The drives: Car and Game (June19-24)

July 16, 2010 — by Larry

[Editor’s note: The latest installment in Coach Larry’s series of dispatches from South Africa]

Now it’s Saturday the 19th and we finally get in the rental around 9:30 am.  A friend has assured us the highways have European motorway quality.  Not the route we used on the N17 and N2.  Multiple sections over 100 km either have severe pothole warnings or are down to one alternating lane due to reconstruction.  Our promised 6.5 to 7 hour drive has reached that, but we remain a solid 2 hours away.  We switch drivers to handle dusk and dark, and the GPS steadies my uncertain hand at the wheel.  We reach our lodge, make one last wrong turn, and finally pull up in front of the main house.

We fill the next four days with hosted game drives, boats, and walks.  Ahh, actual warmth, winter here far more pleasant than on the Cape or in the highlands.  The new camera with 70-300mm zoom lens proves its worth.  Spectacular sights of all the animals,

See? Not kidding

first in the distance, then closer, until, finally, you practically have a chance to ride a zebra.  Oh, and all for just the two us most of the time.  The area soon to become a new Big Five park, once they complete the new roads and roll back the eucalytus forests of the paper producers.  The largest area of vegetated sand dunes  in the world should recover nicely over the next 10 years, especially if the decade long drought can come to an end.

What about the soccer you ask?  Well each day’s activities finish, conveniently, before the afternoon kickoffs of the simultaneous third matches for every team.  Our hosts join us in the lounge as we all root on the Bafana Bafana, hoping somehow they will pull of the miracle.  The next day they add to our celebration as Donovan slides joyously toward that corner flag.  We still see all of the action, enhanced by nightly visits by hippos and a buffalo named Reggie to the lodge’s watering hole.

Finally, we depart, return to the N2 heading south, and arrive in Durban.