Part 5: Hunting for Hippos      

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014: We had an early wake-up call, and had to put our luggage outside our room for pick-up. After breakfast we were on our way to the airport. Bye, bye Cape Town, a most beautiful city.
It was a short flight to Durban. At the Durban airport, we were to get a new bus and driver. We were not staying in Durban. Our next destination was St. Lucia, a 2 hour ride from Durban. We got a glimpse of Durban and were soon on the highway.
Arthur talked some about Ghandi, who as a timid man of 23 and a recent law school graduate, came to Durban in 1893 on a one year assignment to try a civil case. He was on a train going to Durban sitting in the first class section with a ticket bought by his employer. A white man came on the train and was offended by a colored person sitting there. Ghandi wouldn’t move. A constable was called, and Ghandi was put off the train. In the following days, he was denied hotel rooms and pushed off the sidewalk all because of his color. Humiliated and insulted, he resolved to never under any circumstance allow racial discrimination to interfere with his freedom. He stayed in South Africa for the next 21 years and became a leader of the Indian community. He introduced the philosophy of passive resistance and put it into practice. He lived in Johannesburg from 1903 to 1908. For his acts of passive resistance, he was put in prison for 2 terms of several months in 1903. The Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment was proposed which required all Asians 8 years or older to carry passes with their fingerprints on them, segregated all Asians as to where they could live and work, and any new Asian immigration would not be allowed even if they had left town and were returning. Despite all the demonstrations of passive resistance, it became law in 1907. The African National Congress (ANC), founded in 1912 was influenced by Ghandi’s passive resistance, and used it until the 1960’s.
South Africa was important to Ghandi’s personal development and achievements. From a timid young man, he became the man who would lead India to its independence.
As we rode along the highway, I saw many forests of Eucalyptus trees. They are very tall and straight, all competing for the sun. The trees were introduced into SA in 1870. They’ve done well there and have many commercial purposes. While riding and looking, I received a text from my granddaughter Sarah in Pennsylvania. We went back and forth a few times. Is that amazing, or what?
At some point we stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. We had sandwiches and bought some snacks for the ride.
Along the way, from time to time Arthur would talk to us, giving us information about SA. For example, the whole country is on the same time zone. That is perhaps good for business, etc., but there are some oddities. For example, compared to Johannesburg, Cape Town gets an extra hour of daylight at night, but dawn arrives an hour later.
Language instruction is a tricky subject in SA. There are 11 official languages. English, Africaans, and the rest are languages of the indigenous peoples. In order to maintain the different sub-national identities, the South African Bill of Rights grants the right to choose instruction in any one of the official languages. Presently, most instruction is in English. Africaans is viewed as the language of the oppressor while English is not. Most parents choose English for their children because they see it as a language of liberation and the language of the world. Along with English, the children have the right to choose one of the other official native languages, but it isn’t always doable because of a shortage of books and texts in those languages. Efforts are being made to resolve that problem, and in the meantime, parents are urged to help do away with the perception that native African languages are inferior. SA is a relatively new democracy, and it will probably take a lot more time to remedy all the wrongs and deprivations that the African blacks have suffered.
Arthur told us about the legendary John Dunn, born in1834. His father had immigrated to the Cape colony in 1820, and became a successful trader and hunter. When Dunn was a teenager, he watched his father being trampled to death by an elephant. The family’s circumstances deteriorated, and 4 years later his mother died. Dunn was 17 years old when he and his 15 year old girlfriend, who was of white-Malaysian descent, went out into the bush and led a nomadic life. A few years later they married. Dunn became a proficient hunter. His friend from boyhood Cetshwayo became the Zulu chief. Dunn was fluent in the Zulu language. He was employed by Cetshwayo as the go-between for negotiations between the Zulus and the whites. The chief awarded him with land and wives. He had 47 wives in all, and over several years fathered 117 children. As you can imagine, his first wife Catherine was not pleased. Even though she looked down upon those wives and never accepted them, she stayed married to him. Dunn became famous as the “white Zulu.” Later, during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879, Dunn betrayed the Zulus by siding with the British. The British defeated the Zulus and independent Zululand ceased to exist. Dunn was rewarded 1/5 of Zululand, and with the substantial land holdings he already owned, he had his own small “Kinglet” with 6,000 subjects. He named it Dunnsland. Meanwhile, Cetshwayo who was in exile was granted permission in 1882 to plead his case to Queen Victoria. He won her sympathy, and in 1883 his throne was returned to him. Unfortunately, he died a year later. John Dunn was saddened by the death of the most influential man in his life. Dunn died in 1893.
Over the years, the Dunn family struggled to keep their identity and their land. In 1932, The John Dunn Act finally recognized the Dunns as a population with its own identity. Considered Natives by the government, they were forced to live in Native areas. They were not trusted by other Natives because of their white father. It was especially difficult in 1950 when the Race Classification Act officially divided and segregated families by color. They suffered greatly, and some members of the family had themselves reclassified as “coloured” unable to bear the burden of being “white.”
After many years of struggling to obtain title deeds for Dunnsland, in 1974 as a result of the hard work of John Dunn’s great-grandson Dan Dunn, they finally received deeds to their properties. Dan Dunn also worked to diffuse the long feud between the Dunns and the Zulus. In 1974, the Dunn family hosted a reception for King Goodwill Zwelitini, and presented the Zulu king with bronze busts of Cetshwayo and John Dunn. Since the end of Apartheid and all its horrors, the exact census taking of the Dunn family has been impossible.
It was late afternoon by the time we reached St. Lucia where we took a 2 hour cruise on the St. Lucia Estuary. The captain of the boat, also a naturalist, narrated along the way, giving us interesting information about the estuary as well as finding its inhabitants for us to look at and take pictures of. An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water along a coast where fresh water from rivers and streams meet and mix with salt water from the ocean. They are the most productive ecosystems in the world. Many animals rely on them for food, breeding places and stopovers during migration. At the southern end of the St. Lucia Estuary, there is a narrow channel connecting the main water body of the lake to the Indian Ocean. The four main rivers in the area flow into the northern end of the system. When the rains are good and the water flows strongly into the sea, the salt content is low. During periods of drought when the rivers stop flowing and the lake level falls to below the sea level, the inflowing sea water replaces the water lost through evaporation and the salt accumulates. At the peak of an extreme drought, the salt in the lake can become three times as salty as the sea. Both conditions are good for different animals and plants. The captain called the St. Lucia Estuary a “Place of Wonder.” There are trees that separate the salt from the water, sometimes accumulating so much that the tree dies from a salt overdose. We saw the tallest yew in the world on the beach, according to the captain.
The St. Lucia Estuary is home to about 800 hippopotami and more than a thousand crocodiles. During our tour we saw many hippos and some crocodiles. Hippos and crocs often inhabit the same habitats. Hippos are vegetarians but are also very aggressive, and crocs are often their targets. Hippos are the 3rd largest land mammals in the world. They weigh between 1 ½ and 3 tons. Despite their bulky shape and short legs, they can run as fast as 19 miles per hour. They are aggressive and unpredictable and are considered the most dangerous animal in Africa. They are semi-aquatic and spend their days in the water to keep cool. Also reproduction and childbirth take place in the water. The hippos walk rather than swim in the shallow water of the estuary. They come out of the water at dusk and eat by grazing on grasses. While in the water, they are territorial and stay in pods, with a bull guarding over 5 to 30 females and young. Hippos are known to be very aggressive towards humans. They commonly attack people in boats or on land without any provocation. So the captain had to be very adept at going through the water avoiding any confrontations. Hippos can stay under water for as long as 5 minutes, and so it can be easy to “bump” into one. We motored around a good part of the lake and saw many pods of hippos. Aside from enjoying the animals, the scenery was spectacular. The sun was starting to set adding to the beauty.
A boat photographer took individual pictures of all the passengers. At the end of the cruise, they were displayed for sale. We bought the one of me.
Walking off the dock, we turned around and took pictures of the beautiful sunset.
Back on the bus, we drove through the town of St. Lucia. It looked like a good vacation spot. The town is small and quaint with a few nice looking hotels/resorts and restaurants. We were told that from time to time hippos will roam through the town after dark. Besides the estuary boat rides, they advertised whale watching tours. I would have liked to have gone on that. I had hoped we’d go on one near Cape Town, but we didn’t have the time.
We left the town and soon arrived at our hotel for the night, the Protea Umfolozi River Hotel in Hluhluwe. We had dinner in the hotel dining room, and it wasn’t a buffet. Tony and Chris, another couple from California, joined us for dinner, and we shared a bottle of wine. We had an enjoyable time, and got to know each other better.
We were staying only one night in this hotel. We were getting up very early the next morning for a game drive. Not having unpacked, we got out what we’d need for the next day, and made our suitcases ready for an early pick-up.

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