Tag Archives: Africa

Soweto Towers

Built in 1951 as part of the Orland Power Station serving Johannesburg, South Africa from the South West Township of Soweto, the Soweto Towers have become one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. The power plant was decommissioned in 1998 after 56 years of service. Now, the towers are used for art, and advertising. One tower serves as a giant billboard. The other tower contains the largest mural painting in South Africa. But, even cooler than the art, is the action. You can bungee jump or base jump from a platform bridge between the Two Towers.

Soweto Towers
Soweto Towers could be one of the coolest places in the world to bungee and base jump.

Mud Baths, the Secret to Smooth Skin

It was late afternoon and the sun was setting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We stopped briefly at Lubumbashi River and were immediately surrounded by children. They posed for our pictures and asked us for money. They played and sang and danced. It was joyful and fun. This young boy was in the middle of a rather thorough mud bath when we arrived. I’m not sure what the optimum amount of time for a proper exfoliating mud bath is, but this boy seems to have it figured out. If you want smooth skin, come to the DRC and stop by Lubumbashi River just about any afternoon. Someone will surely teach you the secrets of smooth, smooth skin.

Mud Bath in Lubumbashi River
The secret to such smooth, smooth skin could be found in the mud of Lubumbashi River.

How to Build Your Own Mountain

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the province of Lubumbashi is known for mining. Copper is king in the Congo and Lubumbashi leads the way. The locals are proud of their mines. They are also proud of their mountain (wait, I didn’t know there were mountains in the DRC).There aren’t–well, maybe just one. Perhaps because the Congo is flat, the Congolese people built their own mountain out of tailings, residue, slag, and not so environmentally friendly stuff that copper mines produce. Lubumbashi mountain (I’m not sure that if an Englishman went up, it would still be a mountain) has become a symbol of the province. It certainly dominates the landscape. In a strange sort of African way, the people are proud of their mountain and all it represents, including the economic impact and the environmental damage the mines appear to be doing. So, if you want to build a mountain, invest in mines. Or, come to the DRC, they have plenty of mountain making stuff to go around.

Lubumbashi Mountain
Lubumbashi Mountain is made from the left over materials from the mines surrounding Lubumbashi.

Living Waters

Lions, Leopards, Water Buffalo, Wart Hogs, Rhinos, Elephants and Zebras–they all drink from this river. The Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa was established in 1964 and is a protected wildlife sanctuary. Situated in the midst of a much larger protected area, Mala Mala is an unfenced reserve where wildlife roam free. In spite of the location, poachers still manage to kill a significant number of animals each year. Mala Mala Rangers are working tirelessly to prevent and eliminate the senseless killing of protected species such as the Rhinoceros as well as preserve an environment where wildlife may enjoy living waters. And, it really is this cool 🙂

Living Waters
On the Mala Mala Game Reserve, this river gives life to a myriad of species.

The Tree of Life

There are numerous cross-cultural references to the Tree of Life. I don’t know the actual name for this tree, but the symmetrical shape reminded me of drawings I’ve seen from many parts of the world. In a land teeming with such diversity of life, the symbolism was not hard to find. Africa is an amazing place, bursting with life, much of it tenuous. This tree, thriving amongst the harshness, was an inspiring reminder of my own mortality.

The Tree of Life.
The legendary tree of life thrives in Africa.

African Elephant

Standing near a watering hole, this African Elephant felt the need to make other arrangements. He dug a hole with his trunk until he struck water. Then, he drank to his heart’s content.

Thirsty African Elephant
A thirsty African elephant takes a healthy drink from his own personal well.

Hitching a Ride

A Red-billed Oxpecker hitches a ride on a willing Water Buffalo. The Oxpecker lives in a symbiotic relationship with the Water Buffalo. It eats the bugs off the back of the large beast for food. The Water Buffalo benefits from a good cleaning.

Water Buffalo and Oxpecker
A Red-billed Oxpecker eats bugs off the top of the Water Buffalo.

Wild Leopard

We came upon this Leopard eating the hind quarter of an Impala at the base of a tree. Up in the tree, twenty-five feet above us, the gutted and thrashed Impala was still starring at us. The Leopard killed the Impala, gutted it and hauled it up the tree. The Impala weighed almost as much as the Leopard.

He didn’t like us watching him eat so he took his dinner and sauntered into the bush. We followed. He decided to ignore us and sat down to finish his meal. When he was done, he just sat there, resting.

Leopard Resting
Leopard finishing a meal of Impala at the Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa.

Valley of 1,000 Hills, Durban, South Africa

The locals say the weather in Durban is the best in the world. I believe they believe it. But, when the storm brewing over the Valley of 1,000 Hills finally broke, it was like the Heavens turned over the oceans and dumped them on this valley. I can’t remember rain, no, you can’t really call it rain, maybe solid sheets of water, falling from the sky.

Valley of 1,000 Hills
Storm brewing over the Valley of 1,000 Hills.