workin backwards in short
i'll skip the excrutiating details for now and give alla u the quick rundown, since i'm sure at least some are wondering if the lions got to us, or whether we ended up missing our flight and stayed in chitown but were too embarassed to write about it!
got the flight to madrid. iberia's great if u have no expectations (and i mean NO expectations). spent the day in madrid, walked about. city is nice and the people were friendly, but its not a place i would recommend a lot. i think spain must have better places to visit! but the tm center people were damn nice and let us hang about for 2 hrs to meditate and recuperate. plus one of them pointed us in the direction of a veggie place that we decided to skip out on since they had no wine - yup we're lushes and have our priorities right!!!
departure from madrid was a bit of a mess. we arrived at the airport to find our 12:05am (ie midnight) flight delayed. undefined delay. 3 hrs later it was still delayed and no iberia people were in the airport. after much muckraking at the business class lounge, we finally managed to get them to give us a room. i'll get into the details later, but suffice to say that iberia's customer service skills are sorely lacking! 12 hrs delay and we got bakc to the airport - to find no info on our flight! fortunately the flight showed up only about 30 minutes late and we were on our way.
arrived at joburg @ 11.30pm. ran off to the alamo counter to get our car since alamo's offices reputedly closed at midnight. not true - they're a 24 hr operation. managed to fit into our fiat palio which is a bit smaller than a geo metro, but more fun to drice. very go-kart-ish! headed out to pretoria, to the tm center, with explicit instructions to meet the tm center people on the rd just outside pretoria city limits so that we did not get lost. there's a large fountain at the city limit which is where we were to meet. it's unmissable. we missed it and found the tm center without too much difficulty, but nobody home! after discussions for 30 minutes about whether i should go back and find the fountain while jonii sat at the house, we decided to split. i headed out and found the very obviously unmissable fountain which i have no idea how we skipped on the inbound! drove around the fountain a few times, to the consternation of a tow truck guy sitting on the side of the road. since i saw nobody else, i figured the tm-ers had headed back home, which they had!
headed out at 11:30 am the next morn to get to kruger. managed to pick up provisions (sandwich material, water, etc.), a bit of cash, and very narrowly avoided creating a massive pileup since it took a bit to get adjested to driving on the "wrong" side of the road - got yelled at and chased by an irate afrikaaner guy whom i pretended to ignore as he hurled slurs and wanted to "get out the car and sort it out!". managed to depart pretoria alive, and the (usually) 7 hr trip was made in 6 hrs doing 140kph on 100-120kph roads. erally beautiful and scenic places that we got pics of, but could not stop due to lack of time :( got to first camp after seeing zebra and kudu and impala and lots of elephant dung on the road. but we only just made it! camp was beyond wildest expectations - a truly safari experience. i suspect this is how the brits traveled the world. army type tent (very large) with very nice wood furnishings and built in shower and toilet, plus cooking facilities. we got pics. this was valentines day (14th), so we decided to do dinner in the restaurant instead of cooking. not bad considering it was a bit difficult to explain we were veg!
next day started 7am and headed to camp2 - letaba. saw giraffe and a lioness walking on the road in front of us. quite thrilling! nobody else on the road, just us and the lioness walking along! got pretty close and took lots of pics. headed on to meet giraffes and elephants. huge tusker blocked the road and gave us a bit of a scare - flapping ears and making noise. most upsettingly he started to have a hardon for our car - not a fig of speech, literally! we backed up a bit, allowed him to cool down, and resumed our run. giraffes are damn strange and very cool to just come up on to. kruger is weird in that they allow u to do your own thing - dirve around on your own, and basically hunt down the wildlife, so to speak. its sort of like driving in a state park in the US, but with the bonus of seeing cool animals around the next bend in the road. keeping eyes constantly peeled and focused is essential. very different from the guided safaris u see on tv!
more to follow tonight - gotta go see botanical garden now!