A Travellerspoint blog

Southern Circle: Day 38

Tsitsikamma - Garden Route National Park

overcast 20 °C

5 August 2017

It rained very heavily during the night and although it was still overcast the sun was trying to come through as I went to breakfast at 7.30am. At breakfast we picked up the packed lunches that Conrad had made and we were supposed to leave at 8.00am but a few people were very late and it was 8.20am when we finally departed. We are often a few minutes late in departing but Conrad had to say something about being 20 minutes late … just a gentle reminder that if they were late tomorrow morning they would miss their time slot for bungy jumping.

We drove about half an hour to the entrance to the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. Once again we had to fill in an indemnity form before entering the park. In the park we had a couple of options: a difficult hike to a waterfall (part of the Otter Trail) or a walk along boardwalks to the suspension bridge at the at the mouth of the Storms River. Jude and I started straight away on the walk to the bridge. It was a beautiful walk through the forest but looking down on the crashing waves along the rugged coastline. The walk was only a couple of kilometres return and was quite easy but the boards were wet and a bit slippery and there were a lot of steps up and down along the way.

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When we crossed the suspension bridge Jude continued up some steep steps to a lookout and I returned across the bridges – I knew there was one bridge across the river but was surprised to find out there are three suspension bridges. I was pleased that we had done the walk early because my return walk was all by myself and I really enjoyed walking through the forest and stopping to take lots of photos. The morning had been overcast and drizzly but now the sun shone brightly for some great photos. When I was almost finished I encountered large groups of people setting out for the bridge.

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I wandered around and took photos of the crashing waves, had lunch, looked in the gift shop and had a coffee and cheesecake. The café was close to the rocks and a great place to watch the waves come in … the sea was very angry and there was some spectacular spray as the waves hit the rocks. I joined Jude, Conrad, Almon and JP as they had lunch in the café.

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We left the park at 3.00pm and made a stop to photograph the deep chasm that the Storms River runs through before returning to our accommodation.

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I thought we had to pay for internet but found out we get some for free so checked emails (manly deleted rubbish emails) before dinner at 7.00pm … pumpkin soup, a chicken and potato dish with salad. We have a kitchen and indoor eating area here, which is good because it’s been very wet.

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Posted by MissWalker 09:19 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 37

Storms River

rain 18 °C

4 August 2017

Breakfast was at 7.30am … another bleak breakfast of cereal and plain bread, jam and peanut butter. There’s another NOMAD group staying here and we want their cook – they had eggs for breakfast. The other group is doing the same tour as ours but in the reverse order, in the Elvis truck.

We left at 8.00am and it didn’t take long to reach the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. We didn’t enter the city but drove through industrial areas and suburbs with nice houses. Our first stop was at Jeffrey’s Bay, a surfing town with a lovely long sandy beach. We had an hour to look around and walk on the beach but the weather was very overcast and light rain started to fall before the truck returned.

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About ten minutes up the road we stopped at a mall to buy water and snacks – it’s been a couple of days since we’ve been near a shop and I was running out of bottled water. We arrived at our accommodation around 1.00pm and sorted out luggage, rooms and tents in the rain. I have a huge room with a couch, big bed and kitchen. The water from the taps is bore water and is very brown … not fit for drinking and I really don’t want to shower in it, but we’re here for two nights so there’s no choice.

We had a quick lunch of rice salad … I knew there was rice salad for lunch so I bought a steak pie at the mall (it was good) … meat pies are popular in South Africa. Around 2.30pm we drove to Storms River for some people to do the treetops zip line activity. I had planned to do this but changed my mind when the rain set in.

Jude and I explored the art and craft shops in Storms River and did a loop walk through the forest. It was dark and cool in the forest and the boardwalks and exposed tree roots were extremely slippery as we descended to a fern gully. The walk back up from the gully was easier to find a firm footing. The loop was only a couple of kilometres but it was pretty walk with little streams running through the gully. A few other people had started the walk but had been scared off by some monkeys who were fighting – we didn’t know about the monkeys and only saw some up in the trees at the end of the walk.

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We had to wait quite a while for the zip liners to return and it was very wet and dark when we returned to our accommodation. I was cold, hungry and damp and just wanted to go to bed. Dinner was at 7.30pm … we had warthog sausages, I tried them but didn’t like them. I had a brown water shower (sort of had a shower but more of a quick splash of water as I couldn't regulate the water temperature) and went to bed early.

Posted by MissWalker 10:09 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 36

Addo Elephant Park

sunny 25 °C

3 August 2017

There was no hurry this morning – no need to pack up and get going. Breakfast was at 8.00am and JP made pancakes … a real treat.

Around 9.00am we gathered to go for a walk with Conrad in the game reserve at the lodge. There are no predators so it’s safe to walk around. We walked to the water hole but there were no animals there, we found a couple of zebras just up the road. No other animals were found but there were some interesting plants, the aloe plants in flower were very pretty. Conrad showed us something that looked like a white fungus on the plants and when you rub it in your hands it turns a bright red colour – it was used for red dye.

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The walk finished around 10.30am and we had time to sit and soak in the sun and use the wifi. The dogs demanded attention and kept bringing small stones and dropping them at your feet, they also tried to chew the stones.

We said goodbye to Jen, who was finishing her tour in Port Elizabeth … it was sad to see her go as she has quickly become a good friend and was a lot of fun to be around. Almon drove Jen to Port Elizabeth and picked up a young woman from the United States, so the number of passengers remains at 16.

JP was in charge of lunch today and we had hot hogs and salad. An early lunch because Jude and I, along with two other women, were doing a game drive on a private game reserve. We were being driven to the start of the game drive by Andrew (from the lodge where we’re staying) and we had to drive through a road on the edge of Addo Elephant Park. We saw a few different animals then we had an encounter with a large elephant. He was walking down the road and kept coming closer and closer – he had claimed the road for himself and wasn’t moving off to the side. Andrew stopped the car but he showed his displeasure that we were there, so Andrew decided we’d better back up to give him room … as we were backing away he kept coming closer. Eventually the elephant walked past the car and he was very close. That was a very exciting start to the afternoon.

The game drive in an open 4X4 jeep started at 3.00pm and there were four other people sharing the experience with us. We saw the usual kudu and impala and some giraffe, where our guide Edward encouraged people to get out and try to get near the giraffes, who are very skittish.

We stopped at a waterhole to see the hippos in the water and we saw two rhinos up very close – they usually hide in bushes and run when a truck comes near. The male rhino had been tranquilised by poachers and had his horn sawed off. He had been cared for by the park staff and hand fed for a while so he wasn’t afraid of people.

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The elephants provided us with a memorable and close encounter. An elephant came walking straight towards the vehicle and was so close I could have reached out and touched it. The trunk was actually in the open seating area and it was smelling our scent. At first it was a little scary because I was sitting in the outside seat on that side but the elephant was very gentle. Edward was out of the vehicle, but holding on to the side to show he was still part of it, and he was talking to the elephants as they came up on the other side. When they got too close he warned them about damaging the vehicle and they would step back.

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We stopped for another elephant, who seemed hesitant at first but then came in close on Jude’s side. She asked if she could touch the trunk – Edward said to let the elephant touch her hand, which it did. This was an amazing experience … we were exposed in open seating with elephants standing right next to us. Something I’ll never forget.

Edward decide we’d better find the lions before we lose the light. The lions are kept in a different fenced enclosure, which meant we had to leave the enclosure we were in. To do this Edward had to get out and disconnect the electric wire before opening the gate - the electric wire is to stop the elephants from smashing down the gate. But the cranky male hippo was standing there and didn’t want to move. Because of the drought the sable antelope are being fed lucerne and the hippos have decided they like it too and come out of the water to get some. We waited for the hippo to move but he wasn’t budging so Edward had to inch the jeep close to the gate so he could safely (?) get to the gate.

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The lions were easy to find because there was a farm area behind the electric fences where horses were being moved during the day. The lions had been watching the horses and were right near the fence. We found the female first and followed her for a while until she lay down and posed for photos. As the light was fading we found the two males and watched as they walked towards the female. Again I was amazed at how close we were able to get to all the animals.

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Because this is a private park the guides usually know where the animals are and they are able to find them quickly and drive off road to get in really close – something you can’t do in a national park. Once the sun went down it was freezing driving along in the open air. We found a herd of buffalo and stopped to watch for a while. Then it was time to go to the lodge in the park for an included dinner, which was very good. We were back at our lodge sometime after 9.30pm. This was quite an expensive excursion but it was worth the money for such a unique experience.

Posted by MissWalker 09:54 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 35

Addo Elephant Park

sunny 24 °C

2 August 2017

Breakfast was at 7.00am. We had French toast … what a treat. It really makes a difference to have a cooked breakfast when the days are so long.

We left just after 7.30am and travelled through some flat land covered in spindly bushes. This is a very dry area. The local guide in Graaff Reinet said that last year was the driest on record and they have had no rain since January this year.

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We stopped for fuel and there was a little shop that sold coffee and locally produced jams and cakes. The carrot and apple muffin was good! As we drove on the landscape became more fertile and there were huge orange orchards.

We arrived at Addo Elephant National Park just before 12.00pm. As usual with the national parks we had to sign a waiver form … we are responsible for our own injury or death in the park. The only interesting animals we saw were elephants … yes, there were elephants in an elephant park! The Big 5 are in the park but we only saw kudu, zebra, buffalo, warthog and lots of elephants at a waterhole. Jude and I caught sight of a cat that looked like the serval we saw in Kruger, must have been an African wildcat because there are no servals in Addo – by the time we stopped and backed up it was long gone.

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There’s a fenced picnic area in the park and we had lunch there - pasta salad and tuna (for those that eat fishy things). We got out of the truck at a fenced off area to watch an elephant at a waterhole and also got out at a lookout, where there was the sign below (nobody got eaten by a lion).

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Our accommodation was about 20km from the park and we arrived there around 4.00pm. The rooms are very basic but there’s a bar and a covered eating area with a big campfire in the middle. The spaghetti bolognaise for dinner was good. After washing my dishes – we always have to wash our own plate, cup and cutlery – it was time for another early night.

Posted by MissWalker 09:51 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 34

Back in South Africa - Graaff Reinet

sunny 20 °C

1 August 2017

It’s August already! Only nine days left of the tour.

We had a 6.30am breakfast, which meant the luggage had to be packed in the truck before 6.30am. I was wondering how I was going to carry my bag up the steep uneven steps but when I opened the door there was a local man waiting there to carry bags. I was very happy to give him a tip to carry my heavy bag.

We were underway just after 7.00am for a tiring day of travel. For the first 50 minutes we travelled very slowly on winding dirt roads, then joined a surfaced road just before the border – we had entered Lesotho at the northern border and exited at the southern border. This was a very small, uncrowded border crossing – we were the only ones exiting Lesotho and entering South Africa. The final border crossing until I leave South Africa!

As we drove through Lesotho we saw famers ploughing the fields with handheld ploughs pulled by cows and horses. We saw people wrapped in blankets tending small herds of cattle or carrying buckets of water from a community water pump. The contrast across the border into South Africa was stark – the farms were very much like in Australia, large herds of sheep and cattle were behind fences, machinery did the work and the fields were irrigated.

It was cold and windy when we left Lesotho and it got colder during the day. We stopped by the side of the road for a quick lunch … it was very quick because everyone was so cold.

We arrived in Graaff Reinet around 4.00pm and immediately started a tour of the town with a local guide. We went to a museum and a lookout and walked around as it started to get dark. The town has quite an interesting history and some lovely architecture, however, we were all very tired and hungry and not terribly interested when he wanted to show us the oldest bar in town and have a drink.

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We finally arrived back at the accommodation at 7.00pm and still had to unpack luggage from the truck and find rooms (and the campers had to put up tents). The dinner of chicken stew, buckwheat and coleslaw was very good but everyone was really tired from a long day.

Wifi wouldn’t work in the rooms so Jude and I found a spot outside and sat in the cold (although it was much warmer than Lesotho) for a long time trying to catch up after having no internet for a few days.

Posted by MissWalker 07:48 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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