Josephine’s Ashes

I am not a spiritual person. I do not believe in an afterlife, and I do not have the patience needed to entertain the ideas of metaphysics. I only tell you this to open up one of my final posts about my friend and former pet Josephine. The vet ended her life at the end of November in 2016 and we had her cremated. The vet called us a few weeks later and gave us the urn full of her ashes.

Sam and I were not interested in keeping her ashes with us, but we both wanted to say good bye to her one last time. We decided to split her ashes between two sites. At our house, she loved sitting under the raspberry bush in our garden. It’s winter now, so the raspberry bush is pruned low to the ground. We dug a hole in the ground at the center of the bush and we both poured half of her ashes into the soil. She loved the space a lot, and we wanted her to be in a place she loved for a very long time.

The second half of her ashes were spread in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Yes, Josephine was a cat that was adopted from a shelter in Philadelphia. I know that she was not a lion, but Sam and I always said that she had a fierceness in her eyes. I sound delusional, but we used to laugh a lot about how domestication never bred the mightiness of a lion out of her.

We were on safari in Kruger for 3 nights this month. Every night we saw a pride of lions. There were 5 mothers and 12 cubs of varying ages. I was close enough to see their eyes and watch the cubs fall on their sides playing with their siblings. Sure, I was transferring my memories of Josephine to these noble cats, but when I saw them, I saw my cat.

On our last night, Sam and I walked onto the deck of our cabin and shared a few memories of Josephine. Our cabin sat on a dry river bed, that had not been full in 4 years. It had started to rain earlier that day, but the earth was so dry the river bed could not even puddle. We poured her ashes over our deck and the wind picked them up and spread them far and thin across the river bed. We smiled, hugged, reminisced about her and went to bed.

img_2034The next morning, we woke up to a real shock. The river bed was completely full. The rain had increased over the night. There were no signs of any ashes, as they had been swept deep into Kruger Park. The safari guide told us, we were very lucky to see the river as it is very rare, and he had never seen it in his time. I am not someone who needs to find meaning in coincidence, but I am someone who can enjoy and appreciate one.

When we die, I do not think much happens, but I find solace in knowing my friend’s ashes are where I think she would have wanted them to be. Some are under a bush in the last home of her life. The others are spread across the original home that she never knew, but the one she always allowed to show through the veil of modernity and domestication.

Conclusion to our trip to South Africa

South Africa is a country that everyone must visit. I want to go back and do lots of the other things that I did not get to see or do. I loved this trip and I loved everything about the country.   I am interested in going on safari in other countries.  Even in South Africa, a lot of people spoke about Botswana.  

The only thing I would change is Victoria Falls.  I think everyone should go and see Victoria Falls, but I may save it for another trip where it is a bit more convenient.   I wish I could have seen the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg.

South Africa is a meat eating society, so vegans, please note what you are getting yourself into.  One of the guys at our safari lodge was a vegan, and he survived, but everything is meat oriented.  I became very found of game meat while I was there.

Go to South Africa now.  Learn about the history before you go, and get prepared to see wildlife that you never imagine seeing up close.

Days 10, 11, 12, & 13 – Kruger National Park

We landed in the very small airport in Skukuza around lunch time. We decided to rent a car, rather than take the free shuttle so that we would not be limited to the lodge. We spent 3 nights at the Rhino Post Safari Lodge. I love this lodge. I would go back. Our guide, Charles, was delightful, but I am getting ahead of myself.

When you first arrive at the lodge, the operation is explained to you. Everyday, there are 2 game drives. Those drives promptly start at 6AM and 4PM. That means, you get a wake up call at 5:30 AM and you walk down to the bar area for coffee, cookies, and fruit. Each game drive lasts about 4 hours and half way through (about 8AM) you stop along the side of the road for coffee or tea, and a light snack. When you return to the lodge around 10 AM, there is a large hot brunch waiting for you with made to order omelets and lots of delicious food.

You now have until 3:30 PM. There are times we would nap, and 2 separate days we took the car out to drive around the park. It’s a really nice way to just relax. At 3:30, high tea is served, which includes a number of hearty hors d’oeuvre. On my first day, I got a cup of tea, even though the heat was intolerable. These 2 funny german guys filled me in on the fact that most people just buy a drink, so high tea, quickly became happy hour for most of us.

The evening game drive starts at 4, and like the morning you stop about halfway through the drive. The stop tends to coincide with sunset, so it makes for a particularly lovely affair. The guide puts out a nice white table cloth, and serves you your drink (I was normally on rose) and a few heavy appetizers. I loved having the barbeque chicken wings, which became a joke, because I tried to feign indifference to look dignified on day 1, but succumbed to the wings quickly.

When you get back to the lodge, you are served a proper 3 course meal and then most folks retire to the bar to chat, and discuss what everyone saw that day. That is how each day operates, and it is a lot of fun.

I thought Rhino Post was really nice, but I am told it is an average lodge. I guess there are some really decadent ones, and some that are basically tents. I thought it was perfect and every staff person was wonderful.

Now let’s get to the animals.

91d50-16585512_341132459620298_7777873911185670144_nI was impressed by the animals every day. When we drove to the lodge and saw elephants I was in awe, when I saw a another herd of elephants on our first drive, I was in awe again.  I
never stopped being in awe. They were amazing. We saw a pride of lions that had 17 in it. None were full grown males, and we never saw a full grown male lion while we were there. Nor, did we see a hippo out of the water, a leopard, or a cheetah, though other people in our lodge saw a leopard one day.



231bd-16789432_1289136791139427_1469962774783197184_nWe got close to one rhinoceros and they way it which it pranced away was hysterical. They are really light on their feet and that was a nice surprise.  We saw 2 Cape buffalo on our first day that were not with the rest of their herd.  We saw lots of giraffes, impala, antelopes, zebras, and birds.   I never thought of myself as someone who is into birds, but one of the other guests on our drive was a birder.   She got Holly and myself into spotting them from the vehicle.  By the end of the trip I was starting to get into spotting and identifying birds.

At the end of our second day it started to rain. The area had not seen significant rain in a long time, so it was desperately needed. I never found the rain to be miserable and there is something quite extraordinary to see a herd of elephants walking through it completely unphased. The rain disrupted 2 things during our time on safari. We were no longer allowed to use the private dirt roads. These are the roads we had some of the best animal siting. Also, we had scheduled to stay in a tree house on our last night.   We could not stay in it during the rain, so we missed this part of our adventure.  Even though the rain got in the way, it did serve a purpose on a personal matter.

I loved going on safari.  I think a safari is a great way to end a long trip, because it is easy and a lot of fun.  At times you feel a bit sedentary, but I used the time to decompress and reflect on my time in South Africa.

And here is my conclusion.

Day 9 – A Night in Johannesburg

We did not get to be tourists in Johannesburg. By the time we had landed, we were only a few hours away from everything closing, so we decided to take it easy. We took the Gautrain from the airport to Rosebank, where we asked the hotel to pick us up. This is easy and really convenient. Don’t waste your money on a full cab fare from the airport to your hotel.

We decided to use the afternoon to do so some shopping so we made our way to the Rosebank Art & Craft Market. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs. Sam and I bought 2 portraits that are now hanging in our living room. I think they look really nice. After shopping, everything started to shut down, so we got to a grocery store where I bought my weight in biltong. Then we relaxed with sangria and ice cream before we headed to dinner.

We ended up eating at this place called the Foundry. It was a pub and it was delicious. Samer had some mussels that were made in coconut milk and green curry that were fantastic. Spencer and I both had pizzas that were way too big, and really good. They had a lot of craft beer and a good wine selection. I am totally recommending this place to everyone.

Next are days 10 – 13.

Day 6 – Lion Rescue and more Wine Tasting

Holly and Spencer woke up feeling better, but they both thought that drinking wine at 10 am may not be the best way to test their recovery. We decided to start the day by going to the Drakenstein Lion Park. This is a place that cares for lions that were abused and cannot be put in the wild. Many of them were in zoos or circuses. This is the only time I saw a full grown male lion while I was in South Africa. It only takes about an hour, but if you need something non-wine related to do in the area I would suggest it.

After the park we made our way to the sparkling wine king of the region, J.C Le Roux. It’s big, formal, and really nice. You get to taste 5 wines. I don’t have my notes on them, but I preferred their dryer wines, which were their least commercially popular wines. The attendant made a comment about the sweeter wines being made for the South African pallette. I heard a hint of condescension in that explanation, but maybe I was looking for it due to my submersion in modern South African history.

We had a delicious lunch at Clos Malverne Wine Farm. I cannot remember it very well, because I left J.C Le Roux bordering on drunk and Clos Malverne had a lot of good wine. Each course was paired with a specific type of wine. I ordered:

  • Lightly smoked sea bass With sweet pea aioli, saffron aioli, pea shoots, lime dressing, salmon eggs, crispy capers and a red pepper coulis Served with Clos Malverne Sauvignon Blanc
  • Oaked Smoked Beef and Mushroom Beef Carpaccio with mushroom dust, shimiji mushrooms, hummus, sundried tomato strips, dried olives, grana padano and vinaigrette Served with Clos Malverne Cab/Merlot
  • Boboti spiced Springbok Loin with whole grain mustard pickled baby onions, butternut and feta risotto and a red wine jus Served with Clos Malverne Pinotage reserve

We took a taxi back into Cape Town and called it a night. We had an early flight to Zimbabwe, so we stayed at a hotel by the airport.

Days 7 and 8 take us to Zimbabwe.