Today was supposed to start with a trip to see meerkats. While I did manage to get out of bed on time (as I supposed to meet the guide and the others in the group at dawn), apparently I didn’t quite manage to wake up. You see, when I pulled out of the B&B I turned right instead of left. Hey, it was early and it was dark and I could get lost in a closet! After about three or four miles I realized that I had indeed gone the wrong way. I also realized I was quite low on gas. By the time I got sorted out — pointed the right way and with enough gas in the tank to get to the rendezvous point — I was too late. Not the best start to a day! So how did I get the above photo? Easy: I went to the Cango Wildlife Ranch. While there I also spent a few minutes inside — yes, you read that right, inside — a cheetah cage with two of these amazing animals. Below is a photo of me petting Mia, who purred loudly the entire time. An extraordinary experience! (This is actually a photo I took of the souvenir photo they gave me at the zoo, so the quality is a bit off. Sorry!)
So I left the Cheetah with all my fingers and toes intact and headed on a circular route that next took me to the Cango Caves, one of the “must see” attractions in the area. I had been planning to take the “heritage” 1-hour tour, an easy visit to the caverns. On arrival, however, the “macho” gene (which is usually quite dormant in my life) kicked in, and I signed up for the “adventure” tour. Now the “adventure” tour covers far more territory and requires more climbing, stooping, sliding, and squeezing than the tour taken by normal, ordinary, and sane human beings. For the most part, it was both challenging and even fun. But at one point we had to slide on our bellies through a space that felt rather smaller than my belly. So I found myself (already winded from the exertion of the previously referenced climbing, stooping, sliding, and squeezing) in the position photographed below:
Now I know how the cork in the bottle feels! One of the other adventurers, who had already made it through this part of the journey, encouraged me even while I was saying, “I’m stuck!” I must admit that this was one of the scarier, more panicky moments I’ve experienced in quite a long time. But, since I’m writing today’s entry, clearly I made it through the tight spot and out of the caves. On the way, however, I slipped and did something interesting to my right thumb. I suspect the nail is history, and it is moderately painful. To address the pain (since my ibuprofen was, of course, in the checked luggage now visiting the Twilight Zone) I went to a local pharmacy and asked for ibuprofen. The very nice lady offered me ibuprofen with a bit of added codeine. Oh, yeah: a couple of those and glass of delightful Sauvignon Blanc, and the thumb is feeling just fine, thank you. We will see, however, what tomorrow brings!
Since I’ve made a habit of driving over interesting South African passes, today I tackled one of the most spectacular in the nation: the Swartberg Pass. This one offered about 15 miles of gravel road and jaw-dropping views. After that I saw a great waterfall and said hello to some ostriches at a local farm.
Another very full day, filled with ups and downs, but not one I would have missed. Speaking of missing things: I’m not really missing my lost LUGGAGE any more, nor have I heard anything more from British Airways. As Charlie Brown puts it: *sigh*
Tomorrow I have about a five-hour drive to Addo where I will take a brief safari into what I believe is South Africa’s largest and most populated elephant preserve. And then I’m spending the night at the Addo Dung Beetle Guest Farm. Hey, with a name like that, how could I resist?