Last days in South Africa
(Written by Steve; Kruger, Sept. 8, 05)
Well, I can only tell you that
The lions played around right in the middle of the road and cars backed up in both directions, I guess this what you would call a Kruger traffic jam.
We got through the lion road block and had
only been driving for about ten minutes when we spotted a Cheetah sitting right
on the side of the road. Then 3 massive giraffes came out of the trees and stared
at us, we had to stop while they looked down at us. Not much further down the
road we stopped to watch about 200 Zebra munch on the long grass, we rolled our
windows down and we could hear every sound. That was 3 days ago, and now we
have fallen in love with this place, it is very magical and only the pictures
will help you understand. I hope when you look at the pictures, it will
convince you to come to
If you come to
Yes, everyone will tell you how
dangerous it is, and most of that is true. When you travel here you must follow
the rules and just always be prepared, like I said before it is a totally
different way of life here. We came to
The main thing is never travel at night, and
if you must then don’t stop at stop signs or red lights, slowly drive through
them. The big thing is; try to stay out of the city centres.
I am not slamming this country, I really love it! I am just trying to give you an idea of what the problems here are and why some might tell you how dangerous it is.
The people of
We drove out of Berg-En-Dal and were close to the Malelane Gate when 3 massive Rhinos crossed the road right by our car. Our hearts were pounding as these things could have charged us at any second. Nikolas was yelling for me to drive away, but I stayed just long enough for a few pictures. Wow!
The drive to
All in all we had a great time in
* Update – A Southern town (George) that
we stopped in on our way down from
(Written by Helen, Kruger Sept 7 2005)
has it all. The beaches, the mountains,
the wildlife, it is all so spectacular.
The only problem, and it’s a huge one, is the crime. I really don’t want to dwell on it too much
but it really is a huge shame that safety is such an issue. I know it’s because we are not accustomed to
living like this but I really don’t think that I could ever get use to it. There are bars on just about every
window. There are LOTS of houses that
have very tall fences around their property AND on top of these fences are
either barbed wire, electrical wires or razors sticking up. It really takes away from that homey
feeling. When we went for dinner in a suburb
saying all that, we drove from
The roads were also a bit of a problem. Some even turned into dirt roads for a few kilometers. The major highway is usually a one way road with many potholes but the scenery of the countryside is really a treat. Because of our anxiety over safety we questioned whether it would have been better to travel by train to Kruger but in hindsight (now that we make it alive) we are very happy we did it. They were some long drives though!
From Tsitsikamma we drove for over 9 hours heading north towards
Our car has
become a little rancid as well. It’s
been a while since we’ve hit a laundry mat and our clothes are simmering in the
back seat of the car in the sweltering sunshine. Also, just outside of the first gate into
Kruger, we bought a bunch of African art and a couple of the masks smell really
bad. We think they have the same
substance that they put on railway ties.
I don’t know the name of it but it makes the wood black and it smells
similar to kerosene. It has permeated
the upholstery of the car and I feel sorry for the poor souls who rent the car
after we’re through with it. Never mind Nikolas’s interesting smelling socks. (I told him I wouldn’t embarrass him so I
wrote “interesting”). So to summarize,
there are days when it feels like we are filming an episode of the movie
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” and then there are days when I have to pinch
myself to realize that I am actually on safari in
When we reached
Our cabin was very cute. It was quite large with a kitchen and a double bed and bathroom on the main floor. Up a metal ladder brought you to the loft which held two single beds, perfect for the kids. Because we were up in the mountains it got very cold at night and there was a heater in the cabin and we turned it on. Well, there must have been something terribly wrong with it because the smell was truly unbearable. The only problem was that if we turned it off, we would have froze to death, so it had to stay on. I had the worst sleep ever. I kept waking up with a feeling like I was being choked to death but then I would realize that it was the smell! The worst part was that all our beds had electric blankets under all the sheets and Steve was the only one who realized this and he had a great sleep! I was very happy to check-out the next morning even if it was at 7am.
We drove for
another 9 hours and finally made it to
Our first camp that we were staying at was called Skukuza and once you pass through the main gate into the park you are driving your car as a safari. The speed limit is 50km/h on the paved roads within the park and 40 on the gravel roads. The roads leading from camp to camp are all paved and with the slow speeds it takes you hours to get from one camp to the other. When you get to your camp you drive through another gate and the camp itself is fenced off from the rest of the park with electrical fencing. Once you get inside the camp it is safe to walk around. You head to the reception area and you check-in and they give you your key and directions to your cabin. The camps have a variety of accommodations: tent and camper sites, cabins and guest houses. They are all very basic and most have thatched roofs and a ‘camping”-like atmosphere. They all have a basic BBQ pit out front and some have kitchens outside as well. In Kruger they all have air-conditioning because it is really warm here. It’s their winter but during the day it has been over 35 degrees outside. I can’t imagine how hot it must get in the summer. The cabins have been rustic and fun but I’m disappointed in myself because I am missing the luxuries of a hotel. After a while I get tired of being dusty and dirty all the time. And the insect repellent is sticky and not that great smelling.
That leads me to a very funny story. If you can picture in your mind, our family, terrified of getting malaria, preparing to exit the cabin our first night in Kruger. So far, all the camps before Kruger have been malaria-free so we haven’t had to worry about protection. After talking to numerous people we decided against taking the malaria pills. We were even told that the GP that works as the only doctor in the whole park (along with his brother) told friends of ours that it’s not necessary at this time of the year. Everyone that we have talked to have told us to just be careful and use lots of repellent and keep covered and don’t stay out when the sun goes down. So it’s our first night in Kruger and the process begins.
First we started with the “Off Skintastic” with Deet that I brought from home. I made the mistake of letting Steve put the lotion on Nikolas and he didn’t realize that it was ‘fun’ disappearing purple lotion especially for kids. The trick that Steve failed to figure out was that you had to rub it in until the purple colour faded away. Unfortunately I didn’t get a good look at Nik until we had sat down for supper at the fancy restaurant when I gasped because he looked like he had been beaten by a baseball bat. His face had huge purple “bruises” all over it and I quickly rushed over to him and rubbed the lotion in before the staff called African social services on us. Thank goodness I had done Danika instead of Steve.
After the “Off” we had our kids put on all of the necessary clothes that they had to wear: long-sleeved shirts, long cotton pants, socks and runners. We then took a can of “Peaceful Sleep” which is an insect repellent and had the kids hold their breath and we sprayed them from top to bottom. Then we took the bottle of citronella oil that a nice lady had given us and we dabbed the oil on all the exposed areas of skin that we could find. We did this to ourselves as well and I’m not exaggerating when I say that when we opened the door to our cabin, a huge plume of insect repellent wafted from our door as we stepped out into the night. We must have looked like a bunch of complete idiots because as soon as we stepped outside it was like the occupants of the ten cabins surrounding us stopped what they were doing and just stared at us. Let me remind you that it is still very hot outside even though the sun had just gone down. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was outside in their shorts and tank tops and flip flops having a BBQ outside. We were dressed like we were on our way to a ski hill. I even had my fleece jacket zipped up to my chin. How embarrassing! But we trudged to the car and drove to the camp restaurant with Danika exclaiming, “I’m hot!” all the way there. Crazy Canadians! Even as I sit here in our cabin and write this, any tickle or flying fluff I feel or see makes we jump. It’s amazing that such a tiny little insect could cause such stress. Never mind, it’s amazing that such a tiny little insect could cause such a terrible disease. I pray that we will be fine.
I’m almost done
and I haven’t written a word about the animals that we have seen. The reason for this is that I truly believe
that a picture says a thousand words and we have thousands of pictures of the
animals we have seen and I highly recommend you take a look at them instead of
me writing about them. All I can say is
that the thrill of seeing these amazing creatures before your very eyes is an
experience that you must experience if just once in your life. When we come
across an animal we all stop talking immediately and you can hear each of us
gasp as we come within a few feet of elephants, giraffe, zebras and lions. As they walk across the road right in front
of your car you get a true sense of their beauty, size and strength. It is a magnificent sensation and it makes
you feel both fear and excitement. I
will never forget what we saw on this trip and am so glad we decided to come to
From Skukuza we drove the next morning to Satara Restcamp and like I said, on the way, we saw a ton of animals. Satara was a little farther north and we were told that the mosquitoes were a little worse the farther north you go so we were extra vigilant. Our cabin was a little smaller than the one in Skukuza but we managed just fine.
From Satara we headed south again and made our way to Lower Sabie Restcamp. This one was our favourite
because the restaurant and bar looked out over a river and from the terrace you
could watch the hippos and the crocs frolic in the water while you ate. It was quite a sight. We had to change cabins here because Steve
found two mosquitoes in one of the bedrooms of a guesthouse that they had for
us. Some of the screens on the windows
had holes in them so Steve said we wanted another cabin. We ended up getting two that were joined and me and Dani had one side and Nik and Steve had the other. It turned out just fine and the next morning
we headed to the camp we are at now. On
our way we drove through a camp called
Yehaa, we made it!
I am sending
this to you from our little thatched roof in
So here we are in Kruger in Skukuza rest camp, with all the ververt monkeys. Driving through the park towards our camp Danika screams “a giraffe”, so we had to back up and sure enough there was a big long neck spotted thing staring us down, very cool.
over the last week has taken us from Cape Town, Hermanus,
Aquila, Montagu, Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Nysna,
Tsitsikamma, Port Elizabeth, and then to Addo Nation park for 2 day of R&R. We then headed to Grahamstown, Kings Williams Town, Queenstown, Rouxville and then into
This may just a normal day in this town, but that was the only exciting thing we noticed.
Golden gate was just like the Grand canyon, really nice, except for all the baboons. This country has so many monkeys running around it is a real pain in the butt.
all is well we are in Kruger and going to stay for 5 days before we head to
We will tell
you how it all went when we get to
(written by Helen)
reluctantly left the beautiful game reserve,
We were told that Addo is a must-see if you love elephants. Well, it certainly is and wow, do you see elephants! We pulled up to our forest cottage around 1pm and it was a very pleasant surprise. It is a cute little log cabin that has four single beds in each corner of the room. A little picnic table against one wall and a few shelves on the other wall holding dishes, glasses and utensils. There is a tiny, very clean bathroom at the back with a shower, sink and toilet. The atmosphere is very rustic and we loved it right away. No smell either!!!
We decided to go on a game drive with a ranger at 3pm because we were not quite comfortable enough to drive our own car in the game area yet. We had a very nice gentleman take us on our tour and he vaguely stated that he wasn’t sure if we were going to see many elephants today. I think he was pulling our leg because five minutes into the drive after leaving the gate we came across an elephant eating in the bushes. When I saw it I actually gasped because he was literally ten feet away from us. His bum was sticking out of the bushes and we couldn’t really see his head so he drove a little further and there to our great surprise were at least 40 elephants huddled around a watering hole. It was truly the single most amazing thing I have ever seen. I know that I have said that before but this time I really mean it. There were elephants everywhere, in all sizes. Mamma’s and babies and the big papa’s with their massive tusks. Some were walking, almost like in slow motion and others were drinking from the hole and still others were eating from the bushes or frolicking with each other. It was unreal. Again, much to my surprise, the ranger switched off the engine and we just sat there watching. There were other cars around us too. In this game reserve you are allowed to drive your own car around yourself. They just ask you never to leave your car or lean too far out the window. Yeah, right!
We sat there and watched these massive mammals and soon some of them started walking toward us. I just assumed our ranger would start his engine and slowly drive away but noooooo, we sat there and these huge creatures walked right past us almost rubbing up against our truck. I was holding my breath and as they passed I could smell them and see their skin. I was leaning inside praying that they wouldn’t see me and Danika, who was right beside me thought that they were just the greatest! As they passed our truck, another car drove up and stopped right in their path. I swear I thought that the elephants were going to stomp right over them. The idiots in the car then started to lean out their windows and take pictures. Even our ranger mumbled something about their stupidity. One of the elephants actually stopped and started to circle the car and was staring very intently at the inside of the car. It just stood their and watched the people inside. After a few minutes it finally walked away and I was able to breath again. It was actually amazing to watch them as they passed by us. The female elephants would herd the baby elephants towards the inside of the group before they made their way through the truck and cars. You could tell that they were keeping them safe. Moms are so great!
Anything after that was just gravy. We drove for about 2 hours and saw lots of warthogs, tortoises, kudu and a few buffalo. On our way back we turned a corner and there was this humungous male elephant walking towards us on the road. Our ranger turned the truck to the side of the road and once again turned the engine off. We sat there and he slowly passed us by. Because we were sitting in an elevated Land Cruiser made especially for safaris we were at eye level with this elephant. As he walked by I actually looked him right in the eye and he had the most beautiful eyelashes I have ever seen. Really, if I had just stuck my hand out half way I would have been able to touch him, that is how close he came. I actually whispered under my breath, “Holy smoke!” but rest assured I used another work than smoke!
Addo has been an amazing experience and our kids just love it here. Today we were brave enough to take our own car into the reserve and were able to sit and watch the elephants again. This time however, we did not get as close. Anytime one would walk towards us we would roll up our windows quickly and tell Steve/Dad to gun it out of there! It was a lot of fun. The reserve also has a very nice restaurant and we had three great meals as well.
We have one major problem. Steve has become very ill and has a very high fever along with some very violent diarrhea. The last two mornings he has been shivering in his bed and the sheets are soaked with sweat in the morning. We are not sure what it is, but we are not in a Malaria area, so we can rule that out at least. Steve wants to continue even though the next two days are the toughest driving we will be doing on this whole trip. He does not want it to stop us, but I will keep you posted!
have to get up super early and head toward
I guess we
will see. From Kruger we head to the
This message is being sent to via our Palm Pilot.
- received September 1, 2005
Steve has limited access to the Internet but was able to send his schedule for the next few days. It sounds like they’re having an incredible experience and assures me that the pictures that will follow on his return to civilization (a high speed internet connection) are incredible. (posted by the webmaster)
Hermanus Aug 27 – 28
Kruger Game Reserve Sept. 4 – 9
- received August 26
I am just going to give you the heads up in case you don't here from us or see anything on our little site in the next ten days. We are going to drive down the coast of South Africa and then head inland through the free state towards Johanesberg. We will be then driving up to Kruger National park and then back to Johanesberg to catch our flight to Oz.
The reason I am sending this email, is we might be out of contact for the next 2 weeks because we will be tenting or in huts in the national parks. We will have no internet for the next 2 weeks so if you won't be able to get a hold of us.
We hope all is well back in
Steve, Helen, Nikolas and Danika
(Written by Helen Aug 22, 05)
Well, I made it. I can tell you that I thought of everything to get out of that plane ride. ELEVEN HOURS. Can you imagine!! The worst part for me is the day or two before and the absolute worst is the hour or two before we take off. When I am at the airport I am honestly thinking about every conceivable excuse to come up with so that I don’t have to enter that airplane. Right down to hiding in a dark corner of a book store and hoping that no one will notice that I am missing. I know, I have a problem.
Steve made sure I had some alcohol before we got on and yes it unfortunately makes a little bit of a difference because it calms me down a bit. Maybe I will let you in on the wild or should I say crazy mind of a person who is very afraid of flying. When we are at the gate I look at all the people and wonder if they are doomed or if we are going to make it to our destination just fine. I watch the staff and wonder if they are trying to hide the fact that something is kind of wrong but they are going to fly anyway. I know it all sounds so ridiculous. But it really is very difficult for me to just relax before a flight. As we walk onto the plane, and this time we actually walked outside to a staircase that led to the airplane, I check out the plane to see if anything is wrong. Like I could really tell! But I wonder if that spot there that looks like a dent is a problem or not. Does that tire look a little flat? I’m serious, I really do check these things out. Never mind when I see the pilots. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting older but some of these pilots look like they are about 20 years old. Are they experienced enough to fly this big bird?
We flew on a
747 and I don’t know, but how could a thing that big fly
in the sky. It makes no sense. I bought a book in
Walking onto our plane at Heathrow Airport, Yikes!
ANYWAY, we did make it and it really was a fine flight. It shook here and there but I was unnaturally calm about most of it. It certainly went way faster than I expected. I thought that it was going to be complete torture but I was actually able to sleep. That has never happened to me before. Maybe I am changing! The service with British Airways was good even though they were still dealing with their strike with the catering company. We were given vouchers before we boarded the flight to buy some food because they did not have any food on board. To our surprise however, we did get some deli boxes with sandwiches and muffins inside. So in addition to the stuff we bought, we had more than enough food.
We landed in
Since we are
here we are looking into possibilities of getting to Kruger but we will see how
it all pans out. It is supposed to clear
up and warm up tomorrow. Today it is
pouring rain and about 10 degrees Celsius.
It’s COLD!!!! Kind of shocking
(Written by Steve Aug 23, 05)
O.K., we have arrived in
The first two days we were here it rained like crazy and the clouds fogged in the whole city, so we could not see any of it. As we drove from the Airport we saw miles of Shanty towns and 8 foot high fences with barbed wire. We dropped a gent off before we got to our hotel and his complex was surrounded by and 8 foot wall with a 2 foot electric wire fence on the top. We have never seen so many security guards out in the street, nothing like this. One thing that was very noticeable was, there were no police officers around, not one. This is our 2nd day here and I have not seen one police car or any officers, I guess if you need protection you must pay for it privately. Our first night we decide to head out to walk around the city and the security at our hotel told not to because it is not safe. So let me just say that we are a little stunned by this city, and so far it has been nothing like we expected.
Day 3, like I said we have been here for three days and this was the first day that the rain has stopped, so we hopped on a bus around the city. I can only tell you that this place is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been too. The clouds lifted enough so we could see the beaches and the buildings and some of the old city center. O.K. we were a little rattled when we first came, but maybe that was a good thing, we are now on alert and ready to see this wonderful place. We won’t travel at night and we won’t be too foolish with our possessions, but we will try and hit as many places as we can.
I will get back to when we have seen
a bit more, but so far we
Is this place nice or what?
On day 4 we went to
The pictures in the photo album tell the story: