Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, March 27, 2015

3 Hoyo, Hoyo

Hoyo Hoyo   (Welcome, Welcome in Shangaan)

What is Africa without Safaris? We booked a bunch of them, all in National Parks through “The Flight Center” travel agency in Cape Town. We know about this travel agency because it has offices throughout the world and we have used them before. Paolo, our young service manager, did his best to come up with a tailor-made plan. Kruger National Park was our start.

Hoyo Hoyo Lodge
 Hoyo Hoyo Lodge was our first experience with the way modern Safaris are organized and run.

We started off by leaving Cape Town on a 10 AM flight to Nelspruit (Mbombela). After which we took a rented car to drive to Kruger. Have you ever driven on the left side of the road with a stick shift, under-powered, four cylinder car, in Africa where goats and cows cross the street unattended, where jitney buses pick up passengers on a whim, stopping at odd places along the highway? Use directional signals? What are those? Top that with missing signs for major highways and soon you will get the picture. We got lost, even though we had a map but no GPS. Not badly lost, but to the point where we stopped at a police station to ask for directions. Carol listened to the police man telling her to go to the 3rd rowboat, and then make a left. A rowboat? Well it sure sounded like that to my ears, too. It took us a while to realize he meant for us to make a left at the 3rd “Robot”, their way of saying traffic light.

Park Rules
So it took us a while to get to Kruger Park. Once we registered our car and ourselves with the park police, we drove another 6 KM to the Entrance gate and after each of us paid our 67 Rand in cash, we then had to find the Hoyo Hoyo Lodge. Yes, there were some signs, but we are now driving on dirt roads, in the wilderness. There are just a very few lodges inside Kruger park; an area as big as Wales. Wild animals are about in abundance, some literally the size of elephants. Yes we met 3 bull elephants on our 11/2 hour search for our
lodge. I think we did extremely well, considering the bumpy road, the sand traps or slick wet spots. Top speed was 40 km/hour. There is nobody around to ask for directions. We bought a somewhat map of the park at the entrance and asked for verbal directions, too. But, like the rowboat directions, not a lot of what was given to us made sense. Amazingly we did not get lost yet the feeling of unease was constantly present while driving down those sandy, gravel dirt roads. One constantly second guesses oneself with questions like “do we make a left here or a right?  Did we go the 10 km listed or is it still further? Even at the entrance sign to the Lodge we had the option to go in 2 different directions, which is the right one?  It took us close to 5 hours to drive from the airport in Nelspruit to the Hoyo Hoyo lodge.

We were relieved once we arrived. The welcome at the lodge was friendly and all was prepared for our stay. We had an imitation African hut for a hotel room, furnished in African décor and colors
with an outside shower. The hut had all the things modern hotel rooms should have. Most of the fixtures even worked OK, but signs of neglect or lack of care made it clear that this lodge, while rated 5 Stars, had short comings. I would give it a 3 Star rating. The food, however, was very good and plentiful.


Our first Safari tour began the next morning at 5.30 am. Wake up call at 5 am. Just a quick cup of tea or coffee and we are on our way. Naturally it rained, even poured last night, and some spots on the gravel roads and in ravines were flooded. In fact it still rained lightly when we climbed on the open seated, small Toyota truck. We were given rain ponchos, a good thing. Not only was it cooler than expected, it sure was nice to keep the spray off, too.

The driver of the truck knows the area well. Knows each animal, bird or tree we

had questions about. He seemed like a walking encyclopedia when it came to life within Kruger Park. Our excursion lasted 3 hours. Yes it rained off and on during this time. Click, click went the cameras, but the 10 people on board the truck were very quiet. Hardly anybody spoke. Sure, once we stopped alongside the road to take pictures of a giraffe, for example, questions arose. But mostly everyone on the tour seemed awe struck. We saw many herds, many animals. Elephants, buffalo, gnu,
impala, kudu, springboks, baboons, turtles, etc., etc. The highlights for many were a few lions. We had to track the lions down by driving off road, literally into the bush, squishing young trees or flattening small old stumps to get to the lions. Quite amazing what those Land-cruisers kind of trucks can do. It was a good outing, despite the rain.

Back at the lodge at about 8:30 am, we had our breakfast. You could have any kind of eggs, plus any kind of breakfast meat, etc., fresh fruits, cereal, yogurt and more. No complaints about the food, it was delightful. Lunch came next at 2 pm and it was a combination of high tea and sandwiches.

At 4 pm the next Safari started and again it lasted for about 3 hours. Again we searched for any kind of animal along the edge of the roads. We did not drive into the bush but kept to the gravel roads. This time, as if the animals knew we were looking for them, we hardly saw any. Sure we met a giraffe here and there and of course impala, but no more large beasts like lions, elephants or buffalo. Oh, we did see a rhino, but it was so dark by then that good photos could not be taken. The rhino was also too far away to determine if it was a black or white rhino. The darkness set in rather fast.
Can you see it - large head just above & left of centre

At one point, on the way back to the lodge, our driver turned on not only the lights on his truck, but held a portable, strong searchlight. He shone this searchlight rapidly from left to right and back again alongside the sides of the gravel road. He did it so fast that I wondered what he was doing. Then, all of a sudden, he pulled the truck to the side of the road, next to a bush and pointed. “See”, he said. See what?  All of us on the truck looked, but could not see a thing. “A chameleon”: he said. Now we all stared at the bush but still could not see anything. He was puzzled that we could not see the creature that was right at eye level and we were puzzled that he could spot something as small as a chameleon while driving at 30 km/hour down the road. This guy was amazing. He could see things we were totally blind to. Yes, the chameleon was there, someone folded down some branches and there, right in front of all of our eyes, a mere yard away sat the small creature. How our driver could have seen it I will never know. He told me something about a reflection from his hand-held light but never mind that, nobody on the truck could see anything even remotely close to a reflection. Just to prove that this was no fluke, he drove his truck, holding his hand-held light and a few miles further down the road he found and then showed us another chameleon. He was simply amazing.

After this late outing, about 7.30 PM was dinner. We had great food again. I had oxtail, Carol had quail.
The following morning, again up at 5.00 AM for another truck tour. It was downright cool that morning, our last day at Hoyo Hoyo. The rain surely cooled things off. I am not sure if this was the reason we hardly saw any animals or if we were just lucky on our first outing. We even drove an extra 30 minutes and stopped at a lake to see hippos and crocodiles, but all we saw was one lonely hippo in the middle of the lake. Carol got a good photo, but there were no animals about. We even went up a hill to get a scenic view over
an expanse of veld, yet again, no animals. Sure a herd of impala, even a small herd of buffalo, but that was it. Carol managed to get a picture of a warthog in its burrow, still sleeping. We also saw ostriches and storks. I guess it was too cold for most of the animals, they decided to sleep in that day.

Saddle Billed Stork
Still, the ride was not a waste. One sits constantly at the edge of the seat looking left, looking right in search of a sighting. Kind of like hunters but our only weapon is a camera, yet the feeling of a “hunt” is still there.
After breakfast on this day and after settling our bill, we moved on to our next stop; the “Hamilton Tented Camp”, some 30 km away, hidden someplace along the dirt roads that criss-cross Kruger Park. All we have to do is find it.
Baby Zebra



Unknown species in foreground

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