Day 4 Baobab and Blyde Dam

IDAY 4

Hoedspruit Wildlife Park and Blyde Dam and Canyon.

4a) Baobab Lodge After a bit of a lie in to make up for yesterday’s early start it was time to sample our first breakfast at the Baobab Lodge and to have a look around the Hoedspruit Wildlife Park  where Baobab was situated.

The rooms were fairly small but had a veranda looking directly over the bush veld. There were no fences around the accommodation and you could walk straight out into the bush if you wanted to. Also the Wildlife (giraffes, antelope, warthogs, zebra etc etc) could wander up to your door had they a mind too. The owner-and Italian who lived there with his wife and 2 daughters provided a superb spread of continental breakfast but also offered an English type breakfast too which was readily accepted. A superb place to stay!

Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate consists of 400 hectares of low veld bush veld all fenced off inside which half of it has been demarcated off into half hectare free-hold properties. Almost a third of these plots have been developed into residential homes and bush lodges-like Baobab. The park is secured by a high boundary fence and guarded entrances to prevent the wildlife from straying out and unwanted guests straying in!

4B) Blyde River Canyon is located in Mpumalanga and forms the northern part of the Drakensberg Escarpment. It is one of the largest canyons on earth and may be the largest ‘green canyon’ because of the lush subtropical vegetation. It is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent of Africa. The Blyderivierpoort Dam is gravity arch dam in the lower Blyde Canyon. It is 71m high and was completed in 1974. It was built to provide a stable water supply for irrigation of crops further down the valley (orchards etc) and to provide a water supply for mining and industry. Behind the dam is the Swadina tourist resort (hardly a soul there when I visited because it was SA ‘winter time) which afforded spectacular landscape views of the Drakensberg Mountains.

South Africa Tour Day 3

Day 3

Wildlife Safari Through the Kruger National Park.

Having arrived at Baobab Lodge inside the private wildlife park in the dark last night we were still not to see it in daylight for another 24 hours because this morning it was an early 5.30 am rise to be picked up by the safari ‘land rover’ which took us on a journey of well over an hour to enter the Kruger. We had been advised to take jumpers and they were very much needed because the open topped vehicle proved really draughty on the journey. We were also provided with blankets to help keep us warm. Nights were cool and days warm in the South African winter season. The Kruger is about the same size as Wales. It has several entrances but because of the parks huge size these entrances are miles apart-hence the long journey to get to our nearest entrance. We arrived just as the sun was rising in the park and the driver checked in at the office and we began our adventure. Roads through the park were just like they were anywhere and we didn’t go off road on many occasions. There were notices at the gate instructing us not to leave our vehicle at any time. Wild animals were roaming the park living a wild existence in their natural habitat.

We travelled miles and miles in the park. The driver and the passengers kept an eye out for animals in the bush veld. Quite often they blended in with their surroundings and were difficult to spot. As soon as there was a sighting we would stop and enjoy the beauty and magnificence of the animals we saw. Natural selection and survival of the fittest seen at first hand. An absolutely brilliant experience in every way and although the day cost about £170 per person, it was worth every single penny.

We returned to Baobab Lodge by 6.30pm just as the sun was setting after a fabulous and exhilarating day..

South African Tour Day 2

Day 2

Journey from Johannesburg to Baobab Lodge in Hoedspruit

After a hearty ‘English’ type breakfast we set the satnav for Hoedspruit on the edge of the Kruger National Park, a journey that would take five and a half to six hours nonstop driving.  However,  we stopped twice on the way so the journey took more like eight hours and we arrived at our destination in the dark.

It was a little disconcerting travelling along the toll roads as every so often as we passed a toll a bleep would occur in the car as the toll was automatically added to my credit card account. I needn’t have worried though because at the end of the visit the credit card bills were not as high as expected.

 

Day 2 A. First stop Emalaheni

Several hours into the journey we made a stop at the market town called Emalaheni. The local market was on and there were stalls selling all sorts of produce. It looked really interesting so I parked half way up a side street and we walked around the market and some of the streets taking photos and taking in the atmosphere. Most people travel by bus taxis and there was a taxi station with a mired of mini bus taxis there. Most of the people on the stalls were nice and friendly and gave us a nice smile as we passed by but it was as we got back to the street where the car was parked that we were welcomed to South Africa. I was just about back to the car-half way up the street when I heard a kerfuffle at the street corner. 3 local South Africans were mugging the tour organiser at knife point trying to get his mobile phone and bag. I was so far away that I couldn’t see the knife being used to threaten. I quickly zoomed in with my camera to take photos of them just in case they got away with anything but the tour organiser fell to the ground so I set off down to try to help. When I got there the knife was pulled on me (my constipation was cured in an instant) and I drew back but that allowed the organiser to get up and run across the road escaping the clutches of the muggers. With all the hullabaloo going on they must have decided that it was not worth carrying on and they moved away when we ran to the car. As soon as we were in we locked the doors and sped away as fast as it was safe to do so—hearts beating twenty to the dozen. Luckily no one was hurt and they didn’t get anything except a bag of oranges that had been dropped. However this incident made us super sensitive to our safety and just took the edge off the tour. I was always looking over my shoulder and continually checking them surroundings.

 

Day 2 B. Second Stop the Mac Mac Falls in Sabie

The Mac Mac falls is as its name suggests a magnificent water fall on the Mac Mac River. Originally called Mac Mac because of the number of Scotsmen that panned for gold near by. Many gold diggers claimed land along the river but most of the gold was found at the area near the top of the falls. After a short walk from the car park the superb views of the water fall, valley and gorge came into view.

From the Falls we wound our way to the Baobab Lodge through the South African Veldt passing several small towns on the way-which we made a point of not staying at!! We passed through forests and occasionally we come across a small herd of cattle wandering aimlessly and unattended along the road-obviously from one of the local villages on the route. We arrived at out destination at around 6pm in the dark and stopped at a local fast food restaurant before making our way to the accommodation which was situated within a private wild life park. It was really exciting seeing Giraffes and antelope just walking or lying beside the road within the park.

 

 

 

South Africa Tour day 1

The Flight

The flight from Schiphol to Johannesburg took ten and a half hours. (Add on the time from UK and the wait for the connection)

Day 1

Pick up hire car and drive to Pretoria. South Africa has 3 capital cities each serving a different part of government. Cape Town  is the legislative capital, Bloemfontein the judicial capital and Pretoria is the seat of the executive branch of government.

1a) THE UNION BUILDINGS First stop was at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. This is the official seat of National government inside which are the offices of the South African president. Situated on a central ridge, the 385 m long building was built in 1910 to mark the Union of South Africa and reflects the style of the British Empire at the time. The union buildings look down onto a well-kept terraced garden and a huge statue of the great Nelson Mandela as well as affording a good view over the city. The 9m high statue is the largest statue of Mandela in the world, weighing about 3.5 tonnes and is made of bronze. The statue was inaugurated by the president Jacob Zuma in 2013. The Union Buildings were the place where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 as the first democratically elected leader of SA. It was screened to millions of viewers’ worldwide and I can remember watching it on the TV at the time.

1b) BERNIE’S JOINT. On leaving the Union Buildings we passed what looked like a scrap yard but what turned out to be a little treasure. Called ‘Bernie’s Joint’, inside were lots of scrap cars, many of them old British and European models in a desperate state of repair. However the owner of the ‘yard’ was in the process of restoring some of them and had several magnificent models to view on display.  There was also an eatery and bar there and we got talking to the only customer in the bar and he suggested we visit an Industrial Estate that very few if any tourist would go to. We were told that it had a really good restaurant and that there were stunning murals to see painted on the walls of the industrial estate.

 

1c) THE WILD LIFE MURALS. On arriving at the enclosed and fenced off Industrial estate we were stopped at the entrance barrier by the guard who questioned me as to why I wanted to go into the complex. He asked to see ID and on showing him my British driving licence he waved us through. As soon as we entered we were immediately impressed by the stunning murals painted on the walls of the buildings-all depicting the variety of wildlife to be found living wild in the Kruger National Park. Stunning is an understatement-they were magnificent!