Our Tour Guides and Their Teachings on our Way to Pilanesberg
Pilanesberg Travel Blog› entry 7 of 41 › view all entries
As we drove, Edgar, the main tour guide did a phenomenal job explaining the landscapes and the developing areas we passed. He told us in the last 25 years Johannesburg has been greatly developed. He said there was still a lot of problem with the rivers not being clean. He was a conservationist and environmentalist fanatic. He was very passionate about the overuse of plastic. I felt horrible cause I had a plastic bottle of water in my bag, and he was telling us how bad this was for the environment. He said there was a body of water that was all filled with plastic bottles cause plastic is so hard to dispose of. I later had to apologize for drinking water out of a plastic bottle.
Anyway, he was a neat character.
Edgar also told us about all his hunting, camping, nature adventures. He told us about all the trips he’s made through the Kruger National Park, and other nature reserves. At one point he was telling us that he had swum with crocodiles and that they had not bothered him. Connie said, “You’re so long, you blended in with them.” She said the crocodiles thought it was their long lost cousin Edgar. He laughed. He was just such an amazing tour guide. You could tell he truly loved his job. Actually… we found out he used to be a civil engineer, who was forced by his father to become an engineer. He later decided to follow his passion and work in nature. His twin brother did the same thing. He had separated from his wife several years ago. Connie made me laugh when she asked him if his wife and daughter ate termites too at family dinner night. The funnier part was, he responded to her question like there was no sarcasm in it.
Sabelo and Bantu were young, hip guys. They were dressed very professionally. You could tell they were new on the job. They looked very clean cut. They seemed like happy, go-lucky type guys. Bantu was 27 years old. Sabelo was 24 years old. They talked to us more about their neighborhoods, their friends, the young culture, education.
Bantu was from Soweto. He talked to us about the township of Soweto and how the crime there was improving. He told us that it was now safe to walk in Soweto at night without being scared. He also mentioned there were a few whites now living in his neighborhood. Edgar found this a little hard to believe. Bantu said he wanted to become an “ambassador of his country”. He was the historian of the two. He told us more about the history of the country and knew a lot about the leaders, chiefs and presidents of South Africa. He offered to give us more tours if we came back to South Africa and told us he would take us to eat real South African food. He wanted to take us to walk around more in Soweto (though our tour guide book recommends tourists be extra careful there). Bantu studied HR Management. He then later studied Tourism for a year and is now working on his practicals. Bantu mentioned he wanted to travel more and come to the US. Connie and I told him we would give them tours of NY, Baltimore, DC, PA, etc. Bantu told us all about Chief Magaliesberg, for whom the mountain range we passed was named after.
Sabelo was from right outside Cape Town. He came to Johannesburg to find greener pastures. He lives with his brother who is in his mid 30s. He said he misses his mom and sister and niece who stayed in the Cape Town area. He mentioned he wanted to be an actor, but then decided to something with a better career path. He said he could become an actor when he’s 60 if he still wants to do that. So he decided to go into Marketing. He later heard of an opportunity related to Tourism and decided to look into it. He went to talk to someone about tourism and this person asked him about his Marketing background. This person told him the best thing he could market is his country. He knows it, he loves it, so why not become a tour guide and “market it”. He said, “No one can market your home better than you. So that’s how he wound up where he was. He asked us to tell him about the latest episodes on Days of Our Lives and The Bold and the Beautiful. Unfortunately, he was asking the wrong people. We promised him to get back to him with more information on where those shows were. He wanted to see how “far behind” South Africa was with their soaps. Sabelo and I had an interesting conversation about the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. He said the schools are providing better education around HIV and are being proactive in teaching children about safe sex and how the use of drugs can cause HIV. He agreed the population of HIV-infected people was still high, but informed me the numbers were decreasing. He said the epidemic was not growing at such a rapid pace anymore. He did tell me he had lost a few friends to AIDs.
Bantu and Sabelo were so friendly and candid. They were very relatable. The two of them and Edgar kept debating about soccer teams and best players. They were so excited about the World Cup being held in South Africa. The two students knew for sure they’d have clients during the World Cup and were excited to be in tourism during this period.
Sabelo and Bantu taught us how to say certain things in the local languages. There are 11 languages in South Africa. I didn’t catch them all, but the few I did write down include: English, Zulu (the most spoken), Xhosa (pronounced kosa), Afrikaana, Nabeli, and Zwana. The students knew multiple languages, including English. They both knew Zulu and Xhosa. I now know how to say the following:
Hello = Sawubona in Zulu and Molweni in Xhosa
How are you? = Ninjani in Xhosa and Zulu
Fine = Sikhona in Xhosa and Zulu
Bye = Salakahle in Xhosa and Zulu
They told us that BMWs were cheaper to buy in South Africa. Sabelo said BMW here stands for “Be My Wife”. He said when guys buy a BMW they act like they are on top of the world, like the BMW is their wife and they have it going on.
The three of them together added a lot of dynamics to the tour. They were all chiming in with all the knowledge they possessed. The three of them together kept debating back and forth about soccer and who would win the World Cup. They were definitely fanatics!!!
During our car ride to the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve to see the “Big Five”, we talked a lot about politics, history, economy, geography, and social culture of South Africa. We also talked about wars, books, Colombia, US, religion and the media’s affects on humans. Edgar made a good point. He said, “The world is a puppet of the media.” We talked about how everyone is so brainwashed by whatever appears in the media. Edgar kept coming back to the environment, global warming and how each person can help the environment. He kept saying we should not eat fish that are overfished. He also said we need to buy only what is sold in our country. He was so angry that a local supermarket had been selling mangos imported from the Phillipines, when mangos were grown and still in season in South Africa.
When we got to the park we say a wilderbeast first. We saw him early, almost as soon as the tour started. Then we saw a white rhino. We saw a lot of antelope (though they kept calling it something else and now I can’t recall). Then we saw zebras. They ran across our path. We saw many water hogs that were tiny. They looked like a combination between pigs and rodents to me. We saw a ton of long, beautiful giraffes with different kinds of spots. We saw one elephant off by himself. He was massive. But he looked old and lonely. Once we thought we’d seen all the elephants there were (just the one, I know), we saw two bigger elephants and two baby elephants. The babies looked the same size. Edgar said they appeared to be 3-4 years old and they seemed to be twins (rare) because of the similarity in size. The two babies were wrestling and playing around with each other. Next thing you know, these two big elephants come walking towards us from the other side. They were big. They came right up to the car. We had the windows down too and we got scared, because the elephants just go so close. We took tons of pictures. I was slightly sad we didn’t see any lions, but oh well. It was still an amazing tour, even if we didn’t get to see the “Big Five”.
The really cool thing to see was the animals co-habitating, without fences or gates separating them. The zebras were mixed in with giraffes in one spot, and then in another spot mixed in with wilderbeast. The elephants and giraffes were crossing paths like no big deal. It was amazing, seeing them all out in this wide, wide open space and no one messing with anyone. Every animal was peacefully doing his/her thing. I guess if the lion had been around, they would have all been running.
There was one point where we saw animals all take off and run in one direction, and our tour guide said it was possible a lion was around. He informed us the lions are hard to see in the wild, because they keep in the shade all day, especially when it's sunny and hot. Furthermore, the lion catches prey by sneaking up on them, so the lion is always hiding out. So hence... no lion today.
The Pilanesberg Nature Reserve is huge! We didn't event touch a slight bit of it. It's too large to see all in one day. Edgar said we could stay several days and still not see it all. He also said on different days you see different animals. It's not uncommon to go one day and see no elephants and go the next and see a bunch of them. So I guess with only one day spent in the nature, it was hard to see all the animals.
We bought souvenirs and several hours later, we were headed out. As I mentioned, wee only did a part of the park, as the park was entirely too big to cover in one day.
Afterwards, Edgar drove us all to Sun City, which is a hotel resort built to be like the Atlantis in the Bahamas. It consists of shops, hotel, casino, man-made beach, golf course, etc.
We walked around there, ate a late lunch and talked with the guides some more. There they had us try local South African snacks (sorry… they were nasty). We tried what they call kudu and pork piltong. They are both kinds of dried meats that are spiced before put out to dry. Kudu is made of antelope meat. It is tough to bite into and just tasted like dried, tough leather to me (I guess in essence that’s what it is). But I felt bad because I didn’t want to eat it and they kept encouraging me to try it, so I did. Yuck!
Anyway, we talked a lot about TV. As I mentioned previously, Sabelo asked about American soaps. They also asked about other popular TV shows, like American Idol, Oprah, Survivor, Fear Factor, and a few others. They wanted to eat lunch at KFC, and we asked them if we could do something less American. J They compromised with us.
All in all, we had such a great tour. They dropped us off at the hotel at 6 pm. We spent literally about 11 or so hours with them. What an enriching and educational experience.
I felt like a sponge the entire day. I was just taking it all in. I wanted to learn so much. I kept writing down notes and when they said something that I couldn’t understand because of their accents, I asked them to spell it out. They must have thought I was a student or something. I took 3 pages of notes on this day. It was amazing. Wow!
They offered to be our tour guides if we come back. I enjoyed it so much, I definitely want to come back with Larry. This time though I know exactly what I want to come back and visit and see. This first trip here was more about sampling a bit of everything and learning as much as I could. Now I know where I’d like to return in this country.
At about 7, Connie and I freshened up and headed over to the Nelson Mandelo Sqaure in Sandton City. This place was a big center past the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, consisting of a mall, an open plaza, restaurants, etc. There was a huge statue of Nelson Mandela square in the middle of the. We had a nice dinner, talked a lot (we talk a lot… and giggle a lot…. and we have a lot in common so it’s been great having her company).
We finally went to bed at 2 am, though the alarm was set for 4 am to catch a flight to Cape Town. It’ll be a rough day on Wednesday.