Once again I got up early to see the helicopter pilot and once again was disappointed. It was very cloudy, perhaps that was the reason the pilot boat was used instead. We were treated to a beautiful rainbow that seemed to end at the ship. (I was never actually the pot of gold before.) Today we are in Durban in the largest port in Africa and the third largest city in South Africa.
On deck, I visited with some couples from Durban who were getting off the ship today. One of the wives was a real estate agent and confirmed that neighborhoods were indeed becoming mixed. She said it was her black clients that bought the most expensive houses, often with government incentive money designed for education. They did not recommend me going into town on my own. My scheduled zip line tour was cancelled and Boris has discouraged me from going with him to Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana. He knows that I do not enjoy looking at old battlefields and would be hard-pressed to justify the 8+ hours of driving involved.
Since it is not safe for me to be out on my own here, I am staying aboard the ship. I got in some time at the pool (although it was so hot you could not stay in the sun long), had lunch poolside, attended a destination lecture, and watched movies in the suite. I had hoped to work on my blog postings on the computer, download my pictures, and maybe capture the internet while we are in port, but my computer would not pull up the welcome screen. I am having bad luck with electronics.
When Boris got back and announced that his ipad had not taken a charge in spite of being plugged in the entire night before, we realized that we had a plug problem. We found another outlet in the room where I could fully charge the camera battery, his ipad, and my laptop. I was glad I had brought an adaptor along and could use the European plug. While I am still disappointed that I missed the pictures at Inkwenkwezi, I feel somewhat vindicated. It was not my stupidity, but a bad outlet that caused the battery problem.
I admit that I was a little apprehensive about Boris heading out on his own with just a driver, but he got back an hour before he thought he might and three hours before the boat was due to sail at 11 pm. The port pilot was picked up by helicopter this evening. No way to miss it; it was so loud. All the activity was on our side of the boat, so I saw it all from my balcony. My pictures are no good as we were restricted from using a flash that might have caused problems for the helicopter pilot. The helicopter hovered near the ship and finally pulled up the port pilot on a cable. Fortunately, the pilot was wearing white so he/she was easy to spot. It was very cool.
I invited Boris to be a guest blogger, but he declined and told me to feel free to share his experience with my readers. So you will get his journey, washed through my understanding. During the Anglo-Zulu wars, Rorke’s Drift was the garrison protected by 139 British soldiers while the main column was wiped out at Isandlwana. After defeating the British at Isandlwana, 4000 Zulu warriors advanced on Rorke’s Drift. The mostly Welsh garrison, though vastly unnumbered, successfully defended their post. 11 Victoria crosses were awarded, the largest number ever awarded for a single battle to date. The Victoria Cross is the highest honor bestowed on British military. The movie Zulu (Michael Caine’s first movie in 1964) told the story of Rorke’s Drift. Boris has a keen interest in British history and his visit to these to battlefields was the most anticipated part of the trip for him. Boris felt the war was “unjust and stupid”. He toured with a Zulu guide.
On the way back, Boris and his guide stopped to get gas at Meuthen, near the Zulu capital of Ngomo. Next door to the gas station was a KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken-they are everywhere, including across from the Sphinx in Cairo) with three silver BMWs in front and suited men in the parking lot. Boris’s guide pointed out the cars and said that the king of the Zulus was inside having his dinner. According to the guide, the Zulu kings are traditionally obese as a sign of their wealth and success. KFC is one way to keep up the tradition.
I do love the part of cruise where guest lecturers familiar with the region are brought on board to supplement the experience. One of our lecturers is Michael Burke, a BBC journalist who lived in Cape Town with his family during the last years of apartheid. The film clips he showed us (some too harsh to have been shown to the public at the time) and the first hand experiences that he related were fascinating. He was extremely complimentary of Nelson Mandela who he spoke to and argued with on several occasions. In one such instance, he recalled Mandela calmly stating that he “would defer to [Burke’s] superior knowledge of his country.” He was clever with a putdown.
Mike Burke also spoke on the current state of South Africa. He mirrored much of what our guides told us about theft, government corruption, and AIDS. He gave us additional statistics on the problem of violent crime. In a country with only a fraction of the population of the United States, it has 5 times the murder rate and 8 times the murder rate of the United Kingdom. In South Africa, an armed robbery is committed every 5 seconds.
Most startling were the statistics he shared on rape. 1 in 4 South African women said they had been raped; 1 in 4 South African men admitted to committing rape. Women’s groups say that a rape is committed every 24 seconds in South Africa; the government says it is not that bad, it is one every 36 seconds. South Africa has the worse rape statistics in the world.
South Africa also continues to lag behind in education crippled with a system that is both failing and corrupt. In performance in math and sciences, South African students fall behind all countries other than Yemen.
Perhaps not what you want to hear, but your experience can never be complete without the information often not shared with a country’s tourists.