Saturday, May 17, 2014


We made it home!  After a 7:30 AM bus departure from Tsitsikamma, a three hour bus ride to George, a flight to Johannesburg, rechecking our bags for the international leg, a flight to Paris, an epic layover, a flight to Detroit, a not-so-epic layover, a flight to Elmira, and a short bus-ride home from the local airport, it sure feels like we are ready to be back.  This class was an amazing journey, filled with spectacular experiences, gorgeous nature, wonderful people, and the incredible energy of the dynamic culture of South Africa.  We had a great group of students who put so much positive energy towards the class and their experiences.  We also had a great trip agent, Stephen Abelsohn, of  We come home tired and dirty, loaded down with presents, and ready to be home.  But we also have something that none of us will ever forget--these amazing experiences in beautiful South Africa.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Leaving South Africa

We are sitting at the airport in George, waiting for our first flight of four in our epic journey home.  We left Tsitsikamma this morning and stopped for a few hours in the charming town of Knysna, on a large lagoon off the shore.  We had a chance for one last walk, one last coffee, one last gift purchase, and judging from the number of carry-out containers on the bus, it was the last chance for an especially yummy piece of cake as well.  After another bus ride, here we are at the airport.  We'll fly from here to Johannesburg, then to Paris, Detroit, and end in Elmira.  We should be back on campus by 10 PM tomorrow night.  




Drive out of Cape Town

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Klein Karoo

We left Cape Town yesterday, driving up over mountain ranges and down through craggy valleys with steep overlooks right off the side of the road.  The clouds in some places seemed to be melting right over the mountaintops, and sliding right down the sides.  Our destination was what they call the Klein Karoo, which is a high elevation flat area, sandy and mostly treeless and scrubby.  This area is famous for being the ostrich farming center of South Africa.  In late Victorian times, the European demand for ostrich feathers pushed their price up higher than gold.  The area boomed and there are some lovely grand old houses; the area now is mostly rural and small-town.  

We had the chance to visit an ostrich farm, where we learned about the different types of ostrich, one of which is indigenous to the area.  We got to hold--then stand on--the surprisingly hard eggshells.  And then a few of us got to try riding an ostrich!  This was really more an exercise in managing to stay on the back of a bird that was running and turning and trying to remove the rider as quickly as possible.  As you might imagine, it was really fun to watch!

Early this morning, we were out just after sunrise to visit a colony of wild meerkats. This colony has been slowly habituated to the research scientist who works with them and without the use of food or other incentives, they are used to him.  As long as we were fairly quiet and were seated in portable lawn chairs we were acceptable too ( if we were standing or moving much, they would interpret us as predators).  So we carried our chairs about a half mile out into a dry sandy meadow with some scruffy little bushes here and there.  We sat down near their burrows and waited...and then one little guy popped up, stood on his hind legs, wrung his hands in front of him, and looked around quite seriously to assess the situation.  If you listened closely you could hear him making a little noise, which he used to communicate with the rest of his family still in the den.  We must have been safe enough, because after about five minutes, the rest of the meerkats emerged one by one and stood up on their hind legs and joined the first in cautiously looking around.  Our guide explained that they were warming themselves in the sun after a cold early morning in their den.  They begin their morning by warming themselves and only when they are warm enough will they begin foraging for worms and bugs in the sandy soil.  One will always keep watch, making a different noise based on the various perceived levels of threat.  It was such a great experience it totally made up for how cold and early the morning was.

This afternoon we had free time and we had four brave students bungee jump from the highest jump in the world.  We got to watch live from a distance, or watch the live video that honed in on each person as they walked out to jump. Lily, Kelsey, Zack, and Grace were our brave ones today and I'm glad to say that they all survived and even thrived.  We had another larger group go tree canopy gliding in an impressive old growth forest.   The rest stayed in the park and walked the trails or watched the waves or caught up in their journals.  

We are now in Tsitsikamma Park, which has to be o e of the more beautiful places inSourh Africa, if not the world.  This park is built into the side of a mountain as it drops down to the sea.  The waves crash especially high and hard against the rocky shore as the drop is so steep.  It's beautiful and peaceful and we are sharing this space with baboons, dossies, birds, deer, and dolphins.  It's a wonderful place to end our time in South Africa.