We flew from Sydney to Johannesburg leaving on Thursday 11th April an
hour late, arriving at 5.00 p.m. on the same day at Oliver Tambo
Airport after a 13 hour flight. I watched 5 movies and did not
sleep. Tim slept a bit more, but not much.
Oliver Tambo Airport is efficient, and we easily obtained our SA Sim,
drew Rand, and dragged our luggage to the City Lodge Hotel on top of
the multi-story car park. The hotel had good Internet, which was
useful (our last as it turned out, for at least the first part of the
trip). We had a snack, tried to sleep, but not well and then caught
the flight to East London on Friday 12th April.
Friday 12th April
After collecting our car - a brand new Rav 4, we headed to Beth and
Stella for lunch. Then Stella helped us find Lee Gold Music where Tim
purchased a good inexpensive guitar. Things are inexpensive in South
After a scare thinking that our accommodation was at 5 Eland Street,
we realised it was at 5 Eland Place. Had it been the former, we would
have ended up in a hotel somewhere. But Eland Place was quiet,
private and mostly clean but the promised Internet did not work.
Beth and Stella hosted us to a wonderful bean soup and catching up was
important and fun.
Saturday 13th April
We joined Roseanne at the Sunrise Park Run which we walked, visited
the school where she teaches and followed this up with a brunch and
then the Rugby match between Selbourne and Grey College,
Bloemfontein. Jordan featured in several matches. As with our
previous visit to Union High School, it was good to see how many
Africans and others were participating in sport and school, all part
of the move away from apartheid.
A family dinner at The Cricketer was fun. Thanks to Anagret for many
of the photos there and at home - more than appear in the blog.
Sunday 14th April
We walked with Stella along the Nahoon plank walk, saw many surfers
and dolphins, then shopped and enjoyed a wonderful dinner hosted by
Beth and Kevin, with contributions from Blackie and Roseanne.
Then sad farewells.
Monday 15th April To Addo Park
The trip to Addo Elephant Park was uneventful, though it included a
nice stop for coffee. We found our Addo Rest Camp Safari Tent far
more luxurious than we had assumed. Although we were reliant on
communal kitchen and bathroom facilities, there were only four other
tents and we felt as though we were the only ones making use of the
facilities. The tent itself had a balcony with an outdoor table
overlooking the actual park and during our stay we saw kudu, wart
hogs, many birds and an elephant from the deck. The tent was large
with a full size fridge, bedding and towels, crockery, cutlery, pots
and pans that were exclusively for our use, not part of the communal
kitchen. We had to keep the door locked as the monkeys had learned
how to open unlocked doors!!
We used our newly purchased small gas cooker and pan rather than
theirs and it worked well. Early the next morning we joined the dawn
game tour. It was freezing cold and the viewings were somewhat
limited, but it did give us an overview. After a cup of tea we went
for a walk along the road as there were no other options. Addo's
setting affords great valley views and a busy railway line runs right
past the park. We did manage about 6 km though with only 90 m
Following advice, tours on our own were quite successful in seeing
wildlife and critters on both days and the official sunset tour
introduced us to our first sightings of zebra, male kudu, a
black-backed jackal, lots of wart hogs and several birds. We had many
more sightings of these the next day when on our own.
We had a particular interest in the flightless dung beatle as Kevin
Coles, my nephew 'in law', had completed his masters doing research on
their distribution, behaviour etc. at Addo Park. He loaned us a copy
of his thesis and a Guide to the Park, which was beautifully
illustrated, although a little dated as the park has since been
expanded. Kevin's thesis was a very good read.
The park provides water for the animals and birds from bores, but no
artificial feeding. Animals live or die given what is in the wild.
In the next sections we will present photos of the critters and game
we saw and managed to photograph.
Dung Beatles, Tsongololos, Giant African Land Snail
Our first sighting of elephants was on Day 1 when we were on a
self-driving trip. It was a family of five, with one female having
only 1 tusk. Many of the female elephants in Addo Park don’t have
tusks, something to do with evolving to avoid being killed for
ivory. The tusk-less ones survived.
Elephants eat for 18 hours a day and seem to get enough in what to us
looked like sparse pickings. But they manage the thorn bushes, and
carefully make use of paths to and from water holes, walking in a line
so that they don't tread on too much vegetation. They also make use of
the roads as evidenced by lots of elephant dung and on the day after
it rained hoards of dung beatles cleared it all away. On day two we
saw many more elephants in much bigger groups at several different
locations. It obviously is an Elephant park and hosts the largest
number of disease free elephants in SA.
There were small groups of quail beside the road, though they were
quite shy and moved off quickly.
There used to be 11 lions in the park, but the day before we arrived
they darted three young males to be sent to other parks as they are
trying to increase the genetic variability of the lions. We were
taken to the enclosure where three very sleepy young lions were
starting to wake up.
We did not see any of the remaining lions in the wild, but given the
small population relative to the size of the park, it is not
Thursday 18th April (Pre Easter)
We drove through to Graaff-Reinet, had a lunch with Jennie, visited
various spots and shopped. Then we all ate out at the Drosdy,
including some of the family. It was a special evening.
Friday 19th April (Good Friday)
After a breakfast and lots of chats with Jennie, we travelled to the
farm through country that I should know well, but it has faded with
Over the next four nights and three days we caught up with Wayne and
Marina, their various activities at Zoetvlei and through Pam Golding.
We stayed in the Stone House, a gloriously located cottage that
brought back fond memories from previous visits.
Jennie joined us on the Saturday, very proud that she had managed to
change a flat tyre and on Sunday we explored the Blue Pool area with
Wayne. Zoetvlei is very dry, probably drier than I have ever seen it.
But we found a few puddles at the Blue Pool and a channel with running
water indicating that the water table was rising with the cold.
Marina does wonderful things with vegies and indigenous trees.
Then on Sunday evening and Monday it rained albeit very lightly. We
just hope for more rain.
Tuesday 23rd April (post Easter)
Marina drove with us to Richmond and shared so much of her life with
the museum, church, book-store, art gallery and other features of what
is now quite a special Karoo Town. My memories are of a place to pass
through quickly en route home, but I now see how much style and
history it sports.
We arrived at Prince Albert in time to purchase cheese at the dairy
and shop at the Spar before heading to our accommodation (Wolvekraal
Guest Farm) in cold, wet and windy weather. But once inside it was
comfortable and we were able to self-cater using our small gas cooker.
Wednesday 24th April
Our host had been quite negative about hiking in the Swartberg,
suggesting it would a misty, cold etc. and the i-centre had almost no
information that helped us. But we had done our homework and the SANP
group had told us we could get a permit at the gates to the Swartberg
Nature Reserve, so we persevered, driving up the wonderful Swartberg
Pass, to almost the summit where we found what we assumed was the
place to get permits. No one was there, but there was a car park and
a track head, so we hiked - up the Swartberg for about 1 hour, then
noticed the mist and cloud, so returned. However we clocked up 380 m
climb, with a 4 km hike, although we were slow - lots of rocks,
slippery sections and tricky footwork.
After that we explored the Bushman Valley, were given a very unclear
map and some vague directions, but we managed to hike to the top of
the mountains with wonderful views of Prince Albert and the valleys in
all directions. This was also a 4 km hike with 320 m climb although
it felt more. So overall for the day we did about 8 - 9 k and 700 m
climb. We were tired, not having done much hiking with climbs for the
previous 2 weeks.
We enjoyed a simple meal cooked on the simple gas cooker, with vegies
cooked in the microwave and ate outside in glorious autumn weather.
Then we downloaded lots of pictures and slept well. We had no Internet
coverage and no TV, but plenty to keep us busy. It is great staying
in places away from the crowds.
Thursday 25th April
The Outeniqua Pass provided the route to Mossel Bay, and we walked
briefly on the Kouma Trail at the top of the pass.
Our stay at the Acquamarine Guest House was very comfortable, although
finding it and manoeuvring the tight parking spaces was a challenge.
But we were able to get washing done easily and enjoyed the spa bath
and shower and breakfasts.
On the Friday, we caught up with Jill and Colin Mathiesen, Jill having
been at UCT with me in the late 60s. Both are well, fit, and actively
engaged in many good works. We enjoyed hiking parts of the St Blaise
Trail, followed by a fun lunch.
Then, onto to Hermanus on Saturday 27th April, where we had an important
three nights and two days with Loel, hiking around the Hermanus coast
line, enjoying meeting her friends, seeing Nico and catching up with
Gert, my brother-in-law and his new partner Carol who has a son in
Australia, so perhaps we might meet again.
Loel and Nico have always been involved in important educational and
small business projects for disadvantaged folk and this is continued
by their proteges. We were impressed with what we saw, although
overall, we must confess that we were left with an impression of no
less disadvantage and wealth discrepancy than on previous visits and
that there are more gated communities. We know the issues are
complex, with so many refugees from the rest of Africa moving south.
We took Loel, Nico, Alan Hardy and Jo to lunch, which was fun.
The trip home was long and it did take us a week to overcome the jet
lag, air flight colds etc.
But all is good now, especially after a wonderful walk into the
Jamieson Valley where we heard the Bower Birds and Bell Birds.