Hello again family and friends! We've been without wifi for the past few days because we were "safari-ing" at Golden Leopard Game Reserve. Now we are in Johannesburg staying at Pension Idube and we will be here for the next few days. Therefore, we will be able to update more often! We are absolutely loving the sunshine and warm weather! Here's a run down of what we've seen and experienced:
The Best "Game" of Eye Spy We've Ever Played
We woke up on Thursday morning at the crack of dawn to load our safari (or game watching) truck. We were all pretty excited so we forgot about the jetlag we were still experiencing. Right away it was sunny with a nice warm breeze in our open-aired truck. We got to see a variety of animals including wildebeests, giraffes, zebras, weaver birds, impalas, warthogs (and their babies), rhinos, and the group favorite: elephants. The first elephant we saw was within the first thirty minutes of our drive. How incredible! Our guide told us this elephant was a teenage elephant and it was only thirty feet away from us. After fighting to remain calm and quiet while taking pictures, the elephant began to move toward us. He got so close that some members of our group could have reached out and touched him (which was very tempting). Greta was closest and describes this experience when saying, " If I leaned over, I could have literally grabbed its trunk!!" For many of us, this was definitely the highlight. Nancy Barry even said, "I can die happy!" For the rest of the day we returned to the resort and lounged by the pool while reviewing our readings and writing in our journals. Needless to say, we never imagined such a great start to our trip.
This morning (Friday) we went to Sterkfontein Caves where the entire skeleton of Little Foot, an Australiopithecus africanus (one of the first hominids) was found. We were equipped with blue and orange hard hats (and rather stylish hair nets to go with them) before entering the cave. Our tour guide Fanyana was an absolute hoot! He said "okay" every time he started talking to us at each stop, but he said O'Cave instead; we approved of his pun. He really enjoyed the fact that we were from America and that so many of us are female. We went approximately 60 meters down in the cave where we saw stalactites and stalagmites as well as an underground lake. As we went deeper into the cave, it got cooler which was a refreshing break from the hot sun (and no, we're definitely not going to complain about the summer weather). On the way out, we had over 200 stairs and some pretty tight crawling/ducking/sliding on your belly spots. Hannah B. said she was scared but overcame that and we all got out safely with only a little dirt to show for our efforts. After finishing up with the caves, we loaded the bus and made our way to Johannesburg where will get to settle in for the next few days.
One thing we can tell you is that we are definitely not in the Midwest anymore. A lot of us are adjusting to the fact that we can't do the "Luther norm" of smiling and waving to everyone you see, regardless of whether you know them or not. We are aware that we stick out as Americans (it is almost as if we have American flags tattooed on our foreheads). Many of the South Africans we have talked with have been very friendly, but we still know we need to be aware of our surroundings (no need to worry, moms and dads). There is culture shock, but we are taking it in stride and we are extremely grateful for the experience we are having.
Tomorrow we will be taking a tour of inner city Johannesburg. We are looking forward to experiencing a different side of South Africa.
We are sending warm thoughts and sunshine your way!