Monday, November 13, 2017

Addo - place of elephants


The Frenchman and I headed towards Addo Elephant Park after leaving Storms River. I had never visited - the park is very close to Port Elizabeth and I was worried that it might be overrun with people. Friends had warned me that because of the dense nature of the coastal thicket vegetation, we might not see many animals. But within an hour of entering near the south end we were surprised by the wide vista above. There is a little knot of elephants to the right, near the curve of the road. We drove right through that section of the park, south to north, meandering at the required 40km/hour, to reach the main camp and reception where we were required to check in.

After a disinterested welcome - if you can call it that - at reception (unusual for a SAN Park), we got back into the Landcruiser and headed for our camp, Nyathi. I had chosen it based purely on its relative remoteness on the maps I had studied and the fact that it seemed to have a good view from the cottages, and our fingers were crossed. What would it be like?


First, we had to leave the main park area, through an electrified fence and gate that was unlocked for us, across a railway crossing, across a national road, through a new gate, another electrified fence, and into the next section, Nyathi. We saw a male lion almost at once, lazing behind a tree, upside down, indolent cat fashion, and then this herd of peaceful elephants browsing. We felt happy with our choice of stomping ground for the next few days.


This was the view from the curving wooden balcony of our luxurious rondawel - hills and thicket and every day a slow, large herd, 60 - 80 strong, of elephants moving back and forth, eating, rumbling, communicating with each other in a way we could not understand. Every night and morning a chorus of unfamiliar birds, with the exception of the haunting fiery necked night jar, not just one, but four, calling from every corner of twilight. It was shiveringly beautiful. Never the sound of a human.

I took remarkably few pictures, here. I think we were still in some translocation shock, the remoteness, all of a sudden, the desire to absorb this kind of silence.


These sweet, unfraid little swallows lived in a neat mud nest above the front door.


From the balconies, which curved along the tips of the trees below us, I could do some fascinated botanizing. The vine above was strongly scented and we saw sunbirds feasting on the flowers. It reminds me of the greenbrier family Smilacaceae.


And its host, the supporting tree, excited and surprised me even more. Like seeing a friend in a very unexpected place. A dead ringer for prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) but in South Africa! The East Asian prickly ash species is Z. piperatum - otherwise known as Sichuan, as in peppercorn. Why not an African species? My impatience had nothing to do but to cool its heels. No Googling for us: thanks to our desire to be Alone we were well beyond cell range, had no data, and no Internet. But I nibbled and tasted and had no doubt. How exciting. My submission to iSpot once we were back in Cape Town has met with no response. Could it be the species capense? Prickly ash fruit and leaves zing with citrus and pepper, and that curious tingling sensation that makes Sichuan so well known. The trees belong to the large and fragrant Rutaceae family, like the aromatic fynbos herbs I love, as well as well known citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.


We took daily drives, with a Thermos of coffee and a trove of rusks, and made friends along the way. And every afternoon we came  home to our rondawel, lit a fire and ate dinner to the sound of those night birds.

As lovely as Nyathi was - and I recommend it highly - Addo in general suffers from what I assume must be poor leadership. Nowhere was there a genuinely friendly person* to direct or welcome us, and after an entrance boom was dropped on our car's roof at a gate the indifference and lack of professionalism could not have been louder. We were deeply unimpressed. I have still not heard back from the person who should have contacted us and frankly apologized for the damage. So that left an abiding impression which flavors the whole experience.

* An exception - a very helpful mechanic at the main camp lent Vince some tools to tighten the connections of the batteries in the Landcruiser, which had rattled loose on very bumpy roads. He should be front and center in the welcoming committee.

But if you do not require a smile when checking in, are wary of falling booms, rely on yourselves for catering, stay away from the tourist mecca of the main camp, and book a spot at that beautiful, quiet spot in the hills, you will be happy.

You might even forget to take pictures.

5 comments:

  1. Shame, you did not have a long lens and I think olifants did not move you much... I'll indulge in the opposite and post an avalanche of their pictures soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I don't think it was the lens. And of course I loved our olifants at the rondawel, silly!

      Delete
  2. I've always wanted to see elephants in their natural habitat. It looks like a beautiful location for relaxing and enjoying the wildlife.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Climbing vine...I'm thinking Hoya. Fabulous that you were so absorbed you forgot to take pics! Happy for you both :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good thought about Hoya, I just don't know of any southern Africa species...do you?

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...