One of the most humbling aspects of having an opportunity to be involved with something like the Sandra Jones Village was to know that each of the children there (some 70 in total) represented a heart-wrenching story of unspeakable pain. Yet the place exuded an air of optimism and joy – of those precious kids rising above insurmountable odds and terrible circumstances to find a reason to live within their community of fellow travelers.
When we first went to the girls’ section of the Sandra Jones Village we encountered a girl writhing in pain on her bed because she was suffering from terrible tooth decay. It helped us to realise how important were the 500 Panadol we’d smuggled in past customs were going to be. Yet a few minutes later this same girl emerged from her bedroom with tear-stained cheeks because the whole group of girls wanted to sing us a song of welcome. It’s hard to describe how unworthy you can feel when something like that happens.
We’re home! Several people have warned us that re-entry into “normal” life in Australia can be hard. I know my sister Morag has always found it difficult to come back to the affluence and materialism of Australia after visiting Africa. How can you reconcile everything seen over there with the relative comfort of the West? Worse, how can you explain everything you’ve seen without starting to sound like an over-wrought evangelist? And how do you practically help the great need over there, from over here?
Re-entry started on the plane as we settled onto a QANTAS flight, shocked at just how broad and nasally the Australian accent sounds when you haven’t heard it much for five weeks.
Here’s a few shots from our road trip from Cape Town to Jo’burg.
Okay, so everyone knows we have three rumbustious boys and quite a few folk might have thought we were quite barking mad to traipse around the world with them, taking them into some of the poorest and apparently dangerous countries on earth. But we have to say that, except for a few notable exceptions, they’ve done very well and hopefully the trip has opened their eyes to the broader world beyond Australian shores.
Joseph tells us he has thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the international travel bug seems to have bitten him. He doesn’t like being pressed on his favourite parts of the trip as he seems to have enjoyed it all and especially the people he has met. Tim occasionally grumbles that he dislikes travel, though this generally coincides with when he wants to shock us or get a reaction out of us. He has had the chance to run himself ragged in some pretty wild places and I think he’ll end up with good memories. Elijah is the best traveller – he can sleep anywhere, takes each day as it comes, doesn’t need a schedule and has made good friends everywhere he has gone.
When we left Zimbabwe ten days ago, we thought coming to South Africa for our road trip would be a good ‘buffer’ between cosy Australia and all that we had seen in Zimbabwe. Sorry for calling Australia ‘cosy’, but……!!
Well, our eyes have been opened again in South Africa! Once we left upbeat Capetown with its stark contrast between the affluent and the shanty towns we headed North stopping at different places, as mentioned in previous blogs. A couple of days ago we made the long trek up through the Transkei, which was a political hotbed not so many years ago. We heeded the warnings of our friends and family and stuck to main roads and only travelled in the daytime. Often our eyes were almost glued to the windows as we took in the tin-shack villages and grinding poverty that was so evident. There were desperate hitch-hikers on every stretch of road and every time we stopped someone was trying to sell something.
We woke this morning to some enormous African thunder cracking above the enormous farmhouse we were staying in. The rain was drumming down steadily so we decided to give Addo elephant park a miss and press on to our next destination. We’ve seen a lot of game this holiday already! First we had to negotiate 7km of sticky dirt road. Would have been fine in a 4WD but our Mercedes Vito slipped and slid around. We made it.
The rain continued all day and the N2, which has been splendidly wide since Cape Town, pinched out, and at times descended into some fairly perilous road works. The countryside is still gorgeous though – a mixture of karoo, Transkei and sweeping coastal views. We arrived at Kei River Mouth where we’re staying in the mid-afternoon.
When we were in Cape Town me and my cousin Lance went Great White Shark Diving. We had to get up at like 5:00 in the morning and wake Dad up so he could drive us to a petrol station where we got picked up by a Shark Diving Unlimited van. We were the only people in the van apart from a awesome Swedish guy who worked all over the World and was in Cape Town at the moment. We drove like 2 hours and while we were waiting we watched a documentary about a guy who swam with Great Whites for 30 hours straight to prove that Great Whites can tell the difference between seals and humans. When we got there they gave us some breakfast and took us to the boats. We had the Barracuda the best boat there and they didn’t waste any time telling boring safety rules.