Our first hour and a half we saw nothing except these rocks in a pool. But then one of the rocks snorted, so we figured maybe they weren't rocks. But I won't push to be out at dawn next time.
After breakfast back at the lodge, we loaded our bags and began a slow meander toward the southern exit of the park, Bakubung Gate, near Sun City. Still somewhat disappointing game viewing and we were starting to wonder if the game population had gone down since our years in South Africa.
Several people we approached in our cars told us there were lions ahead. When we asked where to look, they said, "You'll see the cars." We did--backed up on both directions as some people just sat and watched. You must understand that the Hardys lived in Africa for ten years before we saw our first lions--in Pilanesburg, July 1996. (The date is written in my game identification book.) It got to be a joke that word went out in the game parks that the Hardys were coming and the lions should hide. We even paid for a guided drive once and the guide assured us we would see lions. He was pointing out chameleons by the end of the drive! I felt sorry for the others in the vehicle who didn't get to see lions because the Hardys were along.
But this time we did see lions, although I doubt we would have spotted them lying low in the grass if the road hadn't been blocked by cars. This one got up and walked away so she was easier to see.
Our Toyota Camry was too low to get a better view.
As we approached our planned picnic area, we noticed a whole string of elephants crossing the hillside to the east. (Look two-thirds of the way up in this photo, just above the green trees. One is clear on the left, but there are others all along that line.)
They kept coming by, far up there on the hillside, while we grilled the last of our boerwors and cleaned out the salad and yogurt. We gave the end of the charcole to some of our fellow picnickers, and headed down the asphalt toward a dam on the map. Evidently that was where the elephants were headed too--50 or 60 of them! Before long it felt like dejavu only instead of one elephant blocking the road, there was a whole string of them.
For a video of the ones in front, check this YouTube.
Then there were the ones coming up behind us.
We couldn't go forward or backward and neither could anyone else. I was pretty nervous as this one came striding past us.
We felt surrounded. Eventually we made it to the side road we had planned to take and cut back on the other side of the lake where Steve mentions in the video seeing the giraffe. You can see the back up of traffic on the far side where we were in the two videos. We had planned to loop around and pass the lake again, but when we started meeting cars trying to avoid the backup on the main road we opted for going out the east Manyane Gate instead.
|View from one of those hides I enjoy so much|
The area between Pilanesburg and Pretoria used to be a native "homeland" in apartheid days--an area where Blacks who didn't have a job that gave them permission to live in an urban township (still segregated) were dropped off to fend for themselves. Mostly there were shacks or simple cement block houses. With the rising middle class, there is a lot of construction and development. Much of it uses a similar style of pillared porches that I anticipate someday will be referred to as "early-21st-century African."
The pillars are mass produced--like you could buy them at Menards. I saw a place with a line up of different styles. Some of the new houses are really big and fancy.
We drove back to the airport on a major expressway, remembering the culture shock we used to experience leaving the high development of South Africa for the potholed streets and crumbling facades of Maputo in the late-1980s. There is so much that we didn't have time for this trip--the Garden Route along the southern coast, the mountains of the Winelands, the desolation of the road into Nambia, Etosha National Park, the baobabs in the north... I guess we will just have to come back.