Monday 15 Jan
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Close encounter with a lion
I had an amazing weekend in Kruger National Park. Have never had so much fun in my life, in fact! I met some people in Cape Town who said that Kruger wasn't worth the effort and that there were no animals. Well, they mustn't have been looking very hard -- the place was teeming with them!
I went there by car with four Germans I had met at a house party in Pretoria a couple of nights earlier. On the way, we passed a whole lot of signs saying 'Warning: Hi-Jacking Hot Spot'. They advise that you don't stop and always keep your car doors locked.
We spent Saturday 'kloofing'. That's an Afrikaner pastime of swimming down rivers. The river was in a deep jungle-lined gorge -- quite spectacular. There were parts where you could jump from high rocks into deep pools. There were even big caves. Apparently a tourist at a nearby cave got stuck a week ago because she was too fat! And she blocked 20 other people in -- kind of like a cork.
In the afternoon, we entered the park boundaries and saw wildlife from the very beginning. The first spotting was a group of impalas. They're so common in the park that they're more often referred to as NAFIS -- short for Not Another Fucking Impala.
They animals just wander across the road. It's quite hilarious. In fact, waiting for giaffes to cross the road was such a frequent occurrence that it became a little tiresome by the end. They're amazing animals -- very tall, obviously -- but more impressive than their height is their cool running style.
The zebras were also a very common sight. And many had babies. With half an hour, we had seen wilderbeast, worthogs (I love them -- they're so funny-looking), a turtle sitting on the road, plenty of lizards, some hippos, kudus and more. Most came really close to the car (sometimes a little too close).
I was the driver for the second day, which was great because I got to do fun things like drive along side a lion. I saw something wander onto the road in front of me and slowed down. As I got closer, I realised it was a big male lion. He started roaring -- an incredibly scary sound. I stopped as he came closer to the car. Then he just wandered by, as if he hadn't even noticed we were there. I then reversed alongside him for 50 metres or so. Such a thrill. Then his female partner came out of the bush and joined in the performance. Hilarious.
We also came very close to three cheetahs. Again, they just wandered across the road in front of use. We then stopped and watched as they stalked some giraffes. They ended up backing off, which was a bit of a shame. The three German girls in the car were quite pleased, though.
Among other wildlife highlights were the elephants -- so damn big -- and the white rhinos. Sometimes it seemed that the animals were putting on a show for us. I couldn't believe how willingly they would wander past our car.
I'm back in Pretoria now and have some hours to kill. It's pouring down rain, so I might visit some museums or something dull like that (well, dull at least in comparison with chasing lions). I'll then take an overnight bus to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.