Daily Prompt November 13th – Come Fly With Me: Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever travelled from home.
When I was twelve I was lucky enough to go on a trip to South Africa with my family. It was a Big Thing for me. Before then, the furthest abroad I’d ever been was the occasional day trip to France. I’d never been on a plane. When we (my brother’s and I) found out we were going on this trip we were ridiculously excited.
The reason for the trip was for the wedding of my dad’s business partner. The bride was from South Africa, hence the wedding being held there. My parents decided we’d make a holiday of it, so we flew over about a week before the wedding.
If I remember correctly, from the moment we left home until the time we arrived at the first hotel was almost exactly twenty-four hours, allowing for time differences. There was the bit-over-an-hour taxi trip to the airport (if I remember correctly, or maybe we went by train…) then the obligatory waiting for the plane. The first leg was barely half an hour to Amsterdam where we switched to the second plane for the main part of the journey. We were in Amsterdam for about an hour.
The flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg was a long one. Twelve hours or so. We were lucky that the five of us had the back row of the middle group in the plane (that sounds confusing when I read it back..) Having the row to ourselves meant that I was able to sleep better because I lay along in front of our seats on the floor. One of my brothers lay behind the seats between them and the wall. It was much nicer than trying to sleep sitting upright!
Arriving in Johannesburg we were met by our guide. Then was the journey in the minibus. That was a long journey too. Almost six hours driving to the Drakensburg mountains. So as I said earlier, by the time we arrived at the hotel we’d been travelling for a full day.
We spent I think about 3 days at the Drakensburg mountains. There were lots of monkeys around the hotel. The time of year we went (May) it was winter there, though we still thought it was pretty darn warm! The locals thought it was cold though, so the hotel had fires in their fireplaces. Unfortunately on one of the days a monkey climbed in the chimney and got stuck without anyone realising until after the fire had been lit… The monkeys got into everything. We were warned not to leave the balcony doors open because they would get inside. One day when we were walking on the hotel grounds we saw them doing exactly that!
I think the most memorable part of the time at the Drakensburg mountains was a walk we took to a waterfall. I think they called it Blue Lagoon or something like that. We all walked there and collected water from the waterfall to drink. It was amazing. My little brother (he was probably about 8 at the time) of course decided to try and climb the waterfall to get some “better” water, and slid off. Luckily he hadn’t got very high and didn’t hurt himself much. Daft child.
We visited a few other places though I don’t remember names… At one of the places we visited my brothers and dad went in a cage with some baby cheetahs. I was too much of a chicken to go. When I think about it I really wish I had… There were also several different owls and other birds at the same place. We also visited a place (forgive my vagueness, it was years ago!) where there was a traditional village set-up and we got to taste some traditional food and drink. The drink was alcoholic, so I just pretended to sip it because I’ve never been much of a fan of alcohol!
Our first guide left us in Durban. We were there just for one night in a very swanky hotel! I remember going down to the beach that evening and watching the ocean. The reason we were only there one night was because the following day we flew to Cape Town to stay for a few days. We had a different guide meet us there, though we all agreed that we got along better with the first one!
We did lots of different things in Cape Town. Table Mountain was amazing – we went up in cable cars and looked out at the view. It was spectacular. My little brother fell in love with the dassies (also called Rock Hyrax). They were rather adorable. Someone told us that they are closely related to elephants (surprisingly true) and that they are hunted for their ivory tusks… (not so true.)
We also went out on a boat ride around the bays. It was a bit rocky, and one of the women on the boat kept being seasick so that perhaps wasn’t such a pleasant part of the trip…
We took a trip to Robben Island, which was interesting and educational. Actually a lot of our trip was interesting and educational. Our parents tended to do that a lot – do interesting and educational things with us. I think maybe they didn’t want boring, stupid children… I hope they aren’t disappointed!!
Our time in Cape Town ended with a flight back to Johannesburg. Remember when I said I’d never flown before this trip? We sure made up for it!
Landing in Jo’burg we met up with everyone else who would be attending the wedding. A coach had been organised to get us all from the airport to the game reserve. That was a three-hour journey northwards. It was a very hot day, but everyone was in good spirits. We stopped along the way for a toilet break, as well as to buy drinks and the place we stopped just happened to have a biltong shop.
Biltong, if you’re not familiar with it, is amazing. It’s kind of like jerky, but better. You can get wet or dry versions. I only ate the dry, because I thought the wet looked like cat food… Likewise I stuck with beef, whilst the more adventurous among us tried kudu, Springbok and ostrich. Probably others too.
When we arrived at the entrance to Entabeni game reserve we were greeted by several Jeeps and rangers to drive us into the reserve to where we’d be staying. Driving to the lodges our journey was interrupted by three giraffes. A family. They were eating from a tree, pulling at the leaves with their long blue tongues.
They were the first of many animals we saw whilst we were there. We took many trips out in the Jeeps. Our goal was to see the Big 5. I think that’s what everyone aspires to, isn’t it? I think we saw lions quite early in our time there. In fact I believe we saw them several times. The leopard we saw when we did an evening safari, during which we also saw a warthog. That evening we had a braai or barbecue and I remember there was a huge fire. The night was very cold – if you stood near the fire you were too hot, and if you moved away you were too cold!
The Cape Buffalo we saw several times. The rhinoceros we saw on one occasion as a family group. We saw them again in a particularly memorable event – the evening during which the wedding reception took place. The rhinos apparently decided to come and enjoy the facilities and were a bit too close for comfort just outside. One of the guests was very close to getting himself gored. As a result we had to have armed rangers escorting us back to our lodges from the party. I remember as we went back there was a noise behind me and I turned to see several gazelle jump over the path and disappear into the wilderness.
The elephants proved evasive. When we finally saw them it was through binoculars from outside the lodge on the day we were leaving. They’d just had a new baby, so they were understandably avoiding humans. If I ever get to go back to Africa I’d like to see elephants properly!
Unsurprisingly we saw lots of other animals. I already mentioned the warthog. Just like at the Drakensburg mountains there were plenty of monkeys around the lodges (a different variety this time) and my monkey-loving older brother liked to go out and watch them playing on the rooftops in the early morning. Another frequent visitor to the lodges was a female ostrich. She was always around. She’d drink from the swimming pool and come up to say hello to us. One of the wedding guests joked that she was his date for the wedding. She pecked him on the hand for his troubles. Though that might’ve been because she was after his canapés.
The thing that stands in my mind most from the game reserve was the trip we took to have a picnic on a mountain top. We were taken up by helicopters. The pilots offered us a choice of “safe” or “daring”. Of course we went for daring, which was exhilarating. The helicopter behind us went safe. How boring of them! The view from up on that mountain was arguably better than the one from Table Mountain. Here we could see across the game reserve for miles and miles.
We were all so sad when it came time to leave, but of course we couldn’t have stayed there forever, even if we wanted to. Plus if we had stayed there forever it wouldn’t have been a holiday any more. It would have been real life. And who wants that?!
What’s your most memorable holiday? If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?