Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to Pilanesburg 10/27

It's Monday night. The kids are in bed, Darin and my dad are getting ready to head over to TYB to go on-line and talk to Mark about some stuff for MC, my mom is resting on the couch, and I'm writing this post. We got back from the Pilanesburg area around 4:30. We had a wonderful time and saw so many awesome things.

We left our house around 7:30 Sunday morning. Our first stop was the Hartbeespoort Dam, which everyone except yours truly enjoyed. I am not a huge fan of heights or water, so being way up high looking down on water is not my idea of a good time. Having my kids way up high looking at water is enough to make me sick. Seriously, my stomach hurts just thinking about it. We all made it safely back to our vehicle and headed off to our next stop, but before I get to that, I want to report that we are so happy to NOT have the POS van that we took to Pilanesburg with Jason, Liz and Robin. We lucked out and got an SUV for not very much more money thanks to the workings of one of the volunteers across from TYB. We can actually fit a couple suitcases behind the back seat, so we are super excited for that. I'll call it a van anyways, because that's what I'm used to) Getting back to our trip, after the dam, we went to the Elephant Sanctuary. I was totally stoked to go walking with the elephants, but it was not to be. We found out that the elephant walking was part of a two hour program that included feeding, brushing, walking and other elephant activities. We did not have two hours to spare, so we did not get to walk the elephants. Maybe next time : )

We kept heading towards Pilanesburg and I think we entered the gates around 10. It was a beautiful day and we were ready to see some animals. There is no way I will be able to remember all of the things we saw or in what order, so I'm just going to put it all out there. We saw so many rhino. They were everywhere. We also saw a lot of elephants, but not up close like we did back in September. There were impala, wildebeest, warthog, waterbok, red hartebeest, and lots of zebra. We saw a little fox-like creature twice, almost hit several guinea hens, and saw a few groups of giraffe eating leaves that were way up high. We stopped and ate lunch in the park and let the kids stretch their legs for a while. We saw warthog, more guinea hens, and even a rhino while we were having lunch.

Soon after we left the lunch area, we saw a few cars stopped on a rode straight across from us. So we turned around and headed over to see what they were looking at. When we got there, we could see the driver of one van pointing something out to a driver a few cars ahead of us, then he spoke to the next car and the next. Finally, it was our turn. What was so interesting that this guy was staying put to pass it on to so many other people? Do you want to know? Really? Ok, I'll tell you. Right at the base of the hill, under a curved tree branch, there were some lions eating a zebra. I KNOW!! Of course, I couldn't see a thing at first. It turns out I was looking under the wrong curved tree branch. Even when I knew where to look, it was still hard to see. Then one lion stood up, looked over our direction with blood all around her mouth, walked a little ways away, and then plopped down in the tall grass. Another lion soon took her place. You could see the zebra's leg flopping back and forth as the lion tore at the meat. Darin even took a video and you can see the zebra being eaten! It's pretty amazing. Our kids had no clue what was going on, and they really couldn't see much of anything. Tyson did ask if the zebra needed a bandaid, so Darin filled him in on the whole circle of life, or whatever you want to call it. Sad for the zebra, but pretty awesome for us to see.

After seeing the lions, we could relax our eyes for a while. Up until that point, we had all been straining so we wouldn't miss any lions that might have been hiding out. We saw more rhino and elephants and hippos, and a whole lot of other game. Our kids were getting pretty restless, so we started making our way to our game lodge, Bakgatla, which was actually in the game reserve. We got there around 4:45 and as soon as we brought our bags in to our chalet, we put on our swim suits and headed to the pool. Tyson and Jori had so much fun. I don't know how many times Tyson had asked “Now can we go swimming”, while we were driving. I think he even asked when we were watching the lion eat the zebra, so he was obviously excited about going swimming. The water was not very warm, but that didn't stop them from having a great time. There was a kiddie pool, and it was shallow enough for Jori to sit in, and if she kept her head tipped back a little bit, she even kept her mouth out of the water. She thought it was hilarious, and we all did too. Just a little head poking out of the water.

We let the kids swim for about an hour, then went back to our chalet to get ready for dinner, which started being served at 6:30. This is usually when our kids go to bed, and neither of them had taken a nap, so they were pretty wound up. Thankfully, the dining room was really empty, and there were a few other kids who were also running around, so they didn't create too much chaos. Dinner took a long time to be served, and when it did come, our order wasn't quite right, but we ate, had drinks and dessert, and then headed back to put the kids to bed. Once they were sleeping, the adults started playing Up and Down the River, a card game. Our intention is to play every night and keep a running total of points. We haven't decided on what the winner will get, but I'm sure we'll come up with something.

After a very good nights sleep, we woke up this morning and headed straight into the game reserve when the gates opened at 6. The animals tend to be most active early in the morning and at dusk, so we wanted to maximize our opportunities for spotting game. We saw warthog and impala right away. We saw a few rhino too. We were trying to decide what road to turn down, when two game drive vehicles came past us. We decided to follow them to where ever they were going, because the drivers often radio each other if they see something exciting. We turned on a dirt road and could see cars and game trucks all lined up on the side of the road. We made our way over and were told by one of the guides that there were at least 5 lions in the area. We had to wait for some of the traffic to clear up, and then we saw them. Two lions, a male and a female, were laying under some trees. The area must have burned recently, because there were only bare branches and hardly any tall grass. That made it so much easier to see the lions. One of them stood up, but only for a moment. We backed our van up a bit and we could see where a few more lions were laying under a bush. You could see them move around a bit, but otherwise they looked like rocks from our vantage point. After taking some pictures, we drove ahead a little bit where a few other vehicles were stopped. Right in plain sight was a huge male, just lounging in the burnt field. His back was to us the whole time, but you could see him perfectly. We took more pictures, waited in vain for him to get up, then finally drove off.

We decided to head back to Bakgatla to have some breakfast and get ready to go. We all ate together, then my mom and dad took the kids to the pool (Tyson had put his suit on before we headed out at 6!) so Darin and I could go back to the chalet, get ready, and pack up the van so we could be ready for the 10 a.m check out. We got everything finished, turned in our key, then went to watch the kids swim for a bit. They were laughing and splashing and having a great time. We let them swim for a little bit more, but then they had to get out so we could go see more animals and also because the sun was shining pretty brightly and they didn't have sunscreen on (bad mom, I know. Jori had major tan lines just from being out for less than an hour this morning!). We headed out around 10:30, and started making our way to the gate we had come in through the day before. We knew our kids wouldn't be able to last for too long in the van, and we had already seen so many wonderful things. We did see some rhino right next to the road. There was a mom and baby on our left side and two other rhino on our right. We also saw some kind of bok that was only a few days old. It was so small and cute. It was chasing a guinea hen around, which its mother did not approve of. We saw more hippo just before we left around noon. Jori had fallen asleep, so we decide to give Tyson some fruit snacks to keep him happy, and drive on to Chameleon Village for lunch.

We made it to Chameleon Village around 1. The kids were both awake and crabby. Thankfully, they could run around outside while we waited for our food. After eating, it was time to shop. I had a list of things I wanted to get, but kept getting side tracked by the vendors telling me that I must come see their shop next. I wish I had taken a picture of the place. It's like a giant indoor flea market, with all little booths. So many of the people are working together, so if you are looking at something in one shop, but don't like the color or the size, they just run over to their partners shop and bring you what you are looking for. I let Darin do all the haggling once I had picked out what I wanted. Papa and Grandma bought the kids each a little something, which they were just thrilled with. At lunch, Tyson had whispered to both Darin and me that he wanted a crocodile, which was an odd request because he has never talked about crocodiles and we didn't see any at Pilanesburg this time, but whatever. So Tyson is the proud owner of a wooden crocodile, and Jori has a new dolly, with a baby on its back. We were at Chameleon Village for a couple hours, then we packed up and started for home. Tyson fell asleep, Jori played with her new doll, and after a quick stop to pick up some milk, we made it back home in time to see Amos before he was picked up by Mark.

Now it is just after 8. The guys are still gone, my mom is in her room reading. I can't believe how much I've written. I also can't believe that tomorrow is our last day here at our Africa house! I started packing a bunch of stuff tonight because I know that there are so many things I'll want to do tomorrow. We are hoping to leave pretty early on Wednesday morning so we can get to our first B&B early enough to look around a little bit and enjoy some of the fun things they have on site. We're staying at another Forever Resorts (like at Bela-Bela), so there should be plenty to do. I'm sure Darin will find plenty of internet cafes to stop at on our Cape Town trip, so you'll be hearing from me!


Lia Leenstra said...

So awesome! I know just the feelings you are going through in the excitement for the rest of your trip - and yet the sadness of saying goodbye! I know you and your family will always treasure what you experienced in SA. I REALLY MISS IT! We experienced a lot and now I think I am going through the sad period of being gone from all of it! I Can not wait to hear about your trip to Cape Town! HAVE FUN!! ENJOY!! We will be praying for you! Say hi to the Baboons and Penguins for us! Alex and Maddie say hi too! (they were looking on the blog with me and telling me how they remembered all of the fun in SA)

Sarah said...

Sounds like you had a great trip to Pilanesberg. So exciting. Do you remember when we saw the two male lions walking down the road towards us and Robin was afraid they'd jump in the car? Poor Matt was in the other car with screaming baby Kaden. And pretending to be campers and swimming and showering at the lodge. Oh and trying to entertain Kaden on the way back to Pilanesberg. I'd go back in a second.

Anonymous said...

It's great to catch up with ya'll again here today. You've had some life-altering experiences. They will stay with you forever, and make you and the world better for it.

Enjoy time with your parents there. And make the most of each day you still have there!!

Rose for the fam