Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Warning: Gratuitous Wildlife Photographs!

Equipped with a map, compass, full tank of gas, camera, and an overnight bag, I headed off last Friday for a weekend adventure. As usual, my three-hour drive to a bush lodge morphed into a driving adventure resembling a Gilligan's Island cruise.

I left work a bit early on Friday, with the plan of arriving at the Bakubung Bush Lodge in late afternoon. The lodge is located in the Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve; about three hours from Johannesburg. 

My LRC colleagues offered a variety of opinions with respect to the best driving course to take. Eventually, the N1>M1>N4>R565 course was discarded because it would take me too far east and I would have to backtrack. Despite my stated observations that I prefer the national roads because there is clear and obvious signage as a result of the 2010 World Cup, I was sent along a more picturesque series of windy back roads that was "supposed" to allow me to pick up the N4>R565 route at mid-point without the added eastern miles.

Interestingly, that never happened! Four hours later I crossed through the park gates and arrived at the lodge. My journey had crossed over the N4 a couple of times and passed through a variety of one-lane road construction sites through which most South African drivers did not reduce speed; a number of areas posted with warnings of "Stay alert! Hijacking Area;" and a few shanty towns. At one point I may have even participated in a parade of some sorts, not real sure because at that point I was paying more attention to dodging a variety of goats, cows, and donkeys that were on the road. Yes, it was a paved road with posted speeds of 80 km. It appears the ditches make good grazing areas.

It was all worth it. As I walked to my room, a small band of gray faced monkeys strolled along. The lodge complex is built around a waterhole. This is the late afternoon view from the veranda.

I spent the rest of the evening watching the animals come to the waterhole, observing the stars, and listening to the quiet of the night.  The nights in the bush are the reason that Hemingway wrote:

"All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already."

Knowing I had an early morning call finally budged me from my seat on the veranda. I want one of these in our next house.

On Saturday, I spent 6 hours seeing wildlife and the magnificent landscape. The African landscape never fails to amaze me.

The Pilanesburg park has "blinds" where you can sit and watch the animals. Most of the roads are dirt tracks that wander through the park. That is my plan for my next visit; this time I did two guided drives. These are some of the highlights of my day.

The first drive left the lodge at 5:30 am.  Five minutes later we crossed out of the lodge's enclosure and into the park. The sun is already up and "hot" at that hour of the day.

The giraffe pictures are for my mother as they are her favorite. 

 Not to be outdone, the elephants put on a little parade.
My not so good photographs of a pair of lions. I get caught up in watching instead of photographing. It is fairly obvious that I am not National Geographic employee material.

The pair were lounging in the shade until she decided to move off.
He followed right after her--it is spring here and love is in the air after all.

Even the turtles put on an x-rated show!

The baby zebras have already arrived.

Even more wildlife photos.

Similar to the prairie back home the park experiences natural burns.
Baby hippo by the water pool. Her parents were submerged in the pool.


Late afternoon landscape.

Approaching sunset.

As with any adventure, the end always comes to soon. Armed with my map I headed out on Sunday morning determined to take the well-marked, well-traveled national roads.  Fifteen minutes in I transitioned to the under-repair R565 (e.g., there were no lanes painted on the pavement.) I was immediately waived over by a man wearing a neon green vest. As an aside, if you want a business opportunity, go into producing neon green security vests for South Africa. Some days it seems every person on the street is wearing one.

After a brief discussion (read: lecture) regarding where to drive when there are no lanes marked, review of my passport, and suggestion that with my blessings (read: monetary donation) he would one day visit the US, I was sent on my way. I didn't pay anything, I just smiled a lot all the while pretending to be ignorant of the local donation policy. Another black mark against Americans.

Sadly, the rest of my adventure was uneventful. Even with my brief police interaction and the extra eastern miles, I made the trip in 3 hours.  I hope to make it back before I leave!

No comments:

Post a Comment