Friday, April 3, 2015

Disneyland…I mean Africa!

We have been so blessed to have three of our five children visit us in Africa.  Visiting in July was Mark and Lisa and their three boys, Matt and Loni in November, and Ryan and Wendy arrived March 27th and stayed through April 3rd.  Showing our children Africa is like taking a six-year old to Disneyland for the first time.  It is just full of wonders and beauties.  
Sunday was the Port Alfred Branch Conference.  Since our branch functions under the direction of the Cape Town Mission, they were able to meet President Merrill, President and Sister Thomas (first counselor), President and Sister Hogbun (second counselor) and of course our missionaries.  President Merrill asked "Elder Wheeler #2 and Sister Wheeler #2 to offer their testimonies in the meeting.  We all came back to our flat for lunch and chatting.  It was a great day.

A trip to Port Alfred is just not complete without meeting Gambit.  This gentle giant was raised by humans and prefers to be around humans.  He is intimidating standing at 17 feet tall.  He moves so gracefully, but don't try to run under him.  Just ask Matt Watson about that!  He can kill a lion with one kick.  A highlight for us with this trip was to see Wendy's love for these animals.  

Another must in Port Alfred is a stroll along the beaches of the Indian Ocean.  We snapped this picture of Ryan…or was it Moses parting the seas?

Nope.  It was Ryan.  No miracle saved him from the crashing of this wave!!!

We got within five feet of this King of the Jungle.  A highlight for me on this trip to the Kwantu Game Reserve was waking up in the morning to the sound of lions roaring.  That's right…no cockadoodle doing, but the roar of a lion.  Majestic.  

Addo Elephant Park is nothing short of amazing.  We drove through the park for about two hours with only seeing one elephant.  The sun began to set and my oh my…they came from everywhere.  This little parade was headed to the watering hole.  The reddish tint that you see here is not the glow of the sun.  It had been a particularly hot day and they had been rolling in the red dirt.  We watched them parade to the waterhole and then stood in amazement as they played in the water.  

All through the Elephant Park we saw warning signs that said…"Do Not Run Over Dung Beetles".  Who knew that Wendy's brother Josh had written a report on these critters.  Evidently, Wendy must have helped him, because she gave us quite a lesson about them.   I have since done some reading about these little guys.  Some species in some countries are consider sacred.  The one pictured here is called a "roller".  He takes the elephant dung and rolls it in to a perfect ball.  Often two beetles will battle over a ball of dung.  

In the J.R. Tolkein forrest at the Hogsback, Wendy found this perfect Vine for a swing.  We all took a turn and felt a bit like Tarzan and Jane.
You can ride on the back of an elephant in America at a carnival, but can you ride on the back of an elephant there and see a herd of giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest roaming freely.  

 Ryan having a chat with his new-found friend.  At Bird's of Eden, some of the species there were previously owned as pets and can be very friendly.  So fun!
Wendy ziplines over the waterfalls in the Titsikama Forrest.
And now…my favorite part of the trip!!!

It was Monday night at the Hogsback in South Africa.  Ryan, Wendy, Dad, and I had been for a great hike!  We were hungry and went to the dining room for dinner.  It was a lovely buffet with all the chicken livers you could eat.  The Arminel B & B that we were staying at was also hosting a government convention and the dining room was full with mostly women.  I noticed a table of women sitting close to us.  When we finished dinner and Ryan stood up, there was a table of six women who all turned and I noticed all eyes were on him.  I decided to go over and chat with them.  The conversation went something like this…

Me: "He is quite tall isn't he"
Girls:  "Oh yes, and he is sooooo cute.  Is he taken?"
Me:  "Well yes.  He is my son.  He is married and he has FIVE children!"
Girls:  "Yo.  I don't care.  I will take him anyway.  Oh mama.  He is so cute."
Me:  "But you would have to move to America."
Girls:  "Is fine.  I will go.  I will even take his wife along."
Me:  "He works for the government"
Girls:  "So do we.  It is a sign."