Having spent the night in Johannesburg I woke up ready to head to the airport to get a GPS and wireless card for internet access for my laptop while out and about in the country. I headed out towards the airport and upon trying to rent my GPS from Thrifty, the Bank of America credit card was BLOCKED again. For those who read the first post you know that this just happened 8 hours earlier when I rented the car. This was the third time in less than 24 hours I had this problem.
So I called B of A and in short the guy apologized but told me the card block wouldn't be released for another 3 hours as they were down for maintenance. This meant I had to wait until noon to rent or buy anything and worse yet I couldn't start on my way to Kruger which is a good 5-6 hours from Johannesburg.
So with no GPS, money, or working card, I decided to spend my 3 hours that I had before the card started working and headed to downtown Johannesburg hoping I could make it back to the airport without incident. There's about a 20 minute drive from the airport to downtown and following the signs got me downtown without too much of a problem. Being that it was the weekend there wasn't much business activity down there but there was a lot of people just having fun.
Let me tell you they drive crazy in South Africa, especially downtown. No regard for street lights, other cars, or other people for that matter. The funniest thing was while driving a taxi driver pulled up to me and said, "Hey man, if you're going to drive here you have to drive like we do. Otherwise you are going to get bounced around like a ball and end up in the gutter." I took his advice and switched to crazy out of America mode and started driving like they do...and it worked, it was actually safer.
It took some advice from some strangers to get back to the airport and after a little difficulty I made it back there. Well, the card was finally working, so I went to the ATM and got cash, and then to the Vodafone store to rent a GPS and wireless card. They couldn't guarantee that the wireless card would work on a Mac, so I had to take the chance that I could get it to work.
After leaving the airport I plugged the directions in for Kruger and set off. The only problem was that the power cord to the GPS would only work if the car wasn't moving. Exasperated beyond belief while sitting at the side of the freeway I just couldn't bring myself to go back to the airport. I decided to just risk it and hope it would work.
At this point I was so far behind schedule I just was hoping to make it close to the entrance gates to Kruger. I took off and was on the toll road towards Kruger which was about 450km away. One of the first things I noticed was all of the people walking on the side of the road (freeway) just hitchhiking. The toll road was pretty smooth and I was trying to make it to Kruger before the gates closed at 6pm.
I headed for the Numbi gate and by the time I got there it was well nearing 7pm. On the roads I was so surprised at how dark they were which was dangerous because so many people are walking on the roads and can be hit. I was also very surprised to see all the roadside fires, and kids just playing in the fires, no adults around or caring. I pulled over to the side of the road and captured some shots of the fires and kids.
In South Africa you are going to be hard pressed to find a gas station that takes a debit or credit card, so it's very important to carry as much cash with you as can. I filled up with gas and found lodging at the Numbi Lodge which was very simple but accommodating. The only bummer was that my Samsonite travel adaptor didn't work in the hotel but I figured that it must be a problem at the hotel. The cost of the hotel was around 500 Rand. The easiest way to figure out the exchange ratio is to assume that the USD cost is 15% of whatever the Rand cost is....so the hotel cost about $55 dollars.
I prepared myself for the next day to finally enter the Park planning to be there at 5:30am when the gates opened. Even though it had been a rough start to the trip I was beyond excited to be able to finally get inside of this amazing place. A dream come true was about to happen..and I couldn't wait!