Sunday, August 16, 2009

Africa tour day 1, Nkandla area and Sister Maria

The next few posts are from our week long trek through South Africa's, KwaZulu Natal. It has been a fabulous week or a common term used..."just divine!" I hope you enjoy.

Africa tour day 2, the Talana Museum

Africa tour day 3, Maria Ratschitz Convent

We had the absolute pleasure to stay with Mission head Sister Irmingard and the other wonderful Nun's from Maria Ratschitz. This is an amazing and very spiritual landscape set in the trees below the mountains of Dundee. The property is mainly used as a hospice for the the surrounding community struggling with AIDS and TB. Sister Irmingard has also just began seeing the need for supporting the youth in the area. Wanting to see a significant difference in the number of HIV/AIDS cases she has realized that education and relationship building with the youth is making a huge impact. It was wonderful to see the love and care that the sisters have towards this very marginalized and often discarded population of people (HIV/AIDS/TB) Below is a bit of history from Maria Ratschitz.

The Revival of Maria Ratschitz:

With no priest residing at Maria Ratschitz, the uninhabited old Trappist buildings turned slowly into ruins. The church also greatly deteriorated. In 1996 a large and anonymous donation from Germany was received for the express purpose of restoring the church of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. The Diocese immediately commenced work on the restoration of the church and the Monastry. Architects, engineers, contractors, artists, restorers, religious brothers and other people of good will from South Africa and from overseas were means in the hand of God to complete the material structures of the mission. On the 20th August 2000, the Jubilee Year, a Solemn Service of Rededication was held at Maria Ratschitz.

Spiritual Spring at Maria Ratschitz:

At the beginning of 1998, the first three Franciscan Nardini Sisters arrived at Maria Ratschitz. In August of the same year, also a priest moved in. Visiting the Families encouraging people for meetings, prayers, celebrations, Christian education and other activities were signs of a spiritual restarting. People from the nearer village, especially youth, came to celebrate the new-year eve (1999) with a special night vigil in the building church that it was still occupied by scaffoldings. Then on Easter Monday (5th April 1999) the same people was climbing the mountain, and on top of Hlatikhulu, the old cross of the Trappists was raised up again; the celebration of the Eucharist on that high place was a kind of mandate for the new evangelization.

Now Maria Ratschitz Mission got his Parish Priest caring for his flock. The sisters have set up a care centre and Hospice. They train care-givers for home-based care-giving and run the education programs in order to face positively and even to stop the HIV/AIDS.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Africa tour day 4,5,6, Umzolozolo Lodge, Nambiti Conservancy.

This was the absolute highlight and reason for our trip. We stayed at the Umzolozolo lodge in the heart of the Nambiti conservancy. It is a 22,000 hector private game reserve in the KwaZulu Natal province. Our room, perched high upon a mountain, looked down on the beautiful grasslands with the Drakenberg mountains far off in the distance. There are not protective fences around the lodge and the animals move about freely. The night before we arrived a large bull elephant made his rounds and destroyed the surrounding trees, garden and small looked like a war had taken place. During the evening everyone was required to be escorted to their rooms because of the risk of lions. It was fun to sit and listen in the dark to the cracking of branches and rustling of the grass, imagining what may be lurking just beyond the light! One of the highlights every evening was listening to the more "seasoned" safari experts talk about their experiences and horror the lady who went out to the loo unaccompanied and never returned. The lion apparently didn't feel bad about an easy opportunity!

Nambiti Conservancy is a private Big Five bush retreat and game conservancy set on 20,000 acres of malaria-free bushveld in KwaZulu Natal. It has an incredible biodiversity including savannah, grasslands, thornveld and tall acacia trees. The Sundays River flows through the reserve and has two 40 metre waterfalls with magnificent ravine bush, home to several rare bird species.

The mission at Mambiti is to undertake scientific research on wildlife and their ecology in order to provide sound scientific information and advice to the individuals responsible for making decisions and passing resolutions that ultimately affect wildlife and their conservation.

The greatest threat facing our planet is indeed its people and our lack of respect for that which sustains us. We can irreversibly transform our world for the worse or introduce the changes required to avert environmental disaster. Conservation, research and education programmes are vital if we are to be able to curb the declining wildlife numbers.

The kids were in awe daily as we explored and experienced the wonderful wildlife and terrain. The absolute highlight was watching these three Cheetahs. They are brothers that separated from the other Cheetah group some time ago. On the last day there we were able to watch them devour an Impala kill. After, they were so fat and lazy they could hardly walk. When they found a comfortable spot they just dropped to the ground. Our guide Bradley told us that Cheetahs eat only about every 5-7 days because of their high (exclusive)protein diet.

We were sad to leave! I have never experienced such pampering, service, exceptional food or wildlife viewing ever! Below is a few of the animals and sights we experienced. I hope you enjoy. This is an experience we won't soon forget!