Intrepid – Day 1 – Blyde River Canyon and first night of camping

Kruger National Park Travel Blog

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Blyde river canyon, first stop on the tour

We were very excited to be starting the Intrepid tour, as we rubbed our bleary eyes and climbed on to the tour truck that we would carve our bottom-prints into for the better part of the next two weeks J

The truck is quite comfortable really, with seat pockets to store all your snacks and drinks in, storage overhead for those travel pillows etc, and best of all it had power points to charge with on board.  It was one question I’d never known the answer to before we came over here, how are we going to be able to keep charging phones/iPods/cameras ?? (ah the simplicity of the digital age!). This certainly made it a hell of a lot easier J

So with only 5 of us to scatter across the truck we were in place and on our way out of Jo’burg, hooray!  The first stop was certainly not spectacular, just a petrol station/tourist stop where our tour guide Benny said we should grab some brekky.

Us striking a pose
  There was a brief bit of tension as Maddy went to use the ATM in one of the shops and she was being “helped” by a man next to her….after she had finished withdrawing money he was telling her to put her card back in because he couldn’t use the machine until she swiped again!! Sounded dodgy as, and fortunately Maddie just walked away, although I was a bit puzzled how he would have got the money, maybe grabbed the cash she withdrew while she was distracted swiping ??? Either way, a scam to watch out for, fortunately didn’t impact our group.

After not too long the truck rumbled in to the lowveldt and the scenery becomes a lot more spectacular (apparently this is called the Panorama Route) and there’s a lot more greenery.  A few hours of taking this in and we arrived at the first highlight of the tour, the Blyde River Canyon.  This is the 3rd deepest canyon in the world, beaten only by the Grand Canyon, and another Canyon in Namibia (I think?), and it is most certainly spectacular!!   I’ve not yet seen the Grand Canyon, but I loved the greens and blues that you see here and am not convinced that the dry brown look of the Grand canyon would top this.

3rd deepest canyon in the world apparently
  Of course the souvenir stands are prolific in this area, but we didn’t load up this early in the trip.  It was our first experience making sure we had a few coins ready when we used the toilets, there were people just sitting outside with a bowl in front of them.  There is a part of me that wonders if it’s just a good money-maker and they don’t actually clean them, but I’d feel too bad if they do so the Rand jingled into the bowl.

Lunchtime saw the first real chance for the group to bond together, and it was good to see that everyone was happy to chip in on groceries from the supermarket and make some sandwiches rather than each run off on our own.  So we all sat down at a picnic tables next to the ‘Pick n Pay’ supermarket, showing blatant disregard for the ‘use at your own risk’ sign and cut up bread and tomato with our pocket knives learning all about who we were sharing our tour with.  We were all a little more cautious going to the ATM, all crowding around as a group and watching each other’s back, we were a little paranoid about ATMs….

Isn't that a great Intrepid ad photo!

Back in the truck and we were heading for the Oliphant’s river where we would set up camp for the first night.  Unfortunately, this was the first Intrepid tour Benny had been on always using a different campsite before this, so he was, I won’t say lost, but certainly temporary unsure of his position ;)  He was very apologetic, and it was good that the group was very understanding and trusted in Benny that we’d get there eventually (even as Benny wandered around the service station asking people for help J ).  Fortunately, as we drove down a road (that seemed like it ran through a big phosphate mine), watching the baboons scattered along the pipes, a car rolled up alongside us that happened to be heading for the camp.  It’s just like a primitive GPS, but it got us there! 

Finally we were at the camp, which was essentially a little patch of grass right next to a river, and with an open air bar behind us which seemed like a great first camp site.

Nice :)
  The light was beginning to fade so we had to learn how to pitch our tents pretty quickly, but they’re incredibly easy to use.  I think this was the only night that we didn’t construct the metal ‘cross’ to frame the tent first, which certainly makes life easier J, but we still had it up quickly.

Tent life is, by its nature, quite cramped but we were comfortable enough.  We would do this routine many times over the next 2 weeks, basically get the tent up, put in the pegs (didn’t do this anymore after about day 3 since there was no wind!), unroll our two bed-mats (which were easily thick enough to sleep comfortably on), pile our backpacks in along the outside of the tent.  Set up our pillows (travel pillow for Laura, pile of clothes for me J and that’s about it.

The first of many sunset shots I'm sure we'll put on here :)
Too easy really!

So finally we all sat down and ate a braii at the table in the bar area, with a couple of Castle beers in hand. It all seemed quite civilised and safe, but then we knew we were in Africa when Benny told us that if we need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night to always go in twos because we may run in to crocodiles, hippos or elephants!  At this stage in the trip we were heeding his warning of course, but still a bit sceptical that this would actually happen.  Sure enough Pete and Maddy in the middle of the night and nearly walked in to an elephant!  We had been a bit worried that we’d missed a river cruise, since the boat had just left when we arrived at camp, but Benny did well and lined up a cruise for us the next morning J

It was just good to be lying in our tents on our soft mats, looking through the mosquito nets at the incredible stars J (though this was one of the few nights we left these open, it actually gets quite cold!).

Our first campsite of the tour, between river and bar.

lovedogs says:
Very interesting reading your blog! I've always wondered what would happen during camping in Africa when you have to go to the loo in the middle of the night :)
Posted on: Feb 03, 2013
parag_rikhav says:
The Blyde river canyon is indeed a beautiful sight to see.The third largest canyon in the world was formed due the erosion millions of years ago.The canyon attracts almost all the habitat of South Africa.

Posted on: Feb 03, 2010
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Blyde river canyon, first stop on …
Blyde river canyon, first stop on…
Us striking a pose
Us striking a pose
3rd deepest canyon in the world ap…
3rd deepest canyon in the world a…
Isnt that a great Intrepid ad pho…
Isn't that a great Intrepid ad ph…
Nice :)
Nice :)
The first of many sunset shots Im…
The first of many sunset shots I'…
Our first campsite of the tour, be…
Our first campsite of the tour, b…
The boat wed go cruising on tomor…
The boat we'd go cruising on tomo…
Spectacular canyon views
Spectacular canyon views
Pete and Maddie at the canyon
Pete and Maddie at the canyon
More canyon :)
More canyon :)
First day on our intrepid truck
First day on our intrepid truck
I fyou want a souveneir, or curio…
I fyou want a souveneir, or "curi…
It wont be the last time we photo…
It won't be the last time we phot…
The river has the hippo/crocodile…
The river has the 'hippo/crocodil…
Maddie and Nick on the pier
Maddie and Nick on the pier
The small tour group taking in the…
The small tour group taking in th…
Our first tent assembly, mental no…
Our first tent assembly, mental n…
Another sunset
Another sunset
Kruger National Park
photo by: tersia