After lunch we drove over to another lodge owned by a chess enthusiast. It was a wonderful place with 5 big double bedrooms, a pool table and even its own bar! The view was stunning, straight across the river into the park and we saw hippos wallowing in the glorious mud (see Flanders and Swann). The owner has very kindly offered a week in the lodge as a bonus for the winner of the Commonwealth; an added incentive!
We were soon off into the adjoining park and hadn’t gone more than 500m from the house when we spotted zebra, giraffe and wildebeest (I’m a gnu!; F+S) grazing together. Not much further on there were elephants and then lions devouring a buffalo right next to the road. According to our driver, the buffalo had been killed by a snake bite and it had taken the lions two weeks to find it; it shows the size of the parks here.
We drove until it got dark and then went back to socialise at Leo Lapa when Mike, the chess enthusiast, had his finest chess hour when he and Dave defeated Harika and Graham with a beautiful mating finish. We then returned to Hippo Hills and had another South African delicacy and an antelope carpaccio that I highly recommend. We were still all shattered from the early mornings and so to bed early.
Dave had a simul in J’burg the following afternoon at 3 so they left early but Tristan and I hung around for the morning and drove through the Kruger Park. We saw a great deal of impala which constantly blocked the road and seemed to have a death wish as they suddenly decided to cross the road just as we drew near. We also got lots of elephant, zebra, warthogs, a boek of some sort and a giraffe. We were a few moments away from seeing a leopard, the most elusive animal in there, but unfortunately it had disappeared as we pulled up. In South Africa they have the so called ‘Big Five’ of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Tristan had seen a leopard the day before I arrived but I hadn’t quite managed it while the only buffalo we saw was the carcass that the lions were eating but we decided that counted.
By midday it was time to make the long trip back. Unfortunately I don’t yet have a license and so Tristan had to drive by himself but we stopped a couple of times, once in a small town for lunch where I had another South African dish, a mince meat, cheese and egg concoction that I can’t remember the name of anymore. We had our share of drama; first Tristan’s bank cards stopped working which sent us into a bit of a panic but luckily they came back to life when he tried in a different machine, and then the gps we’d been given to direct us home ran out of battery so we relied on guesswork. We actually managed it surprisingly well. Both of us were desperate for the bathroom and so took an exit which turned out to be the right one! We asked around to try and find a shop selling either a gps charger or a map and drove from shopping mall to shopping mall before we found a map. Once we’d got it we found we were less than 1km away from the club!
In the evening both Dave and I did clock simuls in this chess club which is also used for Magic and Warhammer etc. We decided that their trophies are much more interesting than the ones we get at chess with a couple of them being sword shaped! The bathroom also had a gothic feel with fake blood (I hope) splattered around the room. The simul was a success and I won all my games and Dave hade just one accident and after that had concluded we had a Q+A session that only finished up at around 11pm. Stephen then kindly drove me back to his girlfriend’s place so I could have a kip before another early morning…but that will leave for another post.