Lions, Zebras, & Impalas...... Oh My!

Trip Start Jan 23, 2007
Trip End Feb 23, 2008

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Wednesday, January 9, 2008

So we left you off at Christmas... and what a merry Christmas it was for everyone, but honestly for us it wasn't so merry. Sure we had the beach and the waves, endless sunshine and picnic lunches, wild Safaris and jet-setting weekends, New Years bar-b-ques and midnight beach party fireworks.... But it was always missing something:

You guys!!!

This really was hard on us, a Christmas alone... we know most of you by now are suffering from Seasonal Depression Disorder...for those of you who don't know seasonal depression disorder: is that mild depression you may be feeling these days caused by the onset of winter and the ever increasing darkness and cold weather. Well we have placed ourselves in our own self induced seasonal depression in your honor. Sarah and I pray for a climate change, the long days of sun have caused us to be tired from all possibilities the day brings us. We have also suffered from too much good weather. Day after day of blue skies and hot weather has further progressed our lethargic attitude often forcing us to lie around all day in the heat without anything to do. An ever growing problem is the sand... the terrible weather has forced us to the beaches and really reeked havoc on our room with all the sand that has gotten all over everything and ends up everywhere; I found Sarah crying the other day she was so distressed.... So in an effort to escape this terrible condition and replace our gloomy outlook on life for something lighter... we went on vacation. Actually on a Safari... to Kruger Park, the world's largest open area animal sanctuary in the world (it's the same size as Israel or Indiana)

We packed our back packs (actually Daan's back pack) and headed off to the other side of Africa up near Mozambique and Swaziland. We had our bug spray, sunscreen, camera, batteries, and safari clothes... the only thing we forgot to pack was sleeping pills... though they would have been of no use!

The trip started with some scrambled packing and preparation for this adventurous vacation. Packing was a last minute process as always, so after getting to bed at 1am on Thursday, we "jumped" out of bed and headed to Cape Town at 3am for our 6am flight... yeah early

We landed in Jo-burg in 8 am and we were on a bus by 9... like a good boyfriend I provided the body pillow so Sarah could catch up on an hour of sleep (we never really caught up with) and I enjoyed my terribly tiny economy class airplane seat. However the hour-and-a-half plane flight was the shortest trip we took all weekend. Our shuttle out to Kruger Park, which didn't offer the roomiest accommodations seeing that they crammed 7 of us into a small van luggage and all, arrived promptly and we headed off for 5 HOURS.

This never ending sardine style journey lead us out far away from the Africa that Sarah and I were used to, out into the "Africa" that most people think about. The towns morphed from post-colonial Dutch European to a scattered spider web of dirt roads and cinderblock houses. It was difficult to compare the quality of living to what we are used in the poor areas of Paarl. There seemed superficially to be larger houses and individual lawns; a major step up from the bee hive like shanty towns in the Western Cape and outside Jo-burg. Still these cinderblock houses littered entire mountain sides until they gave way to the horizon baking under the corrugated steel roofs, set up in some sort of organizational pattern that seemed pretty incomprehensible to me...a familiar sense of disorganized Latin-American squalor came to mind...Third World came to mind.

This didn't happen by accident, and I would hate for anyone to think millions of people just decided to live on a mountain side with what looked like to me no work. And again to draw the picture... it wasn't like a no work: "lot's of lazy people not trying to get a job", but more like no work: NO EMPLOYMENT... no farms, no stores, no economy... So if you had to ask me what everyone did, I would respond with an affirmative "I have no idea," my best guess is that most of the people work in the mines... coal, minerals, diamonds, and/or gold. I do know why everyone is out there. Like many things this area is one of the scars left over from the Apartheid. Blacks were forced out of the areas where they were living and moved into "Home Lands" in different areas around the country... Imagine Indian reservations, but the way they would look if we hadn't killed all the Indians but rather relocated millions of people to far off places and forced them all to change their lives and culture.

It's something to think about...

On to the excellent stuff... We arrived at Kruger park at around 3 in the afternoon... 30 seconds after entering the park we saw an elephant (He's paid to be there)... so we quickly arrived at our camp sight a bit tired, but luckily we had a second to drop our bags off before we went out for our first game drive... from 4pm to 6:30 we were off to see animals... I was on the hunt; Sarah slept. I woke her up to see the elephant... and then the hippos playing in the river... and then the giraffes

When we got back it was time for our "bush dinner", traditional African food we got consisting of poorage "pap" and beef with sausage and potatoes... the trick is eating with your fingers like an African!! The dinner was nice because we finally got to meet the 5 other people that were with us! Our group consisted of 3 Canadians (EH!); a lawyer, a government consultant, and an actor who just finished shoot Hulk 2 in Rio and was once a permanent character on the X-Files... that was a lot of interesting conversation with the three of them. The other half of our group were Brothers from Israel who were traveling to SA in celebration of the younger brothers end of service in the Military where he was a Captain at 24 years... again more lively conversation. I personally am a fan of lively conversation... politically driven questions, random Hollywood gossip (Edward Norton is just as cool/weird off screen as he is on screen), however I like this when I haven't been traveling since 4 am earlier that day!

Once we all packed up around 9, Sarah and I made our way to our tent...Normally I can sleep through anything, cars, babies, outside random noise, Sarah... however I was confronted that terrible evening with a mortal enemy with whom I waged a glorious battle 2 nights in row only to return back to my tent broken, beaten, and yearn for some sleep. Who could this terrible enemy be... ah non other than a bat that chose to perch himself in the tree above our tent. You say, but Dan the bat will eat all the mosquitoes, and mosquitoes have malaria, how could you want this bat to leave you tent sight, the bat was a protector!?!?! And I agree with you, the bat did protect us from the mosquitoes.... But he also sat above the tent creating a vicious noise that reminded me of a truck backing up... beeeeeeeep..... beeeeeeep........beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep... That my dear friends drove me absolutely insane which sparked an irrational rage and blood lust that would only be quenched by this damn bat!!!

So like a stupid tourist I was running around with a flash light for an hour chasing the bat from tree to tree as far away from our tent as I could... Only to have him return and keep on beeping. Eventually around midnight or one, I passed out from exhaustion.... And then the BEEEP BEEEP BEEEEP returned at 4 am... but that was our alarm... it was time for a game drive.

Drive number 2 (5am- 9:30 am) started with some baboons who decided to just stroll across the street with their babies. After about 15 minutes watching this parade, close to 65 baboons had walked in front of the many to see the beginning or the end of the line! We saw more elephants which was rather depressing... we always arrived a minute to late to see 20 elephants walk off into the forest so in the end on this drive we saw a lot of elephant butts! Next was a hippo sitting in a pond... watching us... Hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa... reason being that if the hippo thinks that you are threatening its water habitat or if it has left the water and you are in the path way, the hippo immediately assumes you are a threat and will charge you and bite you in half... they have caused more human deaths than any other animal in the park, the lovely hungry hippo!!

Two boy giraffes were playing around with each other while a vulture waited across the street, but really the drive was rather dull. Until we rounded the corner and if you can see him... there is a Lion on top of the rocks...he and his lady of the day have broken away from the pride to mate on top of the rocks slightly out of sight but ever so present surveying the land. He's hard to see on the pictures we uploaded, but we will be sure to send any skeptics the real file!!! Finally right at the end of the game drive we saw some wildebeests.

Once we got back I fell asleep and Sarah took pictures of the cheeky monkeys that were terrorizing our camp sight!

The 3rd game drive (4pm-7pm) started with a new driver and a new direction as we headed south into the park instead of east. We decided to give our new driver a hard time and demand to see certain animals all in good fun...Sarah wanted to see Cape buffalo, Zebras, and a herd of Elephants, I said I wanted to see rhinos, a kill sight, watch a lion chase down an antelope, and see a cheetah race a leopard... mine were slightly impossible, but whatever one can wish.

Our first animal was the dainty little warthog who runs around the park like they are on stilettos... its hilarious. Some more wildebeests. MY RHINOS... they were kind of far away, but massive. These animals were larger than a VW bug and always watching you, when they weren't eating. Giraffes and some scenery pictures... scenery pictures come out when we have been sitting in the land rover for an hour and the animals are all hiding! After this hour and a half of driving around, straining your eyes to see in force and focus on something that might have moved, we were given one of the coolest experiences in the world... the Elephant... this animal is my hero for the simple reason that we watched him for about 20 minutes as he ate and he fell asleep 3 times mid bite or while he was trying to put food in his mouth... asleep... while eating... I want that stress level (even though we're on holiday here I'm not far away from it... sorry!!)

All of sudden after we had been told it was impossible to see... a herd of Zebras ran across the street... go Sarah... then was drove past a herd of elephants; Sarah was especially taken by the baby elephant... go Sarah.... Then just a little bit down the road we saw a cape buffalo... I hate Sarah!!! By this time everyone in the car was asking her to say, "I want to see xxx," she just laughed; the Cape buffalo completed the big 5 for her... Lion, Elephant, White Rhino, Leopard, Cape buffalo....check! Finally, we saw some Kudu that crossed our path and I'm not sure, but I think that is the sunset... the earlier picture was the sunrise... I love those days when I get to see both, it really gives that great Ben Franklin Puritan farm feeling; a real early to bed, early to rise... I accomplished something type feeling... and it also makes you really tired!

That night we stayed up with the group and watched the stars till all the food and drinks were gone... it was spectacular shows as these diamonds light up the sky... the stars are so much cooler in the middle of nowhere! Bed time wasn't early... lets just say that! But it was nice to lay down and relax... until my damn nemesis came back... and again I ran around chase this mythical bat who seemed to be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time...(Sarah rolled her eyes)

Drive #4 (5am-9:30am) this drive was the last and the only animal we had not seen was the Leopard, but we didn't have our hopes up... Really I think all of us were so content by the massive amount of animals we had seen...remember we took 400 pictures and only uploaded 150 of the really good really we were all so happy that it was a relaxing drive and we all sat back and enjoyed.

Our first friend was the Hyena...Disney got this animal right...just the way their backs moved and the prowled along the road, head low looking for an easy meal, back arched as the sauntered off down the road...I loved them...Sarah was happy they left us alone. More Kudu tried to run across the street and that was that... we drove for 2 hours without seeing really anything... until we made a quick U turn and started off in a random direction. All I have to say is thank god for cell phones. Lying down under that tree is a Leopard. The moment anyone sees them the phones go off like crazy and all the drivers scramble to get a view... ours was perfect... until the jerk in the van pulled up. You have to imagine this road barely has enough room for two cars to pass, and directly on the other side is one of the biggest cats I have ever seen in my life... Sarah almost jumped out of the LR! If anyone wants a high resolution photo... we will be happy to send some out when we get back...African internet is slow so be patient! Then Dumbo ran across the street followed by his mother and about 13 other elephants... right in front of the rover! You can barely see it, but next to the river there is a looks like a log which I think is the point so it's kind of hard to tell! We got to take some photos out of the LR and a nice group shot but by that time our trip was over. We had breakfast, packed up, loaded the van, and right on our way out we saw another herd of Elephants...Go Sarah!

The next photos are more pictures of the Transvaal area that I was speaking about earlier... I was trying to capture it while the car was moving, but it was definitely difficult.

We arrived back in Jo-burg about 2 hours before our flight at 9 pm... yes this is on the same day as the 4am game drive... great to be young travelers isn't it!!! We sat for a final drink with our friends, flew to Cape Town, got picked up by Magriet and Anton around 11pm, made it back to Paarl around Midnight, and shuffled off to bed.

We woke up at 6:30am took most of the dirty clothes from our bag, shoved new clothes in, and Daan was at the house by 7am and we were back on our way out to Lizelle's house in Worcester for breakfast. Then we headed south, out to the coast, to Franskra and Gaanisbia for New Years. We were staying at our friend Geilie's parent's house with Lizelle, Daan, Cecile, Gillie, Sarah, and I. The only thing we did for the rest of the day was lay on the beach, swim, and play beach bats (beach tennis....I loved this game). It was 94. Later that night we had a nice bar-b-que, the girls chatted while the boys played darts... we drank Champaign and celebrated midnight with the beach, ocean, fireworks, and friends... you should try it some time if you haven't... it makes New Years so much more fun!!!!

The next morning Sarah and I realized we were friends with a bunch of farmers when they tried to wake us up at 7 am AGAIN after getting to bed at 3 am... they really really really wanted to get back to the beach... I think Sarah and I had almost hit our limit...

We went back to the beach and wasted the day away... the drive home was nearly impossible to stay awake through, and I think the moment we set our bags down back in Paarl, we each slept for like 15 hours without moving... It took 3 days to completely recover from that week of not sleeping!

Since then we have really been enjoying the Holiday!!! School starts in about 3 days so our 5 week vacation is coming to an end but there is a lot to come. So far we went to the Lion Park here in Paarl, we traveled to table view to see a new beach and a new view of Table Mountain, we have been going to countless dinner parties with Lizelle, Peter & Maureen- a Belgium couple that we met and have decided that we want their house, lifestyle, and fri-fri so we can make our own Belgium (Flemish) fries... for those of you who didn't know any Argentine that wants to fight this theory... the Belgium's invented the "French" fry...and they have a damn great way of making them! Plus we have had a couple dinners with the Germans, toured KWV, and the other day I ran a 30k race working up to my Marathon... I finished in 2 hours 32 minutes which is 5 minutes a km or 6:50 a mile... a little slower than what I want to run the marathon but I have one thanks for all the support!!

Also on an end note we wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to the Nederburg Christmas fund... we have raised close to 600 dollars to buy school supplies and resource materials for Nederburg... I have to especially thank the BUNKO ladies of PMC that donated January and February's pot to the Nederburg fund... you ladies are amazing and you have made so many kids smile it make my heart hurt, Thank you

If you still want to donate to Nederburg... there's still time!!! And that is about all... we will get some more photos up and I look forward to seeing all you crime fighters again ...

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