The Long Report: South Africa, Botswana and Namibia

Jul 21st, 2004, 05:01 AM
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Selwyn - your post is time stamped at 8:52am in NY - bending the elbow early are we? <hic> <hic>

Kavey - girl, drink as much SWEEEET as you wish, it's your tummy! Great report so far, loving it!
Jul 21st, 2004, 05:13 AM
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Heh heh! Selwyn did try and "ejerkate" my palette at Ruste en Vrede but I just don't have a taste for anything even remotely dry.

If it hadn't been sweet wine it would have been an equally sweet orange juice or perhaps that yummy passionfruit cordial with lemonade so the dessert wine was a perfect alternative. And it WAS a cape dessert wine!

Kavey is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:03 AM
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15 May

Leisurely breakfast chatting to another couple staying just one night before packing and saying farewell. I ask to buy a small pot of Lucienne's wonderful homemade gooseberry jam to enjoy when we're selfcatering but Lucienne generously gifts it to me. Very sweet.

The views from the Franschhoek Pass never get boring and we enjoy them a last time as we head to Swellendam on the N2. We're soon driving through prime farming country ? large and colourfield fields patchworking the low hills, backed by the continuous string of mountains.

The owners of Aan de Oever are absent just for the day to drive their daughter to a distant school sporting event. They let me know of this apologetically before we left the UK and arranged for a friend working in a neighbouring bed and breakfast to meet, greet and assist us.

When we arrive at 12.40 Janet is waiting and shows us around the guest house, gardens and to our room. She also lets us see the honeymoon suite with 3 single beds (two of which are usually made up as a double), a large seating area with fireplace, a private deck and a large bathroom with a walk-in double shower. Our standard double room is also delightful. It opens through double french doors directly outside onto the front lawn area. It's modern, comfortable and airy and has a lovely bathroom (with a strangely shallow bath tub). The owners have also kindly given me an absolutely superb rate and we pay less for this beautiful room (and breakfast) than any other accommodation throughout the trip.

My sister has suggested we eat an evening meal at the Old Gaol (which is just a minute's walk from our bed and breakfast) but as it's closed this evening we take lunch there instead. My spiced butternut squash soup is thick, creamy, perfectly spiced and wonderfully rich in flavour and is served with wonderful fresh bread. Pete has an open sandwich with farm cheese and greek salad toppings. With a beer and a homemade lemonade the bill is just 66 Rand.

We browse the shops nearby and then return for the car and head for the nearby Bontebok Park. The 5 km of gravel road makes for slow going and when we get to the gate we decide that 60 Rand per person entry fee is just too high for a park in which we'd intended to spend no more than an hour. On the drive back we spot an animal that we decide, with the help of our mammal field guide, is probably a grey rhebok. We're not absolutely sure though!

Then we head over to the Faerie Sanctuary ? the absolutely funniest attraction we visit during the entire trip. One lady's passion for fairies has resulted in her and her husband's endeavours to create a place which is dedicated to the creatures and the large garden is full of the most bizaare collection of statues, toys, signs, toadstools and other mystical objects. Once we've toured the garden, giggling, we enter the house where we find a series of rooms have been made into a grotto/ shop. The woman is dressed in what looks like a bed sheet and is handing out photocopies of fairytales and enthusing about how wonderful it is that so many people must feel the same about fairies as she does. I am not sure she has a clue that she's missed most peoples' motivations for visiting. Still it's kind of sweet and she is obviously happy. We sign the book and pop in the 5 Rand per person suggested donation before heading back to Aan de Oever to enjoy the extensive back garden. There's a river running along the back edge of the garden and a small swimming pool too.

After a lazy afternoon we head to the restaurant in nearby guesthouse Roosjes, which Riaan & Julie have suggested and reserved for us. I have two starters together as my main ? Sydneyside Squid (deep fried with mild and sweet chilli sauce on a bed of peppers) plus Snails on Brie (where the normal garlic butter snails dish is supplemented by a dollop of brie below each snail which has melted into a lovely ooze). Pete has an Americano pizza. For dessert we share a light malva pudding served with a thin custard and ice cream. It's essentially a very light toffee sponge and it's delicious. With a couple of beers and a can of grapetise the bill is 152 Rand.
Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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16 May

The next morning we arrive for breakfast at 8.30 and meet Riaan and Julie. First we are served a fruit plate each and some fresh juice, tea and coffee. Then we are served a cooked breakfast (to order). Everything is very elegant.

After breakfast we wander around the gardens with Riaan who talks us through the current building project. He's extending the guesthouse upwards to add two huge luxury rooms which will essentially be additional honeymoon suites. I think they will be just beautiful. He also takes a quick digital snap of the two of us ? he does this for all guests (with their permission) and finds it very helpful when guests book return stays and he can remind himself what they look like.

We check out, pay, sign the guest book and are given a sweet little paper bag with a label reading "drive safely" and a banana, orange and two little muffins. What a sweet and thoughtful touch!

We head off to Oudtshoorn via the Tradouw Pass and the R62. It's a very scenic route and we pass through lots of small towns and open country. The road is not very busy and it's a relaxing drive. Well, of course, Pete's the one driving, so it's very relaxing for me!

We arrive at Thylitshia Villa (a few km outside of the town) at about 1pm and are shown to our room, number 6, which is the end room just near the pool. It's very small but quite sweet with split stable doors. The furniture is a little too antique (i.e. worn) for my preferences but the room is pretty, clean and peaceful.

We dump our bags and head straight for the Cango Caves which are quite a drive out of Oudtshoorn. We arrive at 1.40 and buy tickets for the 2.00 pm tour (40 Rand each). That gives us time to grab a plate of chips and a cold drink before joining our guide John Fred. He's an excellent guide, managing to really inject enthusiasm into his explanations despite doing the same tour day after day. He's also one of the campest men I've ever met. He takes us through several caves talking to us about the geology, the various formations, how the original discovers accessed the caves before the openings, stairs and paths were created and also about the vandalism that still occurs. Visitors surreptitiously chop off smaller stalactites that have taken hundreds of thousands, even millions of years to form. The tour lasts about 50 minutes after which we stop for a proper lunch in the restaurant. We enjoy a burger and potato wedges out on the terrace, chatting to two South African girls who were in our tour group and are taking a garden route holiday.

Leaving Cango Caves we head for the Ruste en Vrede Falls. We arrive at 3.55 and pay are 15 Rand before being told that the gates close at 4.30 and we have almost 3 kms to drive there and back plus a "400 metres" ealk from the car park to the falls. Infact that walk is longer and quite slow going as it's along narrow rocky ledges, up and down stairs and back and forth across the water on narrow metal bridges. We spend only minutes at the falls before turning back. The falls are pretty but I think we'd have enjoyed them much less if we had to share those narrow paths with lot of other visitors.

After returning to Thylitshia we have tea on the verandah of the main building before relaxing a while. We head back to town for dinner at Jemima's. What a wonderful experience! The food is delicious, service friendly and prices very reasonable. Amuse bouches of choux pastry with goats cheese and pesto are served first. Another surprise is the lovely sourdough bread served with butter and a bowl of aubergine and cheese spread. Then Pete has a duck liver pate and brioche that's so good I want to come back tomorrow for lunch and dinner and eat nothing but that. Sadly Jemima's is closed the next day. My starter is also quite good ? ostrich tartar with mushrooms, rocket and parmesan ? but not as special as Pete's. I failed to write down the mains or desserts so I can't tantalise your taste buds any further! We did sign the guest book and thank both the Le Roux Sisters, Annette and Celia before we left.

Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 12:18 PM
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17 May

After breakfast we head to the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Guided tours start at fixed times so we explore some of the animal enclosures whilst waiting for the next slot. The meerkats are active and it's fun to watch them taking turns as lookout, standing upright and gazing all around, alertly. We also check out the various snakes in a small building with glass tanks before walking over to visit the goats and the pygmy hippos. These are strange little creatures and very hard to see in the wild. They aren't just a small replica of the hippo we know and love but have different head and body shapes and they live in very different habitats. A little after 10 our guide starts the tour by taking us around the alligators and crocodiles enclosure. The animals are separated by age group with some of the more aggressive individuals isolated completely. It's winter so they aren't very active. I'm surprised by how bright the yellow interior of their mouths are. After this we head over to the Big Cats area and peer at white and regular tigers (same species just a pigmentation mutation), lions, cheetahs, pumas and jaguars. One of the tigers gave birth exactly one week ago but hardly any staff have seen the cubs yet let alone visitors. We watch her sitting on top of a shed in her cage but the cubs are probably hidden inside. We pay the extra 50 Rand to go inside with the cheetahs and are able to stroke them and feel how wiry and thick their fur is ? not at all what I expected! After lunch (crocodile tastes like fishy, chewy chicken) we spend some time watching the keepers feed the two 15 month old tiger cubs before heading back to visit the Cameroon Dwarf Goats. One is particularly friendly so I pay a couple of Rand for some feed and go into the enclosure to feed him. It's so much fun! Even Pete is tempted to have a go!

We certainly didn't expect to spend more than a few hours at the wildlife ranch so adjust our afternoon plans. We decide to drive the beautiful Meereingspoort Pass. It's a beautiful drive through deep, narrow rock chasms. The road follows the river at the bottom and is designed to ford the river itself at many locations, however the water levels are low at the moment so we don't get our tires wet at all. We stop at a visitor centre and Pete makes the steep climb to view the falls whilst I bird watch down below.

On our return to Thylitshia the hostess, Monica, takes us to visit the ostriches and then on to taste the wines, brandy and eau de vie. We spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool chatting to two elderly South African couples travelling together on holiday. They are charming folks and we enjoy their company over dinner. The meal is very mediocre but we laugh such a lot. A young German couple are also present and one of them shows us his wonderful astronomy photographs. They are visiting a South African observatory during their trip and he has brought prints along to share with friends there. If you stay at Thylitshia I wouldn't recommend dinner there, it's just not good value or an enjoyable meal compared with the many excellent options we've experienced so far.

Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 12:53 PM
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18 May

After breakfast it was time to check out. On our arrival I'd asked about laundry. I'd been told that the price was 45 Rand for a load and that if we wanted any done we should leave the laundry on the bathroom floor and the maids would take it. We had decided not to bother and had not left any clothes on the bathroom floor. We did have two bags of dirty clothes which were in the corner of our room with our luggage bags (no where near the bathroom). When we came to pack I couldn't find the smaller (almost empty) one and finally thought to ask Monica if the maids had taken it. She returned my laundry and charged us 45 Rand. I pointed out that 1 pair of trousers, 2 tops and a bra hardly constituted a load and that it was a bit cheeky to charge when we very expressly hadn't left the bag in any location that might suggest to the maids we wanted it taken but she shrugged. Whilst it's a minor point it did sum up the attitude at Thylitshia which often struck me as a little money grabbing. This was the only guest house where we were charged extra for the pot of tea that we had one afternoon.

We headed off for Knysna via George and stopped briefly at the Sedgefield craft market. The craft market was hugely disappointing, as was the craft shop. The Scarab workshop was vaguely interesting though the paper isn't really made of elephant dung so much as it uses a little bit of it alongside lots of regular recycled paper. I think it's included more for marketing than anything.

We stopped to view the Map of Africa in Wilderness but decided it probably only looks like a map of Africa to a one eyed man who is squinting into the sun! Still, it was a sweet little drive.

The views as you drive into Knysna really are beautiful. The coast weaves a complicated line and the road sometimes passes over the water itself on small bridged expanses.

When we arrive at Inyathi we are charmed by the steep little plot but a little put off by our cabin. The main reason for this is the incredibly flimsy double door which is completely glass fronted and secured with a single lock. A hard pull would easily break it open. But we have also been given use of the attached children's room next door which has a much more secure door and once we have settled in the cabin grows on us. Our bed is on a ledge and reminds me of a ship's berth. The bathroom is large and stained glass windows paint beautiful light patterns inside the cabin. It's a comfortable room and the price is good though we get the impression that it's marketed to younger clients and might tend towards a slightly drunken student party atmosphere during busy months. There are barbeque facilities available.

We drive out to the Eastern Head for lunch and enjoy sitting outside watching boats pass us and the little (old) lighthouse from the terrace of the Easterm Heads Café. Pete has an omelette and chips and I have an open sandwich with lots of fillings. With drinks it's 77 Rand.

After lunch we head back to the cabin and call Selwyn as we've realised that it might be easier for us to be based at Storms River for the night after we do our tree tops tour. He also gives us contact details for Headman, an Eyethu guide at Addo, and I call him to make a booking.

We take a drive to Plettenberg Bay and spend some driving around but aren't really grabbed so we change our plans on impulse and head over to Storms River village. There we make a booking at the Storms River Guest Lodge for the 20th and also book a place on the tree top canopy tour for the same date.

On another of Selwyn's recommendations we enjoy a wonderful dinner at La Leorie restaurant which is almost opposite Inyathi. By the way, we decide that we're not really that keen on central Knysna and would opt to stay in a suburb next time. That said most of the economic accommodation choices are central.

Le Leorie was named (by previous owners who were poor at spelling) after the famous Knysna Lourie bird. It's now a french restaurant and we enjoy chatting to the hosts, Sandy and her husband Abdel. Abdel is the chef so is mostly in the kitchen though he does come out to chat. Sandy looks after the front of house. I have the Coquilles de la Mer with an orange butter sauce and Pete has Camembert Pane. Then he has a lovely chicken marsala and I have a very tender beef Fillet La Loerie. The chef is generous with the sauces which I always appreciate. For dessert we share the crepes gateaux (which is an absolutely incredible "cake" made from layers and layers of thin pancakes and a lemony sauce) and amarula truffles served with ice cream. With a carafe of wine plus some soft drinks and tea and coffee the bill is only 333 Rand.

And best of all, it's just a few short steps (and a little bit of a climb) back to our cabin.
Kavey is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:21 PM
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As your trip report grows in size the more exciting the area you traveled in becomes. It truly is a wonderful journey of expereinces to read. Whatever you do please dont stop until you get to the end which I know is still quite a way to go.

Thanks a ton for taking the time to write this all.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 06:18 AM
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Selwyn, funny you say that I was just thinking that I was probably inflicting this on the board as I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to read it.
I'm writing it up in Word for myself anyhow so I'll continue to post it!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 06:36 AM
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I, for one, am actually reading all of them. So the more you post, the more I will read. And enjoy.

I'm still in shock you got to pet a cheetah. I'm soooo sooooo jealous!

And just to let you know, I'm very interested in reading the "rest of the story".

By the way, pictures...any time soon? :-"
divewop is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 07:23 AM
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Sorry, pictures no time soon - there are thousands and it's just so daunting to sort through and process them that I'm putting it off and off and off ... and I do have other tasks that I ought to do first...

I promise I'll post a link when I do get them up though!

Thanks for letting me know someone's reading!!!!!!

Kavey is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 01:57 PM
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We've all been waiting months for this report - of course we're reading. There were many days while you were away where I thought "wonder where Kavey is now". Must admit though that I'm impatient for the safari bits (sorry Selwyn, but that's the current obsessions!)

Keep writing girl!
RuthieC is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 02:08 PM
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OK OK, sorry, I'll get on with it. I'm not fishing for praise, just was paranoid I was posting a report noone was really interested in!
Kavey is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 05:43 PM
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Oh Kavey, I love reading your reports. It's the details that make it real. I appreciate all the time it takes to write. The remembering, the reliving and then writing. Having not been to Africa yet, except Casablanca in '66, I can learn by reading itineraries, but I can "travel" reading your reports....And then what?
mzcuriouz is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 12:15 AM
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I've already confessed elsewhere on this board how impatient I am. You've left us in the middle of your wonderful journey.

Please please let us have another instalment - tantrums are brewing #39;(
RuthieC is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 01:33 AM
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I was just thinking last night I'd better get on with this. Promise to add some today or over the weekend... promise promise!
Kavey is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 07:25 AM
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19th May

After breakfast this morning we set off for a driving tour of the area, starting with an insight into how the other half live in the village of Belvedere. Rather charming houses though the atmosphere was non-existent! Then we drove up hill to a viewpoint offering spectacular views of the lagoon and on to Brenton on Sea and Lake Brenton. After that we really enjoyed a hair-raising drive along Phantom Pass and back via the N2. I'm glad we didn't meet anyone coming from the opposite direction! We stopped to browse at a few craft stalls along the roadside and just to admire the lovely views. The crafts were disappointing so we pootled along to Forest Gate (east of Knysna) but the selection was uninspiring there too. Really we were just enjoying the lovely views whilst driving.

We dropped the car back at Inyathi and walked across to a casual restaurant called 28 On Main. I really enjoyed my Thai Chicken Curry Pancake and Pete had a nice one with herby mince, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos. With one beer the bill was 75 Rand.

After that filling stop we walked down to the waterfront and looked into boating trips. I think that the choice of times was limited because of the season and we settled for a 2pm trip on the ferry. I'd have liked to take the catamaran trip but didn't want to hang around until 4. We sat outside at the front and were given very welcome blankets to keep us warm when we were on the move. Our guide was pretty interesting and related lots of stories about how various villages, parts of the lagoon and land parcels got their names. She told us about the Featherbed Reserve including how it was named and about the guy who created it. She told of ships that had floundered trying to come into the calm waters of the lagoon and the work of a gentleman who saved many more from doing so. Because the waters had calmed down we were able to get right out between the heads though the ferry doesn't continue out into the open sea like the catamarans do. We reached the quay again at around 3.15 and stopped for a coffee. The two girls we'd met at the Cango Caves walked by and waved through the window at us.

We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling in our cabin reading books and writing the diary. We had intended to go to the Chinese restaurant in the square neighbouring Inyathi but decided it was too expensive. The dishes were priced as they would be at home in London whereas other restaurants in South Africa were significantly cheaper than London prices. So we went to a restaurant called Changes in the same square. I had an unusual and tasty marrow bone starter with toast and a meaty red wine and onion sauce. Pete had a chunky vegetable soup. My ostrich medallions in pepper sauce were too hot for me to finish ? I can only assume the chef dropped the entire contents of his pepper mill in the sauce by mistake. The flavour was great but it was just too hot to finish. They did bring me some natural yoghurt to calm the tastebuds when I explained the problem but didn't offer to exchange the dish or cook me a fresh portion. Pete had chicken stuffed with spinach and feta. We shared a dessert of pancakes with hot spiced bananas, amarula and ice cream. I didn't make a note of our bill but it was reasonable.

Walking back we passed an estate agent window and I do like to stop and dream. I was surprised to see Inyathi for sale. It was priced around UK£105K and may still be on sale if you're looking for a career change!
Kavey is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 08:17 AM
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20th May

At breakfast the owners confirm that they are selling up but that because there is only 5 months left on the lease it's been on the market 3 months already. We pack, pay and move on towards Storms River via the old R102 road. This involves hairpin bends through a spectacular jungle environment and is a lovely drive. We check in to our lovely room at the Storms River Guest Lodge and then walk down to bring forward the time of our Tree Tops tour. That done we enjoy a snack lunch next door (included in the price, for some reason). It's basic fare ? hotdogs, burgers or toasted sandwiches with chips and cheap soft drinks ? but fills a space. Then we are kitted up by the specialists and drive to the starting point.

First are 2 nursery slides ? supposedly easier than the others but still terrifying to someone who is so scared of heights she won't stand on a chair! Stepping off the platform is the hardest but I find the slide itself and the landings OK. What's also scary is the braking technique ? we are wearing heavy duty gloves with thicker pads in the palms and simply pull down on the cable to slow ourselves down.

We are sharing our tour with just one other couple so I don't have time between slides for the nerves to escalate. The setting is beautiful and the platforms between slides offer an incredible view. Though our guides don't tell us much about what we're seeing it is interesting to hear one of them tell us about his involvement in building the attraction and the environmentally friendly methods used.

One one of the earlier slides I manage to misplace my breaking hand which means I'm pulling down to break with a part of my hand not protected by the extra padding. It makes my hand burn for the rest of the tour. One slide is billed as particularly steep and fast. Fellow guest Steve goes first and responds easily to Nico's instructions on when to start slowing down. Unfortunately my arms simply aren't strong enough to pull down hard enough and I am unable to brake sufficiently to avoid slamming into the tree trunk at the destination platform. It doesn't hurt ? I did slow down to an extent and my knees take the strain ? but it shocks the heck out of Nico and Steve and the platform vibrates. I have a feeling Pete has captured the entire thing on video.

He teases me mercilessly when I take the camcorder to film him doing a slide and he realised afterwards that I turned it on it's side. As a photographer I'm used to thinking about whether portrait or landscape orientation will work best for the scene but have to laugh when he asks if we'll have to turn the TV on it's side to watch that bit of the video!

After the last slide there's a steep walk back to the waiting car and although it's not very far I do find it hard going. We're back at the centre by 2 pm as our group consisted of only 4 instead of the maximum of 8 guests and was able to proceed more quickly. I kind of wish we'd realised and lingered longer on the platforms to admire the views.

The costs is 390 per adult plus tip at your discretion.

We revive our energies at the Café Bacchus in the hotel next door where we have hysterics over the footage, especially my rotated bit. Our strawberry milkshakes are jolly nice and we also have a potato wedges starter and a calamari starter. It's spoiled a little by the bill being wrong. This doesn't worry me too much as I picked up the mistake but I am annoyed to be kept waiting over 20 minutes while they resolve it. They are not busy ? there is only one other table of 3 guests.

We spend the rest of the afternoon at Storms River Mouth inside the Tsitsikamma Forest National Park. Entrance is 40 Rand each. The camp is in a stunning coastal location and all chalets have marvellous views as well as large braai areas for outdoor meals. We take a lovely walk down onto the sand and around the area but decide not to make the climb up to the rope bridge further inland.

There is a large sunbird population here and we're able to get incredibly close to one little bird as it feeds on nectar in an orange flower. We're so close for so long that we're able to confidently identify it as a Greater Double Collared Sunbird by looking at the shape of it's body and beak and the exact colour of it's belly.

We stop in the shop for postcards and in the restaurant for a drink but decide to head back to the village for dinner which we take at the nearby Armagh guest house. The accommodation is overpriced to our mind but the food is much more reasonable. We have a beautifullly spiced butternut squash soup. Then I have a really good lamb curry (and I am pretty demanding given how wonderfully my mum cooks lamb curry). Pete has a local chicken pie, apparently a speciality originating in District Six. With 2 beers and a soft drink the bill is only 182 Rand.

After a lovely hot shower I write my diary and we enjoy a very comfortable night's sleep.
Kavey is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 10:28 AM
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Typo above, there is 5 YEARS left on their lease.
Kavey is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 11:04 AM
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21 May

The Storms River Guest Lodge has really good strong showers. How wonderful! And their breakfast is also wonderful ? a buffet of cereals, stewed and fresh fruits, juices etc and then a hot breakfast cooked to order. Ken is originally from the UK and he's sourced good, traditional British bangers instead of the local sausages, which, though very nice, don't hit the spot for Brits as much as a good banger!

We pay and leave by 8.30 so that we can get to Addo as early as possible. We stop at a Pick and Pay shortly before the N10 turnoff to buy groceries and get some cash from an ATM as we don't know how readily either will be available inside the park.

We arrive at 11.45 and check in at reception. Although we can't get into our chalet yet it's good to arrive early since the night's accommodation and conservation fee entitles you to spend the entire day of entry and of departure inside the park.

We enter the park proper and decide to drive the lower loop. I'm being lazy in not getting my map of Addo out to check what it's called. Immediately we enter we see a group of 3 kudu (2 females and a male) right by the road. Given how rare it was to see these animals when we visited Botswana in 2001 we are duly impressed to get such a wonderful view. I start chanting about kudu kudos until Pete begs me to shut up!

Having noticed the signs informing us that dung beetles are endangered and hence a protected species we peer at the road to make sure we don't run any over and see a lovely big tok tokkie beetle pootling along. In short order we find a red hartebeest, huge groups of ostriches, a yellow mongoose, a warthog family and various birds including a heron and some flycatchers. I'm searching earnestly for elephants and Pete nearly dies laughing as I see a flock of ostrich and say "ostrich, ostrich, ostrich? ELEPHANT? oh, no, it's just more ostriches". He can't quite understand how I could confuse two ostriches for an elephant, even a little one, and frankly, I'm not sure how that happened either. Still, it becomes a common mantra throughout the rest of the trip.

And all that in less than an hour as we return to reception at 12.50 for our keys to chalet 19. It's a semi detached chalet and is absolutely huge. Inside we have twin beds made up as a double at one end of a large open lounge that has a sofa bed at the other side and a huge area in between. The open kitchen is pretty good and the bathroom is perfectly fine too. Outside we have our own shaded verandah plus a metal braai on the grass. We don't use ours though as it's foolishly positioned directly under a low thorn tree. They need to either trim back the tree or move the braai.

After an easy lunch of sandwiches made in our lovely kitchen and crisps we have a bit of a rest before returning to the main gate at 2 pm to collect Headman, the Eyethu guide we booked at Selwyn's recommendation. We had called him on his mobile number a couple of days back to arrange the date and time. I'm confused as he says the fee is only 50 Rand for two hours and I was expecting it to be 100 but he's insistent that it's only 50. He hops into the car and off we go.

At first we don't see much but it's interesting to talk with Headman about his history and how he came to be a guide. He is very enthusiastic and hopes to become a full guide working for the park itself in the future. We see the usual ostrich, warthogs, kudu and birds. (We quickly realise that, in this park, kudu are very abundant indeed). Headman tells us of a xhosa saying: He who kills the wagtail bird will find every dish in his home broken.

Suddenly we come across a black backed jackal right by the road. I do love these animals and this one is in fine condition. Just then we spot an elephant off to one side and move forward a little. We spot 3 more and can see they are all headed in the same direction. Headman foresees that they will cross the road ahead and instructs us to continue along the road and around a corner. Just after we stop the lead elephant approaches and crosses the road infront of us and we grin in delight as a huge herd follows it across. After the final elephant has crossed we continue around the next corner to get a better view of the entire herd at a waterhole by the road. The elephants approach the water, drink deeply, caress each other with their trunks and demonstrate how much they are enjoying the experience. Youngsters race between the legs of adults, almost tripping them in their exhuberance. We watch one youngster clamber up his sibling and another reach up his trunk to an adult such that his entire pink mouth is visible to us. As a couple of adults move on we laugh as one youngster races after them whilst a stream of urine arcs out behind him!

Our only negative thought is towards fellow visitors who get out of their car to take better pictures. We approach them in our car so that Headman can instruct them to get into their own but it's clear they were aware of the rules. We can't reach another lady who also opens her car door and gets out to take better pictures. At least she stays immediately by the door.

When we finally leave we are as startled as the kudu that leaps across the road infront of us, tail raised in fear to show the fluffy white underside. As we continue we see another kudu, this time a large adult male. Another hartebeest feeding on some nearby grass and then we come across an incredible fight between a yellow mongoose and a grey mongoose. They race across the ground, stopping intermittently to attach each other ferociously. Headman reveals he has never seen this before either.

More hartes, kudu and lots of birds. We come across a car stopped in the road that points at the road ahead and we see a huge bull elephant feeding on an acacia bush at the roadside. The couple in the car look petrified but are a long distance from the elephant and Headman says we can approach further without entering his comfort zone. We do that and enjoy watching him for a while but eventually turn around when it's clear he's not moving for a while and we are approaching our 4pm end time. We drive back to the main gate. Headman goes off duty after our session and is off home to Paterson for the weekend. I'm sure we've been undercharged for his services (though I can only guess that the Eyethu guides decided to drop prices for the winter season) so I tip him another 50 and wish him a happy weekend. All in all it seems a ridiculously low price for the services of a guide within one's own car.

We pause for a few supplies in the camp shop (though we're pleased we did our main grocery shopping in a supermarket outside the park since choice is limited and prices higher). After chilling for a while we light the braai (using the one next door since we can see that chalet is empty) but give up when it still isn't hot enough to cook on after quite some time. We bought easy cook items such as dried pasta and a packet cheese sauce and some meat which we grill. Despite having loved every minute of our wonderful eating experiences in the cape region we enjoy our meal and retire tired and happy.
Kavey is offline  
Aug 13th, 2004, 11:43 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
22 May

Get up and ready early enough to leave the chalet by 6.30 and are the 5th car into the reserve. Nice and peaceful though it wasn't exactly crowded yesterday it certainly wasn't empty either.

Head for the Hapoor waterhole as the sky gradually lightens. Spot a few harte and kudu on the way. We get there at 7 but there's little happening however I'm glad we wait for a few minutes as we witness two black backed jackals trotting around the water. One has a large brown bird in it's jaw and the other races towards it before they run off into the bush together.

After a while we head to the nearby fenced hide area where you can get out, climb over a permanent stairway and down inside the fenced area inside which toilets are located. It's also a hide looking out on another waterhole but it's absolutely devoid of any visible life.

After we leave we see some crowned plovers by the waterhole, some ostriches nearby and then spot the jackal couple again, this time right where we saw the single one yesterday so assume he was one of this pair.

On the way to Janwai pan we see a large male kudu but little else for a while though we spend some time checking out spoor and using our little book to identify them. Eventually we come across a group of red hartebeest grazing and we stop the car to watch. Gradually they move towards us following a line of tasty grass, no doubt.

We head for the Zuurkop lookout point which affords a lovely view out over the park. We're permitted to get out and it's quiet enough that I risk a pee in the bushes in the knowledge that no one is anywhere nearby. As we leave we spot and identify a rock kestrel. We're definitely enjoying identifying sightings ourselves though, with birds, we're quite slow as we don't yet know which section to narrow the search down to and have to flick through a whole lot of pages each time.

We return to the camp to enjoy a fairly average cooked breakfast in the camp restaurant, grab some chocolate and fruit juice from the camp shop and some sunblock from the chalet for Pete and then we're back out in the park.

We see the usual on our way to a more open grassland area where we come across a pair of secretary birds and a large group of about 10 warthogs. Never seen that large a group before. We also spy a yellow mongoose sitting upright on a nearby ridge. We stop to watch the antics of some turquoise arsed vervet monkeys just by the road. They peer at us from their sober black faces before the adults turn back to feeding and the young ones resume their chases in and out of the bushes.

Up by Carol's Rest we come across lots of red hartebeest, a couple of zebra, a really large group of ostrich and more kudu, warthog and herons.

We eventually head back to the chalet passing a lone male bull elephant off to one side. There are already a few cars and as he's not half as close as the group we saw yesterday we continue on.

I fall fast asleep when back at the chalet (my fault for staying up late reading last night) and Pete enjoys a long soak in the bath. We both love having bathrooms with tubs as well as showers.

On waking we grab a snack and head back into the park. We laugh at an ostrich in a water pan. He thinks he's a flamingo, someone really ought to let him know? Near Mbabela we come across guineau fowl and zebra but sightings are sparce in this area. We spot the same group of re hartebeest again near Janwai pan and head to Rooidam. A loud group of visitors arrive and I just can't stand the noise they are making (just talking to each other within their one vehicle) so we leave and move to Gwarriedam where we spot some egyptian geese. We wait as the sun sets and spot some kudu in the bushes at the far side but they don't come down to the water and we have to leave to exit the park on time. At another waterhole on the way to camp we pause and watch a warthog family race to the water and kneel at the edge to quench their thirst in the fading light.

Back at the chalet we relax, pack, cook, eat and shower before getting an early night.
Kavey is offline  

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