White River to Mala Mala Rattray's - Day Eleven

Lilac-breasted roller, Mala Mala, South Africa. February 2013. Original size 3309x3456px. (Gerald FitzGerald)Easy and pleasant breakfast with Susie and Rich and Ethne and Malcolm, then off to a local school in the rambling, black township about a 20 minute drive from Ethne’s. Ethne as well as Susie and Rick have been working with a school in the township whose pupils are local kids as well as some orphans and because of an innovative and energetic head-mistress, it has been turned into a model of creative collaboration. Ethne apparently drove by the school about 11 years ago with a group of South Koreans who were touring the district and saw the kids sitting under a tree for their lessons, because they had no other classroom or materials. She stopped and the visitors watched the teaching for a while and then left, and as they parted, many of the South Koreans, out of a sense of misplaced but well-meant generosity, handed money to the students. The headmistress, it seems, raced up to the car, berated Ethne and the visitors and told her to leave, never to do anything like that again, and never again to set foot on the property. An epiphany for Ethne, and the beginning of the story. Ethne says that she learned for the first time that giving is not about what the donor thinks is needed, but about what the recipient really needs and that giving and receiving is a collaborative act that requires mutual respect for each other’s dignity.

Since then she, along with Susie and Rick have raised funds, built a library and stocked it with books, gotten uniforms for the children so that they had a sense of being a part of something, built classrooms, worked to get Dell to contribute computers and a long list of other accomplishments, based entirely on having the school make the decisions about it’s needs and then working collaboratively to accomplish their goals. It’s an inspiring story and at its heart is an urgency to give back dignity.

Since meeting Susie and Rich through emails we have been impressed by their smarts, sense of humour, commitment to our best interests, and in their values and integrity. Having spent the last 2 days with them and seen the work that they are doing in their community, we are even more impressed. Impala hiding in high grass, Mala Mala, South Africa. February 2013. Original size 5184 x 3456 px. (Gerald FitzGerald) Rich piled us in his 4x4 for the 90 minute drive to Mala Mala. After passing through the main gate to the various game reserves in the area, we had a 20k drive to the camp, passing in the process, a number of other camps situated off the shared gravel road. Shortly before pulling into our camp, a herd of elephants wandered across the road and began to feed on the roadside vegetation and trees. A wonderful way to start, dampened only by the fact that my cameras were still in their bag packed away in the rear of the car but V got some great shots through the window.

Arrived in our bush camp, an oxymoron if ever there was one! The 8 sets of accommodations are 8 individual bungalows each with a private, walled plunge pool and outdoor shower, and a wraparound verandah facing on the river which is about 100 metres away at the foot of a small slope. The interior is embarrassingly lavish with separate his and hers bathrooms, dressing rooms and clothes cupboards, a formal front hall and a living room with sliding glass doors to the verandah and the river. May never leave! Sunset giraffe, Mala Mala, South Africa. February 2013. Original size 3729 x 3401 px. (Gerald FitzGerald) Unpacked and tried to upload the last couple of days diary. Began the upload at 16:00, just before we left for our game drive and when we returned at 20:30 still only about 1/3 done. Left it running overnight and it finished just before we left at 6:00 for our morning drive, so no photos for a couple of days until a faster connection.

Afternoon game drive was magic. There was only V and I in the vehicle as our other couple does not arrive until tomorrow afternoon so we have the evening drive and the next morning’s drive on our own; just great while we get our bearings. So what did we see? Another herd of elephants feeding, one of which gave us a very unpleasant and I felt, rude, gesture with his trunk when we got a little too close; a herd of giraffes feeding in the sunset light and only feet from us; a cape buffalo drinking in the river; a stunning 5 year old leopard, lolling next an impala that he had killed and so obscenely full that his belly looked like a ballon and he could hardly pant; a troop of hippos grazing in a field next to the car; herds of impala in vast numbers; kudu and eland; baboons roaring through the trees at sunset; a pride of lions, 4 females and their cubs on the river bank; a second leopard, much older about 11 years old hunting impala; a small genet cat; 2 herds of white rhino, one herd of which was grazing very close to the car; a second pride of lions, a couple of females and the males who were the fathers of the cubs that we had seen earlier, who are lying in the road and wouldn’t move. Leopard on a kill, Mala Mala, South Africa. February 2012.We turned off the engine and then waited and then they picked themselves up and walked by on either side of the vehicle, literally brushing its sides with their eyes fixed on us, while we had quietly pulled ourselves into the middle of the seats; no sudden movements and my hair was literally on end, it was elemental. When we recovered from that we began to drive home with the guide flashing his light around and there in the middle of the road, in the dark was an elephant in must who was very quietly furious, and who moved away into the dark with his little red eyes fixed angrily on us and as we approached the camp gates and began to unwind , a couple of spotted hyena slunk off into the dark next to the car. When I asked the guide if that was a usual game drive, since I didn’t know whether to be blasé or hyper excited he said that the drive was “madness” and not by any means the normal run of things so we let excitement reign. Fabulous.

Great dinner and to bed by 22:30 to be ready for our 5:30 wake-up.

Rattray’s Mala Mala - Day Twelve

Knysna to White River - Day Ten