Dropping more than half-a-mile in five distinct free-leaping cascades, Tugela Falls (948 meters) is Africa’s tallest waterfall, and second in the world only to Venezuela’s Angel Falls. After hiking through Royal-Natal to get a glimpse of Tugela from below, D ascended to the top of the Amphitheatre on his last day in the Drakensberg to stand at the waterfall’s edge.
“For a better marriage, act like a single person,” wrote Stephanie Coontz in a recent pre-Valentine’s Day op-ed in the NY Times. She went on to cite several interesting studies measuring couples’ happiness, which seemed to point to a measurable – and positive – difference in the happiness levels of couples that maintained their pre-marriage hobbies compared to those who devoted themselves exclusively to family. Intuitively, this makes sense. We love our kids, but they can also be too much, and if we didn’t have outlets – yoga, poker, Ultimate Frisbee – we’d drive ourselves nuts.
“There’s not much to do in Lesotho,” a South African friend told D, “except to look at it.” This struck D as reason enough to plan a brief visit to this, the highest country in the world. Having already decided to spend several days in the Drakensberg Mountains – Lesotho’s spiritual homeland, according to another South African acquaintance – it seemed silly not to make at least a day trip to Lesotho. Getting there, however, proved a bit of a challenge.
Work took D to South Africa a few short weeks after we had completed our Garden Route trip, presenting an opportunity to explore a little more of what is quickly becoming one of our favorite countries in the world. The possibilities were at once numerous and difficult to execute. D only had a long weekend at his disposal before he had to report for work to the consulate in Johannesburg, and all of the destinations that had piqued his interest were at least 4-5 hours’ drive away.
Mauritius is a fascinating place. Successive occupation by first the Dutch, then the French, and finally the British have forged a multi-religious, multi-ethnic nation that is Africa’s most densely populated. [With twelve million people crammed into a country the size of Maryland, Rwanda – where we live – is the most densely populated nation on the African continent. At 640 inhabitants per square kilometer, Mauritius is 40% more densely populated!] Rwanda definitely feels crowded, so it was quite a trip to visit an even smaller, even more densely populated nation.
After five days in Mauritius – three of which we spent waiting out a cyclone warning – we were beginning to feel more than a little stir crazy. As soon as the storm had passed and the meteorological service had lifted the cyclone advisory, we booked a car to take us around the island.
Although we enjoyed our stay in Mauritius (how could one not?!), it did not wow us in the same way that our visits to Zanzibar and Madagascar had. This is partly because we skipped some of the island’s most scenic locales and partly because the timing of our visit, coming at the tail end of the cyclone season, was less than ideal. We arrived to clear skies and flawless weather; a cyclone warning went into effect less than 48 hours later.