Monday was one of those days when everything seemed to go wrong.
I was scheduled to take off to the town of Phalaborwa, located just outside Kruger National Park. My friend, Elsa, has an extra vehicle that she was willing to entrust into my hands but a couple of things needed to be sorted with it first before I could take it. We started our errands at 9:30am and arrived back at her house around 5:00pm, unsuccessful in our endeavors. Everything hinged on something else. We could not get this piece of paper until we accomplished that. We could not accomplish that until we first did this. And so on. Tears of frustration were shed, unexpected money was spent, and at the end of the day, emotions were exhausted. I called my safari lodge in Phalaborwa to ask if they could hold my accommodations until the next day and luckily they agreed. After lots of prayer, we decided to tackle the issue(s) again in the morning to get it sorted.
Tuesday morning, the majority of the issues fell into place in about one hours time.
The seemingly impossible, became possible. I left Elsa’s house, driving on the left side of the road with a manual, Volkswagen Polo for the six-hour trek toward Phalaborwa.
South Africa has traffic police who, at random, direct a vehicle to pull over to be checked for registration, licensing and to make sure it is roadworthy (looking for safety issues like overly worn tires). If something is in need of attention, the traffic cops will issue a fine or ask for a bribe to have it swept under the rug. The Polo’s registration is expired and is in process of getting renewed but I drove it anyway. Elsa and I agreed to just take the fine if I get pulled over by the traffic police – the chances are good of getting pulled over at some point along the drive.
Before I left, we prayed for safety for me, the car and the other drivers on the road. We also thanked God in advance for blinding the eyes of the traffic police to this little, white, Volkswagen Polo. After about an hour of driving, I came upon a HUGE traffic police assembly on the highway. An estimated 50+ officers were standing on the freeway directing vehicles to pull over. Again, I began to pray and thank God for blinding them to the Polo. The moving truck in front of me was directed off to the side.
The silver Mercedes behind me was directed off to the side. And I? I drove straight through without acknowledgement at all. I passed several smaller groups of traffic police and never was pulled over. Thank you Lord for answering prayer!
I turned off the freeway onto a two-lane highway that routed through more rural areas. The views were spectacular as the earth changed to a deep reddish-orange color. Bright green trees popped out against the vastly different soil as the road became more and more winding. At one point, I came around a curve to find a farm of banana trees that stretched for acres and acres. Some of the rural towns were rustic and dare I say, poor, as buildings noticeably changed from cement blocks to wood poles and shiny, corrugated steel. Signs for businesses changed from professional, lighted fiberglass to hand painted plywood becoming the Africa many of us have pictured in our minds eye.
When the winding road stretched out into a straight drive, mango tree farms lined both sides. Every few kilometers, a makeshift wooden stand with hand drawn signs invited travelers to purchase fresh mangoes from the merchant taking an afternoon snooze.
And then, the mangoes were gone. Fences, gates and a variety of animal crossing signs alerted me that I had now entered game reserve areas. Each game reserve and farm blended into the next for miles upon miles. I kept an eye out for any animals near the fence. My efforts only excited by a handful of ostriches.
Eventually I arrived in Phalaborwa and the Sefapane Lodge, who thankfully still held my reservation. After checking into my rondavel (round hut typically with a thatched roof), I took a short drive to the store to pick up insect killer and mosquito spray.
Take a virtual tour of the rondavel accommodations with me:
Aside from a couple of cockroach sightings (and killings), Sefapane Lodge was fantastic. The rondavels were comfortably “African authentic” in relatively private settings. The breakfast buffet was delicious. The on-sight restaurant had some unique dishes like ostrich meat as well as basic traveler comfort foods with great service. The property is well manicured and has beautiful landscaping. The pool is a decent size for relaxing and also has bar access right from the pool. Guest services offers a wide variety of activities including a number of different safari experiences in Kruger National Park which is only a five-minute drive away. I was pleasantly surprised with Sefapane Lodge. Just tell them Tara sent you.
In the end, this adventure was worth Monday’s frustration and delay. We cannot always control the circumstances but we can control how we respond to them. It starts with a deep breath, or maybe several. In fact, take as many as you need. And then drive forward from there, even if it feels awkward because you are now driving on the left hand side of the road when you are used to driving on the right.
Next stop, Kruger National Park.