Today was the day we had to leave our lovely beehive huts and make our way via minibus to our final destination Hlane where we would go completely back to nature with no electricity, no wifi, no phone signal and no lighting apart from via paraffin lamps. I was really looking forward to this because we could sense the real Africa and this was the national park that has the big game such as lions, rhinos, giraffes, leopards alongside the Impala, Nyala, Blesbok and Wildebeest. It was going to take about 2 hours to get there and Jenny had arranged for us to visit a school which catered for disabled children as well as mainstream children. This was run by a charity called St Joseph’s mission whose motto is “we can do it”. They had all kinds of children from 5 up to whatever age really, I spoke to a 23 year old for instance. We got there and we were welcomed by a member of staff and several children came up to give us hugs and handshakes which was lovely. We were taken to the toilet first before heading in to talk to the head mistress who happened to be in a wheelchair, she told us all about the mission and she was so passionate about the work they do and the children they support and about the wonderful gentleman who had set the mission up but unfortunately he had died 2 weeks prior to our visit so the school was still in mourning. It was an incredibly moving part of our day, I was in tears as were several others. We went to visit several classrooms one of whom had children with communication disabilities and then we went onto a class of students with Down syndrome all whom were so cheerful and when I gave one of the boys a high five another lad wanted it too :). We then went on to see several classes of visually impaired/blind students all who had Perkins braillers or large print which was handwritten not typed like in England and they had nowhere near the amount of technology and resources we have here but they made do. We then went into see some older students with visual impairments and several of us spoke to a student. The girl I had was 23 and partially sighted, at first she was a bit nervous but I got her talking and we then went on to talk about all sorts like what she wanted to be, discrimination, boyfriends and dating etc and time was whiling away fast and before I knew it I could sense someone behind me and Jack was talking to Sarah saying we need to go which was hard because she was asking when will we go back to see them and I didn’t know, it truly was an inspirational place and some incredibly passionate people working there and the students were just so lovely and you could see how much they enjoyed school, the school gets no government funded and the children have to pay to go to school and the girl I spoke to said her brothers and sisters and don’t get to go to school, she is the only one because it’s so expensive! Education is such a big part of everybody’s life and to think how fortunate we are to get free education which I’m sure a lot of us take for granted, when you go to a place that makes you realise how fortunate we really are.
Once we had left we got back on the bus and headed on for Hlane. On the way in there were giraffes on our right hand side such graceful creatures which I managed to capture on my camera with its zoom capacity which helps me magnify and find things which are far away. Once we got in our huts were ready for us to settle in to so what we did was we just put our bags in and came for lunch which was by watering hole where we saw a rhino strolling down for a brief drink before going away again, there were also 3 hippos I was told sitting in the water and splashing their backs every so often so they don’t get sunburn.
At 4:30 we did our first game drive in Hlane with Sicelo and Dumi whilst the other jeep had Sunny boy. We didn’t see much on this safari but we hoped that over the next few days we would see something. We then came back for dinner and loo break as I was quite desperate at this point and so were several others. We had another lovely meal to top off a fantastic day and went to bed happy and very sleepy.
Forgot to add to yesterday’s that we had a wonderful barbecue under the stars on our last evening at Mlilwane where I tried Wildebeast sausages and pork chops which were very nice. We had a lovely evening and a wonderful chat with Anja, Dietmar, Jo and Jo about guide dogs etc.
Next day’s blog tomorrow…