ANIMALS, LOTS OF ANIMALS
We’ve been trying to do a motorcycle trip into Africa since before COVID began. Our concept started out manly (let’s ship NVII to South Africa and just wander the continent) to less manly (let’s do a month guided m/c tour in seven countries) to full wimp (12-day guided m/c tour in three countries bookended by visits to two safari lodges). It’s pure coincidence that the concept softened as we’ve gotten older. But hey, we’re here!
I’ve broken this trip into five parts:
- Preparation: This trip required more than our usual amount of preparation (focusing on a trip the day the day before) because it was far away, there was a bunch of medical stuff we needed to get done, and we were living in Mexico and all of our m/c stuff was in New Mexico. Most of the tough stuff revolved around medical prep: COVID tests, getting four months’ worth of medications for FW/KR, travel/medical/bike insurance, etc. Two weeks before shoving off we made a blitzkrieg run to New Mexico and back, getting all of m/c stuff and making sure Laguna had made it through the winter (it had)
- Getting to/from: We booked the flights (seven legs) five months in advance and, if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to go. We used miles and tried to get as upfront as possible. Its taken four flights and 53 hours to get to Johannesburg.
- The Black Rhino Safari Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park: Who comes to Africa without going on a safari? We will have spent four days driving around the African countryside looking for animals. This is what Part 1 covers.
- The M/C Tour. The reason we’re here in the first place. We used SAMA Motorcycle Tours and they’ve taken care of everything since we stepped off the plane. People here at the Lodge keep asking us where we’re going on our tour and we say…we don’t really know: )
- The Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park: Can a guy get too many safaris in one trip? We’re about to find out.
My idea of what to expect of Africa came from watching Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep:). Perfect casting for an FW/KR documentary, don’t you think? Surprise Surprise! Our visit to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Pilanesberg is nothing like Out of Africa.
So far, South Africa is pretty much like any other place we’ve visited. Big, modern cities, four lane highways, small towns and houses scattered along the side of back roads with all your normal conveniences, including a KFC and Mug & Bean roadside shops. Poor people here, just like Mexico or most other countries we’ve visited, live in run-down houses/shacks that would be at home anywhere except for the materials they’re built from.
Everything pretty much changes once you enter the Black Rhino private park, a 55,000 square mile nature preserve. Dirt roads of various widths go off in every direction to the 35 lodges in the Black Rhino concession. Our lodge is the main one and is comprised of a main building with 25+ individual cabins scattered in the bush. We’re in cabin #25 and are issued a flashlight for getting to/from our cabin. I wonder if they’re ever lost any guests at night…
Twice a day, before god gets up and when he’s about to have an afternoon cocktail, we pile into a Safari Mobile and drive down said miles and miles of dirt roads on what is called a “Game Drive.” All looks normal as African brush is pretty much like most brush we’ve been in. Then, our guide slams on the breaks and right there – I mean right there! — is a White Rhino. Five more minutes and there are a couple of hippos chilling in a water hole. Wait! Look over there! A gaggle of giraffes are strutting by. After a couple of hours of doing this, it dawns on me that driving around and casually seeing all the animals that one sees in the movies/books feels normal here. And that’s what starts to sink in…this place is very different.
Surprisingly, a few people actually live out here. All of these houses, indeed all human structures, are surrounded by 8-foot-high electrified fences. No one walks down these roads, in fact no one gets out of their vehicles for fear of becoming some beast’s lunch. When we stop during our game drive to have a glass of wine or cup of coffee, we stop in a fenced in area complete with bomb-shelter like watering hole viewing bunkers. The maintenance man that greets us ventures only a few feet outside the fence… (this reminds me of a hotel in Glacier National Park that Sam/Cindy and us rode our motorcycles to. We were in this wonderful hotel in the woods, and one of the staff casually said, “Yah, we lose a bookkeeper every winter…” I bet they lose some park maintenance guys here too: ).
Typically, less than twelve hours into a four day excursion, KR asks, “Do we have to stay here the whole time?” Two things color her question: It’s cold in the Safari Mobile. Greeting the sun happily as it rises or sets is difficult to experience with one’s teeth chattering. KR does not do well in cold. We look at animals and admire their fur coats: ) Second, beyond looking for/at animals and our two meals a day, there is absolutely nothing to do here. There’s even no wifi in our cabin. This is OK with me as I have plenty to do on the keyboards. Not so for KR. My prediction is that we don’t make it through two days: ))