sometimes not so much
the last 2 days at kruger yielded very little by way of new animals. we saw some hippo in the water with elephants, but it was quite distant and we only got good looks with the binocs. i would have had to have a 600mm or greater lens to capture anything, but we got some photos which probably look like crap! i'll just skip making up descriptions of the close encounters we might have had with a cheetah or anything :) one thing in kruger is that distances can be deceptive. the park is only about 200 miles long altogether, but speed limits must be adhered to on acct of the road conditions. they're designed for @ most 50kph. the last day in kruger we had to head from satara to orpen, a pretty short run of about 45 mins. however we decided to take the long route to see the lower end of the park which we completely missed. this was a 3 hr run each way, but aside from the speed limits u forget that u'r constantly peering into the thick foliage to spot the elusive cats. we ended up running quite late. there's a pretty strict policy of being in camp by 6:30pm, and we were about 150km away at 4pm! so we threw caution to the wind (we would be breaking some rule or the other anyway), and decided that 90-100kph was permissible as long as we were in camp by 6:30! obviously we did not see anything, and very fortunately we did not hit anything! but the bad side is that the elephant population is contantly moving in kruger, and with our luck, we ended up being stopped by a very irate elephant at around 6:00 pm about 30 minutes from where we needed to be. given that this is as good an excuse as u can get in a safari park, we decided to wait the elly out, and arrived at camp about 15 minutes late. i guess the elephant stopping thing happens quite often coz they bought our story with a 'oh that guy - he does that all the time'!
the dirve from kruger south through blyde river canyon and the drakensburg is supposed to be "spectacular". pretty much the entire mountain range of the freestate province (which encompases the drakensburg) is pine lumber forests. the upper end (the blyde river area) is very beautiful and scenic. but not much more so than the upper colorado drives through the mountains. the drakensburg is pretty nice. the drive from kruger to the drakensburg point that we were to be at was initially calculated at 10 hrs (about 100km). so departure at 8am should have gotten us to the next rest stop at 6pm. somehow something was missed and the drive was actually closer to 15 hrs, doing 120-160kph most of the way. go figure. best of all we got hit by a MASSIVE rain and lightning storm at about 8pm, for about an hr and a half!! anyway we arrived at a cloudy, wet, and quite cold amphitheatre bakpackers around 10pm to locked gates, completely exhausted. we were just about ready to ram the gate open after 5 minutes of waiting and making noise when the security guy arrvied. amphitheater is 18km from its nearest neighbor, and 25km from the nearest village of a few hundred; so options seemed pretty bleak! but things worked out - they let us in and we got a very nice rest!
hung out at the drakensburg for an extra day since we were told it was nicer to stay there than what we had planned. we were suppposed to go to lesotho, which is a kingdom up on the krakensburg plateau, but weather conditions prevented the trip - flooded rivers and broken wipers on the jeep we were supposed to do the tour in. opted instead to go on a 22 km hike to a spectacular gorge and amphitheater view. the drakensburg is shaped like an amphitheater, and the views are supposed to be very nice. jonii dropped out of the hike after 90 minutes, based on the steepness of the climb and the thickness of the foliage and the muddiness of the trail. i, fuelled by the famous raman testosterone trudged on, boulder hopped, crossed 2 rivers (removed shoes, rolled up pants and actually crossed a fairly strong current), all to find remarkably tame and uninspiring views. people in the freestate have a very loose definition of spectacular it seems! it was worth maybe 2 hrs, but most definitely not the 6+ that it took on muddy, hard trails! hate to admit it but jonii was way right not to go on this one!!!
drive from amphitheater to addo national park was around 1000km - this time calculated and recalculated several times for accuracy. left at 6am, after a brief delay to pick up our laundry which the backpackers place had fucked up somehow - long story which i'll recount in great detail later! the scenery from the drakensburg around lesotho, and down the N11 is akin to the drive from colorado, down thru new mexico, to kansas, and then to nebraska, and back to new mexico. we drove through serious cowboy country, fruit orchards, ostirch farms - and fantastically blue skies with cool clouds. sounds gay, i know, but it really was amazing! arrived at addo elephant park in very good time - by 4pm. checked into our nice tent which had a balcony that looked right into the park, and decided to go for a run into the park to see if we could catch anything during the remaining hour before the gates closed.
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