Keep it Grassy, Buffalo
09.03.2007 - 15.03.2007 0 °F
No ifs, ands, or BIG BUTTS about it, this is the last entry from South Africa
Greetings all, hope all are well with this last entry from South Africa. If you didn't notice or see, we've added photos, videos, and important questions for you to answer to the two previous entries, Surfing and Sliding Over Coffee and Hogs and to Life on the Sub-Sub-Continent. The internet connections haven't been participating, but we have finally found a solid one here in Cape Town. Thank you Cape Town. Since then, we have ferociously tackled our next two destinations, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
In addition to picking up Melissa's boyfriend in Port Elizabeth, Jesse, we were set on one thing, seeing wild Africa. Truly, that was our number one goal for Africa. You can't come to Africa and not see a bunch of large mammals running around. At the beginning of our trip, we planned on going to Kruger National Park, but with the onset of Nadine's belly expansion and malaria present in the park, we had to cut it out, and find an alternative. Initially, we thought about Pilanesburg National Park in the north, but we took the lack of movement by the tour company combined with our desire to get out of Johannesburg, as proof enough that we should find another one later in South Africa. This proved to be a great decision. We went with a combo trip to the Addo Elephant Park and Schotia Lion Reserve.
I had previously mentioned the Big White Five, a creation all my own, but there is one more well known, the Big Five. They consist of the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and the rhino. Within these two parks, you could find the Big Five. Our hope was to catch a glimpse of all five this day. Count along with us in the blog.
Early in the morning, all four of us saddled up into the nicest mini-van Nadine and I had sat in during our time in South Africa. It had air-con and soft seats with only 6 of us in the spacious van, we could have lived there.
Our first stop was the Addo Elephant Park. We entered the 16,000 hectares park in our mini-van. We are trend setters. No open-air vehicle for us with unobstructed views. We soon began following roads where we were greeted with a couple dozen African elephants cooling themselves off by slinging mud with their trunks onto their backs. Pretty sweet. Check #1 from the Big Five. Don't confuse these with the Big White Five.
Somewhat difficult to find this guy, being that his head camouflages so well with the green shrubbery
From there, a large male came strolling down the road forcing us to stop and admire him passing in front of our family mini-van. The next stop brought us warthogs, just like Pumba from the Lion King, and a moon walking male elephant.
This guy was showing off by pulling out the Moon Walk
During the next hour and a half, several elephants passed us, poked their heads out from around corners, and stood in the horizon. After all, it was an elephant park. But in addition to the warthogs and elephants, we came across the massive Cape buffalo with his 50's style hairdo. Check #2. Over the 10 minutes we sat watching him, as the inactive animal he is, he turned his head twice, blinked once, farted three times, and moved his tail half a time.
Our mini-van guide Nick told us how these buffaloes are quite strategic and powerful. The buffalo can easily flip a lion with its' flipped up locks and with humans will act as if it is injured so whenever you are within distance to its' horns, he can simply jab you. Sneaky guy that buffalo. Or as if that isn't enough, he may run away from you and when you think he is long gone, he is planning his revenge by circling back and coming from where you never expected him to be, right behind you. Clever animal. But when we saw him, not as clever or eager at the moment, was just conserving energy and staying cool. Luckily, he wasn't waiting for us at the next corner with a broad grin on his face.
You have to admire the effort they take in doing their hair every morning
Completing our visit in Addo, we passed zebras, not part of the Big Five, a tall snake eating bird, thank you bird, and antelopes, no relation to the cantaloupe.
From Addo, we stopped for lunch where Nadine had one of the best sandwiches we've had in 9 months, yes, I did help her, and arrived to Schotia Lion Reserve, which would be our home for the remainder of the day. We traveled around Schotia in our own personal Land Rover. Ed was our guide. As the park was divided into two sections, simply by one with lions, and the other without lions. The first one we were to visit was the one without lions, a considerable relief for Nadine.
Everyone is accounted for up to this point
On the non-lion side, we immediately met the blue and black wildebeests. You recognize the blue because of his black tail and the black because of his white tail. Or is that vice versa? We also ran into the animal my former car was named after, the impala. Unfortunately it wasn't called the 1968 Impala, or it would have really been special. Riding through the bush, we came upon some animals that were heads and tails above the rest, the giraffe. Imagine this, 7 giraffes running between trees in front of a pond. Perfect.
In the pond they were drinking from, laid two hippos submerged underwater with only nostrils to reveal that they were actually present. After the ease of seeing the amazing giraffes, we sat in the truck waiting for the hippos to pop out of the water. It never happened. The loud noise of air exiting their nostrils was the only proof that they were actually there in the tiny pond.
Nadine with running commentary on the giraffes
As our 1978 Land Rover went in search of the single rhino in the park, Jim Bob, that is the moment when we had the most dangerous moment in the park. As our Land Rover was following the path with deep ruts in it, our front tires caught the incline and caused our truck to jerk to the left into a big bush and instantaneous stop. Being in the open, exposed cab, it threw us from our seats to the right and due to the fact there wasn't a roof, it could have thrown us from the vehicle. Fortunately it didn't. Nadine and I both have small bruises our knees from the incident. That was as dangerous as it got.
Our search continued for Jim Bob, the single white rhino. As we climbed back safely into our seats, we went up the hill for the two ton animal. How could you not find or even lose a two ton animal with a chubby body, large horn, and a face only a mother rhino could love? Quickly, further up the road, there was our 37 year old rhino lumbering forward. Check #3. That was a massive creature.
Someone has forgot to count correctly?
After quick snack at the lodge, we were back in the Land Rover and passing through the gates to the other half, the half with the 5 lions. As soon as we entered this half and descended down a hill, we found 4 of the lions lazing in grass just watching trucks roll by. Check #4 for everyone counting at home. We sat there watching these guys from a safe distance as the sun slowly set. It was reminiscent of a West Texas sunset, not a New Mexican one, minus the lions. At the end of our time with the other half of the reserve, after all the other trucks had left, we pulled to within 15 feet of the lions, close enough to make Nadine scoot towards me, and me towards her so I could see better, but still hanging out with the lions.
No leopards this day, but we did see 4 out of the 5 Big Five.
King of the . . . Afro
After the excitement, and both Nadine and I agreed, this had been highlight of South Africa, we parted ways with Melissa and Jesse, and took to the road again on our 12 hour bus to our last stop, Cape Town.
With two days to play with in Cape Town, and not long enough, we made our way to the top of Table Mountain. Table Mountain is a flat mountain looming large over Cape Town. Any trip to Cape Town has a requisite cable car ride to Table Mountain, and as luck would have it, we went on a day without a single cloud in the sky, but a camera with a low battery. We hiked around, had short conversations via echoes with the help of a gorge, and took as many pictures as our dying battery would allow.
We're on top of the . . . Table Mountain
With half the day gone on Table Mountain, we spent the final half walking around the pier and running into familiar travelers for the third time, Carlos from Argentina. Good day, one left.
Next day, we boarded a train towards the Cape of Good Hope to the town of Simon's Town, a small little town closest to the cape. Our reason for visiting Simon's Town was the population of Jackass penguins there. Anytime you can see a penguin that lives in a warm climate and makes a sound like a donkey, you can't go wrong. (*Insert your own New Mexico joke here*) Something that hit home for Nadine and I was a pair of babies asking for food from their mom, and eventually the mother had had enough and let this loud jackass sound. Thus, if you happen to hear Nadine make this sound in 6 months time, you know where it came from.
Look at that Jackass Penguin
This week we have two questions, both equally challenging and both equally worth a postcard from Italy.
1) What mammal causes the most deaths every year to humans in Africa?
2) Out of the Big 5, which ones are diurnal?
Remember, if you have any favorite pics, videos, anything from this entire blog, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org before March 27th and I will post them on the final entry outside of the U.S.
Life is good and hard to believe that our trip is almost over. March 27th we fly back to the States, with Nadine going to Omaha and me back to Odessa. Yes, we are going to live with our parents in separate states. After Easter, we will be making a short little trip through Colorado (Nadine only), Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Did we mention New Mexico? Nope, skipping New Mexico.