My kids wouldn’t eat their lovingly microwaved meal last night so i bribed them with a trip to the Addo Elephant Park. We are just getting to that stage where they get the concept of bribery and manipulation. It’s great to be armed with some form of child proof currency to bend their will. What they didn’t know when i offered up the bribe was that we always planned to take them.
I’ve been a couple of times to the Addo Elephant Park before, its such a nice day out whatever age you are.
We loaded our car and cooler bag with drinks and snacks and set off for the forty minute drive from Port Elizabeth to Addo. Along the route we were privy to the real South Africa, off the beaten track that tourists often miss. Affordable housing and locations harping back to the Apartheid era. Tin Shacks neatly stacked like matchboxes next to one another only now with solar power generators installed on their roofs to supply running hot water. I am told that inside these one room homes they are usually kept spotless by the lady of the house.
Along the way at a crossing, we also waved hello to two white ghosts. Two teenage boys standing in the growth covered in a white paint. They were completing their Abakwetha which is a Xhosa teenage rite of passage when the village elders decide you are ready to morph from a boy into a man culminating in their circumsion with a spear by their Witch Doctor. Once this is done the boys are given loin cloths and are painted white with an Ingceke mixture and taken away from their homes to live and survive off the land. This tradition is deep rooted in Xhosa Culture and raises a certain amount of fascination and criticism for it has been blamed for 825 deaths since 1994.
The first time i caught sight of a young man undertaking his Abakwetha i was pretty shocked at seeing such ghostly figures running along the road and hiding out in the bushes. My husband told me of the tradition having grown up alongside the Xhosa people and learning their language and culture at school. Xhosa is the second most common language spoken next to Zulu here in South Africa and has many famous tribesmen to call their own; Nelson Mandela for a start.
Now i don’t flinch when i see the white ghostly man-boys and actually think its pretty special to see a culture take its next generation with it. It’s just a shame they don’t use surgical wipes, instruments or offer post operative pain relief for best practice.
Xhosa Boy to Man Ceremony, photo courtesy of National Geographic
Approaching the Addo Elephant Park there are a number of guest houses you could stay at to explore the area fully or even stay on location at the Park itself. At the entrance gate we completed all the entry forms, made our payment of R208 (currently R17 to the £1) and R104 for the kids. Not cheap by GBP purchasing power but worth it to see wild life in their natural habitat and so close up.
We got to the ranch house and ordered some coffees, stocked up on water and did some squeezy wee’s. The last thing i need is a 3 or 2 year old needing the toilet miles from anywhere because there is a no ‘transgressions’ of exiting your vehicle once inside the Park Reserve. They even had a photo shaming board showing some of the transgressions people had made and reminded you of the danger of wild animals being at large. You are very much in their habitat.
Checking the notice board for confirmed animal sightings we headed straight for the watering hole at point 14 to see the African Elephant herd in their full glory. Breathtaking in their beauty and majesty we sat quietly transfixed watching them. We then moved on to see saw Zebra, Wart Hogs, Tortoises, Lizards, Buck, Dung Beetles but sadly no Lions….they were hiding out elsewhere and we were ready to head on our for lunch and more squeezy wee’s
With both girls safely strapped back in their car seats they fell asleep whilst we chatted on the journey home taking the scenic route back along the rugged coastline. We seem to have our best heartfelt conversations about our hopes and dreams when travelling on the South African highways. Maybe the peace and tranquility inspire something in and between us on our Road trips.