This post is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, "150 Times Around the World," by Dr Jac Fitzenz. Its a culmination of his life's travels around the world and a compelling window into his vast journeys. Take a seat and come along for the experience of a lifetime as you join Dr Jac on his travels. Click here if you'd like to be notified when "150 Times Around the World" is available for purchase.
SOUTH AFRICA – PART 4
Heading South. The last stop on the tour was about 500 miles south of Durban along the coast to Port Elizabeth. It is halfway between Durban and Cape Town. Things were more relaxed here since it’s a long way from Pretoria. My main memory of the Port wasn’t the class, but rather something called a Dom Pedro. I was told it’s a great after-dinner drink. Being a cooperative person, I agreed to try it. It tasted terrific. The second one tasted even better, as I somewhat recall.
The recipe is vanilla ice cream, milk, and shots of Amarula Cream Liqueur. Combine in a blender and pour into a glass. The key ingredient is the Amarula Cream that’s made from the fruit of the Marula tree. The fruit is fermented into a wine that’s aged in oak barrels for two years. It’s then mixed with fresh cream. Ohhh my, it tastes so good you can’t stop at just one. After two, they have to carry you home.
Kruger Park. Two years after this trip, Jan brought me back to work with a couple client companies he had approached. One was RSA’s public utility. They were mildly interested in adopting quantitative methods. We worked with them for a week and then called on a few other companies. The uptake was slow. It wasn’t for several more years that the interest level rose significantly.
For this visit, Jan booked a trip to Kruger Park, the national game reserve on the eastern border of the country. The park is 7,500 square miles; 220 miles north to south and 40 miles wide, about half the size of England. It’s bordered on the east by Mozambique and on the north by Zimbabwe. It is truly a wonder.
In the park, visitors drive slowly up the center on a two-lane road. The animals are free to roam. It’s common to stop for animals crossing the road. They’re not afraid of people. This is their land. It’s not a zoo. All five of the Big Game animals; African lion, African leopard, African elephant, Cape buffalo, and the rhino (black and white) are in the park. You see all of them except perhaps the leopards that tend to stay away from the main road. Elephants, wildebeest, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, giraffes, zebras, and antelope galore are all visible.
The most comical are the ugly warthogs. They are partially hairy around their shoulders and heads, Colors range from brown to gray. Their large heads have husks and bony protrusions emanating from the sides of their faces. The males can weight up to 200 pounds. When the group is frightened, they run off with their little tails straight up in the air,
You can stay overnight in the park or you can go to one of the private game parks outside of Kruger. Jan chose a place a few miles west of one of the park’s entrances. As we drove in, I saw a sign, “Danger-Wild Animals.” I was thinking, sure they’re just trying to add some color to the experience.
After we unpacked, we were sitting on the veranda of our unit having a drink at dusk. We could see the large pond/small lake about fifty yards downhill from us. Soon, we heard some deep-throated grunting. It went on for a few minutes before we decided to investigate. There were no animals on the lawn between us and the pond, so whatever it was must be in the water. Could it be crocodiles? They make grunting sounds at times, I’m told. We walked along cautiously about ten yards above the shore. It was obscured by four-foot-tall reeds. Nothing in sight, then, the grunting again. We came to a point where the reeds had parted. Three hippos—two adults and one baby—were munching the tall grass on the edge of the pond. They weren’t more than five yards from us. We just stood quietly watching them. They didn’t even look up. Someone suggested we offer them a drink, but no one agreed. In a few minutes, we went back to our units with a great story to share.
A year after I left, Nelson Mandela was freed from twenty-seven years in prison. This was the first step on the path to extinguishing apartheid. Four years later in 1994, he was elected president and everything began to change. Unfortunately, not all is positive. Today, there is a high crime rate in the big cities. Ironically, the repressive regime of the past, while restricting individual freedom, kept crime to a minimum.
Now, with freedom, there are people who don’t know how to function in a more tolerant society. The vast differences in wealth are part of the problem. The Republic of South Africa is a marvelous country that is being ruined by crime on one end and lack of competent governance on the other. If I was looking for another country to settle in, it has so much to offer I would have it high on my list. Unfortunately, the lack of safety and security rule it out.