Well, South Africa has been on a pretty severe lockdown since March 27th. The original lockdown was extended by two weeks, the government then announced the easing of restrictions and outlined what would be allowed under 5 stages. Stage 5 is the most stringent which is what we were under initially for 6 weeks. We were only allowed to leave our homes for 3 reasons: 1) buy groceries, 2) seek medical care, or 3) collect social grants. During this time no sales of cigarettes or alcohol were permitted. The military and police were deployed to enforce the rules. While these rules were frustratingly harsh, they kept people from getting sick, and ultimately that is what matters.
Lockdown Stage 4 which we have been under since May 1st permits some restaurants to offer delivery service and shops are allowed to sell winter clothes. We are required to wear a mask when out in public. We are now allowed to exercise (run, walk, cycle) within a 5K radius from our home between 0600 and 0900. The first day of the relaxed restrictions was a bit of a mess with people flooding the waterfront area and not wearing masks. So much so in fact that a government minister issued a statement essentially stating that it was really easy to go back to stage 5 if people couldn’t follow the rules. The following day there were additional police in the area to ensure compliance.
In addition to the restrictions the government has announced several initiatives aimed at helping individuals and small businesses survive this pandemic. While one could argue that it’s not enough it is certainly more than other nations are doing and more coordinated.
At some point, the government will declare we can now move to stage 3. This will allow for the sales of alcohol, tobacco, and other non-essential items. Stage 2 will allow for the resumption of domestic flights. The kicker is that the levels set at a national level. Provincial or even metro level may differ. Since Cape Town has seen a spike in cases recently, I expect we may be under stricter restrictions than less populated or rural areas. For more details on what is allowed at each level click here. At this point, we don’t know when international flights will resume. I’m not expecting anything until late 2020 or early 2021.
Ok, but how are you?
On a personal level we are doing fine. We are able to get groceries delivered and have been improving our culinary skills. We’ve been having video calls with friends and family both locally and abroad, so we have a sense of connection. We were on one such call with friends when someone sent me this article… Talk about a harsh reality check. So, after I checked my privilege, I can honestly say that we are pretty lucky.
Stay safe and stay healthy
The last few weeks have been a bit hectic and chaotic for us. We were initially leaning towards heading back to the states after several conversations with our families in the US and powers that be at P’s employer. The more we thought about it the more sense it made to stay in SA. By traveling we would be going through 3 airports, two airplanes, and need to drive through IL to northern WI. If we ended up needing to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, there was an additional risk of exposure. So, in the end, we decided to stay. Which was the right move because while we would have been able to fly out on March 28th, the President of SA announced a near-total shut down of the country beginning on the 27th. This ultimately meant no passenger flights would be leaving.
The lockdown means no restaurants, bars, or coffee shops are open. You are allowed to leave your home to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor. You can’t go for a jog or walk your dog. All alcohol and cigarette sales have been suspended. Basically, the only things you can buy at the moment are food, medicine, and gasoline. The police and Army have been deployed to maintain checkpoints and patrol to ensure compliance. The SA government is taking this VERY seriously. Which given the amount of vulnerable people living in SA I think this is the correct response. I read a report last night that Khayelitsha became the first township to have a confirmed case. Sadly, some of the folks in the townships weren’t complying with the lockdown rules and now the entire township is at a major risk. This is heartbreaking because the lockdown order was meant to protect these very people.
As for our personal safety; we are a short drive to a smaller grocery store. When we need to venture out that is where we will likely go to restock. We also have the option of using grocery delivery services. We are trying one out that specializes in fresh meat. (I’m really craving a steak). Our main concern at this point is social unrest or rioting. I expect that any riots or protests that occur will start in the townships and work their way to the city center (or Central Business District) before they get to us. We are away from the city center and at the top of a very steep hill. That being said the US embassy is sending us twice daily emails on the status of evacuations and P’s employer is keeping an eye on the situation as well. If the situation turns, we have a couple of contingency plans in place to remain safe (I guess all that post-apocalyptic fiction I read a while ago has been useful).
Stay safe and healthy friends-
At this point, South Africa has less than 70 confirmed cases of Covid-19, so it’s a week or so behind the US, which is a week or so behind Europe. But the government has announced some pretty severe travel restrictions, so that should help slow the spread. There are still some things we are trying to get confirmation on (cancelation of visas, etc). On the bright side of things, South Africa seems to be always prepared for some sort of crisis. Most recently it’s been electricity shortages, water shortages, etc. South Africa has been able to somehow navigate those, so I’m hopeful the nation will be able to navigate Covid-19 as well.
My main concern at this point is all the folks living in the townships/informal settlements. They already have little to no sanitation, social distancing is not an option for them due to proximity, and access to healthcare is limited at best. In all likelihood, once the virus gets in there a lot of people will become sick and likely die.
P has been ordered to work from home for the next few weeks. We are stockpiling food so that we won’t have to go out when things get bad. But this does make me miss our American sized fridge and stocked pantry. We have made plans to combine resources and shelter in place with friends if it gets really bad. And in the event all-out anarchy happens, P’s employer will evacuate us. So, we are very much taking a plan for the worst, hope for the best approach to this. I guess reading “The Stand” and watching “The Walking Dead” did teach me a few things.
I’m more concerned for our friends and family in The States at this point. Thankfully most folks are taking this seriously and doing all they can to prepare. At this point none of my family and friends have been diagnosed with the virus that I know of, so that’s a relief.
Please check in on your loved ones to ensure they are ok.
We decided to do a quick road trip tour of Namibia when a friend was in town. We originally thought about getting a camping 4×4 The kind with pop-up tents on the roof. But in the end, the desire to sleep in an actual bed won the day. So we quickly threw together a plan that would mean nearly 40 hours and 3,800 K/ (2,350 miles) of driving.
We picked up our 4×4 in the morning and set off for the border. It was really cool to drive along the western cape on the N7 and get a feel for the rest of the Western Cape. One thing about South Africa is that it certainly has a varied landscape. The metro area of Cape Town gave way to green grapevines, which gave way to arid mountainous regions.
Arriving at the border for Namibia we were quickly reminded of the typical governmental bureaucracy that South Africa seems to take to new heights. After 45 minutes to an hour navigating multiple buildings to get stamps and a police check, we were finally on our way. I wish I could say there was a long line as usually seen at airports, but nope it was just everyone moving at the pace of molasses in a nuclear winter.
Leaving the border crossing we were quickly dropped into a landscape that resembled something seen on the Moon or Mars. We were all amazed at how empty it seemed. Outside of the occasional car we met, it seemed that we were truly alone. We had been advised that driving on Namibian roads at night was something to avoid at all costs, so we were on a mission to get to our first stop before nightfall. Unfortunately, the delay at the border meant we just missed it.
A quick note here: Namibia has “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” roads. “A” and “B” roads are paved, “C” and “D” roads are gravel. Just like your last exam A is best, and it goes downhill from there.
The next day we decided to take a longer route on a “C” road. WOW!!!! The views we saw on this road were simply amazing, While we took a ton of pictures none of them can do what we saw justice. If you are a professional landscape photographer you should get to Namibia, you won’t regret it. If oceans are your thing Namibia’s also got you covered.
We hit a couple of cities on our tour: first up was the coastal city of Walvis Bay; and then the capital city, Windhoek. Walvis Bay felt a bit like a quaint retirement community. While, Windhoek reminded me of an American city that was at its prime 20 years ago. Given the incredible brutal history of Namibia, it’s great to see these cities doing as well as they look to be. All in all, it seems that Namibia on track to have a bright future.
I’ve gotta say that I really didn’t know what to expect from Namibia, but this experience was amazing and I hope that more people take the time to explore this beautiful country. We had such a great time that we are already talking about doing it again but maybe get in some camping. We just need to be sure to have plenty of water, since Namibia is s the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa.
– Until next time.
How great was our lodge? So great that they gave us a bonus excursion. Since our flight wasn’t leaving until after lunch our guide decided to take us out for an additional morning game drive.
Since we had already been able to see all of the big 5, this was just “gravy”. I took advantage of this time to focus on the landscape and plant life. In an environment as harsh and generally unspoiled by man as this area, there were some truly amazing specimens. There were certain areas and plants that reminded me of scenes from the post apolyptic “Fallout” video game series.
While we were driving around, we saw more of some of the same animals we had seen previously. But unlike previous sightings we were able to get better and closer views of the Marabou storks, Water buffalo, warthogs, and Kudo. It was a nice way to cap off the safari or so I thought.
As we were enjoying these additional sightings, I noticed that our driver seemed to be doubling back, at first I thought this was to get us an even better view of the water buffalo we had just seen. But our guide Jeffrey had other plans.
We got up close and personal with a leopard. For some reason being this close to the leopard made me more nervous than being that close to an entire pride of lions. Lions may be the king of the jungle, but this leopard seemed like it didn’t care and was willing to challenge that notion. After we got some beautiful shots and were driving away, we saw another leopard. Jeffery let us know that this was most likely a pair of siblings.
So now that we had truly seen all the big 5 and have some great pictures as proof it was time to head back. The game reserve was literally across the street from the tiny airport, so they provided us with a shuttle to the Hoedspruit
If you are planning a trip to South Africa and want to do a Safari, I cannot recommend Safari.com and the Kapama private game reserve enough. I would gladly go again and repeat this experience hopefully with our same guide. I asked our guide what the best time to visit is and he said August, September, and October. July tends to still be a bit cold, but it is ok. Once you get into November it starts to get hot, and shortly after that, it’s the rainy season.