Published: August 14th 2012August 14th 2012
This is a long one guys, so bear with me. :)
Well, well left off with the climax of my trip thus far: playing with baby lions. How could things possibly get better? I had no idea until we went to Kruger National Park. The entire trip thing had just been on an upward track, each experience more exciting and wild than the next, literally. We had started with animals in just enclosures, move up to animals in a reserve and now we would be seeing animals completely in the wild. While Kruger is mostly surrounded by a fence there is essentially no human interference with the animals there. They are not fed, they are not vaccinated or cared for; obviously they are familiar with humans since there are roads around the park for game drives but and they are protected in the sense that poaching is forbidden, but the thing about Kruger is that you never know what you are going to see or encounter. Wild, huh? :)
After our busy day at the Rhino and Lion Park Olivia was feeling a little under the weather, we had
very busy since I had gotten there, and they were still adjusting to their new lives in Pretoria, so we just took the day to relax. Sophia pulled a “Conor” as I am going to call it and never even got out of her pajamas. We, of course, baked cookies and then watched movies, including, and I can’t believe it myself, Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never.” I’ll say this and then I will say no more: he is actually a very talented musician.
The next day was all about preparing for Kruger, getting food, getting packed and last minute shopping. The girls and I had really started to get closer by now, they loved talking about stuff I hadn’t even thought about in years like what all of my homecoming and prom dresses looked like, who won prom queen, and how things changed in high school. They are too cute. I remember when I was that age so excited to start high school and to learn to drive. It seems like not that long ago, but it’s been seven years since I was a freshman in high school.
Wednesday we were up early and
out of the house in pretty great time, it wasn’t even 6am. We did such a good job! The universe had other plans though. We got on the major highway N-4 and suddenly no power. The car just stopped. We were stranded, still in the dark on the side of a highway in South Africa. Ok, stranded might be a strong word; we were only about two miles away from the house. Somehow after letting the car rest a bit Shawn got it started and the Land Rover sort of limped its way back to their house where we transferred everything in to the Toyota. A Toyota is not exactly a “game drive” Kruger type of vehicle, but we are adventurers!
We were a little behind schedule but we hadn’t had breakfast yet and we needed to take our malaria pills with food so we stopped off for breakfast. Poor Sophia was a little car sick and not much in the mood for food, but we got in the car and took our malaria pills anyways. Olivia had learned to take pills pretty well, Sophia had not. Car sickness and a nasty tasting malaria pill are two
things that do not mix. Pill goes in, water, breakfast and the pill comes right back out. The crazy thing? As Sophia is vomiting she is laughing! Olivia moves about as fast as she can out of the car and I’m sitting there like, “Sophia! Why are you laughing?” We regrouped, Sophia changed her clothes and we headed back out on the road, wondering what mishap would strike next.
Thankfully nothing did, and we made it to all our stops. First the Bourke’s Luck Potholes which is a an area where two rivers are converging and the whirlpools that occur when the waters meet created not only a little canyon but round holes in the rocks known as potholes. Shawn took advantage of the beautiful scenery to get lots of photos of me and the girls. We made two more stops on our way to Kruger; the three rondavels, which are like three round towers that come up out of a vegetated canyon and God’s Window. We all agreed that for being “God’s” Window, the view was not as spectacular as the name leads you to believe, but it was nonetheless very beautiful. This time of year,
In the summer this area is covered by tall, green elephant grass, but in winter is turns amber.
however, the area is very dry and there are a lot of grass fires, so there is a constant sort of haze covering the terrain. For a moment you think, “well this stinks I can’t see!” but then you think, “wait, I’m in Africa,” and you don’t care anymore, you take in the view, haze and all and enjoy it because that is Africa, and Africa is what you are there to see, even if it’s in a haze.
We rolled into the area around Kruger after dark and the manager of the property met us at the house to show us around. We were staying in this amazing cabin only minutes from the park entrance. It was a great place to stay, but it was still in the wild meaning don’t leave the windows or doors open when you are gone because baboons may raid the house, open your fridge and break all of your eggs. Or you may open a door and see a cobra upright on the floor of your room; and be super careful of those warthogs! :) Rita, the girls and I did a thorough sweep of the thatch roof ceiling to
be sure there were no cobras or mambas hiding up there…every night. I was nervous. I can’t tell a lie. I was sleeping alone upstairs and I was sure to close those mosquito nets, put in my headphones to keep noises out to make sure I wasn’t kept up from my imagination running away with me and I slept fabulously. However the first night I woke up a few times because I had to go to the bathroom, I decided the bathroom wasn’t safe and I should just hold it. I wasn’t the only one nervous though, apparently there was some musical beds going on downstairs. :)
I also found this book in the cabin called “Don’t Run, Whatever You Do,” which was written by this Australian guy who just fell in love with Africa during a trip and ended up moving there as a bartender at a campsite and worked his way up to safari guide. It’s just about all the crazy things that happened to him during his years as a guide like being chased by a buffalo, sinking a game vehicle…with tourists in it, and squaring off with two male lions. It’s a quick
read and really entertaining if you have some free time and are done with “The Hunger Games.” :)
Kruger, well, there is no real way to describe Kruger. There’s no way to put what you are seeing into words; that’s why God let man invent the camera. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the world where you can happen upon a Rhino standing in the middle of the road and nearly have it charge your car, or come up over a hill and see a lion and a lioness lying in the middle of the road, or come upon multiple families of elephants. We also had cheetah and Corey Bustard (or Bastard if you’re Shawn :)) sightings as well as a whole troop of baboons from the smallest to the largest.
The park is massive and has all different types of landscapes, from rocky outcrops to nearly endless grasslands Kruger is the Africa you imagine. We would wake up in the morning and enter the park and though we were driving around for nearly 7 or 8 hours it never felt like it. Now remember we were in a little sedan now, and that
thing really pulled through for the rough roads, but there came a day where it just pooped out. Well, a tire did. During a very good hippo sighting, the one where I got the video above, the air seemed to have leaked out of the passenger side front tire (the driver side front tire if you’re in the USA). We took off and there was this really strange noise, it sounded like a flat tire, and what’d ya know, a flat tire! But every mishap is a learning opportunity and so Sophia and Olivia learned how to change a flat tire. To be honest I didn’t really know how to change one, I’ve never had to, but now I’ve had a nice little refresher and I if any of you have a flat, you know who to call! :)
Our last night there we sat around the fire and grilled our dinner and then made s’mores. There we sat around the fire on a clear African night listening to the roar of the lions and the groans of the hippos just a few kilometers away across the river that separated our housing area and the park. It
A Lion Pride
Not in the shot are the male lion off in the distance and another female keeping watch.
was the best way to tie off the best trip. The drive home was far less eventful than the drive to Kruger, and we appreciated that, thank you universe for giving us a drive without dying cars, vomit or flat tires. :)
The next day we had lots of errands to run and then one more game reserve to see in the area. The girls started school the next day so we went all over the area looking for what can only be described as ugly brown shoes. Rita and I couldn’t help but laugh. Sophia and Olivia didn’t laugh quite as much.
We got to the Lion and Giraffe Park and started with the baby lions…again! We petted more lion cubs and it was just as wonderful as seven days prior. Then we had another job to do. The girls have a friend back home that gave them two tasks: 1) Ride an elephant and 2) Feed a giraffe. They had two adult giraffes and food bags that you could purchase and feed them. Giraffes are so cool! We had to bite our tongues and be patient many times because of other visitors
that were not so good on the whole “sharing” or “taking your turn” thing. I had a little easier time because I was taller than the girls. Shawn and Rita were good sports and took pictures while we enjoyed the giraffes, but finally Shawn just wanted one picture so he battled his way up into position and there we so many people around I just couldn’t get a good shot, so I stood up on the fence so I could get above them all. I successfully got a photo and just then the giraffe made his way over to me. He just put his head right up to mine and let me rub all over him and scratch his face and rub his long neck. I didn’t even have any food! I think he was just happy someone had finally put themselves up at his height. Poor giraffes. I’m sure that long neck is handy for eating off trees, but getting water and sleeping seem to be hard work. Most giraffes only get about 24 minutes of good sleep a day, unless they can stick their necks in the fork of a tree, then they can get up to about
40. Sounds relaxing, no? I feel for those poor giraffes and they now have a very special place in my heart. Especially that guy in the Lion and Giraffe Park, what a sweetie. :)
We did go on the “game drive” they offered but it wasn’t quite up to our standards. After Kruger not much can
be up to your standards. They made it clear that you needed to keep your windows up. Yes, keep your windows up just in case the impalas decide to attack…we agreed it wasn’t so exciting after Kruger. But we did get to enter into the a few different lion enclosures, a wild dog enclosure and a cheetah enclosure. Apparently the workers didn’t feel the animals there were particularly vicious either because they sort of just left the gate to the wild dog enclosure open for the cars to get out. Pictures were scarce because one by one our cameras all started dying.
The next day was the girls’ first day of school and my departure day. School starts at 7:45 there, meaning the girls had to get up around 6:00. That’s pretty early for me, when I was there age
I had school at 8:03 and I was rarely even up by 7:45. I was late a lot.
Anyways, the girls got to go to school and get their uniforms, which they were super excited about, they are pretty cute uniforms, I have to say, I’m not being sarcastic, they really are, and the girls looked so cute in them! The best part was the news that the ugly brown shoes they had bought a few days before were not the type of shoes they needed. Salvation! Not ugly brown shoes will replace the ugly brown shoes. We got to walk with the girls to their classes and see the campus of the school. It is a super neat school, all the classes open up to the outside and there is a large soccer field in the middle, they even have their own pool! Class is over around 1:00pm but they have co-curriculars which are after school activities like soccer, dance, Afrikaans lessons, or study sessions. Every trimester the co-curriculars change and the girls get to pick new activities, which is pretty neat.
Shawn and Rita and I spent the rest of the day running errands
African Game Drive Father-Daughter Bonding Time
Rita and I did our very important duty of taking photos. :)
and for the first time I was alone in the backseat without Sophia and Olivia. It really was quiet and sad back there; I was so lonely! I was excited when we picked the girls up again. They loved their first day and got to experience what it’s like being a foreign student like the kids asking them to say different words with their American accents, or explaining how lunch cafeterias works in American schools, yes, it is just like the movies. :)
We did some last minute souvenir shopping at a special place Shawn knew about, and some yummy dinner in Johannesburg and then we headed for the airport. The car ride to the airport was really fun, and I learned a lesson: don’t give the girls pens. They said they needed blue or black pens for school, not pencils. I just happen to always carry blue and black pens, so I gave them each one of mine, before I knew it pens were going into ears or poking belly buttons. Olivia: “You really should have waited to give us the pens.” Eventually I just took the pens back, Sophia: “Well, thank you for the pen,
Olivia: “I’ll say thank you when I get it back!”
Olivia really wanted her pen.
As we were getting out of the car Olivia said, “Devin, do you need me to carry anything?”
“Oh, you mean like the pens.”
“I wasn’t even thinking of that! But if you’d like me to I could carry them.”
Then, the worst part of the day came: leaving. Gosh, I was so sad. I held it together through the goodbyes, but once I got out of sight I just started crying. They are such an awesome family and it really was the best experience I have had. I was pretty bummed. For the first time in the last three or four months I wasn’t excited to head to the States. As we were stepping from the tarmac onto the airplane steps I actually thought, “Ugh. These are the last moments I will be on South African soil.”
I stayed awake over Botswana and Zimbabwe, but my video screen was broken and I couldn't watch a movie so I took some Benadryl and just a few minutes into Malawi I was asleep. We
landed into Zurich where I had to deal with a totally rude baggage lady who told me my backpack was too big I’d have to check it, then when I tried to leave it with her she said, “No I don’t take it you take it to the front of the plane.” Stupid move by the mean lady, I just took the tag off, carried it right onto the plane and put it in overhead luggage. Fit perfectly. Show’s you mean baggage lady.
It’s a good thing I did because Spain did just what Spain does best and in Madrid I had to wait in line for nearly two
hours just to get my boarding pass. The issue was that I only had a two hour long layover. Had I not one up-ed the mean Swiss airport lady I would have missed my flight. Well, actually I probably wouldn’t have because I was the second to last person in line, but I like to think it made a difference. Another Madrid flaw was that their airport is just one long hallway and of course the United desk was at the complete opposite
side of security was at the complete opposite
side of my gate. Uhg. Then the lady at the check in desk told me my gate was A-2, even though I had seen on the board earlier that it was A-6, but they change gates around sometimes so I didn’t question it. I ran all the way to gate A-2, but that was going to Washington! I need Newark! NOOOO! I quickly asked the workers there were the Newark plane was. “It’s A-2; you need to read the board.”
“Well, I know but the woman at the desk told me it was A-6.”
“They change. You needed to check the board.”
“I don’t have time for this mean Spanish gate worker,” I thought to myself and I turned around and ran to A-6. By now I was pretty much the last person on the plane and there was no room for my bag so I went in the bathroom changed all my clothes so I didn’t smell like disgusting sweat from my marathon through the Madrid airport and I finally met a nice airplane/airport person who helped me gate check my bag. The rest went smoothly. I went through about seven million security
checks where I had to explain to just as many people that I had a hippo tooth in my bag, “Well, we’ve never heard that one before.” I looked like a weirdo using a payphone to call home so my Mom knew I had made it to the States and met a nice lady from Norway who noticed I didn’t have a Norway patch on my backpack. Sorry Norway.
Before I knew it I was in Omaha. Greeted by my parents and then I noticed Mallory and Morgan! They had come up to greet me as well! Then suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure charging at me. “I did not come all this way to get mauled in Omaha.” I thought. No such mauling, it was Heather! Mauled with love and hugs. :)
The hellos were finished and we were onto the next order of business. Chocolate malts. Oh, I had waited a year for this moment and it was just as chocolaty and delicious as I imagined. My neighbor girl, Emma had made me a super cute welcome home sign and the Luci’s came over to greet me as
well. It was a day that sometimes I thought would never come and then when it finally did, it was pretty great. I’m lucky to have the friends and family that I do!
Well, thank you for staying tuned in for all six pages of this blog. You all are real troopers. :)
Love you, but no longer have to miss you because I’m home. :)
There are more photos below