Arriving into Johannesburg, South Africa

posted Dec 11, 2010, 9:21 PM by Darren Cannell   [ updated Dec 15, 2010, 11:04 PM ]
The flights from Cyprus to Cairo, Cairo to Johannesburg were both uneventful and I like that.  We arrived in Joburg and collected our luggage and waited for Chelsea my niece and her new husband Dan to arrive on the flight from New York.  Their flight was ½ hour early so bonus.  We found a Vodophone dealership and bought a Sim Data card for Darren and found an ATM machine to get some South African Rand out. Thank goodness we did because there were toll roads that only took SA credit cards.  Our GPS was not finding the satellite so we were driving blind really; the map that the AVIS girl gave us had a big AVIS advert on the part of the map that we needed.  We also had a very non-descriptive route to follow that RCI provided with my Kruger Park Lodge confirmations print out.  Signage is not great in SA.  Needless to say we got lost. We took the incorrect route right from the airport and ended up in Pretoria, it was a pretty city with lots of mansions.  What was really interesting is that you are driving in nowhere land in hilly areas up and down and then all of a sudden (BAM) in your face city sky scrapers that was cool to see.  We stopped at a gas station and they had zero maps to purchase.  So we went into survival mode and instinct and found the correct direction and headed towards Kruger.  Imagine, the biggest Game Reserve in the world and not a fricken sign to be had.  Dan and Chelsea were supposed to be following us wand we had no idea where they were.  It turns out that they rented a GPS and it would not pull up Kruger or Hazyview either?  Anyway we lost about 1 ½ hours to driving blind but we did see Pretoria and ‘Highjack Hotspot’ signs along the road and beautiful scenery.

I was not sure what to expect of South Africa, but this was not it.  I was not prepared for how beautiful it is.  In December it is more of a rain forest look than savannah, especially in the Hazyview area where we are located.  The drive was stupendous!  Pretty rolling green hills dotted with trees that gave way to beautiful rock canyons and then rising to mountain vistas.  Tall unusual looking trees that were a source of timber and logging and then in the higher altitudes there were tall pines by Hazyview.  There were hitchhikers along all the roads and highways and women carrying umbrellas to ward off the hot sun.  People were everywhere waiting for buses.  We drove through the stereotypical townships or shanty towns  with thatched roofs and there were modern high-rise cities to look at.

The highway in areas is pink due to the dark red soil that is everywhere and the asphalt is obviously mixed with it.  The speed limit is 120 kms. and in my opinion is way too fast for the curvy hilly roads.  ‘High Accident Zone’ signs are everywhere.  Mario Andretti (Darren) was enjoying himself though.  Agricultural lands are everywhere, unidentifiable plants and orchards gave way to banana plantations closer to Hazyview.  Tiny lakes and mountain streams along the way dipping down into valleys is maybe due to the rainier season?  Cows were grazing everywhere; you would think that beef would be cheaper??  ‘Hippo Crossing’ sings are something to see.  I am use to ‘deer crossing’ signs. 
Once we passed the rock canyon there was a sign that we were driving down for 20 kms (and we did and my ears popped all along the way).

We finally arrived to Kruger Park Lodge and by no help of the SA road sings.  We checked in to our thatched roof chalet and decided to go and get groceries right away.  We could not help but notice the 30-40 deer like creatures grazing on the lawn or the electrified fenced surrounding the perimeter of this very large property.  After all who wants a lion carrying away your child, so the fence looked good to me.  There was a ‘Hippo Hide’ to search out later.



Groceries in the fridge and we headed to the Hippo Hide area, which is on site and a place to be quiet and watch the hippos frolic in the Sabie river or what looks more like a pond.  You watch for circles in the water and that means that bubbles are coming to the surface.  We saw them right away and we spotted a baby hippo on her mom’s back, she was about 2 feet long.  We saw them breach the water and yawn and oh my God that is a big mouth, but look who’s talking?  Ha ha.  They are huge animals.  One got out of the water and backed up into the bush, not sure if they saw a crocodile or not but it looked strange.   There must have been 20 or so, because they kept us busy for about 15 minutes watching.  Dan and Chelsea finally arrived and found us down there and we exchanged stories of who got lost the most.  On top of that someone tried to steal Chelsea’s debit card and you could tell that with the combo of getting lost in SA and the debit card situation she was a bit shattered.  They had really bad jet lag and were totally exhausted from the very long drive and all of their flights so we fed them supper and they went off to bed.  I was not far behind suffering from an overnight flight from Cairo with only about 3 hours of sleep under my belt.  At least there was no time change from Cyprus to South Africa, so we did not have to deal with that like Chelsea and Dan did.

So far what we have seen and experienced – South Africa is really something so far, I can’t wait for tomorrow and eventually going to Kruger National Park.