Fucking brilliant! The front cover of my travel diary… basically defines my thoughts for the start of an African adventure, leaving behind #FirstWorldProblems, and flying off to enjoy some space, sunshine and wonderful friends and family.  The trip started with a flight from Heathrow, London, to Johannesburg. SAA 237, departure 21:00, though with an African time component, we lifted off around 21:50 on an Airbus A330; window seat 65A.  Next to me was the lovely Jan, a retired maths teacher, off to Botswana and Caprivi for two weeks of boating and camping.  A good flight with very little turbulence, a new moon, sunrise around 05:50. Over the Okavango swamps, Magadigadi salt pans an wonderful geology, with mountains still bathed in the early morning mist, landing in Oliver Tambo International to a beautiful blue sky and a nice warm day.

First, met a wonderful friend and we spent a nice day in Rietvlei reserve. What an amazing place, in the middle of Centurian there is this massive reserve with rhino, blesbok, cheetah, zebra, buffalo, lions etc. etc.  It was pretty spectacular, quite a few “pause” moments. Entry was ZAR 110, the lion enclosure ZAR 130 for 2 people (that’s about £20). The lions are in a separate enclosure we went with a guide, Brad. They don’t allow private vehicles, to prevent stupid behaviour by humans… like honking or feeding them biltong. These lions are hand-reared, with 3 of them from a cub petting farm and the other 3 confiscated from a farmer; they cannot hunt and are therefore fed, while also kept in separate enclosures as there are two males. The males are vasectomised to prevent breeding; they cannot be castrated as testosterone is required for development of the mane on the males. Also, lions are the only sexually dimorphic cat, i.e. male and female can be separated by their appearance.  The nose in young lions has some pink spots and is fully black by the age of 6 years.  We also saw a steenbok, a shy little buck that’s only about one foot high.  They live in pairs and, according to Brad, they defecate in shallow holes or on top of dung from other animals, which is to hide their scent.  Back to the drop-off with lots of kakpraat along the way – I’m back with easy-going South Africans.

For dinner we went to a local restaurant (Die Bosvelder), real boere kos, where we had marrow and kaiings (basically scratchings with mielie pap) for starters, along with a waterblommetjie shot; then we have skaapstaert (sheep tails) and afval (offal), with stampmielies (samp) and pampoen. To finish, malva tart, with Amarula and custard, and also a springbok shot.  Along the way, lots of entertainment with our waiter, Ruan, and the next table… definitely no something we do back in blightey.

Overnight in an Ecolodge, 25 quid, no breakfast, though, as still trying to digest all the food from Saturday. Enjoyed an outdoors coffee with the sunrise and a bunny rabbit that joined me on the lawn for its breakfast.  All good things come to an end.. back to the airport for a flight to Cape Town and the next chapter in this adventure… so tempted to wear flip flops and shorts…

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