Tuesday, September 8, 2015

South Africa 2015 - September 7, Richards Bay

South Africa 2015 - September 7, Richards Bay, St Lucia, and the Indian Ocean

We didn't have many plans for the day, but we did discuss heading up to St Lucia to go on the waterway and view the hippos and crocodiles.  After mulling around the hotel room for a bit, we decided that was the plan for the day.  We attempted to educate ourselves on 1) where St Lucia was, 2) who did boat tours, and 3) was there anything else to do while we were up there.  While looking up all that stuff on the internet, we noticed that none of the tour companies provided physical street addresses, which made it a little difficult to set a GPS to.

Before we set out for the day, we needed to get some cash, so looking for an ATM or a bank was on the agenda I needed to hit the stores next to the hotel also to see if I could score some swimming trunks, since I left mine at home.  We scored on the ATM quite quickly, so we knocked that out of the way.  There are quite a few shops along the bay where we were staying and surprisingly enough, there were two shops that sold swimming apparel.  The first one was a strike out, however the second one had just what I needed.  Of course, Kathy didn't ‘need’ anything, but found herself buying a new one piece suit as well.

Once outfitted, we went back to the room to get the camera gear, car keys, and a bag full of essentials in case we wanted to get wet in the Indian Ocean.  We also brought jackets just in case the boat tour got chilly.  As we set out, we both decided we were hungry and wanted to eat in Richards Bay prior to hitting the road.  As luck has it, there was a McDonalds just up the street, so we both decided that was likely going to have to work.  The menu at McD’s over here isn't quite what we know it as back home.  Though the do have the essentials, Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Chicken sandwiches, etc, it wasn't as plentiful as we know it.  Kathy decided on a spicy chicken pocket flapper thingy, where there are two chicken breasts inside a pocket dealy.  I chose the quarter pounder with a Coke.  Kathy also ordered a tea, but when she got it, it was hot tea and it had milk in it.  They don't do iced tea over here.  Pretty much anything with ice in it is a no go…  even my Coke was poured with no ice in it.  Very odd. 

Anyway, my meal was fairly uneventful, with the exception of no ice in my drink.  Everything tasted like back home and it was topped like I would expect it.  But Kathy’s spicy chicken sandwich flapper dealy was a different story.  I didn't try it, but she said it was HOT, as in spicy hot.  So much so, she ended up taking the chicken patties out, wiping the excess sauce on a napkin, and eating them plain.  I guess the sauce had something like curry in it.  We finished up what we could and headed on our 1.5 hour journey up to St Lucia.

We got in to St Lucia around 12:45 PM SAST, which was just after the noon boat took off at Advantage Tours.  The next boat was set to sail at 3:00 PM, so we bought our tickets to that cruise and looked for a place to wet our whistles.  We didn't have to go far, since there was a bar and restaurant right next door called Barraca.  Their motto is “A taste of Portugal with a touch of Italian.”  Naturally, since we just had lunch, food was not on the agenda.  So we did what any other thirsty tourist would do - thats right, order some beers!  We sipped on a couple frosty cold Castle Lite draughts and awaited our tour time.  People watching here wasn't too bad either, since there were locals and tourists all at once.  Even the occasional bus would pull up out front and load or unload tourists, who would walk along the street to the shops and such.

3:00 PM was getting close, so we decided to head up the way to the boat area and get on our vessel.  The boat was a typical touristy pontoon like craft.  It had bench seats around the edges as well as in the middle facing outward.  I believe it could hold up to around 100 passengers, including a space up on the top where you could get unobstructed viewing.  We chose to be down on the main level, since that would give me the best vantage point to take photographs.  You see, if you get on the level of your subject, it tends to make the subject three dimensional, whereas if you shoot from the top down, it flattens the subject making appear two dimensional.  We set sail right at 3:00 PM, or 1500 hrs as they say over here.

The weather was beautiful as we set sail.  It was around 28c or near 90*f with a slight breeze with a nice bright sun and virtually no clouds. We were promised to see crocodiles and hippos and there was no disappointment there.  We first came across a croc sunbathing on the shore along with his/her brother/sister near.  After that, we saw some hippos in the water, which was on average only 1.5 meters deep throughout the marshland.  The history of how this came to be was interesting. The drought in the eastern South Africa stems back around 15 years now.  The marshlands were once connected to the Indian Ocean, but when the water receded a few years back, it couldn't recover quick enough and a sandbar was made as a part of the ocean doing its thing, and it separated from the ocean.  The marshlands, also known as a lake now, which is the biggest salt water lake in South Africa.  The captain even spoke about the different species that were still contained in the lake, which really belong in the ocean.  Bull sharks were a part of the identified animals, which grew a bit of a surprise from the guests. 

We were able to see several different animals out of the water as well.  Our captain would spot things from a long ways a way, where we could not even see.  The birds we spotted were King Fishers, African Eagles, and the Goliath Heron, also known as the giant heron.  The male and female African Eagle are rarely spotted near each other, but on our cruise, they were perched on branches right next to each other, which I happened to have my camera in hand to view.  They appeared to be hunting for fish for their nightly meal.  One of the King Fishers we saw had a small fish in its mouth, where the captain drew our attention on how the bird knocks the fish around until it dies, that way it can be eaten easier (less resistance).  That King Fisher literally beat the crap out of that fish on the branch he was nested on.  Wild in the wild! 

We saw a lot of hippos.  Some were solo and some were in small groups.  Then, we got to see a heard of around 25 together. Mostly in the water, but a couple out of the water, which is rare to see during the day.  Some of them would nestle their heads on the others backs. Others would just hang out in the water side by side.  Pretty calm animals during the day. However, the captain said last year alone there were over 2,900 people killed by hippos in Africa, which makes them one of the most dangerous of the Big 5.  After chilling with the hippos for a while, we headed back to the dock.

The sun was getting ready to set, so we headed out to the beach before getting back on the road to Richards Bay.  The walk to the beach was pretty easy from the parking lot we found near it.  The waves were deafening and there was a bit of a haze over the area, even though the sun was shining through the trees just to the west of the beach.  We snapped a few photos, stuck our feet in the Indian Ocean, and headed back as dark was upon us.  We heard stories about not being out after dark since some of the local villages will put up road blocks and rob the drivers of their valuables.  We felt safe since it was only 6:00 PM, yet very very dark already.  The driving over here is difficult during the day.  But its nearly impossible during the night, since the same rules apply as daytime driving…  passing using the center line as the slower drivers get over on the shoulder to let the faster drivers pass.  Problem with that at night time, you cant tell if a car is on the shoulder or passing.  That makes for some interesting decision making behind the wheel. 

Once we returned to the hotel, we packed out the stuff we took and went to find a bit of a morsel to eat.  We had our eye on Mojitos, which is a cuban/mexian restaurant near the hotel.  We had a three appetizers and a couple of beers while we facetimed the moms to catch up.  The funny thing is about getting wifi around these parts is that you have to have the passcode for the establishment you are in.  Sometimes its an easy passcode, but most the time its not.  Most of the places we have gone to will give us the code, which is free unlimited wifi for us, unlike the 500mb limit we have at the hotel per day (though we do have three different codes, which gives us 1.5gb per day).

We headed for a nightcap at Mariners again to catch up with the cool bar lady, Nicki.  Nicki is 19 and very nice to talk with.  She seems genuinely interested in how we live and compares it to the culture over here.  I explained to her about going to Royals and Chiefs games and preparing food for the tailgates before the games.  We even showed her the sports complex back home on Google and explained that the Royals stadium held around 40,000 and Arrowhead held 80,000 people.  Big sports over here are rugby, soccer, and cricket, none of which are very popular in the states - though soccer is making a try.

We headed back for some shut eye and upon opening the suitcase, we found a little friend that obviously came with us from Zuly Nyala.  It was a little gheko, which was around 3 inches in length and looked like the same one we saw in our room up there.  I didn't bother looking for it, since it scurried off pretty quickly.  Kathy asked me if I was worried that it would climb up on the bed and in to my mouth while I was sleeping.  I was not worried, so sleep time it was.

No comments:

Post a Comment