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Aimee’s Adventures Continue: St. Lucia, South Africa

December 30th, 2009

The Osprey Brand Team, a group of ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, delivers the latest from new team member Aimee Cebulski who is on a 6-month world travel adventure. She’s taking an Osprey Sojourn 28 with her (from our new Travel Collection) and has moved on since her troubles in Capetown…

For the last few days we’ve been roughing it a bit in the bush…Staying at a one of a kind backpacker’s facility in Hluhluwe, South Africa.  Hluhluwe (again, pronounced “shlu-shlu-ee”) is in the NE corner of the country and home to the oldest game park in Africa.  Designated a protected area in 1895, the park is home to the Big 5 and has the largest concentration of the endangered White Rhino in the world (2,200 out of the 7,500 White Rhinos in the world live here).

We stayed at Hluhluwe Backpackers, otherwise known as “Dave’s Place.”  Run by a free spirited South African, this is one of the most laid-back places we’ve stayed on this trip.  It’s about 1.5K from the entrance to the park and set in very pretty rolling countryside surrounded by Zulu homesteads.  “Town” is about 12K away.

Our “en-suite” room turned out to mean there was a toilet in the building, not our room, but we weren’t too put off – Dave and Sean’s (our other host) attitudes and the vibe instantly puts you at ease.  We were treated like members of the family, sharing stories and food and generally being all around nice guys.  It was very relaxing out in the bush, quiet and we enjoyed the company of the other travelers at Dave’s.

Our first night we had a bit of a start when the frame of a picture on the wall spontaneously failed at 2 a.m. and the glass in the picture fell out, shattering on the tile floor.  We thought one of the critters from the nearby park had gotten into our room!  Our night was a little sleepless and we were tired in the morning for our game drive, but raring to go nonetheless.

The park at Hluhluwe was very different than the parks in Kenya; much more rolling hillside and forest-like shrubbery and far greener.  This area hasn’t been as devastated by drought and the landscape was vibrant and lush and the animals were much healthier.  We had a great ½ day in the park, seeing many great animals and spotting lots of rhinos…One group of 5 playing around a water hole right near the road was fun to watch.  You don’t want to get too close though!

Speaking of close, we did have an amazing encounter where two herds of water buffalo came together basically right in front of us on the road and we were parked for more than a half hour watching the two groups greet each other and exchange formalities before linking up.  It was fascinating and our guide gave us great insight into what all the behavior meant.  He also instructed us to just be mellow and not make any big sudden movements since the buffalo were checking us out.

After a while they started to clear but one juvenile stubbornly blocked the road.  We were amazed as our guide talked to him gently in Afrikaans, asking him to please move to the side.  Amazingly, it worked!

We’re now in the town of St. Lucia, part of the greater St. Lucia Estuary.  It’s a protected area where the river meets the Indian Ocean and home to lots of hippos and crocs.  Tomorrow morning we’ll walk down to the protected area where you can watch from the shores and try to scout out these beautiful but shy creatures.

Tuesday morning we head to Sodwana Bay to begin our next dive adventure!  We’ve talked to several people who have said Sodwana has great diving and we are hoping for good conditions.

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