It was just as well I’d picked up the car manual before leaving Hogsback. It was bad enough that, on pulling into a petrol station earlier on the trip, I’d automatically asked the attendant, “Could you check the oil and…. Oh no, don’t worry!” on realizing that I had no idea how to open the hood/bonnet of the car. But with the thundering in Hogsback, I thought it might be a good idea to learn how the wipers worked. As I crossed the gorgeous Great Fish River before Grahamstown, it poured down on me. It was the one place I really didn’t want it to – photographic opportunities abounded, but it was all camouflaged by wet stuff. After that, it dried up and by the time I got to Port Elizabeth, it was a balmy, hot summer day. Once again, my GPS failed to find the road I needed to the guest lodge that was my roof for the night, so once I started seeing signs to Addo, I thought I might be close and pulled over to fire up my laptop and mobile wifi to check the map. The wind howled and I’ve no doubt cars driving by got an eyeful as I tried to handle laptop, wifi and a billowing skirt. All to no avail, and I dug out my hand drawn map in my notepad, crossed my fingers, and got back to driving.
My map was fine – I found the turn-off to the lodge, but after that, it became unclear. Gravel roads (again), residential neighbourhood, roads left un-signposted…. A couple of stops to ask residents where the lodge was and I eventually found the Happy Jackal. Happily, it was just meters away from the gate to Addo. There wasn’t much to do, so a walk along an abandoned bridge (with dire warnings about snakes!), left me little else to do but wait for the promised braai for dinner, and watch a Trevor Noah special on TV.
Except that, while I could hear the audio, there was no picture. More futzing by the hosts left me without audio and static. The wifi wasn’t working, and I was reluctant to use up my data in case I needed it for some of the long distances ahead, so I headed to the braai, a glass of wine, and rude German tourists. Aside from myself and a sweet English couple, the other 8 guests were German or as one man who shared my table made very clear Bavarian. And the Bavarians have better cheese than he tasted in Cape Town, so my suggestion of hitting the Midlands Meander farms on the way back to Johannesburg was greeted with derision, and an interchange with his wife in German that they didn’t realize I understood. I may not speak the language, but I know enough to understand much of what was said. I shrugged, and had a lovely conversation with the English couple until the Bavarians attempted to be polite again. I trust their trip to Joburg was as boring as they were rude.
I set off after breakfast to Addo. Very few cars, as always, and a nice drive along very bushy landscape where I was certain many animals were hiding. A close encounter with an ambling buffalo, disinterested in me thankfully, and finally, elephants! A very small herd of a very large mama and several youngsters had stopped traffic. The mama walked confidently over the road between the vehicles, almost as large as a very big tour bus that for some reason had parked on my side of the road. The vehicle next to the bus, inexplicably moved forward to block the gap in the traffic, leaving us humans to stare at these extraordinary creatures, separated from Big Mama, and huddled together, trying to figure out how to get to her. Finally, a little one of around 6 months old took the proverbial bull by the horns, and walked sedately to the end of the line of cars, crossed over, and joined BM, with the rest of the family following suit. Before they made it over, I moved on, winding my way through vehicles driven by people who had clearly forgotten to think.
After that, I saw no more animals, and headed to the Main Gate and the restaurant. Lunch was bigger than my stomach: venison carpaccio appetizer and a platter of various yummy things, most of which I had boxed up and took with me to eat in Knysna.
I left Addo, and decided to give my car’s GPS another chance. I don’t know why I do this. I had looked at the Google map, and the quickest route to Port Elizabeth was left out the gate. GPS’s disembodied voice said right. So, I turned right for about a mile, told GPS Voice to fuck off, did a U-turn and followed Google maps instead. I was “off road” for a very long time until I joined the N2 and GPS Voice figured out where I was.
At Storms River Bridge, I pulled over to stretch legs, take pics, and generally revel in the exceptional beauty of the area. The walkway under the N2 is not for those with vertigo, and neither is taking pictures of the dramatic cliff that falls away below one’s feet.
Back on the road, and a few miles later, screeched to a halt at the Bloukrans Bridge at the border between Eastern and Western Cape. An illegal stop, but I had to. I ran back to the bridge, took a picture as quickly as I could, and then back to the car. I was finally in Western Cape. Was I home yet?