Monday, March 12, 2007

Punctuality, planning and closing gates, March 8th

Just a reflection. On the way from Durban to Ponta Do Ouro, we drove through Hluhluwe for a game-drive. We knew we had to be on the border at 15:00, for transfer… but missed it with 45minutes. Coming back to Hluhluwe, we also missed the closing of the gate with half an hour. The gate opens and closes at six o’clock. 12 hours we had, and still couldn’t make it. This was the northern gate (Memorial Gate), manned with quite a few people, and thank god some people there to open the gates for us. Today we had a beautiful plan. The two days we spent in the park before was only in the Hluhluwe part, which is only one half of the area. So today, we planned to just drop by a couple of “good spots” in Hluhluwe, and then head down to the southern Imfolozi part. We ended up spending far more time in “our spots” than intended, coz we saw a hell of a lot of Elephants, Rhinos and Buffalos. By the time we made it to Imfolozi we also realized it was a hell of a big area to cover in only half a day. To leave out a part was of course not an option, so we went on a speedy hazardous drive through the park… only stopping for the big guys, or blocking the road and such.. The fact that the park has got a gate on the southern side made it possible for us to conveniently drop the speed by 10km an hour. Still, when we reached the Cengeni Gate, it was 18:03. Three minutes past closing. Now this was no big gate, looking like a small headquarter or something, not at all! A plain prisonlike gate with chains and two heavy locks, and no people to see! This time I really thought we had to spend the night inside the park with lions and hyenas. We were shouting and screaming and hooting, and finally a black guy appeared from a small shack in the bush. “You are very late”, he said, and put on his gravest facial expression. As he locked the gate behind us I was instantly thinking… where the hell does this road go now???? The map gave the ruthless answer: through every little zulu village and all the small roads where you don’t want to be after sunset… And since we were staying at the opposite side of the park, we had to drive all the way around. 270km in total! Hell, that was a long drive through the black black black South Africa!!

Inspired now, since we were driving through the heart of Zululand, I had to pour out some of my knowledge about the Zulu culture for Oyvind. Among other things about the Zulu’s respect for great warriors and their custom to slit the great warrior’s tummy open as a respectful and honourable gesture. Oyvind wasn’t too impressed or happy… and all doors in the car were quickly closed from the inside.

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