Cycling through the stony trails of the Milwanee, Mikaya and Mbuluzi Nature Reserves, gives you not only an exhilarating work-out manoeuvring the undulating terrain, but a closer look at the wild animals living there. Hmmmm… I keep saying ‘wild’, but in essence these ‘wild’ animals exuded nothing but peace. They went about their business as if we were not there – for the most part anyway.
They allowed us to traverse their territory once we respected their space, respected their needs. And that’s fair enough. At no time did we feel threatened. Quite the opposite. We felt grateful that we could get a glimpse of their daily lifestyle. And to be honest, it seemed to be pretty much one of leisure. Grazing, laying in the shade, glancing at us only briefly just to acknowledge our existence, I imagine – then continuing on as if we were not there.
Before I left on this vacation, my eldest brother, out of concern for my safety of course, mentioned simply that I didn’t need to be the fastest cyclist, just not the slowest on the trail. At no time however did I feel threatened cycling through the vast open spaces, or sometimes scary single-track paths.
The journey was exhilarating and challenging to say the least. All the while though, giving me a great sense of accomplishment, peace and oneness with nature.
I wanted by all means to visit Soweto. Apart from the saga that was Apartheid, Soweto (South Western Township) was one of the few other identifiable historical aspects that piqued my interest when we decided to visit South Africa.
What I learned during our visit to the Apartheid Museum and the Nelson Mandela Museum, prior to driving through Soweto, prepared me only slightly for the emotions that would haunt me in the days to follow. The images of wealth vs poverty, and the sheer delight, wonder and innocence in the eyes of the children, continue to flash across my mind.
Soweto in itself is a world full of opposites and surprises – where different classes survive as neighbours with the rich neighbourhood seamlessly transitioning to the middle class neighbourhood. Yet the high level of poorer inhabitants dispels your hope for a better Soweto. A world where you smile at the progress and at the same time are saddened by the fact that not all persons have benefitted from the efforts at rehabilitation.
A world where you can only imagine the inhabitants to be depressed and hopeless at the apparent lack of support from the outside world to ensure their bright future. Yet the people are full of pride. They are a people with a vision. They are gracious, grateful, warm and hopeful. They are a people whose positivity you hold onto as this can only augur well for the fulfilment of their own bright future.
And yet, I left with a heavy heart, even more aware of the inequality that surrounds us, but with a strong admiration for the strength and perseverance of the Sowetans.