and we're here!
our journey began early wednesday morning with a long-awaited drive to JFK airport.
|me & marybeth, bright-eyed & bushy-tailed boarding our first flight in NY.|
after just shy of fifteen hours, we arrived in johannesburg airport on thursday morning! our first impressions? colorful, bright, modern, clean.
|johannesburg airport, mural of subway tiles near baggage claim (makes us feel at home!)|
we then hopped our commuter flight to the one-runway adorableness of pietermaritzburg airport! seriously, there is no baggage claim; some guy just carries your bags in from the plane. ours were sitting next to two boxes with live parrots. no, to pre-empt your question, they didn't say anything to me.
sipho (from the i-teach program of whom we're guests) met us at the airport where he singled-handedly helped us pick up our rental car and allay our left-sided driving anxiety. marybeth was brave enough to go first! she did awesome, jet-lagged and sleep-deprived and all. she hit ZERO pedestrians, a true feat of heroism given pietermaritzburgers' seeming propensity to throw themselves into the street at the sight of a passing car.
|marybeth: brave first volunteer in action!|
sipho led us to a local grocery store to pick up a few essentials then onward to the lodge after that -- many kilometers outside of town in a picturesque hilltop on the way to albert falls dam. an idyllic setting full of blue and green and sunshine; sounds of crickets and frogs; smells of grass and wood and clean earth. upon entering the reserve, you drive around a hundred yards or so on a paved road, then take a sharp right turn into the grass. the bush, in fact. after another hundred yards or so, you arrive here:
|our home for the month: is this place real? |
i could go into the specific details of the home, but suffice it to say the place works well for us and will be a great place for rest and retreat throughout the month. we've already met several species of (medium-sized?) african spiders -- creatures we have resolved to live with given their insatiable appetite for mosquitoes! after a deep and glorious sleep recovering from our day of travel, we woke up and met some of our neighbors: african buffaloes, a pack of warthogs (with babies!), four grazing ostriches, and a pack of some type of gazelle or kudu. hello neighbors, indeed!
|african buffalo ... and the little warthog on the right. |
not pictured: the rest of the warthog family who quickly scurried off!
|ostriches. these guys are way bigger than i expected. way bigger.|
|a map for reference: we started near pietermaritzburg and drove northwesterly. |
the green patchy areas are all part of the drakensburg mountains bordering the nation of lesotho.
|the view from lunch on our hotel's patio, ampitheatre in the distance. breath-taking.|
we spent the afternoon exploring the mountains -- by horseback! marybeth is an accomplished horseback rider in a former life; i'm a bit of a few-lessons-when-i-was-12 sort of gal. despite the fact that the horse i was plopped onto went rogue and ran me through a few bushes, we had a fabulous time. (marybeth says i shouldn't worry, but given we're both headed into infectious diseases, i'm closely monitoring my arm wounds for any evidence of sporotrichosis.) but truly, it's hard to imagine a better way to view the valley and mountains than prancing through it all on the back of a semi-wild horse.
|helmet-ing and saddle-ing up! safety first, you guys.|
|mandla (our guide) and marybeth on their not-going-rogue horses. in all fairness, mine settled down about halfway through and resolved to stop trying to throw me off and just nibble grass instead :)|
|not bad scenery in the rear-view mirror, eh?|
(zulu for 'good night')
until next time, sharon