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COSMIC RHINO

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COSMIC RHINO

Well things are over now , I am in the business centre at the Premier hotel, waiting for the return flight to Sydney , the place where my body lives, but not my heart and soul. Except holidays I have been there all my life ,but cities are big and unfriendly ,it does not really feel like home.

 

When I have gone away recently something important tends to happen ---- Rupert Murdoch's tabloid newspapers being mired in invasion of privacy scandals, Nigella Lawson being a victim of domestic violence, this year the UK vote on Bretix , the Australian elections and major gun violence in the USA.

 

LEAVING SYDNEY

 

With a 6 pm flight , I had lots of time to get to the airport, it was not made easy by the near constant rain which was quiet heavy at times .

 

It was a matter of chosing a time when I would not get soaked along with my luggage . I get on the bus when it is ok , then the airport rail which is cheaper is down for repairs being the weekend. They provide an alternative free of charge bus service, but there is a long walk along with my luggage from a back street to the terminal.

 

I check in at the Virgin domestic terminal with bags going to Johannesburg.

 

The Virgin flight is fine . The flight is a mix of domestic passengers and those going on to Sth Africa .

 

At Perth terminal it is necessary to get my seat allocation . Fortunately it is in the same building and there are people to ask where to go. So it is walk past the domestic baggage collection, go tho the exit doors , then to international departures .

 

I go to the Sth African airlines counter and get my boarding card.

 

So now it is international immigration departures and security which goes fine . I get chosen at random for an additional security check , and they guess since I am dressed all in green with hiking boots where I am going.

 

The departure lounge is a short walk and there are lots of chairs .

 

The Western Force super rugby players are going on the flight.

 

The South African airlines flight is fine and since I have non standard meals I get served early.

 

ARRIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA

 

Well I have got used to things , there is a horrid wait to get through immigration , it takes almost a full hour. They make a whole lot of money from tourism , so why can't they have more counters staffed.

 

I eventually get through and start thinking of departing on the Ashtons shuttle early tomorrow morning.

 

I go upstairs to check things over , Woolworths is still open , I buy a cheap bag of apples , that will be by breakfast and snack for the bus trip.

 

GETTING SD CARDS

 

I have lots of them ,but I am thinking of those who may have left them behind or are running short.

 

You can get San disc SD cards at the C AND A shop upstairs . They have lots of them hanging up behind the counter.

 

The electronics shop no longer keeps them.

 

The luggage shop at international arrivals is no longer there .

 

ARRIVING AT THE PREMIER HOTEL

 

With immigration and briefly checking the shops out it takes almost 2 hours

 

So immigration must have been well over 1 hour.

 

I get onto the shuttle and get greeted , being tall, thin and in safari dress code , they must remember me.

 

It is only 7AM but they let me into the room .

 

I rest and sort out my packing, what I am taking and what is going into storage.

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lodges now have mini buses to do airport or other transfers ,without the exception of Kapama reserve which is almost at the airport   the police now take the view that game drive vehicles are not p

Well things are over now , I am in the business centre at the Premier hotel, waiting for the return flight to Sydney , the place where my body lives, but not my heart and soul. Except holidays I ha

GUIDES   There are 2 guides Big Amos (as he calls himself) an older black man , and Andy who is 23 yrs old and recently graduated from Eco training. he is friendly,very knowledgeable and explains

COSMIC RHINO

The hotel is very warm and friendly

 

It is close to the airport ,with frequently shuttles and no aircraft or car noise

 

chating with the manager they have a policy of answering all emails within 20 minutes of being recieved

 

ASHTONS TRANSFER SERVICE

 

I decided to go to the Kruger area this way as it is included in the package at my camp I you stay for 3 days or more .

 

I was told that they leave from ORITA airport waiting where some long distance coach services have offices and the hotels come to collect their guests .

 

I knew that this was correct as after they international flight arrived I had seen some passengers go to the bus and start their trip.

 

The announced departure time was 0645, please arrive by 0630, but in practice they wait for late arrivals.

 

the driver has a passenger list and gets onto the office to followup on anyone running late

 

as it turns out some people were staying at a hotel at Sandton. not close to the train station. It took them a long time to check out , as a whole lot of people were arriving at the same time. Their taxi arrived, the driver got about .20 minutes on the meter waiting time ,then took them through a long traffic snarl.

 

well it was not ideal, but I would have liked them to wait if it was me .

 

They were Indians so I decided to ask about things.

 

they started to talk about the traffic congestion and delays in major cities

 

I then asked about getting to Kazaringa national park and told them that I could not drive

 

They responded that there was an airport 250 km away from the park and transfer firms were available ,but were not very reliable and to put it very politely the traffic everywhere was very hectic and nervous.

 

The first part of the trip goes through open cut mines, which produce mainly coal, corn farms and coal fired power stations . They give of a lot of smoke which becomes fog if it is cold. That was the case , the roads have large electronic signboards advising people to slow down.

 

accordingly the bus had all the windows shut and the air conditing on, they have an esky with chilled bottled water. I had bought my own water bottle.

 

It is a transport service ,not a tour most drivers don't say that much, although he made occasional comments today .

 

the drivers are well rested , they take a trip down one day, stay overnight in a guest house , then take the return trip the next day .

 

there are 2 rest stops to go to the toilet, get coffee , takeaway food , walk around a bit and refuel the bus all in 10 minutes .

 

If you happen to realise that that you have left behind your sunhat there are shops at both stops where you can buy a famous Sth African Rogue brand hat at a reasonable and easily affordable price. The shops take cash,visa and mastercard.

 

the first stop overlooks a game farm where you may see various animals , including white rhinos who have been dehorned and are monitored by CCTV for added security.

 

the disabled parking stops have a signed on them. that anyone who uses them without good reason will have their car wheels clamped

 

the second part of the trip goes through an area of trout farms, golf courses etc ,citrus, macadamia and mango farms with later some attractive rock formations in the landscape.

 

it is a popular weekend break destination for people from Johannesburg , the man goes fishing and plays golf, the wife to commercial galleries , there are restraunts in the district, some of which promote whiskey tasting

 

both the stops were chosen for affordable coffee and takeaway food to suit the drivers and passengers. The second one actually has a shop which sells the famous Illy Italian coffee and a butcher which sells multiple varieties of biltong

 

the service takes people to multiple destinations depending on what camp they are going to

 

they also transport local people who do not want to fly or drive

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COSMIC RHINO

no one is left behind at their destination if there is no sign of the person who has arranged to collect them

 

When he is getting near each destination the driver phones the ETA to those who are doing the collection

 

BONES BUSH PUB

 

is the place I was being collected from

 

it is a proper hotel with meals .drinks , some rooms where people can sleep overnight and they can arrange game drives into some of the private reserves.

 

the bush pub meals with popular with staff from various camps and lodges if they want to eat out

 

things are changing they have a sign up for super rugby broadcasts, on tap craft beer and free wifi

 

when I arrived the vehicle from Umlani bush camp was already waiting, and a vehicle from africa on foot was waiting for someone else

 

the bush pub is very close to the Kleserie/Timbavzati reserve entry gate , you could say that it was easy walking distance ,not that it is save to walk around in a wildlife reserve

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COSMIC RHINO

overall by using the Ashtons shuttle service you end up arriving for the afternoon game drive for a fraction of the price of flying

 

I would recommend it as a good way to arrive in the area

 

when SA EXPRESS had their services grounded for safety reasons it created a whole lot of problems for travellers , as this was totally unexpected

 

Ashtons had 2 full return vehicles , 1 of which was for unexpected passengers

 

some lodges drove their guests all the way back to ORITA Johannesburg as an expression of goodwill

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COSMIC RHINO

lodges now have mini buses to do airport or other transfers ,without the exception of Kapama reserve which is almost at the airport

 

the police now take the view that game drive vehicles are not particulary safe for transport on reasonably long distances of tar sealed roads

 

with the late start to leaving Johannesbugh , even with some time gained along the way ,my arrival at bones pub was a bit late

 

 

 

 

UMLANI BUSH CAMP IN THE TIMBAVARTI RESERVE

 

7 night stay

 

the word Umlani means place of rest

 

it is towards the start of the reserve, and there are many other camps in the area, but it does not feel crowded as only 2 vehicles are allowed on a siting at a time

 

many camps exchange access rights to their concessions to give everyone a good sized viewing area

 

even the uber expensive Kings Camp puts some of its land into this system

 

overall Umlani has a 10,000 ha viewing area and was established in 1990

 

I arrived eat lunch quickly , got a few things together and went out immediately on game drives

 

the game drive had been delayed a bit so I could join it

 

they use open Land Rovers with a guide and a tracker with multiple camp radio sitings done through an ear piece

 

although they could only use one vehicle, they send out another if it will be crowded

 

the area is very dry, they are now having one of the worst droughts for many years

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Uh_oh busted

We stayed at the Premier Hotel as well. Had a lovely piece of Kingclip for dinner the night of our arrival.

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COSMIC RHINO

GUIDES

 

There are 2 guides Big Amos (as he calls himself) an older black man , and Andy who is 23 yrs old and recently graduated from Eco training.

he is friendly,very knowledgeable and explains things well

 

both guides are good at finding and spotting animals

 

Amos could be better at explaining things

 

they have 2 very good trackers

 

WATER

 

the advice is that it is safe to drink but you have to get used to it

 

the water comes from a borehole with a high lime content , which can have a mild laxative effect in some people

 

guests are advised to use the tap water only to brush teeth, wash clothes, use the hand basin and shower

 

mineral water is supplied free of charge for drinking

 

CAMP

 

it is a niece, low key and informal

 

the paths are soil

 

the gardens are made up of local plants with lots of succulents , there are no manicure lawns and the grass is kept low

 

the cabins are made of wood and ,reeds with a thatch roof and cement floors

 

the shower is open to the sky but well screened and the toilet is fully inside

 

people are advised to keep toiletries away when not being used , the area around the hand basin should be kept vacant when not being used , due to the possibility of troulble from vervet monkeys

 

body lotion and hand/shower gel is supplied for use by guests

 

The camp is fenced but animals do get through, guests are escorted around camp after dark

 

the camp is of the power grid with lighting coming from kero lamps ,candels and torches .

 

I strongly recommend that anyone wanting to visit brings a good bright torch/flashlight. What your cellphone has in it is not sufficient

 

there is a communal battery recharging station in the gift shop

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twaffle

Excellent start to your trip, very interesting.

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COSMIC RHINO

ORITA AIRPORT

 

I must have been seriously overtired when I was going through , there is a shop that sells travel luggage in the arrivals area. So if the airline has lost your luggage, you can still get a replacement there and then.

 

you can still get SD cards at the electronics shop, but only a very limited selection , the much better choice is at the C AND A bookshop behind the counter.

 

There is a public toilet in the waiting area for the hotel and Ashtons shuttle services. If you are travelling alone , it is large enough to take your luggage in with you. It is a reasonably large room with a toilet, hand basin and a latch closeable door.

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COSMIC RHINO

UMLANI CAMP CONTINUED

 

  • the drives are not done in strict accordance to set times, if the viewing is good they often go longer
  • the bar and lounge area is next to an attractive sand river
  • the food is very good family style and served from communal tables
  • the area has a wonderful bush feel even if there are not a whole lot of animals around
  • there is a lovely hyena den in the area, I found them delightful (although with the use of anal pastings to mark the den as their territory gives it a very distinctive and not very pleasant smell). the den is only used by the cubs, their dung can create a problem with flees, so a snake will move in to clear it up and the hyneas will move to another den, there are 6 in the area
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COSMIC RHINO

  • people are always escorted when moving after dark

Special friends are seen from time to time, the area can be good for giraffe, elephants and leopards. During my stay I had 5 leopard sitings, 2 very distant, 1 only very brief, and 2 great ones including a kill

the viewing around Marco's Dam can be great , it has bored piped water, the pipe is sealed by cement, following previous elephant damage.

it is possible to visit a viewing platform between game drives or sleep there overnight

the situation with lions is interesting , recently the ruling male was thrown out by 2 males from the triology lions, he judged that it was not worth a massive fight and relocated to the area around Africa on foot

as a result the female lions are hiding themselves and their cubs to avoid the violence of males wishing to kill the cubs so they can breed

then a day or so later adult females were seen resting during the day including 2 white lions

the group was later seen on a buffalo kill at night, then on the next day

this was most unusual as white lions are limited to the Giraffe Farm area

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COSMIC RHINO

My tool to keep on time for everything and backup alarm is a multi hour electronic kitchen timer which can be set to the minute

 

my main alarm is a cheap one from a discount shop which you can hear every tick as it goes around

 

this enables me to start my trip report in the hotel after I have checked out, without any change of staying too long and missing my return flight

 

  • vegetarian food is given good and serious consideration here
  • only house wine is used and people like the selection
  • the other guests here are a mix of first time visitors to Africa and people who are returning
  • they are mainly a mix of people from UK. USA and Europe, at times I am told they are mainly Dutch
  • an American family say that they are getting used to the early start, and suggest doing it all the time , I ask who is down for cleaning the bathroom and doing the vacuming, then there is a rethink on early starts.
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wilddog

Very informative report @@COSMIC RHINO . I do hope that this time you will be able to upload a few pictures of your sightings as we go along.

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COSMIC RHINO

unfortunately I do not know how to upload photos, especially from the office

 

can anyone work of pdf prints if I send some?

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COSMIC RHINO

Umlami did the transfer back to Bones pub in good time ,the transfer vehicle showed up almost immediately and arrived at ORITA on time

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Super LEEDS

@@COSMIC RHINO

 

Hi CR. Is Umlani the one with the always open bathroom, that can't be closed to the outside?

 

If you click on "More Reply Options" at the bottom right, you can then choose to attach files. Upload your PDFs that way and we can grab them. You can also upload images that way too but if you only have PDFs then that will work!

 

About time we got to see some of your pics :P

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COSMIC RHINO

Umlani has a shower and hand basin open to the sky

 

I have tried the PDF download and it does not work for me

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Super LEEDS

I'll send you a pm.

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Great start CR. Looking forward to more!

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COSMIC RHINO
  • a slight excitement was happening, my watch band was starting to crack and the glue was not working , fortunately the Ashtons shuttle got back to ORITA for me to get the friendly ,helpful jeweller to replace it.

 

  • I will be writing my report in date order, so it is onto Lewa now
Edited by COSMIC RHINO
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Super LEEDS

@@COSMIC RHINO

 

CR, I've uploaded the 3 PDFs you sent me but from the comments in your email, I'm not sure they are from this trip?

 

I'll let you talk about the pics - I've named them 1, 2 and 3 for your reference!

1.pdf

2.pdf

3.pdf

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wilddog

Good to see some images from, and of, @@COSMIC RHINO. It really enhances a Trip Report

 

Thanks for helping him @@Super LEEDS

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pault

@@Super LEEDS (note the space). those should be in the Lewa report - that's the rhino calves.

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COSMIC RHINO

there is one mum and rhino calf in heavy bush without oxpeckers from an earlier Thornybush visit , all the other pictutes are from Lewa

 

sorry if anyone got confused

Edited by COSMIC RHINO
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TonyQ

@@Super LEEDS

Thank you for helping with the photos - great to see them (even if some from other report)

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