safari part deux, and adieu SA
On Monday evening we had another game drive, likely our last if it was good, due to the necessity of a long drive on Tuesday. We hadn’t yet seen lions, so we were hopeful for big kitty sightings. We loaded into the Land Cruiser with a pair of Brits and a pair of Germans and headed out. Within a few minutes we were sitting beside a pair of male lions by a watering hole! They paid little attention to us, and in typical cat fashion, lounged, licked, yawned, and otherwise acted as bored as can be! We were close enough that the size and power of their bodies was completely evident. The two males were said to be friends, but previously enemies when there had been females on the reserve. However, after the drought which we previously described, the females were re-located and the boys made up. Here’s one of the big fellas, standing just for a second while switching sides:
After a nice spell with these magnificent creatures, it was off to find some elephants. We’d seen plenty of them in Addo proper, but none on Kuzuko’s reserve. While the Land Cruiser struggled down a nearly trackless ravine, the driver got a call that some guests had been left at the lodge, and we had to return to pick them up. We were disappointed for the detour, but it was such a pleasant evening that it didn’t seem to matter too much. We picked up the late couple, and returned to where we left off. It took some serious 4×4 gymnastics to get to a ridge where we had a fantastic view of a big family of elephants. They were very actively feeding on the trees and bushes in a shallow ravine, the little ones trying to mimic their elders. We laughed as a little guy tried to pull up a bush with his trunk, trying different grips and stances, but not having much success. This was the scene:
We had an amazing time observing the elephants doing their thing. A big male patriarch named Saracen lurked nearby, and prevented an outcast young male from joining the group. It was sad to see this aspect of the social order, but it’s likely in time that the outcast would become a patriarch of his own family group.
Because the late couple missed the lions, we headed back that way, and were lucky to spend some more time with them. The setting sun was casting an amazing glow on the cats as they continued to relax. We couldn’t stop taking photos!
We ended the drive with a glass of wine and watched the breathtaking African sunset.
On Tuesday we got moving early, because we wanted to get to Durban, or as close as possible. The distance was daunting, and we conservatively estimated about 10 hours in the car. Boy, were we wrong! The N2 highway had major construction projects (essentially, they were building an entirely new road), and the route goes right through the middle of some bustling towns which bring traffic to a standstill. Not to mention the constant goats, cows, and people crossing the road, and the frequent fog. It was perhaps the craziest and most stressful drive either of us had ever done. At some point it became obvious that we were “Durban or Bust,” and after 14 grueling hours we made it – just before midnight.
Bed was a welcome relief, and we slept long and hard. On Wednesday morning we got to enjoy the view of Durban’s beaches from our 9th floor hotel room. After breakfast and some looking around, we decided to move to Umhlaga, just north of Durban. This area was supposed to be nice, and closer to the airport for our Thursday departure. We got there and enjoyed a nice walk through a nature reserve and then on the beach. Apart from its big stadium, the city of Durban didn’t leave much of an impression on us, except for the view down the beachfront.
The wind was blowing and the waves were crashing, and Don hoped for a return with time for some big downwind paddles. South Africa continued to amaze us as a wild, untamed place. It offered us so much more fun and adventure than we had expected, and we wished for more time to continue exploring. However, a part of us was already preparing for the next adventure in New Zealand. With luck, we’ll be able to return to South Africa and pick up where we left off.
A final African treat was a troop of Vervet monkeys near our hotel, up to some shenanigans. This one looks so innocent, but we know the truth!