On the road again as we leave Tydon Safari Camp for Johannesburg via the Panaorama Route

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Africa » South Africa » Gauteng » Kempton Park
June 10th 2019
Published: June 13th 2019
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We didn’t actually get the extra hour of sleep this morning before our wakeup call because as usual we awake well before although we did lie in bed and listened to Newstalk ZB on Iheart Radio to catch up on the talkback in NZ.It was late afternoon at home and it had been a while since we had had such a sustained listen.

For the first time in 3 days I had mastered the shower controls and had an even temperature shower for all the time I was in there. The water is heated by gas and it appeared as though the gas flowed and then stopped before starting again but this time is was all go !Gretchen was pleased when it came her turn to prepare for the day.

All the others staying at the camp had gone off on their morning drives so we breakfasted alone.

Jack, a large black African guy, who bought us down from Gomo Gomo is driving us to Jo’burg via the Panorama route and the trip will take 7 to 8 hours depending upon our sightseeing at 3 or 4 stops along the way.

He is bringing back a family of 5 from Jo’burg airport tomorrow but because of an early start he won’t get the chance to spend the night with his family including 2 children who live in Pretoria. He is a nice chap with a soft voice and always keen to make conversation when we had wanted to know something along the route to Tydon. It should be a pleasant drive and as long as he drives as safe as he did the other day then we will have nothing to worry about once we hit the long and rather boring road into Jo’burg where much of the traffic will be.

The guest information at Tydon said that gratuities are not expected but if we wish we can leave what we think is appropriate for those who gave us service. The guides here had been very good and a little more knowledgeable than those at Gomo Gomo so we will reward them accordingly along with the general staff.

Interestingly the guest information asked guests to report to management any staff that asked for a gratuity and the woman who we thought had come to our tent to take our suitcases came close to being reported. It was a woman we hadn’t seen in the 3 days we had been there and it appeared as though she was hanging around for an envelope with money in it when someone else came and picked up the suitcase.

Gretchen went to pass the envelope with money in to the lady who had looked after making our bed and tidying up after us and this other woman who had been waiting around snatched it off her and they both walked off so we can’t be sure how the gratuity was split up. It was the only adverse action in our 3 days at Tydon Safari Camp.

Jack mentioned as we left the camp and headed out to the R536 that he needed to call into a garage at Hazyview to change the vehicle battery. Along the road the people were starting to get out and about and there also quite a bit of traffic around as well.

After a half hour break at the Total garage at Hazyview we were on our way to the first sightseeing stop on the Panorama Route, Lisbon Falls on the R535 which climbed steadily up onto the ridge of the mountain range through forests of eucalyptus and pine trees.

First though we had a brief stop at Graskop a mining village settled in the 1880’s and now a tourist destination. Jack told us the place is packed at weekends and accommodations usually full. It seemed a pleasant small town and very tidily presented and we stretched our legs and called into a couple of shops selling locally made merchandise including a spinning factory where women were working treadle spinning machines making silk scarves etc.

The falls were just a short drive further up the road from Graskop and was quite a sight having a fall of 93 metres. Water came down through rock to tumble over into a gorge below.

Continuing up the Drakensberg escarpment we reached the nature reserve where ‘Gods Window’ is located.

First we took the steady climb straight up to a rain forest which reminded us of home at the highest altitude. On the other track on the downhill journey we came across 3 outstanding views one of which was ‘Gods Window’ a viewing spot with sheer cliffs that plunged 700 metres down to the low veldt.

We could not have picked a more perfect day as visibility just seemed to go on forever. A stunning place to stop and take in the views.

We continued on through forested hillsides on the Panorama route and then onto the N4 a national highway similar to what we experienced on the Cape Town to Port Elizabeth N2 road with wide sealed shoulder and wide lane to drive in plus the 120kph speed limit.

When we first encountered this speed limit it freaked us out a bit coming from a country that is reducing open road speed limits unless they have a solid median or are one of the few newly constructed lanes that keep traffic well apart. But we have not seen one accident yet and we reckon we have travelled over 2000km either driving ourselves or being driven and this in a country that has a road toll of around 15000 deaths per year !Perhaps we have just been lucky but we reckon there is something to be said for a wide sealed shoulder to give room for slower traffic to pull over and let faster traffic pass. Also although a lot of what we have travelled on has been flat and straight the section of N4 we joined is windy and hilly and the corners are wider and hills longer with the lanes straightened out to give better vision. One of the reasons for the very high death toll on the roads here are the minivan taxis that overfill their vehicles and then speed taking risks to get to a destination so they can fill up with people again and speed off to the next destination especially during holiday periods.

We did have one little incident as we came up behind a slow moving large truck and trailer and although he was pulled over onto the shoulder there was also a brough of a hill ahead. Jack pressed his foot on the accelerator and we picked up speed and were about ¾ of the way past when an oncoming vehicle came into view and we had that feeling of the distance between us and the oncoming vehicle reducing quickly. However we made it past the truck in time and we both breathed a little sigh of relief.

We took a break for coffee and a bite to eat at a service centre just before the N4 left the hills behind and we got ourselves ready for the long boring run into Jo’burg.

As the N4 emerged onto the veldt we came across a long distance of road rebuilding. No flag waving ladies on the side of the road to slow you down. Instead it was an 80kph speed limit which no one including we must say even Jack didn’t seem to obey although neither of us could see what speed he was actually doing.

We had now done the round trip, so to speak, as we had turned off the N4 on our way to the two stays we had had in Kruger in this area and were now on our way back into Jo’burg.

The pollution in the air didn’t seem quite as bad as when we travelled out 6 days ago but it was still there.

Going in the other direction we got a different view of the large coal fired power stations belching out their pollution and it really isn’t a pretty sight. However the country has few large flowing rivers for hydro power and not really a lot of wind for power from that source which really only leaves solar, of which we haven’t seen any, or nuclear of which there is one station near Cape Town. They do have large volumes of coal to be extracted from open cast mines and from a couple of the spread out ‘townships’ we passed by they are providing employment.

South Africa is a signatory to the Kyoto Agreement which aims to combat global warming however it does not have any targets to achieve, like NZ does, which seems to be nonsense when we consider what we have observed for both the drive out of Jo’burg and now the return journey. Looking at a map of the world well over half of the land mass has no targets to achieve. What hope does the world have? And we have heard since we have been away that the Auckland City Council has declared a climate crisis and what are they really going to do to make the city a better place for our children and grandchildren?

Jack had clearly done this run many times before and he expertly got us in the right lanes of the 6 lane motorway to get onto the right road to take us to the Safari Club for our overnight stay.

We had seen what looked to be a store selling drinks etc near the double electronic gated entry to the Safari Club and we had contemplated talking a walk out after we get settled into our room to buy a couple of cans of soft drink to make a further impression on what we have left of the gin and vodka we purchased in NZ.However it looked like it might have been a bit of a challenge to get someone to let us through the double gates and then join the mass of locals buying supplies on their way home from work so we opted to buy a couple of cans from the bar and stay in our peaceful little haven of green grass and trees.

The lodge had a lot more guests this time around and the dining room was full for dinner so we guess our driver to take us to the airport tomorrow morning will be a busy chap.

It had been quite a long day and we think we probably covered another 500km or so in the drive from Tydon via the Panorama route but it was all worth it for the scenery and now it was time for sleep.

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