The South African school calendar allows for month-long breaks during the months of June and December. We also get a couple weeks off around the time of Easter and then at the end of September. This school holiday corresponds with the World Cup soccer tournament and anyone remotely interested in the sport has traveled to South Africa to watch the games. Let me repeat: anyone IN THE WORLD remotely interested in the sport has traveled to South Africa to watch the games.
I think it may be close to the invasion Louisvillians experience when the Kentucky Derby rolls around; however, it may be even more intense because the World Cup location changes globally, much in the same way the location of the Olympics changes, and South Africa has been looking to 2010 for a very long time. (Kentuckians get the Derby every year.)
Anyone residing in South Africa would be foolish to try to travel during this very hectic time.
Guess who’s traveling?
Ha, ha, I am!
Most of my fellow volunteers have already scratched their travel bugs and have extensively toured South Africa, so many of my friends are very happy to sit this crazy travel season out. I, on the other hand, have not yet traveled and have decided to venture out.
Well, there are several reasons: a) I have a bit of money to travel thanks to a generous federal tax return; b) I finally FEEL like traveling (I’ve here-to-now been struggling with trying to integrate into my community and become comfortable in rural South Africa ); and c) I’m still not convinced that I’ll finish my service, so if I decide to go home, I want to at least see my beloved baobab trees.
So that’s where I’m going: in search of my beloved baobab trees.
Most people come to Africa in search of animals, and specifically in search of the “big five”: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino Me, I come to Africa to see a baobab tree.
Baobabs inhabit most of continental Africa but do not survive in a frost plane. Guess where South Africa is? Yep, much of South Africa is too cold for the majestical trees to survive.
So, I’m heading north.
We’re never supposed to give our specifics regarding location, but I’m heading to a “dusty little town” very near the border of Zimbabwe. In this city, there is a nature reserve just for baobabs. And that’s where I’m headed.
Usually when I travel, I’m meticulous about my travel arrangements. I preplan every detail: travel, accommodations, check-in dates, excursions, etc. This time, I’m jumping way out of character and going loosey-goosey. I know what will happen when I reach the trees and I’m booked for several days there. However, what will happen when those days end I’m not sure.
I may, and am very likely to, spend the whole of my vacation time hanging out with the trees. If I tire of the giants, or at least get my “baobab fix,” I may try to rent a car and visit northern Kruger and the Venda region. If I can’t rent a car, I may travel south and so some hiking in the Soutpansberg Mountains. And also, it’s very likely that after a few days with my trees, I’ll return to site!
Again, it’s unlike me to be so “unprepared” for my trip but I’m not feeling the least uneasy about it. In fact, it’s kind of fun to have the month of June feeling like a potential adventure!
I’m heading to Pretoria on Monday, June 14, and will board a train north to reach my destination city. I’m told that the best way to train travel in South Africa is by tourist class and wouldn’t you know, my route doesn’t have a tourist class! So, I’ll be sitting for a day and a half (it’s a slow train!) in the economy “sitter” train and pray that I have a decent experience.
I’m already asked by family and friends if I will have internet access. Well, I never, ever really know, but whenever I’ve traveled (to the trainings), I have always had Internet access.
But here’s where I’ll say it for my worriers: You MAY NOT HEAR FROM ME FOR AWHILE. You may not hear from me until the end of June. This includes phone, snail-mail, email, Facebook, and blog. Please don’t worry, just trust I’m finally, FINALLY having the time of my life in South Africa.
And be prepared to see lots and lots of photos of my beloved baobab trees!
Soon, or maybe not,
PS. Happy World Cup to all you soccer fans!
PSS. The photos of the baobabs are not mine; they are “mined” from the Internet.