Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shingwedzi Trip - Day Nine - Homeward Bound

We awoke to a beautiful morning. 

The birdsong greeting the day permeated the air and the threads of the Golden Orb webs dazzled in the early morning light.

Breakfast was a quick yoghurt and we were not alone.  A Shongolo munched away heartily on a piece of eggshell we had accidentally dropped the night before.

Washing up, packing and a last look around at the wonders of nature

took us through to 08:00, the drivers briefing about the road ahead and possible problems and we were on our way.

We drove through a lot of water still on the road from the previous rains. 

We passed through Mashambe Village, which was dead quiet, this being a Sunday morning. 

We travelled through a lot more water and many washaways, the road invaded with Mopani stumps which are famous for ripping tyres. 

Most of the stumps were well worn, but there were some that stuck through the ground like sabres and driving through dongas was a bit of a challenge as one can't see what is beneath the water, so you just hope that everything will still be intact after passing through.  We were very fortunate that there were no flat tyres.

At 08:40 it was already 27 degrees celsius.  A scorcher of a day lay ahead.

We crossed through a riverbed where three rivers meet, the vehicles and caravans swaying and swinging as we made our way. 
 Just about a kilometre from here, the track narrowed quite substantially, with dense Mopani forest on either side.   

The vehicles ahead had passed through a donga on the left without much difficulty but Neville, who was ahead of the caravan in front of us, got stuck.  His rear left wheel landed in the hole and with his constant revving to get out, the hole just got deeper and deeper.

Frans, Nigel, Gavin and many other hands managed to help him out.  After fixing a tow strap to his vehicle and tugging and heaving "tug of war" style, they pulled him out by hand.  The rest of us got through "Neville's se gat" (Neville's hole), to quote Jonathan, without further incident and made our way out of the Shingwedzi Valley.

We found ourselves a hitch-hiker, who really made himself at home! 

After another hour or so, we turned out of the Shingwedzi / Pafuri area onto the Giriyondo road and travelled for about an hour and a half,

to exit Mocambique at the Giriyondo Border Post, where we entered South Africa into the Kruger National Park. 

Here we said our goodbyes to the group.  We had decided it was better to make an earlier start to the long leg home instead of pushing it all in one day.  From here we took the Letaba road to Phalaborwa and exited the Kruger National Park at 14:08.

The leg from the Giriyondo road through to the Kruger National Park exit in Phalaborwa was exceptionally hot - 33 degrees celsius.  We saw very little game along the Letaba road, but were fortunate enough to see a lone Musth bull elephant.  

These elephants are usually between fifteen and twenty years old and are in a state of sexual aggression, so it is wise to keep a safe distance from them, no matter how tempting it might be to get close up photographs.

We then saw some Zebra way back in the distance

and after not seeing anything for a considerable length of time, we came upon some cars that had stopped alongside the road to allow a herd of elephants cross the road.  We pulled up and were able to take a quick picture of a matriarch with her calf.  She shunted the little one forward with her trunk and reared herself back in attack mode, ready to launch herself at us in defence of her baby. 

But there was no need for her to get upset, because we just took the photograph and left.  Yhew!  It is well known that elephant cows (matriarchs) are extremely protective of their young and are exceptionally aggressive if anyone or anything gets too close.

Once through the exit we stopped off at the garage and bought icecreams, which were absolutely delicious and refreshing after the long hot drive.  Needless to say, they were demolished in a few minutes flat!

We then continued our journey through Ohrigstad, filled up with petrol, stopped off and bought the most delicious papayas and avocados from a stall where the most beautiful little kitten wandered playfully about.

On the road to Lydenburg the weather was changing and it became cool and drizzly. In Lydenburg we battled to find accommodation.  Because it was a long weekend, most people had gone away so there were few responses to our ringing bells or knocking on doors.  The few who had accommodation were very bold in asking unbelievable prices.  Some wanted R400 for the bed only - no breakfast the next day because it was a public holiday.  Another wanted R580 plus an extra R60 each for a shower!  There are many B&Bs and guesthouses in the area - Forget-me-Not; Purple Gheko; De Ark; Salem just to name a few.  We were very tempted to carry on to the next town, but it was getting late and the roads are badly potholed out that side of the world.

We eventually turned into An-Mari, a fifteen year old Bed & Breakfast / Guesthouse, with a real "at home" comfortable situation.  The price was reasonable and included an excellent breakfast.  The room we had was enormous with a ginormous, very comfortable bed!  A very large bathroom containing both a bath and shower, with every little need catered for, right down to a little nail file!  They cater a lot for foreigners, who like the home away from home comforts.

It was quite awkward walking into this elegantly yet simply furnished home, with nice clean floor-tiles, with our bush attire, muddy shoes and unkempt appearances, but our hostess was very accommodating and understanding and welcomed us warmly.  Apparently there had been three days of rain in the area and no look of it letting up for a while either.  What a startling difference within 150 kilometres - from searing heat to the shivers!

This is where we learned about the tragic death of Eugene Terblanche.  News that left me absolutely numb, as though I had walked into a nightmare.  What will become of South Africa now?  I dread to think.

After discussion over the issue, we each had a good shower and once squeaky clean and freshly clothed, we went out for a bite to eat.  The Mike's Kitchen came highly recommended and we were not disappointed.  After a couple of beers and the hearty meal we had, we made our way back to An-Mari and fell into bed, succumbing to deep slumber.

We slept like logs.

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