Right Whales and Elephant Pepper

This is part of a series covering BWB Co-Founder Xavier’s trip to Africa.

*November 10, 2007

Since we only arrived a few days ago to South Africa, we are still in the switch-time zone, get–the-lay-of-the-land phase.  Yesterday our group split into three, and my group, including Xavier and fearless leader Henry, went on a drive down toward the Cape of Good Hope. The roads were washed out, so we only got as far as Hout Bay, which is where the British set up camp back in the day (Cape Town was first Dutch), and is also cool because they didn’t really enforce apartheid. I hear Hout Bay even issued its own passports, such was the local pride, which new property owners can still obtain. We made it to Chapman’s Peak, overlooking the bay, and watched Right whales spouting in the waters below.  One even waved to us with his big tail! I felt like I was really at the end of the Earth there, where these green hills dropped right into the sea, near the confluence of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and at the end of a continent so far from my home.
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Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak, South Africa.

Our tour guide Loki, a friend of Xavier’s, is a biologist interested in human-elephant interaction. After observing the troubles between farmers and elephant herds, he started a company called Elephant Pepper that educates farmers in high-incident areas and assists them to grow chilies (which elephants don’t like) along with their subsistance crops and to use the same chilies to make sauces to sell. (The Baobab Gold is perfection; tangy, perfect amount of heat, actually contains baobab…)

I get the impression that there are many support roles here that are filled by non-South Africans, such as in education.  This is not a bad thing, of course. I think if all the best information and resources went where they were needed the world would be a better place, and South Africa is such a great candidate for these resources. It has the infrastructure to receive them, plenty of educated English-speaking folks and cultural connections to most parts of the world.

Today was a travel day. We flew to Durban on the southeast coast, a stopover on our way to the KwaZulu-Natal region, or Zululand.  Cape Town was a good introductory city for our group: beautiful, historic, but still a bit removed from the real poverty of Zululand. Plus, we got to go hiking up Table Mountain this morning and get some ocean views, a real treat!

Xavier remembers his life path to this moment on the Table Mountain hike.

The Durban airport countdown until the next time I will be in South Africa… World Cup 2010!

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