South Africa – Wedding and Amanzingwe Lodge

Thursday June 21

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We left town mid morning and headed to Amanzingwe Lodge where the wedding was to be held. Amanzingwe translates to “where the leopard sleeps”. You may need to click on the image below to get a better view of the map.

Amanzingwe Lodge; north west of Joburg;  just north of the Cradle of Humankind

I think I’ve said it before on the blog but when I look at the map I realize just how lost I was the whole time. I would have sworn we were headed south east of Johannesburg. I think it is a result of my subconscious tracking the sun when calculating directions. Since we were in the southern hemisphere the sun was in the northern sky instead of the southern sky.

The lodge was a great place with wonderful food. In addition to the chapel where the wedding was to be held, there is a large dining room and some accommodations. All the buildings have thatched roofs, which was interesting to live under. All the buildings have very tall lightening rods. Guess they don’t want to risk having lightening hit those thatch roofs.

The lodge and living accommodations. Notice all the lightening rods. 

The vegetation is incredible. There is an arms race between the animals and the plants. The thorn trees sport spikes as long as my little finger.

A thorn tree in our front yard

We got there in the early afternoon and Henriët had organized a game drive at a local preserve. This preserve keeps the predators in fenced areas and the plant eaters can graze unmolested

Angie was our driver; she is an animal lover who has been working at the game preserve for a couple of years. 

Angie; our driver

 Our first stop was a pond with three hippos. They were across the pond when we drove up but they quickly turned our way and swam over for a closer look.
Click the pictures to get better views of the images.

Getting the stink eye from mama hippo
The only animal that kills more people in Africa than hippos are mosquitos. Angie warned us to be quiet and stay seated. If they started to get out of the water she was going to roar out of there. One of the hippos gave us a little warning display; I was a bit slow on the camera.

An open mouth display showing teeth is a warning

A few minutes later we saw a giraffe grazing. It shows why the thorn trees have developed the thorns; but they don’t seem to faze the tall grazer.  We saw a large picture ad at the Johannesburg airport featuring this very giraffe.

Grazing and gazing

 Of all the animals we saw on our trip, the giraffes were the ones who actually looked at us the most.

Pretty girl

 Then we came upon a mama elephant with two kids.  They had handlers nearby and the allowed us to got up close and touch them. It was very eerie to be next to an animal this large. At one point she decided to turn around and graze elsewhere. She didn’t say excuse me or start slowly; she just turned like we weren’t there at all; we had to jump away quickly. The ears are very soft.

Me, Carla, Jeff, Henriët, Jeanette, and Andrew petting an elephant in South Africa!

We went by the areas where the lions, leopards, and hyenas were; the cats were busy patrolling their territory and growling at one another. One of the leopards only had 3 legs. One night it fell asleep with its leg sticking out of the fence. A lion came along and bit it off. I bet that was a loud night.

Friday June 22 – Wedding Day!

The big day arrived! This was the primary purpose of the whole trip. Andrew and Henriët were married! Apparently the bride has to go through a lot of preparation on her wedding day; the father of the groom, not so much. So, Trix, Heloise, and I took off in Engela’s baakie (small Mazda pickup truck) to check out the dam that creates the huge lake.

A short distance from the lodge we saw a man selling fish on the corner. We took a closer look on the way back. He catches fish up at the dam then dresses them and hangs them up near a small smoky fire to dry. He said he easily sells 20 a day.

Fish monger , South African style

When we got back to the lodge, Henriët’s sister Jeanette (family name Donet) had arrived with her husband Willi, and kids Daniël (pronounced “donyul”  more or less) and Julia. The parents bought Daniël a bald eagle toy for the drive and he spent the weekend playing with it, correctly demonstrating the eagle’s call.

Henriët’s nephew Daniël enjoying Amanzingwe
And then it was time for the wedding. The ceremony was done half in English and half in Afrkaans and included a lovely message from the minister. Andrew and Henriët have performed at countless weddings so they were pretty clear on what they wanted for everything, especially the music. They hired the Johannesbury Philharmonic Brass Quintet. In 3 words; they were a maze ing. 
I didn’t take too many pictures since there was a professional photographer there. For some stunning pictures by Chrisopher Munton, check the link.
Jeanette, Henriët, Andrew, Carla, Howard

Henriët’s family:  brother Ben, Jeanette, Andrew, and sister Jeannette (Donet)

Jeanette, Engela, Henriët, Andrew Heloise (auntie), Mia (cousin) Jurgen (uncle) and wife.

South African weddings are very similar to American ones. The biggest difference is they cut the cake immediately after the ceremony. Then they left for a photo session. After that we ate a great meal. Another Afrikaans tradition is that when the groom starts to make his speech he is immediately interrupted by a boisterous song. The words basically translate to “children by the dozen”. Carla, Jeff, and I wondered what it was; we had a great laugh after it was translated.

Saturday June 23

The next morning we all packed up and headed back to Johannesburg. As I’ve mentioned, South Africans are very hospitable. Even though we had just met Adrian and Irien’s family they treated us like one of their own. We were invited to LaCell and Heidri’s home for LaCell’s birthday party. We got to watch a good part of a South Africa v. England rugby match. Given the history between the English and Afrikaans this is an intense rivalry. South Africa won the 3 game series 2-0-1. 
Dinner started with a delicious bowl of squash and bacon soup; the main course was ox tail poikie (stew) which is LaCell’s favorite; I can see why.
LaCell’s best friends were there and they had a great time hooting and hollering at the game. During dinner his friend (name?) who comes from Durbin told us stories about when he served in the South African / Angolan war. One night when they were in base and bored they made a bet to see who could get closest to a wild elephant (not like the tame elephant we had gotten close to). They dipped their hands in a lime solution, and snuck up on the elephant to plant their hands as high up the elephant’s back side as possible. For days after, elephants could be seen with large hand prints on their butts. 
LaCell’s best friend and his wife

 Jones, Adrian and Irien’s son was also there and showed us the metal work he had worked on since we saw him last. When we saw him at the braai, he showed us the plans. It still needs some finishing. He’ll do a set of them for a wall.

Jones displaying his metal work
We went to bed and prepared for our safari!

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