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Friday, 25 May 2012


A foreigner in my homeland
by Lesley Beeton

I have lived in the UK for nearly seventeen years, the last twelve years in Surrey, and more recently in Shackleford, a village in the commuter belt to London. Last month, we travelled back to South Africa, our first visit in eight years, and it was not without some trepidation. This story board aims to capture the dichotomy of South Africa, tell you a bit about our holiday and inform you about two wonderful education projects. It also marks the first outing of my new camera, a pre-loved Canon 350 D, so please accept my artistic license with some of the images.

My story starts in Johannesburg, a sprawling city built on a rich seam of gold, which attracts workers from all over Africa. It is dogged by stories of violence and crime, and I'm pleased to say that we saw neither on our holiday. We visited the family at home, with an immaculate garden, cared for by an army of Zimbabwean gardeners. In this photo, you can see a lovely white rose, and one of South Africa's favourite noo-noo's - the praying mantis.

 We arrived in Johannesburg on a bank holiday weekend. As it turned out, it was a five-day weekend starting with the Day of Reconciliation on 27 April and ending on Workers Day on 1 May. Many people were off work, enjoying the unseasonably warm autumn weather. Here, spent an afternoon at Zoo Lake, a beautiful boating lake set in park lands. There used to be a rather posh tea shoppe, which served a delicious baked cheesecake; now there is a bar and a gift shop. Like good tourists, we purchased trinkets and curios for our friends back in the UK. We stayed at the Rosebank Lodge, and we can highly recommend it.

 This prickly fellow is the aloe, a common plant in South Africa. I loved the aspect of the close up of the aloe with the family skipping into the park.

We drove from Johannesburg to the Drakensberg, roughly translated as the dragon's back mountains. The Drakensberg marks the boundary between Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal provinces. It is a mountainous escarpment. The journey takes one through the Free State, where rock formations such as this mesa are commonplace.

 As we approached the escarpment, I couldn't resist taking this photo of the Amphitheatre, a popular hiking region in the Drakensberg and probably the most famous features of the mountains.

 This is the view from the hotel. We stayed at The Cavern Resort and Spa, see our review here. The plants in the foreground are red hot pokers, characteristic of this area, and below, the praying mantis.

I woke up early on our last morning in South Africa, to capture the magnificent African sunrise from our room. There is nothing warmer than the African sun on your face.

We spent some time with Megan Bedingham at The Cavern Resort. Megan and her family have set-up and built a school, The Royal Drakensberg Primary School, for local children. This local school means that the parents of little children no longer have to find the money to travel an hour by taxi to school. No money means no school for many children. The South African government provides no financial support for the school, so it must find funding for teachers and supplies from other sources. Parents are, however, expected to pay R400.00 (about £30.00) a month for each child at the school, and that is a huge sum of money for most of these parents whose main employment is at The Cavern Resort or the neighbouring hotels. The remainder of the school fee is generated by tireless fundraising.

I have previously written about Thandulwazi, a maths and science academy in Johannesburg. And now, I’m asking you to consider the Northern Drakensberg Khanyisela project. Khanyisela means to enlighten. Thandulwazi is the love of knowledge. Two projects inspiring brighter futures for South Africa and its children.

This photo shows just how rugged the landscape is for the local people to move around, and why local services are severely limited.

The herdsman just let his herd cross the road in front of us. It is common place, and we weren't travelling fast, so it was OK - this time. Amusing for the onlookers, but I wonder what might have happened if the cars around us had been travelling at speed?

 And finally, this creation is a reminder of our childhood. A lime milkshake, double thick with ice cream, with a squirt of cream on top - and don't forget the hundreds and thousands!

It was a happy trip, full of nostalgia, although we did rather feel as though we were outsiders. South Africa has changed fundamentally, in many ways for the good. We felt as though we could go around unobserved and unharrassed, like foreigners in our homeland.

Thank you, Jill, for inviting me to guest post again. To read more of my adventures in Surrey, please see Mad dog woman of Shackleford or follow us @Shackleford_LB. You can see my TripAdvisor profile here.

Photo credits: Lesley Beeton, 2012


  1. Wow, looks so good with photos! Thanks so much Jill. Hope everyone will want to go and see for themselves x.

  2. It looks amazing - I can only imagine how lovely the flowers must be. The aloe was incredible - er, makes mine in a pot look embarrassed. I am so sorry about the pics. Enjoy your trip to Frensham.

  3. Another fantastic guest blogger Jill.

    Amazing pictures Lesley.

    Dawn xxx

  4. Wow! Fantastic post! It's good to learn about South Africa and the plight of her people.

  5. A fabulous post Lesley, great to have a little insight into South Africa and education is always such a good cause. Great photos too. It must have been a wonderful trip, Louisa


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