Monday, July 02, 2007

Out of (South) Africa: A visual journey

Greetings to all. Though I have to return to work this morning (for a rather hectic two days before yet another day off - God bless America), I still very much have South Africa on the brain.

So, while I was glad to see that Pixar's pudgy rat kicked Bruce Willis' rear, I'm not gonna talk about that. Instead, I'd like to share some of my best pics from this incredible journey, easily one of the most special I've ever had the pleasure to make. Enjoy!

1. Soweto

We landed in Johannesburg (or Jozi, or Joburg, or Gauteng, or probably many other names, depending on who you ask), and never managed to get much of a grasp on it, to be honest. It's just a big, crazy city, and I would love to spend more time there and get to know it (and maybe I will in 2010 for the next World Cup.)

The most rewarding thing we did there this time was make a visit to Soweto with our excellent tour guide Henry Lebea. This township just outside Joburg, famous as an iconic image of apartheid, is easily one of the most interesting places on earth. Within a five-mile-or-so stretch, you can see all the progress made since the ANC came to power in 1994 and, on the next block, poverty that will just make your heart ache.

Here are two shots that I like, one on the way in and one of the kids who greeted us inside (conveniently enough, they were out of school because of a massive teacher/hospital worker strike.)

2. On to Kruger

Kruger National Park, the second stop on our tour that my brother rather facetiously (but accurately, I guess) called "how white people see South Africa," is a true wonder to behold. Essentially a wide open stretch of land with a few rest camps put in for the humanoids to inhabit, it's home to almost all the creatures I had until now only been able to see in the zoo.

Though we did take one night drive led by a Kruger ranger who was able to hunt down the animals like, well, the hunter he probably used to be, it was more fun to just ride around by ourselves and see what we could encounter. The thrill of discovery was never better than when I was looking out the window to see what I thought was a tree trunk slowly start to move. Rather than something from "The Wizard of Oz," it was actually the leg of one member of a small herd of elephants, and watching them emerge from the brush was exhilirating. Here are three shots I really like:


3. Capetown

Capetown, South Africa, is simply one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Look at it from afar and you see a coastal resort city to rival anything on the French riviera. Upon closer inspection, it's also a very lively place with as much to offer tourists as any of the world's great destinations. Here are some visual highlights.

These extremely cute critters, who exist along the Cape at a sanctuary called the Borders, once had the unfortunate name of "Jackass Penguins" because they indeed have a tendency to bray like a donkey. Luckily, someone had the sense to change their name to African Penguins somewhere along the way.

Table mountain, along with towering over and beautifully framing Cape Town, is also the longest/highest combo I've hiked in some time. Above is my brother and I about half way up the 3,500-foot-high peak (luckily I'm in the back so you can't see just how much I'm sweating.) Though we probably started from about 1,000 feet up, it was still quite a climb (see the evidence below, with the cable car route for the wusses who didn't want to take the journey on foot.

The voyage to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and many other political prisoners were locked away in isolation, proved to be a bit of a disappointment, but the boat ride to get there did provide the chance to shoot this vision of beautiful Cape Town from the sea. Though you can't see her in the picture, my brother assures me that the mother of Chris "Ludacris" Bridges was on the boat with us.

And, finally, what better way would there be to close out the perfect two-week vacation than with a trip to what must be the premiere wine region on Earth? Just outside Cape Town is the town of Stellenbosch, home to no less than 120 beautiful wineries. We visited four of them, and I brought home choice libations from the last two. Pictured below are the Rustenberg, where I purchased a nice wine made from the viognier grape, and the very rustic Muratie, where I probably spent too much on a 2005 bottle of port (but there are few pleasures in life that rival a great glass of port, so could you really pay too much?)


I could share many more (in my first excursion with a digital camera, I managed to shoot 189 pictures of wildly varying quality), but unfortunately I now have to return to work. Peace out.

P.S.: R.I.P Edward Yang

A quick word of respect for Taiwanese director Edward Yang, who died last weekend at the age of 59 after battling colon cancer.

I had to look back at my list of 10 favorite directors to see if the great Mr. Yang made the cut, and I'm ashamed to say he didn't, if only because he simply chose not to work very often.

In this case, however, it was definitely a triumph of quantity over quality. His masterpiece, "Yi Yi," is a sublime meditation on the nature of modern city life disguised as a rather mundane soap opera (and if you've seen Sofia Coppola's "Lost In Translation," she cribbed most of the style of that flick from one fantastic Tokyo-set scene in this one.) It's easily among my favorite movies. I also managed to see Yang's previous "Mahjong," also worth checking out if you can find it on DVD.

After a seven-year break post-"Yi Yi," he had recently started working on an animated movie with Jackie Chan to be called "The Wind," but they never got to finish it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Yang.


renee said...

It's good to have you back! Great pictures - it sounds like an incredible trip. Someday I've got to go to Africa.

jeremy said...

Welcome back, Keith! Great pics--can't wait for your thoughts on Ratatouille.

Mercurie said...

Glad you're back! Love the pix and I am also anxious to hear what you have to say Ratatouille (I plan to see it July 4...this weekend I saw Live Free or Die Hard, which I actually liked). Sad to hear about Yang. Yet another person who died much too young.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks all ... I'm glad to hear that Die Hard 4 (at least I think there's been that many) didn't stink, Mercurie ... I may see it Wednesday in a twin bill with Ratatouille, or I may only have the time to see one flick ... If that's the case, Pixar's rat will definitely be getting my money

ryan said...

Glad to have you back, Keith. This may be the first (and only) time that I'm actually ahead of you on movies!

RC said...

wow, those are some great pixs indeed.

thanks for sharing them

Reel Fanatic said...

Though I probably admit it, this was the first time I've even bothered to get a digital camera, RC, so I'm just glad I managed to shoot anything at all

Divinity said...

Welcome back, Keith! Transformers is a lot of fun! Ratatouille, this week for sure.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm gonna see them both back to back today, Divinity, and I can't wait ... What could be more all-American than watching giant robots battle for the future of the planet?

Chris said...

Welcome back! Great shots here... looks like you had a good time! :)