What I Think I Remember of South Africa – Part # 2

He we go with our second instalment from Rod Klaassen outlining his trip to South Africa.

 

Once again, for anyone interested in getting in touch with his tour organizers, (Whom Rod highly recommends), check out the GSAdventures website

South Africa - Part # 2

Just Getting there

Day 1: Ottawa – Heathrow

The day of departure began well enough, sunny and well above freezing, but by early afternoon temperatures dropped – plummeted in fact, and by the time we headed for the airport it was not only dark but snowing. It was also rush hour, and at all the traffic stops every car in a hurry was sliding easily into the ditches. Somehow it seemed fitting that we were on our way to a sunny South African winter. Although we had made it to the airport and boarded on time it took an hour more for the tractors to haul the plane out of its loading bay. It was that slippery.

 

The night over the Atlantic passed like all nights do on airplanes – pervasive engine whine, rattling passages of loaded steel carts, coughed punctuations, and Your Captain Speaking. Will he ever shut up! Sleepless, the sun gradually crept over the wing, and England, we were helpfully told by the Captain, lay somewhere beneath the cloud layer. Still, we had started for Africa, and no snow was in sight.

A typical morning after a typical night on an airplane

Day 2: Heathrow – Johannesburg

Time spent in Heathrow was greatly softened in a quiet lounge where there was decent food, cold beer, high ceilings, linen politeness, and an intermittent rustling of the London Times. Some of us kept journals. Others drank beer. Others did both! After eight such quiet hours, we boarded once again, and so it was the next 11 hours passed like all nights do on airplanes.
There, at Last

 

Day 3: Johannesburg

An hour or so after the sun crept over the wing and a strange rocky planet emerged drifting far below, the turbine whine gradually cut back, the plane began to shift uneasily on its haunches and give out random clunks, and Joburg airport rose smoothly to meet us. Chatty passengers shook themselves out in a long winding train to be formally greeted with a skeptical eye and clever questions dipped in ennui, and then released to Africa with the parting slap of a red stamp on a blank page chosen for no apparent reason. Africa at last.
As oft noted by David Attenbourgh, in Africa the weak are quickly spotted, efficiently cut out, and ruthlessly cut down. Had the predatory pair who padded silently out from the shade of nearby walls not been so well camouflaged in Green Fluorescent Vests, no doubt we would have taken evasive action. Canadian politeness, however, is not meet for Africa, and the release of our lightly mauled luggage cost a mere 5 Rand per vest.
Lesson learned, we thought.
Free at last, we emerged on the other side to meet Darrell of GSAdventures, the man we had only met in the usual back- and-forth of an internet chat: that IS my real photograph, I’m sure! It was soon apparent that he was indeed the real deal. We were lucky. That soon-to-be-familiar, impatient, clipped, peremptory South African accent immediately took over, ferreted details, and sorted us all out.  Luggage was piled, bodies counted, a waiting bus boarded, and we were off in the eagle-eyed care of Michelle, Darrell’s wife and M/C partner.
Picked up at the airport and safely delivered
A Green land Rover with no sides and a clapped-out engine took us to see the animals.

Unexpectedly, and surprisingly soon afterward, we encountered real lions closeup – we, sitting upright in a clapped out Land Rover in the middle of a Game Reserve, and they, lying attentively beneath the arcing red cathedral ribcage of something big and very dead. The sight of those unblinking eyes automatically completing the quadratic intercept equations of time and distance was so unnerving that things would have gone to black quickly had we actually been required to complete a squareroot and make an escape. In the distant past, I realized, some of us would never have made it out of Africa. Certainly not in that Land Rover! On a hot summer day it could not have beaten a child on a tricycle in a race for popsicles, even if it had been able to start. ‘Hmmm’, David Attenborough might have said, ‘most interesting’.

 

Appraising lions at lunch - already full, we hoped. (Photo P. LaBelle)
Landscaping at Glenburn Lodge, where we spent the night and encountered its clattering Baboons

Later, at Beer O’clock in cool patio shade, baboons clattered noisily overhead, heading somewhere in a hurry. It was Africa, they were indeed baboons, and we had in fact arrived.

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