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Driving from JNB to Balule - any suggestions to break up the drive a bit?

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May 11th, 2012, 06:11 PM
  #1
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Driving from JNB to Balule - any suggestions to break up the drive a bit?

We will be driving from the JNB airport up to the Pondoro Game Lodge in Balule in July. We land at 8 am so we have all day and will be in no rush. Any good places to stop along the way or do we just power through to the park? Thanks
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May 11th, 2012, 06:53 PM
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If you want to be there in time for the evening game drive, you should move pretty briskly. It's around six hours from JNB, plus time for fuel and maybe lunch.

If you don't mind missing the evening drive then I'd recommend a stop in Graskop, from which you can easily make quick visits to a couple of points on the Panoramic Route, specifically the Three Rondavels overlook, and God's Window, both very beautiful and worthy of stopping.

Frankly, we actually prefer not trying to make it all the way (the game drives usually leave around 4:30 or 5 PM given the early sunset in July) and stay at the Graskop Hotel, which is a very pleasant and somewhat artsy place, just a couple of doors from Harrie's Pancakes, a don't-miss stop. That way we get to the lodges early enough in the day that the whole process is much more relaxed; and frankly, given the lodge rates, the Graskop hotel represents a much more affordable evening than staying at the lodge but missing the game drive.

We loved Pondoro and I'll wager you will too. Robbie, the owner/chief guide, is a very interesting character, and an amazing photographer.
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May 11th, 2012, 08:10 PM
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It takes longer than you think to get your bags, pick up the car, change money, get a phone or SIM card... It takes at least 6 hours, but expect construction delays and slow down for livestock in the roads. You should power through!! In July, the game drive may be as early as 3:30. You don't have the leisurely drive you think you do.

An overnight to see God's Window is good if you aren't booked at Pondoro that first night.
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May 12th, 2012, 03:51 AM
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Great advice, thanks very much. Sounds like it is a real 6+ hour drive (sometimes people say 6 but it's really more like 4) plus time for baggage, picking up a SIM, etc. We want to make the evening game drive, so I think we will power through. Thanks again.
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May 12th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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You guys really got me thinking...since we are booked into Pondoro that evening flying to Hoedspruit might just be a better move. The 12:15 flight gets me there by 13:15, which should give us plenty of time to drive to the reserve to make the afternoon game drive. That means a little extra time to kill in the JNB airport, but that's what lounges are for. Thanks for the food for thought.
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May 12th, 2012, 07:57 AM
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You guys really got me thinking...since we are booked into Pondoro that evening flying to Hoedspruit might just be a better move. The 12:15 flight gets me there by 13:15, which should give us plenty of time to drive to the reserve to make the afternoon game drive. That means a little extra time to kill in the JNB airport, but that's what lounges are for. Thanks for the food for thought.

You might also think about having the lodge pick you up at HDS, since a rental car would be parked at the lodge with the meter running while you commune with the critters.
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May 12th, 2012, 08:11 AM
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If you don't need a car after Pondoro, you can arrange for a driver to get you to/from the airport. Maybe contact Pondoro for that. You should look into the airport at phalaborwa, too. If you need a car, make sure you can get the type you want at those smaller airports. At jnb, you'll get the car you want - not so sure at the smaller ones. Also, any delay or trouble with car, that flight is still cutting it close.

We were told it would take 6 hours to get from Entabeni (north of jnb) to Timbavati. We left at 8:30am and arrived at about 4pm. We are glad we left early! Some roads are badly potholed and you have to watch out for livestock. The highways are excellent, the main roads not so much. SA is actually investing in infrastructure, so there is a lot of construction, resulting in the expected delays.
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May 12th, 2012, 08:13 AM
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gardyloo and I were posting at the same time.
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May 12th, 2012, 09:24 AM
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I'm sold...we are flying. I looked at both Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa, HDS is much cheaper and the times are fine. I reserved a car at Avis on-site but also have contacted the lodge about transfers. You guys rock for the quick responses.
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May 12th, 2012, 11:25 AM
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It's our goal in life to rock! Gotta say - not so bad yourself. You're right on top of this. I agree - fly. But if you have the opportunity to drive around SA, it's really fun and beautiful.

Enjoy your trip.
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May 12th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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We are driving in and around Capetown for the second leg. Doing a couple days in Hermanus at Grootbos and then just exploring from Capetown for about 5 days. We are very excited.
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May 12th, 2012, 02:29 PM
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We are driving in and around Capetown for the second leg. Doing a couple days in Hermanus at Grootbos and then just exploring from Capetown for about 5 days. We are very excited.

If time allows, take a day (or 2) and drive up the west coast from CT - hit West Coast National Park and Paternoster village - amazingly picturesque, great seafood, and sadly off the radar of most visitors to the Cape. You'll probably be too early for the (amazing) wildflowers in the area, but it's still a great day trip (with an early start.)
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