Spring Break Travels

Naomi Runder
September 30, 2017
Me looking at an elephant

So Spring Break is almost almost over. By tomorrow evening I'll back in Cape Town, and then by Monday I'll be back in classes, trying to ignore the fact that (for now) my time in South Africa is half over and I have a return ticket to the U.S. waiting for me. But besides all that 'all good things must come to an end' doom and gloom, I'm feeling pretty good about everything. I'm ready to be back in Cape Town! I've missed my bed. I've missed the city. I've even missed school? Spring break has been lovely, but my friends and I can all agree that we're all about ready to go back home. 

Right now we're in Johannesburg, spending our last couple days exploring a new city, but we started out spring break heading off to Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. This part of break was with IES Abroad, and I traveled with near everyone else in the program to go see animals on the perserve, including the 'Big 5' of elephants, water buffalo, lions, leopards, and rhinos. We spent two days there doing game drives where we saw lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, impala, kudu, waterhogs, hyenas, and hippos. Then we traveled to Johannesburg where we visited the Apartheid museum and a small museum inside Nelson Mandela's house. 

Then we split from IES Abroad and went our separate ways, many doing some form of independent travel. After a night in Johannesburg, my friend Bri and I left for Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. For a tiny bit of background, Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As I've been learning about in my history course at UCT, it also is within Matabeleland, the site of the Gukurahundi massacres of Ndebele people in the 80s. The tourism industry often has a way of somewhat painting over such violent history.

From Zimbabwe, Bri and I took a day trip to Chobe National Park to see, you guessed it, more animals. It was definitely worth it though! Before even entering Botswana, we saw a small pack of African Wild Dogs laying on a side road. My friends have all heard this fact about twenty times each now because I think it's so cool, but I might as well tell you too. African Wild Dogs decide if they're going to go on their next hunt democratically, and they vote by sneezing! Leaders in the pack have sneezes worth more weight, and if they do not get enough sneezes then the pack likely does not go on that hunt. Ugh, so cool. But I'll resist the urge to turn this entire blog into a repository for fun facts I've read about African Wild Dogs (I could go on all day). At Chobe, we took a boat cruise down the Chobe River and game drive where we saw elephants, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, baboons, warthogs, zebras, cape buffalo, kudu, red lechwe, water buck, and impala. Chobe felt worth it even though we had just been to Kruger, because we seemed to much nearer to the animals and saw them in greater numbers as they all gathered along the river's edge. On our last day, Bri and I finally went to see Victoria Falls, which was (as we expected) both gigantic and really pretty. 

That same day we flew back to Johannesburg: where Bri and I are now with our friend Domonique. As much as we enjoyed Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana, it's nice to be back in South Africa. After all this time here, it feels like home, especially Cape Town. Spring break was great; I feel like I fulfilled some childhood dreams by going on a safari and seeing all the animals I was obsessed with up close and by going to Botswana where one of my favorite TV shows The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was set. But now Bri and I are both ready to return home with our significantly emptier bank accounts and plethora of weird bug bites.

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Naomi Runder

<p>Hello! I'm a current junior at Grinnell College, studying sociology and planning to go into public health policy. Outside of classes, I stay busy by volunteering to help (and play with!) dogs at the local animal shelter and organizing around national issues with other on-campus student activists. This semester in Cape Town will be my first time out of the United Staes, and I'm beyond excited to see where it takes me.</p>

Home University:
Grinnell College
Nashville, TN
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