A record … we actually left bang on time … 9am … as planned. What was not planned was the next destination … Addo Elephant National Park. This was not on the itinerary, but seeing Addo had availability, and we wanted to get our camping legs (so to speak) with our new driver, we figured a trip to Addo was just the ticket. But we first had to get there …
As previously mentioned, South African traffic law does not allow cyclists on freeways, and as such we had to do a bit of porting out of Port Elizabeth before hopping on the bikes. The weather forecast was favourable for a few hot days and we wanted to make the most of it. But we never factored in the chance of wind …
The first few kilometers toward the little town of Paterson did not bode well for the rest of the day. A fickle wind blew from every direction but behind and it felt like we were going nowhere. Pumping the pedals in the lower gear range, I had to relinquish the lead to Suzann, who was feeling a great deal more spritely than I was. I hung onto her back wheel, trying desperately to catch some slipstream. Up the one long rise I was just able to hold on but soon began to loose ground in the gale. The wind began gusting from the side, threatening to push us into the road. I felt like a plastic bag in a whirlwind.
After turning left toward Addo, we expected the wind to be from the front, but it just gusted forth … from our right, this time. Suzann stopped on the side of the road … for a breather, but I simply couldn’t pedal any further. It took some convincing but finally she agreed to load the bikes and drive to Addo instead. But I had to promise that when we leave, the Addo to Paterson road would be cycled.
We booked in and set to putting up the tents in the campsite … denuded of shade, since hardly any trees had a leaf to speak of on their branches. Thank goodness we had an extra pair of hands to help out with the heavy lifting and hammering in of the tent pegs … Anyone who’s ever been to Addo can attest to their rock hard ground.
I was instructed (commanded) to rehydrate … My ‘flat’ feeling was thanks to a spot of dehydration. The hills into PE had sapped my strength and tapped my fluids … and I hadn’t replaced enough on our rest day.
We did get the chance to go for a quick game drive between all my drinking (Game, of course). The elephants were also out for a sip as the heat of the day began to dissipate into one of those balmy evenings that only Africa can provide. With the sun setting a fire in the sky, we drove back to camp, only to be greeted by an overland truck as our neighbours. Now that in itself is nothing strange or bad but what happened later that night was both strange and rather bad …
No sooner had we turned in, than we heard the most awful crying and groaning from the site next door. This eventually turned to banging on the truck windows and screaming … Being woken at 1:30am by a woman screaming blue murder and banging on the truck windows was just about all I could take. Flying out of the tent we hurried round to the overlanders’ site, but all looked to have quietened down. A single woman was in the truck busying herself with what looked like rolling a sleeping bag up. Bewildered, we looked around for the guides. Suddenly two men appeared from some small tents across the road. Standing out in the cool of midnight in our pajamas, they told us that she’d been acting out in this strange way since they had left the Drakensberg. She appeared to have lost all her faculties, and would just as easily burst out laughing as start wailing. Returning to our tents, we did the only thing we could think of … pray for her.
Growing quiet, we could get some sleep, but the next morning saw her even worse than before. When we left for our game drive, the medics had arrived … We just hope and pray that she will find the help that she so obviously needs.
Despite the uproar and general upset in the camp, the park didn’t disappoint in the way of animal sightings. Herd upon herd of elephants came to drink at the Hapoor dam, one even giving us a bit of a fright and causing Suzann to start up the bakkie and move quick-smart. They rumbled and squealed and generally got in each others way as they tousled over the water. Some ellies swam, others sprayed themselves with water and yet others churned everything to mud which they proceeded to cake themselves with. All the while the little ones ran amok, just like naughty children … but so cute.
Two old crusty buffalo and many kudu and zebra later we returned to a boiling campsite. I can hardly believe that it is actually winter. But one can’t get too comfortable … cold will return.