Tuesday, June 15, 2010
South Africa: Days 5-7
The dominant emotion I’d describe right now is guilt.
But that’s just my nature when things like this happen to me when I’m traveling on business. A slip-up in reservations left me without a hotel room in Port Elizabeth, on South Africa’s Eastern Cape, so the best our company travel service could do was a "private game reserve" about 100 kilometers from Port Elizabeth.
That sounded nice, but when my driver Chris started taking me north on the N2, and kept driving and driving, passing nothing but wide open space, I started to wonder to myself, is this going to turn out ok? When we finally made it to our turn-off, and started heading down a dirt road, well, then I really started to have my doubts. When that dirt road, full of potholes and rocks, stretched on and on, for about 30 minutes, I began to wonder if I’d be better off sleeping in the airport on Tuesday night…my final night here.
But then we arrived. Breathtaking does not begin to describe this place.
I’m staying in a grass-roof "hut" that’s simply gorgeous. My room has a waterfall shower, a fireplace, mahogany floors, a deck overlooking a pond where a family of hippos play. In the distance are the hills of the reserve. There's also an outdoor, open-air shower and a jacuzzi, too bad it's winter.
When a sweet woman named Tanya showed me to my room, she asked if everything was ok, I could barely spit out the word, "Amazing." She then told me, "Mr. Bradley, one thing. After dark, do not leave your room alone. Call the office for assistance. At night, the animals sometimes walk right into the village. There could be a lion waiting at your door." I laughed, but she told me she was not joking.
A fellow named John took me on a two-and-a-half hour safari, where we saw giraffes, wildebeests, warthogs, a variety of deer with a variety of names I can’t remember. We went looking for the lions (there are 11 here) but found none. John explained to me that this is not like, say, the Disney safari where staff members feed the animals. This is survival of the fittest. He talked of how the lions weigh “work vs. satisfaction” when choosing their prey. In other words, they’d rather wait for something big and slow (a buffalo), than spend all day chasing something thin and fast (a blessbuck). Giraffes, he said are not very protective mothers, so a lot of baby giraffes become snack food for the lions. It’s nature, John explained to me. "We don’t interfere," he said. Pretty cool.
Anyway, back to guilt. I wish Linda and the boys could be here with me. But, the adventure will be over quickly. A long trip into Port Elizabeth today, a long trip back here tonight. I’ll probably miss dinner, and I have a 5 a.m. wakeup call tomorrow.
Fun while it lasted, no doubt.