I like Hippos.

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November 26th 2007
Published: November 26th 2007
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November 26, 2007

I don't know why it keeps kicking us out into the South Atlantic Ocean there... we did not go there. :)

On the Road AgainOn the Road AgainOn the Road Again

This is our P.O.S. car on the side of the road. Don't worry, it was break time not break-down time. Isn't Africa Beautiful?
It's been a long time comin', and no thanks to slow internet connections and flooding internet shops (see below) we can finally tell you about South Africa… what can we say? Well, a lot, so let’s get started.

We arrived in South Africa at Johannesburg airport early in the morning. After getting our rental car we headed straight out of town. No one wants to spend too much time in Johannesburg, what with the highest crime rate in the WORLD, even though the travel guides swear you should give it a try. While Chris remembered how to drive on the left side of the road and I figured out where we were going (not being on insurance and having no left-hand-driving experience means I am master navigator) we realized it was awfully hot for 8 am. In fact we realized that when our plane landed sometime around 5 am the sun was FULLY up, not just the new-dawn sort of sun.

Oh, and our car has no A/C because we are cheap. It wouldn’t be the last time we re-thought that decision. Anyway…

Our good friend Sasha told us the way to her parents’ place where we were
Livin' the Safari LifestyleLivin' the Safari LifestyleLivin' the Safari Lifestyle

We stayed in the hut on the right... I want to live there forever but we would have to invest in a lot of bug spray.
going to be staying as we got our bearings and prepared our foray into Kruger National Park. Well, THANK YOU to Pieter and Lynette (and Sasha too!) for being wonderful hosts and showing us how amazing the northeast section of South Africa really is. We didn’t know what we were in for, but on our arrival we saw that we would be living in my dream location for a few days!

Sasha’s dad, Pieter, manages a citrus and game farm that is owned by the community, the native African in the area. It is huge, roughly twice the size of the property at Trout Lodge (which is 5,200+ acres for those of you who never worked there!). Part is a farm growing oranges, limes, etc, and the other part is a game farm and lodge. If you have ever read Budget Travel (Abby, I hope you are enjoying the ones I left behind!), this is the kind of place I have seen in there many times, wishing I too could experience it. Beyond belief.

There were two main huts for lodging, which were raised on stilts overlooking the riverbed, mostly dry now but with some big pools of
Holy Hippos, batman!Holy Hippos, batman!Holy Hippos, batman!

Yes, kids, that is a real live hippo going to work for the day. It's a hard life for those hippos. Actually we learned this is a new hippo who wandered in from somewhere and they are hoping he will stick around.
water every now and then. They are open-air with thatched roofs and large porches, nothing but a ceiling fan to help when it’s hot. But they had BATHROOMS with flushing toilets and hot water in the mornings and the evenings (for that is when they light the fires to heat the water!) There was a pool (which was surprisingly cold) and then the main “lodge” which consists of a fire pit, a kitchen, a dining area and a lounge area, all open to nature save the thatched roof.

WELL, after some time around the fire and a lovely dinner on the braai (read “BBQ pit”) we slept like little babies. We woke up late the next morning, maybe 9:30, and had the place to ourselves. We re-started the fire pit to make some breakfast and as we sat there eating bacon and eggs A FREAKING HIPPO wandered into the river not 300 feet away from us!!! Turns out there are a few hippos around, and when Pieter got back he took us to the house where they live, a quarter of a mile upstream, where FIVE hippos were lazing away the day in the river. And he showed us
Priceless PosePriceless PosePriceless Pose

These are the hippos down the way a bit. Can't believe I managed to get this picture.
the tracks, indicating that the hippos spend their waking hours at night wandering around the camp (he said the dogs went crazy at about 3 am, going after the hippos, but we were dead to the world).

Each of the three nights we were there consisted of an adventure, either driving around in the Land Rover looking for game, or trudging across the dry river to see if the baboons were in trouble when one of them was screaming it’s head off. (no sign of anything once we arrived). Oh, yeah… our hut has a latch on it to keep the baboons from rifling through our toiletries and such. I loved this place.

Forgot to mention that the first night as we were sitting around the campfire chatting with Pieter and Lynette (who moved to this farm he DAY BEFORE WE ARRIVED), lions were roaring in the distance. Lions. They were on the neighboring farm, and so separated from us by a fence, but it was SO COOL to hear a lion roaring in real nature.


Thanks again to Pieter and Lynette for helping us get ready for our trip into the wild.
Nightime NeighborsNightime NeighborsNightime Neighbors

The hippos wander around camp at night, as evidenced by the prints we saw right next to the hut.
They lent us a lot of things that made it possible for us to camp out, which was very handy (and cheaper, though next time a tent with air conditioning would be swell…).

Kruger National Park is bigger than Israel. Specifically it is about 350 km long and 76 km wide, surround by a fence, and is one of the world’s most famous protected areas. And it gets bigger when you consider that it is bordered by Mozambique on one side which has opened up their border to create a “trans-frontier” park, and on the other side by private game reserves, many of which have dropped their fences along Kruger borders to expand the area that is available to the wildlife. Some rules: you MAY NOT get out of your car for any reason except in specific areas, which can be few and far between. You MAY NOT arrive at a gate, either to get in/out of the park or to return to the camping areas later than 6:30 (depending on the season). You MAY NOT drive faster than 50 km (30 mph) on the paved roads, 40 km/h on the dirt roads.

The campsites are little cities
Goin' on a Bear HuntGoin' on a Bear HuntGoin' on a Bear Hunt

We weren't hunting bear... just looking for the fun animals they have on the farm. Thanks a million to Pieter and Lynette for their hospitality and the LIFE-SAVING camping supplies!!!
in the bush, surrounded by fences, and many have gas stations and all have restaurants and shops and so on. It occurred to me one night how cool it was that WE were the ones behind the fence, not the animals. The campsites are very well-maintained and comfortable, with everything from camping to guesthouse lodging, and offer guided walks and drives in the park itself. One of the coolest things we did was the morning walk, which left at the un-godly hour of 4:30 am, but the animals are not active in the heat of the day so that’s how it has to be.

On the walk were six guests (they don’t take more than 8) and two armed guides, toting rifles with eight in the chamber and eight on the hip. OK, so far this is really cool. We drove about 10 minutes out into the bush and got our instructions: Walk single file; don’t talk while we are walking, and when we have stopped talk only softly; do not run from any animals, they will think you are a good game and will chase you. Ummm. What was that? Don’t run from the charging hippo? No problem.
Wait, is That...Wait, is That...Wait, is That...

...an IMPALA?!?! Yes! And only 2 minutes after we entered Kruger Park!

And we walked. The first thing we experienced was the sound of the African savannah at dawn, and beautiful sound as all the birds and insects sing together while they are all still awake. Then came the roar of the lions (in the distance, thankfully but with a little hope they would come closer. Not too close.). Suddenly we saw a large lump of gray in the not-so-distant distance. Turns out there were three rhinos sleeping there, and a strong arm could have hit them with a rock. Rhinos are quite possibly the most dangerous animals in the world depending on who you ask, though the African buffalo is up high on the list as well. Our guide, Phillip, stopped us to whisper instructions, something along the lines of “if one of them charges we run behind that tree.” It was not a big tree, but apparently rhinos have really bad eyesight and have been known to charge at elephant carcasses and the like. So the tree it is. As we walked around them to get a better view we saw that we were right in between them and an entire herd of buffalo (please see the 4th sentence
Right next To The RoadRight next To The RoadRight next To The Road

Later in our trip we almost got charged by an elephant. She was not happy when we drove by the herd as they played at a watering hole. It was the only time we actually heard one make noise, and we were not amused, just driving as fast as we could to get away from her!
back). It was really cool, especially when one stood up and thankfully none got angry at our presence.

While in the park and on the walk and our sunset drive that we took the next day we saw baboons, vervet monkeys, mongoose, hyenas, lions, elephants, zebras, buffalo, rhinos, warthogs, wildebeest, hippos, giraffe, and a variety of antelope-type animals like nyala, bushbuck, kudu, dukier, waterbuck, klipspringer, steenbock and impala. Impala are everywhere, and this is how everyone’s first trip to the park goes:

PERSON 1: Ok, we are here, let’s drive for a while and see what we can find!
1 minute and 27 seconds of driving
PERSON 2: LOOK! Impala! Oh wow get the camera!!! Aren’t they cute?
PERSON 1: Yeah, it’s amazing we were so luck we were here for a minute and we have already seen something. Mark it off the list!
56 seconds of driving
PERSON 1:Oh my gosh, MORE impala! Wow, it must be a good day for game viewing!
PERSON 2: Stop and let me get another picture!

What these people have yet to learn is that no matter how hot, or what time of day, or what other animals are around,
Vervet MonkeyVervet MonkeyVervet Monkey

I like monkeys, and between the vervets and the baboons we were very entertained!
or what type of vegetation you will ALWAYS see impala. In fact they are like an old friend sometimes when you are desperately searching for a leopard, driving around in your non-air conditioned car for hours at a time in 100 degree heat, you know that around every corner the impala will be there to let you know there really is life in the park, so just keep up the effort!

I could go on for days about this, but I will leave the park now and wrap this up. We are on our way to Cape Town to visit Sasha for a few days, taking our time to get there by driving down the coast and stopping at some really cool hostels along the way. The other night we were at the nicest place we have stayed, and we decided to splurge and spend 300 Rand a night on the room. Don’t get huffy, that is like $45, but our first night out of the park we camped at a hostel and paid a whopping 90 Rand, something like $12, so that was quite a splurge. Tonight we are camping again (like last night) but unfortunately the aforementioned
Another Self-PortraitAnother Self-PortraitAnother Self-Portrait

Sometimes I wish we had a tripod, but that would be silly with our el-cheapo camera.
downpour is apparently on its way back, so it could be a cold wet night. We fly out of Johannesburg on December 4 and will find ourselves in Thailand. We will either spend a few weeks in Asia or a couple of months - if you know anyone who would like to buy a cute yellow Mazda please contact my dad! Seriously. It's a great car and with the American economy/gas prices SUCKING so bad, don't you want a tough little car that gets good mileage?

Oh, hope the Americans had a good Thanksgiving - mine was spent in a hot car trying not to get a sunburn in the wicked sun down here. Thanks for all the emails and well-wishes, because like I said even if we don’t answer we ARE reading them. Internet can be expensive and if it comes to that or dinner… well, you don’t want to live with me without dinner so we have to set our priorities. Love you all, until next time!

Sabrina and Chris.

P.S. I have a million more pictures I wanted to include and a million more stories I wanted to tell, but I know there is
They Really Do LaughThey Really Do LaughThey Really Do Laugh

And the females can kick ass. The hyenas were pretty cool, and we liked the ones that would slink around the fence at our campsite hoping we would feed them (we didn't). But the whole time I couldn't stop thinking of Ed from the Lion King.
a point at which it is overkill. Maybe someday we can catch up on the rest.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21



Thanks to my nephew, Kaden, we kept calling the giraffes "Raffies." Our second lion spotting occurred when we saw a herd running across the road, then stopping to stare back at something. We crept the car along and finally spotted the lioness through the trees!

Thankfully he didn't mind us taking pictures.

I didn't know how cool wildebeests were. But you see them hanging out with everyone - impalas, warthogs, zebras... they are like that guy in high school who was friends with everyone (that wouldn't eat him, at least).

They say that males are black with white stripes and females are white with black stripes. This is clearly a female.
King of the RoadKing of the Road
King of the Road

Yup, that's a car bumper in the corner of the picture. This guy was just hanging out on the shoulder of the main road, causing a traffic jam of gwakers (us included) trying to make it back to camp before they closed the gates.
Love the Man With The GunLove the Man With The Gun
Love the Man With The Gun

Phillip was one of our guides on our morning walk. We actually got to walk through the African wilderness... way cool.
A Leopard... FINALLYA Leopard... FINALLY
A Leopard... FINALLY

The closest we got to seeing a leopard or any other cat besides the lions (and the lucky African Wild Cat Spotting) was when Phillip showed us this Leopard Turtle. Not quite as deadly, but still one of nature's miracles, right?
Crazy EyesCrazy Eyes
Crazy Eyes

I tried to take a picture of the hyenas who camped out to wait for us to finish cooking our steaks, but this was all I got. At least you can see how close they were... and spooky.
Fruit BatsFruit Bats
Fruit Bats

Look closely.. these are bats hanging out under the thatched roof at one of the rest camps in the park.

Here is proof that we were kicked out of the internet cafe due to a sudden downpour that caused flash flooding.

26th November 2007

What an exciting and wonderful experience! I want to sleep in a hut! Great pictures.
3rd December 2007

Blog some MORE!
I love the blog, JM... we both laughed. Give the girls hugs and kisses for us!

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