We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

This past Wednesday, May 21, David and I celebrated 26 blissful years of marriage.  I give all the credit for this accomplishment to David since he has the “patience of Job” which is  a great help when it comes to living with me!!  David is great with the “one liners” but one that applies to making it to the 26 year mark is his reason God gave him two ears…”so anything I say will go in one ear and out the other.”  With that attitude, I think we will make it another 26 blissful years….thank you, honey!

To celebrate this anniversary, we booked an overnight at the Monate Conservation Lodge

(http://www.monatelodge.com) in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.  The Limpopo Province in the most norther South African province and it gets the name from the Limpopo River which runs through it.  

The Monate Lodge is about a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Johannesburg.  It is a private reserve….something I learned this weekend, is there is really no “wild” areas to view animals, except for the National Parks.  All other sites, that have animals, are private reserves.  Monate is on 4,545 acres of land.  Here there are caves with bushmen drawings and a variety of animals and lovely lodging with very attentive staff.  



We arrived shortly after 1:30 and was shown to our “tent”, the Hampton.  About the only part of the structure that was a “tent” were the canvas walls.  Initially, they showed us the Rushton Tented Suite as they thought that it would be a warmer choice between the two tents.  The Rushton was more like a thatched-roof cottage than a tent.  The back wall was the “tent” part.  

After seeing both tents, we decided on the Hampton and felt that we would be warm enough.  We are discovering what the South Africans consider cold, we think of more as “mild weather”.  We made the right call….the Hampton was more than warm.  Actually, in the night, I kicked off some of the covers, because I was so warm.






We were a short walking distance to the lodge and dining room where lunch was available.

They had a buffet of couscous, chicken and vegetables, salad and wonderful homemade bread.  Since I don’t eat chicken, fish was prepared and it was delicious.  

After lunch, we walked up the small hill behind the dining area.  We passed the swimming pool and continued up.  There was a small bridge that took us pass a small waterfall and around the corner, was the cave.  It is over 300,000 years old and was formed when the area was flooded by a large lake.  

From the vantage point on top of this hill, you can look out over the whole game reserve.  

 This cave is where dinner was served after we got back from our evening bush drive. 

The bush drive was at 4:00 in the afternoon.  It is in this vehicle with elevated seats to give the passengers a good view.  Our guide was CJ and he was a wealth of information about the animals, flora and birds.  It was so exciting!  We saw several Common Elands, a Blue Wildebeest, Helmeted Guinea Hens, Water Bucks, Ostriches, White Rhinoceros and Hippopotamuses!  

Common Eland and Blue Wildebeest

Common Eland

Two White Rhinos…they are brothers

The curled tail indicates that he is annoyed!


Guinea Hens

The drive was topped off at the watering hole of the hippos and crocodiles by having a


“sundown”….cocktails and snacks while watching the sunset.  


Dinner was served at 7:30 and we made our way up to the cave.  The tables had white tablecloths and candles that gave lit the cave up in a warm, inviting reddish glow.  In front of the cave was a buffet of minestrone soup, salad and the delectable homemade bread.  I could have made just a meal with the soup and bread.  
The main courses were in black, wrought iron kettles.  These are potjies (pronounced “poy-key”).  I would kind of compare it to cooking with a crock-pot only over an open fire.  The kettle is placed in the fire and the heat is regulated by placing the coals close to or away from the pot.  From what I understand, practically anything can be cooked in these potjies..  In the potjies pictured here there was rice, veggies, oxtail and chicken.  I ate the veggies in the potjie and the fish that they fixed special for me.  

The meal was scrumptious, the staff was extremely attentive and the setting was so unique.  It was such a lovely anniversary meal.  The evening became more special when we received a complimentary bottle of champagne from the manager and for dessert, the chef made us a carrot cake.  The message on the cake read “Dear Sharalyn and David, May your love be as bright today as it was on your wedding day!  Happy 26th Anniversary! The Monate Team xx.”  

The evening was topped off with a beautiful fire, star gazing and drinking champagne.  I saw three shooting stars, so it is going to be a banner year with all of those wishes.  David went to bed early and I sat by the fire for another half-hour or so.  It had been so long since I have sat outside by a fire.  I was transported back to my many summers at Girl Scout camp. I even started singing Kumbaya….LOL!!!

6:00 AM came early on Sunday.  I certainly didn’t have to worry about setting an alarm because upon the first ray of light starting the new day, there was a cacophony of bird sounds.  I was just waking up when it started and for a second, I tried to figure out where in the world I was….was I in the jungles of Belize or Costa Rica.  No, I was in the bush in South Africa.  

Our second bush drive left at 6:30.  We hopped into the truck and off we went.  Right off, we saw some Waterbucks. 



CJ, our guide, took us to some caves that were over 1500 years old and had been inhabited by bushmen.  

Water Buffalo to the left, Big Kudu to the right

There were cave drawings of a water buffalo, Big Kudu bull and a zebra.  The water buffalo had his sex organ displayed which represented the leader of the group hunted animals so it would rain. The Big Kudu represented the first hunt failed, so they had another hunt in hopes that it would rain.  


                                                                The Zebra showed that the hunt was successful because the bushmen made clothing from Zebra’s hide to keep warm during the rain. 

There were pottery shards which had been discovered and an arrowhead made out of

volcanic rock.  CJ even pointed out where they had sharpened the arrow on a rock.  Can you see the markings where they rubbed the stone to sharpen it?


Rock that they sharpened arrowhead on

Next to this cave, was the chief’s cave because it was under the higher cliff of the two

caves.  They thought the cave was very deep but they couldn’t explore it properly due to the ammonia gases emitted from the urine of the animals that now reside in the cave.  

After visiting the caves, CJ said that he wanted to take us for coffee.  The area he had in

mind was a large and open on a flat rock.  When we arrived…this white rhinoceros was standing around.  He was huge….and not pleased that we showed up as he kept curling his tail.  Eventually, he walked off and we were able to enjoy a  hot cup of coffee in this lovely spot.  

Sunrise coffee

Across from the area that we had coffee, there was another cave.  This one was 1200 years old and had more drawings.  You can see an advancement in the drawing skills in just the difference of 300 years between the two sets of drawings.  

The giraffe in this drawing represents the man coming of age. 

The second drawing was of an eland.  The bushmen believed the eland opened the gateway to the spiritual world and they were able to “talk” to their ancestors.  It is speculated that this man was sick and needed healing from the spirit world.

The final drawing is of a red heart beast which indicated that the man died.  The horn of the red heart beast points straight up when he is lying down and this represents that the man’s soul went to heaven.  

One thing I love in life is seeing ancient cave drawings from so long ago.  I haven’t seen all that many in my travels but I am certainly fascinated by those that I have seen.  These drawings were wonderful.  

This cave was inhabited by hyenas and there were bones of animals strewn around the cave entrance. CJ explained that they do not take food into the cave to protect their young from predators.  Instead, they eat what they kill and then regurgitate the food, in the form of pellets, to feed the cubs.  We didn’t seen any hyaenas this trip but I expect at some point, we will. 

The bush ride lasted about 2 1/2 hours.  When we arrived back to the lodge, breakfast was served.  They had eggs, sausage, bacon, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit, various cheeses and toast.  

After breakfast, we wandered back to the tent and just relaxed before leaving.  David was snoozing on the lounge chair and I was reading. I just started reading Nelson Mandela’s book, Long Walk to Freedom.  I figured it would be a wonderful history lesson and help me better understand my new surroundings.  There are tours offered in Soweto, one of the townships that Nelson Mandela lived.  It is also the area of a student uprising in 1976 that lead to sanctions throughout the world against South Africa.  I very much want to take this tour before we leave South Africa but feel it is important to understand the history before venturing there.  Also, I want to finish this book before returning back to the Apartheid Museum as I think it will make it easier to absorb all the museum has to offer.  It may take awhile before we do these two things as the book is 751 pages long and I am a rather slow reader :).

While I was reading, an eland wandered through our yard.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera ready and by the time I got it, he had wandered into the nearby brush.  

Riding out, we saw the herd of Zebras that we saw coming in.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any warthogs.  I would love to have a picture of them but they move really quickly.  

It was a great weekend, great anniversary.  Like David says every year “I wonder where we will be next year for our anniversary?”……





























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