Saturday, March 22, 2014

day 3: arriving and first weekend adventure

and we're here!
our journey began early wednesday morning with a long-awaited drive to JFK airport.

me & marybeth, bright-eyed & bushy-tailed boarding our first flight in NY.

after just shy of fifteen hours, we arrived in johannesburg airport on thursday morning! our first impressions? colorful, bright, modern, clean. 

johannesburg airport, mural of subway tiles near baggage claim (makes us feel at home!)

we then hopped our commuter flight to the one-runway adorableness of pietermaritzburg airport! seriously, there is no baggage claim; some guy just carries your bags in from the plane. ours were sitting next to two boxes with live parrots. no, to pre-empt your question, they didn't say anything to me. 

sipho (from the i-teach program of whom we're guests) met us at the airport where he singled-handedly helped us pick up our rental car and allay our left-sided driving anxiety. marybeth was brave enough to go first! she did awesome, jet-lagged and sleep-deprived and all. she hit ZERO pedestrians, a true feat of heroism given pietermaritzburgers' seeming propensity to throw themselves into the street at the sight of a passing car.

marybeth: brave first volunteer in action!
sipho led us to a local grocery store to pick up a few essentials then onward to the lodge after that -- many kilometers outside of town in a picturesque hilltop on the way to albert falls dam. an idyllic setting full of blue and green and sunshine; sounds of crickets and frogs; smells of grass and wood and clean earth. upon entering the reserve, you drive around a hundred yards or so on a paved road, then take a sharp right turn into the grass. the bush, in fact. after another hundred yards or so, you arrive here:

our home for the month: is this place real? 

i could go into the specific details of the home, but suffice it to say the place works well for us and will be a great place for rest and retreat throughout the month. we've already met several species of (medium-sized?) african spiders -- creatures we have resolved to live with given their insatiable appetite for mosquitoes! after a deep and glorious sleep recovering from our day of travel, we woke up and met some of our neighbors: african buffaloes, a pack of warthogs (with babies!), four grazing ostriches, and a pack of some type of gazelle or kudu. hello neighbors, indeed! 

african buffalo ... and the little warthog on the right.
not pictured: the rest of the warthog family who quickly scurried off!

ostriches. these guys are way bigger than i expected. way bigger.

for our first weekend trip (we will have three total weekends here, all off work, all with small trips planned around the province of kwazulu-natal), we took a road trip up to the northern drakensburg mountains. the drive took about 2.5 hours, the last 30 minutes of which we carefully meandered up a narrow, curvy, mountainside road without guardrails, made even more difficult left-sided. even so, making it to our destination was totally worth it: mont-aux-sources hotel at the foot of the 'ampitheatre', an absolutely breathtaking rock formation in the drakensburg mountains. 

a map for reference: we started near pietermaritzburg and drove northwesterly.
the green patchy areas are all part of the drakensburg mountains bordering the nation of lesotho.

the view from lunch on our hotel's patio, ampitheatre in the distance. breath-taking.
we spent the afternoon exploring the mountains -- by horseback! marybeth is an accomplished horseback rider in a former life; i'm a bit of a few-lessons-when-i-was-12 sort of gal. despite the fact that the horse i was plopped onto went rogue and ran me through a few bushes, we had a fabulous time. (marybeth says i shouldn't worry, but given we're both headed into infectious diseases, i'm closely monitoring my arm wounds for any evidence of sporotrichosis.) but truly, it's hard to imagine a better way to view the valley and mountains than prancing through it all on the back of a semi-wild horse. 

helmet-ing and saddle-ing up! safety first, you guys.
mandla (our guide) and marybeth on their not-going-rogue horses. in all fairness, mine settled down about halfway through and resolved to stop trying to throw me off and just nibble grass instead :)
we're settled into our hotel for the evening (first taste of real wireless internet, quite a luxury here) and plan on hiking through the mountains tomorrow morning before heading back to the lodge for a good night's rest. we'll start at the hospital on monday morning and are looking forward to starting the rotation. more to come on our adventures.

not bad scenery in the rear-view mirror, eh?
lalani kahle, all!
(zulu for 'good night')

until next time, sharon


  1. Since Mary Beth has arrived, have the patients becoming incredibly sicker in an exponential fashion? Have fun guys!

  2. Amazing! Can't wait for the next update! Safe travels!