Thursday, December 10, 2009

December 8, 2009 - Nelspruit, South Africa

If there is one thing that Sten and I are both really bad at it is waiting for weather. We both get very antsy sitting around waiting for a suitable weather window. If we are in a lovely tropical locale where we can swim and snorkel in clean water and fish for our dinner, we can usually occupy ourselves for a week or so before going completely stir crazy. In Richards Bay, where our biggest diversion is the local shopping mall, we lasted all of three days (during which we rerigged our repaired jib, rebedded the chainplates, and restitched the bimini) before we (ran out of projects and) needed to get (the hell) out of dodge.

Unfortunately, the weather forecasts aren't projecting a window that would allow us to get south for at least a week. So rather than doing something silly like heading offshore in 25 knot headwinds (ala our trip south from the Seychelles), we decided to go stalk some game. Within three hours of realizing that we couldn't take the boat anywhere for a while, we had booked accommodations for four nights in Kruger National Park (one of the best places in the world to see wildlife), extended our rental car lease, packed the car with enough gear to drive around the South Island of New Zealand, and were on our way.

The drive north towards Kruger took us the rest of the day. Skirting the edge of Swaziland as we took the most direct route that wouldn't violate our car rental agreement, we ran afoul of one road construction project after another, adding hours to our trip. The mountainous scenery around us was gorgeous but we were getting nervous that we wouldn't get to our hotel for the night before dark.

After our prior two South African road trips we swore not to drive at night if we could avoid it. The roads here are just too narrow for the speeds at which people travel. Major highways in this region aren't divided, and there are long sections that are only one lane in each direction. So vehicles ease into the shoulder to give passing vehicles half a lane in which to pass them. It is terribly unnerving to find yourself straddling two lanes of a national highway with a truck rumbling along in the shoulder next to you and another coming right towards you. Throw into the mix the ever present hitchhikers and fruit sellers standing right on the side of the road and groups of people walking along the shoulder, and it is no wonder that the vehicular homicide rate in South Africa is so high.

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