The South Coast and the Black and White Divide

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One day at 10,000 ft, the next at sea level. No easy task, but we had to put some km under our belt in order to arrive in Cape Town by the 23rd of January and have time to see the sights in between. The drive was an atrocious 8 hours on tortuous roads that either went steeply uphill or down. Travel was slow at times due to slow-chugging semis, which were difficult to pass with no passing lanes and blind corners. Not to mention the giant potholes and hazardous livestock on the highway! Cattle and goats are free to graze along the roadside! Always having to be on your toes is an understatement! Ryne is not rattled easily , but after this long, stressful journey he needed a stiff drink to calm his nerves! I mention our stressful drives not to alarm you (we drive with utmost care), but to show that independent travel in another country does have challenges and stressful moments. (It’s not all baby elephant viewing, mountain trekking and frolicking on the beach-although most of the time it is ;)). In the end, the pay off far exceeds the ephemeral stress and discomfort!
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A mobile store along the main highway N2 from Durban to East London. The tub on the woman’s head was full of peaches!

The Rift between Blacks and Whites
We drove south to East London, a ‘proper white city’ on the sea. I don’t recall if I mentioned this yet, but there are a lot of white people in South Africa (12 million out of 56 million are white). I feel naive saying that, but it makes sense if you think about it. Europeans have left their mark pretty much everywhere on this planet and Europian colonialism was more intensive here than most places.

There is a massive and obvious rift between the blacks and whites here. High end luxury and extreme poverty occur side by side, often with little middle ground. This is quite sad and unsettling to me. There are many exceptions, but generally whites live in more desirable parts of cities or own big farms and blacks live on the far reaches of richer cities or in poor ones and villages. It is immaculate in the white area and a dump in the black area. Frankly, it’s revolting with garbage everywhere!

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In our experience, black neighborhoods are typically covered in trash. Why is it that blacks don’t use rubbish bins? I found this odd. Why don’t they care about their land? I looked into this and found out that in the 1950’s white people kicked blacks out of certain cities to try and make them all white. They banned them to the outskirts of town on land that didn’t even belong to them. They had no incentive to keep their land clean because it wasn’t their land and they gently protested by littering. Unfortunately, the environment is paying now due to their bitterness towards whites. It’s terrible because most blacks are actually very clean and work tremendously hard. In these white minority ruling cities, I never see a white person working at a service job. Not at the grocery stores, restaurants, security gates nor parks.  All black, which is good on one hand- it gives them employment , but on the other hand-it’s unfair because you know they are being paid a meager wage. White children are often raised by black nannies. The wage for a nanny is about R1600 (Rand) or $112 per month and that is actually considered a good job.

The following is by Ryne:

After speaking with several South Africans about this complex issue, the consensus seems to be that poor governing is the main problem for both blacks and whites. They cator to business special interest and the ultra-wealthy and do nothing for everyone else (sound familiar?). Water and electricity  in some areas is shut off leaving villagers to fend for themselves! Likewise, other basic infrastructure falls apart with no replacement. On top of that are very poor schools and little job opportunity.

The white population is actually decreasing, which may translate into fewer jobs overall, and more problems for blacks.

We hired an amazing local birding guide from a poor village named Sakhamuzi. His job as a nature guide was his dream since childhood and he was amazingly lucky to get it. Other highly capable people in his village weren’t so lucky.

One thing that really bothers me is that intelligent poor blacks can work extremely hard in school and still have no opportunity. In the U.S. we were always told that all people are equal. In reality that is not entirely true, but we at least try to pretend it is. In South Africa there is no pretending by anyone. There is nothing even closely resembling equality here and it is deeply disturbing. I’ve never felt as white anywhere as I do here and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being called “boss”. -Ryne

I should point out that we have seen plenty of remote black villages dotted with traditional circular stone huts and thatched roofs. They might be dirt poor by an average American’s standards, but they are content and happy with how they live. Day to day survival may take more energy- farming, gathering firewood and fetching water from a communal well-but they are not overly burdened with materialistic goods. I think we can all learn from this simple lifestyle and the world would be a better place if people learned to be comfortabley happy with less.

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Okay, racial divide rant over. Now on to some good fun!

Our reward after a long day of driving: an estuary full of shorebirds (white-fronted plovers, African oystercatchers, whimbrels) moonrise and sunset on a beautiful beach! Just north of East London.

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This little cutie absolutely loves frolicking on the beach!!

The next day we drove a few more hours south to Sunday River Mouth. Just outside of Port Elizabeth and we are now officially on the Southern end of Africa. We trundled up a tall sand dune, and tried to enjoy the view, but couldn’t see it with gobs of sand in our eyeballs! We all raced back down because the whipping wind tortured us with a sand shower. Poor Cy! Check out his face in the pic below!

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One of Cy’s favorite fruits is mango! We eat about 2 per day because they are so cheap (25 cents each) and delicious!
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The abundant and sociable vervet monkey. Yesterday, poor Cypress was reduced to tears when a vervet monkey snatched his yellow pepper right out of his hand. I’m pretty sure they target young children with food!

6 thoughts on “The South Coast and the Black and White Divide”

  1. Hi Ryne, Jen, and Cyrus,

    It was my lucky day that on the very rare occasion I checked the Facebook, Jen’s link to your blog was on the top. I feel so gratefull for the technology that allows me to follow along your adventures. I have bookmarked the page, and although I have been adverse to getting on the internet these days; I’ll be checking back for more gems from you guys regularly.

    I hope you have many more fruitful (both figuratively and literally for Cy and his mangoes) days, and continued safe travels.

    All the Best,
    Tony

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