Friday, March 24, 2017

Wet & Wild


Kruger National Park afforded us to see 4 of the big five game animals though saying we saw a Hippopotamus was stretching it. We viewed the ears and snout of such a beast from 75 yards away. Not exacting a great sighting. I did see one come up on the lawn at Hippo Hollow Lodge but that’s almost a zoo like setting. This afternoon we walked across town to the docks in St Lucia to board a specialized hippo boat to really get a close up of this over inflated animal. Within minutes of arrival our group were off on a hippo hunt. I’m usually skeptical about such boastful adventure cruises but this one delivered in spades. At first we saw a few bobbing about near the tall reeds. The boat passed under a bridge and soon at least ten were frolicking about thrilling the passengers by widely opening their mouths. The sun began to duck close to the horizon as the boat docked and all of us retreated to our hotel.


Almost 400 kilometers of winding undulating roads ushered us onto a dirt road leading us to the Oribi Gorge Hotel. This adventure driven refuge is a haven for adrenaline junkies. This gorge is known for the longest rope swing into the gorge. We arrived a bit too late to take advantage of this great opportunity. Instead we opted to cross the canyon by swinging footbridge. The swinging and bouncing of this bridge was good enough for me. The weather threatened us all day with wind a light sprinkles of rain. Later that evening rain in earnest began to fall and when the next morning arrived I knew it was going to be a very wet day ride to the coastal town of Coffee Bay. Riding these potholed strewn narrow roads are somewhat challenging to begin with let alone added pouring rain.  The big risk is passing “Abnormal” trucks laden with cargo. The general sense of road courtesy among South African drivers make it tempting to take a chance and pass where I normally wouldn’t even consider it. Late morning we dropped down out of the gorge area taking the switch backs with relative caution. Fog began to mix with rain making visibility through my faceshield extremely difficult. I came up on a tanker truck slowly grinding up a hill. The rider in front of me took a chance and made the pass. Now it was my turn to overtake the truck which splashed residue from its churning tires onto my helmet. The lack of ventilation inside my helmet created fog on the inside as well as the out. I rhythmically used my clutch glove as a wiper but I couldn’t keep up with the quantity rain. I moved to the right riding the center line trying to see an opening from the oncoming traffic. Finally it appeared there was a small opening. I down shifted and twisted the throttle making a full commitment to pass. I was halfway through the move when a bend in the road approached along with a truck making its way around the corner. With my limited vision I got as far as the door on the tanker, moved within inches of the grinding front tire when the large truck going in the opposite direction sandwiched me between 10 tons of steel. I saw the front bumper of the tanker truck next to my hip when I shifted to 4th and sped away. An hour later the rain stopped and the sun lit my way to Coffee Bay.     

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