March 18 to 20 – Lesotho to Jo-burg, South Africa
On March 18 we left Lesotho mid morning to head back to Johannesburg, South Africa. To be completely honest, I don’t remember much of that drive. On account of having a pretty nasty cold and still dealing with a leftover migraine, I decided to take a dose of NyQuil. Great for sleeping, not so great for coherency ;) I did manage to make it through 2 more border crossings though, so that’s good!
March 19 wasn’t much better. To make a boring story short, I could hardly get out of bed to get down to breakfast, so after picking at my food for little bit I climbed back into bed while everyone else went to church. I ended up sleeping the entire time the group was gone though, thankfully! It seemed to make quiet a bit of a difference. In the afternoon, the original plan was to go to Pretoria to visit a botanical garden there, but due to the torrential downpour, the group voted to have a bus tour of Johannesburg instead.
For dinner we headed out to a buffet restaurant that was popular with the locals. Since I hadn’t eaten really for most of the day I went pretty crazy with the food there. They has all sorts of cool things, some of it was traditional South Africa food but then they also had cuisine from all over the world. I got a lot of Indian food… couldn’t help it, it’s my favorite ;) We were also attacked by a group of traditional singers at one point. You got to wear a cone shaped hat and they would dab your face with a cloth. It was all very awkward really (and awesome!)
March 20th I was back on my feet! Still had the head cold, but it was manageable again. I’m so glad too because it was our last day in South Africa. We had a fun day ahead of us though. We had a 10am appointment at a lion and game park, which we were really excited about! We were told that we would get to see the lions feeding and also get to pet some baby lions. How cool!
On the way to the lion park, we hit some trouble on the highway. We were in stand still traffic for over an hour and a half. At first we were all disappointed because all we could think about were the lions and that we were missing them. But some of our group decided to walk up along the traffic and see what was going on. We were all humbled in our disappointment about the lions when we discovered that there had been a very serious accident where 7 individuals were killed. It was a pretty heartbreaking experience, especially as we drove past some of the remains of the wreckage. Ironically, our group had had some issues come up when we were trying to leave our lodging earlier that day. We ended up leaving over 30 minutes later than we had intended. Many of us couldn’t help but think that we may have been spared.
Even though we were late to the lion park, our tour was luckily still booked. We missed the actual feeding of the lions (when the trainers drive around in a big truck and push the food off and the lions come running), but we were still able to see them enjoying their fare, which was pretty wild! Well, not technically as these were mostly tame animals… but you get the idea ;)
We rode around in a range rover type vehicle that had a cage on it. It felt really weird, but it was neat because we were able to get up really close to all the animals. We started in the lion section, where they were all pretty visible. That was neat since the last game park we visited we weren’t able to get a clear view of the hiding lions. There were a couple different breeds that we saw, some were darker with almost black mains (think ‘Scar’) and others were more tan (think ‘Simba’) and then there were even some white lions (this time just think ‘unnatural’! haha). Even though we didn’t get to see them running after the food, we DID get to see them eating, which was really fun. At least for those of us who could stomach it. We even got to see a male lion steal food from a group of females, which was pretty lively and fun.
In the rest of the park, we were able to see a lot of neat animals. There were more impala of course. I think it’s safe to say that at that point the majority of us were not thrilled by this. Impala aren’t exactly hard to come by in Africa. We’d had our share by the last day :) But much to my excitement there were also wild dogs, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildabeast, and whole slew of other things I’m too lazy to list right now ;)
They also had a large prairie area, which is where we saw the zebra, giraffe, and wildabeast. At one point we had a surprise visit from a giraffe who insisted on licking our truck. It was really awesome actually, I’d never been so close to a giraffe. His hair was rough and stiff but he was still really fun to pet! I was somewhat scared of the big purple tongue though, so avoided any extreme contact with that!
Once our ‘safari tour’ was completed, we were taken over to a section of the park where they have baby lions. They have two different living environments that they keep them in and visitors are allowed to go in, up to eight at a time, to pet the lions. This was also, in my opinion, an ingenious way for them to tame the lions and have more manageable adults. We actually went in the pen that had a lion that was just a few weeks from being able to go into the main park (not pictured though), so that was neat. I got to pet two of the littlest ones, who were so cute! We were given strict instructions to only pet them on their midsections, no paws or heads or tails. Well, as I was petting one of them, another one started to lick at my hand. And then apparently it liked what it found, so it started chewing. Dayle was so kind to remind me that I had just been eating a bag of salty peanuts just before we entered the pen. Which apparently the lion decided was pretty tasty ;)
When we finished at the lion park, we drove straight to the airport. Because of the recent issues regarding Libya, the security was a bit extreme. Once we went through the regular rig-a-mar-ole, we had to get a pat down and our carry on bags search before they would let us into our gate. But we all made it through without getting too many items confiscated, which was good. 15 hours later I was in Atlanta, Georgia. One flight to Philly and I would be home!
Overall, what an amazing experience. And how thankful am I to have had the opportunity to go? A huge thank you to both my undergraduate school (Andrews University Agriculture Department) and my current graduate school (Longwood Graduate Program) for making this trip possible!