5th Jul 2009 - 10th Jul 2009
Super South Africa
Jumping back on the truck this morning for yet another long drive day today. I slept quite a lot today, only awaking for the boarder crossing in South Africa!! Stopped at a mall to get money and immediately noticed the difference in the countries! South Africa is more first world, we passed MacDonald’s and even got to eat some KFC!!
We pulled into a campsite, again deviating from the itinerary to stay at a place called Blyde River. Had had an amazing dinner of pork chops and it started raining which made for a nice early night in the tent with that divine sound of pitter patter on the tent roof.
On the 6th July we had a nice morning exploring the Blyde River Canyon. It forms the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 26 kilometers in length and is, on average, around 800m deep. The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The Canyon is over 1400m deep. By some measures it is the third largest canyon in the world, after the Grand Canyon in the United States and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia.
It was really beautiful looking out form the top down in the great expanses’ of the canyon. It really is massive and we enjoyed a nice wonder around the cliff edges. Following the road and the Treur River south, we stopped at further viewpoints; Wonder View, God’s Window and the Pinnacle. Their names help to conjure up the indescribable enormity and vastness of the scenery, but nothing can take the place of the sheer wonderment you feel when seeing this kind of natural magnitude for yourself.
We headed on to hit Kruger National park. Kruger is nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity, it is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals!! WOW!! We were very lucky here because we were given the option to upgrade a couple days ago for Kruger and we all jumped at the chance……..2 months in a tent and Im done with it (at least until my next trip!!).
So we arrived at …..Luxury Tented Lodges at about 2pm and got checked into our lovely luxurious rooms! Since I’m on my own, I got my own cabin and boy did I get spoilt! I was the only one to get a Jacuzzi on my balcony! Needless to say as soon as I opened the door to my room I was in ecstasy! You should have seen my face when I saw……..a bed…with pillows…a doona…..a private bathroom with an outdoor hot water shower….complimentary shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and even baby powder!! Pure bliss and all for the bargain price of US$5 pp per night!! Normal costing of this room starts from US$200 a night! The only reason we got it so cheap is that it is just off peak season and they are guaranteed to get at least a few game drives out of us!
A small bit of relaxing and then 5 of us decided to do a night game drive, since it was pretty cheap. We went out at dusk in our 4x4 and I got to hold the spot light. We drove around for about 2 hours and we didn’t see much although we did see the reflection of the eyes when I shone the light out into the wilderness! It was pretty disappointing really, the grass was just so long, it hadn’t been attended to for so long which made it so had to be able to see anything. Oh well, cant win them all!
The next day being the 7th July, we spent the entire day out on a game drive. Out of 24 of us there were only 5 of us that decided not to pay for the upgrade to 4x4’s (which was going to cost US$120 each) and the 5 of us got the already included game drive in our truck which turned out to be the best decision! Although the 4x4’s could go off road and we couldn’t we had the advantage of height.
First out of the blocks and into the Numbi gates and within minutes the 4x4 passed us…..but we were happy as were up so high in the truck we could see over the tall grass, and it didn’t take more than 15 minutes until I spotted a white Rhino about 5 meters off the side of the road in a small clearing (the smaller cars wouldn’t have seen it over the grass). He was huge, and just simply chilling out eating some grass. We watched him in awe for a while and eventually moved on. Not long after, we came across about 20 cars and 4x4’s (car’s can drive thorugh here as long as they stay on the roads) on the side of the road all fighting for a look at something, and judging by the mass of cars it was quite obvious it was lions! We couldn’t get too close and we didn’t want to be in such a crowd so we didn’t hang around long. We drove on and saw a few elephants, zebras, Impala, kudu, loads of hippos, an insane herd of buffalo (at least 400) which we had to stop on the road and let them pass in front and behind us. So far that’s 4 of the big 5 and all before lunch!
We pulled into our lunch spot at a village shop/café and ran into the other groups that were on the 4x4’s and told them what we had seen and they had this massive look of disappointment on their faces! All they had seen were Buffalo and Zebra! So we counted ourselves lucky we didn’t spend the extra money, since we had the best viewing so far and we had a big truck to freely move around on since there was only 5 of us on it! The rest of the day was spent spotting more and more animals and as we started the drive back we went back to where we saw the lions this morning. There were still at least 20 cars there and we pulled into the back on the line pulled over and turned the engine off to wait until we could get a clearer view and move forward. Turns out we didn’t need to! The 2 lions had made their way the 50 odd meters down to where we were and slowly walked right by our truck! One of them had a porcupine spike sticking out of her neck, the poor thing, as these are highly poisonous and she would probably not live long if it stays there.
We eventually made our way back to the camp which gave us time to relax and take advantage of our rooms. Although it was really cold outside, I had a lovely shower in the outdoor balcony shower and stood under the hot water for about half an hour, it was just lush! Afterwards I laid on my lovely bed for a while and eventually dragging myself up went to enjoy some drinks on Katie and Louisa’s balcony! We had a great night around the camp fire and ended up partying back in a room as it was officially our last night as a group!!
An early morning rise as we had to drive to Johannesburg today and a few people were flying out in the late afternoon so we had to make tracks! We got into Jo’berg at about 3 in the arvo and said goodbye to quite a few people and we were back to the 5 of us again from the original group, we checked into a hostel in the city centre and decided to go for a walk to the supermarket. We picked up a couple bottles of cheap champagne and made our way back to the hostel to have a couple of drinks while we got ready for dinner. Amy (from NZ) had kindly arranged for us a beautiful night out and booked a table at The Grill Restaurant (http://thegrill.co.za/) a very famous steak house for our final night in Africa . What a magnificent big fat juicy steak I got….yum yum!! We lapped up our little bit of luxury and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being served dinner rather than bending over a fire and cooking it! With some good wine, good company and great food, we all reflected on what a fantastic trip we had had and how privileged we all felt to have experienced what we had.
The next day was dooms day for me, I wasn’t due to fly out until late that evening so I made the most of the day by going shopping at the markets (but bought nothing) talking to the locals, getting on the internet and checking out the sites of Johannesburg.
At 6pm I got a transfer to the airport, making sure I locked my doors in the car as I had heard horror stories about car jacking etc. I put on my money belt with my passport, memory cards and credit card in, held my camera bag close by and hoped for the best! I think I was a bit over anxious as it was a pretty good ride all the way, only going through one very dodgy part of town, the slums if you like.
Boarded the flight with tears in my eyes, so sad to be leaving this beautiful continent, the amazing people, the new friends I’d made, the great food, culture and pureness that is Africa.
Africa….I bow to you. Thank you for giving me the most remarkable experiences of my life, a trip that will never go forgotten and the hopes of my return one day.
Well folks that’s all for now. I might one day get around to writing a bit about my time in Perth and New Zealand before returning back to the Sunshine Coast where I now reside. Such a great trip and many thanks for all your messages over the last 6 months of my travels through the world.