Friday, May 29, 2009

South Africa Day Fourteen: Kruger Park to Johannesburg

After having fallen asleep to the sound of lions roaring in the distance, we woke to a quiet camp and had a quick breakfast before setting off on our long drive south through 2/3 of the park to the exit at Crocodile Bridge and then back to Joburg. We had chosen this route because it promised to have a lot of interesting game that we had not yet seen, chiefly wild dogs, hyenas and leopards, though in hindsight, traveling at maximum speed within the park (a stately 50kph) makes sighting game rather difficult. As a result, we only caught sight of large animals like giraffes, rhinos, elephants, and zebras, though we also saw the very rare Kori Bustard (the largest bird that is able to fly, according to our books).

We missed a turn at the Tshokwane picnic site and ended up adding an extra 24 km to our drive, making the journey from Letaba Camp to Crocodile Bridge add up to 220 km, which we managed to cover in just over 4 hours. At Crocodile Bridge we drove a further 6 km within the camp to the Hippo Pool, hoping to see some close-up hippos, though those that were there were wallowing up to their eyes in the water so we could barely see them. We did see a baby crocodile, though, and the ranger who escorted us pointed out a bushman painting, but otherwise we were out of luck.

From Crocodile Bridge we exited the park and headed West back to Johannesburg, going at top speed whenever possible since there was nothing much for us to see here. Thus we covered the nearly 500 km in just over 5 hours, including a stop for lunch in Nelspruit and a gasoline stop somewhere else, and arrived back in our guesthouse by 5pm.

After a brief respite in our room we were met by our friends Jonathan and Margaret and taken to dinner at an Italian restaurant not too far away. Also joining us were two of their friends who happen to have considered buying a vineyard in the town of Elgin, where we are looking at property. They ended up not doing so for a number of reasons, but were very encouraging of our interest in the area and offered their assistance if any is needed in finding agents, lawyers, surveyors etc. They also reinforced our impression that the area is very friendly toward outsiders, including foreigners, coming in to work in the area, so we left very enthusiastic about this prospect.

We returned to the room to pack up our stuff and get ready for tomorrow’s departure in the morning to Singapore, rather saddened that our wonderful holiday in South Africa was coming to an end, but confident that we’ll be back.