The flight was painless, except for the lack of sleep making my eyes look and feel like burning embers. I had book a hotel for four nights near the airport, a day to relax and next couple to look around.
The second day I rented a car for a week. It was less expensive than booking a flight to East London. We wanted to visit GPS4AFRICA, a Touratech dealership. I wanted to pick up a fuel container made by Desert Fox, with a heavy cover in desert tan. Dawn helped us and was a fantastic person It was really cool as she knew several of our friends.
After we took a ride around the outskirts of Jberg and that was enough. It was so dirty and had such a big city feel with many people just standing around. With an unemployment rate approaching 45%, what can you expect. Getting back to the hotel we packed up and decided to do something we couldn’t do on the bike, go looking for big animals in Addo National Park.
On the way to the park we stopped at Gariep Dam looking for a place to spend the night. We stopped in for a beer and the owner of the Rustic Bar and Grill, Heinke, helped us find a place for the night. We went back for a great meal, all cooked fresh by his wife. They are top people. Living in this beautiful area they are 100% outdoor folks. He told us a story from when he was six. His father would take him and his brother out into the bush for three nights. They would set their camp, shoot their food with air rifles and cook it over an open grill. They had a blast. They now do motorcycles, hunting, water sports, snow sports, and wood and iron working (he did the entire restaurant). At the end of the meal he gave us three bags of various Biltong (like beef jerky, but WAY better. (Thanks Kathy Wood 😉)). Thanks for a great evening.
In the National Parks in Southern Africa you cannot ride a bike into the park. At the park we ended up renting a safari tent, right on a water hole, for just $35 per night, just $10 per night more than in our own tent.
Once you enter the national park through its 10-foot steel gate, you have access to almost every road in the park. Within 10 minutes in the park we had an enormous bull elephant cross paths with us. They don’t have hippos or giraffes in here, but many others, including big cats. You are warned to stay in your car. Period. I really wanted to listen, but,…I tried.
We came across many different deer, herds of elephant, Cape Buffalo, and an injured hyena that walked right beside our car with a 5 inch gash on its back. We were told the gash had come from a lion. The hyena was so big it looked eyeball to eyeball through the window at me. It felt as if he were looking at his dinner.
The lions, we were told, mostly stayed at the southern end of the park, less crowds. The next morning we woke at 0430am, one hour before sunrise and headed around the park to it’s Southern entrance. We thought, if we get there in the morning, it was our best chance of seeing a lion. It was a beautiful morning as the sun started to heat up the park. We didn’t spot any lions but song many other animals including a Monitor Lizard, puff Adder, the endangered Dung Beatle and monkeys. Coming around one of the corners I hit the brakes. Directly in our path were several female elephants with babies, and a couple enormous bull elephants. There’s nothing like a bowl elephant in your path shaking its head angrily at you. It certainly gets your heart pumping as you scramble to find reverse with your left hand.
The last day we decided to drive south through the park again. We were about 2 miles from the exit and came around the corner to this huge bolt elephant walking right towards us in the middle of the road. I jammed down the brakes and we just sat there and all of this magnificent beast. He kept coming directly at us and there was no place to go but back. With Melanie coaxing me, BACK, BACK, GOOOO!, I select it in reverse and continued backing up for almost 1 km before a side road came off the main road. We backed up the side road about 250 feet and just sat there as the bull elephant meandered past the front of the car, just moving down the center of the road.
It was a great couple days but we wanted to head further south and get our bike. We arrived at our hosts house and Tharina and Erik welcomed us with a night of beer and wine, wonderful conversation and braai with tasty lamb chops and sausage.
The next day was bike prep and pack, time to get this adventure on two wheels going. It’s funny, but we almost felt content with just those days in the park. This is going to be a great trip.