South Africa: Day 17 (The Lion Park and Dinner with The Horners)

We ate breakfast and then waited to be transferred to a new room. . . again. I didn't take any pictures, but our new "room" was more like a house. The type of house you would rent in college with a funny layout, sloped ceilings, and creaky floors. There were three large bedrooms, a living room with a wood-burning stove, and a full kitchen. After living in tight quarters for a couple of weeks, it was nice to have some space. And since Chandlers Guest House per person, rather than per room, it was the same price as the smaller rooms we had stayed in.

Immediately after we unpacked our luggage, Rachel spotted a gecko running across the pillow in her bedroom. I'm sure you can imagine how that played out. . . 

Derrick and Gcobisa were supposed to join us for breakfast, but they arrived too late. Derrick had spent the night in Amalinda with his cousins, John Paul and Tyrone. He didn't take any luggage with him because he didn't want to have to stay awake guarding it. But he still didn't get any sleep. They kept him up most of the night, repeatedly asking him for money and tekkies (shoes). 

When we weren't driving them around, Derrick and Gcobisa waited for Gcobisa's cousin's boyfriend to provide them with transportation. There are hundreds and thousands of taxis (minibuses crammed with at least 15 people) in East London, but they didn't use them at all. (Akin to a high school student going out of their way not to ride a school bus.)

Derrick decided he was finished staying with his cousins and that it would be easiest for him to get a room at Chandlers Guest House. By the time we got Derrick's room sorted out, Gcobisa's brother, who worked nearby, was on his lunch break. So he came over to meet us. 

Derrick, Gcobisa, and Lonwabo:

We finally left for the day. We got lunch from KFC and drove past Port Rex Technical High School:

This is where Derrick went to school, so he got out for some pictures: 

Derrick actually started high school at Selborne College High School, the boys' section of Clarendon High School (where Gcobisa went to school). But shortly thereafter, his Aunt Shirley decided that it was too expensive and sent him to Port Rex. (Her sons continued going to the more expensive school.) Most all of the schools in East London are publicly funded, but the fees vary from school to school.

The students were let out of school earlier than normal because they were in the middle of "writing exams" (taking their mid-term tests). These kids let me take a picture of them in their school uniforms:

These boys were playing soccer. . . in their ties and sweaters:

Look at their amazing view of the ocean:

Then we drove to the Flowerdays to pick up Erin. This is Derrick with Callum Flowerday: 

The main attraction at the Flowerday's house was the turtles: 

I bet you can guess what Adam wants for his birthday. . .  

We took Erin with us to a place about ten minutes outside of town called The Lion Park:

The entrance fee was something like $3.50 for adults and maybe half that for kids. 

We didn't really know much about the place; the first animal we saw was a crocodile:

Then we saw some gigantic tortoises; there were at least a dozen of them wandering around. 

Did you know that the world's oldest living tortoise is 181 years old?

The Lion Park had all sorts of wild animals:

And just like everywhere else we went, there wasn't anybody around to monitor things. (That just wouldn't happen in the United States.)

We walked by the fence with the cheetah and it went from this:

To this, faster than you can blink:

Crazy fast. The cheetah is the fastest land animal and can reach speeds of 70-75 miles per hour. 

This fallow deer walked right up to us and ate out of our hands: 

The kids couldn't believe it:

Steve was trying to pose for a picture with the deer, but she just wanted his food: 

It was even funnier when Steve set the bag of food down on the picnic table. A minute or two later,  she just went over and helped herself:

There were lots of peacocks:

Lots of turkeys: 

And lots of bunnies: 

We probably don't need to bother with Baby Animal Days ever again. . . Did I mention that nobody else was there?

The deer just walked around and let everyone pet her:

We finally went and found someone who could help us with what we really came for. The Lion Park doesn't always have cubs, but our timing was perfect and they had three white lion cubs.

Adam was so excited to hold a lion, so we let him in first:

Immediately after posing for this picture, the cub nipped at him, and he was out of there.

I couldn't really blame him. Those cubs seem cute and cuddly, but there was a surprisingly long list of safety rules, especially for South Africa. Only three people allowed inside at a time. No picking up the cubs, but okay to let them climb on you. No loud noises. And no sudden movements (which can be difficult to avoid when a lion is clawing or biting at you.)

Rachel and Lucy went inside next: 

Rachel posed for some pictures, and then she let Erin have a turn:

Kaleigh stayed nice and safe, on the outside of the fence: 

These lion cubs are fed three live chickens each, every other day. Together, they can eat half of a cow. Once I knew that the cubs were used to eating flesh, I was a little nervous about being around them. 

But how often do you have a chance to play with lion cubs? Steve coaxed Adam into going back inside with him:

Derrick and Gcobisa played with the cubs too, but I didn't go inside with them, so I don't have any pictures from the inside.

There were three female white lions in an enclosed area; this was the closest view we got:  

The giraffes peacefully wandered around with the lions: 

There were some other random animals at The Lion Park, kept in cages. Like this meerkat: 

Meerkats belong to the mongoose family and are believed to protect villages from the moon devil (or werewolf). The word "meerkat" is Dutch for "lake cat", but the meerkat is not from the cat family and is not attracted to lakes. 

There were also some alpacas: 

Did you know there's an alpaca farm near Ogden? Lucy's class took a field trip there a couple years ago. 

The kids had all sorts of fun playing:

They could have stayed for another few hours, but we had to go. Before we left, Steve pet the crocodile:

(Derrick might have poured some water on him.)

Just as I was about to walk out of the park, I heard a loud lion's roar. It was crazy to hear and much, much deeper than expected. I ran back to see the white lion, but this was as close as I could get:  

The cheetah was pacing back and forth, back and forth. She was watching some men clear back behind the lion fence, who were dropping off animal meat for the lions to eat. 

I wanted to get some better pictures of the cheetah, but then I got scared. The cheetah was eyeing flesh from across the field, and there I was, just on the other side of a six-foot fence. 

It felt like the cheetah should have been able to jump right out of there, and I decided it was time to go. (I have since learned that cheetahs don't have a collarbone, which prevents them from being able to jump very high.)

On our drive back to East London, we passed hundreds of homes, with their laundry hanging out to dry: 

 It was Friday night, and that must be the night to do your washing: 

We drove straight to the Flowerdays, where we dropped off Erin and Rachel. Our plans were to have dinner with all of the Horners, so we figured we would avoid another anxiety attack. Derrick really wanted the whole family there and was slightly put out, but I think he understood that it just wasn't going to work for Rachel. 

There had been a lot of discussion about what we were going to do for dinner. Some of the Horners wanted to have a braai, but they didn't actually have a place to hold a braai that was within walking distance for everyone. A braai, which is basically a barbecue, would have required a lot of preparation, a lot of participation, and it looked like it was going to rain. We were in favor of something easy. So we dropped my camera off at a photo store to be cleaned and then went to Scooters to pick up pizza. We ordered ten small pizzas for something like $22. I think we paid almost as much for the soda we bought at the Pick n Pay as we did for the pizza. 

Things were a lot more calm this time. This is Derrick with his Aunt Cynthia: 

I loved seeing Mechaelar's YW Camp certificates hanging on the living room wall: 

Here's Derrick with three of his cousins: Eduardo, Mechaelar, and Shantal:  

Eduardo was dressed like that because he had just returned from the bush

Here is Derrick with his cousins Zane and Isaac:

Deborah and Cynthia: 

Kaleigh loved all of the attention she got. Mechaelar and Zane were her favorites: 

She seemed right at home with Mechaelar: 

We had a great visit, and I wasn't too sad that Shirley didn't come. (She said she had transportation problems.)

Derrick and Gcobisa stayed to visit, but Steve and I left with the three kids. The guards at the gate searched our van (which is so funny. . . what were they looking for. . . someone we had smuggled out of their apartment?) One of the guards told us we had to pay him some money, but Steve told him we didn't have any and pulled away. (He is bolder than I am.)

We went and dropped Lucy off at the Flowerdays. She was a good sport to go with us to have dinner with the Horners, but she wasn't about to miss out on a sleepover. (We generally have a no sleepover rule, but when you go to South Africa, you do what you have to.) 

Steve and I went back to our freezing cold room at Chandlers Guest House with only two kids. We thought we were going to have a quiet night, but that's not how it worked out. 

We noticed that our laundry had been washed, folded, and delivered back to our room. My jaw dropped when I saw the bill was close to $100. I was bothered because I told Steve to ask how much it cost to have it done before he sent it away, but he said we were in Africa and everything was cheap. (Keep in mind that it was laundry for eight people. . . a whole lot of laundry. . . and it sure was nice to have those clothes cleaned.) 

We couldn't get the hot water to work. It took four or five minutes to get any warm water, and then as soon as Adam got in the shower, the water turned to freezing cold. And then a few seconds of scalding hot. And then back to freezing cold. There was a lot of screaming, but I finally got him showered, Kaleigh bathed, and both put to bed. 

And then the party started. Seriously. . . a bachelor party. . . taking place right below our room. Our windows shook and the plates in the kitchen cupboards rattled with the music until about midnight. Adam and Kaleigh slept through it, and we were glad that Rachel and Lucy were at the Flowerdays. We were only slightly bothered by the noise; they were lucky that we are night people. 

I assumed if I waited long enough, there would be more hot water. But I assumed incorrectly. There was no hot water. None at all. I'm talking ice cold water. . . and our room was freezing cold too. This was the first night of our trip (aside from our flight) that I had to go to bed without a shower. I know that doesn't matter to most people, but just know that it about killed me. I went to bed dirty, cold, and hungry (which means I couldn't sleep). Steve told me I was getting the full South African experience. . .  and then started snoring. 

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