Sunday, February 07, 2010

African Chronicles: Elephantman

The Baz Bus (and I have no idea what Baz means or stands for) drives from Capetown to Port Elizabeth every day, and another from PE to Durban, with buses running the other way as well. We'd initially planned on using the bus, but as previously discussed, had complications. But we finally got onto it on Wednesday and made the trip from Plett to PE. It was painful. Primarily because they played Bride Wars. But we made it through.

Hippo Backpackers was out home in PE, though we arrived late and left early both nights we stayed there. But our hostess was much nicer than her Plett counterpart, who threw away our muffins and tried to overcharge us. I may never forgive her for throwing away my muffins.

We had a special deal where we got to stay the night for free if we went on safari the next day, so we did so. I have no idea if there were better safaris or better deals or whatnot, because we were tired of scrutinizing such things. But I'm quite happy with the safari we had.

We drove up to Addo/Schotia and met our group. We had a lively Welsh couple, a stoic Danish couple, a young Londoner lass and a Brazilian journalist in our group. I think part of the backpacker lifestyle is buddying up with your fellows and making single serving friends, which I pretty much haven't been doing at all. It's my laziness you see. Why go through all the effort of making friends, when they'll be in another town the next day? But I decided that for today at least I'd make an exception and be friendly. It helped that the Londoner and Brazilian were cute and friendly.

The tour was actually 4 tours in one. First, an elephant tour. Therein we found elephants. Probably about 60 or so. There are 450 in the park, which seems like far more elephants than anyone could ever need. Even Hannibal. And the elephants were relatively fun. They're quite used to vehicles, so will come right up to the vehicle. But evidently they're addicted to oranges, so thankfully I didn't have any citrus on me. There were big elephants, baby elephants, medium elephants and warthogs, which aren't elephants at all. But actually are pretty fun to watch. Our driver was a bit obsessed with tortoises, and kept stopping to point them out. It was especially cruel when he pointed out “On your left is a leopard . . . tortoise.”

Our next tour was in Schotia, which is a private game reserve. Some would argue that the private reserve isn't the real experience, but I've never really known a government program to be superior to a capitalist one, so had no problem with it. Our tour guide wasn't terribly talkative and contradicted what we'd heard from other guides, so who knows who is right. The landscape wasn't as interesting as our previous reserve experience, but there were a ton of animals that popped up. Hippos, rhinos, lions, giraffes, mongeese, monkeys, all manner of deer (or antelope and springbuck and red hearts and whatever other names they want to give all these deerish animals.)

The lions in particular were quite impressive. I did think it amusing how easily impressed we all were. The lion got up! It's walking towards another lion! It's breathing! Yes, they looked cool, but they didn't actually do anything while we watched. Evidently they are voracious hunters, actually killing more on the reserve than they do in the wild. But that's at night, and only when you turn your back. Still, in was windy and the big male's manes flowing in the wind was pretty picturesque.

A benefit of the tour system was that we were able to return to areas we had already seen. The hippos were hiding underwater on our first trip, so we came back a couple hours later and now they were up out of the water. Lions in the bushes? The drivers will radio each other when someone stops by and they're finally out doing exciting things like liking their paws. It made for a lot of good picture opportunities.

That is, if I had a camera. The elephants did some kind of hex on my camera, so as soon as we left the elephant reserve my camera stopped working. They didn't want me to waste my time on lesser creatures. But it was kind of nice not having to deal with my camera. I got to just play with my binoculars and count rhino eyelashes. Hopefully Bryce and our Brazilian friend took enough good pictures to adequately prove that I was a foot from a rhino.

We had some rather good meals, as well as stopping for tea time. It felt quite sophisticated stopping our safari for tea, despite the fact that I could only drink orange juice.

We concluded the night with a night drive. We didn't see much other than wildebeest (the squirrel of Africa.) but the experience of zipping around in the dark with floodlights was fun.

Today is the longhaul from Port Elizabeth to Durban. Thus far it hasn't been much fun. The Baz Bus is supposed to be a party bus, but really it's just a means to an end. We did see some nice countryside, called Sanskei or something of the like. Maybe I'll talk more about it later if I figure out why it's significant. But for now it's just nice scenery as I listen to Toto, watch Always Sunny and read Slaughterhouse 5.


My South African phone gets unlimited incoming calls, so feel free to call me from 8 am-5 pm. 073 857 1978. I won't recognize your voice, so don't bother playing that game.

1 comment:

esodhiambo said...

Warthogs ARE very fun, especially if you watch them go up and down stairs. Sounds like a good safari.