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SOUTH AFRICA
 


               DIARY 3
               2015-16   

                 Map + Plan


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Diary
1, 2, 3, 4   

9/12 (From Diary 2) The dog is developing in to a bit of a Rasta-dog, and I give it a needed haircut along with a tick-removal treatment. We are running out of water from the tower, and I can't figure, how to get it from the huge tank to the little on the tower.
At nine, I drive Cingiswa to Bathurst to get airtime - bungle for mobile talk. I can't figure why she expect me to pay - but I eventually do. She is dropped of at the farm at ten, I can leave for The Sibuya Private Game Reserve, a 60 kilometre drive. Despite I feel, I have no time for it, I gas the car (16 km/l this time), and stop at the big mall in Port Arthur to buy a cable for the GPS (the one I brought from home was a bit short in one end, and got broken, when I opened the door: The GPS was sitting in the small window in the door. Luckily, only the wire got damaged).
The now charging GPS leads me to an intersection, and there are no signs: The road to the right is just two tracks with grass in-between, and a "Road closed" sign 20 meters down the road. The one to the left seems endless, and I turn around when it narrows the fifth time. I ask at another reserve, but I guess I mess-up somehow, and ask for The Shamwari Game Reserve. After 85 kilometres, and a few hints from the only two people I see, it is there. Fancy place, and the only way one can see their big animals, is to spend a night, and join a game-drive in the morning. Rooms start at 4200 ZAR for singles. No driving in private cars. I just recall: I have forgotten my toothbrush.
While I'm here (where I actually planned to be to morrow), I try the nearby Amakhala Game Reserve. At the main gate, I'm asked to drive through the reserve to the nearest lodge, three kilometres in. Fine with me, but I fail to see any animals, only the dung. Same story, but I might be able to book a game-drive without a room for 900  ZAR - just I give notes in good advance.
Not really the success I was hoping for, and I'll return. The tour have been going through one game reserve after the other. I have seen so many zebras, blessbucks, ostriches, baboons, gazelles, kudos and wilderbeasts, but not the big ones I was looking for.

set the GPS for the original site once again, figuring I might as well use the remaining day, looking for it. It leads me down 70 kilometres of dirtroads, mainly through game farms and a few fields with cows. At the same intersection, I head down the narrow trail with the Road Closed-sign. A huge gate, with all kind of warning sigs, blocks the road. Be aware of lions, elephants and other buggers. But no sigs telling me NOT to go in, just one asking me to shot the gate.
It is actually a public road, leading through The Sibuya Private Reserve - I think. It need maintenance - hence the Road Closed-sign, I guess, but along the trail, I se numerous animals. Some warthogs block a bridge - till I'm close enough to make photos.
After a long and rough road, another gate bock the road. A crossing gravel road and a sign on the other side, leading to a Sibuya Forest Lodge. Another long, rough road leads to a fantastic luxurious lodge. Here are room for eight in total, prises start at 3800 - if you share a hut. I have to pay 5000ZAR a night. The reserve can only be reach by boat, the manager tells me. That somehow explain, why I had this hard time finding it! I explain I'm here to check the place out for a health-centre, and he gives me the grand tour.
They have day-game-drives for 1600 ZAR, but I have to book them at the office in Kenton-at-Sea. Considering how much wildlife I have seen along the road, I'm game. At the office, they regret; there are no tours tomorrow. However, I can join the manager for an inspection tour. I guess that is better than none, although I fear it will only include their three lodges. Never the less, I think this could be the right partner for the project: Quite close, apparently good game drive, interesting boat ride  and interested in a cooperation.
While I'm here, I check the perfect beach at Kenton-at-Sea, before I returns home. Nice beach, but nothing else interesting around here, as fare as I can tell. It is getting late, and I have driven 320 kilometres today, seen a lot of wild animals, but not achieved to go on a game drive among the big five.

The water have returned - somehow, but mixed up with something else. I start working at the porch with a cup of tea - which taste slightly different. Could be caused by the material making the water look like light milked tea? Then it is time to start supper; the planned Spaghetti Carbonera have some kind of bacon but the rest is improvised. Added some roasted chicken polony, used noodles, powder cheese sauce and dried oregano. It taste a bit right, and they do like it - although Cingiswa add a pickled cucumber with dill! Xolea won't let the dog have the leftovers; it is his breakfast, and I give it some dried dogfood - once again.

10/12. It is a sunny morning, and I wished I was going for a game-drive right away - but I ain't. I go through the waste material Sibuya supplied me with, and try to add more birds to the list of sights from the porch. Despite it is early in the morning, it is strangely quiet. It might be the extensive sunshine? Or the large, African Crested Eagle, sitting in a tree, halfway down at the clearing?
At ten, it is time to head for Kenton-at-Sea and Sibuya's office. My guide for the day greats me in  front, and show me to a terrace, overseeing the huge river. Here is coffee and tea, and while I enjoy that, a few more adventures turn up.
We walk down some stairs, and board an aluminium boat. At first, is is slowly upstream while the captain tells about the surroundings, and point-out the wildlife we passes. It is mainly birds, but he also give the common and Latin names on some of the more iconic plants. A few fisherman try their luck in the salty river. It is only sweet eight kilometres up, and pretty rich in fish, of which we see some jumping. A Fishing Eagle take its part, while different herons get their sheer. Here is even a Goliath Heron. A lot of the different birds, known from the beach patrols the sandy sides of the river, and a single Holy Ibis check the sand for crustaceans. A couple of Cycas can be seen among the numerous River Euphorbias, but we fail to see any hairy animals.
We stop to unload some of the guests, and I see this lodge. All their lodges are in real harmony with the wild, and interfere as little as possible. No feeding of the wild, no concrete, all build on poles, tents for the guests, only solar energy and so on. And "only" 5000 ZAR for a single night! All tents have a porch, facing the river, offering a great chance to observe the rhinos on the other side. We head on to drop the rest, before we reach the last camp.
Right behind the dining area, a platform offers a absolutely magnificent view over a valley. Right in front of us, some Spring Bucks are grassing, and I'm told elephants often do that too.
We start a short game-drive, but is is real rich on animals. Buffalos, gazelles, lans, Spring Bucks, Water Bucks, zebras and even a couple of elephants. Way too fast, we are out of the reserve, and then back to the office. I simply have to book a proper game-drive right away. 1000 ZAR, but guarantied 3-4 of the big five. Way better then the one I bought for 2500 ZAR somewhere in Asia, only offering one buffalo, in the fare distance, and two butterflies!

It is still too early to head home, and Alexandria is only 30 kilometres away. I see several buffalos and other wild life along the road, and the entire scene is fantastic: Huge, green hills, numerous waterholes, interesting plants and perfect sunshine.
Alexandria, despite the name, is not that interesting. A few shops, a white church and a single back-road. I do the walk, photo the church, and try the supermarket. I might as well stock for the supper I'm preparing for tomorrow. There are no towns before Port Elizabeth, and I turn back. A single of the huge Aloes is flowering, and that causes for a photos. Here are also a few interesting succulents, and on the next field; a herd of buffalos. I am considering taking the public road through Sibuya, but the food is getting warm in the car.
Back at the farm, I make a cup of tea, and listen to the birds with my eyes closed. Then I start working, but make a break to take the dog for a walk. We find some new trails, but they do need a machete before you can walk them without bleeding. The Acacias and two other bushes have fears thorns!
Cingiswa "volunteers" to cook supper, and I continue work at the porch. Next time I look up, it is black night. She have made a traditional South African dish; "pap", which is cooked maize-flower added some sliced beans, accompanied by a slightly spicy sauce with beans and pepper fruits. Real tasty! But then I figure; she did ask about the minced meat I bought today, but not the rest of the ingredients - and she used them.

11/12 Another perfect, sunny day, mend to be spend on game-drive. Unfortunately, that will not be the case. It is spend on Cingiswa-drive - at least the first half. While Cingiswa is at the lawyers, I try to get some more efficient internet. It seems like a 3G wireless solution, using microwave from a tower in Bathurst could be the right. It is from Igen.co.za, and installation cost in 2500ZAR, including desk, line and wireless router. A 2Gb limitless connection is 550 ZAR a month. Significantly cheaper within a month or two! I get the documents, and drive to the mall and buy airtime for Cingiswa, a 55 ZAR bungle internet for Xolea and 300 ZAR internet for my self. Ought to last the rest of my South Africa time.
On the way home, I spot a small, real green tortoise at the road. Significantly more flat than the others we have seen, but terrestrial. Around four years old, and the size of a hand. It get a ride to the farm. A fast cup of tea, and I need to explore some wild nature. I head east, and try to get into some of the reserves, scattered along the road. Some are costal, and could reveal new biospheres with new plants.
I take a long gravelroad, parallel with the eastbound costal road. Within four kilometres, there have been Bless Bucks, Nyalas, Spring Bucks and Buffalos. And of cause some cows and even a couple of enormous Brahma bulls. At one of the ponds, some gees and ducks rests.
At the costal road, I turn left towards East London, and look for the reserves. I find some, but their gates are closed and unattended. Guess they don't like people dropping bye unannounced.
Then I try to find a path to the sea, but it seems like the beach is privately owned. Where the big rivers meet the sea, lodges and leisure reserves have huge gate and fences. I make a few stops, and botanizes along the road, but it does not reveal much. One entrance to the fields have a small bridge for pedestrians, and I take that as an invitation. Disappointingly enough, here are nothing interesting to be found.
After 50 kilometres driving, I find an access to the beach. The river meets the sea at some huge sand dunes, and here are some snail encasements, a huge claw from a crab and alike, to be found in the beach along with a few plovers. It is a perfect beach with warm water, a sunny day, and I'm completely alone? I try to make it into the vegetation on the enormous dunes, but it is too dense, and I guess there will be no small plants underneath anyway.

The return is done inland through sparse, remote and bad maintained gravelroads. Here are scattered settlements among the huge hills. Ever five kilometres or so, I find a single Boophane disticha, most flowering, but two with fruits. And I get a photo of each, I'm afraid.
As the trail descents from one hill, the landscape turn real dry, and sandstone gravel make the home for more succulents, than the grassland. Here are tiny Euphorbias below the huge ones, and some tiny "Aloes", named something else, I can't recall. Huge Aloes give shade for small related specimens and other small succulents.
Despite the long distance on these roads, it is the only place which are dominated by succulents. Many areas are covered in dense bushes, and furriest inland, it is all grass.
I reach a "build your self bridge", and have to find rocks to widen it enough. As I build, two Water Monitors take cover in the nearby pond. I get pass my bridge without loosing any paint underneath the car - but only because there are no left anyway.
Small villages are scattered over several hills, and their livestock grasses the green hills. Some hills are covered in huge Aloes, some in medicinal herbs. A filling station along the gravelroad makes my turning point, and I head out towards the coast again, but still in an angle. Home at four, slightly disappointed by the sights, but I guess I'm spoiled by now.

I work until it is dark, then I start cooking. The plan was my favourite Bolognaise meets Con Cane, but only the minced meet are the right component. I end up with something a bit to sharp and way too salt, despite I have not added any salt - except what was in the spices I used. Cingiswa call it eatable, Xolea loves it and end up eating too much.
The forecast for tomorrow is not that good, but it usually turns out better. I might try my luck up north, which should be better.
I upload another slideshow; ZA time, part 2.

12/12 Yet another perfect morning. I spoil the dog, petting it while I eat breakfast. A few new birds passes; Mousebirds, Blue-Capped Sunbird, Split-tailed Drugon and what appears to be a falcon. I planned to take a day off, but at half pass seven, I'm starting doing the laundry, cleaning my room and the car. The latter is a huge challenge. It was new when I got it, and now, it look like a framer's 4x4 - 20 years later. I can't find an extension core for the vacuum-cleaner. No more luck attaching a hose to any water supply. Broom and bucket it is. It end up looking way better, and as long they don't look underneath, I hope I'm safe. While I clean up the car, a frog passes bye - rather unexpected.
At noon, it is time to take the dog to the most remote part of the farm. Armed with a machete and a camera, the adventure begins. I head towards the clearing, but keep to the left. The aria is moist, and the bushpigs have done some quite big alterations to the grass covered area. A yellow bathtub sits in the middle of a narrow creek below, which seems so unreal in all the undisturbed nature. Further down the narrow stream, a crab sits - way more natural than the big one.
We follow the trail a bit, but the arid area below the first electric poles lours me in. Here are several succulents, among them the tiny Euphorbia I encored yesterday. A big loop brings us back to the trail. A big cockroach is reluctant to leave, and I then I see its young ones. Some species actually have child-care! A backbone from a large animal lies next to the road, but we don't meet any large animals.
An almost invisible trail leads left, and it seems like an old road. We follow it till it kind of fades away. Some animal trails bring us further down towards the river, and at some huge Euphorbias, a real unexpected road reveals. It is reinforced with rocks on a steep decent towards the river. It vanishes just at started, and we are left with animal trails again. Best guess is that it is one of the first roads, leading through the area, hundreds of years ago.
The machete come in real handy, and after quite some hard work, we finally meet the river. It is real hard to tell exactly where we are, but I got a feeling of, the horseshoe bend will be a bit further to the right. We follow the real idyllic river, and it does make the bend. We try to follow the river side, but the bushes are way too thick. A lot of machete-work bring us up to the top, but a 30-40 meter vertical drop prevents us from reaching the other side of the bend.
Here are lovely flowers, at least six Cycas', huge trees and loads of other green stuff. We get lost in the maze of trails, clearings and not least; thorny bushes, in the fare end of the farm. Here are no guiding lines at all; sun gone, hill after hill, no signs of human activity. When we finally crosses our own trail, recognisable by the chopped down branches, we head home. A skink crosses our trail, but nothing else new, catch my attention.
Almost four hours have passed, since we left the house, and a cup of tea is real appreciated. Cingiswa want a short tour to Bathurst - just the gravel road. I'm not that hooked on the idea, considering how much energy I have put into cleaning the car, but she is rather persistent.
I swallow my tea, and she has dispatched Xolea to this important expedition. We first try Bathurst General Store, but it is closed on a Saturday afternoon. Then we have to try Port Alfred. Here, the first five shops don't have whatever it is we need so badly. The sixth has, and it turns out to be six ZAR of snuff! And just one box, of cause. It have taken us more than an hour, the car is dirty again and coasted me 50 ZAR of gasoline.

Back at the farm, the dog need a tick-removal treatment. They have not yet attached themselves, but I find 25, and that can fare from be all. A result of following the animal trails. I got my share, but that that extensive.
The ever turned-on TV is turned up to max: Gospel is on. I fail to find a spot in the shadow, sufficient far away.
Xolea get the hint; "You got the supper under control?", and start to cook chicken with rice. Perfectly spices and real tasty. After that, I start rigging up my alarm clock. Computer and cell-phone.

13-12 I get a great idea at four; charge the camera battery for once. It has already begun to lighten, but I try to catch a bit more shot-eye. At half pass six, a mongoose is watching me through the window. He might be fast, but I get a perfect picture - of my own reflections in the window. It was described as a rabbit by Xolea and a rat by Cinguswa, but now I figure it is responsible for the lack of peacock chicks.
It is a greyish day, and Xolea take a rain-check on his beach-plan, mainly because of the cold and slightly rainy weather. As I drive to Kenton-at-Sea, it starts raining quite heavily. I have brought fleece jacket and raincoat along the sunglasses, but I would so much prefer sun.
It turns out most have cancelled their game-drive for the day, and I'm only accompanied by a cool German surfer, who lack waves. We have half an hour to sip tea, and chat, before out guide sails us up the river. The sky clears up, and despite it keep being kind of cold, the sun dominates most of the time. I guess it can't be more perfect for animal spotting. They have been hiding from the rain in the morning, but wont have to hide in the shadows due to the heat.
We pass a lot of birds, like small and big heron and the Goliath one as well. Here are some African cormorants, a young and an adult Fish Eagle, plovers and other beach birds, martins, kites - and others.
We stop at the first lodge for a short break, then head on a bit further up the river to the next camp. Here, we get a 4x4 and head out into the wild. Loads of Spring Bucks, Nyalas, Zebras,  Water Bucks, Blue Wildebeest and more, but none of the Big Five so far. I spot quite some interesting flowers and plants, but that is not our guide's strongest side.
Then we meet two young, but still huge White Rhinos. They are moving slowly while grassing, and don't mind us at all. Their weight is around 1300 kg each. An older male comes round the corner. It is Africa's biggest, with a weight of 2600 kg. Not that he is fat, he is just huge! The young ones curl up their tails, flatten their ears and sneak off. I get some great photos of all three.
Next event is a great view over a huge valley. I kind of scenes a giraffe, way out in the bushes, and manages to get a blurry photo. As we drive on, we meet more Blue Wildebeests and I see a flowering plant I never seen before. Could be an Aloe? We descent to the valley, and cross over the public road, I drove he other day. Here, the lions have their own enclosures on 100 hectares. We spend a long time driving around the rather dense bushes, but no luck at all. They are feted by catapult, and the half cow it brought by electric car. Sound safe that they don't connect the sound of a diesel engine with food!
Back in the huge area, we see more Spring Bucks and more birds. The Blue Starlings are fantastic, the Spectacled Veawers too, and so is the tiny Pygmy Kingfisher. We end up at the River Lodge, and on our way up, I spot a toad.
We sit and wait for the lunch at the viewing tower, but it is fare from as interesting and last time. I nag the guide about the lack of Big Five, and he desperately point out a group of Cape Buffalos, in the fare distance. But no leopards, no elephants and no lions. Guess that is how it is, when the enclosures are "too big".
Dinner is great, especially the sweet tart with loads of fruits made into some caramelise crme. I don't dare asking for the receipt. It is only topped by a trifle I got in Scotland, way back. 

I get home in the late afternoon, and as the two others are sleeping, I recon the TV-signal is missing. I go through the photos of the day, and write about it. I give the car a fast wash, still pretending it newer went off-road.
Then I kick the dog awake, and take it for a short walk; just an hour. When I return at seven, I kind of hoped the cooking was started, but no. They are still asleep.
I make some roasted, jacked potatoes with a bit of onion, carrots, spices and herbs. I find a sausage, called Kameeldoring Boerehors, and that is for roasting on a fryingpan , right??? I'm not sure wherever it contains camel or Boer, nor how it is spiced. Just as a habit, I make a gravy, which surprisingly turn out quite good, despite I don't recognise a single spice I use for it. The others appears as the food starts to smell.

I try to figure what I miss to accomplice, while I'm at the farm. Here are still a lot of invasive plants, fences cutting the lot in smaller pieces, buildings that need a lot of reconstruction, a pool that only are suited for the dog, a road that need mending and a water supply that need cleaning. Not things I can do without proper tools. Besides from that, I think I have done what I could.
Tomorrow will be dedicated to look out for new bird species from the porch,  finish the primary report for the owner and pack my gear for the next 56 days' adventures. Then preparing the slide-shows with Plants, Animals, Farm, Best photos , All the rest and the best 75

14/12 Another cold day, and it is my last on the farm for now. I get a better picture of our morning guest, the mongoose. It will be real difficult to keep it away from the peacock - and the mongoose is actually the indigenous species.
The slideshows are made, but the internet not really mend for data amounts like this. Eventually I succeed, and they are  up. I rap up some other items and projects, then Xolea want to go for a bit of shopping in Port Alfred. After an hour and a half, we return with close to 20 kilos of food, which I by some strange reason had to pay. At least, it should be sufficient until I return in two months.
I take the dog for a walk, way up on the remote hill by the public road. Seen from the porch, the only human made things are two electric poles and that short bit of gravel road. The neighbour drives bye, and we have a chat. People are real queries around here!
The peacock female turns up late afternoon, when we returns. I had suspected she might be roosting, and to judge from her messed-up tail-feathers, she is. She appreciate the dog-food - way more than the dog.
Quite strange, I have only taken 1400 photos, way less than I use to.

The minister of Finance have been sacked, the ZAR dropped 10% and I'm not complaining. The car get yet another cleaning, pretending it haven't been off-road - much. Then I just plain restless, ready to head on.
Xolea cook; Beef with oven-cooked fries, veggies and gravy. Real good, he got it by now.

15/12 Don't sleep well, and then my alarms start to go off at three, I don't feel that fresh! Apparently, Cingiswa is joining me to Port Elizabeth to have a meeting with an official, sorting out some papers for the Farm. The first hour we drive, it is pitch dark, except from numerous stars. We meet a few trucks, and a few bakkies when it start to lighten.
I drop Cingiswa in a suborned, and find the airport. Drop-off went smoothly; he didn't bother to go out and have a look. Ticket and security just as easy, and then I have an hour and a half to wait.  Better that, than five minutes late. I catch up on world's news and writing. The poor Spark have taken the beating from 2490 kilometres on an average of 19 km/l. Some would consider that good, but I'm use to 30.
The airport seems empty, and only a few flights this Wednesday morning. Apparently, that is how December is around here.
As I plan the route from Johannesburg to the Lesotho border, I realises I have to go through Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Bethlehem - sounds like a big detour to me! Though here are several malls in Johannesburg, I rather wait for later with the extensive shopping.
I get to the first rental office real fast, but then I have to wait for a pick-up. At there garage, it takes a bit more than two hours to fill out papers, get the car explained and look through - and wait for each. It is a nice car, but rigged for four. I rather get some of the weight off, and wait for them to remove one tent, some chairs and chicken stuff along with sleeping bags and alike. A bit passed noon, my visa card is once more ripped for 50.000ZAR - this time as deposit.
Surprisingly enough, Johannesburg let me out real easy and fast. On Tom Jones St, a massive steam boat is parked in the water. It is not what am after, and in general, I only stop a few times. Ones at a sign that kind of tells: No Dollars. A S crossed over. It is first after I have stopped to take a picture of it, I figures it means "No Stopping".
It seems like endless, brown grass-fields with numerous cows on. It is almost completely flat, and except form one fields, not much calls for a camera. This fields, on the other hand, have somewhere 2 and 3000 small, black cows on it. It is huge, but they stand rather close. Never the less, I either get a few cows or a black line.  In a bit of an contrast, a huge atomic power-plant is next.
Passes Heilbron and Reitz, but stops first in Bethlehem for the shopping. 20 litres of water, cans, powder with taste, rice noodles, toilet paper, muesli, taste for the water, soya, tea and sucker. Rather expensive, but I guess I'll have a hard time finding it in Lesotho and Swaziland, and defiantly not cheaper. Anyway; it is nice to have.
Right after Bethlehem , the first table mountains show up, and the terrain curves up. I drive right to the border, and within tem minutes, I'm both out of South Africa and in to Lesotho. I have to pay 30 ZAR in road-tax, but that is all.

From here, the diary continues in LESOTHO

21/12 Back from LESOTHO by the mind-blowing, magnificent, amassing, fantastic, astonishing Sani Pass, I'm now back in South Africa, just to get to Swaziland.

The road from the border control is fare from at impressive as the Lesotho part, but never the less; beautiful. Grass filled hills with few barren rocks sticking out. Many interesting plants, among then Banksias and huge tree-ferns. It is just amassing how green this is, compared with the Lesotho, I just left, two hours (real slow) driving away.
While I botanizes, a small Peugeot cross-over passes me. I think; only Frenshmen would chose that car. Next stop, I meet with them. We have no common languish, but we agree on "magnifique" - cause, they were French.
I had no intentions of making it to Swaziland today, and I just enjoy the tour and stop whenever I find some thing interesting.
25 kilometres after the border, the road flatten out, and it get sealed. I make a seven kilometre de-tour to Underberg. Both to see the town, but also to take avenges of the South African supermarkets. It is endless, flat, lush green grass fields with diary cattle, huge lakes and massive mansions. No small rondawels her. And hardly no people . Just a golf course, a polo club, the country club an Underberg start with nicely moved lawns and a well trimmer ally.  It is in so big contrast to Lesotho as any country can be - including Greenland!
Spar have all I want, and I head back. It turns out only the seven kilometres road I already have driven, are sealed. The surrounding lush green fields are the temporarily home to many white storks. Here are numerous creeks and rivers, few but huge farms with endless fields.
The terrain raises, and the road passes a pass. This is close to Dragensberg, and the iconic Kamberg is clear, a bit south. After the pass, the fields get even bigger and smoother. Some fields are several kilometres, but only a few cows are found on them. The road cuts through Maloti Drakensberg Park, then it is effective farmland again.

Just outside Underberg, there are plenty of camps, lodges and alike, but I thought it was a bit too early. Now, 100 kilometres of gravelroad later, at half pass five, I am so ready. But with the exception of a farm for every two kilometres, here are nothing! I aim for the largest town around - another 45 kilometres on gravel. The fields here are huge - nearly endless. Some with maize, some with potatoes some with young pine-trees.
Finally, a sign show of to Antbear Lodge, and despite the road is just a farmers real bad dirt road, I'll give it a shot. Could be a man living in one rondawel, renting out another? Several kilometres further out, pass some small farms, a huge lodge is found. I end up in the wedding cottage with Jacuzzi, living room with fireplace, huge bedroom and much more. And I get for 1/3 of the price, including dinner and breakfast: 950 ZAR. Bit too much, but it is real windy, I need a hot shower, and it could start raining. Half an hour to settle in and have a shower, then dinner is served in the main building.
Deep fried mushrooms, Pork roast and chocolate cake with ice. I dine along with some interesting and humorous Americans, living in Mozambique and South Africa. They tell me, Mozambique is suffering from drought too. I had heard they should drown in this El Nino year, but fine with me! I also learn the cops that stops you all the time will settle for 200 Mozambican Metical  - around 30 DKK. But it will happen time and time again, and one can spend half an hour bargain it down from 2000 Mozambican Metical.
I know I have around 500 photos waiting and diary to write, but I guess I can spend half the day tomorrow here. And upload all Lesotho photos on my remaining airtime, which only works in South Africa, and expires before I get back anyway.
Never the less, I start writing and make me a cup of hot choco'. A tiny, point-snouted mice joins in, bit it is only interested in the insects. At midnight, I'm finish with a breath diary, and call it a day.

22/12 Breakfast is only served after half pass seven, and I get a couple of hours to work in the morning. There are numerous bird voices outside my house, but it is hard to spot the origin. I recognises the sound of doves, Guinea fouls, ducks, cranes, gees, different sparrows, starlings, martins, weavers, a rooster, but there are many more.
I'm advised to visit the Giants Castle, nearby, but the drizzle and fog are covering the area, and I keep working. The photos of Lesotho are made into slideshows and the diary updated, while I sit in the restaurant. My room and the main building is filled with amassing detailed and creative woodwork. Even the window frames, all the chairs, wardrobes, staircase, lamps and more are exquisite handiwork, combined with art. I try to capture some.
Here, the mobile internet is also a challenge, and it is passed noon, before I give up. The plan is to reach the Piet Retief area, for another night in South Africa. It is the bigger city near the Mahamba border crossing. My original rough plan was to enter Swaziland on the 25., so I'm a bit ahead of schedule. Dundee and Vryheid is the waypoints - not Ladysmith, because my GPS prefer the one city with that name,  1200 kilometres west of here.

I stop several times on the route. First time quite close to The Antbear, where several species of beautiful bulbs catch my interest. Later, I stop along the sealed road, and find surprisingly more interesting plants. Just outside Colenso, the side of the road have flowering Aloes, flowering Vitaceae and many more "new" plants. It is a greyish day, and quite cold. I start around 1500 meters height, and the warmth form the sun lack this misty day. Fleece jacket and the heater on in the first stint.
The first city is Colenso, which itself is a "was then"-city. I find an ATM, figuring South African Rand works in Swaziland, but Swazi lilangeni will be useless anywhere else. Their mobile internet is good, and while I keep botanizing along the road and driving, the computer uploads loads of photos in slideshows.
Here are gamefarms along the road, and I see quite some wildlife - way out in the bushland. Along the road, it is only some White Storks, Guinea Fouls and Vervet Monkeys. Despite my GPS only recognises the other Ladysmith, I do drive through this big and modern city. The sidewalks are packed with people. From here, it is endless grass fields with scattered cattle. Not worth botanizing on, and I just drive on. The altitude remains now between 1000 and 1200 meters. The higher areas are dominated by forest and bushland.
In Dundee, the upload is completed - I hope, and I just drive on. A field with ostriches make do a breath stop, but they are also too fare away for my camera.

Half pass five, it start to drizzle, and I start looking for a bed or camp. Moolman Hotel turns out NOT to be my accommodation for the night. I would spend the night with a light foot on the clutch and the rev's high! But it would make a fantastic set to a scary movie! A smashed-up bar with a pool table, filled with Hill-Billys and freaks, all black.
I reach the big and modern Piet Retief, and try a couple of options. One is so fancy, they don't open. Arabic Nights sounds entreating, but not next to a mosque. They tend to make way too much noise in the early morning, and you are expected to join in.
Finally, I find a combined hotel, lodge, bar, restaurant and camp site. The rooms are 450 ZAR, but despite the threading rain, I go for the 150 campsite. The girl say "take any lot you want" and so I do: There are a brand new barn next to the campsite. Here are only a caravan and a couple of car wrecks. I can easily squeeze the truck in, and "let it rain".
A hot shower and a mount of spareribs, and I'm a happy camper. It  is only 32 kilometres to the border, and I expect it to be a smooth as the previous. Remain in the restaurant to work and sip tea. Half pass nine, both the computer and the phone, providing internet give in, and I find the tent.

23/12 It did rain during the night, but I was perfectly dry. Eat breakfast along the lakeshore, watching the cattle egret colony. A short drive to the border, interrupted by a tour to the gas station. It is easy to get out of South Afica as usual.

- and now it continues in Swaziland

       
 
 
Diary 1 + 2 + 3 + 4   Map + Plan  Photos