Thursday, January 04, 2007


It has taken precisely two days of work to completely obliterate any R&R I might have had at Lapalala and there wasn't that much there in the first place.
Lapalala is a wilderness area about 2 hours north west of Johannesburg in what is normally a very dry and hot area. The last time we went there was about 7 years ago when it was described as a wilderness area and not a game reserve and true to the name at that time, we didn't see a single head of game. Not one of the blighters stuck their heads out of the dense bush for us to have a peek at. Things have certainly changed, they've cut down or rather "thinned" sections of the bush so that people like us can actually see the game. This is decidely tourist friendly but is not so flora friendly. Caron and I were expecting the temperatures to be 35 deg. C or above and we knew that there isn't any airconditioning so we were very pleasantly surprised when it rained just about every day and was overcast to boot.
We drove up with Caron's two sisters, Laurel and Kim and their offspring Samuel (11), Hannah (9) and Sage (2) a.k.a. "The Savage" pictured below.

Sage, of course, provided the entertainment as well as the torture for the trip, she was particularly worried that the worms under the ground were going to get her if she went barefoot.

Thursday: arrived safely and followed the signs up ever narrowing roads, the thinner the road the thicker the sand got. The accomodation was comfortable but rustic, it must have been a proper lodge at one stage and we pretty much had it to ourselves. There was one couple already there but they were very quiet, probably intimidated by Sage. On the way in I was just rounding a corner when I spotted a snake lying in the road which we managed to miss after some heavy braking. Not knowing my snakes very well and having to rely on memory, I think it was an African Rock Python. Whatever it was, it was over a metre in length and about the thickness of my wrist. Very pretty indeed. Just after we arrived back Samuel found a stunned pygmy kingfisher, the smallest of the kingfishers. It had flown into one of the glass windows and all but knocked itself out. After about 30 minutes of recovery, firstly on Hannah's hand and then on a branch it flew off to a more secure perch and spent another 30 minutes recovering before disappearing.

On Friday we had a power failure. There must be something about me and power failures, they seem to follow me around. In the afternoon we drove out of the reserve to the nearby Rhino park which is operated by the Walkers who really put Lapalala on the map but who are no longer involved there. At the Rhino park we were lucky to see a young female being fed with pellets and even managed to hand feed the Rhino. Quite remarkable, the Black Rhino has a top lip a bit like an elephants trunk but obviously a whole lot shorter and no nostrils. If you hold out a hand of pellets it will clean the pellets out. Here we have firstly Samuel and then Hannah feeding the Rhino.

When we returned from the Rhino's the power was still out and things weren't looking so good, our food had survived one day but any longer and we were going to be in dire straits, possible diahorrea straits. Elias organised some gas fridges which worked a treat until the power was restored mid Saturday morning.

Our first game walk was on Saturday morning with Elias the guide who was nothing short of fantastic, he has a really good general knowledge and the odd thing he didn't know he would look up and come back to us like the gregarious spotted cockroaches which were quite amusing, a bit like a herd of sheep but small and insectivorous. The destination of the walk was a small dam which had canoes so I took all the children including Sage paddling and startled a water monitor lizard, just a baby one but boy could it move. The place where the canoes were stored had an old canoe to the one side and the termites had built a mound directly underneath and into the canoe which destroyed the canoe because, in picking it up, they had to use so much force to break the termite mound that they broke the back of the canoe as well. Seeing into the mound was fascinating, I always thought the passageways were small, like the size of the termites but they aren't, they're about the size of a wrist and the actual termite nest is a few metres away from the mound. The mound acts like an air conditioner and collects cool air which is fed through to the actual nest. Neat hey! Spent most of the rest of the day reading and writing which was very pleasant. I was reading next to the pool and Caron was swimming and throwing a ball to Samuel and a couple of times when Caron was distracted by Sage, Samuel took the opportunity to hit Caron on the head with the ball. She obviously wanted to get even but trying to hit someone on land when you're in the water is near impossible so she asked me to catch Samuel which I proceeded to do but he very cleverly jumped in the water out of my reach since I was in normal clothes. Unluckily for him I don't mind wet clothes and jumped in on top of him, clothes and glasses 'n all. He got such a shock that he sucked some water in, either up his nose or into his lungs and promptly burst into tears so I had two women looking at me accusingly so I spent the rest of the afternoon being grumpy because there was absolutely no reason to believe that I had done anything wrong and yet I was the first one accused.

Sunday we spent most of the day relaxing, swimming in the pool and reading and writing until our game drive which was pretty awesome. We saw blue wildebeest, rhino, impala, tsessebe, nyala, kudu, warthog, giraffe and the inevitable baboon but over and above the game, the bush we drove through was just absolutely beautiful. We saw a giraffe trying to mate and I was happy to see that it isn't only human females which give the males a hard (no pun intended) time, it seems to be a law of nature. Just before sundown we saw a golden orb spider which was really worth a photograph as shown below but the bastard went and expectorated/defecated all over my hand and camera. Perhaps the fact that I was lobbing small stones and twigs into his web to see him scuttle about had something to do with it ... maybe.

We only got back from the game drive at about 19:30 so Sage went straight to bed and left the rest of us in peace to see the new year in which was a pleasant if quiet affair.

Monday dawned way too early. It felt like we had only just gone to sleep. The walk was to a section of the Palala river where there are some bum slides. We had only just go there and of course Samuel has to wade into the middle of the river which is only about thigh deep, needless to say that he was swept off his feet which sent Elias running down the river to a point where he would be able to catch him, there being hippo and crocodiles in this river after all. Samuel managed to swim to the side and came out making light of it but his face when he fell in was totally at odds with his bravado afterwards. Simply put, he shat himself. Hannah, quite uncharacteristically, was very hesitant getting in but she eventually did and enjoyed it, I think. I took Sage down the bum slide and things were going pretty well until she saw some vegetation under the water which was when the wheels came off. Uppie, Uppie, UPPIE is Sage speak for I'm terrified, pick me up. Very nice place to walk to.

Not much to Tuesday, we went home. As usual, Kim made (or should have) the rest of us feel bad about how much work she does cooking and generally organising everything. One day we're going to have to do something about this, maybe tie her hands together, I'll have to think about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Roland, such nice pictures too! Just a note, we would never blame you for a child having 'a moment' or a few tears! We know you would never hurt a child intentionally and children get frights and they express themsleves...absolutely nothing to dwell over! Lots of love, K.