Katsjourney Around the World, 7 December, 2002, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Date: 07 Dec 2002 06:57:58 -0600
Editors note: I had some frustrating formatting issues with this one.

But the entire email is there….

I am back from an amazing safari and solar eclipse trip to Kruger National

Park.  Let me start by saying that I was quite surprised at the lack

of security at the here.  I flew British Airways to Johannesburg

(about a 2 hour flight) and then flew South African Airlink to a

tiny town in Mpumalanga (about 1 hour) near the Skukuza gate of

Kruger.  Not once was I asked to produce a single piece of identification.

A paper ticket was all that was needed.  Even in Johannesburg,

the major metropolitan hub of South Africa.

 

The conveyor belt for the x-ray machine was a joke.  In fact, I am not

sure it even worked.  Several people at one time could walk through

the metal detector.  I never heard a single person beep while waiting

in line for 10 minutes.  On the way back there was not even an x-ray

machine at the tiny airport in Phalaborwa.  Just get on the plane and go.

 

I was able to join a tour in progress for the solar eclipse portion.

We spent one night in Kruger National Park.  It is in the far northeast

part of the country boarding Zimbabwe to the north and Mozambique

to the east. Kruger was the man who designated the park as a national

game reserve, I believe back in the 1930’s.  This was to help cut down on

big game hunting and the possible extinction of certain animals.

The minute we drove into the gate there were three giraffes strolling by

the van.  I was scrambling for my camera saying “oh my God” while my

new travel mates were laughing at me (they had already been on a few

game drives previously).  I stayed in a hut at the Skukuza rest camp.

You have to be back in the camp by 6:30 (sunset).  It has a large fence

around it so the animals can’t get in.  Evidently the hyenas are quite fond

of human food….or humans as food!

 

We did a game drive that evening, one in the morning (5 AM…ouch!) and

another the next afternoon on the way out of the park.  On the morning

one we saw lots of lions just laying in the road keeping cool before the sun

gets really hot.  The highlight was seeing several lionesses and two cubs

right after a kill.  They were taking turns feasting.  the little cubs were

just covered in blood looking quite satisfied.

Safari lions

Happy Lions. check out the cub.

We saw elephants and hippos playing in watering holes shooting water at each other and keeping cool.  At another watering hole we saw a giraffe drinking.  Their knees bend down in a weird disjointed way.  Their necks temporarily cuts off the blood to the head so they don’t pass outgoing so far down.

safari giraffe

The terrain was a bit greener than I expected.  We often saw trees

overturned (evidence of elephants in the neighborhood).  There are a

lot of acacia trees and little scrub kind of bushes.  As we traveled north

through the park, the brush thinned out a bit.  That is when we saw

more zebras and wildebeests.  It is amazing when you see such

magnificent animals in their natural habitat, you will never look at an

animal in the zoo the same way.

Oh, and the termite mounds were as big as houses.  I swear, had to get a

picture because no one would believe me!

safari termite mound

A termite mound as big as a house!

We stayed at a beautiful guest house the next couple of nights in

Tzaneen in the Northern Province.  This area is like Fresno to the US.

Endless citrus farms.  Lush greenery.  Mango trees, avocados, palm

trees and lots of humid heat….and mosquitoes.

 

I am taking malaria medication.  The kind I have must be taken daily

there and then 7 days after leaving the malaria zone.  We slept in

mosquito netting, as many places don’t have screens.  I talked to

a gentleman on the tour that had malaria.  It is pretty bad news and sure

death if not recognised and treated right away.  Aches, fever, sweats

mixed with chills, dehydration, etc.

safari bed

Mosquito netting is on all the beds here because there are no screens.

We had a 3:30 wake up call to leave by 4 AM for the Total Solar Eclipse on

4 December.  The way it works is that the moon is 400 times smaller than

the sun, but 400 times closer.  So when they cross each other’s path

perfectly, the entire moon completely covers the sun.  The area of this

total eclipse started in Africa on the Atlantic side and crossed through

tiny pieces of Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, a piece of the Northern

Province and Kruger(where we were) then on to Mozambique and into the

Indian Ocean.

safari eclipse

Australia was able to see part of it also.  Over the course of only 3 hours

and 21 minutes the moon’s shadow traveled 12,000 kilometers across

land and sea.

The path of totality is very small.  We drove three and one half hours

north to get there.  Our fabulous tour guides reserved a plot on a farm

for us way back in February.  It also included a champagne breakfast after

the eclipse.

It hit us at 8:20 AM and totality only lasted about 30 seconds.  This was in

such a remote part of Africa, that the natives had never seen tourists.

There were easily 100,000 people in there area to see the eclipse.  It was a

complete cluster with 6 hour traffic jams on tiny red dirt roads.  Everyone

had the day off and kids were lining the streets waving and yelling for

everyone to beep their horns.  It was REALLY remote.

Now for the bad news.  I did not get to see the actual eclipse.  There was a heavy cloud cover that everyone was hoping would break.  It did…at about 4 in the afternoon.  So in a misty, rainy remote African farm I was able to experience night time for 30 seconds in the middle of the morning (the sun rises at 4 AM).  That in itself was an amazing experience.  The clouds were low and clinging to the surrounding hills.  The animals and critters were confused as “nightfall” started.  The dusk noises were all around us.  You could see the total darkness roll through the clouds.  It was very eerie. almost like a horrible storm on the horizon, and yet everything was peaceful.  30 seconds later the light happened and the birds started singing as if it were sunrise.  It was very cool.  Unfortunately I never needed my groovy protective eyewear.  Next eclipse, I am there!

safari non eclipse

Confusion. Where exactly is this eclipse??

Next week I am working at a conference with my friend, Ilse, at the university here.  It is called “Peace on the Sea” and is all about preserving the aquatic environment.  I will make lots of great contacts there.  I also hooked up with a cool girl on my tour.  She lives in London, but is originally from Cape Town.  She is here though the holidays.  We are going to check out the Nazareth House together.  This is one of those safe houses for street kids and those abandoned.  I am going to check out volunteer opportunities there.

Record heat in Cape Town this week….38 Celsius….Isn’t that pretty close to 100 farenheit?  I am longing for air conditioning!

Well, enough rambling for one day.  More news from the road soon.

Love,

Kathleen

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