June 21, 2016 – On the Road To Entabeni
Violent protests erupted in Pretoria, one of the three South African capital cities. The people are upset that the African National Congress has nominated what is essentially a carpetbagger mayoral candidate rather than a preferred local nominee and they are letting their displeasure by known. Nineteen buses were torched; flaming tires littered the streets, and rocks were being thrown at passersby. The city center was a ghost town and the main motorway that runs anecdotally from the Cape to Cairo, the M1, was shut down. We had to detour then to meandering parallel streets to get to Entabeni. Our four hour drive from the Johannesburg airport turned into a nearly seven hour journey.
Along the way, there was nary a service station or rest stop in sight… Unless you counted the endless fields of grain, oranges, and brush. Ultimately our guide Paul offered us a “bush toilet” having the mini bus pull alongside the road and designated the men’s room to the right and the ladies’ to the left.
Hours later we came to a small town Andre we were able to pick up a few snacks and supplies at the local supermarket. Would that I had thought to stock up on bottles for the lodge.
Paul told us it was still another hour or two to the lodge. It was closer to three. Part of the trouble was we ultimately were able to get back on the motorway but our driver kept missing turns and we were getting lost, despite a working GPS. It became a very, very long trip in that last hour when very five minutes seemed to bring a, “we’re nearly there… Just five more minutes!” broken promise.
But made it we did… And after hopping in jeeps and being dropped at reception, we scarfed down a few finger sandwiches and headed out on our first game drive.
Given was our driver while the other few running-tourists had Steve. Veronica, our Albatros Adventures ground staff member, was with us too. It was a fast and furious overview with reassurances that at dinner we’d get into more detail over the week’s plan. But in the meantime, we had warthogs, wildebeests, rhinos and more to see.
As the sun set behind Hanging Cliff, we cheered our traveling companions and toasted our adventure.
Riding back though the darkness to our lodge, I was struck by how quiet the place was, our jeep’s rumbling engine cutting in and out as we drifted along the packed gravel and dirt. The only man made light source was coming from our accommodations, and with a bright shining Venus in the night sky beckoning, the rich tapestry of stars illuminated our way. A full moon helped, and the cosmos of the Milky Way ribboned through the blackness.
Dinner was an oddball long table for the 14 of us eating the buffet. Drinks are apparently not included in the dining packages so who knows what I paid for my Coke Zero. Again, I was cursing not stocking up on supplies when I had the chance. Still, it was what it was. Per usual at these things, people spoke of races done, gear packed or forgotten, and lives back home. I wasn’t entirely in the mood and stuck to my entrees.
Veronica then gave us some details about game drives scheduled, as well as extra activities that could be booked (additional drives were 350 rand per person or US$23.33 and a trip to the white lion preserve was 120 rand or $8 per person). After voting to do our included game drive tomorrow afternoon, we also setup an optional run/walk for 11 am. We have to be escorted out of the preserve to run on the road for safety sake; indeed, we have to be driven to our rooms day and night by game guides to ensure no one gets attacked by the wildlife.
So here I am in our hotel room. It’s 8:38 pm and we’ve all retired for the evening. Jet lag and bus leg from the longer than expected drive out here has wiped us all out super early. The pickup for breakfast is at 8:50 am tomorrow. An elephant has stepped on the Internet connection for the area so there’s no wifi or connections available. And I realize now I have the wrong power adapter for the plugs here. Hopefully the reception will have some spare ones we can borrow or purchase tomorrow or else this is going to be a tough photog trip!
I tried shooting some night tripod shots though to capture a bit of the stars. I’m in South Africa. Wild animals are less than a stone’s throw from my door. And I’m gearing up to run a marathon in a beautiful place. Whatever hiccups or issues may arise, fingers crossed I will always remember how lucky I am.