We left Leopards Creek about 11am with our driver Mandla from Gap Tours and drove to Nelspruit Airport to pick up Adrian’s computer which he had mistakenly left on the plane. From there we drove to the Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimpanzee Eden where we ate a nice lunch quickly before beginning the tour. The Centre has rescued chimpanzees from Central Africa for many years and they have 34 chimps in 3 groups that are being rehabilitated from various injuries and indignities before they are reintroduced into the wild if that is possible. The Sanctuary is probably exactly like Fauna Sanctuary outside Montreal so it was especially fun to see this interesting place with Clayton our guide who was so keen on the animals and the work he was part of – he’d only been working there for 6 months. After a couple of hours drive with Mandla we arrived at Cybele Forest Lodge near White River in Mpumalanga. We’re in the kopjies of the northern Drackensburg (dragons back) Mountains. The Lodge is very isolated and surrounded by managed forests of pine and eucalyptus, it is a lovely sanctuary – this time for humans- where we have a charming room with our own small warm pool. Drinks at 7pm and a lovely private dinner afterwards. For me a good sleep is not in the cards tonight – Gord is still quite sore and I’m wakeful for the first time on this trip.
Travelling in Mpumalanga we see a rich agricultural area here (bananas, avocado, papaya, macadamia, lichy nuts, and huge swaths of managed forests – acre after acre covered by millions of pine and eucalyptsis) In the towns there are many car dealerships, pulp and paper mills, sugar cane factories, tourism lodges, modest but good-looking houses, shops and schools. Our guide and driver Mandla tells us that Richard Branson’s daughter will be married at one of his homes near here this weekend with members of the royal family expected at this Cybele Lodge. Later we hear that Beatrice and Eugenie, boyfriends and bodyguards will be here. Luckily we’ll be gone.
Interesting fact from Adrian: 50% of black South Africans are middle class which is an enormous change from 20 years ago and the number is growing. Big problems are still the high birth rate among rural blacks with little ability to educate the children who migrate to the cities for jobs and lifestyle and often find themselves living in poverty.
*Kopjies are little hills – here they are the foothills of the Drackensberg.