Published: July 28th 2010May 28th 2010
Hola amigos! Hang on, I'm not in South America any more. Old habits die hard... but hooray - no more calling a pepper a cucumber, asking for a lemon biscuit to drink or declaring an undying love for the penis in front of an audience. No more Spanish! But what's this? South Africa's first language is made up of clicking noises and the 'white man's' native tongue is some crazy combination of Dutch and German? The two ugliest languages in the world? Why am I even here? And who is that lanky bastard sitting next to me? I'm pretty sure he wasn't invited. And why is Shrennie still here? I thought I'd shaken him off my tail in Ecuador. Does this mean that Jude is still here? This is all getting very stressful. Ah wait... I remember, we're here to follow England's seamless progress to World Cup victory and that very tall man is not Judas on stilts, it's Sam Villiers. And relax...
Meet the SAS (Sam and Shrennie) at Heathrow. Sam has brought enough clothes with him to fully attire the entire population of Soweto and still have more than me. He has also been practising his
impersonations - his scouse and Mandela are down to a tee. Sometimes I don't even know what his real voice sounds like any more, he uses it so infrequently. The plane is surprisingly empty - I have a full row of seats to myself and am looking forward to my first ever fully horizontal nap on a flight until a lumbering gentleman approches me asking (in scouse of course), 'alright mate, can I nick a couple of these seats?' There goes any chance of a good night's sleep. Ah well.
On arriving at OR Tambo airport in Jo'burg, we grab our hire car from the budget supplier 'Thrifty' and head off towards the town Hazyview, where we will stay for one night before heading into the wilderness of Kruger tomorrow. Sam bravely nominates himself as driver for the day, and on pulling out of the airport immediately heads to the nearest layby declaring we are already lost and admitting his gargantuan fear of South African drivers. Big baby. Having studied a map, removed his dummy and strapped on a new pair of Huggies, he manages to find the right road. During the ride, Sam admits to his
fear of 'native' South Africans based on reputation, but they are quelled thoughout the day after several friendly encounters. Now he feels a bit guilty and sheepish. Until he gets stabbed at a petrol station where he at least feels righted whilst slowly bleeding to death (that never actually happened... at least not the stabbing bit).
Make the short journey to the entrance of Kruger National Park. Within a few minutes of arrival, we bump into several wild animals including a rhino right next to the road. After a few pictures we decide to drive on thinking that if we've seen a rhino within the first seven minutes, we'll definitely see another over the course of the next seven days. That was the last rhino we saw.
Stop by the side of the road to view some simple impala (kind-of like antelope), who hastily run away when Sam slams his door shut. I don't think he quite gets the idea of this silent safari thing. A few days later when driving again he revs away from a family of hyenas like a chav on the run from the police.
Poor old Sam is taking a
bit of a battering here and unfortunately it shows no sign of abating as in the evening when in our base camp at Satara, Shren-dubs and I point out to him that he has somehow adopted a inflexion when he speaks - like a tennage girl from the states (imagine 'there was this one time, at band camp' from American Pie).
Spend the majority of the day driving around the park with a keen eye for spotting rare animals. Stop for some zebras to cross the road - a slightly different and much purer form of 'zebra crossing' to the one you'd experience back in the UK. Make the foolish decision of drinking a beer before a 3 hour guided safari with no toilet stops. Never have I been in such discomfort (well at least not since problems round the other end in the Atacama desert anyway - see South American blog). Not even seeing a pointy-eared cerval makes up for the pain my bladder is in, although admittedly my mood improves somewhat having seen a 5 legged elephant.
Wake up at the ungodly hour of 0430 to take part in a morning safari.
An early scare as we see a hyena which has managed to break into the camp, but that is the only excitement for the next 3 hours as the best it gets from then on during the drive is a small cat not too dissimilar to one you might own at home. In the afternoon, Sam decides to catch up on some kip whilst Shren and I go on a drive. Poor Sam lives to regret his sleepy decision as we spot a croc (no not the shoe...) at a distance and even more impressively a lioness by the side of the road!
Make the short drive to our second restcamp at 'Oliphants' (which as I'm sure you could guess is Afrikaans for 'elephants'). When trying to spot animals, Sam has the attention span of a distracted goldfish. Whilst Shren and I are carefully scanning the side of the road for any sightings, Sam almost always has his head looking forward at the tarmac in front of us as if he's never seen a road before. We have them in England and I'm pretty sure I spotted some in Brussels too Sam. When really bored he even
cracks out his copy of 'GQ' for a cheeky read. A leopard could be staring him in the face and he wouldn't notice, which in fact does happen in the evening. I manage to spot this spotted beast by the side of the road and on alerting Shrennie, he slams on his brakes which unfortunately scares it into the bushes before we can take any photos. Still an amazing sight though.
Wake up, prepare breakfast and leave it on the table outside with a full intention of consuming some tasty Weetabix after a quick shower. On returning to the table, a handful of monkeys have taken it upon themselves to raid my morning meal. Having been caught they make a hasty retreat, though still with the foresight to take the remainder of the cereal box with them. Cheeky monkeys. Although undoubtedly clean from the shower, this sordid affair leaves me feeling dirty once more. I go back and have another shower.
Our drive takes us to a different part of the park (Letaba) and on the way we see a few elephants giving themselves a good wash. Maybe the monkeys stole their Weetabix too.
every restaurant we've been to so far there have been no 'waiters' or 'waitresses', only 'waitrons'. I can just about see the intent behind trying to de-sex the word, but to me it just makes it sound like you're about to be served by a robot.
Drive out of the park and back to Hazyview. We're in a bit of a rush to leave and Sam picks up a speeding ticket for R250. Having not had access to a razor for a good week, as all twentysomething boys would do we decide to create some stylish facial hair. Photos were taken, but for the dignity of all concerned I hope they're never published.
Off to Cape Town tomorrow!
There are more photos below