Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is one of South Africa's biggest game reserves, famous as the name implies for its elephant herds, but also home to many other wild animals. We enjoyed our stay immensely, but first we had to get there. That involved cycling, first, to the nearest big city, Port Elizabeth. There we stayed with a wonderful couple, and our conversations with them led to a better way for us to enjoy Addo, and also to some big changes in our plans.

February 6

On the morning of February 6, we left Jeffreys Bay for Port Elizabeth and the home of Kevin and Diane Hughes, Warm Showers members who agreed to put us up -- or put up with us -- for the night. Because the ride was only 30+ miles, and because we found our way to their house without getting lost at all, we arrived quite early in the afternoon. That was a good, because we had lots to talk about over Kevin's amazing coffee.

The first change in plans was to rent a car to visit Addo Elephant Park. We'd already heard that suggestion, and Kevin agreed and drove us to the car rental agency the next morning. He also helped by letting us store our bikes and unnecessary gear at his home, to be picked up when we returned from Addo to resume cycling. We decided on a car because visitors are allowed to drive through the park, but not cycle. Without a car, we'd have been effectively confined to the headquarters/campsite area whenever we weren't paying for guided tours.

As a result of listening to Kevin's good advice, we also decided to change our plans drastically. We'd intended to head north from Port Elizabeth to Kruger National Park. Kevin convinced us that, first, we didn't have enough time to get there unless we pushed so hard that we wouldn't enjoy the trip. Also, he said much of the ride would be hot and boring. Kevin's advice was that we continue east along the coast, enoying more beach time, and then use a train to go north. When we thought it over -- hot and boring, vs. more time on the beach -- the decision was easy.

Kevin's wife Diane came home and joined in our deliberations. She was great! They are both experienced cycle tourists, having done several long tours in Europe, especially in France but in several other countries as well.

Kevin and Diane did a grand braai for us, and we had an altogether pleasant evening sitting out by their pool. In the morning, we stowed the bikes and extra gear in their garden shed, and Kevin drove us to the airport, where we picked up our car. By the way, a nifty little Kia cost less than $25 US per day with unlimited mileage. Which of course raises the question, Why are we biking?

February 7-8

We drove from Port Elizabeth to Addo Elephant Park on the morning of the 7th. It was only a little more than an hour away, so we arrived in early afternoon. At around 3:30 we made our first drive in the park. We saw a few animals, including elephants that were far in the distance, and we enjoyed it. Still, we wondered if we would  ever see elephants up close.
 Campsite at Addo Elephant Park, and our little car in background

No worries. On the second day, we hit one home run after another. Below are out photos of the animals we saw -- only a few of them. Our time in Addo will surely be a highlight of the trip.

Note smallest baby to left of center


Lunch date

Black-backed jackal


Cape buffalo

Kudu buck and doe

Young Kudu doe

Bushpig, or Warthog -- Best in Show

Meerkat-- A cute gopher, Barbara says

Ostrich, far ...

...and near
And now, for Nicole's Birthday, More Elephants

February 9

We left Addo only after a final drive, the length of the park, hoping to see some lions that were reportedly hanging around a fresh kill. We missed them, however, and we had to return the car to Port Elizabeth. On the way, we dropped off some of our gear at a campground so that we wouldn't have to carry it on the bikes.
From the airport, we cycled about 30 miles east to the campground we'd chosen, in Colchester. It was on a river, and it could have been a pretty spot. The couple who ran it were certainly friendly, but this turned out for us to be the campground from hell. First, it poured, forcing us into the tent very early. There wasn't even a picnic table or a decent place to be indoors. Worse, there was a crowd of campers a few sites away who were playing the most god-awful music loud enough to shake the ground. They were drinking of course. If there is an Afrikaans word for "white trash," these were prime examples, and I told Barbara there was no way in the world that I could work up the nerve to these drunks to be quiet!
The rain caught us at the campground

February 10

This day ended in a bizarre way, though our sons would say it was perfectly fitting.

The ride from Colchester to the next likely stopping place, Alexandria, was about 40 miles, and it got seriously hot -- 100 degrees. We stopped whenever we could for cold drinks.
At one super-pleasant farm stand-restaurant, we fell into conversation with two families who have farms just down the road. When we told them that we were continuing to Alexandria, one of the women, Tanya, made a surprising suggestion. She told us that she is the manager of the Old Age Home in Alexandria, and that the home has a nice guest accommodation. She urged us to stay there. At first we thought she was teasing us about our advanced years, but she insisted that she was serious.

Later in the afternoon, as we approached town, another seious storm was threatening. Barbara wanted to take advantage of Tanya's offer immediately, and we did. It turned out that Tanya had called ahead, so we were expected. The room was spacious and comfortable, and we were served tea and a light dinner along with the regular residents, though at our own special table -- with placemats and flowers. So now we've had a glimpse of what our declining years could bring. We'd better  keep cycling!
Barbara, Tanya, manager of the old age home who invited us,
and Stewart, one of the fittest and most helpful resident

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