Preserving and Promoting local history for the former Rideau Township
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Christmas Party 2015
Article by Peter Satterly
Photos by Owen Cooke

The Christmas party was celebrated this year at the Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in North Gower. Thirty three persons enjoyed a ham/scalloped potatoes/carrots, cole slaw and dessert.

 The Caterers

The caterers prepared an excellent meal. Nobody left hungry. Left to right are Joyce Wood, Gail Brooks, Eleanor Hodges, and Beth Brooks.

The evening program was presented by Dave and Laura Tupper. Their presentation was called “Born Free: The Beauty and Challenges of South Africa.”

The talk started with the history and geography of the peoples of South Africa. They talked about the early settlement of the country and that it was first visited by Giacomo Da Gamba in 1496, just a few years after Columbus had discovered the Americas. He pointed out that by the mid 1990’s there were 50 million people living in South Africa, of which only 5% were whites and the overwhelming majority were black Africans. There were some peoples of East Indian extraction as well. In 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected President. However they pointed out that there was a difference between democracy and capitalism. The “Born Free” referred to Africans born since Mandela was elected.

Dave pointed out that of this population 25% of whites were unemployed while 50% of blacks were unemployed. There was simply no work available because South Africa’s industry consisted of mines for diamonds and metals. He showed that the GDP for South Africa was $11,500/ person. Literacy there was 86% compared to 99% in Canada. He also pointed out that there were 11 official languages compared with 2 official languages in Canada.

Johannesburg is a city a mile high. It is the largest capital city not built on water. Dave spoke of some of the difficulties that a city that high brings: for example, the airport runways had to be three miles long to accommodate large airliners. His remarks reminded the writer of an article on the airport at La Paz, Bolivia, which is 13,500 feet above sea level. A jet taking off from such an altitude lumbers down a long, long runway and then slowly lifts off just clearing the mountains in the distance.

The reason for Dave and Laura visiting in South Africa was to attend a wedding of one of their friends at Dullstrom, northwest of Johannesburg. However they took advantage of the opportunity to tour the country for approximately two weeks.

After arriving in London Heathrow Airport from Canada, they boarded an Airbus A380 for South Africa. They showed us a photograph of the plane, which seats 800 people on two decks. The trip was an eleven hour, overnight, non-stop flight from London to Johannesburg, South Africa.

Their first trip from Johannesburg was to visit Victoria Falls which is on the Zambezi River on the boundary between Zimbabwe and South Africa. They mentioned that, although Zimbabwe had been considered the ‘Garden of Eden’ in the past, with government mismanagement, the country was now a basket case. They stayed in a 1st class accommodation with a thatched roof. Among the sites they saw, other than the Falls was a statue of David Livingstone, 1813-1873, the “Great Liberator” who arrived at Victoria Falls in 1855. Dave pointed out that one of the first things Queen Victoria had done when she became Queen was to abolish slavery. This was in the year 1837.

They showed pictures of the falls, a 350-foot chasm. They pointed out that the falls were considerably larger than Niagara Falls (165 feet) and the thunderous sound of all of the water falling was deafening. They were given rain capes to help keep them dry. However the capes were no match for the amount of spray coming off the falls and so they were absolutely soaked by the time they got back to the visitor centre. They also showed aerial photographs of the falls and the gorge. The rather narrow gorge carved through large cliffs , makes it difficult to see the full extent of the falls.

After visiting Victoria Falls, they went on to visit Chobe Park, which is in Botswana. They showed us a lone elephant against some trees. They were very excited to see the elephant. However by the end of their stay they had seen some 250 elephants. Other animals that they showed pictures of were cape buffalo, giraffes, impala and kudu antelopes.

One of the interesting observations they made was that, despite the tall necks of the giraffes, their markings made them blend into the background which made them surprisingly difficult to see. Impalas, which are quite small, only around 100 lbs. are often taken by lions. They commented on the kudu antelopes with their spiral antlers and that their meat was very tasty.

In connection with the elephants (and the rhinoceros) is the problem of poaching. Dave pointed out that poaching was a global problem with the ivory from elephants and horns from the rhinos being sold worldwide. Although these animals were quite common in the National Parks such as Kruger, Chobe, and the Serengeti, their numbers elsewhere in Africa outside the parks were considerably depleted.

The next park that Dave and Laura visited was Kruger National Park which was 400 km. from the wedding in Dullstrom. The park is on the boundary between South Africa and Mozambique. They stayed in 1st class accommodations on the southern boundary of the park, overlooking a river. They could enjoy time in the pool and other facilities and look over the valley and see and hear various animals as they came down to the water to drink and bathe.

While on safari, they showed us pictures of guinea fowl, hippos in the river, a white rhinoceros, a male lion lounging beside the road, and zebra, sable antelope, wildebeest and water buck.

On another day they visited the three Rondavels on the Mpunalanga Panorama Route, a spectacular outlook over the Blyde River Gorge. Shaped like South African beehive huts, the three Rondavels form three huge pinnacles of rock above the canyon below. Despite warnings not to go past the danger signs, visitors routinely went to the edge of the gorge.

The Tuppers then flew to Cape Town which is on the Atlantic Ocean some miles north of the southern tip of Africa. The waters coming up from Antarctica, are very cold, (about 12°C), so very little swimming is done off the beaches at Cape Town. The favourite pastime on the water was wind surfing and water kite flying; participators wore wet suits. There were also many sharks which were a constant danger for anyone who ventured on or into the water.

The Tuppers then embarked on a wine tour along the southern coast of South Africa between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, several hundred miles along the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa. They mentioned sampling wines in Rouxville and Stillbaai. The place they stayed at in Stillbaai had many dead eucalyptus trees beside the house. The trees had died several years previous because of a eucalyptus blight, however, their hosts explained that they had left the trees there because owls roosted there at night and the guests liked to see them.  

They also stayed at Plettenberg Bay, which was on the Indian Ocean. In each of these places, they sampled the wines and enjoyed the hospitality of the wineries. Pictures showed hills climbing up from the sea with grape vines and other crops, the fruit gardens of South Africa.

In Port Elizabeth, they commented on the casinos and hotels, one of the favourite places for sunbathing along the vast sandy beaches which extended for five miles along the coast.

They talked about the problems facing South Africans. They talked about the transfer of power from white Afrikaners to black people and the problems of leadership and expertise. Governing was difficult, with tribal problems. Democracy does not necessarily bring prosperity and many black South Africans were living in poverty.

However, Dave and Laura said that this was a experience of a lifetime. He encouraged any of us to venture to the country and enjoy all it had to offer.

As an aside, the Father of the writer of this review also visited South Africa around 1970 for a World Geological and Metallurgy Congress. Dad had many stories of the places he visited. For Dad, it was interesting as he had worked in Southern Rhodesia back in the early 1930s after graduating in geology from the University of Toronto and Princeton University. He had many stories of his “exploits” while working in Rhodesia and South Africa  

Christmas party in fulll swing

The party was well attended and everyone enjoyed the fellowship and comradery. All in all a good night to get in the Christmas spirit.