Monday, May 10, 2010

buffelsfontein game reserve and darling

This past weekend, Angela (program director) and Gerald (academic advisor) took our group to Buffelsfontein, a game reserve on the West Coast, near the town of Darling. It was a Reflection Weekend, for the purpose of reflecting on and evaluating the program as a group. We stayed in wonderful accommodations, in a thatched house on the game reserve, with a much appreciated fireplace. Between reflection sessions, we were able to go to an Afrikaaner museum in Darling, a museum/garden/restaurant/theater for Evita se Perron, aka Pieter-Dirk Uys. Evita is a satiric comedian who, though a man, plays roles of both genders to best portray her messages. After reading about her, and getting a taste of her humor, I would love to see a live show! She does a lot of political commentary through her satire. One of the t-shirts they sold read: "Apartheid was a pigment of the imagination." Another read: "Hypocrisy is the vaseline of political intercourse." Pieter/Evita was advertising a show called "Elections and Erections," which is sure to be full of satire, political commentary, and crude but illustrative humor.

The Afrikaaner museum was interesting too, as I have had little to no interaction with, or education about, the white Afrikaaner community of the Cape Town area and South Africa. The Boers (Dutch-descended, Afrikaans speaking, white farmers in South Africa) were also oppressed by British rule, and fought the British South Africans. Only brief mentions of this among other historical lessons and the Apartheid Museum exposed me to this aspect of white-on-white South African violence. I still am largely ignorant in this regard. The Boers fought wars with both the British South Africans and the Xhosa. The Boer peoples are known for their independence, stubbornness, and nationalism. They were traditionally farmers, and my experience and knowledge of them reminds me a bit of hillbillies in the United States.

Buggies that were used for transportation by the Afrikaaners in the farming community of Darling. I'm not sure of the timeline.

The museum also featured a small section in tribute to the Khoisan people that lived in the area. The museum displayed a representation of the type of huts they lived in, as well as the weapons they hunted with. They were indigenous to southern South Africa until they were essentially wiped out by the Xhosa and the Boers. I don't much else about them, sadly. The Khoisan are commonly known as "bushmen." The word "Xhosa" means "angry man" in Khoisan, resulting from the many disputes between Xhosas and Khoisan, due to the forced relocation of the Xhosa people onto Khoisan land during Apartheid. (Interestingly, though, this is not the origin of the name "Xhosa." Instead, it comes from a renowned chief named Xhosa.)

Back at Buffelsfontein, we were taken on a game drive around the reserve. Luckily, the rain took a break and we had clear, sunny skies for this outing. First, we watched our tour guide go into the cheetahs' cage and feed them headless, skinned chickens. Cheetahs and lions do not live naturally in the Buffelsfontein area, so these two animals were kept in cages. In my opinion, this gave the reserve the feeling of being a part-reserve, part-zoo. The tour guide got shockingly close to the cheetah with chicken in his hands... Apparently there is NO recorded unprovoked human death or injury from a cheetah in history. They are not aggressive toward humans, have small teeth, and are much, much smaller, lighter, and more brittle-boned than lions. These qualities makes them stunningly quick, but also vulnerable in a fight.

Driving around, we saw many giraffes. I was taken aback at how BIG these animals are! They look so regal and poised, so peaceful and kind. We also saw springbok, the namesake of the South African rugby team, but I didn't get any pictures of those. We saw ostriches, which I got unsatisfactory pictures of but were my favorites, along with the giraffes. Ostriches are just hilarious looking creatures, and apparently are not very intelligent. Their brains are smaller than one of their eyeballs.

An ostrich hanging out by the lodge. Females are brown, while males are black and white, like the ostrich you would picture. This is a female ostrich.

We visited the lion cages for feeding time, and though we were closer to them than the cheetah, the thicker and stronger cages made them more difficult to photograph. Paul, who was feeding them, said that he has to keep the male lion (Simba) separate from the female (Elsa, Simba's daughter) and the young lions for two reasons: Simba would try to mate with Elsa and might to eat the young lions.

Driving around again, we spotted antelopes, kudus, wildebeests, and buffaloes. Apparently buffaloes are the most aggressive animals out there... Our driver seemed pretty fearless in regards to most animals, but refused to get too close to the buffaloes. The buffaloes also popped in to visit right outside the restaurant's window as we ate dinner that night. We all checked to make sure the way was clear before walking outside again. We also saw a baby kudu nursing from its mother! Nearly every animal on the reserve has a black tail. The guide said that was so that when the animals have to flee predators, their young run behind the parents. They get tunnel vision on the black tail, and see nothing but that tail, and are able to focus on that point as they run. Kudus, however, lift their tails and have white fur underneath their tails for focal points. They look similar to deer.

The antelopes took off running when we drove by.

Wildebeests frolicking near our path.

The buffaloes. I had to utilize my zoom for this picture... we didn't want to risk our lives for a close-up.

It was fascinating and surreal to see such large animals that are so foreign to me at a close range. I was also intrigued to get a glimpse into the Afrikaaner community in Darling, though we didn't have much time in the museum. I hope to discover more about the history and cultures of the white South African population. I also hope to get the opportunity to see Evita se Perron live one day.

1 comment:

  1. Looking at creatures in the wild gives me a very good feeling, a feeling I can't state too clearly. But, this feeling that comes could be described spiritually as having the hunch that: the Creator is indescribably beautiful, powerfully graceful and has a subtle, but terribly good sense of humor.