Ok. There weren't any tigers. But there were certainly lions, elephants, cape buffalo, cheetahs, vultures, white rhinos, ostriches, crocodiles, hippos, wildebeasts, zebras, giraffes, wild dogs, hyenas, impala, water bucks, elans, warthogs, black eagles, jackals and more. And, perhaps more importantly, there were bunnies. But I'll get to those later.
Let me just start out by saying South Africa is a fantastic place, and I don't think I've ever traveled to a spot with friendlier, happier people. Everyone was excited... for the race, for the World Cup, for the beach, or just to be there doing whatever it is they were doing. Our flights out were incredibly uneventful, and even downright easy given we had a 9 1/2 hour flight from Seattle to Amsterdam followed almost immediately by a 10 1/2 hour flight to Johannesburg. A quick night at an airport hotel, and the next morning we were off to Durban, which would be our home base for Comrades.
One of the benefits of jet lag: I don't think I've ever seen so many sunrises in 12 days...
Durban is a located on a beautiful beach, although the day we arrived it was hard to tell because of the extreme winds. Apparently, every year they have a crazy storm day that marks the switch over between summer and winter... and that was it. Luckily, the next morning we woke to a beautiful temperate day (cool by the local standards, but quite a bit like an early summer day here in Seattle) which was typical of the weather the rest of the trip.
Race day was on Sunday, and Cam and his friend Randy both did a great job. Cam even beat his goal time by a few minutes, which is incredible for such a crazy race paired with jet lag. Needless to say, after running 55 miles, the boys were pretty wiped for a few days, so we had a lazy day before heading back to Johannesburg to catch our shuttle up to Kruger park for a quick safari.
Our safari took us both into Kruger National Park (for a full, 10 hour drive) and to a private game reserve for 2 evening game drives (we booked through Intrepid and they managed everything beautifully). In case you can't tell from the photos, you do get incredibly close to some of the animals.
We also had the privedge of visiting the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center which helps injured, abandoned or problem wildlife. The fact is that throughout Africa, the loss of natural habitat for animals is stunning. Parks like Kruger help preserve some habitat, but it is far too little for most animals, and there is a huge threat to the ecological balance. Moholoholo doesn't have all the answers, but is doing what it can to help raise awareness of how precious the wildlife and habitat are to the continent. At the center, most of the animals they take in are treated and released back into the wild, but there are a good couple of dozen animals that have been socialized with people (although still quite dangerous) and act as ambassadors for their species, including much to our luck two 10 week old cheetahs which we were able to "help" socialize by petting.
The hyena was in love with Cam.
We got to feed the vultures...
...but feeding the lions is best left to the professionals.
This trip wasn't much about food... the guys needed to keep it mild and carby before the race and the safari meals were tasty but definitely tourist "safe" (emergency bathroom breaks in the bush aren't necessarily a good idea!) But, I did manage to pick up a handful of great looking South African cooking magazines, and have been very inspired by what I've found.
I can't wait to go back, next time to sample more of the food & wine. In the meantime, I'm happy to indulge in buttermilk rusks, milk tart and one of my new favorites: bunny chow!
Have you ever had bunny chow (if you are cool, you just call them bunnies... but I love saying bunny chow!)? Or are you just as curious as I was when I was in Durban trying to hazard a guess as to what it might be?