide, told us he was not afraid to find a lion indicating that
the lion was more afraid of him than he was of the lion. I brought up the example of the giraffes,
that are hunted by lions. His retort: giraffes run away from a lion and he would never do that.
On our last game drive Michael indeed found a lion by following the tracks. He had also not
taken his gun with him. He then steered our big Toyota Land Cruiser through the brush and we
saw the lion. We followed him, once he crossed in front of our vehicle, once behind our car, the
minimum distance probably was fifteen feet. It was a young male, who was lifting his head
trying to smell something. His mane was still light and our guide estimated him to be about two
years old. We all were able to take many photos but the greatest joy was to observe this animal
on his terms, in the wild.
Never have I been closer to a lion in the wild
During our game drives we saw many, many elephants, a herd of Cape Buffalo (as an
obstetrician I felt rewarded when I was able to watch a mating act), many rhinoceroses, the lion,
which includes four of the big five as well as Zebras, antelopes, and many species of birds. Since
I have been on several game drives in various parts of Africa the question is justified why I enjoy
this experience again and again. The answer is simple: Every game drive is different, every time
the scenery is different, and also the guide and the guests respond differently.
In the morning we left for a game drive as the sun rose. The heaven seemed to glow in the red
shades much longer than on the northern hemisphere, the same happens at sunset, when we
usually stopped for a drink - most preferred was gin and tonic - and observed the setting sun.
The food at the resort was excellent. Meals were served buffet style and we ate most meals
overlooking the water hole serving as a watering hole for elephants, zebras and antelopes. One
visitor observed how a crocodile grabbed a baby antelope and devoured it within a short time.
Fortunately I was not present.
My bungalow was generous in size and had a view of the same waterhole. Many of the weaver
birds had nests in a neighboring tree and I could observe them coming and going entering their
nest not from the top but through a small hole from the bottom. Their nests seem to hang on a
string from a tree. A young vervet monkey passed by a few feet away from my deck balancing on
the wire separating the water hole from the resort property. There was never a boring minute.
The dinner at the final night took place under a star studded sky somewhere in the wilderness.
An open fired filled the air with the appropriate odor, the servers had prepared food on white
clothed tables lit with candles. The East German ENT professor, his ailing wife (beginning
Alzheimer) and his equally professorial daughter agreed for me to join their table. We talked
about the places in the former East Germany they advised me to visit but there were only few:
the Darst, Muskau and Gotha. We talked about Fontane, whom the professor loves equally as
my sister Liesel and I. He was able to quote verbatim ballads and poems I had learned in the
gymnasium but had forgotten. The daughter praised the Documenta in Kassel, an art exhibition
I have never visited because it always appeared to me too modern. It was a memorable evening.
The next morning we boarded our buses waiting just outside the park and made our way to the
station where the train waited for us. For a long time we drove along the Madikwe park, then we
passed many farms. There were also a few black villages, where goats seemed to be the popular
animal species. The houses along the road must, judging from their appearance, house poor
The town Zeerust was rather large. There were a few churches, one I could identify as Dutch
Reformed. We arrived at the train station, that had been built in 1921 but was totally neglected.
It presented a poor sight. It could serve as an symbol of the descent of South Africa after the
Back in our train I had great difficulty with the air-conditioning that blew too hard on my face.
The sensory parts of my Trigeminus Nerve were irritated and it hurt to chew. So I decided to
open the windows and now rather enjoyed the warm, fresh air.
Monday, February 15, 2016 Day 14
On the next to last day the train stopped at the Rovos station in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital
of South Africa and located about forty miles or so north of Johannesburg. Since we stopped at
the private railway station of the Rovos company it may be time to mention the founder of the
company and the trains.
Rohan Voss, the son of a physician, had made some money in spare automobile parts stores
when a friend invited him to an auction where a few old railway cars were sold. Rohan was
intrigued by the old cars, their history and their fate. He was bitten by the railway bug. As he
considered his option he found out that the car he had purchased and rebuilt as a comfortable
coach could be attached to trains in South Africa. He decided to give up on auto parts store for
the railroad business. I do not remember details but at the time he had four trains running
between Cape Town and Dar Es Salam, between Cape Town and Durban, to Botswana and
Victoria Falls and even into Namibia. For the non-South African tracks he purchased Diesel
engines, but he also owned electric and steam engines.
The train on which we travelled apparently had the greatest number of historic cars. Each
compartment had a historical name. Mine was named after a cannon that was designed by a
British engineer and produced within weeks, able to shoot precisely over about three miles in a
mining war around Kimberly. Just the threat with it had been decisive in the battle.
Our train had 22 cars and was about 600 yards long. Following the engine was the water supply
car, followed by a staff car, five or six others with more luxurious compartments than I have
seen on my other rail travel, then a club car, a dining car, a kitchen car, followed by guest
coaches, another club car, the train ending with an observation car.
The service on Rovos was first class or above. The train claimed a five star rating and that was
not surprising to me. My room was made up after each meal, laundry was complementary. All
drinks from various South African wines to expensive liquors were also complimentary.
We reached the Rovos Rail station after breakfast. I have never seen a station like this before.
The building had a traditional architecture. On the bottom floor was the “waiting room” looking
like a hotel hobby where free drinks were served. The seats were comfortable. Waiters were
attentive to our wishes. Reading material was provided as well as internet access. We visited
part of the sixty acre area, where coaches and locomotives were reconditioned. The workers
were in the process to install a large German made generator into a new generator car. It was
interesting not only to see the old steam engines of my childhood and observe them in their
work on the railroad yard. It was good to see them but we were be glad that they have had their
times: they use 500 liters of water per 0.65 mile (1 Km) and the steam coming from their engine
looked anything but clean.
The founder and owner of the whole operation was Ronald Vos, a tall skinny man of Dutch
descent who gave us a tour of his property and the yard. Most impressed me that he was
successful in the political environment of South Africa so hostile to entrepreneurs. The most
recent and also the current government were not able to run the country effectively. The
currency, the Rand, had collapsed and the GDP per capita was only about $ 11,600 (Germany
39,700, US $ 50,700). The most shocking number for me however was the life expectance of 49
years (Germany 80, US 79) due to the aids crisis that has affected also the heterosexual
population. The main resources of the land were gold, found in a ring around and deep under
Johannesburg and the diamonds mined in Kimberley.
We had lunch on the platform of the Rovos Station. The quality of the food, the elegance of the
table setting was equal to what we had been accustomed to on the train.
After arriving at the station we boarded buses and took a tour through Pretoria, where a quiet
protest was happening. Hundred of people quietly sat in front of the Central Bank building in
the center of the city. The statue of Ohm Kruger was circled with barbed wire and the park
surrounding it was littered terribly. Not a pretty sight! We first visited the Trekker Monument
which honors the Boers, who traveled on ox carts containing all their belonging to find a place to
farm. They had several battles with the local Zulus. After one Zulu chief had signed an
agreement with one group he had second thoughts and first murdered his Africaans partners in
the deal and shortly later all their women and children. The Boers did not have it easy because
after they had somewhat found an accommodation with the Zulus they had to deal with the
British, for whom South Africa was a vital base of resupply on their trade route to India, which
was at the time considered to be the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. During these Boer
wars the British invented the Concentration Camps to “concentrate” the Boers. A young British
reporter first made a name reporting about the war: Winston Churchill.
A view of the Mandela monument in Pretoria
The Trekker Monument is an impressive building that was began 1938, exactly hundred years
after the battle on Bloody Creek, which is located near Vryheid, one of my next destinations.
The architectural elements must have been borrowed from the Voelkerschaftsdenkmal in
Leipzig but also from the earliest prehistoric buildings in Zambia, from where a certain
decoration was used. The monument contained a large sculpture mural displaying the history of
the Boers. This time it was easier for me than the year before to climb up and down the wide
stair case leading to the monument with a large number of steps. My back operation was still
Our next stop was the Union Building, the seat of the South African government. Below it was a
large park with the oversize sculpture of Mandela. Last year I stayed with Marianne in the
Sheraton Hotel at the bottom of the park where we had a curious experience. During dinner at
least fifty or sixty young beautiful women extremely well dressed and coiffed. During breakfast
the next morning they appeared again. Being curious I had to find out what went on: they were
interviewing to become flight attendants for Ethiad Airlines.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Lord Milner Hotel in the museum town of Matjiesfontein
Time is flying! I have been off the train already for a few days and during packing, planning for
the next phase of the journey like picking up a rental car etc. there has been no time for writing
or I have just been too tired.
The last days on the train were spent mainly ... on the train traveling. We stopped only in a little
town of three hundred people called Matjiesfontein. One of the top historic motels in the town
was named after a Lord Milner. In front of the station an old red double decker British bus was
parked, which years ago took people on a tour of the town although one could walk through it in
less time than it would take the bus to get started: the main street was only about a hundred
yards long and definitely much shorter than our train. A huge black man with a trumpet
welcomed the town’s guests and led us to and through the Lord Milner Hotel. He stopped at the
bar and accompanied himself on a piano singing a few old songs in which visitors could join. It
turned out the piano was a player piano and the jolly man had the time of his life knowing that
he had fooled his listeners.
We visited the museum in the station including the prison cells in the basement where things
which can only be described as junk were displayed, orderly however. Then it was back on the
train to pack.
The train was supposedly late and Eric, the train manager told us we were going to have dinner
on the train, thus having an opportunity for good-byes. During the last hours however the train
made up the time and we arrived almost punctually in the Cape Town station, which was
familiar to me from my visit during the previous year. Since I was in the first compartment I
was the first one off the train and the first one in a cab to the Protea Victoria Hotel.
A very nice driver carried my three pieces of heavy luggage to the reception and from there a
porter helped me to my room. It was on the fifth floor of the hotel and had two stories. An
extremely large living room below and accessible over a wide metal staircase a smaller bedroom
with a king size bed and a bathroom upstairs.
For dinner I went to the famous Cape Town waterfront where I had dined with Marianne last
year. The hotel made a shuttle available. The food, a shrimp curry, was wonderful although
messy to eat since the four shrimps were served boiled intact and spread over the whole big
Part of the lively Cape Town waterfront
The next morning I was off to the rental car agency. My driver loaded my luggage but first had
to take a lady to the convention center in town. I had a nice conversation with her: she was a
designer for Cummins, the engine manufacturer, whose engine has been propelling the
Marlsnick for many years.
Renting a car always seems to be a hassle. This time they first told me that my car would not be
available for a several hours, then they said that they did not have a GPS navigation system. I
was eager to get out of town and must have been a little impatient. It took “only” forty-five
minutes but then I was in possession of my little Hyundai with a navigation system.
Driving alone on the wrong side in an extremely busy city such as Cape Town during rush hour
is a challenge for anyone from the USA or Germany. Someone from my not so distant past who
will remain unnamed had told me that I was aging, that I should slow down traveling and
consider looking for a retirement home. I thought of that advice as I drove alone through Cape
Town looking at Table Mountain on my right, nervous but smiling as I negotiated the busy
traffic without anyone honking at the old man. It was wonderful to feel so energetic and it is
wonderful (I talk in the present!) to plan and execute my many and diverse journeys.
The car functioned well. It took me by townships, past the airport and then up a steep pass.
During the next few hours large fields, probably started by immigrants from Holland, were on
both sides of the road. I wondered why these fields without “knicks” (these are rows of bushes
or trees in the windy Schleswig Holstein area of northern Germany to break the wind) have left
the fields intact while the fields in Oklahoma blew away during the dust bowl period.
The trees along the road were few. There were some gum trees, eucalyptus, imported from
Australia and planted apparently very neatly for production of pulp. In some obviously not
fertile areas large herds of sheep grazed. Most fields had been harvested and rows of big grain
elevators were witnesses of bountiful harvests. Occasionally herds of cattle were lying peacefully
under a shady tree chewing and chewing like cows usually do.
Homes in Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of Africa, where Atlantic and
Indian Ocean meet
The roads had begun with six lanes then gradually came down to two wide and finally to two
narrow lanes. After a few hours the traffic had thinned significantly. On the better roads the
trucks drove on the side stripe and indicated when it was safe and then allowed the faster cars to
My first destination was Cape Agulhas, the most southern point of the African continent. A few
miles before I reached the town of Bredadorp passing a steeply steepled Dutch Reformed
church. Aside from the churches these little towns were undistinguished with small storefronts
and lots of cars parked on each side. Most of the people on the street were black. When I
refueled for the first time the attendant did it for me. How wonderful! For lunch I had a coke
and a bag of Lay potato chips.
One reaches Cape Agulhas after passing through a flat marshy plain. The town by the same
name was stretched out and seemed to be a second home for well-to-do South Africans. Most
houses had signs warning that they were guarded by a security service. Most homes were
painted white, many had thatched roofs and all had beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. I
passed the most southern gas station, the most southern restaurant, the most southern
“whatsoever”. But who am I to make fun of this? Did I not come here to visit the most southern
point of the continent?
Since the sea where the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans meet are treacherous a light house has
been present at Cape Agulhas for many years. It dominated the little town more than even the
prettiest vacation homes. The paved road ended here and I had to drive for about half a mile on
a dirt road to a small parking area (the most ...). From here a boardwalk took me to the most
southern point of Africa. The seas were lively and crushed over a rocky outcrop. My hat was
almost lost a few times as the wind blew mercilessly.
From Cape Agulhas I turned north again (wherever else could I go?), or better northeast to
return to highway N2, which parallels the Indian Ocean more or less to travel towards the town
of George. In the meantime two e-mails reached me encouraging me to take a side trip. A
friend, Lacey deVries (she was one of many, many deVries’s I had delivered over the years) had
written to me that a friend Rosa, whom she had met on her travels was living in the area where I
was traveling. Lacey had stayed with Rosa for four weeks over the Christmas Holidays and had
enjoyed her time with Rosa’s family in the deserted vacation home along a river. Shortly later a
second e-mail arrived from Rosa herself offering her to show me the area where she lived. Since
I have a difficult time passing up such an invitation I accepted it.
My stay last night in George brought me back to reality. The French International Lodge was
really not a hotel. Along a busy commercial road there was an inconspicuous entrance leading
to a locked front door. A man directed me to the back of the “lodge” around a swimming pool to
an unkempt reception cubicle and a friendly of too much perfume smelling outgoing young
about 25-year old woman who introduced herself as Natasha. Around the pool where three or
four thatched covered huts were arranged, which looked inviting. Natasha accompanied me to
my room which was in a separate undistinguished building and contained one double storied
bed, one cot, and one king size bed. The bathroom had a jacuzzi and a lot of empty space. The
“lodge” formerly must have attracted a higher end clientele but now was booked out probably
because it was cheap, very cheap, namely a fourth of what I had paid in Cap Town. It was nice to
come back from luxury to a level more appropriate for me.
The internet was not working although Natasha was on the phone trying to establish a
connection. By the time I complained she had advanced from 16th caller in the phone cue to 6th
to the internet provider.
The “first class” Italian restaurant Natasha recommended was similar to those in Alaska: the
salad was too big and too soaky, the pasta too rich, only the mineral water was refreshing.
During the salad course my i-pad Skype was ringing and Bethany deVries, Lacey’s sister, called
from Qatar about a medical problem. It was nice to see her face on my screen and hear her and
her husband Jake’s voice. She also encouraged me to visit Rosa and her family. I then called
“Rosa”, Lacey deVries’ friend, and she asked me to meet her in a coffee shop in Humansdorp
about a couple of hours before Port Elizabeth the next day.
Friday, February 19, 2016
The next morning breakfast was served near poolside. The group of guests were mixed: a larger
black family, a tall caucasian with an Indian (East Indian) wife and another group of caucasians.
After packing and checking every corner of my room I directed my car to the next “petrol
station” where four fellows waited on me. While one refueled the other three washed the
windows with one bottle of soap in one hand, and a bottle of water under the arm. Within no
time I was on the road again toward Port Elizabeth. For one part of the road I had to pay toll
and the road was in excellent condition. The scenery began to change as larger steep mountains
appeared on the northern side. The rivers had formed deep canyons and the road crossed them
A view of the many canals through St. Francis Bay
Being thirsty I stopped at a gas station for a bottle of pop and struck up a conversation with a
sales clerk next door. She sold only “women’s stuff”, which I told her I did not need. She
inquired where my “woman” was and thus I began a lively conversation about her work. Her
name was Barbie but she looked just the opposite of what we think of as Barbie. She was rotund
and jolly and her wig was slightly displaced. She told me that she made about ten dollars a day
and was happy with her job. In her previous job she had been an independent contractor and
ran a crew of several people cutting down brush and small trees. She had not even ten dollars
per day left as an entrepreneur. As I left the station jolly Barbie waved me good-bye.
Shortly before noon I drove into Humansdorp and found the bakery across from the Spar
grocery that Rosa had described. After a few minutes she walked in and we recognized each
other because there was no one else but the sales clerk and we. We introduced ourselves and
had a cappuccino. Like a good host she suggested a plan for the day, to which I obviously
Near Humansdorp is the picturesque St. Francis Bay. Within a few minutes driving through
cattle ranch country we reached the town with its many white houses and thatched roofs all
being currently vacant vacation homes. Rosa had made reservations at a fish restaurant where I
had a filet of kingclip, a white fish with a nice buttery gravy. We looked out at a harbor filled
with private vessels and commercial fishing boats. The weather was perfect although according
to Rosa it had rained and hailed just a few hours earlier. We drove to the white lighthouse,
walked to the beach, watched a few kids having a good time and inspected a stable full of
rehabilitating and evil smelling penguins.
We went to a Greek restaurant with the entrance being shaded by a roof of plants. Rosa, having
lived in England for many years felt like drinking tea. The proprietor told us that it was a Greek
restaurant and they served Greek espresso, which was the closest thing to English tea he could
offer. Inside the restaurant was a pool overlooking an elaborate canal system, which had been
built to give many vacation homes access to the water. Between some homes where empty lots,
where several years ago a fire had destroyed about homes.
After getting to know me Rosa offered me a place for the night. I must have appeared fairly
reliable and non threatening or maybe it was that I was acquainted with Lacey. Late in the
afternoon Rosa instructed me to follow her little red VW. She said that it would be an unusual
drive and indeed it was. We soon left the asphalt road and went over a gravel road, which is an
embellished description of the status. The narrow road was composed of more or less lose rocks
and really did not deserve the description “road”. I drove slowly with my little Hyundai
concerned about rock damage. We met a couple of trucks with workers returning from their
chores on the farms who waved happily driving to the sides and making room for us. After
about ten kilometers the winding road became extremely narrow with bushes brushing against
my car. The last kilometer was one of the steepest drives I have taken. Since Rosa was ahead I
had to follow. Several culverts had been constructed across the rocky road bed and I feared my
car would high center any time. By the time we arrived at Rosa’s home I was exhausted.
The “mysterious” Rosa
Rosa’s home, constructed over several years and generations, was intended to be a vacation
home. The many bed rooms indicated that the house had hosted a large family. There was a
spacious living room and a large deck overlooking the beautiful Kromme River. Several homes
could be seen on the opposite bank of the river that was almost a quarter mile wide. The banks
were covered with small trees, brush and a few succulents and Aloe. Rosa led me down to the
river from her house to a boat house and a jetty. The property had a spit from where one looked
at a little island, called Swan Island. Swans who once upon a time had escaped from the
“Knights Bridge,” a boat that sank not far from the mouth of the Kromme, had settled on the
island and giving it its name, but later were hunted to extinction by the locals.
Before turning in we had a glass of Chenin Blanc and I looked forward to a nice large bed that
Rosa had made up for me. My sleep was restless because I dreamt about the steep ride down the
hill and after waking began worrying how I would make it back up the hill again.
Rosa was an interesting person. She was outgoing although that is probably an understatement.
A great hostess she tried to make me feel comfortable. Her background was English-Irish. Her
grandfather was an Anglican clergyman who had served as a chaplain in the British Forces. She
grew up in Port Elizabeth and became a nurse. As a young student she had hitchhiked
throughout Europe. After marrying a man who owned a glass business in Johannesburg she
helped in the business and began to raise three children. At age thirty-seven her husband died
of a sudden heart attack and she had to run his business and raise her children by herself. After
her children had grown up she accepted a position as a school nurse in a well-known English
private school in London. She loved taking care of the little choristers who sang at Westminster
Abbey and also the older students, who went home only on vacations. She made trips to Greece
with the students who were studying the classics.
On a trip from England to Israel she had met Lacey deVries, who later visited her first in London
and then over the last Christmas Holidays on the Kromme River. Lacey and a friend from
Seattle with whom she traveled liked it so much at Rosa’s that they stayed for nearly four weeks.
Apparently the American girls were a hit in the community of residents along the Kromme.
During my visit a neighbor dropped by with her husband for a cup of tea and 2! 8!632! 8recalled
what a lovely pair the two had been. They must have visited most families up and down the
river. This neighbor also wanted me to come over but I had to decline because my time was
During the second evening Rosa and I went for dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in St.
Francis Bay. It was amazing how she negotiated the rocky road with the big pot holes. During
my last morning there was some excitement. I was sure another thunderstorm was happening
although when looking out of my window the sky was clear. I went back to bed but then heard
that inside the house some helter-skelter was going on. Pots fell on the ground. The culprit was
a large male Vervet monkey who had found an open window and had gone for the bananas on a
table. When Rosa heard the noises she tried to chase the animal out. However the vervet could
not find the open window again, he hid between blinds and window and finally escaped through
a door that Rosa had opened for him.
After having a slice of toast Rosa accompanied me up the treacherous road, which I had
anticipated with a good portion of anxiety. It went astonishingly well although I heard several
clunks as rocks hit the undercarriage of my Hyundai. We made it back to the main road in
Humansdorp. After another cup of cappuccino in the most kitschy restaurant I thanked my host
for her generosity of putting me up for a couple of days. As we sat down a lady whom Rosa knew
from England called and announced that she and her husband wanted to visit her for a few days.
Rosa had to hurry home to get the house in order while I made my way toward Port Elizabeth
and East London.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
It was amazing for me to witness the varying scenery here in the southern part of South Africa.
There was agriculture where the soil allowed it: grain, corn, cattle, sheep. Some fields were
irrigated with giant pipes. In some areas the brush was being removed to prepare the soil for
planting. What I missed was dense forest. In some areas trees had been planted for harvesting.
There were still quite a few eucalyptus trees although many people would like to eliminate this
foreign plant, because it draws water from the soil thus depriving native plants.
The roads led for many miles through wilderness without trace of a human or animal. As I
approached some towns near the end of the day many goats and even cattle were grazing freely
along the highway. Not a single carcass littered the road. Many local black people were trying to
hitch rides but I had been warned not to pick up anyone although I would have liked. People
traveled for long distances on the back of open trucks. They waved as my Hyundai overtook
them. During the last twenty-five kilometers the road was patterned on the German Autobahn:
a green strip in the middle and two lanes going in opposite direction. The roadbed in Germany
could not have been better.
Early in the afternoon I arrived in East London, a town of about 600,000 inhabitants. The main
source of industry was a Mercedes plant producing about 550 cars daily according to the owner
of my guest house. Many Germans had settled here even before Mercedes had started its plant..
There was a monument to the old German settlers down in the harbor.
The “Manor” was again composed of little round huts, the Western version of the Zulu houses.
There was a mini-kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom in each hut. A swimming pool was
located at the center of the property, which stretcheed down toward a river with a lively bird
Monday, February 22, 2016
The previous day was a tough. I had to cover more than five hundred kilometers on winding
mountainous roads. After a lovingly prepared breakfast at the Manor I wanted to explore town,
especially the port the statue to honor the German settlers. It was the first time my navigation
system disappointed me. It guided guided through a terrible part of town where even I felt
unsafe. People were of two classes: those who were on their way to church and the others. The
church people were dressed up almost like in uniforms. The women wore blouses and skirts in
the same colors and the men all wore suits and ties. The non-church folks were in rags.
Although I passed a couple of gas stations along the way they appeared savory and I did not dare
After driving around for about half an hour without getting closer to the port I gave up. I had
ended up in a narrow street in a township. The difficulty to find the freeway again also proved to
be an adventure and took about thirty minutes. I ended up at the same exit from where I had
found the Manor the night before. There was a decent gas station again with a flock of helpers
surrounding me willing to clean my windows. My dollar tips did not mean anything to the men
but at a bank terminal my wallet was refilled with Rands and those were graciously received.
The area between East London and Mthata is called the Transkei and several people had warned
me not to stop anywhere along this road. For some time the Transkei had been independent
and was governed by local chiefs. It still is distinct from South Africa: I did not see a single
white person. Several people had advertised the road to be “bad”, which it definitely was not.
But it was dangerous: Although the road cover was good and there were few potholes there were
no no side strips. The roads were well labeled with single and double stripes in the middle but all
drivers ignored these and all other rules of the road. There were many police cars but no one
seemed to enforce the rules. It required from me to make difficult passing maneuvers in order to
The scenery was beautiful: mountains, which I estimate to have been several hundred feet high
were covered with green grass. Agriculture was limited to sheep and goats. Dead horse and goat
carcasses on the side of the road gave me a better idea of the dangers than any road signs could
have. The living horses running loosely along the road appeared small and poorly nourished.
The road I traveled went up and down many, many hills for about 140 miles. The scenery was
never boring. I passed several villages which were stretched out over several kilometers. Many
houses still had the typical round shape of the Zulu huts, few had thatched roofs, most roofs
were metal. In the three or four larger cities along the way the government must have
constructed the houses because they looked identical and were located along parallel roads.
When the Transkei ended the scenery changed: there were large plantations of pine trees as
extensive as those in New Zealand owned by the Weyerhaeuser company. A few miles later
sugar cane fields began and stretched toward the horizon. As my navigation system directed me
to a dirt road I began to worry but a few kilometers later it turned into an asphalt road and
guided me to Shelly Beach, a resort community along the coast of the Indian Ocean.
Following my navigation system until East London where I could not find the port had always
been easy. After leaving the freeway near my destination however it wanted me to head into the
opposite direction, which was obviously wrong. Ending up at a hospital I asked the guard for
direction. He could not help. Along the road a young man was kind enough to call the “hotel”
for me and I ended up at least on the road which the address had indicated. I could not find the
house number. At the entrance of an apartment area I had to ask again. Again the guard talked
to a person at the hotel and requested to have me picked me up. It took a while but finally a
little Mercedes appeared and took me to a private residence, which the “Amble Inn” actually
was. No wonder no one had known it. Apparently the house numbers have been at least
partially changed and had confused both the owners of the houses along the road and my
The residence was located directly on the Ocean. I had a private beach and the house must have
been built and furnished by a Western family. The cabinets in living room and bedrooms were
built in. The cabinets in the kitchen could be accessed also from the dining area. The quality of
everything, including furniture, tiles, baths, washer, dryer, fridge (all Bosch) was as high as in
Germany. Apparently the owning family is Africans.
Unfortunately my hostess was unable to accept my credit card. When I was so disappointed that
I wanted to leave she offered to let me stay for free. That on the other hand was too much for me
to accept. We decided that I would try to get more money from a cash machine. She accepted
the 1000 Rand ($ 55.00) instead of the 1700 Rand that had been quoted by Booking.com. For
this I had a whole house with a garage, a large living-dining area, a kitchen, a master bedroom, a
second bedroom, two bathrooms, one with a fancy totally glass enclosed shower plus jacuzzi
bath and a view of a manicured lawn plus private beach. The only disappointment: no internet
access. I could live without it for an evening.
For dinner I went to a fish restaurant and had an excellent meal. Shelly Beach is only half an
hour’s drive from Durban, where I planned to stay the next two nights.
February 23, 2016
The drive from Shelley Beach to Durban was short: only about one hundred kilometers. Durban
was estimated to have a population of 3.5 Million people and it was the biggest sea port in South
Africa. The subtropic climate made it attractive to both tourists and retirees. As I approached
this big town the traffic became more and more congested as one can suspect from a city of this
size. I made it to my hotel, the Bellaire, located across the street from the beach of the Indian
Ocean. From the hotel window I watched the surfers enjoy some nice waves. Many hotels and
large condominiums are strung like pearls around the coast near the city center. The climate
was perfect: warm in the summer and not cold in the winter. The people with whom I had
contact love to live here.
One beautiful black woman working at the hotel spa talked to me for awhile. She was born in
Swaziland and had separated from her South African husband with whom she has a three-year
old son. The people in Swaziland according to her are not Zulus. They probably were more
related to the northern tribes. The lady was educated at a beauty college in somatology and said
that all four of her siblings had been college educated: both brothers were engineers. She had
left her husband because he had been unfaithful, a life threatening sin in this part of the world.
Although the physician in me wanted to know if she had concerns about HIV, I abstained.
With a white couple I struck up a conversation at a restaurant. Mother and son had dined on a
table next to me. The son told me about a few wonderful places I had bypassed on my trip from
Cape Town to Durban and insisted I return. He had been involved in the electronic industry,
had worked in Spain and was on his way to a new job in Sydney, Australia.
The beach in Durban across the street from my hotel
My two days in Durban were filled with planning. My computer was acting up, at least the mail
service, which gave me significant trouble. Grant, where are you?
Since I did not know if I would want to go on the @Beyond Safari in Botswana after the long rail
journey and the 2000 km drive from Cape Town, I had put off making a reservation till I arrived
in Durban. E-mails went back and forth about the plane and safari reservations. When it came
to paying for the flight and the safari, it became a major problem. Long telephone calls during
which the representative walked me through the process did not work. More telephone calls
with both the safari company and the airline followed. When I offered to pay the safari company
in Rand, everything worked smoothly.
However making the reservation for the safari was minor compared with that for the flight on
Namibia Airlines from Maun in Botswana to Windhoek in Namibia. For three hours the
internet site crashed repeatedly just when I felt that I had accomplished it. The next day I spent
a whole hour with “Paul Leopold” in Windhoek on the phone and on the Namibia Air website
when even he gave up. Then I had the brilliant idea to make the reservation through Travelocity
and within five minutes my problem was solved. Hurrah!
I strayed only briefly from the beach area in Durban to have my hair cut and to retrieve some
money from the ATM. The atmosphere just two blocks from the hotel was very different: locals
rather than surfers, visitors and retirees. In Durban half of the population are black and about a
quarter are of Indian descent. The Indian hairdresser was pretty rough with my head. I
wondered if she would have treated me even more rough if I had come from a “lower caste”. At
one time Ghandi the famous initiator of the Non-Violence Movement lived in Durban as an
Police and private security officers seemed to be present everywhere in Durban. I watched only
as one car was stopped, which was not involved in a traffic accident. Most buildings were
secured by high walls with a barbed or electric wire on top.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Leaving Durban was difficult. I had anticipated the traffic leaving town would be light but it was
not. Construction of a huge bridge over a main highway had created a bottle neck and my
navigator had not been updated so I had to negotiate the same bottle neck twice. The highway
again was wonderful all the way to Vryheid, my destination. It changed from four lanes to two
but the asphalt was smooth and the scenery interesting to that the next three hours passed
quickly. First there was a large Zulu settlement. Several herdsmen supervised small herds of
cattle along the highway. One was leaning on his long stick and I wondered what he was
thinking about. The plains along the coast turned into mountains and I crossed a pass that was
about 5000 feet high as I found out later. Large growths of gums with their tall but thin stems
lined the road and went spread far inland as one could observe in this mountainous area. On
the same highway large trucks with long trailers transported the wood toward Richards Bay on
the Indian Ocean. In the valleys were orchards with orange and mango trees. A sign directed
passers-by to the small settlement named Gluckstadt a few miles off the highway.
As I approached Vryheid the scenery changed again this time to a wide plain at 3500 feet
altitude. The grass was long and plentiful and healthy looking cows were grazing in large fenced
areas. Apparently this was the area where the Dutch Africans had tried to purchase land from
the Zulu king in the 1830s. The papers were signed but the Zulu king changed his mind and first
killed the white Voortrekker negotiators, and then turned to their wives and children in their
camp. This incidence later led to the battle of Blood River.
Tuesday, February 29, 2016
Several days have passed and the diary had to wait. There were too many experiences and there
was too much conversation in Vryheid for me to sit down to write in the diary.
My hosts in Vryheid were the Schmittings: Horst, his wife Mary Ann and her sister Carol. Horst
and I walked to school together from grade one to four in Bad Salzuflen. He became a fitter and
emigrated to Africa. Through his sister who still lives in Bad Salzuflen we were able to remain in
contact. When one of the Crystal ships had docked in Durban about ten years ago he, his wife
and granddaughter came aboard for a meal and then showed me the town. Last year I visited
Vryheid for the first time but the visit was too short so we decided on a longer visit this year.
Horst was a successful immigrant. He had a large home with a swimming pool, a wife to whom
he had been married for more than fifty years, three children and four grandchildren. During
my visit I realized how much South Africa had become his home although he still maintained his
German citizenship and had built a home on his parents’ property, which he rented out. Horst
had worked for the Siemens Company building the signals to make trains run safely and
smoothly in South Africa. His wife ran her own shoe store for almost twenty years and thus
contributed to a safe retirement. With Horst I could talk for hours about our years in Bad
Salzuflen, about certain streets, school pals and our teacher, Fraeulein Herbst. Horst had what I
call “Gemuet”. He was generous to his children and grandchildren and always left a tip even for
the clerk who bagged his groceries or the person who pretended to guard his car in front of a
When walking through Vryheid Horst enjoyed knowing so many people. I would have to agree
with him that this would not be the case in his old home town in Germany. He treated blacks
and whites equally and kidded around with everyone.
Horst, his wife and her sister Carol, who lived with them drove me to the highest point in town.
It was located within a large park teeming with gazelles, zebras and Elands. The road was rocky
and narrow but we drove for several miles in Horst’s VW Jetta and saw the animals from very
close. Even Horst was amazed how much game lived so close to his town.One afternoon we
visited a monastery, which had been established by Bavarian monks and still received support
from Catholics in Bavaria. While Horst had owned and run a chicken farm he had sold his
chickens to the monastery and had struck a relationship with one of the lay brothers, Brother
Ansfried with whom he shared an interest in agriculture. When we arrived at the monastery
Brother Ansfried sat in his underwear and a long shirt at a table and accepted the five-liter bottle
of wine we brought graciously. Ansfried had run the cattle and hog part of the monastery farm.
During our visit he was eighty years old and rather wide and short with a long grey beard. He
was happy to meet someone who spoke his native language. Brother Ansfried did not mind that
I was a Lutheran. He was glad about the current milder view of the Catholic Church regarding
the reformation and Martin Luther. His devotion to Maria, however was serious and he
resented any doubt about the virgin birth. Like a true German he was opinionated concerning
his theology and he had mostly negative opinions of his superiors. At five o’clock he excused
himself for a moment and returned externally quite differently clothed in the black robe of his
Benedictine order. We accepted his invitation to the vesper service and went to the large church
where we were the only visitors. The mainly black monks walked into the sanctuary
ceremoniously and sat in the choir. Although the service was supposed to be in English, the only
words we understood were those of the Lord’s prayer. The Gregorian chanting was pleasant but
not as melodic as I had witnessed it a couple of years ago in a monastery in Tyrolia.
My hosts Marianne and Horst Schmitting and Carol, her sister
After the service we met the Assistant to the Prior, a most friendly outgoing black man from
Malawi, whose star in the order apparently was rising. He invited us to dine with the monks but
we had already made other arrangements.
The monastery was much larger than I had expected. There was a school where many students
lived on the campus during the school year. The farm and a guest house were also part of the
monastery. Brother Ansfried let us know that the monastery was on its way down since their
white leader had retired and a man from Ethiopia had taken over. He felt the same way about
the farm operation, from which he had retired. For an outsider it is difficult to judge such
criticisms. Was there a little feeling of superiority over his black successors, was there a little
Bavarian stubbornness, or was such judgement the result of years of experience? It was my first
close exposure to a Catholic order.
On another afternoon the youngest of Horst’s grandchildren dropped by on his motorcycle. He
was an alert 16-year boy who knew exactly what he wanted: to become a construction
supervisor. He had already picked a college his parents could afford and where he would get a
good education. Although he was interested in a university overseas he was realistic enough to
know that with the current value of the Rand, the currency in South Africa, it would be
prohibitively expensive for his parents. It was a pleasure to hear about his ambition and I was
not surprised that he is number six in his class. So was Horst, not surprised.
A journey to a foreign country for me is incomplete without meeting people and share their
problems. In South Africa the difficulties between White and Black were on the forefront.
Although relationships between the British and Africaans had improved, there were still
significant resentments of the Whites toward Blacks and apparently vice versa, although I
unfortunately did not meet black folk to hear their view. The Whites feel that since the
successors of Mandela’s ANC had taken over the country was on a downward trend. The
infrastructure was deteriorating and people seemed to accept the difficulties associated with
such developments. For nearly a week no water had come out of the taps in Vryheid. One water
reservoir was almost empty and the connecting pipes from the other had been neglected and so
the whole town had no running water. Many people had already begun in the anticipation of
this event to drill their own “boreholes.” Others drove for miles to a place where they could
purchase water by the liter. The Schmittings solved their problem by using water for the toilet
and for laundry from their swimming pool, one bucket at a time. The drinking water they
purchased at a farm out of town.
While the Schmittings were able to solve their problem one way, restaurants had to find another
solution. A sign at the front door of the place where we had dinner asked guests only to use the
toilets is emergencies. The sign also warned of the possibility that the taps in the bathrooms
could run dry anytime. People accepted such problems magnanimously.
A mountain Zebra in Vryheid and the Bloody River
The Schmittings also were generous hosts. I had my own bedroom and bathroom. Mary Ann
fixed a breakfast I liked: toast with homemade orange marmalade and a large cup of coffee. For
dinners we either had a curry or a macaroni and cheese casserole.
Since the Schmittings felt that they had to entertain me they offered to take me to another larger
government run game park. We drove about seventy kilometers on a paved road but the
remaining twenty in the park were on a gravel road. Again we saw many animals, however, the
giraffes for which this park was known we could not find until just before our departure from the
park. Then we saw at least twelve or thirteen of them at a close range.
For another outing I had chosen the Bloody River Monument. It consisted of about two
hundred almost life-size metal replicas of the wagons that formed the camp during the battle in
which none of the rifle equipped Afrikaner was hurt by the Zulu aggressors, but so many of them
that the river was red and subsequently was named Bloody River.
On Sunday morning I attended church at the German congregation. The singing was so so, but
the sermon was excellent. Unfortunately there was no coffee hour because a congregational
meeting was held. I would have loved to talk to the members of the congregation and the
Later in the morning after saying good-bye to the Schmittings I drove towards Johannesburg. It
was a long and dangerous ride because again even the Sunday drivers did not observe the rules
of the road. With a feeling of great relief and gratitude that my driving had gone well I returned
my Hyundai at Budget and was ready for a day of relaxation.
South Africa had a history that involved many people: the English, the Dutch and Africaans, the
Zulus and also the Germans. Each of them had a different impact and still influences the
country differently. They now are trying to live together in harmony. The Zulus and Scosa
(Mandela was one) now are in the majority democratically speaking. However after my
experience on this journey I asked myself if the country could continue to be successful without
giving their white members a larger influence. The future will tell.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
After two nights at the Southern Sun OR Mambo Airport Hotel I got ready for the trip to Maun
in Botswana. My extra suitcase with the “fancy clothing” for the train ride had become a burden.
I would not need anything from it in the foreseeable future but had to pay an extra fee to schlepp
it along on the next plane rides.
The plane had a problem and left an hour late from Johannesburg. Ninety minutes after takeoff
it landed in Maun, Botswana the tourist capital of the Okavango Delta. It took about an hour
to go through immigration but then a friendly lady from the “@Beyond” company met me and
took two of my suitcases into storage. I had removed the things I needed from the second bag
and transferred them to very practical bag Rovos had given me. Now there were only two small
bags carry. The lady who met me was just as relieved as I because she knew that the little plane
I was to board could not haven taken the large suitcases.
With three other people I boarded the six-seater and we were off flying over the Okavango Delta.
The ride of anticipated fifteen minutes took a little longer because we had to fly around a few
rain clouds. From the air we saw an area consisting of a savannah type scenery interrupted by
brush and a few large living and many more dead trees. We could see a few elephants foraging
below us. The landing strip was something special: many mud puddles, which sprayed the
muddy water on to the plane windows and the holes in the runway shook us up a little. It was
somewhat frightening but we finally came to a stop. At the end of the runway a Toyota
Landcruiser jeep with Jonas, the driver, expected me. We had to wait a moment until the plane
was ready to take off because we had to drive parallel to the runway to make sure that no
animals interfered with the take off of the departing plane. We chased a large goose off and the
plane went into the air again.
Jonas then drove me the ten kilometers over lots of potholes and deep puddles, which were
more like little lakes toward the Sandibe Lodge. At the entrance several employees had
assembled with a welcome drink, a cold towel and singing for me a chorus in their melodic
African voices and swaying with the rhythm of the song. The manager of the Lodge, Greg,
introduced himself and everyone of the staff assembled and I shook hands with each one. Greg
led me towards my extravagant bungalow. The ten or so buildings as well as the large lodge had
been manufactured with native wood except for the roof tiles, which came from Canada and
were termite resistant.
Both animals have spots but one is a cheetah and the other a leopard
Small and large birds with different needs in different environments
When I arrived at my bungalow my luggage waited for me already and after changing into my
safari outfit Jonas took me on a ride to meet the safari vehicle with driver/guide and guests who
had left earlier. Bridget and Mike from Leeds in England were the only guests who had already
seen a few elephants.
First we ran into a troupe of Baboons. About twenty of them were on the ground and in a group
of trees. Their noises told us that two of the large animals were fighting. They chased each other
from tree to tree making frightening calls. Other members of the troupe avoided getting into
their way. We observed as one baby baboon could not hold on to a tree branch and slid to the
ground from a about thirty feet down. The caring part of us wanted to check out the little thing
but that was obviously not possible. The day before Palo, our guide and his charges had watched
a group of lions, who had killed a zebra, and devoured it. The area with the remains of the zebra
was indicated by two vultures high in a tree. As we arrived, the vultures took off and my English
companions could not believe what had happened to the zebra since they had left the site the
previous evening. Only the skeleton and a leg were left. There was not a spec of tissue
remaining on the bare bones.
The lions were not far off. Between two males a psychological battle took place. The younger
lion was by himself and he was considering taking over the pride of two females who were still in
the “possession” of the older male. Some marking of the territory and some growling indicated
to our guides what went on. After taking some of the best lion pictures on this journey from the
challenger we drove toward the two females and their current mate only a few hundred yards
away. The still dominant male looked into the direction of the challenger and made no bones
about the fact that he knew he was threatened but was not giving in.
The interpretation of our guides gave us much insight. They could read tracks and interpret
sounds from birds or baboons or anyone else who was in the neighborhood creating problems.
After the customary drink under the setting sun in the open wilderness we returned to the camp
and had a short dinner. The English couple had asked me to join them. The husband had left
school at age 15 and started a business that currently builds certain external supporting
structures for high rises all over the world. His wife described herself as “ a primary school
teacher”. Both seemed very educated and were well traveled like most people on these journeys.
The next morning a voice woke me up from my comfortable and greater than kingsized bed
under a mosquito net. I had to get ready for the morning game drive. It was still dark as when
our first encounter was a hyena family. The animals were lazily lying on our path and we drove
parallel to them before stopping so that we could get our photos in the first light of the morning.
These animals did not seem to be intimidated by the jeep: one of the young ones came so close
to the door I could have petted it: it smelled the tire of the front wheel while I set on the
passenger seat feeling a little intimidated by this “baby” hyena bigger than a German shepherd
dog. Palo smiled when he saw me leaning away from the beast.
It was so pleasurable to drive through this African scenery: savannah type regions, then areas
covered with thick brush, here and there a water hole and animals everywhere: large herds of
impalas, large troupes of baboons, various gazelles, hundreds of giraffes of all ages and both
sexes and birds, birds, birds. Unfortunately my memory does not serve me well enough to
remember the names of the birds. I was gratified to just shoot the best image possible.
In the afternoon we tried to locate a leopard whose tracks our tracker Masa had seen. After a
couple of hours without success we abandoned the search. We saw a hippo across a river as it
rose from a water hole opening its mouth widely. The body of a normal human could easily
disappear into his stomach without being chewed up. Yes, I know, hippos are vegetarian.
The evening ended without a dinner. I was just too tired.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Although my plane for the next camp was leaving Palo and Sama offered to take me on a
shortened morning drive. We were off at 6 AM as the sun began to rise quickly. The morning
dawn appears to me much shorter than the evening dawn. We were only fifteen minutes under
way when Masa discovered tracks from a leopard. Leopards and lions in the Okavango are the
highest trophies for us photographers. The guides and trackers are obviously keen to find these
animals for us. We had seen the lions on the first game drive and now on the last it was
apparent how Sama and Palo wanted to find the animal whose tracks they had discovered. We
drove for about an hour on and off road but could not find the leopard. Then, far in the
distance, Palo thought he heard a monkey giving him a signal. The signal was obviously meant
for the monkey troupe warning them of a leopard. It took quite a while of driving through high
grass, marshy areas and brush before we reached the area where the monkeys were making their
calls. We crisscrossed thick brush and bushes as well as little palm trees (Palo calls them
“palems”). Then Sama thought he found a “dragging track” meaning that an animal could have
pulled its dead prey through there. Again a few minutes passed and then both Palo and Sama
got off the jeep looking for more detail. When Sama did not get on the tracker seat in front of
the vehicle but in the back I realized we were close. Within seconds we saw the leopard being
busy with the carcass of a recently killed baby kudu that we could identify from the white stripes
on his body. It must have been a very young animal. For several minutes we observed as the
leopard dragged the carcass and began chewing on it. Then he looked up into the tree as we
visualized the animal’s thoughts: “How can I drag it up to a fork in the tree where I can celebrate
my feast?”. But the leopard gave up after only one attempt. The carcass was to heavy and the
A King and and one of his Queens
fork in the tree too steep for the animal to carry it up there. As we watched the leopard suddenly
walked away and climbed a tree that was easier to ascend - without his prey. He settled in a
comfortable fork and began licking his legs and paws from the blood of the kudu. By this time
several jeeps who heard over the radio of our success had assembled and we drove off.
Palo and Masa were proud of their feat and I could understand it. Not only had they found the
leopard’s tracks they had been successful in locating the animal in the thickest brush. Observing
them showed me another example of the “psychology of flow”. Here were two truly
professionals at the peak of their craft who enjoyed not only the high points of their work but
going out every day and getting their guests as excited about locating and observing animals and
then looking for the best angle and lighting to shoot an image. For me it was an example of how
we all can become satisfied if we find a profession which allows us to get up each morning
looking forward to go to work.
Friday, March 4, 2016
The days were going by too fast so that it became difficult to keep up my diary. It had been
difficult to say good-by to Sama and Palo, who had been wonderful guides. Our highlight
together had been their hunt for the leopard with its prey.
We left for the air strip and our six-seater arrived on time. The fifteen minute flight to Xumam
(pronounced Kumam) was wonderful. One could see the outline of various areas many of which
would be filled with water during the during the rainy season. Where the grass appeared very
green were the borders of the water holes, the trees and the brush were on islands. As we flew
over them there were only few water holes but enough for the great animal population. From
the air I could only see a few elephants, but not even a single giraffe.
In Pompom, the airstrip for Xudum a jeep waited for me and drove me in an hour to the camp.
This was not as luxurious as Sandibe but still beyond what the normal traveler gets to
experience. My bungalow had two floors, there was also a private pool just for me, which I used
for a bath au nature. The inside was similarly decorated as in Sandibe. The large lodge itself
was more plain than the previous one, mainly cheaper wood and simpler style. The whole staff
was black but as accommodating as the one in Sandibe. I could not have been happier.
Another couple arrived a few hours after me but did not come on the first game drive. So I was
again by myself this time with driver TJ and tracker Johnston. TJ was much more serious than
Palo but just as knowledgable. It took us about half an hour to get to a waterhole where we
wanted to observe birds. Just before we reached the hole we found a crocodile crossing over the
land from one water hole to the next. The birdlife at the first water hole was abundant. There
were also several small crocodiles and the usual number of impalas and red Tessebe.
Most of the time we spent at the next, a bigger water hole where we observed at least twentyseven
hippos. Most of them were babies. According to the guide the youngest nursed under
water standing between the mother’s hind legs. The animals rose occasionally, sometimes
yawning before almost or completely disappearing under water. Sometimes little family feuds
broke out when two animals confronted each other. Who knows why hippos disagree?
During the evening meal the couple who had recently arrived asked me to join them for dinner.
He was the manager of a four star resort on Sea Island in Alabama. They had come from an
andBeyond lodge north of Durban. The wife, Normanne, told me about a trip to Zambia, where
they had volunteered on a chimpanzee reserve. She was enthusiastic about their experience.
My “residence” at the camp was not truly a bungalow because it had two stories. I visited the
second floor only once although there were several lounges from where I could have viewed the
area. My reason for climbing the stairs was the group of bats hanging off the ceiling.
On the next morning game drive we saw the Lion King, at least what the animal we observed
probably felt like. He sat on top of a mound and pretended not to have the slightest interest in
us. After observing him for a while - all the other animals kept a great distance from him - we
chased down some Cape Buffalo, which were hiding in a small collection of trees and
underbrush. These buffalos and the elephants which we subsequently saw definitely had not
been habituated to humans in jeeps like the animals we had seen last year in Kruger or the ones
earlier on this journey in Mandikwe. A large herd of elephants changed directions when they
became aware of us while a lone bull made some loud threatening noise facing and approaching
us with an elevated trunk. As we proceeded in a different direction he peacefully walked away.
Two birds have caught my attention: a woodland kingfisher and the pink roller (Images below).
They are most colorful and frequently rest on dead dry branches.
Sunday, March 5, 2016
The game drives seemed to focus more and more on birds in the Xudum camp. Although we
viewed many types of antelopes, elephants, monkeys, giraffes, wildebeest and Cape Buffalo the
birds become more and more interesting.
Some other animals presented a wonderful surprise, such as the little mongoose family which
crossed our path or the African wildcat, which was supposed to be rare and was the shiest
animal we observed. She hushed across the path of our jeep. We then tried to obstruct the
direction into which she (all cats are females for me) tried to escape. But after several attempts
we gave up because we felt that the poor animal should have her peace.
We spent a significant time each day on the “lagoons” as our guide called the water holes.
Almost all the larger ones had a weighty guest, a hippo, but these animals just reside mainly
under water during the day and moved only occasionally. Their activity, namely foraging on
grass, occurred at night when we sleep. As we watched them a big moment came when they
opened their large mouths with a big incisor on each side. Other than by hippos movement of
the water was caused by crocodiles but unfortunately the happenings under water were hidden
The other guests around the lagoons were more active. Several fish eagles left their perch on a
dead tree and cruised over the center of the water trying to catch a fish. Some of them were
successful. They carried their prey back to the tree to feed on it. When one dropped a fish the
Marabou storks were quick to take it away. There were a number of “pink” pelicans, which to
me appeared white. One had caught a fish but had a hard time swallowing it. Our guide
explained that some of the larger fish had spikes, which can give grief if the pelican swallows it
beginning with the tail. So this pelican took several minutes to get it down “against the spikes”
and provided us with an interesting observation.
There were several types of storks again providing entertainment. Most of the time they stand
rather still but then one started repeatedly poking his long beak into the water and many of the
others followed his example for a few moments until quiet returned, with all of them staring into
the water or at each other again. Our guide could tell which stork was threatening whom just by
the way they displayed their tail feathers.
During our ride through a dense bushy area completely I missed something that everyone else
had observed. A rather small predator called Little sparrow hawk with his feet, better talons,
grabbed a smaller bird, flew away with it and killing the poor creature. If the other guests had
not seen the event I would not have believed the guide describing the bird.
Monday, March 6, 2016
The afternoon game drive in Xudum was my last one there. It ended at the same lagoon we had
visited on the first day. The employees had set up a surprise bar right under the stars. We could
observe the rhinos. Normanne counted more than thirty. As it got dark and we were departing
some rhinos left the water and went on their night foraging walk. The bar everything one
needed. A couple of fellows - employees of &Beyond vacationing at Xudum - had too much to
drink and misbehaved a little. Peggy Sue, the temporary manager, lacked the authority to stop
them and one relieved himself next to the car in which we sat and Normanne could not avoid
being a witness of the scene. I did not notice.
Peggy Sue, the temporary camp manager had some bad news for me. She had received a
message from the head office that I had to pay $ 375 for the private flight from Kasane back to
Maun, where my &Beyond tour was initially supposed to end. As an alternative she suggested to
take a scheduled flight for $ 80. This change with the additional payment upset me a little but I
decided it was “only money” and would not spoil the wonderful experience my hosts had
provided. I decided to enjoy the bar under the stars and had a Glenfiddich.
The next morning I was able to get through on the internet to book the Kasane - Maun flight
with some difficulties. James and Normanne said good-bye to me and TJ and Johnson drove
me to the air strip called Pompon. James and Normanne, the Gibsons, had become friends
during the dinners and drives, which we experienced together. Normanne had a 500 mm
camera lens and shot several wonderful pictures. She was able to find the little animals, namely
birds, although with her lens this most certainly was not easy. James was an even tempered
person and his wife was the organizer. She made all the arrangements for the trip. When we
said good-bye we all wished we would meet again somewhere.
We had a smooth take-off at Pompom and after a short stop at another air strip to pick up
another couple we made the 150 nautical mile trip to Kasane in a little Cessna built in 1972 and
significantly older than our 21-year old captain Chris. The 90-minute flight was a little bumpy
but definitely not scary.
After landing a porter took our luggage to the terminal. He asked me what I wanted him to do
with the two suitcases that had already arrived from Maun. Another misunderstanding! I had
expected to pick them up after returning to Maun where I had left them before. The young man
solved the problem: after discussing it with his boss he assured me that I would be able to pick
them up as I had expected when returning to Maun in a few days.
Our guide Morgan drove us from Kasane along a good road leading to Namibia for about fifteen
miles or so and then veering off onto a dirt road that could only be taken by a four-wheel-drive
vehicle. Along the way we saw the first animals. The ubiquitous herds of either bachelor (all
male) Impalas or mostly females with one or two bucks. The impalas animals have a marking
on their back that can be interpreted to be an M, which the guide joked stood for McDonald as in
burgers. The Impalas are the most frequent prey for lions and leopards.
&Beyond under Canvas consisted of several luxury tents with toilette and shower as well as
queen size bed but without air-conditioning, electricity and internet access. The tents had to be
taken down every five days and reconstituted at a different site. Fortunately we guests do not
have to help the crew of eight and there was no tear down during our stay.
The couple with whom I rode from the Kahane airport to camp was from Denver: he was a
lawyer named Joe and his wife was Casey. He left little doubt where he stood politically but the
discussion remained civil, which cannot be said of the candidates running for President this
year. There were two other ladies, young women from Chile, one an investment analyst, the
other analyzed the use of websites. We all had a good time and we all shared our enthusiasm.
After a healthy lunch I plopped my head down for a nap and also did some writing. The drive in
the afternoon showed me that we had left the Okavango Delta and had arrived in a completely
different area. The Chobe was a wide river coming from the west and flowing about fifty miles
further east near Victoria Falls into the Zambezi. The border between Botswana and Namibia
actually was the Chobe River near our camp. The National Park was one of the biggest in
Botswana and was strongly patrolled by anti-poaching units. According to our guides no
poaching had been going on but - they also do not have any rhinos to poach.
We observed many Elephants as they crossed the roads, some with thirty or forty heads. These
herds are led by experienced cows. When the males become sexually mature they are banned
from the mother herd and have to fend for themselves.
The game drive was memorable because I had never seen such a large pride of lions. At least ten
animals were on the prow led by a big male, a few females and many pups of variable ages
followed but completely ignoring the jeeps as we gawked at them. We first saw the male as he
came in and out of the bush. Then when we thought we had lost the pride the oldest female
came followed by the rest of the group.
By the way we learned that a group of lions are a pride, baboons are a troupe, geese are a gaggle,
giraffes are a tower. There is an alphabetic list found in Google, which is worth studying if one
wants to sound like an expert.
Images from the Chobe River with a 600 mm lens on previous pages
The lions were definitely the highlight but there were others: watching troupes of baboons
crossing a road or eating nuts in a tree was also worthwhile. I asked myself the question: why
appear baboons, or generally monkeys, so funny. This is especially true for the babies. The very
young cling to their mother’s abdomen or back and hold on for dear life. I cannot help but sense
the love between those animals expressed by this clinging by the baby and the care by the
mother to keep her baby safe.
The next morning we experienced another highlight: we drove to the river in Kasane where a
small boat expected us that had six camera mounted on firm stands with 500 mm lenses. We
took off and it was THE photographic experience of the journey. We could even get great photos
of small birds, like the little bee-eaters or of butterflies. We circled an island in the Chobe River
and saw several herds of elephants enjoying their morning baths. Just as we had observed
previously the smallest ones were protected and walked or stood between the large females but
they were having just as much fun as the rest of the herd. Maybe the images I caught can reflect
what we experienced on this day. We got very close to a crash of rhinos, which surprised us
when they came up from their dive a little too close for the comfort of the people in our boat. A
lonely rhino was on land some distance away foraging on the grass of the island but after our
arrival jumped into the river with a big splash.
In the afternoon the two girls in our group from Chile wanted to see some zebras. After much
driving and searching we found two lonely little zebras far away on the plane close to the river.
There were many giraffes in the area, which we observed for longer periods. The little ones were
anything but little still behaved like babies. The mothers gave them quite a bit of freedom. Two
large males were having a little argument about their access to a tower of females (remember,
giraffes are a tower). Our guide called one of the males a coward, because he did not want to put
up the slightest fight.
During the last night in camp I could hardly sleep. After some pleading by Casey, the lady from
Denver, on my behalf the manager agreed to have my transportation ready at 6:15 instead of
6:30 AM for the 90 minute ride to the airport and a departure at 8 AM. The manager did not let
us know why he was hesitant to leave early. It probably was because driving in the park during
darkness was illegal. I was anxious but we arrived shortly before 8 AM. The counter had closed
already. The driver conversed in local language in an office and an unhappy lady came out. I
had no idea what the conversation was about. But after a few minutes someone guided me to
the air field where a Gulfstream waited with all passengers aboard already. After my luggage
had been stowed and I had taken my seat in this most uncomfortable plane with the narrowest
seats it took off.
At the arrival in Maun no one from @Beyond was present as I had expected with my two
suitcases. I decided to sort it out at the hotel. A cab with a nice lady driver took me to the hotel.
I gave her $5 because I had decided to avoid changing US dollars into the Botswana currency.
She was happy, because 5 US $ was twice the fare in the Botswana dollars.
The ladies at Cresta Rileys Hotel were professional and checked me in. They even got the local
@Beyond person on the phone for me because I wanted to know where my luggage was. The
man on the other end had no idea and recommended I check with MacAir, the local airline. My
hair raised up a little and I told him that I expected him to do this for me. He then talked in
local language to the hotel receptionist and agreed to look for the luggage and let me know.
After half an hour I received a call from the switchboard. However it was not about my
suitcases but the $5 I had given to the car driver. The bank had not accepted the US currency. I
went down to see her and she pointed to another five dollar bill in my wallet, which she was sure
the bank would accept. She did not return so I guess the bank did.
Just before I fell asleep the receptionist called and offered one of the hotel drivers to take me to
the @Beyond office where the luggage supposedly was. We went there but it was not! It was
still at the MacAir office from where we were then able to retrieve it. I wonder if my driver could
get his $5 gratuity changed into local currency. He did not return however.
Finally I went to sleep and woke up to get a hot bath. The next order of the day was to find a
hotel for the first night in Windhoek and to decide when to fly home. I found a guest house and
a very reasonable business class ticket to Frankfurt through CheapOair on March 21, which I
Then I only had to catch up with my writing.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
The departure from Maun was uneventful except that I had too many suitcases weighing too
many pounds. The lady checking me in told me I would be met by an agent in Windhoek who
would collect the additional money.
At the departure I had to go through Botswana passport check. I had to fill out a form with the
usual information but the friendly agent offered to fill it out for me.
The only other passenger traveling with me from Maun was an employee from Air Namibia. He
turned out to be the spokesperson for the airline. I told him my woes about my trials of making
two reservations through their website and about my frustrations. He was most happy to hear
from me and two days later I received an e-mail from him that the appropriate people had met
about my problem in order to remedy it.
Before boarding someone took my carry-on luggage into which I had put my passports and
stowed it in the body of the plane. We had to leave the plane in Victoria Falls and the lady who
took care of us did not ask for my passport because my Air Namibia friend took care of all
negotiations and got me through the passport control into the transit area and later back on the
Normally one finds the stored carryon luggage in front of the plane upon deplaning. This was
not the case however in Windhoek. After some serious negotiations -my Air Namibia friend had
left already - I was able to retrieve my carryon on the tarmac and thus could pass through the
Namibian immigration. No one asked for an extra fee for my overweight luggage. Lucky again!
A cab took me for the price of $20 US the 30 miles from the airport to the guesthouse I had
booked. A friendly young woman named Loni speaking German fluently welcomed me to this
wonderful place. Everything was top quality and everything worked. The guesthouse was
surrounded by a high wall armed with metal spikes. A guard sits at the gat in the little guard
house and lets only authorized persons pass.
The swimming pool offered a refreshing bath and my first information regarding the country I
received in my native language from the brother of the lady who had welcomed me. His name
was Reiner. He told me that the car rental people had waited at the airport to take me to the
A lady cab driver then took me to town to take care of my remaining business. I had to get
money, appropriate guide books and find a German place for dinner. The beer in the large and
busy beer garden was great, the pork cutlet hung over the rim of my plate and overwhelmed me.
After a restless night I had a great breakfast with Brotchen, always a good start of the day. Then
I tried to organize the next few days by studying the guide books. I decided to first go north to
Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and then south to Susussflei.
Around mid-morning a driver named Bruno arrived to take me to the car rental place. We had
to drive through the town. An extremely friendly and efficient black lady named Selma helped
me. We had to fill out almost as many forms as for buying a home in the US, she explained the
insurance alternatives and found a GPS for me that I had not requested when ordering the
vehicle. When I got into the car I found out that it was not a four-wheel drive. So we had to
change and redo the paperwork and a new car, a four-wheel drive had to be readied. This took
about an hour. However Bruno offered to go shopping with me for the essentials, which I still
needed such as water, juices and cookies as emergency rations. I could get used to having a
male assistant to take my groceries to the car and drive me around. Unemployment was high in
Namibia and labor apparently was not rewarded with large salaries. We travelers were enjoying
benefits to which we were not used.
On my way back to the guesthouse in my new car I got terribly lost. The GPS did not seem to
work correctly. Maybe I made a mistake although that is hardly possible (hahaha!). After
driving around for an hour I finally found my Monte Bello guesthouse again.
Reiner helped me with planning my journey but advised to buy a SIM card for my phone so that
I could make calls in the case of an emergency. I drove to the shopping center he had
recommended, got lost but finally found it. A security officer of which there are many here
showed me the appropriate store and I bought a card for my i-phone. However it did not work
since the phone was locked. It took a second salesperson then to find a new phone (less than
15$ US) with 200 minutes all to be used in one week. Then it was back to the guesthouse and
this time I did not get lost.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Around 11 AM I checked out from the Monte Bello. While talking to Loni, the manager, the
housekeeper first brought me a shirt I had left behind and then the i-phone, that she found in
my bed. Why do I need people to look after me?
Then a mistake happened: I trusted the GPS navigation system. My destination was the
Sylvanette Guesthouse in Okahandja. Passing by the B1 highway did not cause concern because
the GPS has been more often correct than my senses told me. So I kept driving for about fifteen
miles on a “tarred” road as it was called here. Then the tar turned into dirt, here it was named
gravel, although I did not find any hint of gravel. After driving another five or so miles I came to
a turn which made me consult my map. I was definitely way off and decided to turn back to
Windhoek to find the B1. That was easier said than done because the local people were unable
to help. Finally there was a construction crew who could give me directions. From then on it
was easy although the road was anything but smooth. Many construction detours had to be
negotiated, there were no center markings and there was no side strip. Since this is the road
leading to Angola and to the northern part of Namibia the traffic was dense.
After turning off the B1 there were hardly any cars on the road. At the entrance to Okahandja
was the famous market for carvings, which the tourist books recommended. My goal was the
Sylvanette Guesthouse. This time the navigation system found it. I checked in and relaxed. In
the afternoon I went for a cup of latte macchiato to a place near the market. As I approached the
market stands a cloud of salespeople surrounded me, everyone trying to lure me to his little
stand. Billy, that’s what he called himself, was the most persuasive. In Dar Es Salam I had
already looked for carvings of the Big Five. Here there was a great variety of carvings from
which to select. They had to be small in order to fit into my luggage. After some negotiation we
agreed on a price that was less than half of the initial quote.
Before returning home I filled up the tank of my car. Four or five young people tried to engage
me into a conversation speaking broken German. They were too aggressive and I had to
overcome a certain hesitance but finally got rid of them.
For dinner I went to Rhino’s, a little restaurant frequented mainly by white folks. The rice and
salad were edible the steak was not: undercooked and full of gristle.
With the owner of the Sylvanette I discussed my plans and the roads I wanted to take. The long,
lonely gravel roads were a great concern but he reassured me. He was a painter and offered to
take me to Etosha, the large animal reserve in the north. Maybe another time. My next
destination was Swakopmund on “tarred” highway B1.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
The drive from Okahandja to Swakopmund was easy. The roads were in good shape and
although the traffic was pretty busy, the trip went smoothly.
The scenery consisted first of shrubs than gradually it changed to desert. For the first part there
were still fences but then the land became such a desert that even an extremely large acreage
would have provided inadequate food and water for animals.
Along the coast between Swakopmund and the harbor town of Wallis Bay were the famous sand
dunes, which I had visited and climbed before during Crystal times. Then I was still able to
climb and enjoy sliding down. Rather than lament the fact I decided to be happy to come back
and explore the country in more detail.
My guesthouse was composed of small little individual houses organized almost like a maze. I
had my own parking place right next to my window.
For dinner I went to a restaurant on the 1902 Pier as it is called. The seafood combo contained
lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, fish and crab and was more than plentiful.
In the morning I went to the Lutheran Church in town. The building had been constructed in
1912 and was light and airy. The congregation consisted mainly of older people although twelve
kids made up the current confirmand group. They introduced themselves by name and with an
item that they considered unique and significant for them. One girl brought a flute,
emphasizing her interest in music, a boy a pen, because he enjoyed writing. They each
mentioned what they expected from their class.
The minister talked longer than the fifteen minutes he had promised the confirmands, the choir
began with a round and then a few easy listening pieces.
After church I met a couple, he in his eighties, she of my age. He had been a farmer and he had
met his wife from northern Germany while she at age 16 visited an aunt on a neighboring farm.
After a few sentences they invited me to their house for Sunday Dinner.
Herr Mercker told me the history of his family, who had arrived in the former German colony in
the 1880 and began to farm 18,000 hectares. The next neighbor was about thirty miles away.
He had raised cattle, Santa Gertrud’s. At one time he flew to Houston and brought back twelve
animals for breeding stock. He also grew caracul sheep. Several years ago he sold his farm. All
five of the Mercker children had attended university and one daughter was in the process of
selling her home in .... for all places Yakima, Washington where she had worked as a
Their house was in a nice district of town with a colorful garden of palms and lush lawns. Some
of Herr Merckers hunting trophies were displayed in one room and a look at his book shelve
showed to me that this family had wide interests.
Another couple had been invited for dinner. He was a veterinarian and the couple, who also
must be my age also had a travel agency. They were in the process of planning a trip for the
Merckers to some of the places, i.e. the Chobe River, that I had just visited.
As a child Dr. von Ludewig had grown up on a coffee plantation in the Serengeti area, which his
family lost after the war. At the beginning of the war his father had the choice between
imprisoned by the British or “home patriated” to Germany. He chose to go to Germany and
served in the German army, then spent four years in a Yugoslavian POW camp. The von Ludwig
family with Friedhelm then had to flee from Pomerania just ahead of the Russian army and
ended up in Detmold, not far from Bad Salzuflen. We must have attended the same horse shows
in Bad Salzuflen as we found out during our conversation.
It would have been nice to continue the conversation but the dinner was ending and I do not like
to outstay my welcome.
During the afternoon I drove to Walvis Bay on a road between the sand dunes and the Atlantic
ocean beach. I put my feet into the cold water for a moment but then drove back to fill my car
with “petrol” and have the pressure in my tires checked.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Namibia means desert and Namibia the desert country. Crossing the Swakop River just outside
of Swakopmund I became aware that it like all other rivers I had crossed so far in this country
did not carry a drop of water. The only water I had noticed was in the Atlantic Ocean or came
from a tap. In church on Sunday they sang a song written by a missionary years ago praying for
rain. The farmers in the country were having a difficult time feeding their herds. On Texas
ranches there were the windmills on many pastures. Here I had seen only a single one and I
could not determine if water was delivered from the ground.
The colonialist farmers having left their home country with green meadows and plenty of water,
sometimes even excessive rain falls must have had to make quite an adjustment as they arrived
in Namibia. They must have adjusted well because only few returned to Germany and the
Germans were respected in the community. They continue to be successful under constantly
changing and difficult political circumstances.
When I realized that I had to drive for several hundred miles on gravel roads I felt that might
have been a little overconfident planning such a journey. My car carried two (!!!) spare tires,
which told me that the rental company anticipated me at least using one. I had not changed a
tire in half a century and was not looking forward to do under adverse circumstances in the
desert on sandy soil with lions, leopards or cheetahs lurching around. But as I was driving the
first few miles out of Swakopund on a tarred road and then after the airport in Walvis Bay the on
gravel I realized it was not as difficult as I had anticipated. These roads were very wide.
Obviously they were not marked. One could see an approaching car from miles away since it
produced a large cloud that followed it.
After about an hour I realized from a distance of several miles a vehicle approached with a
flashing light and an even bigger dust cloud than a car: it turned out to be a grader. By the time
I had sped up and had to slow down suddenly to avoid hitting the grader. My breaks blocked
and I slid thirty or so feed, scaring the living daylight out of me. The man at the rental place had
warned me: you will have to drive on the roads like you drive at home on ice. After realizing this
I could still drive around 60 mph and made good progress. The first hundred miles no one came
towards me and no one passed me. After crossing a few canyons - no water here either - an
occasional tourist vehicle, mostly small buses or four wheel drive vehicles, came towards me.
The only wildlife was a lonely zebra and a herd of small antelopes.
The scenery began as flat desert. Initially there were fences indicating that the land was used for
agriculture although I could not see any grass. As the fences stopped there was only an
occasional bush but nothing else but bare sandy soil. However I came across an Oryx, one of the
bigger antelopes with large rounded horns.
My initial destination was Solitaire. It definitely was not a town because besides a gas station, a
bakery run by a humungous Scotsman and a restaurant, there was nothing. In the desert one
does not pass a gas station without filling up, because who knows when the next one will be
available. So I filled up and drove for another seventy or so kilometers to my home for the
night: the Moon Mountain Lodge. Most lodges here in the desert are not permanent buildings.
They consist of a number of tents, that are mostly well equipped with large beds, a toilet (which
may be a little smelly) and a shower. In case of the Moon Lodge the guests were told to leave
their vehicles in a little shed below. Only four - wheel drive cars were allowed the very steep -
and to me again - scary hill. In the case of my first scary hill in South Africa there were bushes
along the way which hid the abyss. This was not the case on Moon Mountain: the road was the
steepest and narrowest I have ever taken and to say I was scared expresses my feelings with
restraint. The lady manager, Mia, who met me at the bottom reassured me and surprise,
surprise! I made it.
The common buildings of the Lodge like kitchen, bar and dining rooms were in separate tented
buildings but each guest had his or her own tent with a view far, far towards the horizon. Before
moving into my tent Mia explained to me that I was a day early but it was no concern, there was
room. She gave me a wonderful cool drink while I realized that I had to change all the other
reservations also. Only my departure from Windhoek was in order.
My tent was constructed over a wooden frame and seemed barely attached the side of the
mountain. Being tired I lay down and then became concerned about the wind that was moving
the canvas walls of my tent. On one side there was a tiny hot-tub sized pool providing me with a
refreshing bath after I had taken a nap. I was surprised how much more tiring this driving is
then on the Autobahn and US Highway # 5.
For cocktails I moved to the bar where I met a young couple living in Munich but originally from
the Ruhr District. They had taken a different route and had actually fjord a road covered with
water. They had put together their trip quickly. He wanted to surprise his girlfriend after she
had graduated from veterinary school.
The following night again was horrible. Was it again the fear of the hill? I do not know, but I
Shortly after daybreak and supplied with a lunch box from Mia I made it down the hill. When I
had almost reached the little town of Sesfriem a large Oryx jumped across the street and with his
horns got entangled in a fence. For a minute I saw the animal struggle. Later I heard that this is
a fairly common occurrence and ends often with the death of the animal or at least the loss of a
horn. A asked driver who arrived at the gas station where I refueled a few miles later what
happened to the animal. He had not noticed it so that I assume it was able to free himself.
Sesfriem was named after the length of six oxen reams, which it took to find water. When I
looked at the area I had no idea that water could even be found there. Sesfriem is located at the
entrance of the Sossusvlein (vlein = valley or plane) valley. It is a most unusual valley since the
valley floor is a flat plane measuring approximately two miles and is lined by large dunes. These
dunes that during the change of the sunlight alter their appearance were the reasons why this
area was designated a World Cultural Heritage. The valley is about fifty miles long and where
one would not expect it after driving two hundred miles on gravel is covered in a length of 45
miles with a “tarred” road. One of the past presidents of Namibia decided after a visit that the
visitors of the area should be rewarded by reaching the dunes on an asphalt road.
These big animals often get caught in fences being where they are unable to free
The sand dunes of Sossusvlein
Kudus “grazing” in the desert below us
Another Balloon accompanying ours
A view of the Sussuvlei region
The Balloon Ride over the Sussusvlei Plain ended with a “Sporty landing”
The appearance of these dunes is unusual: the wind has sculptured gracious curves using just
sand. The two highest have been named - according to the driver I engaged for the last three
miles - Big Daddy and Big Momma although I have been unable to confirm this. The last part of
the valley can be reached only by four wheeler. I had decided that I had enough challenges and
engaged one of the drivers waiting to serve us visitors.
He chaffeured me on the sandy piste, where one driver had gotten stuck already. It is the
intention of most visitors to climb at least one of the dunes and we could see how one couple
made the attempt and struggled. Unfortunately I had no more such ambitious intention and
wondered if the view from the top is worse such effort.
The dunes were up to a thousand feet high and were deserving the visitors’ long journey to reach
them. The gracious lines are emphasized by the sun: one side is in the shade with a dark hue of
red brown, while another appears in bright sun light leading to a remarkable contrast in colors.
My guide then explained to me the animals that had been in the park in the morning by reading
the tracks, which were so distinct in the soft sand that I even could see that a leopard, then a
spring bok antelope and a schakal had been visitors where we were standing. The guide insisted
to take my photo in front of Big Momma with the small flat area in front where the last bit of
water had evaporated some time ago. The impression, which we the visitors get here is only a
small snap shot considering the millions of years the dunes have been present.
The dunes in Sussusvlei are not wandering as the dunes near Swakopmund but depending on
the winds the silhouette of these dunes can change slightly. The appearance and disappearance
of water throughout the seasons the years together with the wind form the graceful lines we so
admire. While there were some acacia trees alive more were dead and presented their attractive
outlines. The dead trees are not destroyed by insects or bacteria and thus the stems “survive”
more years than the tree has actually lived. During wet times the river bed carries water but not
predictably. The shallow river frequently changes its bed and does not flow into any other river
or into the sea but ends after evaporating at the feet of the mighty dunes.
The driver dropped me off at my car. I had parked in the shade of a tree and had misjudged the
height of the car with the tire mounted on top. If I had driven further just one foot my tire
would have been ripped off and the roof of the car would have been damaged.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
After returning the 70 kilometer back to Sesfriem I checked into my the Sossusvlei Lodge, an
upper class establishment. Each“chalet” is a mixture of tent and firm building. The foundation
and the walls of the entrance and bathroom are masonry walls while the bedroom is under a tent
that is incorporated into the other structure. I welcomed the presence of an air-conditioning
unit and spent most of the remaining day sleeping and reading.
Later in the afternoon after the heat (at least 100 F) decreased I went to the pool and started a
conversation with a couple from Hamburg. He was a documentary movie producer and she a
media lawyer. Her father had invited them and another couple for the two-week journey
through Namibia. Later they invited me to dine with them under the stars with open cooking
stations for fish, kudu, zebra and oryx. We had a lovely conversation which concerned mainly
politics. I was amazed how negative their view of the AfD was, the new German right wing
party. Not surprising was their negative view of Trump as he seemed to be marching forward to
the nomination as candidate for President of the Republican Party.
The next morning my alarm clock had been set f0r 5:30 AM. At 6 AM the car from the balloon
company picked up several of us at the hotel entrance and we drove in the dark to the site where
two balloons were being inflated. It was quite a sight to observe this process in the morning
dawn on a vast “vlein” with a group of smaller rocky hills in the foreground and the large dunes
in the background. A smaller ballon accommodated four and the larger one I was assigned to
took sixteen passengers. Slowly the balloon grew in size, it began to rise from the ground, then
righted the basket. Four or five attendants helped us get into it and then we rose with
intermittent blasts from the propane jets blowing hot air into the balloon canopy. As we moved
with the wind there was a respectful silence. We all felt the magic as we rose higher and higher,
then in order to change directions dropping down a few hundred feet only to rise again. We
observed the magic circles on the ground about which there had been a variety of theories, the
latest one was just discussed in the most recent NYT. After a while we drifted toward a herd of
Oryxs foraging on the few plants. A respectable distance away from them a lonely Oryx buck
marked his territory, which according to our guide was a message to the reigning buck of the
herd of his challenge.
We drifted over a small pass between the rocky hills, which were about 1500 feet above the plain
over which we traveled so effortlessly. Sooner than expected we overheard the radio
conversation between the two balloonists and the ground crew about the selection of a landing
site. Because the winds on the grounds were fairly strong a first site seemed to be inopportune
for the captain of the first balloon. By the time we reached the same site the winds supposedly
had somewhat decreased and our captain selected this site named Hyena Point. Slowly we
approached the ground, the process being much more gradual than I had experienced before.
Just before touching down we heard the command: “Assume landing position”. Since we were
still moving swiftly no one doubted that it was a challenging landing. Indeed at almost ground
level three fellows from the ground crew jumped on the high side of the wicker balloon basket in
a futile attempt to bring it in a vertical position. They failed and we landed sideways (see
image). Instead of standing up in the basket we were lying down on our back. The balloonist
described it as “a more sporty landing”. Gently we were extricated from the basket and were on
our way in a jeep to a breakfast in the desert. A ground crew had set tables with white cloths but
before breakfast was served a bottle of champaign was opened with a machete, one of the
ground crew catching the cork.
After the champaign we needed a good breakfast, which indeed had been prepared. Eggs, meat,
rolls, home made bread, croissants, jam, juices, fruits and all the goodies one could imagine.
Next to me sat a German couple. She was an air traffic controller who had fallen in love with
Tanzania and spent much of her money visiting it: during one year six times! He was smitten
with her (lots of PDF’s = public display of affection) and talked to me only after a while. He
must have realized that he had to travel with her if he wanted to win her favor more
The jeep then took us back to the hotel from where I subsequently checked out. It was to
become again an extremely hot day and I decided to drive back to the Moon Mountain Lodge
where I had stayed before and had reservations. By the time of my arrival the heat was greater
than anything I had experienced in Texas, more like Death Valley at its worst times. My tent
provided the shade and the pool helped me to cool off (sans swim suit). I dozed and read
intermittently. The heat did not allow me to concentrate for longer periods of time.
By cocktail time the temperatures became tolerable. At the main lodge a group of Germans from
Franken had arrived. The group of six friends traveled together and after some introductions
invited me to join them for dinner.
Another couple that had arrived earlier had told me about a guest farm on the way back to
Windhoek. They raved about a guesthouse in the Kalahari Desert. However I decided to ask
Mia made reservations for me at the Büllsport Guesthouse only about a hundred kilometers
During our dessert conversation a couple at another table joined in. They came from Preetz, the
very small town where Christa and I had married and where before that Albert and I had lived
for one semester while studying in Kiel. The woman asked me where I had lived in Preetz.
When I told her that it was on the “Quergang” Street she responded that she and her husband
had lived there also. It turned out we had lived in the same house more than twenty years
before them and a subsequent generation had been their landlords. Another example of our
The couple had been in Büllsport my next reservation and I talked over breakfast. They planned
a visit at game farm to watch cheetahs. As I arrived at the gas station in Solitaire they were there
already waiting for their ride to begin and invited me to join them, which I did. An
environmentalist had purchased a few thousand hectares where he kept four cheetahs. All had
been radio-collared. There was one old male, supposedly the biggest specimen ever measured in
the area with three females. The male had undergone a vasectomy so that the animals would
not reproduce. With only slight difficulty two of the animals were found thanks to a radio
location device. They were lying lazily in the shadow of a little tree. The first, a female hardly
took notice. We got the male’s attention only after the guide pretended that he had food. Then
the animal woke up and followed us for a while as we drove off, Karin and I were a little
apprehensive because the distance between us and the cat was short.
Our ways then separated. They went back to the Moon Mountain and I made my way for about
forty kilometers toward Buelsport. This was definitely the best organized guesthouse during my
journey. The living and dining area were tastefully decorated. Everything was neat and super
clean. The name of the owners were Herr and Frau Sauber (sauber = clean). The common
grounds were neatly raked, the walks were covered with neatly placed rock slices from the area.
My chalet was designed with efficiency in mind. The colors were pastels, an informative book
explained the farm: a horse and cattle farm that was run in combination with the guest houses.
The farmer came to meet me and told me that it would not possible for me to stay a second night
as I had by then planned. He was a tall and serious man with hardly a smile. He did not even
make a remark of regret that he could not accommodate me. Nevertheless he was helpful
finding me a place to stay. He recommended a guest house in the Kalahari desert. I felt a
certain contrast between the lovingly planned guest houses and the sober, unsmiling tone of
everyone. People were helpful: one of the younger fellows got the assignment to check my trunk
door, which I had been unable to open. He then repacked my luggage by removing the back
seats so that I could have access at least to my suitcases.
In the afternoon a black helper called David who spoke the craziest mixture of German, English,
Afrikaans and his mother tongue Nama. For a couple of hours we toured a small fraction of the
10,000 hectares the Saubers farmed. Two different people estimated the fence lines of the farm
were between 100 and 150 miles long. The fences were constructed in a way that in certain
smaller antelopes had hole big enough for them to pass but impossible for the cows to penetrate.
We watched a variety of antelopes, a fox, a kudu, a large tortoise and the large nests of “social”
weaver birds. David did not know what the exact name was but they build hundreds of nests in
one big hey bundle hanging on a tree limb. Sometimes the nest collection gets so big and heavy
that when rain critically increases its weight the nests break the limb, fall down to the ground
and are an easy target for the cobras from which the tree location is intended to protect the birds
The unreliable Suzuki Four-Wheel Drive with two spare wheels
Dinner was served at 8 PM. I joined a couple that had sat down already. After a short
introduction they told me that they were from ..... Bad Salzuflen, the small town where I had
grown up in Germany. After a while the owner, Mr. Sauber and his wife joined the table. The
conversation which had been lively became somewhat stifled. Herr Sauber is a towering figure
and everyone expressed his respect by hardly talking. After a while the Swiss fellow who with
his wife then completed the table mentioned his favorite place in the world was the northwest
passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Then Frau Sauber joined in casually,
definitely not as enthusiastically as the Swiss fellow that she had enjoyed the area during a canoe
Earlier I had heard from the young fellow who had been a friend of the two Sauber sons, that
one of the brothers had been killed as a 21-year old, while the other was in Germany studying
mining engineering. That may have had something to do with the somewhat depressed
atmosphere of the owner couple. Contributing to the depression was the lacking feed for the
four hundred or so cows that had been grazing in this desert country. There draught had
terrible consequences for the Saubers who were in the process of significantly reducing their
herd. As an emergency there was a “meadow” high up in the mountains, which they attempted
to access for the cows by building a trail. Most of the cows had been sold already and another
large group was prepared for auction at the end of the month. The farming situation in the
whole area was fairly dismal and may also have contributed to the general “down” mood at the
Probably to compensate for the decreasing farm income the Saubers had decided to build more
chalets. I was happy for the couple that at least during the time of my visit they had a full
complement of guests.
Another sideline of the farm was horse breeding. They raised Hanoveranians and upgraded
their stock with semen imported from Lower Saxony. The horses were broken and then initially
trained by a horsewoman from California whom the Saubers had flown in. After initial training
by her with an American saddle they were switched to an English saddle and then taken for sale
to the capital city of Windhoek where there was a greater market than in the desert.
There was care for the wellbeing of the guests expressed by the way the chalets had been
designed and constructed, by their furnishing and the amenities but the whole atmosphere was
somewhat down and I had to feel sorry for the Sauber couple.
During the next morning I joined a group of four Swiss photographers with their long lenses on
a drive up into the mountains with a jeep driven by a probably normal Bavarian fellow with a
giant belly who suffered from a severe cold coughing up a storm. Nevertheless he was able to
show us the kudus and zebras and the Swiss could not get enough of it. Actually the Zebras were
interesting because they were of the “mountain” kind, that have no stripes on their abdomina.
More exciting than the animals for me was the spectacular ride. The trail was so narrow and the
slope so steep and the distance to the valley floor was intimidating. When we thought it could
not get any steeper or narrower it did. It took us a couple of hours to reach a level of several
thousand feet over the valley with breathtaking views of four different roads leading far into
different directions. After we had dropped of the photographer-hikers Martin, my Bavarian
guide, took me down the same trail in his jeep but for some reason it was not as scary as going
up. He delivered me back to the farm where I checked out.
For the next 110 kilometers I traveled on a gravel road. The trick was to travel within the
grooves having been created by previous vehicles. That sounds easy and basically is but
demands much more concentration than traveling on a asphalt road. It took me a while to get to
Malta Hoehe, a German name but a completely black town. There I reached asphalt and had no
trouble getting to Mariental, also a purely black town.
Having put my destination, the Bagatelle Sahari Guest lodge into my GPS navigator, I hoped it
would guide me there. It did not. It took me on dirt roads when it should have guided me over
the B1, the main road. Asking for help is not easy because most Africans don’t drive and have no
sense of direction. A friendly driver stopped and promptly led me in the wrong direction. I
finally traced back to the next gas station where someone knew the road for which I was
looking . First a tar road then 16 miles on a gravel road led me to the lodge. On arrival I was
The Christuskirche in Windhoek where I attended services on my last day in
The lady who owned the 20,000 hectare park and lodge had reserved for me her last room. It
was near the lodge. I swam and refreshed, then talked at the bar with a gentleman from the
Rhineland who had retired to the Provence and loved to vacation in Namibia. His wife was
indisposed so we had dinner together and he was a good representative of the Rhinelanders with
their happy, positive and energetic disposition.
! ! The next morning he almost did not want to let me go but I did anyway 6262 and made my way
back the gravel road and the 200 miles toward Windhoek my final destination in Namibia. On
the way there two unfortunate things happened: first, about sixty kilometers before Windhoek
my engine refused to accelerate. I could not pass the trucks doing 80 km/h. Would I make it
toward Windhoek? I did make it until ten kilometers before the city line and then changed my
destination from the Monte Bello Guesthouse direct to the car rental place in town. The
navigator disappointed again and led me through a small development and narrow streets when
I should have stayed on the main road. But finally using my instinct I found the agency and
returned the car with my complaints. The gentlemen at the agency listened with interest and
patiently. They agreed that the trunk door mechanism was defect but had no explanation for the
failing engine and navigator. I was glad to be rid of the car, a Suzuki.
A friendly driver then took me back to my guest house where I relaxed. I opened a bottle of
apple juice that had been stored in the sun in the car. It had fermented and sprayed, sprayed
and sprayed over the whole room, walls, doors, suitcase etc. With a smile on my face about the
imperfect self I cleaned up the mess.
The next two days I prepared for my journey home to Berlin. I went to church on Palm Sunday
at the Christus Kirche in Windhoek (My maternal grandfather had ministered at a Christus
Kirche for thirty-some years) where the minister baptized his grandson.
On Monday I had to wait until 9:30 PM for the departure of my Air Namibia flight. It had been
delayed because the French air traffic controllers had strikes. When it was ready for take-off
near midnight an unruly passenger had to be taken off. Then his luggage had to be retrieved
from the belly of the plane taking another forty minutes or so.
We arrived at the airport in Frankfurt around 9:30 AM. An hour before terrorists had killed
more than thirty people at the Brussels airport and in a subway station. Even in Frankfurt
lashing police cars were everywhere and instilled in me confidence that things were under
control. After purchasing my ticket I took a train to Hannover, then on to Burgdorf, where my
brother-in-law Olly expected me with my car. Although I had hardly slept on the plane I
decided to drive the three hours it took to get to Berlin. Home I was, at least home in my second
My body told me that I was tired, my mind that I was extremely grateful.
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