We decided to visit the Mpumalanga province, which means “the place where the sun rises”. At first, this destination was not on our list, it’s from talking with different people that we decided to go discover this beautiful place and all its incredible landscapes.
Mpumalanga : Variety of Landscapes
We went to Lydenburg at our new couch surfers Kim and Yoann to spend three nights and discover the surroundings. We had our own little hut in the garden, or as we say here, a “Rondavel” which is a small round house with a tchatched roof, usually made for one person.
We planned a specific itinerary, so that we had time to see everything during our day trip in Mpumalanga. First, we went to “The three rondavelles”, a rocky massif in the shape of three small traditional houses, on a 600 meters cliff. Next to it you could admire the “Blyde River Canyon”.
The next stop was supposed to be “God’s Window”, a panoramic viewpoint, but because of the fog we could not enjoy its beautiful view, so we continued our little visit to “Bourke’s Luck Potholes”, a magnificent place shaped by sand and rocks.
Then we went to a pretty little town that used to be an important mining town. Today at “Pilgrim’s Rest” you can walk along the main street to discover old shops, banks and restaurants.
After this break in the past, we went to observe the “Mac-Mac falls”, two big waterfalls of 18 meters high.
We finished our tour by Sabie which is a small town surrounded by a huge forest.
The Kruger: Meet the Animals
We did not plan to go to the Kruger either. Indeed, we had a very touristic and commercial vision of the park and that would not fit in our small budget. But by hearing everyone telling us how amazing it was, we wanted to understand what could be so great, three hours away from us. Finally, we did not regret this unique experience.
Thanks to our exceptional guests, we hit the road to Kruger Park with a lot of tips. It is strongly recommended to have a map of the reserve.
The Kruger is the largest wildlife reserve in the country, nearly 20,000 km2 (equivalent to the size of Wales), the park hosts 150 mammal species, 500 bird species and 100 of reptiles. Its name comes from the president of South Africa, between 1883 and 1900, Paul Kruger.
We arrived by the entrance “Phalaborwa” and went to take our tickets for two days and one night in a campsite (with our own tent). We can promise you that we were “stretched like a string” while waiting for the price to pay. But surprising moment (for once Karma was generous) the saleswoman made us a very very nice price, by considering us as residents, we paid a total of 615 Rands (about 20 euros per person) instead of 1800 Rands. Thank you!
This is how we entered the reserve with our Tata for an exceptional safari. When we arrived, our route crosses two big elephants taking a nap under a tree, giraffes having snacks or zebras walking. We drove for five hours to reach our camp. Campsites close at 6:30 pm because it is too dangerous to drive at night. Obviously, we were late. Too busy admiring giraffes, buffaloes, hippopotamuses, zebras, kudus, impalas or warthogs. We started to hurry home, fear of being fined if the gate is closed. We admired magical moments to finish this day full of surprises, a sunset on the river, hyenas lounging on the road and the most incredible, a leopard strolling.
We arrived ten minutes late but as it was a good day, the guards did not charge us, and we were able to set up our tent (of course, at night, to keep our good habits). After a healthy meal under the stars (two minutes noodles and chicken), a little poker while the hyenas laughing next to us, we went to bed early to enjoy the next day. You could hear all the savannah and its animals that greeted us. A magical moment, before two big baboons fight, against our tent.
Wake up 4:30 am, repacking the tent and leaving the camp for an intense day. We drove under the sunrise next to the giraffes and elephants. While eating our cereals and concentrating on the landscape.
We saw a group of a hundred buffaloes galloping on the hill, raising behind them a sandy cloud. Further, we stopped in front of a dam where we could discover a family of hippos resting in the water, revealing only their eyes and their little ears. Besides, two crocodiles relaxing.
We took the road and saw rhinoceros, a leopard tanning, nyalas leaping and suddenly, lions lounging, three females and one male. We arrived at another dam where we admired animals in perfect symbiosis, everyone hydrating, giraffes, family of elephants or monkeys.
Then it was time to leave, it was already 3 pm and we had three hours’ drive to get back to Lydenburg at Kim and Yoann.
We left the Kruger Park with eyes full of stars. We saw the big five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo) and many other animals so majestic and incredible.
Obviously, this little dream could not be perfect, on the way back, in the middle of the forest, our wheel explodes after hitting a huge pothole. Fortunately, we had bought our spare wheel before leaving (The beginnings) ! But our Karma gave us a little lesson: we did not have the proper tool to change the wheel … We patiently waited on the side of the road searching for a solution, when suddenly, two policemen passing by, stopped to help us (in South Africa, the police are not very friendly and not very appreciated). We explained to them that we had no money and no tools, but they were more than nice and started to stop every car that passed by to ask them if they had the tool for our wheel. After an hour, a gentleman helped us and we were finally ready to leave.
We went back to our little hut with amazing memories and an intense fatigue with our 13 hours’ drive, awake since 4:30 in the morning, it was time to rest.
The next day we took the road to Pretoria, Administrative Capital of South Africa.