We left Johannesburg the same way we found it. After clearing for the duration of our time there, the fog moved back over the city so that on our last morning, we could only see the smallest radius around our guest house.
Combined with the fog, it was truly a full circle ending with Olivia and I ceremoniously returning to the café on the corner to buy one last chocolate croissant and coffee before we left for Krueger. We planned to meet up with everyone to pack the car at 8:45 and leave at 9:00 and we were only 4 minutes late, which might be a new record.
The trip felt long, but the scenery passing by was beautiful. Just outside of Johannesburg everything is very rural so driving through the country was much different from everything we have seen before. We learned that not a lot of produce is imported here so naturally, South Africa has tons of farms. Along the drive, we saw everything from a cornfield to a cactus farm. For the most part though, we saw mainly oranges and avos, which makes sense, because we’ve eaten a lot of those.
For lunch we stopped along the highway at Milly’s, which is a pretty average rest stop, with gas, a gift shop and a take-away restaurant. They also had pretty average tasting food. Early in the trip we joked about how many snacks we had
(because we filled half the car on snacks alone), but after our toasties (grilled cheese) we were happy to drink some juice and eat some chocolate.
During the drive, we also saw some baboons running through a field, and some vervet monkeys who were just hanging out in someone’s front lawn. It’s crazy to think that people who live here actually have to deal with monkeys and baboons on a daily basis.
Our Safari Lodge is super cool because it is actually a standalone house that all of us students get to share. There’s also a larger, more hotel-like component across the path, where Marit, Nate, Desi, Kurt and Marsha are staying. In the main lodge, there is a deck
with a pool and seating and an upper deck that overlooks the savannah. Besides our group, nobody else is staying here right now. We were all back in our house settling in when Marit ran over and yelled to us that there were elephants outside the big lodge. We all ran over with our cameras and saw a family of elephants along with a herd of impala, crocodiles and some hippos.
A little while later it was time for dinner. The staff at the lodge cooked a traditional meal for us and it was pretty exciting. When we walked down the path to the outdoor dinner area, there was drumming and really cute lighting strung among the trees and fencing and a big fire. The meal was a full 5 courses (plus one surprise) which consisted of the following:
- Fry bread balls and Meatballs with rosemary, lemon, and cinnamon: Both of these were really good. The fry bread balls were my favorite because they were almost like an unsweetened doughnut hole.
- Butternut soup and cranberry-raisin bread: The soup wasn’t as thick as butternut soup at home, but it was still great. The bread was good both alone and dipped in the soup.
- Beef Stew, rice, corn that was pastalike, cabbage, beets, and greek salad: I wish we had corn like this in the United States. The beef and vegetables were cooked over the fire in individual sized cast iron pots, and we watched them pick them up from the fire pit and put them on the table.
- Dance break: The staff came out and sung traditional songs while dancing around the fire. It was a happy occasion, especially when Annetta, Nate, and Campbell were chosen to get up and perform some Zulu kicks.
- Mopani Worms: Johann told us he had a special surprise for us, which turned out to be worms cooked over the fire. An added incentive for trying them was a certificate for trying them for the first time. Marit, Campbell, Hannah, Annetta, Nate and I all tried them. We thought they might be slimy, but they were actually crispy, and were really salty. I swallowed mine whole because I didn’t like the idea of having worm parts stuck in my teeth afterwards. We learned that Mopani worms are very common for native South Africans to eat because they have a lot of protein, are easy to cook, and can be made cheaply. Johann and Sabelo finished the worms after we were done because they both love them.
- Ice cream: After eating a worm, ice cream was a beautiful sight.
- Roasted marshmallows over the fire: this was so nice, because it tasted like summer back home. We’ve seen and smelled so many fires since we’ve been here it was exciting to finally braai a marshmallow over one.