Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Last Weekend in South Africa

Now that my dog, Axel is on the mend and I am home to nurse him through the remaining steps of recovery from his medical emergency; I can conclude my narrative about my visit to South Africa!!!Axel  shave & incision

My last weekend in South Africa was a trip out to another Wild Game Park, oh DARN!!! Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (pronounced Shish louie- Em full O zee) and to the St. Lucia Estuary Park (pronounced Saint Lou sha) is about a 3 hour drive from Durban. Our friends Brenda and Carl went with us, Carl was our driver. DH and Carl have been to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but not to Stl Lucia, and Brenda and I have not been to either of the parks.

Our game plan was to meet with Brenda and Carl at their place (a mere 5 minutes away), all pile into their car, then drop their dog at the kennel on the way out of town. The kennel was an amazing place, talk about a K-9 resort! Social dogs are allowed to play together in very large runs, more like pastures… but she also has several very large parrots. My DH took a picture of me getting to know the birds. They didn’t appear to be too tame… so we didn’t give them a scratch… I have had a parrot and I know how hard they can bite. Kennel Birds talking with Me
What I should have been doing was asking if I could use the restroom!!! Instead of playing with the birds.

We arrived at the park at about noon, a little behind schedule, because the highway didn’t have any plazas or gas stations, well ok by the time we all had processed our morning beverages… we had to make detour (of about 45 minutes total to find a bathroom). A BP Service Station saves the day!

Entering the Park is detailed. Afer you register your visit and as you pass through the gate, your pass is photographed and scanned, and while the pass is scanned a photo of the car it taken… The park opens at 6 a and closes at 6 p and this is how they keep track of visitors. Our first encounter was with a bull elephant. On the drive up to the Hilltop Inn we didn’t see too many animals, I think we spotted a giraffe along the way too, but it was too far away for a photo.

At the Inn we were too early to check in, so we decided to have some lunch on the patio. The weather was awesome… for lunch outside, although I would have liked to be sitting in the sun. There were a small herd of Zebras (3), 1 male and 2 females grazing a few feet away. After lunch we checked into our rooms. HA, right out of 195??, don’t you think? When we read 2 beds, we think, doubles at least, right? All the rooms are like this… You can push them together… but the image is priceless. The “huts” all have authentic thatched roof that is very high at the peak, and most of the windows have a heavy gauge screen, to keep the monkeys out, but much too large to keep any bugs out. The huts don’t have any locks on the doors, nor do they have a heat source or a cooling source other than a ceiling fan. Not sure I would stay there if it were any cooler at night or too warm during the day.

After we checked in we went for another short drive looking for more game. Just about the only thing we spotted was a warthog, who wasn’t very interested in us. We didn’t spend too much time looking for game on our own, as we had night time game drive planned. So we headed back to the rooms to prepare… After dark it can get chilly especially inland and up in the hills. Brenda and Carl, have heavy coats, and my DH and I layered up as much as we could for only having summer clothing… and then made our way back to the main building to catch our night “Ride”.
The vehicles hold 9 passengers up high over the bed of the truck, and 1 more can ride next to the driver. Brenda and Carl took the front seat and we took the second. Good thing, we had a human wind break. The drive was for 3 hours and we covered a lot of dirt roads and saw an amazing number of animals!!! Only a few pictures, and not to great, but the will serve my memories very well. We saw elephants, antelope, giraffes, rhinos, bush pigs (not the same as warthogs), owls, Cape buffalo and many more on the drive. By the time we were done with the drive we were cold all the way through, but we had dinner reservations and a chance to warm up! Dinner was a smorgasbord/buffet type meal with some Zulu entertainment that included dancing and singing by the staff. By the time we were done with dinner we were ready for bed extra blankets and all.

On Sunday morning we were in the car by 7 and heading for our second destination of the weekend, the St. Lucia Estuary… but we took a slow drive out of the park looking for more photo ops!!! Which we found with several of the giraffes… (I just love the expression on his face), and out the front window of the car we did see a big cat, but he was gone before we could identify or get a photo. DARN!!!

Our Tour Boat was leaving the dock at 10, so we didn’t make any other stops on the way. While we were waiting for the boat, we could see a mom and baby Hippo sunning in the shallows just a short distance from the dock. It was so cute! Hippo Mom & pupThe boat tour was for 2 hours and did we see a bunch of Hippos! It was for Crocodiles too, but to be honest they aren’t nearly as interesting as the hippos and birds!

After the boat tour we went into the town of St Lucia in search of lunch. Brenda and Carl are making plans to return for a day trip… alas I will have to make do with this one visit! After lunch we headed back to Durban and the drive back was totally uneventful.

During the drive home, Brenda and I made tentative plans to visit the mall again before I leave… and that is planned for Monday, the rest of the week will be spent doing my packing and laundry, and as you readers know, that is not all that happened, (check Archived posts for Axels issues). I really didn’t go anywhere, after the call from the Vets, except to dinner the last couple of days. I was too worried about my dog and his health… and since the time difference, I was afraid I’d miss a call.

As always there are more pictures on the my Flickr pages... if you are interested in seeing more...

When I first arrived in South Africa, my DH said that he was told by his friends and co-workers that “Africa is NOT for sissy’s” and it’s not. I will post more about the culture, economy, and other observations in the next few posts… I wish I had taken more daily pictures of the day to day stuff… but hind sight is 20/20…. And sometimes you just get tired of carrying around a camera.

I had a blast, can’t wait to do it again. Plans are tentative for a return visit -December thru January….

More Later-

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