Laird’s had packed a box breakfast the night before so up, re-packed and out by 7:30. Re-traced yesterday’s steps and beyond to George, the largest town in the area, and reached the George airport by 9:00, and turned in the car. Because we were flying through Jo’burg, we had been advised to have our checked luggage shrink-wrapped for theft security, so this we did at George airport. Probably a good thing to do, but two important learnings; since the bag is cocooned in plastic and then a hole is cut to pull the handles through, make sure to attach something identifiable to the handle since every bag looks the same under plastic; and two, put squishables in the middle of the bag and well cushioned since in the process of shrink-wrapping, the bag is squeezed very tightly and things have a habit of exploding, like my toothpaste and V’s sun tan lotion all over the inside of her bag. Fortunately my tooth paste was in my shaving kit so no major harm done for me but V spent an hour washing clothes and scrubbing out her bag. Uneventful flights; first to Jo’burg and a 4 hour layover and then a 1 hour small plane flight to Nelspruit/White River. First flight was over arid semi-desert, the same country that we had been driving through for may of the last 10 days and then the White River leg, green, rolling country-side. Landed at Nelspruit airport, the terminal of which is thatched, apparently the largest thatched structure in SA, and picked up by Rich, one half of the African Avenue team. After 10 months’ planning and emailing, it was nice to finally meet in person and have a chance to chat. Susie and Rich had arranged to have us stay with them overnight and then drive us to Mala Mala on the following day. Susie had a family gathering at her father’s farm so Susie, Rich,V and I stayed at a friend and colleague’s house just up the road.
Ethne and Malcolms’s house is a stunning 100 year-old colonial bungalow, with a back courtyard for vehicles surround on three sides by the house, rambling wings, cool, little sitting rooms and lounges filled with comfortable armchairs and old family furniture, a wrap-around stoep and rambling gardens, lawns and ponds; lovely, lovely and cool. Susie had invited her father and his partner, Deb, and a local couple for dinner with us, so an enormously comfortable dinner on the veranda, around a long dining table with marinated filets of beef cooking on a table-side fireplace. Lively conversation and very good food and wines; enchanting evening.