The Africa Journals
Into the Bushveld
The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it. ~ George Kimble ~
We were all punctual, even me--despite my morning misadventures--and we boarded a luxurious coach for the hour and a half drive north of Johannesburg to the private game reserve of Mabula Game Lodge.
The coach took us through the streets of Johannesburg. Street vendors were everywhere, selling everything imaginable. Hawkers accosted vehicles at street lights, makeshift booths lined sidewalks, for-hire signs were fasted to poles.
|I know it's blurry. I shot it from inside a moving bus.|
|The sign reads: Tree Feler, cut & remove.|
Once out of the city, the land was well-grassed and interspersed with clumps of trees and bushes. This was the “bushveld” Brian explained. The name comes from the Afrikaans word “bos” for bush. This is the land the Dutch Voortrekkers migrated to from Cape Town, in an effort to avoid British rule, and then established vast farms.
We passed through rural areas where homes were cobbled together from whatever material was available, into farmlands where precious cattle were grazing, and stopped at a roadside rest area. The last time I’d seen anything this elaborate was along the Autobahn in Germany (or maybe it was in Austria and maybe it wasn’t along the Autobahn, but another freeway-type highway.) Anyway, I was impressed.
|Note how tall the street lights are in this shanty town. That's so kids can't shoot them out with slingshots.|
Easy on, easy off, with restaurants for leisurely travelers, ready-made food for takeout, gas stations, restrooms, picnic areas, lots of parking, even a sky bridge for pedestrians across the multi-lane highway. Fabulous.
|Sign at rest area.|
|Salads and snacks, less than $2.60.|
|Sandwiches for $2.60.|
|This young lady's job was restroom attendant, patiently handing a folded paper towel to each person and accepting tips. I thought she was pretty and asked if I could take her photo.|
Then on we journeyed while Brian spoke of many things, adding a few tips like the salt shaker has only one hole and the pepper shaker is the one with multiple holes.
He rattled off the Big Five: lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo. Why are they called the Big Five? Because they are the five most dangerous animals when hunted or wounded.
Private reserves are becoming more and more common in Africa, for tourism, to be sure, but also to protect and preserve the iconic African animals that are threatened by the loss of their natural habitat, as well as by poaching.
The coach turned off the super highway onto a secondary road, then passed through a small town, and onto an even smaller two-lane road.
I turned on the camera. Here we were: Mabula Game Lodge.
The coach stopped at a tall chain-link gate and waited for it to be opened. We passed through and the gate closed behind us. The first thing I noticed was a downed tree that was bucked up into short lengths, the leaves still green. And all around were huge brown piles.
“You can see,” said Brian, “elephants were here. They knocked over that tree and left piles of dung.”
Piles of dung? No kidding. Each pile was at least a wheelbarrow load of dung!!!
|Couldn't get a good photo on the way in. By the time we left, most of the dung had been cleaned up, but there is still a small pile in the center left of the photo and another in front of the person at far left.|
Welcome to Mabula Game Lodge. Come on, I’ll show you around. But quickly. We'll have
lunch first, look around, and then get ready for our first safari late this afternoon.