I left Swaziland after just a few days, and arrived at the border with South Africa at Lavumisa. Upon crossing the border, however, I encountered a pretty big problem… There was nothing there. I’d expected a few minibuses like I’d found at the other buses I’d crossed, but there was nothing at all.
I didn’t know what to do. Looking at maps.me I found nothing nearby that would indicate any sort of transport system. The nearest town I could find was more than 100km. It also seemed that I was pretty much in the middle of a game reserve, too… which meant that even if I could somehow walk 100km (and my feet were still badly blistered from hiking in Swaziland) I’d have to avoid being eaten or gored to death.
After a few minutes of pondering my lack of options, I decided that the only option was to hitch-hike. I’d hitch-hiked the United States back in 2007, and in South Korea a few years later. In all attempts I’d been pretty successful – ie I got a ride quickly and hadn’t been murdered.
This time I stuck my thumb out and waited all of two minutes. A car pulled up and a man asked where I was going. “St. Lucia,” I told him. I hadn’t booked anywhere but I figured St. Lucia was a good place to go. It shouldn’t be hard to find a place to sleep.
“Mtubatuba,” he said.
“St. Lucia,” I replied, not understanding.
“I can take you as far as Mtubatuba,” he explained.
I jumped in and looked at my map. Mtubatuba was only 25km from St. Lucia. I could surely get a combi or taxi from there.
On the road I spoke to the man very little. He wasn’t unfriendly but also wasn’t particularly forthcoming. At one point he said, “I’ve never been to St. Lucia but I hear it’s nice… White people get all the nice things.” From there one things were pretty uncomfortable.
Eventually, the man agreed to take me all the way to St. Lucia for the equivalent of about $15. It was well out of his way and saved me a lot of hassle, so I didn’t mind paying. Besides, he’d driven me a long way from an isolated border post.
In St. Lucia I found a nice “hostel” was which actually a collection of tents on a roof. The tents were pretty luxurious, and I was disappointed to be kicked out the next day due to overbooking.
In St. Lucia I hiked around and spent time photographing the crocodiles and hippos in the nearby river and estuary. Then I booked a tour to the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park that offered a good chance of seeing the Big 5. I’d not seen a lion at Kruger so I was excited about my prospects.
The above photos show some of what I saw that day.
My guide around iMfolozi was an interesting old man. Whereas my guides to other parks had been very young, this guy was well into his sixties or seventies, with long silver hair. He’d grown up in Zimbabwe when it was known as Rhodesia, and worked then as a hunter. The irony that he know worked as a tour guide in a park protecting animals was not lost on him… although he did often talk about the importance of hunting in conservation.
We saw a lot of rhino that day and our guide, too, talked about the importance of legalizing the trade in rhino horn. In six years we’ll have no rhino left, and none of our efforts to stop poaching have proven successful. The only choice, he claimed, was to farm it. It was an interesting perspective with which I tend to agree.