Friday, 11 August 2017

Starting our South African trip - late January 2017

We arrived in Johannesburg by plane from London on 28 January 2017; our friend Cathy kindly met us at the airport and drove us back to their home.  The first photo I took was that evening, reminding me  (as if I could forget!) of the wonderful African sunsets.
As always, spectacular colours!

On the following morning, we all walked up the road to a popular local suburban cafe for breakfast.  Here are Cathy, Steve and Nigel ordering up a feast in the warm southern summer sunshine!  

Standing on the cafe's corner, I managed to get a shot of the high rise office blocks of the Johannesburg CBD in the distance - this was the closest we ever went to the city centre, the largest city in South Africa. Greater Johannesburg has a population of 10.5 million and is the capital of Gauteng province.  Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, is some 30 miles (50km) to the north, but the two cities are today almost joined by development. We can remember the days in the early '80's when many miles of countryside separated the two  cities!

For the next 3 days, I  hardly picked up the camera; we were visiting friends, partying and shopping!!

This is part of the Cresta shopping centre, always one of our favourite places to shop.  It was first opened in 1977 and over the years it has grown and grown, to become one of South Africa's largest shopping malls.

On 1 February, with thanks to Cathy for letting us use her second car, we drove the 300 km (180 miles) to Mahikeng (previously Mafikeng and before that, in the days of Queen Victoria, it was Mafeking!)  to meet our friends Christelle and Patrick.
En route we saw many overloaded vehicles!! Toyota have long had a factory in South Africa and have invested lots of money in improving their designs to cope with the extreme uses to which their vehicles are put. It is not uncommon for their pickups (or bakkies, in SA slang) like the one above, to run for up to 1 million kilometres before an overhaul.

Acres upon acres of maize (or mealies, as they are known locally), the staple diet of most country people....

and a typical African-style stop sign where there were road works.

On the following day, we took a tour of Mahikeng centre, reminding us of the time we lived there in the early '90's. Taxis like those on the right are everywhere, and are vital to the majority of the population for getting around.

It seemed much busier than when we lived here,  but the badly potholed roads made driving more like an obstacle course!

Police vehicles were conspicuous,  but we were not sure if they were working or shopping!  We  had to carry out the final replenishment of supplies, as the next day we were off to Botswana for a week of game viewing. The border is only 26 km (15 miles) away, but Botswana itself is a big country, about the size of Texas in the USA.

Arriving in Gaborone, the capital, there were signs everywhere celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence. It was on 30 September 1966, that Botswana (then known as the Bechuanaland Protectorate), was granted independence from British rule. A generally quiet and peaceful country, with kind and courteous people, its wealth comes principally, I would say, from the diamond and cattle industries.

Our first stop was a two night stay-over at the rhino sanctuary, where the local  Batswana people are being fairly successful  at present in keeping the scourge of poaching to a minimum. Long may they continue!

We chose this isolated A frame chalet a kilometre away from the full amenities of the main camp - hence no electricity!  Nigel and I were lucky, we had the downstairs, while our friends had the upstairs.  The toilet and shower were in the open wooden building, just visible to the left of this shot.  A little scary going to the toilet at night, as what had Patrick spotted just outside the front door?....

Yes, this was the paw print of a leopard - see the claw marks at the front!  Sadly we did not get to see one at all on our whole trip, as they are not often to be seen in daylight!

Enjoying the dinner that Nigel and Patrick had cooked on the barbecue, or braai as it is known in South Africa. Head torches are pretty much essential if you want to see what you are doing! On a moonless night, it's almost pitch black away from artificial lighting.

I hope that this gives you a taste of the episodes  which will be following. Thanks to our friends, we spent most of the remainder of our holiday deep in "the bush", looking for wildlife of all kinds. Following very heavy summer rains, the grass and undergrowth was unusually tall and thick, making the task of taking photos more than difficult! However, I managed to snap a good selection of animals and birds, plus some incredible views!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated  25 September 2016) I will get back to this eventually! 


  1. what fun post and lovely travel.
    I can't wait to see others pictures !!
    Always I dream in go to Africa !

    1. Thank you Gloria, maybe one day you will get there. Meanwhile I hope that you enjoy travelling with us and seeing some great views and the wild life. Take care Diane

  2. Hi Diane - happy reminders of SA days ... not much has changed, but I'm sure the population is as you say larger, and there'd be more people around - somewhat more prosperity - not for many others though. Botswana - oh how lucky you were ... lovely to see the pics etc ... cheers Hilary

    1. As you say Hilary, looking around not a lot has changed. Rubbish all over the place but more potholes than before!! Botswana was beautiful and the people so friendly, I could happily live there. I hope you enjoy the remainder of our travels. Take care Diane

  3. Hi Diane. What a difference between SA cities and those in France that you have shown us in your Photo Diary. Botswana is somewhere I still have to visit. Kim

    1. Kim, I could not agree more, I do love the old buildings here in France and how much cleaner everything is. Botswana is almost on your doorstep, you really must take a trip there, so worthwhile. Have a good week Diane

  4. Hi Diane. Love this photo essay. I've never been to Africa. Only seen it in docos and war movies. These photos of yours give a nice taste of life there. Australia, also, is pitch black at night usually. But our BBQ areas are well lit.

    Thanks for the trip. Look forward to next one...

    Denise :-)

    1. Hi Denise, good to hear from you. I will always have a bit of me left in Africa after living there for 50 years, Its a place that gets into your blood and never leaves. We enjoyed the wilderness of this part of the trip, typical Africa. Hope that you enjoy the remainder of the virtual holiday as much as we did of the real thing. Have a good week Diane

  5. Truly makes me homesick for a land I've not lived in, yet. I am always grateful Joan picks me up at the airport and gets out of the city. But it does seem we always need to spend a day shopping and I've never experience shopping malls as huge as in South Africa. I often wondered why those small trucks didn't have four flats from all the weight, or just disappear into one of the large potholes. Miss the braai. Miss the bush. Miss it all. Joan just returned from Kruger. So happy you're getting to this adventure.

    1. Gaelyn I can well understand your feelings. Once time is spent in Africa you just want to go back. Part of my heart is firmly planted there. I did not think we were ever going to get back but now we have done it once we are thinking we must go again. So much to miss from Africa and friends being top of my list followed by the wild life. Take care and I hope you get to return very soon. Diane and Nigel

  6. What a great trip and time you must've had, Diane! Thanks for the tour, I'm sure we will never get there since it's at least 9,000 miles away. :-) Your chalet had to be adventure for sure. Thanks for sharing, it all looks amazing and I'm looking forward to more of your posts about your visit. Have a great week!

    1. Pam 9,000 miles away is nothing in this day and age. When we went there originally, we drove from the UK to Rhodesia 7,736 miles
      Having said that, I hope that you enjoy the remainder of our trip and get to see much of the wildlife that we saw. Have a good week Diane

  7. Fascinating stuff, Diane. I'm not sure I could cope with accommodation that's as basic as that - particularly if there was a chance of bumping into something that wanted to eat me!

    I'm looking forward to seeing some of the wildlife from your trip.

    With my very best wishes - - - Richard


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