We were both up by six, having gone to bed so early. The wind was still blowing strong, which makes for poor beach and ocean activities. Not enough swell even for body boarding but too much chop for snorkeling. We consider our options. Having talked with one of the other lodgers the night before we had learned that the prices didn’t seem that bad to him (he was from Johannesburg), and that they were like that at the two or three beaches (dive spots) continuing north up the coast of Mozambique where he had visited in the past. It seems if you book a dive package the overall prices isn’t much more than what we were paying just for lodging. All these coastal areas where there is some bit of nice beach, corral, and clear water are 99% focused on the SCUBA trade, and not affordable if you are visiting for any other reason.
Bob and I were both fed up with Mozambique so we packed and drove an hour back to the South African border, arriving at 7:45 AM. It is only about 10 K but all in deep sand requiring 4-wheel drive. We had to wait 15 minutes for the border crossing to open up before we could get back into South Africa. We concluded that the best thing about the whole affair was that we thought the grass covered, rolling hills with some trees and scrub was some of the loveliest and most “African” we’ve seen. I saw more birds species (though still few birds total) and insects and other signs of wildlife than I’ve seen anywhere in South Africa, outside the parks that is. I don’t know how so much vegetation grows in what appears to be pure sand. You only have exposed sand, with no vegetation, where cars or people have worn paths and roads. Bob really had a good time driving for 45 minutes on sand tracks. We got to use our 4-wheel drive for the first time on this trip. And, we got Mozambique stamps in our passports.
About 1K back into SA we took a 4K trip out to Kosi Bay river mouth, which is only a mile or two down the beach from where we had been in Mozambique. Bob was determined to get in the Indian Ocean one last time. However, they said our Wild Card pass, for which we had paid several hundred dollars at the start of the trip, wouldn’t work at this park, though when we bought it, the pamphlet said it got us into all national parks and game preserves in the country. I wasn’t willing to pay the $10 entry fee to drive a few more miles to the ocean on sandy track, and walk the last half mile through deep sand so that Bob could spend a half hour swimming, so we drove back to the paved road and headed south. We decided to see if there was any affordable lodging anywhere in within a 100 mile range where we could settle in for a few days and get our good traveler moods back. The trouble is that if you go anywhere near something worth seeing or doingÃ¢â‚¬’the ocean, a lake, a game reserve, a national park or a cityÃ¢â‚¬’then you simply can’t find a decent (anything better than dirt, slum conditions), affordable place to stay. You can usually find a tolerable room in someone’s home for less than $40 a night but only in towns that don’t have anything within 35 miles to see or do.
We pulled down a sandy track to regroup, look at maps and call some of the lodging places listed in our “backpacker” book. We were looking for a smallish, industrial type town that we could get some affordable lodging in and figured we’d just drive an hour or so to find things to do. A vehicle pulled up beside us and the nice Africaner fellow said he owned the Kosi Bay Lodge 4K further down the sandy track that we were on. He guaranteed us that we could afford something as he had several types of lodging at his place. He was headed into town but we said we’d drive on in and check it out. Again, 4-wheel drive was required to get to his place and the $30 tent cabins were pretty rough. They had some nice “chalets” that, by American standards would not be allowed because they wouldn’t meet building codes but they were charming in their way, fairly clean, and the grounds and main lodge was quite nice. I managed to get the manager to call Herman (the owner we had met on the road) who agreed to my offer of paying $40 a night for two nights for one of the nice little chalets. I spent the first hour we were in our room sweeping and mopping the floors (they were a bit dirty), and getting dust and spider webs off most of the places we would be using. I tried to scrounge up some hangers for the little closet they had but didn’t have any luck. I did borrow a chair and little table from the patio of one of the empty chalets so we would have a nightstand and a chair for our little wood patio. The shared open-air kitchen facility assigned to our unit needed a good bit of cleaning as well but since there were only a handful of other lodgers, and none in our area, I figured I was cleaning it for us and hoped if others checked in and were assigned to our kitchen that they would keep it clean.
I was pretty hot and sweaty by this time so I took a cold shower. While I was cooling off I did some laundry on the shower floor, which was made of rough, local stone so things scrub out well. I had to clean my t-shirt, which I’d used to dust and mop the room, and the bathmat, which looked like it hadn’t been washed in a month or so. I know when my mom and older sister read this they are going to crack up laughing because they think I’m not a very good housekeeper. I’m certainly not fastidious but I am not quite the slob they think I am. Others will read this and assume I’ve got some sort of germ-phobia. I am a nester and I like my “home” to feel comfortably clean. I don’t mind the spider webs that lace the thatch ceiling above my bed, or the crickets, flies and bees that come through the tears in the screen. But I do like clean sheets and to feel like I can walk on the floor barefoot without the soles of my feet turning black or getting some sort of disease.
Bob even did his part by McGyvering the overhead fan so that it wouldn’t click and rattle all night, and he spliced together the lamp cord so it would work. We’ve both done our part to create a nice little haven for us to stay in. Of course I want to stay for a week now that we have settled in and have found a place costs less than $50 a night. However, the reason this place is relatively cheap, even without my negotiating a deal, is that there isn’t a whole lot to do around here. There is a series of three big lakes that are part of a national park about one kilometer from Kosi Bay Lodge so we plan to pay for the morning boat tour and see if we can find some hippos. There are quad bikes (ORV) to hire and tear around in the grassy dunes, ruining the environment, so I guess we’ll pass on that. About an hour away is a game preserve so perhaps we’ll make a day trip of that.
For now, I’m content to sit around and read, take walks through the grassy hills, weaving my way around the many little homes of the indigenous community. Though I would see 10 times the birdlife on any given evening at Aspen Ridge Ranch, there should be a bit of birding to do here. And late this evening we saw monkeys in the trees on our way back from the little walk that takes one to the edge of the lake. We couldn’t visit the lake for long tonight because we were warned to leave before dark as hippos or crocs might come to shore for the night. Some things I can only experience in Africa, so yes, I am content tonight.