October 20, 2006

South AfricaToday we were leaving St. Lucia. Last night there had been loud thunder at 2:15 am followed by heavy rain; between that and a stomach-ache possibly caused by restaurant food, Rosemary had not slept well. But once again we were up at 6 am, although we had to wait until the Spar opened at 7 am to get some yoghurt for her breakfast and some buns and things for our lunch.

While we were waiting we tried to pack. The warthog was easy; we just wrapped it in newspaper and put it into a plastic bag. The giraffe was going in Paul’s backpack: we centred it, then packed a sleeping bag around it along with laundry and clothes. Even extending the pack to its maximum height didn’t quite make it big enough, but hopefully we can pack more things around the head for the flight home.

After breakfast we packed up the car and said goodbye to Ruth. The day was still overcast but we could feel the temperature and humidity rising, and by 8:30 am we were on the way to Johannesburg. For the morning part of the drive we were on the N2. We passed through numerous tree plantations as the road went north, then we came to sugar cane and pineapple growing areas. The scenery wasn’t all that interesting, but travelling at 120 km/h we covered the distance quickly.

The car was low on gas, but the deal with Europcar is that they charged us for a full tank of gas, so we want to return the car with the tank as empty as possible. But it is hard to figure out how to do that, because it has one of those Toyota gas tank gauges that is horribly inaccurate. So we started by putting in R100 worth of gas, which put the gauge up to allegedly half full.

By noon we were at Piet Retief and the gauge was close to empty, so we put in another R200 worth of gas. That should be plenty; probably too much, but who knows? We had lunch at a park beside a pond at the edge of town, but it was rather derelict. There was broken glass around the braai pits and the toilet buildings had been stripped of their fixtures and then used as toilets. Disgusting. We found trees to go behind instead.

We continued on the N2 until Ermelo and then turned onto the N17, which led to Johannesburg. The drive was not very interesting, going through ranching land with a lot of power generation plants and smog to rival Los Angeles. At one point the N17 did a little jog that was not signposted, so we found ourselves on the R29, a less major road that ran parallel to it. That was probably a good thing, because less traffic meant that passing was safer. In mid-afternoon it started to rain, sometimes heavily, which made the road more hazardous. Finally we got close to Johannesburg and drove through city streets for a while.

We had instructions from the In Africa Lodge’s website about how to get there from the airport, so we followed the N21 and then the N24 away from the airport and then started following the instructions. Unfortunately one of the streets had been renamed, so we missed the exit to Edenvale. After we realized that we did a U-turn and went back to try again, and this time we found the exit and followed the instructions successfully.

By 4:30 pm we were back at the In Africa Lodge, where we had been a couple of weeks ago, and got the same room as before. We unloaded the car and within minutes a thunderstorm began, dumping hail on the front lawn. We did a new version of packing Paul’s pack, wrapping two sleeping bags around the giraffe and packing socks around its horns and ears to try to protect them. For dinner we used up most of our remaining rice and veggies. Dessert was a fruit salad consisting of canned peaches, apple, orange, and the fresh pineapple we had bought in Piet Retief. There was so much fruit that we decided to save the rest of it for tomorrow’s breakfast.

At 9 pm the rain was still dumping down and the thunder was still rumbling, but we were tired and headed off to bed.

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