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Alicia’s Travel Diary

Monday, 16 Aug 2010

Location: Kwa Mbili Game Lodge, South Africa

MapWe work up bright eyed and bushy tailed around 7am, anyone who knows me knows that I am just about the opposite of that at 7am normally. A good night's sleep in an actual bed was just what we needed. I took a shower and Mike watched the news. They were covering an "informal settlement" which is basically a bunch of cardboard/tin shacks in the middle of nowhere. This 'settlement' was stealing electricity from the local power company. The power company was losing money and wanted to shut them down, but if they did that they would be denying the people in the settlement basic things they needed to get by, so for the time being they were allowing them to steal the electricity. It was interesting, not something you would see on the new in the U.S.. For breakfast they had quiet the spread, they had normal breakfast foods like pastries, cereal, fruit and eggs, but then they also had things like fish cakes, baked beans, and vegetable stir fry. We headed back to the airport after breakfast to pick up our rental car and began the 7 hour drive to Kruger National Park.

We started off our journey going the wrong direction on the first highway. We didn't realize this until we were a good way along of course. I looked at the map and figured out that we could keep going and just take a different highway towards Kruger and it would actually meet up with the highway we were supposed to get on eventually anyway. Once we got to this highway, we managed to go the wrong direction on this one as well. This mistake cost a bit more as we had to pay a toll to get off the highway to turn around and pay another toll to get back on going in the opposite direction. After that we made it quite a ways before any other troubles. We drove past a few neighborhoods which were fenced in like they were a prison, high walls, barbed wire and security gates. Merging was probably the most perilous thing we had to do while driving. It was common for people to come to a complete stop at the end of an on ramp because people wouldn't let them on the highway, it was a scary mess. We saw several signs that warned drivers of "high car hijacking zone" and one sign that warned "heavy vehicle wheel stolen".

It's winter here and the dry season so everything around us looked like dry dusty desert. There was a brown haze in the air from a mixture of dust and pollution from the major cities in the area. Once we got a few hours east the landscape got much more hilly with huge shear cliffs populating the distance. The only radio station I could find that played any music I remotely recognized played all my favorite songs from middle school. One of the news stories on the radio was that a guy in Wisconsin won a mooing contest! Got to love a little news from home, eh?

We stopped in a decent sized town to grab some lunch and while parking the car Mike realized he couldn't get the car to shift into reverse (it's a stick shift). He tried and tried and eventually we busted out the owner's manual in the glove compartment to find that there is a ring on the shifter knob that you have to pull up in order to shift it into reverse, how weird! Once we were out of the more major areas we knew we were in Africa when we saw two baboons crossing the road in front of us. It didn't even register in my brain what they were at first until Mike cried out "Look, monkeys!" The funny thing was, that wasn't the only time we say monkeys cross the road we were on, we saw a large group cross in front of us when we on a more rural road. We took a short detour to stop at Blyde River Canyon. Our travel book promised us great views and indeed that is what we got. We went to a lookout spot called Three Rondawels after the three large rock formations jutting out from the canyon. The view was somewhat dampened by the haze, but still breathtaking.

We finally reached the entrance, or so we thought, to Thornybush Game Reserve. We went through a controlled gate onto a dirt road until we came to a T intersection. The directions didn't say anything about another intersection, it just said "follow the signs" where we said once again "what signs?". Of course we went the wrong way and ended up driving down the dirt road long enough for it to get dark and make us worried about finding our way in the dark. On the plus side, while trying to find our camp we saw 3 giraffes, several impala and two African buffalo. Eventually we turned around and found our camp's entrance just as the last bit of sunlight left the sky, phew!

Shortly after our arrival we sat down for dinner. Dinner was served to just us at an intimate table for two under the stars. There was a crackling fire next to us and candles and torches that lit up the table. Dinner was amazing! We were served pork chops and baked potatoes. I actually ate the pork chop and liked it! For dessert we got homemade chocolate mousse, so I couldn't have been happier. We called it an early night again because we were dead tired and we would be woken up at 6am for our first safari!