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African Adventure: Part One

Your african adventure begins in Johannesberg, visiting Pilannesberg National Park and then to Red Sands resort in the desert

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This is Africa she says

You strongly believe that work tried to foil your plans of taking an African holiday: overloading you with tasks and making you feel too guilty to leave them unfinished. It didn't work! Following a frantically rushed working day and a ten hour flight, you and your lltc (lovely lady travelling companion) landed in Johannesberg South Africa for the beginning of a five country, six week, twelve thousand kilometer overland camping holiday. Your lltc had done pretty much all the planning for this trip over the last few weeks, while you had just been madly working. After the IR fever scanning and passport stamping at border control, you found your lift to the car rental place. The driver was a chatty black bloke who was happy to show family pictures of his fat wife and baby, talk about soccer and point out South African mobile phone receivers dressed up like trees on the way there. There sure were a lot of lazy looking black dudes sittung in the shade under half-completed bridges, and even more taking advantage of heavy traffic by selling mobile phone chargers and sunglasses. You collected you 4x4 from a buffalo-looking bloke with some terrible sexist jokes - your lltc was 'well trained' to carry her own bag, apparently. You visited the local shopping centre to load up your camping fridge with supplies, where you had your first African customer service experience; a checkout bag-packer was sent to get a price check on two small pumpkins but came back after a very long time with three different ones. The old lady standing behind you in line explained this is Africa and not to expect much. Next you tried to make a break for the country side but, alas, car troubles began even before you could fill with petrol. Actually, that was the problem: you couldn't! The last buggers to rent the 4x4 had plugged the pipe with toilet paper. Odd...

Petrol problems fixed, you were on your way out of Johannesberg. The soccer world cup roadworks and holiday traffic were a bit of a bother to deal with, but more-so a bother was every second set of traffic lights being blacked out due to rain (which in Johannesberg is apparently normal). Eventually you escaped the rain, traffic and pushy street salesmen, and replaced them with rolling hills and roadside fruit stands (often set up below 'no street vending' signs). You made it to the first camp just before dark [140km], where it was just bright enough to see your first zebra. You set up camp (by unfolding the roof tent) and had dinner by the pool at the resort restaurant with lots of croaky frogs. It was not an especially relaxing night's sleep with a very windy thunder storm threatening to blow your tent off the roof, but neither of you were expecting luxury - after all, this is Africa.

Pilanesberg national park

Your second day in Africa was a driving safari through Pilanesberg national park - the skeleton of an ancient volcano about 26 km in diameter full of big African animals. You thought it would be hard to spot things form the dirt roads that wind through the vast open park, but the cheeky buggers were unabashed to just stroll over the road and not even blink as you drive up to them. The first impalla, zebra and hippo appeared in the first kilometer of driving, a small family of jackals in the second, and some elephants on a hill just after. You both found yourselves at a water hole with two sleepy hippos that looked tired enough and far enough away to leave the car (hesitantly, keeping watch for lions) for photos - your lltc stayed on the roof. Just down the road was a herd of zebra and wildebeest, some of which strolled comfortably past the car just a few meters away. This whole safari was feeling a little safer that you earlier thought, but that was not to say it was tiring, as then a giraffe crossed your path. You came to a waterhole viewing area and had the luck to see an elephant family's bath time - it was a very floppy, splashy and muddy event.

It was really surprising how close the animals sauntered about by your car. You came to another group of zebra, some of which were being a bit boisterous, while others stood just beside your window within an arm's reach and watched on. Some time after seeing a pretty looking giraffe with birds on its back walk casually over the road, you came across an elephant standing directly beside the road pulling branches from small trees to eat. He seemed to pay no attention to you driving up to him and stopping with the driver's seat just 3 meters from his munchy mouth (not that his mouth was scary, but the tusks were). You, in your infinite experience with wild animals, thought mr. elephant would not mind if you perhaps left the car to take a better photos of him. He payed you no attention standing 5 meters from him; he sent you not a single glance standing 4 meters from him; however, when you were a mere 3 meters infront of this wild African elephant he decided that was too close and got riled up and snorted angrily at you. This was horrifying to say the least, so you jumped back into you car and made a break for it. Luckily he was more hungry than he was angry, and went back to his tasty tree munching. Lesson learnt: stay in car. You drove up a hill to see what you could see and found some pretty flowers, a few butterflys, some creative African bird nests and a termite nest, and then called it a day. Although bread-on-a-stick-like-in-scouts didn't work so well for tea time, it was a completely satisfying safari day of adventure [421km].

Red Sands Camp

The next morning some baboons had entered the camp and were raiding some unattended tents of watermelon, sticks of butter and anything else vaguely edible and not nailed down. You had you fun watching them being camp-raiding bastards for a bit and then made a move. The roads were in some places good and in others places single-lane for 20km due to roadworks, enforced by rows of stones and average waiting time 40 minutes signs. You soon made it to Red Sands Resort, an aptly named place some distance from the highway in a valley [790km]. It was a beautiful little camp with flowering cacti but rather basic. The heat there was oppressive and the sun was unrelenting but sitting in the shade with a wet shirt helped marvellously. There was a family a vervet monkeys on the ablution block roof and nearby trees with a teeny tiny one curiously edging along the gutters, while helicopter bugs (blister beetles, very loud) hovered nearby. There was also a Southern Masked Weaver bird making his nest above your camp; the story is, after he makes his nest and his mate tries to destroy it to test if it's sturdy enough. That evening, after pumpkin-potato-sausage spicy dinner mix cooked over coals (which took forever), you both climbed the valley hill and watched the sun set. It was another very windy desert night.