The key

We waited for what seemed like forever for this day to arrive…

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To hold the key to a flat that Moo would occupy until the end of his studies.

The day finally arrived, and I was greeted by all sorts of things – broken items, dirt, filth, roaches and lots of emotions – disappointment, regret, anger. My stay is almost over and the makeover is almost done.

I always thought decorating was a great job and maybe it is, but that is when you walk into a clean home and you can just shop for pretty things and turn the place inside out. Makeovers are not glamorous at all and whatever we see on TV is different when you living and cleaning it in real life. Sometime next week I hope to give you some before and after shots. Let me warn you that it is not for the faint hearted or weak.

Until next week….

The bad & the ugly, there is no good!

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) will link the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique; Kruger National Park in South Africa; Gonarezhou National Park, in Zimbabwe. The GLTP will bring together some of the best and most established wildlife areas in southern Africa. The park will be managed as an integrated unit across three international borders.

Those are two sentences from one of the websites telling us how wonderful the ‘transfrontier’ park is. So for those that have not been there and might one day think this is a good idea; let me tell you about our wonderful experience in that not so wonderful part of the park.

We left Letaba camp early in the morning, on 26 December 2013 and drove to Giriyondo Border. From here it is about 300 kilometers to Bilene, Mozambique. Using a clever website to calculate distance and arrival time, it gives me an estimate of 5 hours 34 minutes driving (with no stops).

We arrived and started our trip from Giriyondo border at ‏‎08:04:43 AM recorded on my phone when I took this picture.

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The border opens at 08h00; so we were by no means off on a late start!

Bright and early, no queues, we were the only ones at the border. Here we had to pay the ridiculous fee of R740.00 (that was for the four of us and the car) to gain entrance into the Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park.

While still in the border reception area I saw this very informative customs poster about the travellers allowances – note the sentence about perfume and toilet water!?

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Eau de toilette and toilet water are NOT the same thing, and one should not use these words in the same sentence. Duh! Anyway that funny, but bad translation should have been a good indication of the not so wonderful park we were about to drive into….Alas we still went in.

Hubby wanted to buy a map of the park; he was told there was no map and they told him there were road signs along the route that he could follow.

It is advisable to use a GPS in the Limpopo Park – signboards are scarce and the roads can be somewhat confusing. Any vehicle with high ground clearance will make it although one might need a 4×4 after heavy rains.

Another useful nugget from another informative website. Yeah we did have a GPS, just that the thing was rather confused and not sure which roads to send us on. The road signs, if we were lucky enough to find them, were faded and you could not read names or distances of where you were going. To drive in this so-called park you definitely need a 4×4 don’t attempt this with a normal car, unless you hate it so much you want a forced upgrade as soon as you arrive at your destination.

Anyway we continued….the scenery is pretty for now, there were lots of trees on either side of the road and I was still in “romance” mode and took a few pictures of the colours in front of me.

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Lush green bush and trees that have both red and green leaves. It’s very pretty. But so far no animals. We noted that it was ok to throw cold drink bottles out the window because we saw many of them on the road. It was also ok to speed because so far the first two cars coming in the opposite direction flew past us. We quickly closed all windows so we didn’t die from the dust inhalation.

Then in the middle of nowhere and unannounced we reached a boom gate.

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We had to sign a book and add registration number and hubby asked:

“What is the boom gate for?”

“Oh it’s for traffic control”

“Do they have elephants here?” we asked and where?

”Yes, they are in the bush” was the reply

Oh dear, I thought we were already in the bush. Anyway we continue our slow drive always in search of animals. The road is so bad, so bad, that you feel like popcorn in the car. There are speed bumps all over and with no warnings. Very soon we started having car trouble. The bolts on the brake calipers broke on the right front side of the 4×4, cutting off the brake pipe, which in turn made quite a racket as the caliper scraped against the inside of the mag wheel.

Lucky for us, our driver (daddy & hubby in-car) knows more about cars than just filling it up with petrol. We made a few stops so he could tighten and fix some things and try to get us to the end of this trip safely and in one piece.

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I could see he was worried. The times we did stop the approaching cars slowed down enough to pass us by and then kept driving. There is nothing in sight. Nothing civilised or helpful to anyone in this situation. Animals in this national park consisted of these cows – 595

Then we came across two villages

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By now it is very clear that this is nothing like the Kruger National Park and that the advertising and websites telling us this area combines the three established wildlife areas in southern Africa is a load of bull shit. I can’t comment on the Zimbabwe side of the transfrontier park, but the Mozambique side is not a national wildlife park. That is all fake or old news that has not been updated.

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We finally reached the end of this horrible dry piece of land they claim is a national park. Filled a complaint in their book which I’m sure is just ignored, but there is a toilet at this gate and I suspect the complaint book is the toilet paper, who knows. We left the park and drove through Massingir, Chokwe and Macia towards Bilene beach.

We stopped at Macia to have the brake pipe replaced and continued the trip. Luckily we found some friendly locals at a kind of metal scrap yard and they made a plan and got us a brake pipe for the Toyota. By now we are starving, thinking that a late breakfast or early lunch at Parque Nacional would have been possible, water was just about the only thing we had in the car. Parque Nacional does not have animals let alone places to eat or toilets. Maybe the camp sites in this park have some kind of facilities, we never visited, not even out of curiosity. With car problems and the state of the roads no one was in a mood for another adventure.  From there on it was just driving and trying to arrive in one piece at our destination – Bilene.

We now see lots of little tables on the side of the road with people selling fruit. But hubby (my bear) is too miffed to stop one more time not even for food and I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the mangos or bananas!

We arrived late afternoon, it was pass 17h00, a little more than 9 hours to do 300 kilometers! Tired, hot, hungry and very unhappy! Not because of the car problems but because we were cheated of a Transfrontier National Park – bush to beach experience and to top it all we paid what I think is a small fortune. For what?

Oh yes that was for the pleasure of driving with no front brakes thanks to the many high-speed bumps and kak roads. For the pleasure of no direction, no sightings, no support or security. Whatever you do, don’t visit Parque Nacional do Limpopo – Limpopo National Park, the name is misleading, the experience is bad and the association with our national park is embarrassing!

Silent Nights

Let it be known that I hate camping. Not the tent itself or the shared ablutions which in the Kruger are very clean. I hate it because I just can’t handle the bugs at night that take over any form of light and when you try to cook it’s impossible to keep them from falling in your food or plate and maintain some kind of normal. I hate the boxes all over the place, always looking for something and packing away (because vervet monkeys or squirrels will guzzle and destroy anything) and I really hate setting up the tent! If I could arrive and the whole thing is set up then I guess it would not be so bad.

Apart from this bit of moaning – camping is ok, it’s nice. Campers are quiet, friendly people, they go to bed early and rise extra early, but they are respectable of others and camping “neighbours” are just different kind of people. They love nature and outdoor life and are content listening to the birds in the shade or having a drink by the braai at night. All the time in silence. And that is the part I love.

Tranquil, relaxing & peaceful and quiet time in the bush in my favourite place in the world the – Kruger National Park. That was December holiday and Christmas. We stayed in Shingwedzi Camp which was a very good choice, other camps are a bit more busy and noisy. Christmas with an African flair in the sun-kissed, lush green bushveld. The smells of the bush and the fresh air is invigorating! Undisturbed time, it was pure bliss.

Some nights we camped and hubby upgraded us so we had a few nights of aircon with the comforts of a chalet. December in the bushveld is extremely hot. Its summer and the heat was not kind, I was so grateful for the beautiful swimming pool.

Here are some pics that I absolutely love –

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Watching this young elephant playing in the water was awesome –

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My boys opening presents on Christmas eve –

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Almost the end of 2013 what a perfect ending it was….

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Wedding far far away….

Technology sometimes makes me wish we lived in the old days, even the dark ages sounds better than some of the modern days we live in.

It moves too fast and just does too much, opens too many doors and let’s face it – it’s just information overload!

But this Thursday I was so happy to have access to the internet/technology/equipment and tools that made this possible….

My baby cousin was getting married in Brisbane, Australia on 14 November 2013 at 11h00. Holding my iPhone (I confess I now love it). I checked the times and weather in Australia and set my alarm for 03h15 (the bride is always late so I gave her 15 minutes). I was up at that awful hour, and so glad it’s summer. Then with a click or two on the link they provided I got to be part of the wedding – via Ustream.

JHB, South Africa – it’s still dark at 04h00 but the birds are waking up and starting to sing. I sat in the lounge in the stillness of that early morning clutching my phone and these images got the tears rolling….

First glimpse of my aunt and uncle in front

First glimpse of my aunt and uncle in front

My cousin walking his daughter down the aisle - first glimpse of the bride!!

My cousin walking his daughter down the aisle – first glimpse of the bride!!

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...by now I was crying

…by now I was crying

my family *hugs* and cries

my family *hugs* and cries

These small images were screen shots from the wedding video, the bad quality did not distract or ruin anything, the early hour and tiredness the next day was cured with a cup of coffee. It was just awesome to see my little family, unaware that they were being watched so far away….I have not seen some of them for more than 20 years. This little bit here is precious TREASURE to me!!

Preparing for Spring

1st of September we celebrate spring day. But as long as I can remember spring day is always still cold. This weekend was no different. It was freezing. But the calendar tells us its SPRING. And I’m just as excited as anyone else to hear that word. Soon we will have gorgeous warm nights, the fans will be working again, all the windows will be open and we’ll hear the splash of the pools. Am my favourite thing ever for the month of October is the smell of the Jacaranda trees.

It’s here we can almost touch it!

As most people moaned about the cold weekend, we got busy at home preparing for the real spring weekend.  Spring cleaning at home, painting and fixing and getting that pool clean again 🙂

New front door got varnished – Orchids almost opening also waiting for warmer days  – Koi pond was tended to and hungry fish are happy to see us

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Finishing paint jobs – Hanging up of hearts – Cleaning the pool for summer

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Finding a nest in my palm tree – New pot plants – Afternoon naps

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It was busy in my house this weekend, our new colour is beautiful and we are ready for the real spring day to arrive.

So Mr Cold and Mr Wind you can go away now!  Excited!! 😀