Posted by: Gary Guertin | March 3, 2010

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Hi All,

Port Elizabeth was our second South African port and it was as different from Cape Town as night and day. While Cape Town has wineries and beautiful beaches, Port Elizabeth is the "industry" center of South Africa. Here’s where General Motors, Volkswagen, etc. have their plants. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all industry because it is also known for its lovely beaches; it’s just that the waters are calmer and from what our guide explained it’s a workers city. As they say on Monday night football, "Are you ready for a Safari?" We decided that Port Elizabeth was where we would try and hook up with a mini-safari (one day) and go look for some animals. In order to explain the day we have to get into the photo’s so if you would look at the photo album above titled "Port Elizabeth, South Africa" we can get going.

The first photo shows a panoramic view of the port and as you can see it’s flat, and nothing but containers, wharfs, and working class housing. The second photo shows our port sign. I have to stop here because the third photo is significant. Here you see Susy with none other than the Captain of the Amsterdam, Captain Olav Van Der Waard. All you young ladies (and older ones too) should note that "Olav" as he calls himself when he makes announcements ("This is Captain Olav bringing you the daily—") is single, handsome (as you can tell from the photo), and Susy says charming to talk to.  After doing some negotiating with a tourist agent at the gangway four other couples and we contracted a mini-bus and guide to take us on a one day safari through a wild animal preserve called "Addo Elephant National Park". We hopped in our mini-bus and again yours truly got to ride shotgun as you can see from the fourth photo, a look at some of the buildings as we drove through town. Port Elizabeth is very British, as the city was named after Sir Rufane Donkin’s ( the Acting Governor of the Cape Colony) late wife, in 1820 when it was populated with 4,000 British settlers arriving by sea. The fifth photo shows some of the local town houses. The sixth photo shows a local mosque and the seventh a local church. Our guide spoke very highly of General Motors (when he found out I had worked for them) as a participant in the local community and in the eighth photo he pointed out a whole community built to house their workers, with schools, parks, etc.. As we drove on for many miles to get to the preserve our first watering hole stop you see in the ninth photo, "Nanaga Farm Stall". Inside, around a courtyard (10th photo) they had a food store, café, souvenir shop, and a little museum.  As we approached the preserve the guide pointed out the fences along the way (11th photo) which he said were electric in order to keep the animals in. Addo Elephant National Park is located about 50 miles from Port Elizabeth and is dedicated to the preservation of the Eastern Cape Elephant of which over 450 live in the park. It’s size changes from day to day, but it is over 30 miles from one end to the other and many miles wide. Our guide says the park grows by the day as the government buys up adjoining land. The twelfth photo shows the main gate, and we all got out so that we could take pictures next to the two elephant skulls (13th photo). Susy had her photo taken in front of the Park sign (14th photo). Passing through the main gates we arrived at the main camp (remember we’re on a safari and we have to call things by their safari names). The main camp is where you have lunch, spend the night, and take your bush vehicles (in our case it was a mini-bus) in to the wild. Since it wasn’t quite lunch time our guide wanted to get some animal hunting (in our case it was animal sighting) in right away. To do that we checked the Animal Sightings Board (15th photo). As you can see each animal has a color dot (elephants is black) and they’re posted on the board as people report in sightings. Security in the park was tight because of poachers and after passing the main camp we entered the interior security gate (16th photo) where your vehicle can be searched, etc.. Now for the best part, Nicholas will love the animals. We had not gotten too far inside the gate when we came across our first herd of elephants (17th photo). This photo shows us approaching the herd, while the next photo (18th) shows us parked right across the road from them. Susy wanted you to see the baby elephant breast feeding, so the ninth photo shows you that. We noticed in the back of the herd a gigantic old bull elephant (20th photo) and as the herd began to move on (and toward us) the twenty-first photo shows an old female (cow) coming our way (the 21st photo is a side view of her as she walked by us). As the herd (or family group) all move together you see them coming by us following the old cow (23rd photo). The old bull was the last to leave and in this photo it looks as if he’s going to pick up that car (it’s all an illusion, he doesn’t actually). In the twenty-fifth photo the old bull seems about to take after some of the tourists in the bush vehicle, but again he just moves on after checking them out. You should know that all of the animals are wild and dangerous, so park rules prohibit you from leaving your vehicles except in certain spots marked safe. The safe spots are fenced in enclosures (electric fences) around certain watering holes. Some actual hunting is allowed, but our guide said it’s only for certain animals and a permit (required) is very expensive. Now the 26th photo is a "game" photo called "find the antlers". If you look very closely in the upper center of the photo you will see a pair of antlers curving out of the bush. This is a male Kudo, similar to our deer. You can see how these animals blend into the "bush", and how hard it is to see them. The whole day was spent going slowly along the roads of the park trying to spot animals, a difficult task at best with their bush cover. The twenty-seventh photo shows a male Warthog (a wild pig). These Warthogs are ugly as can be and we found them everywhere. We spent the whole day looking for Lions (there are only a few in the park) and finally got out and dared them to find us (28th photo). Trish and Jorge posed in front of the Flightless Dung Beetle sign (29th photo) and our guide put one on his arm (30th photo). These beetles feed on elephant dung and make their nests inside the dung, so you have to be careful and not run over the dung heaps on the roads because you will kill them. I want to show you in the thirty-first and thirty-second photos the vastness of this bush country. There are just miles and miles of bush as far as the eye can see, with dirt and tarred roads running everywhere. Oh! In the second photo you can see me protecting Susy from a possible Lion (one never showed but I loved holding Susy). You see a turtle (water) or tortes (land) in the thirty-third photo. We did have lunch back at the main camp, and the hunters are on the left of the table front to rear; yours truly, Susy, Ginny, and Gerry (a new couple we met) and on the right, front to rear; Trish, Sergio, Diana, and Jorge. Our guide was Kevin but he’s taking the photo. After lunch Susy went down to the playground to work off her lunch (the elephant playground is actual size) (35th photo). After a late lunch we struck out again hunting/spotting animals and right away I got an excellent shot of a female (doe) Kudu (36th photo) and a male (37th photo). We ran into some more elephants; again the old bull was on the go (38th photo). The rock- like mud piles we saw along the way are ant hills, some getting very large (39th photo). As we left the park in the late afternoon we caught site of some Zebras feeding inside the park fence (40th photo). Coming back into Port Elizabeth our guide wanted to show us their new football stadium that was built for the World Cup (it seems every city in South Africa had a new stadium for the World Cup) (41st photo) and our last stop of the day was a fort overlooking the harbor with the sun setting in the background (42nd photo).

We did our mini-safari and that for Susy was enough. In fact our guide was so anxious to show us wild animals, especially lions, tigers, and water buffalos (which we never found or saw) that he extended the day out to long and we were really tired when we got back to the ship.

I’m writing this as we are leaving Port Louis, Mauritius so I owe you Durban, La Possession, and Port Louis. Look for Durban in a couple of days and since we have four sea days I’ll try to catch up.

Love you all,

Gary (alias Gagu)


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