The Hendersons Three more days at Zulu Nyala at Nyati
An Unforgettable African Adventure
Tuesday, March 20 - At Zulu Nyala Nyati Camp
On Monday Budget Car Rental had picked up our Toyota with the flat (running on the metric spare, which would not be safe for longer or higher speed drives) because the shop at Zulu Nyala was not able to repair our regular tire. They had replaced the Toyota sedan with a lower end Toyota van - Jay wasn't about to allow that (rightfully so, it was small and tinny) so after a few phone calls to Budget he arranged for them to return our sedan with the tire replaced. Nearly every day we were at Zulu Nyala we observed or directly experienced a flat.
We packed our luggage after the morning drive and headed to Nyati in the tinny van. We were greeted by the housekeeper (I only saw her once, and I don't remember her name) and later Sean who managed Nyati (Zulu for buffalo) and the other somewhat larger facility nearby, Ndlovu (which we had also looked at but didn't like nearly as well - Zulu for elephant). Sean prepared a light lunch for us, which we enjoyed on the veranda overlooking the garden. Three warthogs have become pets at Nyati - a mother and her son and daughter. They hang around the place most of the day and Sean feeds them bread - he's able to pet the son, but the others are too skittish.
We had planned on going off the reserve in the afternoon, but time got away from us. We had a nice long chat with Johann, who is the chef of the game lodge. We have found that the South Africans are quite willing, even eager, to discuss the problems in their country and Johann was no exception. Immigration, especially from Zimbabwe, is of particular concern to many South Africans.
Johnnie hadn't expected all six of us to be going on the evening drive, so he made arrangements for Rory, the chief ranger to take Margaret, Jay, Tom and me while Johnnie took Marge and Rod. We were really surprised that two of the other couples in Rory's vehicle were from the Seattle area. They, like us, had bought their tickets at a charity auction. Seems to be a pattern here!
Rory was a more aggressive driver than Johnnie and when he spotted the black rhino across the hills, he was hell bent for leather to reach it before night fall. I wasn't sure that we would make it, but we did. The black rhino is smaller than the white one, but supposed to be more dangerous, probably because it is more unpredictable. It is just as ugly as its cousin.
Dusk was falling when the sound of a flat tire reached our ears. Oh damn. It turned out that all the roads on the reserve have names, even though they appear to be nothing but little tracks. Rory radioed for help and eventually another vehicle showed up to pick us up. By this time it was very dark, so we had to climb out of Rory's 4X4 and into the other one. Oh well, at least we didn't have to spend the night in the bush.
Dinner was waiting for us - the food at Nyati, we soon learned, was much better than that at the tented camps - I think this is because it is prepared for only a few, rather than a large crowd.
Wednesday, March 21 - At Zulu Nyala Nyati Camp
We've had a lot of drives now, so today Margaret, Jay, Tom and I skipped the morning drive and went to a place south of Hluhluwe, called Dumazulu. This is a 'Zulu village' but it is really a replica of one. We had a bit of fun with the 'fierce natives' as they queried Tom and Jay about how many wives they had and how many cattle they had to give for their wives. Also, they should go see the medicine man who will give them medicine in case their wives talk too much. Nice touch.
A young Zulu woman took us around the village - there were the spear and shield makers, the basket weavers, the woman who brews Zulu beer, made from corn. Frankly, they all looked rather bored with the lot - they'd probably be happier at home watching the telly. But the huts and the various skills were interesting to us. Then they put on a number of Zulu dances for us (there were only the four of us as it was still reasonably early in the morning). Margaret and Jay had seen the Zulu dancers near Zulu Nyala and they thought the latter were much better than these.
After this, we went to a weavers village and had lunch, then did a little shopping at the craft store.
Once returning to Nyati, the four of us went out of drive with Johnnie. It was very memorable. The matriarch elephant decided she was curious. She came right up to the vehicle and started 'nosing' around - on the side where Margaret and I were sitting. She was so close I could see the elephant snot. Margaret and I were terrified - she could have turned the vehicle over if she wanted. Then the other full grown female came up and began doing the same. I learned that when I am frightened out of my wits, I start to giggle. Not a smart thing to do. Eventually they decided we weren't of interest after all and left. It was an elephant encounter all too close for my taste.
At dinner there were two new couples - Lisa and Peter from the Boston area and Kathy and Doug from Seattle (another auction couple). We all ate on the veranda. Evenings here are so pleasant, although the lights attract a lot of insects.
Thursday, March 22 - At Zulu Nyala Nyati Camp
Tom and I wanted to see the Saint Lucia wetlands, about an hour from Zulu Nyala. Jay and Margaret didn't want to come along, so they went out on the morning drive and Tom and I took off in the Toyota. The drive was uneventful, but we found that the published boat schedule was not the one being followed, so we had a bit of time in the little town - it is much more touristy than Hluhluwe, which is a fairly typical South African native town. Saint Lucia has a number of shops and is the port for four touring boats. We boarded one at noon and enjoyed a two hour tour of this World Heritage site. The wetland is brackish, being adjacent to the Indian Ocean. The bird life is quite interesting. There are several hippopotamus pods in the water - and one lone mother with a newborn calf. Apparently, the newborns are kept away from the larger herd initially. If the newborn is a male, the mother doesn't introduce him to the herd until he is a year old because the dominant male will kill the baby. There was only one crocodile (enough for me) because the day was very warm - they were keeping cool. The hippos like to go for evening strolls - they will walk 15 km out and 15 km back in the evening, returning to be in the water at dawn. That's a long walk for something with such short legs.
Tom and I returned to Nyati in time for me to have a massage at the Heritage Lodge, just up the road from Nyati. It would have been much better if the owner, Trevor Shaw, hadn't been having a business meeting right on the other side of the wall - he was going on and on about various business issues. This really wasn't the appropriate time or place, Trevor!
Tom went on the evening game drive with the others. Another flat tire.
Again, we had dinner at Nyati with the rest of the guests, followed in the evening by the Zulu dancers from the Heritage tented camp. They were better than the ones we saw at Dumazulu, but they were all too obvious when they passed the jar for tips. I grow wearier about this tip business.