Monday, April 19, 2010

Shingwedzi - Day Four - The Beer Race

The camp started rousing from about 06:00.
Breakfast, tea, wash up.
Everything had quite a different look in the bright morning light and the heat started rising.
By 09:00 it was already 27 degrees celcius.

We moved to the shade of the Fever Trees we had passed through the afternoon before and Johan gave us a lowdown of what the day's journey would entail and that any last chance of finding beer would be between here and our entry to  Parque Nacional Do Limpopo.  You could feel the tension over this issue!

And off we went.  The terrain dry as a bone. 

Once through this village we continued until we reached the Fever Tree Forest.  You have to see it to believe it!  Fever trees of all ages, growing so abundantly in the middle of nowhere, with Golden Orb spiders spinning away to their heart's delight undisturbed by human predators, their golden threads joining one tree to another....and another.....and another.............Beautiful photo opportunities here, if you ran around waving a stick like a feather duster to make way down the paths...
We continued our journey, all absolutely awed by the untainted terrain we were so privileged to be passing through. 

In the middle of nowhere, a shop bounced out in front of us as we rounded a bend.  Mthuzini Centre!  Stop, hop, run!  But, no supply of beers without empties!  What on earth had everyone done with their empties - I would really like to know!  Since we hadn't had the good fortune of consuming bottles or tins since we'd left home, we paid the penalty of an extra R2.00 per bottle, and bought the last two Laurentina Stouts left in the shop.  And they had no ice!

As we headed back on track we were slowed down by a herd of cattle making their lazy way down the road.

At 11:15 it was a hot and sticky 33 degrees!

A bakkie was stuck on the side of the road and about six people were buzzing about it, obviously not quite knowing where to start with the problem they had found themselves in - no petrol perhaps, or water? 

About twenty minutes later we were warned from ahead that a vehicle was coming our way from the front and it was going pretty fast.  Well, it must have taken about eight minutes before we saw it.  The driver was wearing a lumo green jacket.  Must have been the local cop.  Or perhaps the AA Roadside Assistance dashing off to help the broken down bakkie we had passed!

We passed trees, trees and more trees.  Huts, huts and more huts.  Neat and tiny homesteads nestled in the bush not far off the road and each with a signpost pointing in the direction of  "So'nSo" lives there.  Little kids running to greet the vehicles with clapping, singing and shouts of "Sweeeeeets! Sweeeeeets!" and the odd "Voetsak!" from two-feet high toddlers!  What they learn so quickly!

At 12:30 we stopped off on the side of the road for lunch.  We each found a shaded spot and without looking just hopped out of our vehicles, each with the same mission in mind, but only to be held back by our newfound friends - yes, you guessed it!  Golden Orbs! Suspended from their parachute-like webs hitched to every tree and bush and crossing every gap or pathway, even the sky!  (if you look very closely, you will see one in the very centre of this photo.  I had to press myself against the car to get passed it while we were having lunch - it was suspended about two feet away from me, but I promised I would not disturb it and thanked it very much for allowing us to invade its space for an hour!)
We lunched on Avo on Rye and a good strong cup of tea.

Once done, we hit the road again and met with mud holes.  Pretty well eroded, slushy, deep, slippery and watery.  There must have been about a kilometres worth. 

Then we had a nice dry drive for about a kilometre and OOPS! more holes and this time with a herd of cattle - cows and calves - using them for drinking, slowing down our momentum and increasing the possibility of getting stuck, but we made it through and continued our long, hot, sticky drive at 35 degrees celcius at 14:00.

The inevitable search for beer continued, but there were no stops until the very end, just before we entered Parque Nacional  Do Limpopo. 

One shop to the right.....,
the other to the left........

 The guys alighted, dashed into the right only to start quibbling about the price - R14 a beer, hefty, but if you really want it....  Gordon asked if there were any Laurentinas and the owner brought out nine.  We bought eight at R10 each.  You should have seen it!  Ha!  The guys were not pleased and said it wasn't fair and would Gordon share.  No-way!  We both like beer and hadn't had since we'd left home and no-one had offered us any.  These were for US.  (Needless to say, we were not very popular and the following events made it somewhat obvious, it seems.)

Gordon looked like a little boy who had just found buried treasure.  He came running to the car with his arms loaded, but very careful not to drop anything....  Then we headed for the shop to the left.... and found some very cheap and unusual lemon cooldrink, which was very pleasant tasting indeed.   

Again, no ice.  We were going to have to make a plan.

At last.  Parque Nacional Do Limpopo!

We parked at the entrance and each driver had to take along all the necessary documents and fees to enter the area.  After about twenty minutes we began our last leg for the day to the campsite we were to stay at - another hour or so drive from the entrance.
Once again, the drive was exceptionally scenic, the terrain changing from one minute to the next. 

You can be driving through forests, then dense bush.

All of a sudden, wide open spaces with sparse vegetation...... Then tall grass....  
and so it goes...

Just before we reached our spot, Johan asked that the caravans all be allowed into the campsite first, then the solo vehicles after.  It was going to be a squeeze because of the number of vehicles. 

Ten as opposed to the maximum of six and three caravans.  One can see why a limit is applied.  The size of the campsite as well as the ablutions, just do not sufficiently facilitate such large numbers, but we seemed to be coping thus far. 

We decided to setup behind the ablution facility, and the rest of the solos followed suit.  We had a lot of space between ourselves and were very comfortable amongst the trees.

As soon as we parked the car I jumped out, grabbed my towel and ran to the showers to rinse off the salty grime water that builds up over hours of sweating and which no amount of sponging and drying off removes.  All the women joined in and despite having the donkey heating up the water, there was no need for hot water.  It was too hot to even think of it. (Unfortunately, there was a problem with the drainage system and by the time all had finished, there was a little lake outside the bathroom.)

Aah!  Refreshed, we settled down to an ice cold Laurentina.  It was well worth the long wait.  Nothing has ever tasted so good.

The Moon rose at about 18:12.  A Giant ORANGE wheel of cheese. 

At about 19:00, our group leader came by to tell us we'd be leaving at 08:30 the next morning due to us having to put two days travelling into one and that he was going around to everyone to take a consensus and find out if it was alright and that he would confirm the final outcome.  Reason for the tight schedule was for comfort purposes requested by one of the families. Needless to say we were not impressed with the idea.  We had not all been called together for consultation and it was quite evident that the idea had been discussed and perhaps even already agreed to.  We wanted to follow the schedule we had been given at the outset when signing up for this trip and there was no absolute necessity for plans to be changed.  It was no fault of ours that firstly, there were too many vehicles, and secondly, that whoever had made this request had no idea what "fully self-sufficient" meant.  It was very clear from the very beginning that this was a real rough-it trip with no frills and laces.  We were exceptionally fortunate to have even had the basics, for which there really was no dire need. No names were mentioned, but we had some idea....

This really riled us.

Then, just to add to it.... "Gordon.  Are these yours?"  And two Laurentina cans were dangling in our faces.  The voice repeated the words.  "Yes, they are mine."  "You bring it in with you, you take it out with you."  "Fine.  Just put them down."  "You bring it in with you, you take it out with you."  "Yes.  Just put them down." 

Well, the events of the day were obviously taking their toll.  Nit-picking.  Jealousy.  Hot around the collar.  Tempers rising! Nostrils flaring! It was starting to feel like that book from long ago - Lord of the Flies.

We had our supper, washed the dishes in readiness for the next day and listened to the sounds of nature.

We waited for confirmation on the plans for the next day and by 21:30, when we rolled up the ladder to catch some Zzzz's, we hadn't heard a word....... 

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