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6. Up a Lazy River Lodge

An African Owl?

Hoedspruit SouthAfrica, Tana River, South Africa
Saturday, August 8, 2015

August mornings in the South African bush are cold everywhere but particularly so in low lying terrain. As we bundled up in our Land Rover at 5:45 this morning, we all (seven "tourists" and three staff) agreed that it was cold. Once we began to roll, our lack of a windshield or side curtains meant that mobile wind chill added to the chilling effect. When we crossed lowlands—dry river beds as one example—it felt ten degrees cooler than when we were on higher ground. I'm guessing early morning is in the forties, rising to eighty by mid-day.

Beryl and I both brought light gloves, fleece tops and insulated vests. Frankly, however, for the first couple of hours on a morning such as this, I would have preferred to have my down ski jacket, a wool stocking cap and a neck gator to go along with my skiing gloves. It’s just plain cold in the windy confines of the vehicle.

To fight it off, we are happy to have been given a wool lap blanket and heavy cotton shoulder blankets to wrap up in. As the sun rose, warmth increased. A word to the wise: check the temperatures for your safari location before leaving and then outfox your fellow travelers by being prepared to sit in that temperature while driving at thirty miles per hour.

These vehicles are tiered for better viewing. If you sit in the row furthest to the rear, you will feel the bounce of the bumpy tracks ten fold compared to sitting in the row nearest to the driver. It’s better viewing from the back but one quickly learns to sit as one would on horseback; keep your feet firmly planted on the floorboard as you would in stirrups. Then, when the bucking starts you can keep your fanny from slamming down onto your seat. One of our fellow travelers accused our driver of “attempted testicular homicide” during his back seat experience.

Quickly from Billy’s Lodge we came across a lone bull elephant grazing. He ignored us as we sat twenty feet from him making his portrait. Leaving him, we were soon upon an elusive and skittish jackal. He too posed and then scurried into the bush. Off to find lions, we got sidetracked with kudu, zebra, waterbuck, steenbuck, warthogs, giraffe and lots of the ever-present impala. We never did find the lions on this drive. Lacking in our “Big Five” trek is a leopard sighting. I’ve been watching the trees but, so far, nothing. Also absent from our checklist is the cheetah. We know they’re around because we’ve seen their tracks. And, we were told of a black rhino sighting far away. Maybe tomorrow…972e9b40-2e8a-11ea-b4b8-2d0b929461f5.jpg97226640-2e8a-11ea-8fa0-45785aac0be0.jpg973244c0-2e8a-11ea-86e6-35b380b3c75c.jpg9730be20-2e8a-11ea-8405-f1706046d167.jpg97226640-2e8a-11ea-93ed-4b27a7791a4f.jpg972e2610-2e8a-11ea-9eee-9706e57752f2.jpg971e6ea0-2e8a-11ea-8708-db1fdff6f1e2.jpg971f0ae0-2e8a-11ea-b9d5-bf2a7fe490d2.jpg971bd690-2e8a-11ea-86e6-35b380b3c75c.jpg

We stopped for coffee at the Ezulwini River Lodge where we moved this afternoon. This preview look provided us with a new perspective on camps as the River looks very different from Billy’s. We’ve asked everyone to whom we’ve spoken, “which do you like better,” and nobody has given an answer substantially different than, “We like them both; they’re just, well, different.” The first difference we noticed about the River Lodge is the population of baboons and monkeys. We look forward to studying these guys for the next couple of days. We’ve been warned that they can be pesky, stealing food or articles of clothing left unattended. We plan to attend. The second difference is the river itself. From our viewing platform at Billy’s we overlook an active water hole. From River, you overlook its namesake.

Back at Billy’s, we pack and check out. Franz comes to drive us to our new home and along the way we spy an African Owl. Next we blow a tire. Next we’re flashed by a zebra. Then we arrive and are checked in by Glory who is delightful. Our accommodations are similar to what we had a Billy’s, upgraded and quite nice.

Quickly, however, we know we have a problem. None of our devices (B4’s iPhone 6, my iPhone 5S, my Dell Laptop or her Surface) will connect to the web. Other guests have no problem but we’re locked out. We get the log on screen from their router and enter the correct password but we end up connected with the dreaded yellow ∆ with an “!” point inside signifying “No Internet Access” and, on the phones, a continually spinning log on symbol. We freak. B4 freaks because she has more than one hundred emails waiting for replies (a few very urgent ones included) and I freak because that’s the way I update this blog. We reset the router. Once. Twice. Thrice. We run all the diagnostics. I change the DNS thingy. We ask a marauding monkey if he has network administrator status. Nothing works.

We even ask if we can move back to Billy’s but their full up with new arrivals. This wouldn’t be a problem for most people but for us, it is.

Soon it is time for lunch. Our party is five French speakers and twelve-year-old Nick and his dad, Tony. We can only converse with Nick and Tony so we bond with them quickly. We would have bonded with them anyway; they’re from D.C. and are cool. Then, it’s time for our afternoon game drive.

We see a Jackal and interrupt a small elephant herd with a small elephant in tow. Zebra acting as Uber give a ride to two red-beaked fares and, finally, a hyena cares for her cubs outside their den. Our driver is Lorens and our spotter is Eddie. They take their work seriously and, while not as easy to understand as Josh, are hard workers and great assets who have a keen sense for what wild things are about.

Back at River Lodge, we quickly congregate at the fire pit for drinks. Located in the Riverine Forest alongside the Olifants River (definitely not "seasonal"), River Lodge is surrounded by extraordinarily large sycamore fig trees with sixteen-foot diameter trunks and smaller leadwood trees with seven foot diameter trunks. Here are occasional hippos, crocodiles and elephants; we've not seen these here as yet. Bird watchers would love this place as well. River Lodge has a lounge, bar and swimming pool housed beneath a thatched roof. The dining deck is surrounded by riverine vegetation and looks out over the Olifants and the local water hole, the dining facility for neighborhood wildlife. Capacity here is a maximum of fourteen guests.

Soon, we retire from the fire pit to the to the dining table. Diane, a South African from Joberg has driven six hours to spend the weekend here and joins us. Angie is our host and she sits with us for sparkling conversation and shots of Amarula before bed. A great day if not for the internet issue which, I fear, is going to be with us for the duration.

Posted by paulej4 16:30 Archived in South Africa

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