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Masai Mara

Arusha, Tanzania


Got charged by a Rhino a couple days ago. Yeah, I'm in full safari mode now. I spent the last week at a few parks in Kenya, and now I'm in Tanzania for the Serengetti and a few others.

The only problem, if you can call it that, is that you're pretty much forced to stay at all the luxury safari lodges at all the parks. There's camping outside the gate but it's not really any cheaper since it's the low season, the lodge rates are way down. So everywhere I go, there's somebody handing me another mango juice and watching to see if I set my fork down so they can polish it for me. It manages to nicely combine the two things I hate most in this world: Being waited on, and feeling like a tourist.

Anyway, it's only for another week so I think I can survive.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 2, 2003 from Arusha, Tanzania
from the travel blog: Africa, 2003
tagged Safari

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Too much metal for one hand!

Moshi, Tanzania


I am officially safari'd out. Lemme off. I'm on the first bus to Dar es Salaam tomorrow, then on a boat to Zanzibar to get my tan back. In the meantime, I'm still sequestered away at the luxury lodge outside of town, with no Hope of interacting with the local populace. I hopped the fence and made it into town, but I'm sure I'll be missed. They've probably sent somebody to escort me back.

Anyway, Africa still rules. I'm just not convinced that Kenya and Tanzania qualify as Africa anymore. It feels more like disneyland.

permalink written by  Jason Kester on May 7, 2003 from Moshi, Tanzania
from the travel blog: Africa, 2003
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Hiking Safari to Uganda

Kampala, Uganda


Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

The 120km Rwenzori alternation is admired to be the allegorical snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, declared by Ptolemy in AD150. Reaching an acclivity of 5,109m, it is as well Africa's tallest abundance range, exceeded in distance alone by the free-standing Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro.

The characteristic arctic peaks are arresting for afar around, but the slopes aloft 1,600m are the bottle of hikers, who amount the Rwenzori to be the a lot of arduous of all African mountains.

A array of ample mammals inhabits the lower slopes, but the Rwenzoris are notable added for their majestic backdrop and assorted vegetation. The trails advance through rainforest awkward with monkeys and birds, again Alpine bamboo forest, afore arising on the high-altitude acreage zone, a mural of affected behemothic lobelias, towered over by atramentous bedrock and white snow, searching for the absolute apple like the set of a science fiction film.

Activities:

The seven days/ six nights bend is a boxy but advantageous backpack demography in all frondescence zones bar the arctic peaks.

Shorter hikes can aswell be arranged.

The top peaks should be attempted alone by accomplished mountaineers.
[a href="/Kenya">Kenya[/a>
Where to stay?

Hotel Margherita action up bazaar adaptation and account at Rwenzori abject affected admitting while on the abundance are basal hiking huts forth the bend trail.

When to Visit?

Best time during dry division June-July, January- February.




permalink written by  safaris on October 24, 2008 from Kampala, Uganda
from the travel blog: Safari to Uganda
tagged Safari, Adventure, Travel, Vacation, Holiday, Tour, UgandaSafari, African and AfricaSafari

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Travel, travel and more travel

Johannesburg, South Africa


Alright, I’m officially sick of flying. 11 hours, very little sleep, and I think I’ve picked up a cold from all that re-circulated air. Miserable. First-class is really the only way to go when you’re flying on these long flights.

Our arrival at the airport was our first real taste of the World Cup. Everything at the airport was decked out in World Cup paraphernalia – columns, walls, people. World Cup sponsors were handing out free Coke, free chocolate, free visitor packets with ponchos. There were fans of various countries – Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mexico, USA, Netherlands – but none were as rowdy as the Chileans, who were already dressed in their jerseys, flags & hats, blowing their horns. Mind you, this was at 9am. There were a few scattered Vuvuzuelas being blown around the main atrium as we waited to pick up our tickets. Got our phone card during the wait too. After roughly 2 hours, we had our tickets, our luggage and our rental car, so it was time to head to Kruger Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

So. The rental car. First off, it’s manual transmission, which eliminates me from driving it. Second, they drive on the left side of the road in South Africa. Third, we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and so as we were driving during the middle of the day, I suddenly realized that the sun moves from east to west across the northern part of the sky instead of the southern. That threw me for a loop. We started off the trip right by missing the exit onto the first highway, so we had to circle through the airport before getting back to it. The highways are as nice as any American highway around Jo’burg, so it was quite easy travel for the first couple hours. We grabbed lunch at a Wimpy Burger, which appears to be a chain across South Africa. Eventually we made it to Nelspruit, which is a World Cup city. Due to a wrong turn, we were able to pass by the stadium, which looked quite nice, as did the rest of the city.

As we continued onward towards the park, it began to get much more local. The roads became one lane, and we started to see the locals out and about. There were signs all over the place for “High Accident Zones”, which weren’t necessarily for car-to-car interactions. People hang out on the side of the road, they walk on the side of the road, they cross the streets at any given moment. The women walk around balancing anything and everything on their heads – it is really remarkable. One woman was carrying a pizza box on her head! Many people waved as we went by. Eventually we made it out towards the park area as darkness was quickly approaching.

Things got a bit trickier once we turned off the paved roads. Each time we thought we were at our destination, we had more kilometers to go. We managed not to get lost up until the very end, when we were supposed to “follow the arrows” to the lodge. We did ok at first, until we saw a jackrabbit in the road right in front of us that started bouncing away. Eventually, it turned to the right, just beneath a sign that said “Deliveries ->”. Seeing no other signs, we went that way…and wound up at a fence. Fortunately, a staff member heard us making crazy car noises and opened up the fence so we could finally enter the lodge.

We arrived in time for dinner, which was absolutely fantastic. A full 3-course meal, with all of the lodge guests, in the round, with a fire in the middle. 5 people were from Argentina, 3 others from the US, and 2 Australians. Dinner was served earlier in the night than usual to accommodate the football match between Italy and Paraguay that was starting at 8:30. Everyone was very friendly and it was fun to be watching the match all together. Unfortunately, jet-lag caught up with us and we left at halftime.

Tomorrow, the real safari fun begins!

permalink written by  nucappy on June 14, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need...roads….

Justicia, South Africa


Wow. Where to start? Today was incredible. Our agenda was laid out for us yesterday, so we knew that today would consist of a 3-hour morning game drive, breakfast, a 1-hour bush walk, football match, lunch, a 3-hour afternoon game drive, dinner, football match. This is a life I wouldn’t mind living, especially considering how good the food is.

Let’s begin with last night, however, or rather, early this morning. You see, we were awakened at roughly 1am by the guttural growls of a territorial monkey who must’ve been perched on our roof or somewhere very close by. Being completely confused, I thought that perhaps it was the wakeup call, until I checked my camera (doubling as my watch) to see that it was clearly not the case. It stopped after 5 or 6 calls, so I went back to sleep. A short while later, around 1:45am, Mr. Monkey decided he needed to howl some more, although he was farther away this time. Between the head cold and the howling, this was once again a poor night of sleep.

Wakeup came at 6am, upon which I threw on some clothes and made my way to the lodge for an apple and some morning tea to get things started. About 6:45, we climbed into the open-air Land Rover featuring a seat out in front of the vehicle for the Tracker, 10 seats for guests tiered in rows of 3, plus a seat for the Ranger and a place on the dashboard for his .375 bolt-action rifle. Considering that it was in the 40s when we started, we were given a heavy blanket and a bladder full of hot water to keep ourselves warm. Let me preface this by saying that words cannot do this full justice and pictures will eventually make its way up here when I can get enough internet access to post them.

Throughout the next 3 hours, we traversed roads, dirt paths, brush, bushes, trees, and pretty much anything that got in our way. Our first animal sighting was a lone young elephant that was feeding itself on the side of the road. Following that, we came across a few Impalas, which, in fact, are not crappy American cars stranded in the wilderness, but are related to the antelope and look somewhat like deer. These were everywhere throughout the course of the day and are generally food for some other predator. Then we decided to up the ante a bit as we went off-road for the first time. The next animals we went to see were lions. First we passed by a lioness who was sunning herself and sleepy, so we then found her male counterpart in the brush, eating grass. It will be tough to imagine this, even with the pictures, but our Land Rover was “parked” in a ditch at a strange angle, leaving us (by design) roughly 5-10 feet from the lion. Of course, I was on the side of the vehicle closest to said lion, so in the event he should decide grass wasn’t so tasty and human would be much better, I’d have been first on the menu. Eventually he decided he’d had enough grass, so we followed him back to the lioness where he proceeded to lay down in the sun and stare at us for a while, before turning on his side to catch some rays. We came upon a watering hole next that featured a crocodile sunning itself and a belligerent hippo making his presence known to all. Apparently hippos are actually timid creatures when confronted by other animals, except for when humans surprise them. Guns don’t kill people, hippos do.

Moving along, we soon came across a pair of buffalo. Buffalo have some quite large horns on them; however, they too are herbivores and were eating grass as we followed them around. I should mention that in our particular game reserve, which is a private part of the Kruger National Park, there are 7 lodges that share information amongst each other when they go out on drives. While it seems like cheating, it’s a great way to ensure that the guests see what they want to see while out on the drives. I bring this up now because this is how we found our next animal, a female leopard. We followed her for a long time, hoping that she would bring us to her cubs. Instead, she brought us through ever-increasing brush, getting us stuck numerous times on rocks and branches before we got as far as we could go without encroaching on someone else’s property. I should also mention that the Tracker, who is responsible for pointing out any animals in the distance along with the direction the Land Rover should go while off-road, is getting hit in the face by a variety of tree branches, many with extremely long and sharp thorns. He is a brave man.

At this point, it was time to stop for a bit of tea and stretch our legs before heading back to the lodge. On our way back, we happened upon a giraffe. Giraffes, for being as tall as they are, blend in exceedingly well if you are not looking for them. Apparently giraffes have no social structure and just sort of roam as they please. They are able to use their long, sticky tongue and flexible lips to eat the leaves from the thorniest trees. These trees have these thorns because their leaves are the tastiest. Giraffes laugh at their efforts…or something. Unfortunately, though giraffes can run quite fast due to having 6-foot-long legs, they are food for lions, which are rather smart when it comes to hunting and usually find a way to make the giraffe fall down before going to town on it.

So all of that happened in 3 hours. Crazy, right? This was just the beginning. Breakfast was a delicious spread of eggs, beans, sausage, bacon, sautéed onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, yogurt, and fruit. Once that was finished, it was time to get ready for the bush walk. As I came out of our cabin, I noticed a rather large antelope-like animal standing 10 feet from the porch. Not knowing exactly what it would do, I hung out on the porch for a bit and took pictures of it and some birds until it sat down and looked docile. I then swung out the other side of the porch and took the long way around to the lodge to go on the walk.

There were two rules for the bush walk – always stay behind the rifle, and listen to any instructions the ranger gives. Seemed easy enough. We got to observe rule #2 pretty quickly, as we were walking out the front entrance of the camp only to find a pack of elephants feeding about 25 feet away, including one pissed-off mama elephant. The mama took 3 charging steps in our direction as we stood still and silent, before it returned to eating grass with the others. We took a bit of a detour to get in better position to view them while also waiting for them to move along. Eventually they left, and we went to take the long route around the camp to get to the watering hole that those elephants would most likely be heading towards.

Once we arrived there, we noticed a hippo in the water, giraffes in the distance, and a large male elephant making his way down to the water as well. On the other side of the bank, there were a few Waterbuck (another antelope-like animal), along with some Egyptian Geese (neither geese nor in Egypt) and a Water Monitor Lizard, which is not small and is related to the Komodo Dragon. Eventually, the pack of elephants from before made their way down to the water, where they eagerly paraded through it for a few minutes to cool themselves down. One female elephant decided to stay behind while the pack left, and we were waiting for the hippo to try and assert itself, but it never did. Outside of the few times when hippos bellow and make angry sounds, they’re pretty lame animals; all they do is sit underwater with their eyes and snout sticking out. Once the elephants left, we did the same and returned to the lodge for some rest and a football match to watch.


permalink written by  nucappy on June 15, 2010 from Justicia, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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Safari Day 1, Part 2

Justicia, South Africa


I missed the 2nd half of New Zealand-Slovakia, but apparently it was a hell of a finish. Lunch was excellent, continuing the theme of awesome meals (plus they catered to my gluten allergy, bonus!). The main dish was prawns and mussels over rice along with some other meats and cheeses plus fruit. Following lunch, it was time for the afternoon game drive.

Having seen so many animals in the morning, there were only a few that we had missed, so we set off in search of some rhinos. We didn’t find them at their usual spot, so our ranger assumed they’d be at the watering hole since it was such a hot day. Sure enough, when we drove down there, we found 4 white rhinos hanging out by the far side of the pool. White rhinos are apparently quite docile unless you surprise them, whereas black rhinos are far more aggressive. So of course, we decided to drive through the brush and get around the other side of the rhinos. Naturally, this surprised them as we came crashing through the brush in the Land Rover, and they got a bit jumpy. We had blocked their path out, or at least the one they assumed they were planning to take, so they started making some grunting noises and moved to within 10 feet of the vehicle. One of these beasts had a horn that was roughly 3 feet long and very pointy – a horn that on a previous drive found its way into the front grille when our ranger accidentally surprised it while it was sleeping. Needless to say, it was a bit anxious as we waited for them to settle down and move along, especially since the vehicle was turned off at the time.

Once the rhinos moved on, we continued our drive past some elephants eating by the side of the road, including one who was on a small hill and looked like it could have easily jumped on the hood of the car as we sat there taking pictures of it. Our ranger got a call on his radio that there was a massive herd of buffalo not too far away, so off we went to go find them.

The guy wasn’t kidding – there were a few hundred buffalo roaming across the landscape eating grass along the way. Naturally, we drove right into the middle of the herd so we could get some good photos as they milled on by. They seem to be very similar to cows, in that they have multiple stomachs, eat grass, and make a sound very similar to mooing. There’s also a good chance that any 11 of them could beat the Buffalo Bills on any given day. As we moved on from the herd, we came across a few stragglers who were wandering around with birds on their backs. Buffalo have a cooperative relationship with these birds, which pick things off their backs that shouldn’t be there. We also learned that many buffalo have had unfortunate encounters with a creature called a Honey Badger, which has a nasty habit of biting the buffalo in its testicles if it happens to walk over its nest. We saw a number of these with scars from such an occurrence.

We took a break for a drink as the sun set, before beginning the most exciting part of the night. Someone had found 3 lions who were on the hunt for some food – most likely the scent of the hundreds of buffalo who had previously roamed by. Using only a spotlight, we moved along with these lions through the darkness and the brush hoping to have them take us to a spot where they would get a kill. There were 1 or 2 other vehicles that were along with us using spotlights as well to keep light on the lions as they walked on. Even after a full day, I still can’t get over how remarkable it is that the presence of these noisy, smelly automobiles along with spotlights doesn’t disrupt or anger the lions in the slightest. The whole time we followed them, they never once stopped or gave the slightest hint that they knew we were there. Unfortunately, it was time for us to head back before the lions reached their objective, so we returned without seeing any action. As a consolation, we passed an owl sitting in the road on the way back. Surprisingly, it didn’t have quite the same impact that 3 lions killing a buffalo would’ve had.

Dinner was another 3-course masterpiece, with a trout appetizer in a creamy dill sauce, followed by a main course of oxtail along with honey mustard chicken, ground maize (looked like rice), savory butternut squash, carrots, beets and green beans, and a dessert of fruit in a sort of custard. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to go to a diet of bread and water the rest of the trip to make up for how well we’ve eaten here. Following dinner, everyone watched the Brazil-North Korea match expecting Brazil to roll over them. This clearly did not happen, and the game was so dull for a while that the most exciting thing that happened during it was a bat that somehow made its way into the room and flew around in circles for a minute before someone opened the door and it flew out. North Korea made it interesting at the end, but it was not enough to win. I can only imagine that Kim Jong-Il himself will take credit for the most glorious goal and will have the rest of the team summarily executed. Poor guys.

Tomorrow is our last full day here on safari, and I expect it should be another great one.

permalink written by  nucappy on June 15, 2010 from Justicia, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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In case you forgot, it’s winter here

Justicia, South Africa


We woke up today to find that the temperature had dropped like a rock. It was a stark reminder that though the calendar reads June, the season is winter down here. We bundled up and got in the vehicle for the morning game drive, which today, began with elephants munching on some trees nearby. We drove around for quite a long time after that seeing a few antelopes here and there, before coming across the three lions we had been following from last night. This morning, they were fat and happy. All three of them were lying on their sides sunning themselves with big full bellies. A couple of times, they perked their heads up when they heard some noise, but that was roughly the extent of their movements while we were sitting there watching them. I had brought my Northwestern flag to try and get a picture with some real Wildcats, and these lions were a great backdrop, even if they weren’t looking particularly wild at the moment.

Once we finished with the lions, we drove around for a while more before going off-road and crashing through the brush into a fairly thick area. The prize for pushing through all of that foliage? Four lionesses that were themselves getting some sun and relaxing. Apparently all of them had lion cubs, but they were hidden somewhere else at the time we saw them.

Next, we got reports that there was a leopard on the prowl, so we caught up with it while it was stalking some prey. At one point it actually went under our vehicle while on the scent of its prey. For a while, we were able to see it, but then it crouched down low in the tall grasses, and it virtually disappeared. We could see what it was stalking off in the distance – a herd of Impala. They must’ve been at least 60-80 feet away, but it seemed like some of them could sense that something was up, as they moved away from the leopard and were in a very open area. The leopard was staying very still, hoping that the impala would forget that she was there, but it was taking too long and we had to return to the camp to eat breakfast.

The impala ran around as we drove by, and we saw that there was one male and maybe 25 females around him. According to ranger Rob, during breeding season, which was just about to end, a male Impala spends roughly all his time mating with females, until he is too weak due to spending more energy on mating than eating and he is replaced by another stronger male. The cycle repeats until the end of breeding season, and the last male to be there stays with the females until the next breeding season starts. This is advantageous, as the other males are off on their own in smaller packs, and are easier prey for predators. The male who stays with the females is better protected, as he will usually stay in the middle of the group while the females are the ones who get eaten by predators.

We took a brush walk with two of the guides after breakfast, and learned an awful lot about poop. It is very easy to determine the owner of a given piece of dung just by looking at it to see what it is composed of. Hippos spread their dung around with their tail on bushes to mark their territory. Elephants have dung with lots of undigested grass, bark and leaves in it since they are very inefficient at digesting their food, and it also has a reddish color to it because they eat leaves off trees that have lots of tannins in order to ward off the animals. Elephants don’t care, since they have poor taste buds, so they eat anything in sight. Rhinos, buffalo and the antelope types have multiple stomachs, so they are much better at digesting their food and their dung comes out looking “finely processed” for lack of a better term. Lastly, we learned that giraffe dung is scattered since it falls from such a high height. I hope you found this just as informative as I did.

Back at the lodge, there were a few warthogs that decided to graze on the grass between cabins. I think they win the award for ugliest creatures we’ve seen so far. I went up to watch the Honduras-Chile match before lunch, which once again was quite tasty. The Chileans looked pretty good and their fanbase was as boisterous as I remember it being at the airport 2 days ago.

At the end of our morning game drive, ranger Rob noticed some leopard tracks with cub tracks alongside it, and so the first objective on our afternoon game drive was to go find that leopard, as it was most likely taking the cub to a kill it had made earlier in the morning. When we got to the point where the tracks went off into the brush, Rob and tracker Ron got out on foot, rifle in hand, to go try and find the kill and the leopards before driving into the thick of it. They were gone for about 5 minutes, leaving the rest of us to wonder what the hell we’d do if some animal came up to the car with no ranger and no gun. Eventually they returned with news that they’d found the kill, but no leopard. We drove in to where it was lying – it was an impala – and waited for the leopard to return, as it had probably run off when Rob and Ron approached. After about 10 minutes, we decided to leave and come back later in the hopes that the leopard would’ve returned.

As it turned out, we got about 3 minutes away when the call came over the radio that the leopard had returned. We stopped in front of a rock where there were a few dwarf monogooses. They are curious little creatures who look a lot like prairie dogs, but very tiny. We made our way back to the kill, where the leopard cub was chowing down on the dead impala as the mother laid down a few feet away and watched. The cub was a cute little guy, but with quite sharp teeth that would cause problems if you tried to play with it. The cub got its fill of food and went back to play around with its mother before wandering around looking at the other vehicles that had showed up to see it. It got its nose bloody from digging into the flank of the impala and looked a little like Rudolph the red-nosed leopard. At one point, it had ripped off the tail of the animal and was playing with it. Somewhat sadistic if you ask me.

After leaving the leopard behind, we went up on a hill to have a drink and watch the sun set. I got a great panorama shot which I hope to show you all at some point. After taking some pictures, we all got back in the vehicle and traveled some more in hopes of finding a second leopard with a kill. Since it was at nighttime, it was tough to try and spot a leopard that didn’t want to be seen, however, I thought I saw one slinking through the bushes. We briefly backtracked, but didn’t investigate, and we drove on. Eventually we found the kill, but there was no leopard in sight. Since it was on another game reserve’s property, we didn’t press further into the matter, and we headed back for dinner.

Our last dinner was to the same level as the previous two, this time featuring a venison-like animal and a fish, along with some great veggies and a flan-like dessert. South Africa, or Bafana Bafana, was playing tonight, so everyone settled in to the lodge to watch the match in hopes that they would win, and we would all be happy. Alas, it was as bad as it could be, and Uruguay won 3-0. South Africa requires a miracle now to advance, and though they are playing a French team in disarray in their next match, it may prove to be too much of an obstacle to overcome.

Tomorrow, we leave for Polokwane and our first match of the World Cup!

permalink written by  nucappy on June 16, 2010 from Justicia, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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World Cup Fever - catch it…and freeze

Polokwane, South Africa


Today was the day we sadly had to leave the Idube Lodge and continue on with our journey to the World Cup! We were able to still get on the morning game drive for one last go-around with the animals, and I’m certainly glad we did, because it was a damn good one. We were driving for long stretches without seeing any animals at first, until we spotted some rhino tracks on the road and followed them to a clearing where, sure enough, there were 2 rhinos. These guys were much less belligerent than the ones we saw 2 days ago, perhaps because they were already out in an open clearing and not cornered against a lake. We had some new people today who hadn’t seen the rhinos yet, so it was a treat for them. Hard to believe seeing rhinos felt like it was nothing extraordinary today.

The real treat was to follow though, as we drove for quite some time before seeing our next animals. I heard one of the other rangers say something about “an extraordinary view”, but couldn’t tell what he was talking about. We soon found out, and it was well worth the wait. 4 lionesses, the same 4 we saw yesterday, were laying in the road with 6 lion cubs. I swear, I’ve never seen anything so cute and deadly at the same time. The cubs couldn’t have been more than a foot long, and were alternating between drinking milk from the mother, wrestling with each other, mewling, and just generally being pretty damn adorable. One of the cubs was 6 months old and much bigger than the other little ones, and was apparently the only cub in her litter. Normally, lions tend to ignore a single cub, but she stuck it out and became accepted in the pride. Remember, this was all happening 10-20 feet from our vehicle. I was able to get some good pictures and great videos that someday I’ll be able to upload.

Moving on from the lions, we came across a hippo hanging out in a pool getting some sun on its body to warm itself up. It decided to make itself known to us with a big thrash about in the pool before slipping back under the water. At this time, we noticed some elephants coming out of the brush into an open clearing above the pool. This was where the rhino bones that we saw yesterday were scattered about on the grass. Apparently elephants are one of the few creatures that understand death, as they mourn the loss of their own and are curious when they find bones of other creatures. In this particular instance, they were picking the bones up with their trunk, putting it in their mouths, tossing it on their heads, and breaking them with their feet. One elephant had some issues with the toss and hit itself in the face instead. Eventually they tired of the bones and moved along to eat some more trees.
We swung back around to the hippo to have some tea and attempt to get it angry again, but it was not to be, and we headed back to the lodge one final time. Packed up, said our goodbyes, checked out and away we went with my USA scarf on the dashboard, headed for some World Cup action in Polokwane.

The drive to Polokwane had to be done all on local roads, so while it took a lot longer than a highway drive would’ve taken, we got to see a whole lot of South Africa that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen. It is very interesting to see so many people just walking on the side of the road, but there are no sidewalks and people need to get around. We noticed many minibus taxis along the way that seem to be a main source of transportation, but most people tend to walk and either cart or carry their items with them. It seemed that a lot of people noticed the USA scarf and gave a wave back whenever I gave a wave to them. I’ve really yet to meet anyone in this country who isn’t extremely nice, and it’s really a great aspect. As we drew closer to Polokwane, the terrain changed to something that looked like it could belong anywhere in the southwestern US, with lots of cacti all around and very dusty soil. We eventually made it to Polokwane after only a couple minor driving errors, and found our hotel.

There were lots of Mexicans staying at our place for the Mexico-France match tonight. This would be a preview of the match itself. The hotel manager was a somewhat awkward, though nice, old Greek man, who told us that the best way to get to the match was to walk 2 miles to the stadium. Remember, it’s winter time and we’re now back up around the elevation of Denver. The weather seemed reasonable enough, so we decided we’d do the walk. Following dinner at a fast-food chicken joint called Nando’s, it was time to head to the match.

With earplugs in our pockets, my USA jersey on amidst the 3 other green shirts in our group, and a few layers beneath it including a hoodie, we ventured to the stadium on foot. The town is clearly a rather well-off town, as we passed many gated compounds and many nice cars along the way. The walk itself was nothing special, and we finally reached the stadium for our first World Cup match of 2010. We were sitting up high. Very high. There was no roof above us either, so the swirling winds found us early and often. The temperature must’ve been somewhere in the 30s, which was clearly helping my cold that has continued to get worse. Here, we suffered for the 1st half of a 0-0 match.

A note about the vuvuzuelas – the horns that make the buzzing noise on tv – in person, they’re really not that bad. The multiple microphones around the field that pick up the noise for the tv feed make it appear to be far worse than when you are at the match itself. In fact, they really add to the atmosphere and make the match a unique, South African, experience. I still need to get one of my own.

I spotted some seats at halftime in the lower level for us to move to in hopes that it would be warmer and that we’d have a better view. Both points were true, and I was much happier in the new spot. No one checks tickets at all, so once the match starts it’s basically a free-for-all. Apparently this was the same for the concessions as well. I didn’t witness this firsthand, but Ryan did, and his report was that it was a complete disaster. The stadium was only 75% full, but they ran out of food constantly, the concessionaires were yelling at each other behind the counter, the people taking the money tried to coerce people into tipping them, and they ran out of beer as well. The bathroom situation was just as bad, with Ryan mentioning that people were going 3 to a urinal. No thanks.

Mexico turned it up in the 2nd half and put 2 goals away to take the match. I was pulling for a draw in order to give South Africa a chance to move on to the next round, but after this result, it will be damn near impossible for them to do it. It’s very unfortunate for them. France looked absolutely awful, which is the karma they deserve for their cheating ways that got them into the cup to begin with. The rest of my group was thrilled to see Mexico pull out the victory, all but assuring them of a trip to the next round.

We’ve now made our way back in the freezing weather to the hotel, to get a good night’s sleep (and sleep in – for an extra hour!) so that we can head out tomorrow morning to Pretoria and the US-Slovenia match!

permalink written by  nucappy on June 17, 2010 from Polokwane, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica, WorldCup and Polokwane

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Pictures from Safari - June 17th

Justicia, South Africa





permalink written by  nucappy on June 17, 2010 from Justicia, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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Pictures from Safari - June 16th

Justicia, South Africa




permalink written by  nucappy on June 16, 2010 from Justicia, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

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