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Day 4

We’ll cover almost 10,000 km by the time we arrive in Nairobi so many of our days will consist of a lot of driving. By Day 4, this idea sinks in and we settle back into the seats of our truckbus.

I’ve been reading (and by reading, I mean listening to on my iPod) Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Today, I get to the start of apartheid. The terms comes from the Afrikaans word “apartness” and the National Party in South Africa used the idea of racial segregation (separate but not equal) to brutally suppress its non-white citizens. I’m struck by how late in the last century this policy started and by how long it lasted. And I’m embarrassed by how little I knew about apartheid before I started reading the book. Note to self: read more.

Nature seems to take a different approach. I noticed on our safari through Kruger National Park that many animals all hang out together. The herds mingle when they’re eating and often use the same tree for shade. They stick together because there’s strength in numbers. They don’t care if you’re a zebra or a waterbuck. The circle of life is better with company. Maybe people just forgot how this works.

Photo by Nellu

Our group has started to meld a little more. Over beers and a lovely barbecue prepared by Barry and our guide Gideon, we joked about the safari spoof pictures Chloe and Amanda took during our hike through the high grass. We also crack up over the idea of making a video along the same lines but we never get the chance.

Chloe on safari. Photo by Chloe Stucki and Amanda Hurst

Day 5

Animals are extremely loud in the morning. That is the one undeniable fact that I’ve taken away from all the camping we’ve done over the last year. (True up to this point, I’ve only camped for seven nights the whole year but that’s more than I’ve done any year of my life so it almost makes me feel like an expert.) In Peru, the donkeys next to our Inca Trail camp were extremely loud at 3am. (Serious, when do donkey’s sleep?) In South Africa, the peacocks are the loud mouths. Before this morning, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a peep from a peacock. But apparently they do squawk, particularly before sunrise.

We’ve got another long drive head of us today…

~ Molly


Every time, I think of going on a safari in Africa, I get the Lion Sleeps Tonight stuck in my head – hence the title. I tried to get everyone to sing it with me while on safari, several times, but it never really took. In the spirit of this next blog, if you would like to get it stuck in your head too (or if you just need a good laugh), check out one of my favorite youtube renditions by clicking here.

Photo by Nellu

I’ve vowed to get a piece of video footage each day on this trip. My wide-angle zoom lens is not the best for safari, but you’d be amazed how close we were able to get to some of the animals. I’ll put it all together and reveal it at the end. But in the meantime, please enjoy Nellu’s photos.

Day 2

Day 2 starts before dawn. What seems like early now will become a regular starting time for us on our trek. To be honest, over the last year, Nellu and I have settled into a comfortable routine only getting up before 9am if the place that we’re staying stops serving breakfast. But on a high note, it seems like all the worrying over our bags was for naught. There is plenty of storage in our overland vehicle, which brings me to the subject of our overland vehicle. I think it looks like a cross between a truck and a bus.  But if we call it a bus, our driver Barry will, after two strikes of course, start collecting mandatory donations of $1 per offense.

Is it a boat? Is it bus? No it's an overland truck!

And what about the people? Nellu and I are the last to board the bu..truck so we’re sharing seats with different people. I sit myself next to Ken, the doctor from Orange County, and talk travel and healthcare reform, before we realize we have something even bigger in common – our love for HGTV and do-it-yourself renovations. Oh, I think we’ll get along just fine.

We’ve got our first game drive today. We drive several hours through Kruger National Park to our campsite for the night. Since we’re in our overland truck, which I’ve decided looks more like a boat than anything, we have to stick to the paved roads. But we still see tons of impalas, zebras, elephants, a giraffe, and warthogs, which are adorable. 

Photo by Nellu

It’s funny to get so giddy and to see other equally grown adults get so giddy over wild animals.

Impalas everywhere! They call these guys the McDonald's of the bush. Photo by Nellu

Once in camp, we get a brief tent tutorial. These tents look pretty easy to set up. And even better, we have thick foam mats to sleep on. This camping for 21 of the 28 days thing is not going to be so bad.

Day 3

Another early morning but today we’re going on a real safari! Two smaller jeeps, just like the ones you imagine when you think safari, meet us at the campsite to take us back out into the wild of Kruger National Park.  We hope we’re early enough to catch some big cats on the prowl for breakfast.

It soon becomes clear that yesterday’s game drive was just a taste. In the smaller jeeps, we’re able to drive along dirt roads, getting up close to many of the animals. One of our first grand encounters, a male elephant coming right down the road.

Now, you’re allowed to drive around Kruger in your every day car from a mini to a sedan, as long as you pay the entrance fee at the gate. But it’s situations like that make me glad we’re in a big jeep, driven by trained professionals, unlike the group of people in a car small enough to be a Prius who backed up and quickly left the scene. We got to stick around and enjoy.

Elephants up close. Photo by Nellu

By lunch time, we had seen three of the big 5 – the big 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot (not that there would be any hunting going on): rhinos, buffaloes, and elephants.

Rhinos are being poached at an alarming rate just for their horns. We were able to see these two in the wild. More information to come. Photo by Nellu

We actually saw a big herd of elephants, complete with a few babies. And if you thought a car full of adults getting all giddy over animals was funny, you should see this car full of adults get all giddy over BABY animals. They’re everywhere in Kruger in January.

Photo by Nellu

As we ooh and aahh over the babies, I’m reminded of an idea that has started to germinate in my head over the last year – the importance of conservation. Seeing such amazing exotic animals out in the wild furthers a belief that we need to treasure these animals and protect them. Especially when it comes to animals like elephants and rhinos that are being poached at alarming rates for their tusks or horns, respectively. And even the not so endangered kind like zebras. Kruger National Park has zebras just hanging out everywhere the way New York City has rats and we need to make sure they’re here for generations to come.

Photo by Nellu - Check out more of his beautiful pics

After lunch, we take off and drive some more but it’s so hot out now you can see the herds of animals standing closely together in the shade offered by trees. It’s quite comical. But the likelihood of us seeing a big cat in this kind of sun steadily decreases. Our jeep starts joking around about an elaborate plot/marketing ploy for Kruger Park. We think what they really need to do is get a stuffed lion and stick it underneath a tree at a distance far enough away from the road where people won’t know the difference. It will of course have to be close enough so that all the tourists can snap their pictures and go home telling everyone that they saw a lion.

Some times you see the lion and sometimes you see a giraffe. Photo by Nellu

Oh and I almost forgot, there were no tents for us on Day 3. We were treated to simple bungalows with ensuite bathrooms! The staff at the guesthouse also performed traditional songs and dances for us. They chose participants from the audience and of course they chose Nellu. He just has that look in his eye that says, “I’m game.”

More to come…

~ Molly

Back in August, Nellu and I signed up to do an overland Africa adventure with G Adventures, formerly known as Gap Adventures (more on the name change later). We had planned to do some kind of safari while in Africa and after some complex and not so complex justifications, we signed ourselves up for a month-long trek. Our route from Johannesburg to Nairobi would take us through 6 countries in 28 days. (For more of our itinerary, click here.) It was certainly more than we would normally take on, on our own.  The fact that we’d need to do 21 days of camping… well, we needn’t worry ourselves with such details especially with a part of our trip that was more than 5 months away.

Johannesburg to Nairobi Adventure Map from G Adventures

When we arrived in Johannesburg on an overnight bus from Cape Town, we hadn’t fully wrapped our heads around what we were getting ourselves into. But one thing was for sure, the idea that for the next 28 consecutive days we knew where we’re going to sleep was filling me with a deep sense of joy. (To be honest, I didn’t know where were going to sleep. But I knew that someone knew and that’s all that mattered.)

If we could make it to the airport, our hotel the first night of the trip would pick us up from there. So Nellu did some extensive research via the intraweb and figured out a train we could take from Park Station in downtown Johannesburg to just outside the airport. We’d need to walk about 1.5km from the train station to the actually airport because it wasn’t South Africa’s fancy new airport Gautrain, but the regular old metro. The route was straightforward and it cost just a fraction of the Gautrain. As Nellu put it, “All the people who work at the airport, this is how they get to work everyday.”

We definitely got some looks on the metro, but that happens a lot. I assume it’s because we’re carrying massive military duffels on our back but who really knows. When we were finally in the van on the way to our hotel, our driver pointed to the very metro we had just gotten off and said, “See this train. Never take this train. This is the train where the robbers get robbed.” Good to know.

We made it safe and sound to the hotel, and from there on we were in the hands of G Adventures. But I was nervous, mostly about our stuff. We assumed that most of the people who do this type of trip don’t do it as a part of a longer 10 month round-the-world adventure. What if our bags didn’t fit on the truck? We had emailed back and forth with our G Adventures representative Amanda to make sure it would be all right. But you never know for sure until you know.

And then there was the issue of the people. There would be 20 other people joining us on this portion of the trip. What if the other members of our group didn’t like us? And more importantly, what if we didn’t like them? This was like the first day of school all over again.

To Be Continued…

~ Molly

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