Sunday, 13 November 2016

South Africa 2

Please excuse the lack of photographs at the moment.. (now updated on all blogs I hope 14.11.16) I am currently experiencing technical difficulties with my blogging app.. nothing is ever easy!

Arriving back in South Africa we spent a night back in Nelspruit at a much busier campsite than when we had left it. There had been an all weekend running race on  so the camp site was packed - we took the last spot and claimed our area! It was buzzing most of the night, it didn't help that we were next to the local shabeen (pub) that was pumping util 2am. At 5am we were woken up by our neighbours who had forgotten that tent canvas isn't sound proof, so we started Sunday rather early and with a frosty 'good morning'! By 8am we were raring to go, having had 3 cups of coffee to kill some time. We drove the short 60km to Hazyview a small town before the southern point of Kruger. Arriving at the immaculate Kiaat Campsite, we had lunch and planned our time there in the boiling sunshine. That afternoon we booked (and paid for on credit card - this fact is relevant) an Ariel zip line over the forest (1.6km of zip line) for the next morning, so arranged to stay in Kiaat for 2 nights with the lovely owner who allowed us to use her washing machine free of charge!

Well waking up the next morning the heavens had opened and the thunder gods were at war.. the rain was lashing down with our back canopy of the tent becoming a lake! As the lightening came down we realised we really didn't want to go zip lining and postponed it till the next morning.. one of the first things we have booked and paid up front for, and we had to post pone it! The rain kept going strong until 2pm when finally it subsided, we had been watching movies under the canopy in the mean time! We had to get out and do something as cabin fever had set in so we drove to the nearest mall to grab a coffee! Bizarrely as we parked we saw a Toyota we recognised.. it was Eve; we had met her and her father at Ngepi Camp (see Namibia blog), who were travelling Southern Africa together (see Figure of 8 Africa on Facebook). She is working at one of the game lodges here, and as we walked back to the car she was waiting for us! It was great to catch up and chat.. what a small world! The sun made a tentative effort to come out that evening, and despite us not enjoying it, the 37mm of rain recorded by the campsite owner was sorely needed for the region. She had told us it was the worst drought since 1905 and the area was struggling.

Tuesday came and the sun was out (suncream on by 7.30am), and we drove to the Skyline tours for 8.30am. After our briefing we were let loose on the Ariel zip line. It was pretty cool, once you got over the 'hope I'm not going to fall' fear, the view was amazing and was the peacefulness. As all things it was over far too quickly (it took us 1.5 hours), and whilst I would recommend it, it was quite expensive! Lunch was a pizza at a local restaurant with a glass of wine, whilst clothes and groceries are comparative to the UK here, eating out it so much cheaper... two pizzas, plus drinks and coffee for £20, you certainly wouldn't get that back at home!

Since leaving on this trip Charles has been desperate to get on a motor bike, if I had a pound for every time he said 'this would be nice on a bike' we would have been able to have funded another year. The previous day when going for coffee we saw an off road bike tour for two hours for £35. I managed to convince him to do it, which is harder than you would think.. he has all these things he wants to do then decides not to at the last minute!  That afternoon,after our lunch out, we drove to a lodge outside of Hazyview where for the next two hours Charles got to go off-road biking with a guide. The tour group was Adrenaline Adventures (see Adrenaline Adventures Hazyview on Facebook) who had been up and running for 6 months. Charles' guide put him through his paces on a Kawasaki KDX200, and his face was like a child's at a Christmas! He came back buzzing, said it was the best money he had spent in a long time - it was at the right level for his ability, and got to go on some amazing trails! Anyone heading that way, he said, and likes motor bikes, should give it a go! I meanwhile, sat in the bar and drank wine, winners all around!!

One more night back at Kiaat, then off on the Wednesday. This wasn't before I got my treat in! There was a stables nearby where you could go on mountain hacks. I arrived and spent the two hours on a horse around the mountains. My guide was fantastic, she knew about the local area, farming and nature and kept me entertained and on my toes for the two hours! We spend the last 20 mins rounding up loose horses which really tested me! Having only been on a horse once (in Malawi) since I was about 12, cantering up and down fields was harder than I remembered! Safe to say I wasn't walking elegantly afterwards and for the next few days was very stiff! Our time in Hazyview had been a real success, and our next stop wasn't far.. Hoedspruit another pre-Kruger town and the attraction we had both been waiting for!

Before reaching Hoedspruit we drove through the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world.. I presume after the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon. Driving through it gave us more stunning scenery. We stopped off at God's Window, a look out point for miles around but were much more in awe at the view at the Three Rondevaals. The weather was stormy in the distance which just added to the dramatic effect of the mountains around us!

After a night next to a fishing dam, where Charles had spent time fishing that night, we woke up again to torrential rain! Thunder and lightening from both sides of the valley crashed until gone 10am. Myself, having developed this annoying habit of waking up at 5.30am, had made coffee in the flasks and taken it back up to the tent. It isn't often we lie around in the tent after we have woken up but the thought of a soaking tent, and soaking clothes kept us up there until 9am! Finally we concluded we would have to get up, and put the tent away wet, not something we like to do especially as we weren't staying in it the next night. After getting some food we arrived at Jessica's house....

Jessica is a hippo.. a tame hippo who lives with a game ranger and his wife on the edge of the Kruger. Having spoken to Shirley, his wife, I had arranged to sleep at their site that night in their tree house. We arrived there at 10.30 and got on the tour to see Jessica. I LOVE hippos, they have so much character and the noise they make never fails to crack me up! Meeting Jessica, I was a little star struck! She was found orphaned due to flooding when she had just been born and had been raised with them. Now she flits between the wild pod and the rangers house, doing star appearances in between, we were able to feed her sweet potato, Roibos tea, as well as give her a little kiss! It was incredible, just being so close to one of natures biggest killers, the biggest killer in Africa, to be able to see her whiskers on her nose, as well as her amazing teeth! It was an incredible experience! We couldn't check into the tree house until 2pm so headed out to an Italian for an amazing lunch of a burger for Charles and gnocchi for myself; washed down with wine and coffee! Arriving back we checked into the treehouse, a three bedroomed house, for our exclusive use! It was homely, basic, but our room was separate accessed by a staircase into the trees.. pretty cool! Next to the Blyde River we spent the afternoon watching Jessica, and Richie, another rescued hippo!

From Jessica, and after having fed her 2 more times, we drove up towards the northern point of Kruger, a town just outside. Arriving a couple of days before gave us time to sort out the car, free up some space and buy food and drink for the Park! Seeing the family was getting close and we were beginning to get excited for the Kruger with them!

(the sunland baobab.. the largest in the world.. it did have a bar inside it but it split!)

#africa #southafrica #adrenalineadventures #jessicathehippo