“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
What are the chances that two of our team would visit southern Africa within weeks of each other? Turns out that in fall of 2022, those chances were pretty good.
Sandra Gramley and Dave Madigan both (though separately and with their spouses) made the long trek to visit South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. While both visited the same safari park (Kreuger National Park), toured wine country and saw Victoria Falls, their trips, and stories, were unique.
Sandra, an avid rugby fan and former player, attended a portion of the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa. She also took a winery tour on the Rovos Rail wine train and learned about regional cuisine from an award-winning Zimbabwean cookbook author, Sarah Lilford.
While homebased at a resort on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, she traveled to the Chobe national refuge in Botswana. There, she spent the morning in a jeep and the afternoon in a boat spotting local wildlife.
While staying near another animal refuge, Kreuger National Park, Sandra took a second safari tour and went sightseeing along the Blyde River Canyon.
Like Sandra, Dave visited the Kreuger National Park area, but he toured a private safari reserve called Lion Sands that abuts Kreuger. With no barriers fencing off either park, the animals traverse both areas. The difference, says Dave, is that if you don’t see animals from the jeep on the private reserve tour, they let you get out to search on foot!
After spending four days at the Lion Sands Resort (and not being eaten by a lion), Dave traveled to Cape Town. His time there included a tour of the prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held. He also toured nearby Stellenbosch, famous for its wineries.
Dave was able to spend a few days in Johannesburg, too. There, he visited Soweto, the Apartheid Museum and Mandela’s first and last homes.
When Dave traveled to Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls, his tour included a helicopter ride into the area and a hike around the falls.
Beyond these remarkable and somewhat shared experiences, we wanted to know what surprised Sandra and Dave during their visits.
Both said they found South Africa more similar to the U.S. than they were expecting but they did note a greater wealth divide between the people. The differences were more pronounced in Zimbabwe, which has high unemployment and poverty rates. The diamond trade has supported the Botswana economy, so the towns and buildings are more modern and people more affluent than in Zimbabwe.
Of course, we had to ask about what design inspiration these two architects found on their trips. For Sandra, it was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town and an on-site restaurant featuring a beautiful, exposed wood design.
Dave was struck by the amount of Dutch Colonial and international modern architecture he saw in South Africa. He expected a more articulated design voice to have emerged that would reclaim the narrative of the country through architecture. Sometimes, however, it is potential that can spark design imagination.
Sandra and Dave found sparks, too, in the friends they made along their African travels and from the travel experience itself. Travel to faraway places is at once disconcerting and wonderous. It heightens all the senses and opens new doors.
May all your travels fascinate you.