Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
148Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
back packers lodge
And I did.
I went to Hluhluwe game reserve near St Lucia, a coastal village about 300 km north of Durban. There I was persuaded to go whale watching too. The Addo Elephant National Park, a night safari and a walk with the elephants at Crags Elephant Sanctuary were part of a trip I was on.
So that's a lot of animal watching.
What can I tell you? Truth is, even as a child I felt uncomfortable at a zoo or circus - sorry for the captured animals there to entertain us.
So, with some misgivings, not in the least because we had to get up at 4 am to be the first on the scene, I made my way to Hluhluwe
The sunset alone made it all worthwhile, the misty park a perfect setting for an amazing spectacle of colours and light, changing as you watched, from soft, dreamy pastels, to a glorious orange.
Wow. This is Africa, I thought, the Africa you fantasize about, it really exists.
So the day made a flying start.
It took me a while to realise 'the big five' was not a band but the African animals most difficult to hunt on foot. Some visitors were determined to see them all, like a conquest, they marked them down. Strange?
Of course, the animals are free to roam around and live their lives as normal as possible.
But still, you know the situation is not natural, you would not encounter animals like this out in the wilds, they would not sit calmly by the side of the road, insolently staring at Jeeps full of click-clicking voyeurs. Including myself, I must admit, though it was the tiniest camera and I didn't know how to use it - not much of an excuse, as if they'd know the difference.
Still, you get caught up in the excitement, you can't help it, it is exhilarating being so close to them. One enormous elephant came up to the car, I was just about to stroke him when one passenger screamed, another one ducked and the driver got the hell out of there. Apparently he'd been about to charge.
Somehow I never see danger, even when it is staring me in the face. So every one was shaken while I was mildly disappointed.
But I got to stroke one later, hugged it, tickled it, smelled it. All but wrapped it up and took it home with me.
That was at the sanctuary. Our guide, my companion Debbie, and I arrived there, me thinking it was Debbie's greatest wish, but she was not bothered and reached for her book, leaving me to contend with the expectant caretakers and a small group of sheltered elephants.
We were the only ones there...........ja, so off I went, utterly embarrassed, one of the helpers holding my camera, snapping away happily while I hate, hate having my picture taken. But onward and forward for I had my fingers up the elephant's nostrils and he would tread on my heels if I didn't keep moving.
Of course, he was the sweetest thing - the elephant, I mean
I can be brief about the whale watching at St. Lucia. I paid a lot of money to get tossed about on a choppy sea, people being sick all over the boat, even on and in their life jackets as they tried to stagger to the railing. The wind would have blown it back in their faces anyway.
This was distracting me from the one whale we eventually followed.
My sisters and I are almost phobic about being sick, so you can imagine this was not my finest hour, trapped on a boat full of green-faced passengers, moaning and heaving, disgusting smell - but we weren't turning back till we'd seen a whale. The skipper did his damnedest to find one, as money was refunded if none showed up.
We saw one. It was big. Now let's get back.
Travelling along the coast later on, I saw loads of them, often with dolphins or seals - fresh air, no charge - a real treat.
The Addo park was a nice surprise.
I agreed to go along for the ride and the pleasant company, but soon set aside my reservations and enjoyed it for what it was.
We had a wonderful time, everything came together, the weather, the scrumptious food we got at a local deli, not that many visitors and loads of beautiful animals.
The high point was finding the three lion cubs the park knew existed but had never spotted. They were right next to us because we had accidentally separated them from their mum, who was pacing back and forth, wanting to get back to her babies
It was touching to see how protective she was.
She rewarded us by staying near for a little longer and then they disappeared.
We were so lucky - I just hope we didn't upset them too much.
The night safari was cold. Some hyena's larking about and the giggly feeling of being on a school trip.
And I just remembered, a boat cruise, near St. Lucia, I've got to look it up. Hippo's and crocodiles it was. I'm racking my brains but I can't come up with much. Hippos were fine, not very exciting, the crocs a lazy lot.
Something funny did happen though. I felt a small pull at my hair and looked back to see a black lady, smiling apologetically, arranging some strands of it on her boyfriends shoulder.
She wanted a photo of him and my hair - not me.
So what kind of game was that?
Well, that's it, a skimpy write up of my rendezvous with the big 4, 5, 6......?
What really counts is the care and respect I've seen there; the knowledge and the pride the attendants show when talking about these animals.
And if they took away the boundaries, I think the animals would stay right where they are - not such a bad place to be. Not bad at all.