For the past few weeks, Tiffany Daniels has been sharing her adventures as a female race car driver in South Africa. In her last blog, she talks poignantly about her experiences and emotions off the track.
"This is going to be my last South Africa-related blog, and because I described all of on-track details of the race last time, I want to focus this blog on my off-track experiences, which will hopefully give everyone a little bit of insight into our trip.
First, let me say that a 16-hour flight is exhausting! Our team flew from Charlotte to Atlanta, and then 16 hours to Johannesburg.
We were definitely exhausted when we got there, but everyone was excited to see South Africa (and the warm weather wasn’t bad, either). At the airport, we all loaded into three buses and headed for Savannah, which is outside of a town called Parys, and is about two hours from Johannesburg.
We arrived in Savannah and drove down a muddy dirt road to get to the Savannah Cheetah Foundation reserve and lodge. The lodge was really interesting, with very nice rooms and luxury tents out back.
They also had a pool, rooms in little rondovels (round huts), and a bonfire area, which is where we ate dinner.
My overall observations about the food we ate during the whole trip was that the South Africans tend to have a lot of corn-based dishes, like “mieliepap” (maize meal porridge), which reminded me a little bit of grits or cream-of-wheat, and in general, the sauces and pastas that they use seem to be sweeter than what you would typically find with a similar American dish.
Overall, the food was very good, and while we were able to try a few traditional dishes, we really weren’t served anything too unusual (I think that was on purpose).
We stayed at the Savannah the first night, which is where we met our favorite bus driver, Jimmy. He was hilarious wheeling that bus, which was steadily falling apart. When we left for Welkom, we had to stop in Parys so he could add a gallon of oil to the engine.
I think it was leaking oil faster than he could add it. After a few more days of trips back and forth from the hotel in Welkom to the race track, the sliding door on the side of the bus fell off.
They reattached it, but it wouldn’t open and close after that, so we all climbed in and out through the passenger seat, which was on the left side...they drive on the “opposite” side of the road, as they do in Europe.
Finally, after leaking oil the entire week, Jimmy’s bus broke down on our last day in South Africa.
However, I have to note that we were on a different bus that day because Jimmy was transporting drinks and food for the final banquet, and even with getting towed, he still beat us back to Savannah.
The transportation situation was pretty crazy over there in general, and car maintenance didn’t seem to be a high priority. Almost every van or bus in our caravan broke down or overheated at some point.
And EVERYONE drives full speed all the time. I don’t think we ever went slower than 90 mph if we were on a paved road, which was actually really fun, and we of course raced the other buses everywhere we went.
My favorite experience of the trip, besides the race, of course, was the safari ride we were able to go on our last day at Savannah after we were finished at the track and had left Welkom.
I can’t even explain how crazy it was to see animals up close in the wild that I had only seen on “National Geographic” or in zoos.
We were able to see kudu, white rhinos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, impalas, monkeys, ostriches, gemsbok, and springbok. Probably the funniest part was the way the giraffes were walking along eating, trying to figure out what we were staring at. Last but not least, we were also able to see the cheetah, but they were both in big pens because The Savannah Cheetah Foundation is breeding them to try to help bring them out of endangerment. They were both beautiful animals, and when we went into their pen (still with a fence in between us and them!) the male cheetah hissed at us, and I have to admit, even as small as cheetah are among the “big cat” group, he was pretty intimidating!
We also were able to watch a performance by several Zulu dance groups and their chorus. They were amazing, and it was very special to have them share their culture and traditional songs and dances with us.
The last story I have of our South African experiences is of our trip to the open-air market in Johannesburg. The merchants had stands and were selling everything from hand-carved statues to clothes to jewelry.
It was fun to see all of the trinkets that were for sale, and there were definitely some good salespeople there!
One group followed my dad around for an hour after he stopped to look at a small stone rhino; they kept lowering the price and talking to him until he finally bought it.
They definitely know how to haggle, but it was actually a fun challenge to try to see how low they would go before agreeing on a price. I bought some wooden earrings and a bracelet that were painted black and white like a zebra.
I also bought a small wooden rhino to accompany “Rocky”, which is what we named my dad’s stone rhino. He was so funny carrying Rocky through the airport...and Rocky must have weighed about 15 pounds!
The trip was incredible and I would highly recommend South Africa to anyone interested in traveling there.
Also, if you are looking for further information on The Cheetah Foundation, please visit http://thecheetahfoundation.org/index.php , and consider donating to their cause.
I again have to thank Bobby Hartslief, Jacqueline Lundquist and their staff, as well as ASA, Marc & Harry Davis and our team, SnowTheRacehorse.com, and Skincode.com.