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Casa do Sol, near Hazyview

SOUTH AFRICA | Sunday, 7 December 2014 | Views [288]

Posing with Tembo:  11 feet tall at the shoulder, and will grow another 2 feet

Posing with Tembo: 11 feet tall at the shoulder, and will grow another 2 feet

This morning, we left our luxurious accommodations at Casa do Sol for more touring of the Panorama Route and the Hazyview highlands area.


First stop was the historic gold mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest, a gold strike boom town starting in the 1870’s.  The town has been converted into a tourist area, with many of it’s original tin-sided buildings still standing.  And the atmosphere in the town is decidedly Victorian.


After more touring and trying to see through the mist through God’s Window down into Blyde River Canyon for the third unsuccessful day in a row, we had lunch and continued on to the Elephant Sanctuary.


This visit was a true delight.  The Elephant Sanctuary currently has five elephants rescued from various problem situations around southern Africa.  They have been trained to help with elephant awareness education, but are also free to roam a very large estate in an environment identical to their natural habitat.


We were told some fascinating facts about elephants, then one of the smaller males was laid on his side (eating snacks from a handler the entire time), while we tourists felt his tusks, ears, hide, and tail.  Then they called in Tembo, about twice the size of the other four elephants.  He is only 21 years old, but is already 11 feet at the shoulder, and weighs about six tons.  They expect him to grow another two feet before reaching full height.


We all got to pose with Tembo, then we went for an elephant ride.  Anita and I got to ride Tembo himself, as our elephant train walked for a loop for about 15 minutes.  We brought up the rear on Tembo, so were able to see the third elephant decide she wanted a bite to eat, left the track and headed for the tall grass.  All the others but Tembo decided to do the same, so for about three or four minutes there was total pachyderm mayhem with elephants scattering in several different directions through tall grasses and small trees, shoveling food into their mouths just as fast as they could while their brief freedom lasted.  The handlers all soon had everyone under control and back in line, and the ride ended without incident.


The evening was topped very nicely with drinks and T-bone steaks (yes, beef!) back at Casa do Sol.


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