Travelling from Johannesburg to Limpopo
I’ve just arrived at the Entabeni Game Reserve in Limpopo South Africa. It was a long journey from North Vancouver, Canada; 10 hours on a plane to London, 5 hour stop over, 10 hours on a plane to Johannesburg and a 6 hour drive to the game park. The drive to the game park should have been 3.5 but the highway was shut down because of a political demonstration. We were told this is common even if an election isn’t happening for a few years. When people are unhappy with the politicians, they will not hesitate to create a demonstration. As we pulled into the parking lot of a traffic jam on the highway, our driver made the decision to cut through the parked cars to get the the exit and take the long way around. An hour and a half later we made it back to our original highway only a few km ahead of the jam, the cars were still parked along the highway behind us and were not moving.
The scenery along the highway was not unlike other places I’ve been – Osoyoos, Nevada parts of Costa Rica. The land seems pretty dry this time of year but there are plenty of shrubs and bushes and grasses along the way. We passed many types of farms including corn, oranges, cabbage and avocado. Cars drive pretty fast on the 2 lane highway (one lane for each direction) and our driver seemed to enjoy the sport of getting into the oncoming lane to pass. We were told by one of the rangers at our resort that it is very easy to get a driver’s license in South Africa – you pretty much just show up and fill in the forms and pay the money. And apparently texting and driving is not against the law here, we witnessed plenty of drivers doing this – I even saw a man actively using a different phone in each hand while driving.
The little towns we passed were colourful one story buildings and had the same chain restaurants – Wimpy’s, McDonalds and Nando’s. We saw local kids in uniforms walking from school, women balancing bags on their heads and men transporting things in wheel barrows through the town. The fruit stands looked amazing.
We were welcomed to the Lakeside Lodge with a glass of orange/guava juice. The lodge is quite nice in a rustic sort of way, set on a hill beside the lake overlooking the Entabeni monolith. The resort is open to the wild which is why we are not allowed to stray from the paths leading from the rooms to the restaurant / bar / lodge / pool. Elephants, hippos and lions roam the area at night – each day there is new evidence of their presence whether it is some fresh scat, footprints in the red sand or the trees that have been knocked over. In fact the lodge does not have internet at all right now because the elephants snapped one of the wires in the area – the crews have been working on restoring internet for a week. Hopefully they fix it or I won’t be posting this until I am back home.
Our cabin is nice, we have very tall vaulted ceilings. The roof is made of wood beams and straw. Kyla noticed that bits of the straw ceiling were laying on our beds, and just as she looked up, a bat fell from the ceiling onto our coffee table. Then it wiggled around for a few minutes on the table and then was still. It’s eyes were open and we could see it breathing but it just lay there. We weren’t quite sure what to do about it and hoped this wasn’t a regular occurrence. Luckily one of the staff stopped into our room, she used a magazine to carry the bat outside, she lay it on the ground and a few hours later it was gone. She seemed surprised that there was a bat in our room so I think it doesn’t happen very often – phew.
The pool area is nice but I don’t think we will be swimming this week. The pool is not heated and these winter days are not warm enough to increase the temperature of the pool. There were several impala at the pool wandering around. Then an interesting monkey scattered by. I’m not sure what type of monkey it is, he was medium sized, mostly light gray with a very distinguishing feature – blue testicles.
Entabeni Game Reserve
After a few hours of settling into our resort we were ready for our first game drive. We hopped into the open land cruiser and set off. Within the first 10 minutes of driving we came up to a group of rhinoceros grazing on the grassy field. The ranger drove the truck right up to them, they didn’t seem to mind us being there at all. The rhinos were literally beside the truck, I could have reached over to pet the thing if it wasn’t so scary looking. The group had an adult male, 2 adult females and 2 young cousins. They were very playful, we saw them play fighting, grunting at each other and then eating more grass. One of the females walked to the back of the truck, put her butt within inches of us in the back row and let out the longest gas I’ve ever heard. Kyla and I had time to look at each other, talk about the fact that she was letting one rip, giggle and then talk about it some more.
Then we drove further on and stopped at an open area where we could watch the sun set behind the Entabeni monolith. Before it got too dark we spotted zebra, ostrich, wart hogs, wilde beast and many types of antelope. The stars became visible in the sky and the moon was full. The constellations were very interesting because they are different from what I am used to in the northern hemisphere. We saw the southern cross, scorpio and Orion (but he was upside down). The milky way sparkled vibrantly giving depth to the night sky.
Throughout the night, from the safety of our hut, we could hear hippos in the lake. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought we were listening to Jabba the Hut laughing.
On our second game drive we were able to get up close to some elephants. You would think since they are such large animals, that finding an elephant would be easy – but it isn’t. The elephants like to eat the trees so we had to drive through the forest to find them. Even when we were within 10 feet of them they were still difficult to spot, they really blend in nicely. But spot them we did. What an amazing experience to watch these magnificent animals in the wild. They even walked right in front of our car and stared at us.
Another group at our camp had an interesting experience with the elephants. Their car was surrounded by the elephants (front, side and back) so they could not drive away. Then one of the elephants was using it’s tusk to scratch at the canvas on the roof of the car. The rangers told the passengers to be calm and not make any quick movements or sounds. After 5 minutes, the matriarch elephant approached the scene and basically told the other elephants to back off. Then they all walked away.
South Africa – My First Impression
Many things are backwards here. They drive on the opposite side of the roads, when looking up at an escalator, they go up on the left and down on the right, their light switches go up for off and down for on, Orion’s belt is upside down in the sky and if the toilets actually flushed well, I think the water would spin clockwise. What a wonderful world.