Day 11 - The Final Drive:
Well friends the time to leave has finally arrived. In some ways the time passed incredibly quickly, and in others it all seemed like slow motion. The hardest part was being away from my wife and kids. The easiest was being in the place that I love. An added benefit was that I got some real quality time with my nephew, more that we have had in probably a decade. He's not a kid anymore and is becoming a man. I am proud of him and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him better. I also made new friends in Mike, his parents, Dave, and Veronica.
Deamole and the rest of the group were scheduled to fly out of OR Tambo later this evening. My flight wasn't until the next day so I was going to spend the night with Inyosi and family. I had hoped to drive through the park and exit Numbi gate, but deamole was concerned about running out of time. He also wanted to stop at the African Craft Market at Rosebank Mall so the newcomers could finish up some shopping. Therefore, we had strict instructions to be ready to leave the camp by 0830 to head back to Joburg.
Myself, Dave, Veronica, and Mike headed out for short drive around 0630. We traveled north on the H3 and then east on the S118 to the S114. The sun was up and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. We had some decent general game sightings and came upon Giraffe and Zebra in the road
And then Guinea Fowl that are so hard to photograph because their heads are always bobbing up and down
We crossed a small stream and found this Stork and a Hammerkop
As we were nearing the H3 turnoff an oncoming vehicle flgged us down. It was Waterbuck who had just entered at Malelane Gate and was on his way in search of the Mozambique Cuckoo. He hadn't even put his yellow ribbon on yet and did so while we had a very quick chat. We were already a few minutes past our arranged meeting time and had to hurry off. He did tell us about something we should look for on our way out.
We arrived back at camp and quickly loaded the cars. We did a quick sweep to make sure nothing was left behind, gave all of the remaining food to the workers, and headed towards the gate.
About 100 meters from the gate we came across this
The Kruger was incredibly kind to us throughout this entire trip and gave us this special parting gift to leave us with a longing to return. It was just one more awesome sighting to add to a long list of memorable experiences.
We left the gate at Malelane with no problems, but a sense of despair over leaving the Park, yet a sense of joy knowing that it wouldn't be long before I was with my family. I had somehow misplaced my entry permit, but the personnel at the gate were professional and did not give me any problems.
The drive back was smooth with no problems. We made it to the African Craft Market at Rosebank Mall and everyone finished their shopping. It is a really fun place to visit, but I have noticed that the crafters are becoming more aggressive. Not nearly as bad as Victoria Falls, but certainly worsening. Hopefully they will stay under control.....
Me made it to the area of the airport, but couldn't find a patrol station. I called Inyosi's SO who saved us by telling us there was actually one at the airport. We returned the cars and loaded the luggage onto the carts and made off to the departure terminal with about 10 minutes to spare before check in.
Inyosi's SO came and picked me up and took me home. It was prizegiving for their daughter and I was honored to be able to go with them. She finished her first year of high school as the top student in her class, was the Dux Student, received Honors and too many awards to count. Amazing!!!!! Well done!!!!
We stayed up late looking through pictures together and talking about when we can all go to the Park again together. They have a Kruger trip planned in April and a KTP trip in June. Oh how I wish we could be there too.......
The next day we all went and had a nice lunch and that evening they took me to the airport. I swore I wouldn't cry this time, but leaving Africa is always very difficult for me. I can honestly say that I at least made it until they had left me through security before it all came out.... I don't think they saw this time!!!!
I flew SAA direct to New York for the flight home. This was my first time flying SAA and it was a great experience. The staff was phenomenal and the service was truly World Class. I would definitely fly SAA again.
The return flights were smooth and I made it back a little early and in time to meet my son's school bus and surprise him. A perfect ending to a most amazing trip.
Thank you all for sharing this experience with me and for your kind comments throughout. Thank you also to the Forumites that we met along the way who made us feel right at home.
Porridge and JaxiDean congratulations again on your wedding and thanks for letting us help celebrate during the honeymoon. Don't forget to come say hi the next time you are here.
Wildone it was great meeting you at Shing. Aat and Ellie sorry we missed you.
Val and Dungy, thank you for making such a great effort to meet with us. Also thank you for sharing your love of Africa and the Park through your reports. Hoping and praying that the rest of your trip is good and that your daughter and SIL enjoy the rest of their honeymoon. What an amazing gift that was!
WendyA, Heksie, and Cheetah2111. You guys are a blast. I wish we could have had more time together, but thank you for making the effort! EKoppen it was good meeting you and maybe we will run into each other sometime on this side.
Lost Pride it was nice to have a moving meeting on the H7. Same with you Waterbuck on the S114 and thanks for telling is about the Leopard! Flying Cheetah and Raymond thanks for a good time and great company on the bush braai. Raymond, hopefully the pictures have kept my promise of sharing with everyone how great the sightings are from the Berg en Dal area. I'm a believer and count the area as one of my favorites!
There are many more forumites that I hope to meet during future trips. OR if any of you decide to come to California, please look us up.
I will probably keep going through pictures and post some more favorites if that's ok, but I'm not going to stress about getting it done everyday. I have done at least one posting everyday for the last month plus except for one or two days and it is time for a short break.
Till the next time.......