Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. 14th - 16th October 2009
14.10.2009 - 16.10.2009 30 °C
Well it's been such a full on 'holiday' so far I've been very slack in posting to this blog, sorry! Will try and rectify this now before I head off backpacking and lose the easy use of a computer.
So, first stop South Africa! Incredible experience. Arrived early in the morning on Wednesday, so had a day looking around the Sandton area, a northern suburb of Johannesburg, before we left on our road trip the next day. Sandton seemed to be quite an affluent area, with huge shopping malls all connected by sky-walks.
I was a little surprised at the number of white South Africans around and it became apparent throughout the trip that there is still quite a high level of segrigation between the white and black population. It was fairly noticable that manual labour and service industry jobs seemed to only be done by black South Africans. The levels of security around were amazing, security guards everywhere and high walls/barbed wire/razor wire etc protecting buildings. Even a local preschool had security guards and gates at the entrance. We went a little way inside a gated community, a housing estate surrounded by 6' high walls topped with razor wire. Inside this each individual house also had a high wall with razor wire, and alarm system and often guard dogs.
The next morning we headed out of Jo'berg in our cute little hire car.
We accidently ended up driving through a shanty town area, which was only a couple of streets away from Sandton. It was really interesting to see, though for all the wrong reasons. Seems incredible that so many people are living in that situation, especially when we'd seen so much evidence of the amount of time/money/effort South Africa were putting in to the preperation for the Football World Cup they're hosting next year.
We headed north-east in the direction of Kruger National Park, but were planning on seeing some sights on our way there for a couple of days and entering the park from one of the more northern gates. We got to a town called Waterval Boven early afternoon, which is a climbing mecca in the area, so decided to go and sample the local climbs. We had a fun few climbs, including one in the dark by headtorch; and saw some local wildlife, including a gekko.
Back at the climbing centre, where we were staying that night, we ended up being invited to join in the climbing manager's birthday party along with other backpackers who were there - he had happy birthday sung to him in english, afrikaans, french and italian!
The next day we worked our way up along the Blyde River Canyon, which is the third largest canyon in the world. Driving along the 'Panorama' route we stopped off to see the sights in several areas along the way. Bridal Veil Falls, God's Window and Bourke's Luck Potholes, the last place being an amazing area of natural rock formations carved out where two rivers join.
Further up, at the top of the canyon, we reached our accomodation for the night, Trackers. We had a lovely mountain view chalet right in the middle of a game park with dinner and breakfast included.
We had dinner on the veranda of the main house, surrounded by frogs and lizards, looking out over the valley towards Kruger, while Dave the owner told us about the animals he had in his park - luckily no big preditors, but they did have snakes which had to be turfed out of the accomodation occasionally. He'd even lost one of his dogs to a python in the past!