After breakfast at Reilly’s Rock Lodge in the Mlilwane Game Reserve in Swaziland, we drove back to South Africa to Hluhluwe-Infomozi Park. Our drive was a day of giggles for all the amusing events that occurred. Have you ever had a situation where you and friends began to laugh for some reason and then could only find ridiculous events for the rest of the day?
Our day began with speculation at breakfast. The morning was a beautiful, clear day. We had awoken early to the sounds of birds in the trees around Reilly’s Rock Lodge. The ladies went for a walk, while I downloaded photos and tried to catch up on the hundreds of images we were accumulating from our travels. They sighted all sorts of birds high and low. Breakfast was served on the patio that over looks the valley below and an opposing mountain range across. In the garden to the side of the patio stood a stone birdfeeder. It was overflowing with grain and birds of many colors and sizes. The other couples who were staying at the lodge began to come for their breakfasts. Then an older man and younger woman arrived. We had not seen them the night before. They were of distinctly different ages. Of course, that got the speculator going as to who they were and where they had been (game reserves close and open their gates at certain hours, restricting access to the camps inside). Father and family member? Lovers? Older man and trophy wife? As it turned out, he was the owner of the lodge and she his granddaughter. Oh, our vile minds!
Our second belly roll started the afternoon before. As we were driving in, we descended to cross a small creek. Judy declared, “Hey, there a buck-naked man taking a bath!” We all though in wildlife viewing fashion, “Shall we stop to take a good look?” We, of course, continued on and left the man to his business. Thus, on our way out, passing this same creek, we all had to look to see if anyone else where using the watering hole. Judy became very good at spotting men relieving their bladders along the side of the road, in bushes, on trees, on walls, on their car tires, etc. Oh, our vile minds!
Crossing the boarder from Swaziland to South Africa raises one’s anxiety level. Before you get the intimidating stare-down at the counters and the thud of the visa stamp, we had to get to the parking area. As we traveled along the main road, within sight of the gates, we arrived at a construction area. While there was ample room for vehicles to pass where workers hammered bricks into a curb area, a man began to wildly wave at us to go another way. No signs had announced a detour, though Mary-Anne had speculated that we would be diverted through the neighborhood. Turn around, rumble off the paved road onto a rutted dirt road, make several turns onto what might be a road, entrance to a compound, or track into the brush (we were not sure which), all among dozens of the small, make-shift houses that we had viewed from a distance and hordes of people standing about. Finally, find one sign pointing back toward the border gate. We pull up among randomly parked vehicles and trucks, and hold our passports tightly, and scurry across the construction zone to the customs office. As we return, truck driver is pulling out all sorts of belongings in bags from his truck, and placing them in a pile directly in front of our van. Groceries, clothing, even an iron accumulate. Border guards and the man speak loudly (though this seems to be a norm, not an argument). Quick, board the van and swing around them before we are trapped behind a pile of possessions under question. Oh, our worried minds.
Prior to arriving at the border, Mary-Anne had taken a pole on who needed the loo. All hands were up. Our options were 1) messy loos on the Swaziland side of the border, or 2) toilets without seats on the South African side of the border. The vote was unanimous: no toilet seat. The toilets turned out to be stainless steal too. Brrr!
Fortunately for me, I could stand for my loo break and not need to experience the stainless steel, no seat toilet. While taking care of my liquids, I noticed small, blue packets on the shelf above the toilet. Linda & I both though, “Seat wipes”. No, these turned out to be packets of condoms, made available to truck drivers, et al. to reduce the spread of AIDS, which is rampant in this region. Being curious, and needing only one hand to stay on task, I turned over the packet and saw the bright yellow condom instructions in pictures. Okay, who needs instructions to use a condom? Frame one, how to open the packet; Frame two, how to stimulate an erection: Frame three how to roll the condom over the penis; Frame four, satisfied women looks up at satisfied man; Frame five, limp penis with condom on it; Frame six, how to remove condom; Frame seven, where to throw out condom. I contemplated taking one of the packets to show the ladies, but then hesitated. What if someone was waiting outside the loo, thinking that I was ready for a quicky behind some building. Best to leave lust behind. The ladies chided me for not bringing the packet for show-and-tell.
When driving in rural areas of Swaziland and South Africa, watch out for goats and cows in road. Livestock are signs of wealth, but no one seems to keep them in fields. In fact, the fields are mostly fenced to keep the grazing beasts out. That leaves the area long the roads for them to browse. Every so often, they like to try the feast on the other side of the road, or use the road for head-butting, dominance games. Livestock have the right-of-way, even though your speed limit might be 80 kph. Like deer in the head-lights, they tend to stop as a vehicle approaches them. Mary-Anne calls them mobile stop lights.
Driving for several hours at a time, provides opportunities for sharing stories. In addition to the content of the story, the idiom usage between American English, the Queen’s English, and Africaan offers many amusing chuckles. Mary-Anne told a story for her school day, in which a group of bullies would steal her lunch. It was obvious that they did this for intimidation purposes, rather than because they were hungry. Her father began to treat her lunch with a variety of excessive spices to see what they would tolerate. He even added some laxatives that gave them “runny tummy”.
As we began our game drives, Mary-Anne would cue us to be aware of animals in the bush. Emily particularly enjoyed the elephants, and became known for “calling the elies”. Over the course of several days, the packs of elephants became larger and larger. As we entered Hluhluwe Park, in a steady rain, expecting that we would just get up to the Hiltop Lodge, we began to seek packs of elephants “waiting to greet Emily”. The first pack might have had at least 50 elephants. The second over 30. The third about 25 more. With the population of elephants in the park at around 550, we had seen nearly 1/5 of them within a mile’s distance. Now, if Emily could call out the leopards for us…
The rain persisted, gaining strength as we had a delicious dinner at the Hiltop Lodge restaurant. When we prepared to return to the van, Mary-Anne instructed us to move as quickly as safe to avoid getting too wet. As we dashed across the parking lot, we passed over a landscape break. I ran under a thorn tree with a branch at just the right high to pluck off my hat, which then hung suspended in air, awaiting retrieval.
Traveling in malaria regions we had picked up prescriptions before leaving the USA. Linda & I consolidated our pills into one bottle to reduce the bulk for traveling. We took these out each breakfast to have a consistent time for taking them. As our game drives often started before breakfast, this required that we carry the pill bottle with us. A couple of days earlier, when unpacking my backpack, I could not find the bottle. The rest camp was an hour’s drive the opposite direction from which we go would travel the next day. We had all had places to go after breakfast that day, and figured that we had forgotten to take them off the table when we left. As Judy and Emily had the same prescriptions, we shared our supply with plans to stop at a pharmacy outside of Hluhluwe Park. As the forecast was for wet conditions on our trip to St. Lucia the next day, I cleared my pack completely. In the process, I pulled out a small bag that contained camera cleaning equipment. At the bottom of the bag, underneath the lense cleaner, puff-blower, etc. was the bottle of pills. When I had put it back into the backpack, not only did I manage to get it directly into the small bag, but it has settled below everything else. We repaid Emily and Judy in pills.
Our day ended with toilet stories. Though the Hiltop Lodge has nice accommodations, one place that they seem to have saved some space was in the size of the bathroom. In addition to being a tight fit between fixtures, the toilet seats were about four inches lower than we all anticipated. Each of us in turn, had a flopping experience the first few uses. The next morning, Judy related how she found a large bug guarding her toilet in the middle of the night. Wildlife viewing is for outside, not during a mid-night potty run.