TOUR REPORT – ADDO/LALIBELA
8th – 13th May 2016
“What an awesome time away” – “What wonderful accommodation”. Wonderful when you return home from a tour and hear the above comments! It makes the planning of a 6 day tour all the more worthwhile!
We left the city on a Sunday morning which is always such an easier option – no traffic of any sort. We were able to leave the Airport holding bay at 09h30 and our first stop was Peregrine Farm stall where take-away coffee and pies were consumed! Not too much later the coach pulled into Tredici Restaurant in Swellendam for lunch, where their usual high standard / cleanliness / delicious food was evident and very soon everyone was satisfied and back on the coach.
Next stop was the Aloe shop in Albertinia – also a good stop as you can browse and purchase the wonderful Aloe products! Final stop on Sunday 8th (Mother’s Day) was Knysna where we checked in at the Knysna Log Inn.
Dinner tonight was at the Sirocco Restaurant – a real treat! A 3 course dinner had been ordered, with choices. The service was excellent and by 10:30pm everyone was ready to ‘hit-the-sack’. Comfortable beds ensured a peaceful night’s rest and we all enjoyed an early breakfast on Monday 9th May – full of anticipation of the day ahead.
We needed to collect Dawn, en route to Addo, at the Port Elizabeth airport (she had elected to fly in rather than do the long coach trip from Cape Town). PE to Addo is a short distance on a narrow, winding road – filled with large vehicles! Must say our coach driver seemed very happy when the little village of Addo was spotted in the distance – passengers on the coach were even happier to see the sign for Africanos Country Estate! We headed straight into lunch in their restaurant – Sushi / Salads / Pizza. After this everyone headed to their ultra-luxurious rooms! What a treat – exceptionally comfortable rooms with king size beds / air conditioning / an indoor (plus an outdoor shower) / large bath and double vanities made sure everyone was very comfortable.
Dinner was in the Africanos restaurant – we had a choice menu between 6 starters / 8 mains and 6 desserts! All in all everyone was very happy and starting to feel laid-back after our second day on tour.
An early start as we needed to leave Africanos by 08:00 for our first game drive at Addo Elephant National Park. After the monotonous paper work (signatures were needed by everyone) / indemnity forms – oh my goodness the formalities of Government organisations – we were then shown our very own private ‘game drive vehicle’ in which we spent 2 hours driving through the Addo Park! First stop was an elephant right next to our vehicle – a tortoise ambling over the road – then a slight detour onto a side road (only park vehicles are allowed on this road) to discover 2 male lions! We spent at least a ½ hour ‘ogling’ at these two beasts. A real treat this was – followed by a short stop at “Carol’s Rest” a waterhole – considering we had 3 CAROL’S on board this tour, this was very apt!!
By 11:00 we headed back to Africanos where we all freshened up / showered / some swam in the Africanos pool and then headed to Lenmore Restaurant for a light lunch! However, eventually we headed back to Addo for our 16:00 sun downer game drive / coupled with snacks and drinks. There is something so very magical to be in a game park when the sun goes down! Before the sun set we managed to find 2 lions (think they were the same two we had seen earlier in the morning) but to the tourists traveling with us – these lions were pure magic. I have never ever seen so many lenses produced to take photos. Eventually we headed back to Africanos where we discovered a conference on the go hosted by Coca Cola and suddenly the hotel was full! The bar was packed with conference delegates, but it didn’t alter the exceptional service we got at Africanos! Dinner was served in record time and in even more record time everyone was in their rooms and fast asleep.
We started off the next morning with a very busy Africanos – they had laid out a buffet breakfast! We were only leaving at 9:45 but by 9:00 they had cleared the buffet which meant that 3 of our group had to order off an a-la-carte menu for breakfast!
Very soon we had checked out and were on the road heading out of Addo. First stop was a junk shop filled with all sorts of interesting and collectible items. No-one of our party bought anything at all – interesting things to look at – but that’s about it!! Next stop was the Nanaga Farm Stall where some bought pies / some browsed the shop and ‘collected’; but pretty soon it was 11:45 and time to head to Lalibela Private Game Reserve
At Lalibela we were met at the reception where everyone was transferred to another vehicle. Lalibela do not allow private vehicles on their roads at all, which is terrific! First excitement were 2 hippos seen out of the water! We were transferred down to Marks Camp where a delicious lunch awaited us all. Our first game drive was at 16:00 with Wayne an exceptionally friendly young man. He headed out from Marks Camp whilst constantly watching for game on his binoculars. He had been told the rhinos were in the area and what a delight to see them – what magnificent animals and they are fiercely protected by Lalibela. After this many blesbok / kudu / springbok / hippos in the dam / coupled with sun downers in a remote corner of the reserve and we were all ready to head back to camp for a delicious dinner – kudu steaks / lamb ribs / pork rashers coupled with fresh vegetables – dessert was malva pudding served with fresh cream! (Seems to be the dessert of preference in South Africa).
We were summoned to the outside area where 3 staff members had a roaring fire going and drums ready for each of us to partake in a 30 minute drumming lesson. It had us all believing we were ‘expert’ drummers – but when the staff did their finale we very soon realised we were total novices!
An early wake-up call at 6:00 / followed by a light breakfast of fresh fruit / toast/ yoghurt and at 7:00 we headed out to ‘hunt-for-game’. There was a strong wind which Wayne told us would force the game into the bush! We never saw very much at all despite efforts on Wayne’s part to find them! Game can be elusive for sure!! Especially as we all wanted to see Gaaitjie (Lalibela’s Elephant); their Lion; Cheetah ; oh well – next time!
On our return to camp we were treated to a full breakfast – bacon / sausage / delicious mushrooms in cream and herbs / a roulade made with egg and filled with blue cheese – what a treat! Very soon we had to check out of Lalibela much to everyone’s disgust!!! Next time we’ll need to spend at least 2 full days at this magical place.
We headed back on the road – 90km to Port Elizabeth airport where we checked Dawn in for her flight back to CT, then continued down the N2 to Plettenberg Bay, with a stop at Marilyn’s Diner in Storms River. This was a great interlude to the day’s travelling! Oh my goodness this is a great stop – An Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe emporium with 60’s & 70’s music playing / old pink cadillacs / everything your heart desires and a good trip down memory lane.
We met up with two young cyclists who had cycled all the way from Kenya – & were spending the night at Storms River – and then heading to Cape Town eventually. So great to speak to them and wish them well on their way.
Our stop overnight was the ultra-luxurious Christiana Lodge. Staff were on hand to check us into our rooms and at 19:00 a delicious dinner was awaiting us which was lovingly prepared by Lincoln and served by the efficient Christiana Lodge staff. Christa the owner is very hands-on in this guest house and this is very evident. What a wonderful place to stay!
A very comfortable night’s stop followed by an early breakfast! We planned to leave by 09:00 as we’d been told that the N2 might be blocked by protesters near Grabouw! Fortunately, as we travelled we heard it had been re-opened, so all was well.
A few short stops; re-fuelling ; the Old Goal in Swellendam for lunch ; Die Ou Meul in Riviersonderend for pies of note ; and eventually at about 17:30 we were at the airport holding bay where our shuttle was waiting to transport everyone home again.
We ended up not actually seeing the full BIG 5 on our tour – We saw Elephant / Lion / Buffalo / Rhino but just the elusive Leopard is the one animal we never found!!
WE TRAVEL NOT TO ESCAPE LIFE, BUT FOR LIFE NOT TO ESCAPE US!!