We have checked out of Lesotho and are now heading down the infamous Sani Pass. It is an incredibly steep & scary drive which starts with 10 very tight hairpins. One we even must reverse back and try again. The surface is gravel with big loose rocks. Once past the hairpins it is fairly easy and 7km later we are at the South Africa border post and get stamped back in. Then the road is great tarseal, and the drive magical. But before long we turn off and head along a dirt road towards Drakensberg National Park. As usual the road deteriorates. At one section John even puts the hubs in to engage 4x4! To top it off a black sky looms menacingly and before we know it there is lightening and rain, and then hail. So much hail that we pull over under a tree, and the road turns white. So instead of turning onto another dirt track which will now be mush, we stick to the tarseal. As the rain eases we pull over for lunch and then we continue to Monks Cowl camping in the Drakensberg. Everywhere is wet, but we find a relatively firm spot and settle in.
The next morning, we head off on a hike to see the real Drakensberg. Awesome countryside (but very hilly) and fortunately not too many clouds. We make it to a lovely waterfall. By midday we head out passing lots of scruffy towns. It is always sad to see so much rubbish strewn beside the road, on the footpaths and generally everywhere. We connect with the main road and head north to the rather classy town of Ermelo and continue on to the lovely (and very cheap) campsite at Teen-die-Meer, right beside a lake on a farmer’s property.
The next morning, we continue our drive north – we are heading to the Blythe River Canyon at the northern end of the Drakensberg’s. We stop at the Sabie Waterfall for lunch. Nearly every scenic spot has a gate and an entry fee. Then stop at the lovely Mac Mac Falls, but by the time we reach Graskop the mist is rolling in. It is only 3pm but there is no point continuing if we can’t see the amazing views of the canyon. We find the cheapest camping spot and wander the empty souvenir shops. Later that evening we walk down the road for dinner at a lovely restaurant – an awesome meal. Then walk briskly back through thick mist to our camping ground. The night guard has gone to bed, but we can still wander in.
We have decided that we will drive on in the morning no matter what the weather. My fingers are crossed, but it is not to be. Rain in the night followed by even thicker mist and drizzle. The views at Gods Windows are closed to us today. But fortunately, by the time we reach Burkes Potholes, at the confluence of the Truer & Blythe Rivers, it has cleared so we can explore. Annoyingly the mist returns for the next lookout, but clears for the stunning Three Rondavels. Yay, Canyon complete we have decided to slip into Kruger National Park for a few days.
We cannot resist the lure of some more animal spotting, so we head to the Orpen Gate and then on to the Satara Camp in the lion zone (we hope!) As usual Kruger doesn’t disappoint and before we know it, we are seeing so many animals. After checking in at Satara we head out for a late afternoon drive. Nothing! We are ready to turn back when a guy stops us and tells us about 4 lions just up the road. And they really are. Two are lying in the middle of the road like a speed bump. We watch, and then another lion climbs out from under a bush and the 3 wander down the road as we reverse backwards so we can keep watching. By now there are cars jostling all around us so we decide to head back to camp. And Wow, as a bonus, just down the road a male lion comes wandering out of the bush. What a buzz.
That night we head out on a night drive (not in GR2 but an official vehicle) and get to spy quite a few genets (cute spotty cats with long tails) and hyenas. Phew – a late night for us as we roll back into camp at 10pm. So, a slow start in the morning. We are heading south on the main road to our next camp at Lower Sabie. Not much to report until someone tells us there are lions in the long grass. We sit and wait. Nothing. Slowly the other cars give up waiting and we sit in the prized spot. We have just decided to leave when we see a movement. Three lionesses’ get up and wander through the long grass, then a bit later 2 huge males with black manes get up and meander on, before deciding to flop down behind a bush. No one else is here. An awesome moment. We head on to Lower Sabie seeing giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, impala, elephants and settle into camp. Time now to enjoy the swimming pool because the day has been hot and sticky. Later in the afternoon we head out again. We have been told about a kill about 20km away. Eventually we find it, but there is a long row of cars parked all jostling for space and all we can see is a huge lump of dead buffalo, 2 lions tails waving in the air and 100’s of vultures sitting in the trees waiting for their turn. As it’s getting late, and we have to be back at camp by 6pm, we head back and get there just before closing.
Up early today (at 5.30) so we can head out for an early drive. The excitement this morning comes from 2 big stroppy elephants who don’t want to get off the road, so we have to drive very slowly (at a safe distance) behind them. Then a hyena who wanders down the road and stops to look at us. Back at camp we indulge in an awesome breakfast as we watch hippos surfacing every now and then in the Sabie River. Time now to leave the park and head to Eswatini. But only a few kms from the exit gate we come across more lions on the road. What a bonus.
By lunchtime we have exited Sth Africa and entered eSwatini. A simple stamp in our passports followed by payment of road tax. We head up into the mountains. It is all very lush and green with sugar cane, bananas, and wood plantations. Mid-afternoon we pull over at the gorgeous Hawane Resort. It reads amazingly, so hence the early stop, and it proves to be as good as it reads. We settle in on green grass, enjoy the pool and have a great chat with the Ugandan owner who gives us lots of tips for his home country.
But time to hit the road. We head to the big smoke – Mbanane, but first a detour out to eSwatini’s Ulruru. Sibebe is a big monolith nearly as big as our famous rock. But here there is no viewing point or accessible tracks. Guess that’s saved me a big climb! And onto the surprisingly pleasant city. Its all relatively clean, tidy and modern. From here we move on to the Ezulwini Valley and head out to the Mantenga Cultural Village and Nature Reserve. We discover that the dancing is performed at 11.15 and 3.15 and annoyingly it is 11.30! We get a tour of the beehive huts that are cleverly constructed with fresh branches and reeds and learn about life in the village and how the 2 wives interacted. Then after lunch we wander off to see the waterfall. Only an hour left to fill in before the dance, which proves to be well worth it. Lots of singing, drum beating and leg raising! Time to find our camp site at the Mililwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Yay and free entry with our South African Wildcard. We discover that they also put on a dance, but it is not of the same calibre, more of a volunteer thing by the staff.
We explore a few side tracks, but we are getting fussy with our animal spotting and a few zebra, antelopes and warthogs can’t live up to Kruger, so we meander out. There are a few more parks in this country, but they are a bit pricey and we can’t self-drive, so its time to head towards the border. eSwatini has been a surprise. It is much more modern than we expected and is safer and friendly than dare I say it, South Africa! We continue to the border and again the border crossing is a matter of 2 stamps in our passports. Then we head onto a busy truck route in the KwaZulu-Natal area or Zululand and south to Bushbaby Camping near Hluhluwe ready to enter yet another park tomorrow morning. We are the only guests here and so we have the place to ourselves.
During the night it pours with rain and we wake to grey skies. We have showers on and off as we head into the incredibly scenic Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. It is said to rival Kruger, but we beg to differ. The landscape is so lush and green, with trees and bushes everywhere that it is hard to glimpse any wildlife. So we only see some impalas, zebras, warthogs and one lonely elephant. But we do spy a mother and baby rhino through the long grass. A bonus.
Rain sets in as we head out of the park and becomes torrential as we head to Richards Bay. At least it clears so we can get our first peek at the Indian Ocean and settle into the campground. More rain in the night, probably the tailend of the cyclone that is hitting further north in Mozambique. Our original plan was to go south to Durban, but on doing a bit of research we change plans and decide to head north to Mozambique. But first a detour out to pretty little St Lucia set on a huge wetland area and right beside the shimmering Indian Ocean.
There is a lot of water on the roads so we decide not to drive into the huge iSimangaliso Wetland Park we will go on a boat trip. We stop at the Elephant Lake Hotel to book a trip and ask if they will print our paperwork that we require for our Mozambique visas. They are incredibly helpful. We have a pleasant cruise on the waterways seeing hippos and lots of birds, get our paperwork printed and stay overnight in their rear carpark A real win win for us. Bright and early the next morning we head out of town and north to the Kosi Bay border crossing. Goodbye South Africa. We have enjoyed our visit – so beautiful, but sadly with so many miles of razor wire and electric fencing. Hello to Mozambique.
WOW, WOW and WOW!ReplyDelete
Fabulous read, a wonderful adventure for you, full of swimming pools, wildlife, views and walks and great meals.Dancing and interesting people.
Makes me feel a bit boring actually....Carry on Dear Ones. Hugs. Lesley xx