Monday, March 24, 2014

We are in South Africa!  After a very long day of travel -34 hours – we made it to Africa.  The travel day was long but everything went smoothly and the flight crews did their best to make it comfortable.  After a delay in Johannesburg due to equipment issues, we arrived in Port Elizabeth and made our way to our lodging by bus by 11PM local time.

We managed to pull ourselves out of bed for a mostly buffet breakfast and an 8:30 departure for a geologic and elephant tour.  We were accompanied by our hosts from NMMU, led by Professor Martin de Wit, and a team of videographers.  Our first stop was an old marine platform at 300 meters elevation.  The terrace was marked by easily distinguishable oyster beds.  We could see the white color of the beds all around us at similar elevations.  Martin had talked about how the sea level was markedly different from today’s see level and this was our first evidence of where the sea level once was.  Our second stop was at the site of stream incisions into older rock that is below the marine platform.

Our next destination was the Addo Elephant National Park, where we met Professor Graham Kerley.  Professor Kerley gave us an introduction to the history and current status of the national park and its elephants, including the water issues that the park faces in helping the elephants survive.  His talk was present at a high overlook, with the Hapoor Water Hole below us, with elephants visible (I could see some walking).  We then drove to the water hole.  It was stunning.  There were 30-40 elephants, including calves, along with Warthogs and several zebra.  It was an incidental but exciting mini safari.   We later drove to the see the coastal and while still in the park, we drove past 7 elephants, including 3 calves.  While it was special to see the many elephants at the water hole, we had our first close look at elephants here.

The dunes were lovely although we experienced heavy rains and eventually an electrical storm.  Still, it was beautiful.  Professor Kerley gave us an overview of how the dunes developed and how they affect the river systems in this area.

On our drive we saw the edges of some of the townships we will be walking through today, giving us a glimpse of the life there.  Our host at NMMU told us to be prepared for an interesting and unsettling experience there.  And we are leaving in 5 minutes ...

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