Day 13 – Hailey & Heather

Today, we woke up bright and early at the Cloud’s End Hotel for the last time. Our day started at 6 o’clock with the packing up of all our suitcases, sleeping bags, and taking down all 5 of the 10-person tents that had initially taken hours to put up (it only took 45 minutes to take them down). When we finished our breakfast at 8:00, we made our way back down to the campsite, and pack everything we had onto our bus which had virtually no undercarriage. While we were leaving the campsite, we had many generous goodbyes for the staff of Cloud’s End. Luckily for us, we only had to sit on the crammed bus for an hour until we reached Thoyoudanou where we picked up a trailer for all the suitcases and tents. We continued our journey, a lot more comfortable, to the Kruger National Park, and made it to the Punda Maria entrance in about another hour. At the gate we were given a presentation about safety precautions and the importance of staying in the bus, but also about the big 5 (buffalo, leopard, rhino, elephant and lions) and other native African animals we would hopefully be seeing. We met up with Ian (a Rotarian) and his wife, Diane, who are traveling with us through Kruger Park. Within the first 10 minutes of entering Kruger Park, our bus driver slowed down for our first sighting: a giraffe… which was then scared away by Blake’s high-pitching hyaena-like scream; thankfully, we did see another one shortly after.

Next on our journey, we saw a small group of impala near the road. The highlight of the day was probably all the elephant sighting. Some of which were even bathing themselves and eating near a watering hole. After much driving and not much excitement, we saw many zebras, and made the executive decision that they are most definitely white with black stripes. Our next find was a buffalo, the second of the big 5, only three more to go! Once we got to the campsite, we set up our tents and the majority went for a dip in the pool at sunset, which was beautiful. Some explored the stores and campsite, but at 7:00 we all gathered for our Braii. The food was absolutely delicious, the decorations were amazing and we were all quite satisfied with our day. 

Day 14 – Jack and Padn

Today we rose at 530 am, one of our earliest day yet.  Stars were still high in the sky, and it was chilly. We quickly packed up, removed our tents, had coffee and a rusk (South African biscuit eaten for breakfast), and loaded into the bus. Ten minutes down the road, and we saw two female and a male lion directly at the side of the road. They were quite close and very impressive.  Soon after, we saw many impalas and various grazers. A bit later we came across an elephant that seemed as if it was charging the bus, quickly rushing behind us and it bellowed. Down the road, a giraffe was munching through the trees.          

A couple hours into our journey we stopped at the elephant information centre in Lebata. Here there were many photos and posters with much information on the elephants. During our stop some went to grab a snack and cold drink.  While doing so, we happened to run in to Judy and Jeremy (our hosts in Johannesburg) which was a nice surprise. We said a quick hello then had to continue on with our long day ahead.

Continuing on we saw more of the same, as well as some vultures. Some in the bus saw a rhino a quarter kilometer in the distance. As we drove down the road we received word of a lion kill. Unfortunately we would’ve had to travel down a very narrow dirt road to see it, and the bus couldn’t make it. Later on we heard it was a baby giraffe L.         

After more driving in the hot bus we came across more than 5 lions (a lioness and cubs) in a small valley, within the grass. We proceed, and after hour and a half of driving we reach the biggest campground of Kruger park, Skukuza.  After settling and the sun going down we headed for the briaa that was setup in an African style shelter. For dinner we munched on some delicious food including chicken, pap, steamed vegetables and garlic bread. Desert was cake and custard, it was YUMMY. From there we dispersed to the tents and went to bed.

Day 15

Today was another early morning for some. Thirteen of us arose at 6 to get ready for a morning safari while most of the others half slept. It was roughly a 3 hour safari. We were pleased to see many animals that included some playful baby baboons, roaming lioness and some rambunctious rhinos. Other animals that we saw for the first time were a spotted hyena and an African wildcat. It was a good morning to see animals. Afterwards we made our way to the campsite once again.

For the good part of mid day we had free time. Some went shopping to finish up their gifts and others laid by the pool. At the pool, the boys came in and made some huge cannon balls that ended up soaking some of the girls stuff. We met some Americans that were studying abroad in Cape Town and became friends with them. Derek and Mike’s whiteness blinded a few people.  Ashley, Hailey and Blake were having a good time playing piggy in the middle with sunglasses. Jessica, Sera, Nadya, Raissa and Blake went pool hopping. It was a very productive afternoon.

At 5:30 we had to meet for our dinner. What a dinner it was! To end our last day, we had the pleasure to enjoy actual cheese sauce, along with chicken, salad and veggies. It was delicious. For dessert we had ice cream! Oh boy were people screaming for that.

Now that we were all stuffed from the amazing food, we made our way to the reception area for our night drive. It was around 2 hours long and we got to see some animals that we didn’t get to see much of earlier including hippos, a crocodile and a bush baby. We also saw a lot of impala, hyenas and a group of lions lying next to the road. During the ride Nadya and Israel were sharing a sweater and Nadya put it over Israel’s head and she couldn’t see, so she accidentally pushed Nadya and she almost ended up falling out of the bus. It caused quite a scene with everybody staring at them. Also Derek“ wouldn’t give up the light even though he wasn’t spotting anything so Blake was left with a tiny flashlight and got the spot of the day (a hippo)[editors note: Blake’s opinion only]! We ended our final night with a bang. Yayy!!!!!!! Just cuz…

Blake and Brandon

Added note:  For the night drive we were split into two safari trucks.  Blake’s group spotted the hippo and crocodile.   However the other group were lucky enough to sit for 10 – 15 minutes beside three lionesses.  They were literally 5 meters from the open truck.  Then two got up from their lying position and walked towards the truck and passed a meter in front of the truck and then lay down on the other side of the truck.  The whole time a lady beside me was saying “ I am scared —-less, please can we go”.  After some time the third lioness struggled up and then hobbled on three feet across in front of us.  Her right front paw dangled lifelessly and we could see she was in  a lot ofpain.  She  joined the other two lions that were waiting for her.  After a short rest the three of them continued on into the underbrush.  Theresa and Natasha also spotted two leopards (the rest of us were not quick enough and only spotted one) 

Day 16 – “The chaperones”

Given that we had a long travel period ahead of us we decided to let anyone who wished to do so, to sleep in until 8 am.  Not many made it and most were already up by 7:00 am.  We then had our hot drink (tea or instant coffee) and a rusk.  By 8 am we were pulling down the tents and by 9 am all the bags were packed back into the bus and trailer.  By now we are a well oiled machine and this process does not take anyone to give direction….it just gets done.

Because it is going to be a lot of sitting we decided to let everyone have a couple of hours to stretch out here in Skukusa Camp.  It is a lot nicer to be here than in the upcoming airports. At 11:00 am we headed out of the Camp.  We hadn’t yet seen a cheetah and there had been 4 sightings yesterday along the road to the Phebani Gate to Kruger Park therefore we chose that route to exit.  It took us just over an hour to get there but unfortunately there were no cheetahs for us to see.  We saw elephants, a giraffe and another 1,000 or so of the always present impala.   Two of the elephants in a large water hole was a highlight.  The two of them were playing in the water wrestling together.  They would submerge their huge bodies totally out of site under the water and the come up pushing one another.  After about 5 minutes of watching them they decided they had had enough and exited the water.

Travelling back to Johannesberg was fascinating as we passed through such a variety of ecosystems.  Around Skukusa was relatively flat and dry except by the river.  As we moved westward hills began to form and the trees were less lush.  After we left Kruger Park we then were into hills with banana plantations everywhere.   Our bus struggled along climbing the hills and then descending.  By mid afternoon we thought that we were back in BC as the countryside reminded us of driving from Osoyoos to Grand Forks.  In the late afternoon we were within a couple hundred kilometers and it looked more like Saskatchewan or Alberta…..flat with fields as far as the eye can see and many cows.

The bus that we are travelling in is old and there was a bit of a mechanical problem yesterday.  Therefore we decided that it would be prudent to allow ourselves at least 3 extra hours to get to the airport.  This was a good plan as the bus overheated climbing the hills.  We had to stop, let things cool down and add coolant and water.

Because of the delays and the speed of the bus we decided that we had to push through to the airport and not stop for dinner as originally planned.  Arriving at the airport 9 ½ hours after leaving the Park we thought that we could quickly check in, clear security and then get some dinner.  Never happened.  The checking in was a fiasco as they could not check our bags in all the way to Spokane.  They needed amongst other things an address in the US where we would end up.  A Canadian address would not work.  We decided to use the address of a receipt of someone who made a purchase prior to leaving for South Africa.  Should a problem arise an eyeglass shop in Spokane might get a lot of questions.  It was nearly 10 pm once we had our boarding passes and checked in bags and approaching 11 pm once we had cleared security and gotten to our gate.

The flight took off at 11:20 pm and virtually everyone of us fell asleep immediately.  The meal at 2 am went unnoticed.  Those that slept long made the 11 hour flight to Amsterdam seem much better.  In Amsterdam Alexandra and Geoff took Derek and Theresa through customs and immigration in order to retrieve their luggage that had been incorrectly booked in Johannesberg the night before.  This turned out to be relatively easy and we took a walk outside of the airport so that Theresa and Derek can say that they walked on Dutch soil.  Once back inside security Alexandra had to say good bye to all of us as she was flying to Detriot, then Halifax on her way to St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.  The rest of us boarded the 10 hour flight to Minneapolis.  As this was during the day it seemed much longer than the first flight.  We had to retrieve our bags bring them through US customs and then put them back on the conveyor belt to the aircraft.  The final 3 hour flight to Spokane was quicker as again many slept.

Our group was greeted in Spokane with clapping and cheering of parents and family.  The 40 hours of travel since we left was nearly over.

While picking up the luggage the stories started and there will be many more in the cars on the drives back to Castlegar and in the weeks to come.

South Africa 2011 – “My favourite memory…….”

  • This trip has been so full with so many great memories.  But the one memory that was most important and had a huge impact on me was the first day we went to the Center and saw all the kids.  Talking, playing, singing or just hanging out with them, the joy the kids had was just phenomenal.  All this kids just wanted to be with us and their smiles always so big.  Some kids had ripped clothes or no shoes but it did not faze them.  Nothing took away from how much fun they were all having just being together. Every child was smiling that day and if they weren’t, just saying, “hi” to them, they smiled. The feelings that everyone had that day were so motivating and the smiles on the children’s faces were truly unforgettable.   
                                                                                                                                                            —Ashley Laurie


  • …..having a “movie club” with Israel and Derek on the plane.    
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 –Raissa Chernoff


  •  My favourite memory was going to the Center and meeting the kids.  I loved spending time with the baby I met named Gunda.  I will never forget her or any of the other children there.                              
    — Jessica Trickey


  • The trip was so much fun and I really enjoyed everything.  My favourite thing about the trip was the people.  Everybody was so nice and really great to be around.     
    –Brandon  Davis


  • My favourite memory was definitely playing with the children at the Center.  They were so excited and had so much energy.  They will always be in my memory.
    — Blake Edwards


  • …..when the kids came to the worksite and played with us then put their hand prints on the containers.  They couldn’t speak English but sang, danced and laughed with us all afternoon.  
    –Israel Miller


  • …..the ‘party’ bus with Lovely, the taxi driver.  Singing and fist pumping every day to the work site and back.
    –Nadya Wasilenkoff


  • My favourite memory at Tonda Lushaka is about Anna, a little girl who followed me the 5 days were there and refused to take a picture with me the last day.  Eventually, she gave in, with smiling eyes!  I was very happy.
    –Jack Clemons-Gibbon


  • If you are asking me to choose just one memory, I am not too sure that I can.  It’s like asking someone to choose their favourite child.  As I look back now and think about every memory I have from this trip, I smile, I laugh and sometimes I shake my head.  I have so many amazing memories, like when we went to the market in Soweto.  That was an unforgettable experience for sure.  Another is when we would all go to the Center and play with the children there.  They would teach us games, and we would teach them games.  When we were at the worksite and the neighbourhood children were gathered around and we started dancing, playing games and making little buddies.  I also had an excellent time touring around Johannesburg and Soweto. As well as watching all of the animals in Kruger Park.  Just being here indulging myself in the culture and beauty of South Africa.  In short, I cannot choose only one memory. This trip was too spectacular to mention only one part.
    –Theresa Thoms


  • My favourite memory was dancing with the Zulu’s in Johannesburg.
    –Padn Konkin


  • My favourite memory of the trip was being able to make a difference in people’s lives and being able to meet Mahombeha and with all the kids because they loved us.  But also, Kruger National Park, because of all of the animals.
    –Ashlee Martini


  • My favourite memory…….playing with the kids and getting to know and become close friends with Lillian…….seeing all of the different animals.  
    –Chelan Padmoroff


  • My favourite memory would have to be when we arrived to the Center in Louis Trichardt after a day of work and immediately a little boy about 4 or 5 walked up to me, grabbed my hand and just talked. We didn’t speak English, but didn’t stop talking.
    –Heather Hackett


  • My favourite memory would have to be hanging with your friends while being productive.  Also, helping the kids-making a difference.  Exploring the area and having a good time.
    –Travis Spender


  • My favourite part was when the ‘party bus’ showed up and all the Interact students danced to “ Waka Waka” with the Rotarians of Louis Trichardt.  It made me see the similarities of all people of the world.
    –Derek Monsen


  • It is impossible to ask for a favourite memory because there are too many that I will forever hold close to my heart.  I can narrow down 3 memories that I will consider the most impacting.  The first would be the trip into Soweto and seeing the contrast of houses and shacks, the poverty seen here made me feel so lucky to have all that I do and I realized how much of my life I take for granted.  The second would be the first time meeting the children at Tonda Lushaka.  Never in my life have I met anyone so happy to meet me.  The sheer happiness that the kids exude, even though many are orphans, and live in poverty, is absolutely staggering.  I will never forget these children for as long as I live.  The third memory was seeing the first giraffe, not 5 minutes into Kruger National Park.  It was seeing that giraffe that made me realize I was in Africa.  Zoos have nothing on Kruger.  This whole trip has been loaded with memories and I don’t want to forget a single one.
    –Arija Fisher


  • My favourite memory of this trip was going to the Center for the first time.  Seeing all the kids that we all now know and love.  We immediately were all surrounded by 20 kids each and were swept away to play games. Playing with them for hours on end will always stay with me. Seeing the kids happy and enjoying life that’s what we came here for.  
    –Sera Welychko


  • My favourite memory would have to be when some of the neighborhood kids from around the work site came over.  We all went over to say hi.  All, except one or two only spoke Venda.  It was amazing to see that even with the language barrier between us we could still sing, dance and play. I especially bonded with this one little girl.  She was so cute.  She was about 3 or 4 and did not speak any English.  When we took a break from playing, we painted the children’s hands and put them on the containers for the new Center.  I was so sad that day to go back to Cloud’s End, even though it was only one day that we bonded.  That is definitely my favourite memory.
    –Alyssa Martini


  • ….The people.   Those that greeted a tired group in J’oburg and introduced us to their country, those that made the “Cloud’s End” the friendliest, most welcoming hotel/campground I have ever stayed at, the Rotarians of Louis Trichardt that were always there to help us, and the wonderful, Di and Ian, who after helping us for 10 days, took another 4 days out of their busy schedule to guide us through Kruger National Park.
    –Geoff Yule


  • I have two memorable days on the trip.  One was the Nelson Mandela/Apartheid Museum and the second was the night ride Safari.  The museum of the Apartheid was amazing and horrifying.  It was full of exhibits, politics, and cultural repression of vast magnitude.  The Nelson Mandela, temporary exhibit was the highlight though.  It was well put together and made you respect the man even more. The night ride safari allowed us to see a leopard.  What an amazing animal.    Also 3 female lions that walked right in front of our safari truck.  Great night.  
    –Mike Cassidy


  • It’s hard to define just one favourite memory.  Each day brought a new experience and new adventure.  If I am to take away only one memory, it will be the beautiful smiles of the black people, the rich sounds of their laughter and even richer sounds of their singing.
    –Lorraine Hartson


  • My favourite memory of the trip was when I gave a quilted table runner to Agnes, one of the caregiver/teachers at Tonda Lushaka.  She was overwhelmed and began crying.  The joy and appreciation for this small gift was so evident in her smile, laughter, excitement and overall display of gratitude. She felt very bless, but I truly was the one who was blessed by her and all of the children she cares for.
    –Denise Laurie


  • There are so many amazing memories from the past 2 weeks it is so hard to choose.  I think the memory that amazed me the most was when we were working at the project site and all the kids from the neighborhood came and played with us.  At first it was hard because they did not speak any English.  But by the end I had the most adorable girl in my arms.  She wouldn’t let go even when she fell asleep she still hung on to me.  Although we did not speak the same language, we were able to connect in a way I will never forget.
    –Emma Jansen


  • Throughout these last 18 days, there have been so many moments that I will remember and treasure forever.  One of my favourite memories was the first we went and saw the kids.  We pulled up in the bus and the kids were crowding around so excited that were finally there.  As we got off they were all hugging us and all had a huge smile on their face.  They were so happy.  They had so much to show us and they sang us some really beautiful songs. We had a fantastic day with them, it was really sad to leave.  At the end of the day a little boy came up to Emma and said that he had the most fun day of his life with us.  It was just such a fun day for the Interactors and kids that it will stay as an amazing memory in my heart forever.
    –Hailey Gardner


  • South Africa was full of amazing memories I will remember forever.  If I had to choose one to be my favourite, I really couldn’t. There are 2 things that will always be close to my heart.  First, one of the days we were working, a big group of kids came from the surrounding village and played with us.  Since there was only painting left, a bunch of us went and made buddies without even being able to talk to them.  The kids even got to help us by putting their hand prints onto the new library.  My other favourite memory takes place that last day we were at the center.  Two sisters who had been my buddies were saying good-bye to me.  The older sister, who was 11, took me behind the taxi so we could “get away from all the ‘crazy’, as she put it” and gave me a big hug.  Then I gave them each one of my bandanas and they could not stop smiling.  That’s when the younger sister, who was 6, said, “Thank you so much, I wish you did not have to go and ‘come home with me;”.  It was the first time she had spoken English since we had been there and most people didn’t even know she could do so. South Africa is just one big favourite memory for me and I really hope I can someday get the chance to come back. For now, those are my favourite memories and they will always be remembered.  
    –Alexandra Yule