Well, we’re off! Once again, Anschu and Charles have been exceptionally kind and are loaning us their bakkie (pickup) to go off for a week of Game Park adventure.
So, after a lovely breakfast and stuffed full of information and advice, they loaded us up with all the stuff we’re likely to need if we were camping: tent, cots, chairs, pillows, blankets, coffee pot, utensils, etc. etc. and waved goodbye as we set off for the Kruger National Park. I can’t believe how very kind and generous they are!
Our first stop was not far away: an internet café in Bela Bela!!!!!! Whooo hoo! I arrived here on March 9th and this is the first time I’ve been able to get a fast internet connection since I got here. Couldn’t spend too long on it though, as we’re now on our way to Kruger, but I managed to get a few days of notes posted and ONE – count it! – ONE whole photograph uplinked. While in the internet place, I also got all the photos I’ve taken to date backed up on disks, as I’m sure I’m going to run out of memory on this upcoming ‘safari’.
We are traveling through Limpopo Province and another huge downpour caught us as we reached the capital, Polikwane (a.k.a. Pietersburg – old name). We got another couple of things done here – very inexpensively – that will make our trip go better. We bought a USB connector for the truck so that we can play music from my iPod as we go, then we stopped at a small key and lock place on the main downtown street, where a mechanic came out and spent about an hour fixing the lock on the truck’s canopy so that we can be sure our stuff is secured in there. His bill came to about $15 Cdn!! In the meantime, I’d been loitering around on the street by the truck because while the truck was locked the back was open and Bruce was inside the lock shop with the guy while he was working. I didn't want to leave it to go to ask Bruce for the keys but then a very nice lady from a household linens shop (outside which I had been standing) came out with a stool in her hands and asked if “Madame would like to be seated”? (I am totally bowled over by how nice everyone here has been!) So when ole Brucie finally came out of the locksmith’s shop half an hour later, he was quite surprised to find “Madame” comfortably seated on the sidewalk beside the truck doing her Sudoku!
After leaving Polikwane mid-afternoon, the terrain rapidly changed as we headed through a region called Mopani towards Kruger National Park. At first we were driving through low, rolling areas where we could see shanty towns as far as the eye could see. Then we started climbing up through hills that became steadily less populated and more and more like British Columbia, with densely forested hillsides and much logging of pine. It was getting dark as we approached the resort town of Haenertsburg and we decided it was time to find somewhere to stay. We tried phoning (we also have a cell phone courtesy of Charles and Anschu’s son, Charles) a couple of B & Bs but for some reason we couldn’t get the numbers to work (turned out we needed a bit more information re area codes). As we drove around we saw a young man who was walking with his little girl and asked if he knew of a B & B he could recommend. He told us of one, but then said “If that doesn’t work out I’ll still be around here and we have a spare room!” We laughed and said thanks, of course, thinking he was just joking and went to look at the place he’d said. There was no-one there, so then we drove around a bit more and ran into the young man again. We told him we’d spotted another place we were going to try and again he said “my place is just down there if you need it”. Wow! I really do think he meant it but we weren’t really comfortable taking him up on it – I mean, he hadn’t even discussed it with his wife!
Anyway, the place we eventually found (around 7:30pm), named Kaya Khutso, was a rambling, thatched house where a lovely house keeper, Leenah, met us and showed us our room. The owners were not around. It actually smelled a bit dank but was very nice all the same so, after having a quick glass of vino in our room, we nipped back out again to have dinner at a local eatery called ‘The Iron Crown Grill’. It didn’t look like much of a place, and the food wasn’t anything special, but it had a bit of a story. The new owner/manager is related to the Scottish Duke of Atthol and the restaurant’s walls are lined with mementos of the Old Boy – his Highland uniform, photographs and various newspaper clippings about events at his stately pad back in Scotland and framed stories. The very pleasant manager earnestly informed us that he doesn’t want to be in line for the title, but you could have fooled me with the way he had it all done up there - he came off as a 'Duke Wannabee' to me.