Saturday, January 14

A day on the road – travelling to Ponta do Ouro

In my type of guiding work I can spend days and days behind the wheel, and when being interviewed for my first full time job as a guide one of the key questions was “do you enjoy driving?”

Well, of course I do. Not just the actual technical side, but the journey it involves. No matter how well travelled a route is, I am always looking for something new. It is one reason I always travel within the speed limits – keeping an eye out for speed traps gets in the way of looking at the people, landscapes and assorted animals.......

Looking over my previous posts I realise that I have mostly covered the “destinations” and not the journeys, so with your permission I will occasionally share with you “a day on the road” to somewhere.
My most recent journey was to Ponta do Ouro in southern Mozambique.

The distance is not daunting, roughly 650 kilometres, but it is not all plain sailing highway, and it usually takes me somewhere between 9 and 11 hours to complete.

The day before - getting ready to pack the car

The following photos have been taken over several trips on the same road so you will notice differences in seasons and times – just to keep it interesting:)

Early morning start - well out of Jo'burg as the sun rises

For those of you who have been on safari with me you will recognise the landscapes in the following three photos. The first 120 kilometres (Johannesburg to Middleburg) of my journey to Ponta is the same as the journey to Kruger....... 

The maize fields, power stations.....

coal fields.....

and smoggy, clouded landscapes of the Mpumulanga high veld.

 After a couple of hours of over taking heavily laden coal trucks and dodging pot holes on the  narrow roads through the grasslands, (Middleburg - Hendrina - Ermelo - Piet Retief) one gets to the endless road works.........

When you are first in the queue you KNOW you have a long wait!

Had fun here taking photos of the reflections in the tanker

In season the pink & white fields of cosmos are spectacular

 A clear stretch at long last...... starting the descent from the wet, grasslands of the high veld towards the man made forests surrounding Piet Retief.

And before the last drop over the escarpment into Pongola .... more road works ... a good opportunity to take some photos of rural Zululand.

I estimate that on a "bad" day, having to stop at these road works adds two hours onto the journey. I learnt from watching other drivers stuck in the tail backs, that a good book close to hand is essential. 

That's for when the photo opportunities dry up!

What a relief as the last road work is left behind and it is a clear run down into the hot, humid, sugar cane country of the Pongola River valley.

A last climb, up and over the Lebombo Mountains at Jozini

The final stage of the journey (from Pongola to Jozini, on to Mangusi/Kosi Bay and then through the border to Ponta in Mozambique) usually takes me about 4 hours - depending on how busy the border is of course!

I've searched though my archives, I promise, and cannot find ANY photos of this area of Maputaland (aka the Elephant Coast)

I must admit that this is fairly flat, featureless terrain, notable mostly for cattle, goats and lala palms. It is also quite densely populated, and I am always hesitant to stop and blatantly take photos of people. 

I will try next time though.......

Destination Ponta do Ouro!