Dear Family and any Friends Who Feel Like Reading a Travelogue:
This week is all about the first trip I've taken with my sisters Margaret and Nancy since - Disneyland and Yellowstone as kids? We also had the pleasure of Carol's (Beus) company, but she and Paul and Steve and I have travelled together much more recently!
The trip started off a little rocky, as I had the wrong arrival info and Margaret and Nancy arrived at Durban Airport and were met - by no one!. They sat in the gradually emptying airport for two hours, reading (they are Hills, after all) until we showed up at 10:00. They were very nice about it.
Sunday was Church at Umlazi BB, followed by another trip to the airport to pick up Beus, and a scenic drive through Durban. Sunday is a far less crowded day to do that! In our second glitch I came down sick, so Monday the three "girls" spent all day on their own with thousands of fish and dolphins and turtles and penguins at uShaka. Rousing success.
Tuesday we set off early and drove all the way north to Tembe Elephant Park (http://www.tembe.co.za/). After a quick lunch we took off for our first game drive, and saw nyala, impala, elephant, duiker, suni, crested guinea fowl, and various birds. It rained part of the drive, and it was almost as much fun to see who would get a shower as we went around corners, as it was to see the animals! The trucks hold 9 passengers, and we shared it with a very knowledgeable couple from Florida who have been on safaris all over the place (very fancy camera) and a couple from England (very quiet).
We returned at dusk, and as Beus and I were walking down the sand pathway to our cabin (#7) we noticed hoofprints. As we arrived at the cabin, we found the source of the hoofprints - two nyala, eating the shrubbery around our porch! We sidled by, took pictures, then left them to it while we went to dinner. The "wild" dish that night was kudu steak.
As we arrived back at the cabin in the pitch dark, with a dim flashlight, we heard noises in the underbrush. The "crack!" of a branch breaking gave it away: now we had an elephant browsing not many yards off the porch. We got the flashlight and could pick out his tusks, and see the trees moving as he pulled down branches. The next morning we could see the trail he had left, including broken branches, dung outside our bathrom window, footprints in the sandy path, stones that lined the path kicked around, branches pulled down over the path... Apparently he wandered around most of the tents through the night. Very cool!
At 6:30 we went on our second game drive, and saw many of the same animals, plus warthog, simango and vervet monkeys, giraffe, zebra and cape buffalo. We moseyed along behind a big old elephant with big tusks for quite awhile as he browsed, and threw dust up on himself to cool off (or kill bugs - not sure). We also saw a gazillion dungbeetles crowded on piles of dung. And a lady dungbeetle catching a ride on the ball of dung her boyfriend was pushing.
After a late breakfast, we headed back south for St. Lucia, which is a World Heritage Site ( www.stluciasa.co.za). We had booked a hippo & croc boat ride, but the company had so overbooked it didn't work out - which turned out OK! We drove into the Wetlands Park instead, and it was beautiful. We saw our first hippos there, reedbuck, waterbuck, and a beautiful view from the top of Mission Rocks, of the Indian Ocean on one side, and Lake Lucia and the wetlands on the other.
We got to the gate just as they were closing at 7pm, and went on to Alfredo's for (sort of) Italian food. Then back to the St. Lucia Wetlands B&B for a short sleep - because we were picked up Thursday morning at 4am for a game drive in Imfalozi Park!
This time there were only the four of us and a couple from the Netherlands. Beus is very handy to have along, because in addition to her delightful personality, and genuine interest in listening to other people's stories, she has also been everywhere in her work for Hewlett Packard - including the Netherlands.
On this drive, we added lions hanging out in trees to cool off, wildebeest, and rhino, including three that were being hassled by some cape buffalo. A young male elephant seemed to have been left behind by the family: we saw him hurrying through the trees on a hill, and parked on a bridge to watch him cross the river. He grabbed a few drinks on the run, but never stopped, and vanished away before we could find the other elephants. Another hightlight: warthogs cooling off in a puddle. They are so ugly, they're cute!
Dinner that night was at a Portugese restaurant called Brasa's, then we slept in(!) until 5, and headed off whale watching. We all put on heavy raincoats and life jackets, then held on like crazy as our boat was pushed off the beach by a tractor, then battled the surf to get out beyond the breakers. It was wild - and Margaret loved it, but two of the rest of our group (no names) got seasick. We followed three male humpbacks as they arched their backs out of the water, showed their tails (each unique, like a thumbprint) and spouted. I don't know how our shouldhavebeenapirate captain kept finding them as they stayed under water for several minutes at a time, but we saw a lot of them. They are really beautiful - and we got really close.
After surviving that wet and wonderful adventure, we had breakfast at the B&B and headed for Durban. We were too tired to go running around in the evening, so we watched Hatari. Nancy and Beus had never seen it, but it's been a family staple for us for years. Anyone who has seen Lost World may remember the dinosaur hunting scene - straight out of Hatari.
As Margaret and Nancy were scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon, we went down to Victoria Street Market that morning, for last minute curio shopping, and over to Essenwood Market just for fun. Then it was lunch at Primi Piatti at Westwood, and off to the airport. Way hectic, way exhausting, way fun, way worth it.
And in the meantime, while we were all off playing? Steve's birthday. Transfer planning. Lots of calls from missionaries with everything from stepping on a nail to shinsplints to a chipped tooth to being hit in the eye by a paintball. A few companionship "tiffs". Langa's baptismal interview (hurray!). Lots of good contacting, service, finding, and teaching. A training visit to Durban by President Osguthorpe (Sunday School) and President Beck (Young Men). News (finally) of an office couple coming in January (!!!!!!!!!!!!!). And all the various and sundry events that make up a mission week.
This is transfer week coming up, so Beus (who is staying on) will see another side of a mission - the part where I actually do mission work? Around the airport and dinners and transfer meetings she is going to try out Ayurveda (Indian) yoga, as well as bunny chows, schwarmas, and malaguenas. The fun never ends!
ps Choose the correct answer:
1. An invigilator is that thing Bones uses in Star Trek.
2. An invigilator helps loosen your muscles.
3. An invigilator works for a company that gets rid of rodents.
4. An invigilator is a parent who monitors exams at Westville Boys High School.
You're right: it's #4!