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Published: November 26th 2013
We arrived at the gate to Addo Elephant Park in the afternoon and signed in. We had a room booked at the guest enclosure at the other end of the park and after registering with the main gate we were directed to drive through the park and be sure to get to the other side by 6 because that's when they close the other gate. When we laughingly asked what would happen if we didn't make it in time, the woman at the desk told us some elephants would probably destroy our car overnight.
So we set off into the park. Our first safari experience unfolded on the sandy tracks of Addo surrounded on either side by scrub and bushes...where anything could be lurking.
Indeed, according to the website
, there are.. 'over 550 elephants, lions, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, and a variety of antelope and zebra species
Not to mention a special species of flightless dung beetle (everyone's favourite African species, I know..)
Why no mention of warthogs??
No sooner had we driven slowly down the first stretch of road from the gate than we turned around some bushes and
Looking for animals
from our bungalow balcony
came face to bumper with a warthog rutting in the ground with it's tusks. Is rutting what warthogs do? It seems to be the right word. Anyway, we were chuffed to get this close to a wild animal, applied the handbrake and sat snapping pictures of the beasty. Little did we know that we'd be sick of the sight of these things over the remainder of the holiday as they are everywhere and particularly numerous in Addo.
If there are over 550 elephants in that park, there must be thousands of warthogs. Not only are they everywhere, but from a distance and in amongst the undergrowth, they tend to do great impressions of rhinos/lions/hunting dogs/unicorns or whatever else you want to see. It became common for one us to go...'Over there..! Behind those trees...there's something...
' and for us all to sit there focusing binoculars on the spot with bated breath for several minutes...before someone would mutter '....warthog
' and we'd all groan and drive away. Still, it was our first truly wild large land mammal sighting. So we owe it that honour. What about the elephants?
I mean where do 550 elephants hide? they appeared soon enough. Plus zebras. just
Pretending to be....
wandering around our car. Driving through a wildlife reserve in South Africa seems pretty surreal at first. I mean you're in a car, parked on a dusty road watching an elephant walk by. It feels like you're in a zoo or safari park. But it's a real live wild animal and you're alone in your car and you know those bushes over there? A lion might be there. A lion!
It was all very Jurassic Park. Anyway, luckily we made it to the accommodation compound before the gate was locked and were safely behind the high electric fences before darkness fell, just hoping they didn't fail and let the velociraptors out...
A 'zebra crossing'
It was while in Addo I became particularly obsessed with setting up the following joke - I wanted a zebra to cross the road in front of the car so I could declare - 'Look! A zebra crossing!
'. Obviously the art of comedy is in the delivery, so I should have kept this quiet until the moment arose....but as it never did, I had to share the whole concept of the joke (which, incidentally, I'm sure no one before me has
thought of..) with everyone. Thus, our collective anticipation of a zebra crossing the road was palpable. I think. Alas, it never happened while we were in Addo...*
The 'Jurassic Park' Park
We'd booked a couple of bungalows in the accommodation complex with views looking out over the park. Lucky for me and Kate our booking had been upgraded because the cheapest available rooms were being refurbished, so we checked into a bigger bungalow that was basically for the older or less mobile person. The taps were those special easy-to-use ones and there were handles everywhere to help you get off the toilet or stop you from slipping in the shower. It was kinda odd. But we didn't mind.We cooked dinner in our kitchen that night and got ready for an early rise to explore the park and see more elephants. And warthogs.
From Addo we drove to Port Elizabeth and stayed the night. Then we left the car with the rental company at the airport and boarded a flight to Johannesburg to start the next epic leg of our journey - to Kruger National Park.
Johannesburg to Graskop and the art
At Johannesburg we picked up another hire car (changing cars - much more fun than cleaning them
) and set off out of the city and into the wilderness on quite a long roadtrip to the edge of Kruger in a town called Graskop
. We planned to stay there overnight and then head into the park the next day. Which was wise, because it was quite a journey.
The road from the airport starts out as a massive multi-lane highway and then dwindles as you get further to the city. At first the views either side of the car flattened into sparse plains furnished at each junction with a crowd of hitchhikers. But pretty soon the scenery started to become much more 3D as hills and then mountains started popping up. Before long we started climbing hills on long windy roads. And then the trucks started appearing. Big, heavily loaded trucks that went very very slowly on the mountain roads. Like, I mean, we could have literally stopped the car, climbed out and walked past them. However....overtaking them was more difficult given the blind bends and the narrow roads. Cars frequently built up in the rearview
mirror, but given the chances that another equally huge and heavy truck might be coming the other way, overtaking was a dicey prospect. So It was pretty scary to see people behind think 'what the hell
' and fling their cars into the other lane and accelerate blindly forward past 6 cars and the truck to get ahead. Still, better safe than sorry. And the Lloyd family would probably be really annoyed with me if I drove them into a truck on a remote highway in the mountains of South Africa. It's just one of those things you try and avoid with the 'in-laws' on a par with treading mud into the house etc...
Trucks aside, the road scenery was spectacular. Amazing views as long as I didn't take my eyes off the road for too long...
Graskop's a little rural town on the edge of Kruger national park. There's not a whole lot in the town, but it is really well located to see some amazing scenery a short drive away. We stayed over for a night's sleep and dinner before heading to Kruger early in the morning. While there we went to
an Awesome Portuguese style restaurant with huge portions. Which was nice...
* I refined the joke later while in Port Elizabeth where I added a better setting. Picture the scene... the Great Migration...herds of wildebeest and zebra crowd the banks of a surging river edging ever closer to the water as crocodiles lurk in the froth... Two wildebeest watch from the bank as other animals take to the water. One wildebeest says to the other... 'Do you think it's safe??' ....and his friend points to a zebra midway across the river.... 'Well' he says 'There IS a zebra crossing'
It's a play on words.
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