Africa – Week 1 Back to News List
We hit the tarmac with a thud that awoke me from my partial slumber, after an overnight flight from London to Johannesburg. It was off the plane into a taxi and over to collect the Compass Expeditions owned Toyota Landcruiser support vehicle that will be our home for the next 3 months.
We are currently researching a number of new African routes and touching up a few old favourites, such as our epic Cape Town to Cairo that is now an 80 day Cape Town to Cape town ride due to the civil unrest in Ethiopia, and our Safari Africa that was released in 2020 but never ran due to Covid, we did the research trip in 2019 but 3 years is a LONG time in Africa so we are doing it again, and lastly we are researching a new Kruger and the Garden Route itinerary for 2024 onwards.
It’s rare I get too excited these days but what a thrill it was to be back in Africa. It’s a destination that gets under your skin and the only guarantee is that once you visit you will want to come back again and again as I have been doing over the decades, it truly is a special place for reasons that are hard to define.
After two days in Pretoria, we spent our first travel night at the remarkable Blyde River Canyon, a stunning landscape of towering sheer mountains and rock faces, hippo pools and citrus and mango plantations. We organised a boat trip out on the lake, bordered by near vertical canyon walls that glowed a wonderful red as sunset approached, the entire scene was reminiscent of the mighty Kimberly region of northern Australia. Our wonderful Blyde River Canyon Lodge was the perfect introduction to the quintessential African experience with Zebra wandering the grounds at dinner and antelope grazing amongst the tables and chairs of the café, it was wonderful stuff and felt great to be back in Africa.
The following day was spent on the iconic Panorama Route of Mpumalanga with epic views of the Blyde River Canyon and the three Rondovels that form part of the Drakensberg Escarpment. This is a region littered with some absolutely stunning rock formations such as Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Gods Window and the Pinnacle, and we saw them all.
We continued onto the world renown Kruger National Park and spent a day “on safari”. The animals we saw were like a who’s who of the animal kingdom. Surely one of life’s great pleasures must be having lunch while watching a herd of elephants wander past you, all the while vervet monkeys scurried around and Thompsons Gazelles and bushbuck graze contentedly nearby.
Leaving Kruger, we ascended into the mountains that form the border with Eswatini, formerly Swaziland. We drove the superb UNESCO listed “Geological Way” a region regarded as some of the most scenic in southern Africa with the rocks in this region being some of the oldest in the world at over 3.7 billion years old and having the earliest signs of life anywhere on the planet, amazing stuff. We entered Eswatini by the quietest border I have ever experienced in Africa, or anywhere for that matter, the border post was deserted, and our arrival awoke the border guards from their slumber from under a large fig tree to stamp us out of South Africa and into Eswatini, it took all of 5 minutes.
Eswatini is a mountainous kingdom, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon wending our way through pine forests and ascending and descending via the impressive Maguga Dam. We saw out our first week in Africa crossing back in South Africa but not before checking out the excellent King Sobhuza 11 Memorial Park. This king was the one who gained independence for Swaziland from the UK in 1968 and is considered the father of this tiny nation.
This was week one, we can’t begin to think what the next 3 months in Africa shall bring!!