Big 5 and Big Mountains

Trip Start Jun 07, 2008
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Trip End Jun 06, 2009


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Where I stayed
Diamond Diggers, Jo'burg and Amphitheatre, N. Drakensberg

Flag of South Africa  , Gauteng,
Friday, August 1, 2008

Hi guys,

Sorry it's been so long...I've been so busy and these things seem to take an age to write and to upload the photos; it's so hard to find the time.  Luckily for you and unluckily for me my dive on the Aliwal Shoal (in the top 5 warm water dive sites in the world) was cancelled today as the sea's too rough so I thought I'd use the time to update you all.

Well, I'm no longer alone.  Dot arrived on 25th July to join me on my travels through South Africa, so until 26th August this will serve as a joint blog.  As a result I'm skipping forward a few weeks from the last entry and promise I'll go back and fill you in on Zambia and Botswana soon.

So, we've been together in South Africa for over a week now and in that time we've spent 4 days in Kruger tracking the Big 5 and 2 days in the Northern Drakensberg trekking up a blimin' great big mountain.  Let's start with Kruger......After a super early start we made our way from Jo'burg to the National Park gate.  We got there at around 2pm and spent the afternoon making our way to the first campsite at Sukuza.....oh no, hang on, completely forgot about the Lion Park that we went to in Jo'burg the day that Dot arrived.

That was awesome as we got to see Lions, both normal and of the White Lion variety, super close up.  Best part of the day though was going in with the lion cubs and stroking them.  We were trying to work out ways of being able to smuggle one back to the UK, but with my new found traveller brain, which is not quite up to speed with that of the professional Miss Burch, the ideas were not so forthcoming.  We also volunteered to get smothered in giraffe slobber, which was both fun and a little gross to say the least....the tongues on those things (45cm long)!

Ok, so back to Kruger......on the way to the campsite we saw most of the usual things...well, usual for me....Dot was nearly peeing herself with excitement, as I was on day 2 in the Mara!  My mission over the next 4 days was to complete the Big 5 with a leopard.....I was not disappointed.  We set off on a sunset drive and about 30 mins into it we pulled up alongside 3 of them.....well, in fact it was a boy sat behind me that quietly said "Leopard" as we drove past ignorant to what was hiding in the bushes.  I could have kissed him, but thought it was a little inappropriate as I couldn't quite work out the age his age in the dim lighting and feared being clouted round the head by an angry on-looking mother lurking somewhere at the back of the truck.  So anyway, after screaming "STTTTTTTTTTOP" at the driver we then sat and watched these beautiful creatures for 45 mins.  It was awesome.  In the words of Gordon Ramsey...."Big 5...DONE!"

The next day we spent the entire day game driving and saw some truly awesome sights.  The most incredible of them being when a herd of 15 elephants, including some that were only a few weeks old crossed the road in front of us and earlier in the day coming across a hippo that was sleeping beside the road, until we rudely woke him up, and then he stropped across the road in front of us again.  We also saw a family of pumbas going for an early morning walk, which was amazing to watch.  We camped the second night in Satara....and this was no truck camping, it was 4* camping compared to what I've been used to.  We had our own chef (to 5 of us) and tents with paraffin lights and bedsteads with mattresses and proper shower blocks with the steamiest of showers....luxury!  We told stories around the fire that night and toasted marshmallows and drank our 2 pound bottles of gorgeous red wine.  Even the hyenas joined the party from the other side of the wire fence!

Day 3 started with another early morning game drive.....we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags on the jeep to keep us toasty and set off in search of a close up rhino sighting and managed to see 4 along the way!  We then spent the afternoon on a river cruise and hit a private game lodge in the evening.  After a hearty dinner and some zulu dancing around the fire, to which we had to join in and then teach them one of our dances (Dot and I offered up the Macarena (sp.?)), we set off on a night game drive.  By 9.30pm, half of the group took themselves off to our gorgeous log cabin and Joanna and I carried on until 12.45am in the hope that we'd spot more leopards.....it was an exciting, but uneventful evening on that front.  Although having said that, the guy who took us on the game drive told me that with his connections I could train as a safari guide for 6 weeks for practically nothing...which is something I'm considering.

Day 4 was spent driving back to Jo'burg.  It was an awesome trip and I'm so pleased Dot managed to see the Big 5 in 2 days.  Brilliant!

We spent the night in Jo'burg again before heading off to the N. Drakensberg mountains for 2 days.  The views were breathtaking.  We stayed in an idyllic setting and booked onto a 1 day hike as soon as we got there.  We set off at 8am that morning and spent 6 hours walking 12km from 2500m up to 3000m at the highest point.  It was an incredible, but tiring and pretty hairy day.  I'm so proud of Dot too for making it up there and back as I hadn't realised that she was afraid of heights and we had to scramble straight up 250m of mountain to reach the highest point and then climb down rickety chain ladders on the way back down again....her knees were knocking at points....well done Dot! 

We visited the world's 2nd highest waterfall whilst we were up there....apparently it's more spectacular in Summer when there's more water.....I should hope so too....you could hardly tell water was flowing!  I was more impressed with all the ice that was laying around. Anyway, all in all it was an amazing day!  Dot says she's pleased we're not hiking up another mountain for a while....3 weeks to Table Mountain and counting....love it!
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