checked into the condo and dropped off our luggage. drove to a nearby restaurant called salt to have dinner and meet our tour guide, ann du toit and her husband frans, of on track touring. they turned out to be a very pleasant couple with a great deal of experience leading safaris and tours in south africa. daddy law had been communicating with ann to plan the details of our itinerary. we had a hearty and very tasty meal at salt and went to bed almost uncomfortably satisfied. (photo documentation of meals to follow of course…)
upon inquiring if ann and her husband knew of any english-speaking church services, we found out that they attended a church not far from the condo and accepted the invitation to join them.
after church, ann took us on a scenic tour on the panorama route, which brought us to the blyde river canyon and the bourke’s luck potholes.
woke up before the ass crack of dawn to hit up kruger park in an open air vehicle (which meant we were being whipped around by biting wind.) that also meant we could see tons of wildlife from up high though =D we saw giraffes, zebras, impala, hyena, kudu (a type of deer-like antelope, which my dad made the mistake of calling reindeer…nearly gave ann a heart attack), buffalo, wildebeast, rhinos, warthogs, cute long-eared rabbits, monkeys, babboons, and elephants (my favorite!) aside from the fact that they’re super cute and i used to watch the beta tape version of dumbo 5 times a day as a child, elephants are very relational and sensitive. females remain in tight-knit family group their entire lives. since they have no predators and they themselves are vegetarian, elephants have no enemies. did i mention they eat 18 hours a day?
after a full morning and afternoon of exploring, we took a break and proceeded to go on a sunset/evening safari to try and catch a glimpse of the evening hunters, like lions! we saw 4 male lions walking along the path and slowly drove alongside them as they strolled. it was un. real.
got up before the crack of dawn again to go on a morning hike with armed park rangers (juuust in case any animals snuck up on us. any experienced ranger should be able to maintain a safe distance from the animals though.) apparently you can tell a lot about which animals inhabit/pass through an area by the poo they leave behind. different sizes, colors, textures, consistencies, etc. will tell you if it’s a rhino, hyena, leopard, etc. that morning, we saw rhino in the distance and even saw two kudu fighting each other. we discovered them when we kept hearing a scratching noise, which happened to be their antlers scraping each other. again, very cool.
continued the day with some more safari-ing (in a van this time, the open air jeep was far too cold.) and we saw HIPPOS! i always imagine the fantasia hippos in pink tutus, even though they’re known to be aggressive and dangerous animals. they typically spend their time wading in shallow water but come out occasionally to sunbathe. they can’t stay out too long because they get sunburned very easily (=
spent 14 hours sleeping and trying to recover from the cold i caught. managed to drag myself out of bed and did some souvenir shopping and went out for dinner again.
packed up drove back to johannesburg to catch the flight back to paris. didn’t sleep well on the 10 hour flight. did manage to watch a few movies, including part of coco avant (before) chanel, which i found pretty fascinating since i knew very little about her story. note to self: netflix and finish at home.
i must say, though, that traveling with other people is not nearly as efficient as traveling alone. and traveling with family is often frustrating. especially when we’re clearing out the fridge and there are bottles of water, soda, and wine in our carry-on luggage that we mean to chug before going through security.
however, we did get to cut a few lines since we got my grandma a wheelchair (didn’t want to rush the poor g-ma around the airport in a frenzy.) she walks perfectly fine and keeps up with us really well though – i can only hope to be as healthy as she is in5 years, not to mention 50…
landed in paris and checked into our hotel at la defense. walked around the louvre + jardin des tuilderies and the notre dame cathedral. i can’t get over how gorgeous the city is. the architecture is beautiful. the people are beautiful AND extremely well-dressed. sigh.