Xu Jinglei plays Sun City


Xu Jinglei in Pilanesburg Game Park

Maya Alexandri is currently traveling as part of actress / director / blogger Xu Jinglei’s entourage in South Africa, and will file reports about the trip for the next week.

Sun City, South Africa’s “Las Vegas,” is an extravagant resort built in the crater of a dead volcano. It’s long been a major draw for white South Africans, for whom Sun City was an escape from apartheid South Africa’s anti-gambling laws. Sun City was in Bophuthatswana, one of the areas designated as a “homeland” for black South Africans, where they had enough of a measure of self-governance to make gambling legal. Post-apartheid, Sun City has become a major draw for Chinese tourists.

Lush with rain forest vegetation, Sun City is more than just a place to gamble. It’s also a place where you can have your room ransacked by a baboon — if you leave your window open. While we were at breakfast, a baboon tore through some of our rooms, leaving in its wake a squashed banana, a partially eaten and subsequently discarded apple, and baboon tracks on the bed linens.

In one room, the baboon helped itself to expensive chocolates from the mini-bar. Since this mini-bar expenditure (along with those of the rest of Xu’s team) was guaranteed by your correspondent’s credit card, this development was unwelcome.

More welcome by far was the team’s subsequent experience with wildlife later in the day, when we went for a game drive through nearby Pilanesburg Game Park. The team enjoyed sightings of jackal, giraffe, rhino, wildebeast, hippopotamus, warthog, wild dog, impala, hartebeast and zebra, as well as a distant view of elephants.

The experience of an undeveloped natural environment made a deep impression. One team member went so far as to say that Pilanesburg had changed his mind. Previously convinced that mankind’s pollution would bring about destruction of the planet, he’d found in his experience of Pilanesburg’s wilderness landscape hope that the planet might survive.

Bumping along the road out of the game park, we passed some baboons relaxing by a lake. While the team had shown appreciation of wilderness untouched by man, team members were apparently less impressed by wild things that touch man (or, at least, man’s living quarters). “Oh baboons, we have those back at the hotel.”

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