Into South Africa, Imfolozi & The Amphitheater Hike
After a magical time in Botswana we move South towards the border. Unwilling to give them up, we buy one more freeze-pop and move along to deal with formalities. Although we have not seen everything, we have managed to cover 2,968 miles in Botswana and we have both been extremely, extremely impressed!
In less than two minutes we are stamped out of Botswana and move onto a very large, clean and formal building that is South Africa. At Immigration we are given a three month entry stamp for free and everyone is welcoming and happy.
Over at Customs and very friendly lady types up a six month temporary Import Permit for the Jeep, which is valid for all the countries in the South African Customs Union (South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland). It means I can freely cross between those countries as many times as I like in the next six months without doing any Jeep paperwork at all. The TIP is free and the officer is very happy to type it out for me and explain it top to bottom.
Tearing along huge toll roads we reach out first toll booth and hit a snag. Only South African bank cards are accepted, and we have only been in the country an hour so we don’t yet have any South Africa cash (Rand). The lady at the booth will not negotiate and so we have to go back about twenty miles to a gas station that has an ATM. After completing the loop the lady apparently does not even remember us! ha!
After ticking off a whole raft of jobs in Johannesburg (more on that soon), we move down towards Durban and the mighty Imfolozi Game Reserve. It’s a very different experience to what we have seen in Nam and Bots, and when one mighty big elephant comes my way I’m certainly he is going to give the Jeep a solid love tap. Over a couple of days we spot many large critters, though no cheetahs or leopards, which we are still yet to see in the wild.
After leaving we hear a story about tourists that were killed in the park by a very large and angry elephant who attacked their car!
South Africa feels like a different world to the Africa I have come to know and love so far on my expedition. There are massive freeways, hundreds of monster shopping centers and stores and shops we recognize from North America. Roads and towns and stores are spotless, and the electricity and water work just as you expect. Virtually all cars on the road are newer than my Jeep, and many are Mercedes or BMWs. Unfortunately, prices have gone up too. Camping is around $10 USD per person per night, gas is almost $4USD/gallon and a meal is often close to $10 USD (which is seriously higher than I have been paying in all of West Africa)
I even see my First McDonald’s since Morocco.
That’s right, I have just driven more than 20,000 miles without seeing a single McDonald’s!
We keep moving all the way across to the Drakensburg Mountains where we strike out on the mighty Amphitheater Hike. This take us up to almost the summit of Sentinel Peak, and we end up standing right at the top of a monster cascading waterfall. On the way up we must climb a couple of huge steel ladders bolted to the vertical rock. They flex and move a lot, and the entire time I’m reminded of the action movie “Cliffhanger”.
The ladders are more than a little intimidating, though we make it up and down unscathed.
South Africa so far has been very impressive, though now we’re leaving again!
(Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon!)