October 18, 2006

South AfricaWe woke up at about 6 am again, so we decided to get up. We had decided to spend today looking around St. Lucia and driving out to Cape Vidal. After our usual breakfast we went across the road to buy a few groceries at the Spar, then stopped in at the office to book the 4 pm river cruise. Unfortunately it was already full, so instead we reserved two spots for tomorrow. We put the groceries in our fridge and headed out for Cape Vidal.

We had been in St. Lucia, on the shore of the Indian Ocean, since last night, but we hadn’t yet seen the ocean. Last night it had been raining, and this morning it was cloudy and showery. But showers never seem to last long in this area, so off we went and the showers did stop. First we took a side trip past the Iphiva campsite to the beach parking lot. Finally, the Indian Ocean! The waves were high and there was one person trying to surf, not with much success. We saw several fishermen with long heavy-looking rods, casting into the shallows.

Then back to the main road to Cape Vidal. We paid our KZN park fees and followed the road slowly through a mixture of grassland and leafy bush. It looked as if the grassland had been created by razing a forest plantation, since much of it was full of burnt stumps that were in neat straight lines. We definitely saw more birds than animals, but we did manage to see wildebeest, bushbuck, zebra, impala, steenbok, and red duiker, not to mention warthogs, vervet monkeys, and baboons. The road was tarred and easy to follow as there was only one way to the cape.

After about half an hour we came to our next stop, Mission Rocks. At the high point of the access road you could walk up to a lookout where there was an ocean view. Far out in the ocean we could see whales spouting, most likely the humpbacks that migrate down from Mozambique at this time of year. The road ended at a beach, which was water-eroded sandstone rocks with lots of tide pools. We saw some very colourful crabs on the rocks and several little fish in the pools.

Back on the main road we continued to the cape, stopping along the way for various birds. There were not many animals, but we came upon a large mound of some animal’s dung. And on that mound were over two dozen huge black beetles! These were dung beetles, without which the countryside would be completely covered with animal dung, and we could see some of them pushing balls of the stuff across the road. On top of the Mission Rocks lookout we had noticed giant kamikaze beetles flying about, and now we knew what they were. We also recalled the sign at the park entry warning us that dung beetles had the right of way on the road.

The last part of the road went winding down a steep slope into the campsite at Cape Vidal. We had a quick snack of chips and juice, then walked out onto the beach by the boat launch. From there we saw several humpback whales swimming by, some even breaching close to shore.

By now it was 1 pm so, after stopping in at the little shop, we started on our return journey. For part of the way we took the loop road which took us on a more inland route closer to the estuary. It was marked on our map as a one-way road and we soon found out why: it ran along the top of a sand dune and consisted of two concrete strips to drive on. We actually did meet oncoming traffic, a truck carrying a work crew, but luckily there was a turn-out and a viewpoint for us to stop at.

The rest of the route back to St. Lucia was uneventful, although there were some little antelopes that we couldn’t identify. There were rain squalls from time to time so it was a good thing that we were in the car. Back at the Hippo Hideaway it was already 2 pm, so we decided not to go for fish and chips for lunch as we had originally planned. We just made tea and ate some rusks.

After that we walked up to the little craft market to buy some souvenirs. Most of the stalls had similar items, the same sort of things we had seen all over southern Africa. Apparently they are mass-produced in Zimbabwe and Malawi. But we did buy some more things as potential Christmas presents, and a warthog carved from marula wood which was remarkably cheap at R60. On the way back to the Hippo Hideaway the rain started to come down again, so we hurried along. However this demonstrated that the black finish on the warthog was actually creosote, which had stained Paul’s T-shirt and hands.

We decided not to walk about the town because of the frequent rain showers. So instead we drove over to the beach at the mouth of the estuary. There was a stork there with the pink colour of a flamingo, probably from a diet including a lot of shrimps. It wasn’t raining, but there was a tremendous wind coming off the ocean, so we didn’t stay too long. We circled back through the residential part of the town, which had some very nice houses, and drove to the town side of the boardwalk. There were a few hippos there, but not much else, so we went back to hang out at the Hippo Hideaway. We wrote our journals and watched television for a while, then cooked our dinner (rice and veggies), then watched the movie “Shark’s Tale” on television. Tomorrow we are planning to go to the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve, so we plan to get up early.

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