Nov 3, 4 Addo Elephant Park
We stopped on the way out of JeffreyBay for some birding and then meandered slowly north and east, by-passing Port Elizabeth. Addo was not far and so we could take it easy and still get into the park by noon. Addo was set up about 60 years ago to protect a handful of elephants that still roamed wild in the south part of SA. Now there are about 450 and they are trying to expand to handle the growth. It is about 100 km long and maybe 40 wide.
Right in the car park I saw two new birds and countless old friends. Our reservation gave us two nights camping and three days entry permit. The full sized camp spots are booked months in advance, but there are ten tent sights, still with electricity. Most were taken, but we found a good one right beside a cook shelter, that had electric stoves, a freezer and boiling water on demand.
We had lunch in the restaurant and hung around, until about 3:30 looking at birds in the camp vicinity and then went for the first of four game drives, each about 2-3 hours. Zebra, Kudo, Red Hartebeest, Ostrich, Warthogs, were everywhere. But the main attraction is the Elephants which we saw in large numbers each time we went out. And of course birds were everywhere. We got a number of new ones, and I got some of my best photos. We had a cursory lion siting.
Perhaps my best birding experience here was on the first morning. I was up early, in part to answer natures call and in part because of the raucous bird calls. I pressed coffee with the always ready boiling water and then sat watching and listening to the birds. Probably a dozen varieties came in waves. It had been raining for a few days before we came, and there was a cold night followed by a bright still morning. Possibly this was what was so special this day. It was no where near as good the second morning.
We had saw at least three kinds of raptors, various little black and white birds that we mostly sorted out, but that will be hard to remember, and we talked with more knowledgeable SA birders.
Nov 5, Chintsa
We left our campsite at about 7:30 and drove about 50 km south through a part of Addo that we had not seen before. This was very quiet compared to the traffic around main camp. We saw a few more elephant a and other animals, but importantly we had a distant view of a hillside full of eland, the largest of the African ungulates. We had not seen them before on this trip.
Once out of the park we were back on the N2, the main highway that goes along the coast, although not very close to it. For the past week and some we have been taking side roads but now, to gain some distance, we stuck to it for a bit over 300 km, past East London before heading off down to the sea, at Chintsa to The Buccaneers backpacker used by surfers, where we will relax overnight before heading off on out last week of the trip. We ate the communal meal, Indian with about 30 other residents, walked the beach a bit and wondered at the complexity of the backpacker world here.
Nov 6 Warren Beach
This is primarily a driving day, as we finish driving through the Eastern Cape and into KwaZulu/Natal Province. We were on N2 all day, but it was pretty slow with construction tie ups off and on, something like yesterday. There were also a few bigger towns with markets overflowing onto the road. We saw a lot of township type living and many people waiting or walking on the road. This is a SA that we don’t experience very much. The people we deal with in the service stations, game reserves and back packers are all very outgoing and friendly. Not to say those in the communities we see along the road are not friendly. We just don’t have the opportunity to interact in any way. To us SA is like any other European or North American place. It is possibly a little cheaper in some ways, but we never have any communication problems and everything is available. Our whole trip has been a trip for us. We have both, particularly Rich, have experienced a very different Africa; where getting things and dealing with people can very confusing. In all three countries here there have never been any of the issues that we would sometimes refer to under the explanation…”Well it is Africa”. We have been driving on good roads for the last days, and there is significant road work underway that will turn good roads into excellent roads. There is obviously money and infrastructure here to get this done.
We stopped today at Warren Beach, 30 km short of Durban, at a backpackers called the Blue Sky Mining Backpackers and Lodge. This is another eclectic place with great people. We took advantage of their Indian night, wandered in the gardens and looked out over the Indian Ocean. Incredible these backpackers; so much value for the cost. We are paying about $25-40 for a twin room with bath for the two of us.
Tomorrow we head into the mountains for some exercise.