A Land Of Contrasts...

Johannesburg Travel Blog

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Intrepid 'Southern African Magic' 14 day tour map

Since months before our wedding we had dreamed of heading off to Africa for our honeymoon.  Admittedly a holiday that is likely to involve more than it’s fair share of sleeping on the ground in tents isn’t what you typically picture when thinking of a honeymoon, but we were both very excited about it!

It was good that we both wanted to focus the trip on wildlife so obviously the game parks of Africa were going to be the focus (I’m sure we’re not alone there!).  However we were most excited about heading in to Uganda towards the end of the trip to stare in the eyes of a mountain gorilla J

Fairly early in the piece we had given up on ideas of independent travel and had focused on what tour to take.

I bide my time at the airport in the child play area :)
  Many tour brochures later, after studying the intricacies of which tour goes where and leaves when we had decided on a 14 day tour from Intrepid called ‘Southern Africa Magic’ that covered South Africa, Botswana and Zambia (well…just Vic Fallls really J ). The rough idea is start in Jo’burg, loop through the game parks at Kruger, up to Victoria Falls, then come back to Jo’burg through the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  Many other highlights are thrown in along the way, but this gave a good dose of wildlife with some extra thrown in so we were happy J  We’d follow this with a Geckos ‘Gorilla Express’ tour in Uganda, which is all about the Gorillas (with some chimps thrown in J )

After dowining our first anti-malarial tablets (Malerone for Laura, Doxy for me) departure day had arrived and we were jumping on a Qantas plane ready for one of the longer flights possible (Sydney to Jo’brug direct!), thank god for in-flight entertainment systems J 

After a, shall we say, less than adequate amount of sleep on the plane we touched town on the wonderful continent of Africa!  It was impossible not to be excited knowing the adventure was about to begin.

Don't worry, you don't have to carry all those bags!
   It was quite a long hike from the plane to the baggage since the airport is undergoing construction in preparation for the World Cup in next year (yes I’d love to go, no we can’t afford to go to Africa twice in 2 years J )

With arrival in Africa comes a heightened sense of fear I think, so when Laura’s bag still hadn’t reared itself on the baggage carousal after most other people had theirs, we were wondering if it was off to a bad start…..but patience is a virtue….after a brief panic it popped out and we were underway J

We emerged from custom control and were quite happy to spot the “Intrepidx2” sign being held up high.  One benefit of the organised tour, is you manage to avoid that uncertain moment of ‘ok so now how to we get to point B now”.  Having said that, sometimes I like those moments, but I think the first time stepping out of an airport in “ good reason to be security conscious” Jo’burg is a good time to have organised transport J  We introduced ourselves to our driver Porthous who was very friendly and acted as our guard as we withdrew some Rand from an ATM in the airport lobby with the crowds milling around.

After playing ‘follow the Porthous’ through the winding labyrinth of airport corridors and tunnels we were in to an underground car park and heading towards our tour accommodation called Amadwala Lodge which is actually about 45 mins north-west of Jo’burg. Porthous entertained us along the way, he liked his football so we immediately had some common ground, and he introduced me to his team the Orlando Pirates. I couldn’t relate as well to his love of boxing, but one out of two ain’t bad!  As we drove along the big African red sun was setting and we very glad we had decided to come here J

This was really the first time we found ourselves describing Africa as a land of contrasts.  Driving along the highway we drove past some fairly affluent houses, with a paintball field alongside for good measure, then just over the steel fence we would see people crowded around a fire in a bin to keep warm.  It just doesn’t seem like scenes you normally see adjacent to each other.  Further on (and actually quite close to our accommodation) we drove through a shanty town where many foreigners (non-South Africans) lived.  This was a very intimidating experience and Porthous indicated that at front and centre of the settlement they had to set up a police station.

Another few kilometres on we rolled in to Amadwala Lodge and were very happy with the selection J, we were also happy we weren’t having to cram in to a hostel in the middle of Jo’burg.  We were given a friendly greeting by the Chef Eddie and led through some lush gardens, down some stone stair paths to our great little cottage (carefully watching our footing in the dark!).  Laura was particularly happy with the theme of the cottage, lots of the amenities  (plugs, lamps, coathooks) were decked out in Laura’s favourite animal – the elephant!

Our bodies were telling us we could easily collapse on the bed and fall asleep right there.  However Eddie had indicated that there was a braii (South African BBQ) in an hour at 7 so we thought it’s probably wise to try and stay awake and adjust our body clocks a bit.  It was very pleasant to sit around the fire sampling a Castle beer J We were introduced to the lodge owners Christine and Dudley (and Christine’s mother just to complete the family) who had come from Zimbabwe originally, and had a great dog named Shumba that was half Rhodesian ridgeback and half ‘something like bullbull’.  It looked incredibly scary but was very cute as it tried to get pats from everyone around the fire.  The one negative was that it was probably the first racist undertones we picked up, with the owners speaking quite distrustingly of their African workers….. Our other fire companion was Nick, a 19 year old from Newcastle who had arrived on the same flight as us and was also doing our Intrepid tour, he was very friendly so we were happy that our the first of our tour companions seemed good.

Once the food was cooked we moved in to the restaurant and met two Spanish travellers Augistine and Jose.  They had just done the Vic Falls/Chobe/Okavango Delta chunk of our tour and gave an incredibly negative view of it!!  They stressed that we should make sure our guides stick to the itinerary, and essentially made it sound like we wouldn’t get to do anything unless we forced it on the guides.  So that was food for thought…..the food for our belly was much better with boervors sausages (kind of like german sausages, with bits of lots of meats) and finished off with a malva pudding (according to Eddie the secret ingredient was Captain morgan’s rum J )

Sleep defeated us at that point (even though it was only about 9pm), there was a brief moment of confusion where Laura jumped up from her sleep in the middle of the night asking “Where are we ?”  Why, we’re in Africa of course!!

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