Saturday, 17 October 2009

Joburg day 1

We left at around 3pm on Thursday and arrived, doomed to be forever fixed in the awkward Swiss Air seated position, at around 10am on Friday. The last couple of hours of the flight were rendered at least tolerable by the film I watched and the humbling landscape below. Hundreds of miles of what I guess were Central African Republic and Botswana revealed nothing more than a dry, flat terrain with the odd settlements connected by miles of roads that would have had any Roman nodding in appreciation. We also flew over the nearly finished 'soccer city' that will host the World Cup final. It looks pretty spectacular although there is more than a hint of the inflatible rubber ring about it.

We were looking forward to freshening up and using toilet facilities where you didn't have to roll up your trousers. A navigation problem (no map) meant that our host took a wrong turn just as she was saying there some areas in Joburg that should be avoided at all costs because of the number of car jackings. 'Oh no, Jeppestown, it looks like I will get to show you. But don't worry it should be OK at this time of day...' and then in a quiet voice to herself 'Please God let us get through here...' In fact it looked OK to me. I'd sooner be there than some parts of Bradford, Manchester or East London (the one in London not the one in South Africa).

The rest of the day was spent fighting through Joburg's horrendous traffic to the north. We went to the lion park. Me and my girl went to London zoo recently and spent the day looking at empty cages and forlorn looking animals in small enclosures. This was nothing like that. The project is about rearing cubs who would otherwise die in the wild. I admit to being a little unappreciative of this side of creation; preferring man made structures or spectacular land forms. I went along for the ride and resisted grumbling about how tired and hungry I was but, to be honest, I find it hard to get excited about birds and things like my work colleagues do. We go to Newcastle once a year and they all look at the birds in the bridges and talk animatedly about them while I shuffle about awkwardly with a puzzled look on my face. This was different though. It was so good I'd even sit in that traffic again to go for longer. We went in with the cubs- 4 months is a lot more developed than their human equivalent I can tell you. Boss got bitten on the arm and one tried to chew into my knee. The drive round the park also gave us a stern reminder about why there are signs everywhere saying 'keep windows closed'.

[The picture took about 10 mins to upload on this connection so the rest may have to wait. Love to my family in UK. ]

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