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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Back to Morely House for Renovations and Rhinos

SOUTH AFRICA | Saturday, 21 February 2015 | Views [351]

Getting from Uganda to South Africa proved to be the easy, quick part of the trip.  However, once I landed in Johannesburg things started to get frustrating.  I had plenty of time to collect my bag, get through immigration and make my way to the Domestic Departures hall.  Little did I know I had even more time than I thought – on looking at the departures board virtually every domestic departure had DELAYED next to it.  Mine was no exception.


In fact I was too early to check in so was told to go back in an hour’s time.  Now that was fine but there was nowhere to sit so I had to perch on a metal bar at the bottom of a post!  The hour gradually clicked by and I went to try again – this time the disgruntled check-in person whinged about my bag being 2kg over weight.  Steve has snuck his through but they weren’t feeling kindly disposed on this day of delays.  So I queued up at yet another desk to pay the excess baggage – very cheap and worth it.  Nearly everyone else in the queue were significantly more miffed than me as for many the delayed flights had meant they’d missed connections.  At least I was on the last leg by this point.


So I trundled back to the check-in desk and third time lucky got checked in and was issued with the all-important boarding card.  With very little in the way of shops to keep me entertained I decided to go and find somewhere to sit near the allocated gate.  The trouble was once I got through the next bank of security checks the board was saying a different departure gate from that on my boarding card.  I eventually tracked down an information desk and duly found a seat elsewhere.  Periodically I took my nose out of my book to see if there was any further information on the delayed flight but no!  In fact every single flight being announced was in the delayed category and I’ve never been in an airport with so many disgruntled people before.


Even the pilot had been hanging around since 11am wondering when the plane would arrive for him to be able to fly it.  We were eventually told the plane had landed so all queued up to board – we were in that queue for 2 hours with no information being relayed.  By the time I touched down in Port Elizabeth it was dark and I’d hope to see our house in the daylight.  Fortunately the 2 hour drive to Bathurst was smooth and hassle free – a quick brew and I crawled off to bed.  Hardly slept a wink as I was too excited to see what they’d all been up to and wanted to hear Glenne and Brian’s thoughts on the place.


Besides which it was Steve’s birthday and we had a day trip planned but there was time for Steve to show me the inroads they’d made and what was next on the agenda.  Following a leisurely breakfast of bacon butties on the cottage’s terrace and lots of natter is was time to jump in the car and head off.  We had to drive down to Kenton-on-sea to start the trip so went early enough for a brew and a potter around.  Kenton’s a lovely little seaside town and a smashing place to start a day trip to a private game park.  To get to Sibuya Nature Reserve we boarded a very comfortable little boat and headed up the river.  About an hour later we were docking at Sibuya and wandered into their Reception / Bar / Restaurant area for a slap up lunch including drinks of your choice.


We did the buffet spread justice and felt like a lie down would be good but no, it was time to go on a 3-hour game drive.  Again the vehicle was very comfortable and there were only 6 of us so we all got a ‘window’ seat.  Our driver/ranger told us that we wouldn’t see elephants as they’d crossed over the river and we wouldn’t be entering that part.  Still we were hopefully of plenty of other interesting beasties and the park certainly didn’t disappoint.  Plenty of impala were dotted around the place along with other antelope such as nyala, eland, blesbok and wilderbeest.  Plus we found a big group of giraffes and enjoyed watching them for some time.  Zebras were hanging around and lots of raptors were perched in trees or circling on thermals.


We’d hoped we might see a rhino or two and there they were – the first time Glenne and Brian had seen these magnificent beasts in the wild.  They were white rhino so not shy and skittish like the black rhino and let us watch them for quite some time.  In fact we got very close to one as it was basically plodding along the edge of the jeep track.  As we rounded a corner we entered a grassy area where there were quite a number of animals of various species speckling the grass.  To our amazement there were another 8 rhino there too – it’s the first time Steve and I have ever seen a field full of rhino.  One group of 3 included a mother with her more mature calf and a youngster born just a few months ago.


Following a gentle float back down the river we jumped back in the car and headed back to Morley House to pop open a bottle of fizz and celebrate the rest of Steve’s birthday in style.  It was a wonderful day out and although quite expensive compared with many activities in South Africa I think those of you used to British prices would find it good value.  For the return boat ride, 3-hour game drive and slap up lunch including your favourite tipple or two worked out at around 60 quid a head.  Put it this way, Mum has already said she’d be very interested in doing it should we feel we could put up with a repeat visit!!


Sunday saw us having another stroll around looking at what I could get stuck into during my short stay and another of those lovely alfresco breakfasts.  Then we decided to wander around the village to take in the farmer’s market and shown G&B what we’d spotted that we thought would be ideal for the tea rooms.  The craft shops have some great stuff in them and the prices for bespoke items just doesn’t compare with what chain stores have to offer.  They loved so many of the items that they wished they could get some things home for themselves!!  

Farmer’s markets that we’ve been to in Australia and New Zealand tend to sell their produce at prices way above those in the supermarket.  Not in Bathurst and we’ll definitely be sourcing as much of our produce locally as possible. 

With having basically had brunch we decided we’d go out for tea and I couldn’t resist insisting that we go to the Pig ‘n’ Whistle.  Their food has definitely improved since I was last in and their Sunday specials proved to be big hits all round.  Little did we know that later in the week The Pig would be the only place open so I still haven’t tried Pikwiks or Lara’s for a meal.  Oh well, Steve and I will have to go and check them out when I’m back down in April.


By Monday we declared Steve’s birthday weekend well and truly over and it was time to put in some hard graft doing work on Morley House. By Thursday it was time to give the old folk (not to mention us!) as day off so we set off early bound for Addo Elephant National Park.  As you enter the southern gate the track goes through dense bush and it’s rare you see many animals in this section.  However, as you drive deeper into the park the grassy hills emerge and all manner of four-footed friends can be spied.  Warthogs were a new spot for G&B on this trip and of course there were plenty of antelope and zebra around too.  We’d been in the park quite some time before the first elephant was spotted and in fact for the next hour we only saw one more lonely heffalump.  Steve and I were beginning to worry that for the first time ever Addo wasn’t going to live up to its billing.  

Still we were all enjoying being in the park seeing animals and birds at regular intervals and generally enjoying the scenery.  The tortoises were out in number and we must have spotted up to a dozen of varying sizes before the day was done.  The highlight was two very small leopard tortoises having a ding-dong battle in the middle of the road.  Their ploy seemed to be to get their own shell under the opponents in order to lever the unfortunate one onto its back.  The bigger one succeeded several times but the little fella simply righted himself and launched himself into another battle.  This continued for a good 15 mins and even a park ranger stopped to photograph and video the event.  Not only did it cause a traffic jam but all those that were lucky enough to be there were delighted to observe a ‘new’ wildlife experience.  When we could finally drive down the track again we all stopped to natter about what we’d seen.  As one fellow safari goer put it; “I’ve seen lions, rhinos and all the rest but never anything as spectacular as that!”


We were just reflecting on how the small creatures can be just as entertaining and rewarding to see when a group of elephants were spotted.  Then another and another so that by the end of the day we’d easily seen 200 – 250 elephants.  I think we’ve told you before that yes vehicles gather around sightings of big herds of elephants but you don’t get the enormous jeep jams like in the more famous game parks.  What we loved the most was just sitting watching the behaviour of these massive yet placid creatures especially the way they nurture the very young ones.  Some of the slightly older ones wanted to linger at the watering hole but the matriarch passed on her instructions.  Then the more mature aunts and uncles were expected to gently but firmly nudge the young ones in the direction the matriarch now wanted the herd to head.


As much as we could have happily sat watching them for longer time was getting on and tummies were starting to rumble so we headed to the park’s headquarters.  Here Brian kindly treated us all to yet another slap up lunch in the parks’ excellent restaurant.  While we were tucking in we spied some elephants heading towards the nearby watering hole.  We’d seen kudu and other antelope there before but hadn’t realised the pachyderms were happy to approach the most humanised area of the park.


Friday saw us doing more work on the house and then suddenly it was time for me to return to Port Elizabeth and get my head around flying back to Uganda.  Steve and I drove down and went back to the Brazen Head sports pub that we’d found on our previous visit.  The food was as good as ever so we watched some footy, tucked into a final over indulgent meal washed down with a couple of pints and retired to the guesthouse.  The next morning Steve dropped me at the airport and many long tedious hours later I was back in our lifeless student flat.  I’m not thrilled at being back but the light at the end of the tunnel gets bigger by the day.  



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