Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Journey to Kruger Park

Just got back from a two-week trip to South Africa. I'd hoped to be able to find internet connections while we were away, but they were few and far between (and very expensive). I'll try and keep the blog entries chronological, however, so that it's possible to pretend I'm still there rather than being stuck at home working! Here goes...

Saturday 25th July 2009

Set off from Harston on July 25th, arriving at Heathrow with lots of time to spare. We managed to get rid of our check-in baggage, but the security staff wouldn't let us through until a couple of hours before the flight. As a result we had no choice (according to Izzi) but to let her indulge in a Krispie Kreme Donut (sic). I wandered around taking a few pictures in terminal 3, after checking with the information desk that I wouldn't be arrested and deported as a potential terrorist for doing so!

Sunday 26th July 2009

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Johannesburg early the following morning. After going through immigration (and having our temperatures checked by a thermal imaging camera in case we had swine flu) we collected our bags and checked into our connecting flight to Kruger Mpumalanga (a small airport close to Nelspruit). Plenty of time for breakfast at a rather nice coffee shop.

It turned out we had more time than we thought, as the aeroplane wouldn't start - literally! Three of the four engines started just fine, but the fourth refused to budge. Cue an annoucement over the intercom: we can't start the fourth engine, so we're going to switch everything off for a while to see if this fixes it. We all had visions of the pilot typing CTRL-ALT-DEL and hoping for the best! After a couple of futile attempts to start engine number four, we all got back on the bus and waited for "an engineer to fix it". We all froze in the departure area (the air conditioning was fully on, and all the employees were wearing fleeces and gloves) waiting for news. Below is a picture of the departure board we all stared at for three and a half hours...

...during which time I wandered around - to warm up, if nothing else. I was amused by the following poster in the lavatories. It took me a while to realise that it wasn't our old friend, the "say it with flowers" company!

In the end a new plane was put at our disposal, and we all traipsed back out onto the tarmac in order to thaw out. 40 minutes later we had landed at Nelspruit, and we were very soon loading our luggage into a Nissan X-Trail before setting off and getting lost in White River!

Being very late, we drove hell-for-leather to the closest Kruger Park gate (Numbi). There we were told that we would need to go to the Kruger gate, where we would be escorted (in the dark) to Skukuza camp, and charged a R200 fine into the bargain. We weren't the only latecomers, however, as can be seen from the picture below. If there was sound too, it would be possible to hear an elephant chomping its way through some trees less than a hundred yards away!

So, 30 hours after we left Cambridge, we arrived at our destination. Rather unexpectedly (for me at any rate) it was really cold, and we shivered in the restaurant while tucking into something which was rather loosely called "venison". Probably Kudu, Impala, Nyala, Water Buck etc.