A Scary Night in Middelburg

As we left Kruger Park, we drove though some of the poorest parts of South Africa. Ridding though the country side, we saw the destitute conditions that so many people were living in.

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It is such a strange spectrum of emotions day by day in Africa. Starting out the day on a safari though a foreign land looking for exotic animals and just a few hours later it seemed to be a totally different world.

ImageWe stopped at a gas station to fill up in a very poverty-stricken area. The station had a credit car reader, but didn’t use it very often. They had trouble running our card, and we hung out in the van for at least an hour. Eventually I went looking for a restroom. Never have I ever seen a restroom so disgusting. It was so apparent that these people didn’t have the money to hire janitors, buy cleaning supplies, or keep up with any routine maintenance. The toilet seat was missing and there was a random tire just laying on the damp floor, there was dirt( and possibly feces in the corner). I decided to choose another rest room and went into a convince store next door. It was even worse. I just couldn’t imagine these types of conditions being the norm. I am so used to being able to just whip my credit or debit card out of my pocket and buy what I need even if I don’t have the cash in my pocket. The bathrooms I use are almost always clean (I can assure that if you don’t initially agree with this statement, you would consider your restrooms clean after seeing what I saw). As we drove away, my heart hung heavy. I thanked God for the life he has given me.

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The highway we drove on had many small villages of dilapidated huts along it. At around 3:00 the shoulders of the road became busy with foot traffic of students. So many children clad in school uniforms laughed and played as they walked home from school. It was quite a sight so see for the next 2-3 hours. Once we would pass from one school district (I don’t know if that term is used outside of the US) to another  we would see a change in uniforms. One thing that was interesting to me, was that we would see a few miles stretch of the same uniform. It dawned on me that these students were walking MILES to get an education. I thought I had it rough walking the quarter mile (maybe half mile) home each day for 9 years of grade school.

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When driving though a small town, we got a little confused on the directions (not the first time) and  the lane merge at a stoplight was a little strange. We might have lingered in a turn lane for too long before correcting our path and going straight. At the top of the hill, a police woman flagged us over to the side  and told us that we had committed a line violation. Marty talked to the woman and explained that we were visiting students and were a little confused. He plead for us to be let off, but the lady insisted that we must go to the station. When Marty explained that we would be late for our check-in at the B&B, and didn’t have time to go in, she decided to strike us a deal. She told us that should could let us off if we paid a fine of $100. Marty is quite the haggler, and was able to talk her down to a $45 fine. We never filled out any paperwork, so we are pretty sure she pocketed the money.

Our hold up with the law had us a little behind schedule, so we called to let the clerk at the Bed and Breakfast know that we might miss normal check in hours.  Although South Africans speak English, the accents have a very strong Dutch sound, and the accents are even harder to decipher  when on the phone.  After a few minuets we realized that they were confused in our reservation and were not expecting us until tomorrow. There was no room in the Inn, and there was no near by stable to crash in for the night, so we were told they would look into new lodging for us. To make things more complicated we were talking on an international cell phone, and therefore they were unable to call us back. Every thirty minuets or so, we would call and try to understand the woman on the other end of the phone. After about six calls, and receiving coordinates and a name, but not a real address, we though we had figured things out.  By the time we got to the general area, it was dark. Like pitch black! Rural South Africa has no street lights, no stop lights, and in some areas, no pavement. We ended up on a horribly bumpy, dark road. It was incredibly eerie. We did not know the exact name of the hotel, we didn’t know the exact address, and we couldn’t see a thing. It felt like we were heading to Bates Motel! After a while we arrived, they didn’t have enough rooms prepared, and they had no heat or hot water. When I woke up my hair was still wet and freezing cold!

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I hope you are enjoying hearing about my trip! Next post: Our visit to the biggest construction project in the world, and our last few days in Jo’burg!

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