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Published: August 10th 2018
Early early start without a safari drive. Heading to Kruger via Johannesburg and Hoedspruit. Pouring rain as we leave the hotel in Port Elizabeth. Arrive at the airport and have to say farewell to Nando (can you bea the drums Fernando) as he has to drive back to Cape Town empty after this. Lovely guy and a great driver - never felt in danger at all, and he could get the coach up and ripping pretty easily.
Into the airport and check in - what a debacle. Supposedly all organised, but the tour director is flustered. Searching through his bag for the tickets, etc. finally it starts to happen. Eventually all checked in and through security to the departure lounge. Get on messenger and have a quick chat with Jessica and the kids. Nice to see and hear them even if it was quickly before footy training.
Board while rain coming down so a sprint to the stairs. Up and in and off into the wild blue yonder. Shuffle into exit rows after take off with a few others and get some good views. Chris sleeps to catch up on the early start...
Into Joberg airport, collect bags and up the travelators to the domestic departures. I beta Les in a race up the travelators so have bragging rights for a while. We then find out it is Les and Julie‘s wedding anniversary (Les is the one with the cracker mullet). Lots of chatter about that then into the next queue for our check in to Hoedspruit.
Up We go. Good flight but then one of our crew (Don form our original Namibia tour) mentions to the chief stewardess that Les and Julie have an anniversary today. Down she waltzes with a bottle of red for them. Nice touch and we all make a fuss. Then off the plane. Now things turn to shit. Julie gets her hand luggage from the steps (Dash 8 so bigger hand luggage goes under then delivered at the steps). As she picks the bag she notices a side zipper open. That is where she kept her money and other papers. Panic. Luckily they alert the tour director and the pilot and crew. Next thing the bag with the money appears. Hmmmm. While all this is happening, another couple get their bags and the lock is gone and the zipper is bent where it was snapped off. Looks like a coupe of bottles of rum taken. Not a good start. Airport security takes pics and then we leave.
Our drive is about an hour on sealed and dirt roads. Dirt roads read corrugated and potholes roads. Bad time to get the back seat in a hi-ace mini bus. Finally arrive at Ngala Safari Lodge. Very nice. Time to have a quick lunch then to the rooms and straight out for a drive. We get the first truck with the original 5 from Namibia and 2 More Kiwis. Not a bad bunch and we seem to have the boss driver as our tour leader.
Into the bush, not much on offer, then we get to a muddy waterhole. They say there are Rhino paw prints (if that is such a comment for Rhinos). Next thing, Tonight (our spotter -and yes that is his real name as we have been told) picks the Rhinos in the bush. Much excitement as they are really close. Then we see a bigger bull Rhino close by as well. They start walking towards us - much more excitement. Finally, the big bull comes our way as well. Noises and strutting then we are beside a territory fight. Wowser. When the guides are getting excited you know we have hit paydirt. Noise, strutting and even the big bugger about 4 foot from the truck. Bigger wowser.....
One of the Kiwi ladies is trying to squeeze across the seat so far that it becomes a 2 seater rather than 3. Luckily the driver clams them down, but this is a real show of strength and bravado. We sit for over 10 or more minutes watching, taking pics, etc. I only realise that I should have had the phone out taking a video earlier, but catch the big bugger hooting and strutting a little at the end of his show. We leave, and pass one of the other trucks who are coming for a look.
Go to another waterhole very close by and there are hippos in the water, along with a few crocs with the sun setting over the waterhole as a backdrop. Could it get better. Yes. We then drive to the top of the waterhole and do sundowners with the entire group (3 trucks of us all comparing notes). Great start to the Kruger Safari.
Back to the lodge, dinner which is set outside with fires all around us, lanterns in trees, etc., and a very nice meal. Everyone is buzzing after the rhinos and other animals. No real complaints now about the 0530 start tomorrow morning.
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