After a month with the students at Lake Sibaya, our team had some planning (and resting!) to do. There was also the chance to do a drone flyover video for a new client in South Africa, so I ended up staying a few extra days at the camp to work, relax, and plan. It was out of our budget to take the Land Rover back to the airport, so I agreed to a 4 hour mini bus ride from Hluhluwe to the bus station in Durban. It was my first minibus experience in South Africa, and one of my few times traveling alone in the country.
Here's how it works... You wait in the station until every last space is full, and that's when you take off. This could take minutes or hours, depending on the demand that day. It took about an hour to fill up and we were off, all 18 of us packed in like sardines, but I was happy to be on our way. I have to admit, I was fairly uncomfortable at first in my little jump seat by the door. I speak no Zulu, had a large wheeled bag on my lap, and was the only foreigner on the bus. During the first 2 hours, the young woman behind me was dozing off, and I got a solid head butt each time she nodded forward falling asleep. She later apologized, which was welcome. We dropped people off along the way, a few just on the side of the highway where it seems like nothing could possibly be around. The bus made sufficient rest stops though, and got us safely to downtown Durban where I got off and tried to figure out what to do next. After seeing my confusion and touch of anxiety, the bus driver pointed to a few taxis across the street and off I wheeled! My flight back to Mauritius was early the next day, so I found a parked, empty taxi and he took me to Tekweni Backpackers for the night.
They didn't have much left in the way of rooms, so I took a bunk in a 6 bed dorm and was almost immediately invited out to a celebration of Francophone Africa in a local park. There were 4 of us from the backpackers, and it was nice to be in a place where I could get from point A to B without the use of a Land Rover! There was a main stage, and the area was surrounded by craft vendors, beer trucks, and food stalls. A wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening, and I was careful to walk back fairly early for my 5am shuttle to King Shaka.
It always feels like coming home to arrive to Chez Jacques, and this was no exception. My little room under the stairs was waiting, and it was a welcome respite after the camp full of students and travelers in Sibaya. That week I also had a chance to visit with some friends I had made during my visit in 2014. The photos are of a game we created for some children at a local orphanage - monster mash! Ivan even made one of my favorites that weekend - grilled Dorado & octopus potato salad, with a side of ladyfingers. Heavenly!
I also returned to the great news that someone at the University of Mauritius had heard about my talk at the Science Center and wanted to meet. I agreed, and we met at the public beach for a talk. I immediately liked the Dean, and after just a few minutes we set up a meeting where I was to present open source mapping to a group of academics and government professionals at the University. After the talk, we had a round table conversation about mapping needs in Mauritius that ranged from toxic waste sights to historic places and environmental features. It became very apparent that maps and data were needed, and that capacity building could benefit the entire country. It went well, but I walked away without any concrete plans. I had some business cards, and the Dean was to get back to me regarding the opportunity for future training at the University. Nonetheless, when I boarded the return flight to Newark just a few days later, I was feeling like I had made the right decision to follow my instincts and revisit Mauritius... You don't know unless you go!
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Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference & a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born.
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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