Bourke's Pot Holes, God's Window
Today you had some sights to see and distance to cover, so you untangled the washing lines from the picture hooks around the bedroom and drove off towards White River. Taking backroads to avoid the city wasted about an hour since your map was missing roads, causing a lot of wrong turns. You drove up steep, windy roads into the mystically misty North Eastern South African hills. Up there you were basically alone. The air was really cool.
The car really had no guts at all, needing to drop down into second and first gear to make it up the hills. We decided to stop on the roadside beside some tall eucalyptus trees and use the fuel from our reserve tank. We didn't have a funnel, making it a stinky, dizzying operation.
We arrived at Blyde River Canyon lookout and had a look about. The view was amazing! Some souvenir stalls were set up in the car park, and since they weren't being at all pushy we picked out some trinkets.
Just down the road was Bourke's Potholes: a collection of small waterfalls which had cut deeply into the surrounding rocks making interesting shapes and patterns. This was obviously a tourist hotspot since there were a lot of pushy souvenir stalls. You avoided most of them and went back to the car to reapply antiseptic to your heel - the cut from Zambieze riverboarding had not yet completely healed.
A bit further down the road just past Berlin Falls was another lookout named God's Window. It supposedly a vantage point to see Hazy View - aptly named since all you could see were clouds. You went for a jungley walk and met a colourful grasshopper and an angry looking lizard. Upon returning, the carpark was flooded with bus-loads of stinky, loud asians.
It was a bit of a rush but you made it to the Kruger National Park gate just time time before closing. On the way to the camp we came across elephants and rhinos almost immediately - two of the latter snoozing in the middle of the road. We speeded slightly to make it to camp, arriving five minutes before the gate shut.
We weren't really worried about running out of camping gas anymore, so boiled ourselves some pasta. It was the best we've had since arriving in Africa. We somehow managed to spill dishwashing detergent, wasting more than we've used in six weeks. We shared a shower with some geckos and went to bed.
Kruger National Park
As with most all-day safaris, today in Kruger was, as usual, not all action. We drove between waterholes for most of the day, waiting at several spots while a few big animals eyed each other with passive concern. We spent the rest of the time playing battleship on our notepad while waiting for action.
One waterhole had two rhinos and a buffalo grunting each other down for a good half hour. We had hopes for something to happen, but the best we got were some springy impala strutting nonchalantly by to drank at their leisure. I guess they were too small to worry about.
It was very warm in the car, even with all the windows open. During the day we saw five more rhino and some elephants, then had lunch on a hill looking out over the plains.
Once we noticed it was getting late we made tracks for the next camp. Kruger is so huge you could spend several days exploring its vastness. Just before arriving at the camp we ran into a huge heard of elephants crossing the road... very... very... slowly. We couldn't really move since there were walking both behind and in front, so we sat there watching their huge mass plod along with the occasional baby in tow.
We may have exceeded the speed limit by a lot but we made it to the camp at 6:20pm, ten minutes before closing. After a dip in the bug-filled pool we went to bed.
Debegeni Falls, Magoebaskloof Cottage
We started really early, actually leaving the camp with daybreak, but he road was blocked by an elephant. There was nothing to do but wait for him to finish throwing sand and dust over himself with his trunk while making grunting noises. We saw a lot more elephants (must have been their territory) and some Malibu stalks before leaving the park at about 12 midday.
Meike drove to Tsaeen past lots of "No selling" signs, and about ten times as many people selling mangos. We drove to the Debegeni Falls, paid a 30 Rand fee and had a quick chilly dip. It was actually slippery enough to use the watercourse like a slide.
We drove on to Magoebaskloof Getaway Cottages in a valley, surrounded by a plantation forest. The slope down into the valley was quite steep - enough to make us worry we may not get back up! We emptied and repack end our bags.
Pretoria and Home
We woke while it was till dark outside and listened to the rain. It was very peaceful but Meike couldn't get back to sleep, worrying the dirt road out of the valley would be washed away and we'd get stranded.
We had our final breakfast in Africa, threw our bags into the car while it was still raining and left our remaining supplies (toilet paper, oil, etc.) with a note in the room for the owners.
The 4x4 powered up the muddy driveway - surprising, considering how gutless it'd been the last six weeks. We hit the asphalt and drove along the misty mountain roads towards Pretoria.
We filled up on the way a few time trying to keep the fuel at a minimum; adding 200R, 100R, 100R and again 200R. We didn't feel like donating anything to Vaughan (the car bloke) after how helpful he'd been during our travels.
We made it to Joberg in heavy traffic and rain. The downpour's severity had caused the traffic lights to stop functioning. After some wrong turns and splashing through deep water covering the road, we found our starting point.
We had to wait for the guy giving us a lift to the airport, so we sat down and had some tea. Vaughan's dogs annoyed Meike, while you distracted yourself with his Star Wars pinball machine. He had an amazing fish tank with extensive corals and tropical fish. One frisky fish even jumped out onto the floor.
The car-dude bragged about how easy it was to bribe the cops ("here's my licence", and passes them a 100R note) when he got caught speeding on his motorbike without license plates. In his next sentence he complained how corrupt the South African police were. The irony was lost on him.
On the way to Johannesburg airport we heard stories about the J-berg slums of four to six million occupants, and the tours our driver offered into them. He explained he advises tour patrons to keep the windows closed, cameras down and to hide any sign of being white. Our drive also told us about the soccer World Cup to be held soon, and all the fans he expected to go home with aids. If nothing else he was very honest.
We got the the airport super early. We spent something one chatting to a Norwegian lady complaining about everything being corrupt, and had Nandos which gave Sam the hiccups. Check-in was delayed since the computers were down (right...) so we browsed, spent our last Namibian and South African monies, and then flew home.
Final trip distance: 12318 km