Smoke and Roses - In To Africa
November 12 – 19
Richard’s Bay, South Africa
Since the remarkable transition to democracy under Nelson Mandela, South Africa has become an important force on the yachting scene offering the best facilities for yacht repair and care. It is home to the largest ethnic group in South Africa, the Zulu Tribe. They became a great military power and were the only African tribe that won battles against the British. However the Zulu Tribes suffered greatly under apartheid and were discriminated against.
We arrived on the south east coast of Africa at Richard’s Bay in an area called the KZN (Kwa Zulu Natal). A local lady in traditional Zulu attire including bright colors and lots of bead work greeted us with a festive champagne welcome, as well as two ladies from the Zulu Land Yacht Club and Matt a new ARC yellow shirt (representative). Industry, tourism and nature co-exist in harmony at Richard’s Bay. It is home to some of the country’s most productive and lucrative industries while its surrounds have vast expanse of untouched indigenous vegetation, natural lakes and marshes. Hippos, crocodiles and monkeys are abundant even in the yacht club marina where several boats had monkey s climbing on them. The first evening we joined in celebrating Sydney’s (from Influencer) birthday at the yacht club and the following morning our daughter arrived to join us for the next six weeks, during the holidays, while exploring Africa. World ARC will take a break and all boat are on their own to make their way approximately 900 nautical miles around South Africa’s southernmost point and the Cape of Good Hope, until we meet again in Cape Town on the South West coast and Rally Control returns after the new year.
Our eleven day visit at Richard’s Bay included some exciting big animal encounters while on safaris, on a hippo and croc tour and at a cheetah project. With labor and parts being inexpensive, we had the boat sides polished, rivets in the boom replaced and Dan bought new solar panels which he installed. As planned with Alicia joining us, Sean left to go with Mad Monkey to Cape Town where he will fly home. We also spent a good amount of time cleaning as a greasy black coal dust covered the boat and had to be scrubbed off. It even turned the running rigging black and coated the life lines. The World ARC functions included a BBQ, Big 5 Safari, Wine Tasting, Happy Hours, Zulu traditional dinner, a cruising the Cape briefing as well as a welcome function and prize giving.
The first World ARC function was the Bring and Braai BBQ at the Yacht Club, a traditional South African BBQ. The meats included sausage, beef, pork and lamb grilled over open wood fired stone ovens called a brazier. There were salads and meale (a corn dish), it was all good. The next day was the World ARC Big 5 Safari in the Imfolozi National Park, in the heart of the Zulu Kingdom. We rode in open safari jeeps on ancient trails that led through the thornveld and along the mighty rivers of Africa’s oldest established protected area. We saw lots of impala, nyala, elephants, and a rhino at a distance, many giraffe, zebra and more. Some of the elephants were just 50 feet away. It was amazing! Lunch was provided at a picnic site within the Mpila Camp surrounds. The scenery was spectacular with towering black basalt pinnacles of the Drakensberg Mountains, scenic hills and valleys. I was excited with the thought of returning for a three day safari next week. That evening the marina hosted a lovely outdoor wine tasting with cheese platters.
Still reveling in the excitement of the safari tour we wanted to see more big animals. In our rental cars we drove an hour north with Cayuse to St Lucia, a World Heritage Site, to go on a hippo and croc estuary safari. Our boat cruise took place on the St Lucia Estuary; we saw large heard of hippopotamus, a crocodile, greater kudu and birds. Our guide was very informative as he described the hippos and explained their social nature. He told us how they frequent the town at night, sometimes fighting and tearing things up.
Most of us learned that Zulu food is not to our liking during the Traditional Zulu dinner. A dish called tripe smelled bad and tasted awful. Several people ordered other food or went somewhere else to eat. After spending the afternoon shopping, we attended the Welcome Function and Prize Giving at the Zulu Land Yacht Club. This fun event started with a tribal dance performed by locals, on the lawn, in their native attire. It was followed by a nice dinner and prize giving. Smoke and Roses won leg 14, crossing the Indian Ocean. After the prize giving, an organic acoustic band played traditional Maskandi music with a western element, several people enjoyed dancing. Then a local spitting game called Bokdrol was played with volunteers who competed to see who could spit Kudu terds the farthest. Josh from “Influencer” won the men’s competition and Alicia from Smoke and Roses won the women’s. They each got a very nice and will deserved, impala pelt. The next day we headed for Emdoneni Lodge which has a Cheetah and Serval cat Project for animal care and rehabilitation. Arriving for the afternoon feeding tour we were allowed to enter the cat enclosures with a guide. At our own risk we got up close to the African wildcats, servals, caracal (African Lynx) and cheetah. We pet them and got photos. The main emphasis of the project is to release offspring of the endangered animals back into the wild.
If our weather window holds we plan to depart Richard’s Bay right after our three day safari, so Monday we prepared for departure and got ready for our exciting safari.