South Africa – Big country, big vistas

South Africa is a big country. And in this big country are some big vistas.

In such a vast country there seem to be endless beautiful drives and passes with mountains and fields that unfold in front of you as you wind along the incredible passes, or catch a breathtaking first glimpse of the sea as you go over a hill. And the same drive can look very different the following week depending on what the farmers have been doing on the land, or how the weather has changed.

The road network is incredible. There are some shockingly poor roads, but there are also many that seem to have such little traffic yet are in pristine condition and well maintained. In any East African country they would have been left to disintegrate, especially with such little traffic passing over them.

As part of our road trip we decided to visit some of the smaller national parks and were treated to beautiful landscapes, lots of animals, and very few people. We even made it across the border into Swaziland to see the white rhinos. In Addo Elephant Park though, an elephant encounter was a little too close for comfort. “Ven, do you think I should wind down the window or leave it open?” It’s difficult question to answer when the elephant is less than a trunk’s distance away…. If I close the window, the noise may annoy it. If I leave it open, its trunk may well pull me out….. We were relieved we didn’t have any oranges, which the elephants apparently love, otherwise our vehicle would surely have been overturned.

We also made it to the far north of the country to the Kalahari desert. With temperatures in their 40s and a lot of recent rain, the ‘red dune desert route’ was now in fact lush and green. We decided to spend 3 or 4 days in the Kalahari, but everyone we met en route or when we got there was spending 3 or 4 weeks in the desert. We think we may have miscalculated the sheer scale of the place and the pace at which people move around. we decided to stay a couple of days longer. And it was a great place to see the black-maned lions lounging on the side of the road – apparently, the sandy roads are kinder on their feet than the bush.

The SA coastline also offered some beautiful national parks, with white sand dunes tumbling into the sea and a turquoise lagoon warm enough to swim in.

We were lucky enough to leave the road and take to the skies when our friends kindly took us up in their microlights. An amazing feeling being so high up without anything enclosing you (except my oversized Michelin Man overalls).  We came back down to earth though to do the obligatory photo at Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of Africa, without which no overlander’s trans-Africa trip would be complete!


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