Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Last Trip (South Africa and Mozambique)

This post is long overdue, guess I have just been busy and had a hard time being motivated to write about this trip. But here it is:

Back at the end of Feburary/beginning of March and before my Close Of Service (COS) Conference I took one last vacation to South Africa, Mozambique and Lesotho (well we didn't make it Lesotho :( I'll talk about that more later). I needed to use up the last of my vacation days before I went on "lock down" (after COS Conference, volunteers are supposed to stay in their sites as much as possible, so that they can properly close out projects and say their goodbyes which means no taking vacations) the last few months of service. I went with another volunteer and her friend from home. It was a great last trip here in Africa. Over the two weeks we drove a lot and saw many picturesque landscapes. Here are some highlights:


Rustenburg:  Here we went to the Ukutula Lodge to play with BABY LIONS!!! 

It took us a little longer than we had expected to get there so at first the lady at the reception desk said that the only thing available was to go on a lion walk. Since I had already done one up in Zambia I really didn't want to pay the money to go on one again. But then she called someone and said they had time for us to go on a tour around the Lodge and to play with the baby lions! I was soo excited!! While we waited for our guide to come we got to play/pet/cuddle with a 4 week old new born. He was super cute!

Once the guide came she took us to see the lions. The first couple we got to spend time with were a few months old. They were pretty sleepy because it was later in the day, but we still were able to pet them and play with them a little bit. 

Then the guide took us to see some of the animals they have in cages. I guess they had rescued some of them. There we saw baby hyenas, a several cat, a bob cat, and bengal tigers! 

spotted hyena cub

sereval kitten

Then we got to go in and pet the 3 year old cheetah, Emma. I was super excited about this because cheetahs are my favorite animal. 

After we spent some time with Emma, the guide took us to see the bigger cats. The Lodge/Reserve is doing research on the white lion. The white lion is become extinct so Ukutula Lodge is trying different combinations of breeding to isolate the specific gene that makes a lion cub come out white. Once they isolate that, they hope to be able to breed more white lions. To make money  the lodge lets tourists come and play with the lions and go on walks with the older lion cubs. Once the lions get to a certain age they reintegrate them back into the wild. 

they tried to put them in separate cages and they missed each other soo much that they wouldn't eat , so they put them back together, soo cute!

the white lion cub
Once we saw all the bigger lions we got to go back to where the older cubs were to hang out with them a little bit. These cubs were about 5-6 months old and are nicknames the "little devils". This is because they are EXTREMELY playful! We had to be careful and aware of where the cubs were, because they would try to pounce on you and they were at the age were their claws were getting sharp. It was a lot of fun playing with them. I even have some scars on my legs from where a few of the cubs got me. It was definitely a really cool experience.

getting ready to pounce

he was trying to play with me haha
Bloefontein: So after Rustenburg we were supposed to be heading to Lesotho to go on a over-night pony trek through the beautiful mountains. We had a long day of driving with a few directional mishaps. We got to the road that we were supposed to be taking to get into Lesotho and it was ridden with potholes. Now normally this wouldn't be too much of a problem but with our tiny little rental car we had to drive super slow to get through or around the pot holes (kind of reminded me of the time when I was with my family in AZ and we were heading to Tombstone, we decided to take a "shortcut" to shave off time but the road ended up being washed out and it took us much much longer to get to our destination…not fun). It was starting to get late in the day and a storm was brewing, so we decided to turn around and figure out a better option. We called the lodge we were going to be staying at and told them we didn't think we were going to make it, due to the roads and weather. The lodge was very nice and told us they would give us a full refund. Then we headed to a backpackers nearby in Bloefontien and refigured out our trip.

Clarens: On our way to Durban from Bloefontien we decided to stop here for lunch. Clarens is a quite little town set in the middle of mountains. Brad Pitt has a house here and I don't blame him, I wouldn't mind living there myself. We spent a few hours wondering around all the little shops and got some lunch. 

On our way out we drove through the Golden Gate National Park. This park was full of breath taking views of sandstone mountains. It was gorgeous! I wish we had spent more time there.

Durban: The times we were in Durban were just stop over nights at a really neat backpackers that sits on a hill a few feet from the beach. One morning Melissa and I got up super early so we could watch the sun rise and stick our feet into the Indian Ocean. The sunrise was beautiful. Durban has a really big Indian population so it's known for it's outstanding Indian food. One night Melissa and I decided to get some and it was delicious!

our little cabin at Antsey's Backpackers

St. Lucia: This is a little town that sits on an estuary. The town was pretty dead due to it being low tourist season. This was nice because things weren't crowded, but bad for seeing wildlife.  No tours were going out because they need a certain number of people to take out on boat cruises and game drives and 3 people was not going to cut it. This was pretty frustrating, but what are you going to do. For lunch I got to eat some of the local fish, which was pretty tasty. In the evening the backpackers we were staying at cooked a traditional meal for everyone. Our backpackers was a few feet from one of the docks to the estuary, so while we waited for dinner to be ready we went and watched the sunset. 

After dinner some of the guys took everyone at the backpackers on an informal night game drive, which was fun. We didn't see too much just a bunch of night chameleons and hippos! It was crazy because the hippos were all over the place, just chilling in people's yard. People back home complain about deer eating their gardens, imagine if you went to take out the trash and full grown hippo was in your yard chomping on your flowers??? Crazy!!! 

In the morning we drove around the Cape Vidal Park. It was pretty but the weather was pretty gloomy. We saw only a few animals, but did see a black rhino which was pretty sweet. We wanted to have a nice beach lunch and go swimming once we got to the beach but the wind and current was too strong. Our sandwiches ended up being really sandwiches and were pretty crunchy..yum yum. Needless to say we were a little disappointed that the weather wasn't allowing us to enjoy the beach so we only spent a few minutes there.

black rhino



Drakkensburg: Since we weren't able to make it to Lesotho we decided this would be a good alternative because Drakkensburg has some beautiful mountain ranges. We stayed at the Inkosana Lodge, which is set amongst indigenous gardens and against a backdrop of the Drakkensburg Mountains. It had some amazing views of the mountains. 

 One day we decided go on a 9km hike through Monk's Cowl and see the Sterkspruit and Nandi Falls. The hike wasn't too bad and the views were incredible. The whole time I felt like I was on some kind of adventure and the views looked like something out of a movie. Along the way there were some pools you could go swimming in, so we made sure to take advantage of those to cool off from the heat. Nandi falls was probably my favorite. It reminded me a lot of the Hocking Hills Area near my hometown.

Sterkspruit Falls

one of the swimming pools

Nandi Falls
Johannesburg: Before dropping  the rental car and Melissa's friend off at the airport, we decided to stop at the Sterkfontein Caves. This is were the Cradle of Man or supposedly the origins of the human species started. This is also were they found Mrs. Ples, the first complete Australopithecus skull, and "Little Foot", a 4.17 million-year-old almost complete ape-man skeleton. I am glad we were able to fit this in because it was a very educational tour with some cool sights.

this one is called the elephant (can you see it?)

this one is called the monster...creepy!


Maputo:  I was super excited to visit Mozambique. Volunteers who had visited there before have shared stories and pictures of time spent relaxing on the beautiful beaches and eating lots of wonderful seafood. Mozambique is a little difficult to get to. In order to get to Mozambique, Melissa and I had to take a 12 hour over night bus from Johannesburg and obtain a visa beforehand. To get the visa I had to physically go to the Mozambique Embassy in Gaborone and wait a few days while it was processed. This can be difficult when it takes 3.5-4 hours to get there from my village and I don't have a car. The first time I went I showed up the embassy to find that it was a holiday and the embassy was closed! So I had to wait over the weekend to get the Visa on Monday. Eventually I was able to obtain the Visa.  So after dropping off Melissa's friend we decided to hangout in the airport before heading to the bus (the bus depot isn't the safest place to hangout). We had some subway and bought some bagels for the long bus trip. The bus ride was long, but luckily I had some sleeping pills which helped make the trip more bearable. Crossing the border was a little crazy because we were there just as the sun was rising and there were cars and cars lining waiting for the gate to open. But once the process was started it seemed not take as much time as I had thought. 

sunrise at the border crossing into Mozambique

Once we found the backpackers we were staying at we decided to set up camp and then explore the cite. Maputo is a very large city that seems to be crumbling before your eyes.  Everywhere you look there are reminders of the time it was a Portuguese colony and of the brutal 16th century civil war. We found a little resturant that severed a seafood pasta complete with shrimp and crab! Yum! We also realized how little English the locals knew. Luckily Melissa is pretty fluent in French and knows some Spanish, which has some similarities to Portuguese, so we were able to get by. We also found the craft market and looked around there. Unfortunately I was pretty low on cash so I wasn't able to buy any of the wonderful crafts :(

seafood pasta :)

our campsite

Tofo: The backpackers we were staying at had a shuttle to their other backpackers located in Tofo.  Tofo is one of the bigger tourist destinations, with great beaches and rated top in the world for getting scuba certified. I was extremely excited to relax on the beach, eat some good cheap seafood, and enjoy some cheap rum. The bus ride was about 8 hours and very long but worth it. The backpackers was located right on the beach so we quickly set up camp and decided to stay an extra night so we would have time to enjoy everything. Once again because it was low tourist season the beach town wasn't very crowded. This made it nice because we ended up making friends with a few people and just hung out with them the rest of the time we were there. Spent a lot of time soaking up the sun, reading, and enjoying the wonderful views. We got to eat lobster and crab for pretty cheap and it was delicious! 


crab curry

One night there was a jazz band that preformed, so we went and listened. It was soo nice to hear live music again. The next afternoon I was hanging out at the backpackers reading  while Melissa had gone into town to get some more money, when one of them members I had made friends with asked if I wanted to come watch their practice jam session. I decided to go and on our way I let it slip that I knew how to play flute. So of course when we got there they wanted me to play the flute they had handy. I haven't really played my flute since highschool, this flute had some keys sticking, it was an open-holed flute which is more difficult to play, and I've never really been good at improvising music, so let's just say my addition to their jam session was interesting… It was a lot of fun to watch and listen to them play and even try to participate at times. Made me wish I had brought my flute or some sort of instrument to Botswana and worked on those skills during my down time. Maybe when I get back to the states I will try to learn another instrument..After a few hours I realized I needed to find Melissa since I had the key to our room. We had one last meal that night at a neat bar that turned into a dance party later on. It was a good way to go out and we ended up not sleeping at all since our shuttle back to Maputo left at 4am the next morning. 

The last leg of our trip was a long one because we did it straight without staying over anywhere. We did the 8 hour bus from Tofo to Maputo. Then that night left at 7pm from Maputo to Johannesburg. Got in Johannesburg at 4am and the bus to Gaborone didn't leave until 2pm so we just hung around the bus station. Then got to Gaborone around 9pm where we stayed. I was pretty exhausted by the time I got there. But it was worth it to have an extra night in Tofo.  I would definitely go back if I ever get a chance.

Alright so sorry for the long post, thanks for making it to here if you got all the way through! Hope you enjoyed the pictures :)

1 comment:

  1. simply amazing. . . .your travels sound really cool.Have been talking to your folks and they are excited for your return to the states. . .Enjoy your remaining days on the African continent. . .peace & love Bill & Cindy