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15th September
written by Justin
HUGE Termite Mound

Huge Termite Mound

After our time in Hermanus, we had a day where we just did mostly nothing and got caught up with laundry and other things, because then we headed back to Joburg for our overland SAFARI into Botswana and Zambia!  We were super stoked, even though we had to fly to Johannesburg, stay one night, and immediately hop back into the car for a long drive.  But it was worth it!  Nobody ever said that it would be easy to be on safari.  We booked our night at the Backpackers Ritz, which seemed to be affiliated with our safari company, Acacia Africa.  We were happy with the hostel; they upgraded us from a 2-person room and a dorm bed to a room that could fit all of us and helped us to order food from Nando’s (my favorite South African chain restaurant).  We didn’t see too much of it because we left the next morning at 5am to embark on our safari!

Of course it’s never that simple in Africa.  We were picked up in a 15-passenger van and dozed a little on our way to a service station where we were supposed to pick someone else up.  We get there, and then after waiting around a bit the driver decides that it must be at the NEXT service station.  Everyone got back into the van and indeed our safari companion was waiting for us there.   After 3 hours or so of driving, we finally escape Joburg and stop for breakfast, where we find that we are going with a different group of people – 2 women and Thennis, our guide for the 10 days.  We were pretty excited at this point – only 5 people to share a big van (and a trailer for our tents, bags, cooking gear, etc.) and the whole safari ahead of us!

Our excitement rode high for the next several hours, as we crossed into Botswana, and as we heard the other travellers’ stories about all the animals they’d seen in Kruger National Park (in South Africa) before joining up with us.  But it turns out that the first day of our safari was to be the dullest.  We drove and drove, and didn’t see a single animal the whole day.  We stopped in front of the termite mound to take a photo, but that was it.  Worst of all, we had gotten a late start for several reasons (service at meals is never fast in Africa) and it was well after dark before we started to get near our camp for the night.  I say “near” because our driver had never been there, and there was supposedly a sign that pointed out the place.  Thennis had GPS coordinates but they conflicted with directions he’d gotten from the camp, and there were no lights and construction for 137 km right around our destination.  We ended up zig-zagging for over an hour until we finally found the entrance.  But we weren’t there yet!  The driveway was sand, and at one point we got our trailer stuck.  We just left the trailer there and continued on to camp.  It had been about 16 hours of nonstop travel when we arrived around 9pm.  We were really cranky, sore, and starting to wonder just what we had gotten ourselves into when we arrived.

Camp was a really nice lodge with a bar and a sandy camping area.  We all had a drink for free because it took us so long to find the lodge, and then a gourmet dinner of chicken, sausage, and local bread which was a specialty – hot, delicious, heavy, and remarkably similar to pizza dough.  We managed to set up our tents without difficulty, and fell asleep not long afterwards.  What a day!

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