Here’s the thing about travel. It catches up to you when you get home. We have been back in Penticton for 4 days now. I thought I had worked through the jetlag thing, but, as usual I was wrong. I have been getting up earlier and earlier – today I’m writing this at 4:15 after being awake since three. Everyone all together now, Aaahhh, so sad. Okay, the whining is over for now.
On the evening of our last evening game drive, we are scouting locations for the traditional sundowners. On the way we spot Cape Buffalo, elephants, steenbok, dead trees and dead roots of dead trees.
On the way back to camp we had a couple of interesting experiences. They both centre around our pals the elephants. I think I have mentioned that nocturnal hunters – lions, cheetahs, leopards aren’t bothered by lights – something to do with the cones and rods in their eyes. Elephants, on the other hand are bothered. We are driving along the track and Patrick is running a big spotlight back and forth to see what we can see. Suddenly there is an elephant in the light and he starts to charge – turns out it’s just a mock charge, but Shaun has thrown the vehicle into reverse and is backing up really, really fast. We sit about 500 metres away and wait for 10-15 minutes and then try it again. No elephant on the track. We are approaching a relatively large bush on our right and Patrick is carefully pointing any kind of light straight down. Just as we pass the bush an elephant realizes we are there and lets loose with a huge trumpet blast. He is close! How close? I am sitting in the back seat and I feel the blast of air on my neck and shoulder. I remark (okay scream) “Jesus Christ!”, Shaun hits the gas and we are going REALLY, REALLY, REALLY fast. Gary is in the front and turns around just in time to see the white of a tusk. Terry starts laughing so hard she almost wets herself and Patrick, poor Patrick is holding on for dear life. The photo below is just to show you Patrick’s seat – there was no way I was about to get a photo at that moment.
I now know that my damaged heart can stand a huge scare! I can guarantee that it was beating a mile a minute!
Once we are out of the area, we spot
and an African hare of some sort.
The last morning of the South African safari started early – I was out taking photos of the starry sky at 5:15. The others had decided they needed their rest more than a last opportunity to see a lion up close and personal, but not your intrepid blogger. So at precisely 6am Shaun, Patrick and myself were off for one last shot.
The first sighting of the morning was of the Marshall Eagle, the largest eagle in South Africa. I have lightened it up significantly, since it was still quite dark.
And then some more of those curious zebra.
Over the radio Shaun hears that two lions have been spotted somewhere near the reserve. A little explanation. Around the edge of the Klasserie Reserve, which is a private area within the national park, are “farms”. Now these aren’t farms as we know them. There are no fields, no crops etc., they are simply large tracts of land which are privately owned. Some have automatic reciprocal rights with the reserve – they can come on the reserve or you can go on their land without seeking permission and vice versa. There are no fences separating them. Others however don’t have this automatic relationship and you have to contact the owner/manager and ask permission. The one where the lions are heading is one of the latter, so Shaun gets on the radio to Donovan, who manages the part of the reserve we are staying on and he contacts the owner of the farm who says no problem. With that we are off like a dirty shirt.
We first come across a hyena, who is looking very much like he is heading where we are going.
We cross a river and Shaun spots the lion making his way through the bush. We leave the track and up into the scrub – and there he is.
He just totally ignores us.
Shaun took this 42 second video as he walked by. Note how quiet we were. Shaun’s “Yeah, sure” was in response to my asking if I could take pictures, knowing the click the camera would make.
Wow, just wow. After he passed we turned around and headed back to the track to get ahead of him but we came across the owner of the land – the fellow who had said we could come over. He was not a happy camper, and chastised Shaun for going off the road. Shaun was very apologetic and said he thought we had permission etc. etc. The guy waved it off and said we could follow the lion but to stay on the road. We decided just to go the other way. Afterwards Shaun said that the fellow had been upset because we got there first – he had not expected us to be as close as we were when he gave permission and he was choked we saw it and he didn’t. He also later apologized too Shaun. Nice, but I missed more opportunities to see the lion up close. It was interesting though, that someone who lives right there still gets excited at the chance to see these magnificent animals.
After that there was nothing to do but to head back to camp to get ready to leave. Those of you who think that when I got back to camp I would gloat over the fact I had seen a full mane lion and the others hadn’t, would be wrong. At least, you’re wrong until about three days later when I would start to occasionally mention it. (Terry: yeah, like na na na na na, frequently!)
The entire safari was a fantastic experience and what an incredible way to end it.
We had a couple of hours to kill until the flight from Hoedspruit to Capetown where our four day wine tour would commence. Naturally we spent it waiting in a wine/gin bar. Terry and Cindy enjoyed gin and tonics – particularly due to the quality of the gin and the quality of these tonics
At the chaotic airport, we get through security – a bizarre experience in and of itself, and sit down in the waiting area. All of a sudden people get up and start moving – no announcement or sign of what is happening. We ask what is going on and someone says that the plane is loading. In South Africa they have dispensed with announcements over loudspeakers – you just have to pay attention. This is not just in small airports either. I noticed when we landed in Johannesburg large signs around the airport proclaiming that “We have gone silent”. This wouldn’t work in China where there are frequently 5-10 final boarding calls or even calls to “Mr. Sun Yat Sen, report to Get 12 for boarding”, also 5-10 times.
We arrive in Capetown, where we are met by Duncan and taken to our hotel. Tomorrow our wine tour of South African wineries begins with two burning questions –
- Are they as good as what we have in the Okanagan and
- How many wine tastings can we ingest before we scream “Enough! Stop pouring!”