Monday, December 19, 2011

Dive 2011

So on Wednesday afternoon, around 4pm we were supposed to be heading off to our overnight stop in Pongola. As seems to be tradition with the Pajero, we departed a good 2hrs late. But we were off, The Trucker, me, @Toxic_Mouse and another couple. Which means we only arrived in Pongola at around 01:30 on Thursday morning. The lengthy drive was slowed by some tedious stop-go's and, of course, dinner.

But the Dive Inn was accommodating and opened up for us and we got a good night's sleep (thank goodness for aircon!). We started the morning with a breakfast stop in Pongola's Wimpy and then it was straight thru to Sodwana, with a quick stop for a few snack provisions and booze in Mbazwana.

I won't lie, The Trucker organised us some awesome accommodation at Mseni Lodge. It was inside the reserve / National Park (which was mostly awesome, up until we tried to leave on Sunday, but more on that later). It has a path onto the beach (not the dive-beach, the beach on the other side of the point, which is gorgeous and un-touched and mostly completely private). And we had a lovely little self-catering chalet to ourselves. Was fantastic and I'd highly recommend it :) It made for the perfect base for the weekend.

On Thursday when we arrived we settled in and took a stroll down to the beach (we were literally the only people in sight!) and went for a swim (shoo, the waves & current were pretty rough!). And then a dip in the pool to de-salt ;) The water was all fantastically warm!

We went for a drink at the Lodge Restaurant. Let me just warn you, do not order their Nacho's. We were quite unimpressed with the R50 meal that couldn't have been more than a tiny bag of Doritos with some melted cheese. Barely enough for the 5 of us to share!

After that we headed back to our chalet and had a surreal experience with a baby Bushbaby. The Monkeys came past our chalet stealing a box of biscuits and a bag of sugar (we'd forgotten that we'd left the kitchen window open while we were sitting chatting on the balcony). So we were chasing them away and suddenly I saw something that wasn't a Vervet. It was a Bushbaby. Now I've never really seen more than the eyes of one of these at night (I would guess most people hadn't). But clearly the monkey troop coming thru was bothering this one. Turns out it was a Mommy Bushbaby because very quickly after I spotted her we could hear her babies. And then we could see them (I saw 2 running on the ground). We assume trying desperately to get away from the monkeys. We scared off the monkeys (not very far, they still kept trying their luck). And the Mom disappeared ... but there was one Bushbaby left behind crying it's heart out. Now this was just encouraging the monkeys who were definitely trying to get at it. It was breaking my heart. Obviously it was trying to tell it's Mom where it was and to come get it but with the monkeys around she wasn't coming near (I assume she managed to save at least one of her little ones).

Anyway, the baby came towards us, close enough that it actually bit me (I was trying to pick it up and take it ... where?). It didn't break skin, it's teeth were no where near strong enough. Poor thing was terrified. We watched it in the tree (which it climbed up off the floor) and scared off the monkeys as long as we could. We did hear the mother again but never saw her. We eventually had to go for our dive-briefing at 6pm so have no idea what happened to the poor little guy ... he wasn't there when we got back later. *sob* I'm choosing to believe it's mother came and got him. #sigh at Nature.

Anyway. We had our dive briefing. We dived with Amoray this weekend. The best part of the whole thing: It was just our group (3 of us for the most part) diving all weekend alone with them .. .except for our very last dive on Saturday. How divine is that? It really was :)

And then we decided to have dinner at the Lodge Restaurant (even after our poor Nacho's experience earlier). But we ate well, once you get over the pricing. Good prawns, not so great calamari. Apparently the steak was good too :)

We were up and at the parking lot, ready for our first dive at 7am on Friday morning. The Trucker is definitely the best boyf dive-partner I've had :) And we had awesome dives. Lots of turtles on the first dive (which I love!). No sharks at all (I'm totally okay with that). So serious surge & current in the water tho. But the Sodwana reefs are quite lovely coral-wise. Our last dive was the least impressive fish-wise but the corals were gorgeous. We mostly dived 2mile but on Saturday's first dive we headed out to 5mile and did Ribbon. And we got to see the blue&yellow Ribbon Eel :) The diving was good. It was nice to dive again after so long. But I think I dived as much as I needed. This is never going to be something I could spend a week doing.

Mostly the rest of the weekend was spent napping (sheesh I was exhausted by the diving), walking on the gorgeous dunes at the beach, swimming and relaxing (I read a lot less than I thought I would). And then eating out. On Friday night we went to The Lighthouse which, honestly, made one of the best pizza's I've ever had. It was amazing! The base was so so so thin (imagine a tortilla?). I had the Aubergine and Haloumi one and it was delish. Seriously, eat here.

On Saturday night we were going to braai but it just seemed like too much effort, so instead we went to The Sodwana Bay Lodge Restaurant called Leatherbacks. I wasn't terribly impressed by this place, honestly. I had their sole which was nice enough tho.

And then on Sunday morning we were up and packed and ready to leave our little chalet at 07:30am. We planned to stop and have breakfast at the Wimpy in Pongola again. All plans were thwarted as we arrived at the little area next to the petrol pumps and shop in the Park. The place was gridlocked. No one knew yet what was going on exactly, but slowly the story unfolded.

See, usually (apparently) you can drive your big ol' 4x4 right onto the beach sand here at Sodwana (apparently these people have been doing it for the 16 - 26 years they've been coming here year after year). And this year the government has clamped down and told the Parks Board to limit it and enforce a new system that allows only 200 vehicles onto the beach per day. We made a vague attempt to get one on Thursday afternoon (you have to get one between 16h00 and 18h00 for the following day). But decided that queuing wasn't on our holiday agenda and we didn't really need to take our Pajero right to the Dive Set-up Area. So we gave the permit a skip and enjoyed the rest of our weekend.

Clearly tho, the rest of the arriving holiday crowd was less than impressed by this new system tho and 2 cars decided to blockade the entire Park (since there is only 1 road in and out, this was not as tricky as one might think). And no one was going anywhere.

Sucked for the people stuck on the other side trying to start their holidays. Sucked for those of us trying to leave and get back home. Did not suck for those people here for the next 3 weeks who just took their cars and boats back to their camp sites and walked to the beach instead. I gather the diving was pretty much cancelled too tho (Amoray stores their boats at Mseni so couldn't get them out either, I expect more dive companies were affected similarly).

So anyway, these people just ended up annoying us completely. We had breakfast at Mseni Lodge Restaurant instead ... meh. We waited around some more. We went for a swim in the Pool (much needed). We tried to find alternate routes out of the Park.



It was a big fat giant waste of time. They didn't win. In fact they achieved very little in the grand scheme of things and the way it sounded they were planning on barricading the beach this morning from 4am too. Well, I guess everyone likes to spend their holidays differently :P I won't lie, I've never much understood striking. This was just dumb in my opinion. I mean sure if you want to protest against something you believe in, go right ahead. But I don't care one bit about your beach permits (in fact, if I'm honest, I don't think any of you should be allowed on the beach at all actually - except perhaps people launching boats but who knows?) so why are you forcing me into your protest. You are not making friends here.

The cars who blocked the road were both very distinct (one with company branding even! Yes, you, Gawie Steyn, Manager at http://www.st74x4.co.za/) and we got their license numbers. I gather tho that there was quite a lot of support for their cause ... but I still kinda hope that the Parks Board bans both of them for 10years at least. (UPDATE 21Dec2011: Here's an article from the news yesterday, seems things got even more crazy after we left!)

So yes, a very annoying morning but we finally exited the Park at 13h15 and The Trucker got us home just after 9pm.

And now to survive another week of work ... thank goodness I had a really lovely long weekend :)

1 comment:

louisa123 said...

What a bunch of assholes!
I also don't think they should be driving on the beach. 200 is already a lot!

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