Gone Away / Journeys

South Africa Adventure

Passing through Atlanta Hartsfield en route home

— I’m at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport in the boarding area for the flight back to Phoenix. After an exhausting flight from Johannesburg, at this point we’re roughly three-quarters of the way home. The formalities in Atlanta were tolerable. The low point, as usual, was the TSA checkpoint. For the second time this trip, it was Kathryn, not I, who lashed out verbally at a TSA “officer”. The CBP folks, on the other hand, were both professional and personable.
Maropeng Visitor Center, the Cradle of Humankind

Maropeng Visitor Center, the Cradle of Humankind

— Yesterday we ventured about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg to visit the Maropeng Visitor Center, part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site where some of the earliest human remains have been discovered. The visitor center tells the story of the evolution of human beings through interpretive and interactive displays, a short indoor boat ride, and a small museum of fossilized remains. I was fascinated by the natural history.

A trip to the barber shop in Johannesburg

— Yesterday was a relatively relaxing day here in Johannesburg. Around mid-morning Kathryn and I ventured out to get me a haircut and shave. I had gotten a haircut shortly before leaving for South Africa, but three weeks of normal hair growth, combined with a bit too much hair left in front, had left me unhappy with my appearance. On top of that, I had decided not to shave while at the Kruger, so I had a scruffy six-day beard that was going to be a challenge to shave myself.
The drive back to Johannesburg from Kruger National Park

The drive back to Johannesburg from Kruger National Park

— Yesterday we made the drive back to Johannesburg from the Lower Sabie camp in Kruger National Park. We had entered the park at Orpen Gate but left via Crocodile Gate, near the southern end of the park, not far from the border of Mozambique. It took us nearly an hour to get out of the camp in steady rain, during which we sighted several lions and hyenas, among the many creatures that had come to drink from the puddles formed in the pavement.

Avoiding a baboon in Kruger National Park

— It’s Monday morning in Kruger National Park, our last morning here. In a couple hours we’ll be on the road back to Johannesburg, although we’ll be going by a different route. I’m drinking my morning coffee with my back to the wall because I’ve already seen a baboon roaming around. There are workers whose job is to control aggressive monkeys and baboons with slingshots — I’m not joking — but their shift may not have started yet.
Light rain and morning coffee in Kruger National Park

Light rain and morning coffee in Kruger National Park

— It’s Sunday morning here in Kruger National Park, and I’m enjoying my coffee to the sound and smell of a light rain. Bats seem to like the thatch roofs of our current chalettes, so the other smell is bat excrement. I’m slowly getting used to it. We knew it was going to be hard to top the previous three days when we set out on our drive yesterday, but not ten minutes from the camp we spotted two hyenas feasting on a fresh zebra while a flock of vultures impatiently waited their turn.
Each new day surpasses the last in Kruger National Park

Each new day surpasses the last in Kruger National Park

— This is our third day in Kruger National Park, and somehow each new day surpasses the last. Today we traveled from Satara to a camp further south, about a seven-hour drive including breaks and wildlife stops. The weather was considerably cooler than the last three days, and with overcast skies we could mostly forego the air conditioning in favor of open windows. This allowed us to enjoy not only the sights but also the sounds and smells of the Kruger.
Arrived at our camp in Kruger National Park

Arrived at our camp in Kruger National Park

— After about nine hours of driving, we’ve arrived at our camp in Kruger National Park. Since entering the park, we’ve already sighted impalas, zebras, kudu, wildebeests, baboons, giraffes, and elephants, among others. However, the most exciting sighting was a lone male leopard, which we spotted only ten minutes after entering the park, resting in the shade of a large tree. Apparently it’s somewhat rare to see them. It’s hot here, about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but not as humid as I expected.

Arrived in Johannesburg

— We’re safely on the ground in Johannesburg, in the departure area for our onward flight to Cape Town. The flight was long. We left Atlanta an hour late, and I’m convinced three-quarters of our fellow passengers had never been on an airplane before. The “fasten seat belt” sign was on for nearly half the fifteen-hour flight, and I had a middle seat. The formalities were straightforward. Passport control, baggage claim, and inspection, just like pretty much everywhere we’ve traveled.