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Johannesburg, South Africa

Alright, I’m officially sick of flying. 11 hours, very little sleep, and I think I’ve picked up a cold from all that re-circulated air. Miserable. First-class is really the only way to go when you’re flying on these long flights.

Our arrival at the airport was our first real taste of the World Cup. Everything at the airport was decked out in World Cup paraphernalia – columns, walls, people. World Cup sponsors were handing out free Coke, free chocolate, free visitor packets with ponchos. There were fans of various countries – Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mexico, USA, Netherlands – but none were as rowdy as the Chileans, who were already dressed in their jerseys, flags & hats, blowing their horns. Mind you, this was at 9am. There were a few scattered Vuvuzuelas being blown around the main atrium as we waited to pick up our tickets. Got our phone card during the wait too. After roughly 2 hours, we had our tickets, our luggage and our rental car, so it was time to head to Kruger Park and the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

So. The rental car. First off, it’s manual transmission, which eliminates me from driving it. Second, they drive on the left side of the road in South Africa. Third, we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, and so as we were driving during the middle of the day, I suddenly realized that the sun moves from east to west across the northern part of the sky instead of the southern. That threw me for a loop. We started off the trip right by missing the exit onto the first highway, so we had to circle through the airport before getting back to it. The highways are as nice as any American highway around Jo’burg, so it was quite easy travel for the first couple hours. We grabbed lunch at a Wimpy Burger, which appears to be a chain across South Africa. Eventually we made it to Nelspruit, which is a World Cup city. Due to a wrong turn, we were able to pass by the stadium, which looked quite nice, as did the rest of the city.

As we continued onward towards the park, it began to get much more local. The roads became one lane, and we started to see the locals out and about. There were signs all over the place for “High Accident Zones”, which weren’t necessarily for car-to-car interactions. People hang out on the side of the road, they walk on the side of the road, they cross the streets at any given moment. The women walk around balancing anything and everything on their heads – it is really remarkable. One woman was carrying a pizza box on her head! Many people waved as we went by. Eventually we made it out towards the park area as darkness was quickly approaching.

Things got a bit trickier once we turned off the paved roads. Each time we thought we were at our destination, we had more kilometers to go. We managed not to get lost up until the very end, when we were supposed to “follow the arrows” to the lodge. We did ok at first, until we saw a jackrabbit in the road right in front of us that started bouncing away. Eventually, it turned to the right, just beneath a sign that said “Deliveries ->”. Seeing no other signs, we went that way…and wound up at a fence. Fortunately, a staff member heard us making crazy car noises and opened up the fence so we could finally enter the lodge.

We arrived in time for dinner, which was absolutely fantastic. A full 3-course meal, with all of the lodge guests, in the round, with a fire in the middle. 5 people were from Argentina, 3 others from the US, and 2 Australians. Dinner was served earlier in the night than usual to accommodate the football match between Italy and Paraguay that was starting at 8:30. Everyone was very friendly and it was fun to be watching the match all together. Unfortunately, jet-lag caught up with us and we left at halftime.

Tomorrow, the real safari fun begins!

permalink written by  nucappy on June 14, 2010 from Johannesburg, South Africa
from the travel blog: London and South Africa - World Cup 2010!
tagged Safari, SouthAfrica and WorldCup

Send a Compliment

When we went to the Virgin Islands for honeymoon we rented a car and had a similar "hey they drive on the left" realization. What Stacey did to be helpful was sing "We're driving on the left, driving on the left" the whole time we were in the car. I think Ryan would find this equally helpful and would fully recommend you do it from here on out.

permalink written by  norbert on June 16, 2010

That dinner at the lodge just sounds amazing! And a woman carrying a pizza box on her head - ha! Glad to hear you're meeting interesting people!

permalink written by  farzana on June 16, 2010

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