(Backup) (Backup) Drakenberg, South Africa

The Baz Bus picked me up at my accommodation in Johannesburg and I requested a drop off at the Ampitheater Lodge in the Northern Drakenberg. About four hours away and over a mountain pass. I was looking for an area to cycle for a few days, not too rugged or too populated and with secondary roads, as the National roads are like our interstate highways and bicycles are not to be there. 
This is the greatest bus service and can take my bicycle. It is a hop-on hop-off bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town, about 1,500 miles along the Garden Route which is near the oceans to the south. They have a list of towns and accommodation where they stop. I just call a day or two ahead to make arrangements. The accommodation is anywhere from one to four star. This lodge has private cabins and rooms and dormitories and fabulous camping. There was a large outdoor kitchen, but you needed to bring your own food. Meals can be reserved in the restaurant and I ordered a packed lunch for cycling. I picked the camping option and enjoyed a meal in the restaurant with a two young Danish women. 

It was a glorious afternoon and evening for lounging in the pool, sipping a Savannah Cider, finishing my book about the Kalahari desert bushmen. There was an option of a day trip to the small mountain country of Lesthobo tomorrow, but it was hours on a bus and I was eager to be riding again, so I passed that with some misgivings. By now I have decided to go to Cape Town, so I need to keep moving. I probably won’t get back here, but you just never know!

Some of the lodge’s buildings under a dramatic sky. It looked like rain clouds, but it all moved on. The women working here spoke to each other in the language with the clicks. That was fun to hear. 

Somehow it is never as quiet as I think it should be sleeping out. There was a flock of gray birds about the size of ducks that were foraging for grass and walking about the campsite clucking most all night. Or so it seemed.

After a nice hot breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and fried potatoes, I am off on my new Bike Friday, custom made in Eugene, Oregon where I live. Everything I brought for the trip for six weeks is here, including a tent and sleeping bag. The front pack holds some food, my iPhone which has maps, and sunscreen.

Along the road are three traditional homes. On the left is adobe with rocks holding down a corrugated metal roof. Being more modern, it looks as though it has electricity. The middle house is all woven reeds and on the right is a round Adobe  rondavel with a thatched roof. Both are very old architecture of the Africa, still useful today.

A selfie for the day.

Rolling countryside and little traffic.


A day in Ezemevelo Campground.

Bets and Sone (a French name) invited me for brunch. Their warm welcome and hospitality amaze me. Bets brought her wood carving project, Sone is crocheting a blanket for her first grandchild to be born in June, and I paint in my sketchbook. We talk and laugh. It is like having instant old friends!

By two o’clock this Sunday afternoon everyone in the busy campground has packed up and headed home to Pretoria or Johannesburg. Fortunately there is a ranger and some workers living in the cabins around the corner, but it is totally quiet in the campground. I wander up to the little shop and swimming pool for a dip and to read in the shade. “Bushman of the Kalahari” by Laurens Van der Post, a South African writer and a good storyteller. There are a few people hanging around the pool who are day visitors.
The herd of wildebeest spend most of the day walking, running in short bursts, grazing and watering at the small dam nearby. I can watch them from my tent, it is just delightful. The wildebeest is my picture is a black one, a little darker than the many others here, and it has a blonde mane and tail. 
Upon returning to my tent, there are little blue monkeys literally all over my bicycle. My tent is a bit askew. Most scamper off immediately but a mother stays on the overhang tree branch nursing her baby until I walk right up to examine the crime scene. Doesn’t that sound like a charming picture? Except they were up to no good.
They chewed a hole through my tent, not the rain fly fortunately, but crawled up underneath to the less dense material in my very nice Big Agnes tent. Sure enough, they stole an energy bar. My bike levers were loosened but still intact! A few feet away they had dropped my headlight for camping. I was glad they left it behind!
Late afternoon I hiked the trail loop up over the small hill. There were larger herds of wildebeest, also known as gnus, and some elands, the biggest antelope of all. Africa has about 120 kinds of antelope. This game reserve was three separate ranches, now the fences are removed and there are three different management systems. Fortunately, the baboons are not in this area. It would not be safe camping with them!
Last night the wildebeest strolled through camp when all was quiet. Between their soft snorts could be heard the jackels howling nearby! I am not sure this is really safe and hope everyone watches their children closely!
But tonight I lay awake as the wildebeest fill the mostly vacant campground, I can hear them grazing right next to my tent. Not only that, but they always snort and tonight they are hiccuping! Between howling jackels and snorting wildebeests, I find it hard to sleep really well. Such is camping in a game reserve!