A gastronomic start to a wild journey MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

A Delicious Start to an Adventurous Journey

As I sit here in a Wimpy restaurant, a rather interesting gas station eatery, I am reminded of the significance it holds in every South African travel experience. Each adventure, whether it involves crossing borders or witnessing breathtaking African sunsets, is inexorably tied to a Wimpy meal. If you haven’t stumbled upon a perfectly-preserved chip in your car’s footwell years later, then you haven’t truly tasted the essence of travel.

So, my fellow travel writers and bloggers, let’s replace the cliché “The sun descended over the plains and I knew I belonged in Africa” with something more grounded. As I write these words, the sun is actually setting outside, casting a mesmerizing glow on the red vinyl seats within Wimpy. And you know what? No one seems to care. Every eye in this place is glued to the television screen, where a Man U game commands attention. It’s incredible how this English football match serves as a unifying force in this country, rivaled only by Wimpy itself. In fact, right here in Colesburg, where I find myself now, Wimpy represents a microcosm of this nation. Even the presence of a couple of glum-looking individuals at a nearby table adds to the kaleidoscope of characters. They might not be wearing clown costumes, but you can easily identify them as clowns based on their demeanor. Coincidentally, Brian Boswell’s circus is stationed across the highway, currently setting up for a show. I approached the manager to request permission for some photographs, but the response was a resounding “no.” Evidently, they prefer to avoid any negative publicity, perhaps because that’s all they receive. To be honest, even the caged animals in the circus appear more dejected than the clowns. Witnessing an African elephant for the first time on this trip left me feeling rather disheartened.

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You know, I’m headed to a place called Rubondo Island on Lake Victoria. It’s a pretty amazing spot, filled with all sorts of incredible animals. But the ones that really stand out are the wild chimpanzees. Can you believe that these chimpanzees are actually descendants of chimps that were saved from circuses and zoos in Europe way back in the 60s? It’s pretty wild to think about.

There was this guy, Bernhard Grzimek, who was a German zoologist. He decided to set these chimps free on Rubondo and let them live their lives in the wild. Can you imagine that kind of freedom? And you know what? These chimps really made the most of it. They thrived on the island and their population actually tripled in size. It’s incredible!

What a fascinating tale! And that’s exactly where I’m headed. I’ll be embarking on a journey through the remarkable Rift Valley, making my way back by way of Gorongosa in the valley’s southernmost region – a place known as Africa’s Lost Eden. This national park suffered the devastating effects of poaching and hunting during Mozambique’s civil war, resulting in a staggering decline in its wildlife population. However, today, a remarkable conservation effort is underway to restore Gorongosa to its former glory. Already, some species have rebounded and exceeded their numbers from the park’s golden days.

Of course, there will be plenty more to document and capture through my words and photographs. Along the way, I’ll encounter extraordinary individuals and embrace unique experiences. However, my supply of Wimpys, a popular fast food chain, will soon run dry. Farewell to those greasy burgers, and hello to nile perch and the epitome of free-range chicken – feral chicken, that is. So, I’ll savor every last bite of this less-than-stellar burger before I hit the road again.

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