Kruger, Part Deux

October 28-30, 2023

We arrived at Timbavati Safari Lodge early on the 28th and settled into our room – a thatched-roof hut. In the afternoon we did a short “bush walk” around the reserve. Walking along the trail we saw zebras, wildebeests, and warthogs. We got to learn about many of the trees, plants, insects and ground animals in the local area.  We also saw fresh leopard tracks.  The guide stated the tracks were from this afternoon as evidenced by the fact that they were on top of the vehicle tracks laid earlier in the day. It was so amazing to be on foot with these wild animals and to be within a few feet of things like a baby zebra.  We felt truly blessed to be part of so many adventures the last few days.  Dinner was a fun night and we had a little after-dinner entertainment as Ian played the guitar, and Dave – with a voice that Ian derogatorily likened to Bob Dylan – belted out a few songs.  Sitting around a stone patio with a fire in the fire pit singing old songs was certainly a highlight of the entire trip. Soon it was off to bed with our windows tightly latched to keep out the monkeys who were trying to break into the room to steal our belongings.

The 29th,unlike yesterday, was not so leisurely and it dawned bright and early.  It was a cold, gray overcast morning, with the clouds sprinkling rain occasionally.  Quite a change from the stifling heat of yesterday. Still, excited, we headed off at 5 AM to begin our last open vehicle drive in Kruger NP.  Luckily, we had some insulated ponchos to snuggle beneath to try and fend off the cold, sometimes wet, weather.  It was an amazing day! We got lucky enough to see a hyena with her baby as he pranced around his mother.  We also saw tons of giraffes, zebras, and impalas. Lots of elephants, too, as they lazily munched on the dew-covered leaves. The highlight was a large male lion who majestically posed in a self-assured manner as the tourists gazed at him from their perches high in the open-sided vehicles.   We were within 15-20 feet of this large carnivore, yet he barely acknowledged our presence. We also saw a group of hippos as they lazily bathed in the shallow waters of the lakes. One crested the water and let out a big yawn.  We were thoroughly impressed with his large mouth – large enough to fit one of us measly humans inside! After the game drive, our new lodging at Lalapanzi started off with a bang, as we lost power in our room minutes after settling in.  Power was scheduled to be turned off due to the rolling blackouts in South Africa beginning at 9 PM.  Apparently, being the emergency preparedness freaks that we are, we thought we would do a Power Loss Drill before the power was actually lost.  It came back on just before the scheduled blackout.  Power was then out from 9 PM until 11:30 PM and when power was restored, all the lights in the room announced, “We’re ba-aack!”  Since Kathy slept through this public service announcement, Dave turned the lights back off before attempting sleep again.  The next scheduled outage was from 5 AM until 7:30 AM.  Amazingly, we had hot water for the morning showers, even if they were in the dark.  During these on again/off again power changes, we received a nice tour of the small museum on the hotel property.  The museum was dedicated to the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th Century.  Although it was a small, one-room museum, they had amazing special effects.  While discussing one of the battles, there came a loud crashing sound which we all assumed was to get us in the mood of the battle lines.  At dinner, we were told that it was actually part of a very large tree that fell over and very nearly crushed our bus!

Our last day in South Africa started out with breakfast and then a sad goodbye to the two domesticated cats at the hotel. Kathy, pining for her babies at home, was missing the chance to cuddle and pet them. A long bus ride was in store next. In the first two hours we were at the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe and began the long process to get our visa. It was about two hours later when we finally were on the Zimbabwe side of the border. The interesting part of the process was, depending on what your citizenship was, the price of the visa changes. Those from the US have the lowest price and for a double-entry visa it was only forty-five US Dollars, while Canadians paid seventy-five US Dollars for only a single- entry visa (no doubles allowed), and the UK paid fifty-five for a single visa. Go USA!!!  A double-entry visa for us was cheaper than a single visa from the other two countries.

Zimbabwe is less developed and seems to be a much poorer country than South Africa and it is sad to see how most of the people here live. The area is beautiful, but it seems like much of the past political strife has impacted the people and their standard of living. According to financial experts the inflation rate for 2022 was 104% – an amount that is staggering, especially considering Dave and I got two sandwiches, two drinks, a bag of chips, and two pastries for only $5.89 USD. The country’s currency is now officially the US dollar and it is easy to compare our prices at home from here. The drive continued through mist-shrouded mountains and lush green areas that were interspersed with strips of shanties and dwelling along the road. I say “road” loosely as the majority of the trip was on a dirt covered road that trucks, pedestrians, goat, and cows all shared and the speed limit was whatever! Arriving at our beautiful hotel finally at 6 pm we unpacked, went the bathroom and enjoyed a lovely dinner.

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