Johannesburg to Phalaborwa

Today we drove from Johannesburg to just outside central Kruger National Park.

We woke at 6am, and went to eat another delicious included breakfast at Gooseberry. In addition to the same self-serve items as yesterday, we also were served a nice hot dish. It had boiled eggs, gravy, sweet BBQ sauce, and an English muffin! We were really impressed with the breakfast and service!

Delicious breakfast!

We checked out, paid for our laundry, pulled up directions to Graskop on the wireless, and departed Gooseberry around 7:45am.

5th Avenue Gooseberry Guest House was pretty perfect for us. Yes, it would be difficult without a car. And no, they do not have a generator for use during power outages. And yes, some of the artwork is a bit strange (and rather creepy when you arrive during a power outage). Although they had plenty of candles, we recommend bringing a flashlight or headlamp. However, the price and service was great! Our room was stocked with coffee and tea, sherry, and chocolates. The included breakfast was very good and very filling. And everyone was very nice. The price for laundry (R7.5/piece for just washing and drying) was very reasonable. We really enjoyed our time at Gooseberry.

Goodbye Gooseberry!

Google Maps took us on a pretty complex route through the northern suburbs of Joburg before we finally got on an “interstate” – the N4. The road was a big, well-maintained, limited-access, divided highway. Along the way we passed not one, not two, but three massive 6 cooling-tower nuclear-seeming power plants.

Just one of the three seemingly-identical plants

We come to find out once we were back at home that these were all coal-fired, which explains the smog that we experienced. Although, from the road signs, it seems that it gets much worse at times.

Other signs clarified that you should have your lights on and 60 km/hr speed limit (down from 120 km/hr speed limit otherwise) during times of heavy “fog”

Along the way, there were two tolls: R50 and R75 (Visa accepted). We stopped for gas (40.02 liters @ R12.73/liter) at an Oasis off the N4 – an oasis is like a nice truck stop. There were at least four different food options, clean restrooms, ATMs, shops, etc. We stopped by another ABSA bank ATM to stock up on cash for the park (no fees charged by ATM).

We drove through Graskop and headed to God’s Window to see the view and eat cheese sandwiches for lunch (since the cheese would go bad without refrigeration). The weather got so bad that we could barely see in front of the car, and never saw the turnoff for God’s Window. We could not have seen anything from the overlook anyway. We stopped at the Wonder View instead. We found that our cheese was moldy, so we had some peanut butter with our bread. The fog and rain were so intense that we waited for about an hour to see if visibility would improve.

Waiting out the white out (showing behind us)

It improved a little, but not significantly, as the rain stopped and the fog lessened. We eventually left the viewing area despite the visibility still being rather poor.  However, a few miles down the road it began to improve, and the it was completely better.

Incredible visibility compared to what we were just in!

We decided to stop at Lowveld View, which gave us a good view of the river, canyon, and dammed lake. Although we left at 4:10pm, the ladies selling crafts were locking the gate for the day. So do not expect it to remain open until it’s posted 5pm closing time!

The sign outside the gate indicating the viewpoint is open until 5 cannot be trusted… thankfully we got there a little before 4, as we were the last ones allowed in!

Katie at the viewpoint

Trinket shops closed for the day

After we left the Lowveld View, JT got pulled over by a traffic safety officer who claimed he was going 81kmp in a 60 zone. JT was not going that fast, but there was little he could do and – after negotiating the officer down from R750 – paid a R500 fine so that we could continue. We are not sure it went anywhere but the officer’s pocket – especially since the officer all-but-refused to give us any proof of payment – but we did not want to end up delayed even further.

We continued our drive to Phalaborwa, knowing we would have to drive about 50km after dark. This made Katie nervous, as you are not supposed to drive after dark due to animals and humans being on/near the road, as well as the massive potholes that seemed to be endless. The drive continued to be really pretty (including some awesome cliffs and a waterfall).

One of the many animals we found alongside the road
One of the many groups of people walking down the road seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They don’t seem to be in a hurry now that the sun is setting!
At least they warn you, right?
Stunning cliffs at sunset

We checked-in to the Travelers Palm (where we got a free upgrade to a double – room 3!), and then went to the Spar and the gas station (21.43 liters @ R13.26/liter) – where we ate dinner at Steers (R114.8 total for a mini-feast). We stopped by yet another ABSA bank ATM to stock up on cash for the park (no fees charged by ATM). Then we came back to Travelers Palm.

Steers reminds us of Burger King – if BK was actually delicious

Katie is really happy with and impressed with Travelers Palm. The owner lady has been extremely friendly and helpful, and the room is great and very thoughtfully laid out and appointed (bar of soap, toothbrush holder, refrigerator, microwave, toaster, plates & utensils, plenty of shelving).

We made sure to sleep under the matching-gendered lion

It is too bad the weather did not cooperate and we did not get to see all the sights we had planned to see in the Blyde River Canyon. But we still saw lots of pretty landscape, so we are happy. It’s an early night for us, as we are entering Kruger bright and early tomorrow.

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