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  • Day94

    Johannesburg - Day 3

    February 26, 2020 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    I got up at 7.45am which felt like a long lie in after all the very early mornings on our trip. I got a hot shower and had the light breakfast provided by the hostel. Often, our wonderful driver, was due to leave with his faithful truck, Chui, at 9am that morning and head all the way back to Nairobi where he lives and the truck is kept. I had a last look around the truck to say my 'goodbyes' to our travelling home for the last three months. Then it was time to say a fond farewell to Often who had been so helpful and kind during our trip. I asked Often to sing the ubiquitous Swahili 'Jambo' song one more time so that I could record it and also recorded him saying his cheerful 'Jambo, jambo' good morning which we heard every morning as he arrived for breakfast. It was now my turn to sadly wave off the truck and say goodbye as Often drove off and away.
    Grant and our tour leader, Jemma, then had an intriguing proposition for Graham and I - They were planning to hire a car as part of their longer stay in South Africa and were going to visit another local wildlife park, the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, near to Johannesburg - They kindly offered to take us along for the ride which we readily agreed to.
    I went back to my tent to do my final packing for my flight the following day and made good progress, throwing out all the things I no longer needed and managed to squeeze the rest tightly into my larger rucksack.
    I had some quick lunch in the hostel bar. It was then time to say a fond farewell to Brian who had been a very kind and valued friend all through the long journey from the beginning to the end. He was also a very witty and humorous Irishman who could remain positive and optimistic in the most trying of circumstances - something I often failed to do and could learn from. We hugged goodbye and agreed that we would keep in touch.
    Grant, Jemma, Graham and I then got a lift to the airport to pick up the hire car which unfortunately took over 45 minutes to organise with Eurocar, leaving us less time for our planned safari. We drove out of Johannesburg with the city centre skyscrapers shining in the hazy distance and arrived at the wildlife park about an hour later. The park was in the the same 'Cradle of Humankind' area that we had visited the previous day. It was a smaller park with fenced, but quite large enclosures for different animals. The enclosures for the predators was due to close at 4pm so we drove to there first. We had to drive through the much larger park area for herbivores to get to the carnivores and saw a lot of zebra, eland, wildebeest and warthogs along the way. It was wonderful to see these beautiful African animals for one last time before I left Africa especially as it was unexpected that I would get another chance. We arrived at the gated predator enclosures and entered the lion enclosure. We could see lions in the distance lazing under a tree but couldn't get close on the available tracks through the bush. We therefore drove through another gate to the wild dogs enclosure. We drove around the perimeter track and actually saw white lions close by in the adjoining enclosure. These were stunning looking, large lions with their white coats and manes. We really wanted to see the wild dogs and so started another loop of the perimeter and were quickly rewarded by seeing three wild dogs lying in the shade of a small tree. They looked up as we arrived and I was able to get some nice photos of them. The wild dogs got up a couple of times to walk around before lying back down. They were quite nervous and would jump up if they heard an unfamiliar noise such as workmen working in a nearby enclosure. I was very pleased to see these rare and endangered animals for the first time before I left Africa. We then drove through another gate into the cheetah enclosure. Again, we drove around the perimeter and again we saw two male white lions in the adjoining enclosure. As we continued around the perimeter red mud track we came across two cheetah lying in the shade of a bush out of the hot African sun. One of the cheetahs was lying in the open right in front of us and was a particularly beautiful example of these sleek and lithe cats. We then drove up to the white lion enclosure gate. Unfortunately, one of the large male white lions had laid down near the gates and it was not possible for the woman who opened the gates for the cars to open the gate as the lion was too close to her. She then somewhat bizarrely started throwing small stones at the lion and shouting to him to move away. The lion moved a few metres and laid down, refusing to move again. This seemed to be far enough away for the woman and she opened the gate for us. We then got some great views of this very large and beautiful white maned lion as he looked about and then stood up to walk a few more metres before lying down in the long grass again. We saw several more white lions almost hidden in the long grass as we continued up the track. We later saw an impressive looking female lioness at more of a distance before we left the white lion enclosure and returned to the wild dog enclosure to try to see them again, but this time they had completely disappeared into the long grass of the enclosure and made us realise how lucky we had been to see them and the other predators. We then returned to the normal lion enclosure. As we drove around the perimeter track, we decided to take a turn down quite a rough looking track that bisected the enclosure and were rewarded by seeing two male lions lying in the shade of the bush right by the road. We then saw a lioness peering at us through the bushes. We left the predator enclosures and drove back through the herbivore's enclosure to an area of smaller caged enclosures. Here we saw white tigers and their cubs, a male leopard, a black female leopard and their cub, black jaguar's and their cubs and two more white tiger cubs. While it was lovely to see these exotic breeds of predators, I felt uncomfortable about the small size of the enclosures and saw the huge male white tiger was pacing around like a bored prisoner. These animals are used to travelling over large territories in the wild and I feel it is cruel to keep them captive in such relatively small spaces.
    After the small enclosures, we drove back out into the large herbivore's enclosure. We saw blue striped wildebeest which were magnificent looking beasts with thick, curved horns. We passed a waterhole area filled with zebra, sable, oryx, wildebeest, ostrich and warthogs. As we drove by on our way back to the main gate with only 15 minutes to go until they closed the park, we saw a white rhino walking up to the same waterhole on the other side of the road. We stopped and reversed up the road to watch this magnificent icon of Africa walk up and cross the road right behind the vehicle. We were about to drive off again, when another five white rhino walked up towards the road. We reversed again so that they all passed in front of us and up to the waterhole. The male followed behind the females and was clearly nervous and a bit skittish about our vehicle being close by. He jumped around as an antelope walked behind him. We reversed back along the road as we were concerned that the male rhino would decide to charge the car which would put all our lives at risk. We reversed onto a different road and drove back to the main gates that way. We were all exhilarated to have had another close encounter with wild rhino just before we left the park and it was a wonderful way to finish my experience of African wildlife on this long journey across Africa.
    We then drove back to our hostel in the outskirts of Johannesburg while a beautiful red sunset was forming above the motorway with a large orange sun descending through the bright clouds and shedding rays over the centre of Johannesburg. As we arrived back at the hostel the sun became a deeper orange as it closed down on the residential horizon. Soon after an orange crescent moon lifted above the horizon into the clear, darkening sky. This was another wonderful final view of the epic African skies at sunset. We waited for our beef stew dinner at the hostel and I again retired early to my tent, but sat outside writing my blog before going in to sleep and saw a few bats darting through the night sky. I went to bed and slowly fell asleep in the cooling night to draw a final veil of dreams over my last night in Africa.
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