On the road again. KZN road trip overview.




Travel & Things has just returned from a 1500km/ 20 CD road trip to the KZN North Coast to do ‘research’ for upcoming Blog postings and a series of magazine articles on the various lodges and guest houses that we stayed at. Although there has been a short hiatus from my regular Monday, Wednesday and Friday Blog postings while I have been on the road, they will return once again in December. By the way, the music playing when we left was Cat Stevens, Teaser and the Firecat from 1971. This posting is an overview of the properties that we stayed at, full postings on our experiences will follow.




Although the road from Johannesburg to Pongola consists of either the N17 or the N2, there was at least one place of interest that caught my attention. This semi-destroyed church close to eMkhondo (previously known as Piet Retief). There is no information about what remains of this church that was deserted and it looks as if the bell tower had either been destroyed by fire or lightning. No other part of the building was damaged. It did make for an interesting photo-op. But no time to linger as we had to get to our first overnight stop in Pongola which was 90 minutes away.





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Driving through a rather ‘dodgy’ area of Pongola to get to the guest house, I kept questioning whether I had chosen accommodation correctly. I had found it on the Internet and although the guest house looked interesting, I should have read their directions more thoroughly. Mea Culpa!¬†As it turned out, once we were past the police station and a clinic we felt like we were on an island. The guest house frontage overlooks a beautiful golf course and the property itself was spotlessly neat and tidy. The trip from Johannesburg to Pongola took about 5 hours, leaving us only a 4 hour trip to the collection point in Kosi Bay. That means a leisurely breakfast and not stressing about making the pick-up, which I was told leaves punctually at the appointed hour. The reason for the picture of the Giant Land snail is because it was a first for me(one of many on this trip). I have found discarded shells before but never a live specimen. Highly recommended.




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The next three lodges we visited are all managed by this company. A combination of beach and bush that satisfied both my wife and me. Top: Kosi Forest Lodge, L: Thonga Beach Lodge and R: Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge. We loved our time at each lodge for very different reasons. Suffice to say that we are already planning a return trip in 2021. The staff that we interacted with, Blessing ( at Kosi Forest) Purity( at Thonga Beach) and finally Angel(at Rhino Ridge) are part of the reason that the trip was so memorable. Not forgetting the guides at Kosi (Jerome) and at Rhino Ridge( Simo, Luke and Sibonelo) and Mark who was the boat skipper at Thonga Beach. Travel & Things highly recommend these lodges.




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Our first destination, Kosi Forest Lodge certainly lived up to its name. Not as close to the sea as I had thought, but canoeing through the dense vegetation on the various waterways was so different from the usual destination that we visit. Spending time in the bird hide got me the sighting of the Knysa Turaco…a first for me. The lodge itself in hunkered down within the forest and there are a variety of activities that can be undertaken, from walks in the forest to boat rides, snorkelling and canoeing. Or you can just relax on the deck and watch the birdlife or hang out at the pool and watch the hippos meandering past in the large lake.




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For a variety of reasons, this was probably the highlight of the trip. From finding turtle tracks on the beach to swimming with a pod of frisky and playful dolphins, we could not have asked for a better destination. Not forgetting the view of the pristine beach and the turtle that swam lazily past us as we returned from a snorkelling trip. The food and the views were spectacular, as was the lightning storm that danced out in the Indian Ocean on our final evening. We did not get to find any turtles on the beach during our trip, but we did find tracks (yet another first on the trip) and a nesting site. We are planning to return in February 2021 hopefully to witness the hatchlings return to the ocean.




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The last time I was in Hluhluwe I was a teenager on a wildlife course as part of a delegation from the Eastern Cape Wildlife Society. But that was more 50 years ago and I and the area have changed significantly in the intervening years! The views from the deck of Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge were spectacular and another first…a Trapdoor Spider that out tracker pointed out to us while we were on a game walk on our final morning.




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What happens in LA stays in LA? Not really! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this Guest House in Piet Retief (eMkhondo). We arrived at the tail end of a thunderstorm and the guest house was warm and welcoming. BTW, the LA in the name is Not for Las Vegas, but the initials of the owners, The room that we spent the night in was roomy and the beds were most comfortable. Although breakfast was included in the room rate, dinner was not. We were recommended to try a nearby restaurant, which was one of the most popular in town. I have to say that the pizza that we ordered was not up to the standard that we are used to, however, that being said, the owner did address my complaint immediately and without question. And more importantly, a new one was prepared and brought out to me in a very short space of time. Well handled! The guesthouse is highly recommended, the restaurant, well…perhaps if you don’t order a vegetarian pizza it might suffice.




Not what you usually see in the rear-camera when reversing…Can YOU see what was behind me?




Close up, this is what the camera was seeing…as we were leaving Hluwewe Park. Two large buffalo bulls hanging out in a large pool of water. A great way to end off the all too short stay in the park.




Much like taking the ubiquitous butt shot of either an elephant or a rhino, there has to be at least 1 church image from small-town South Africa! This was the one that I spotted in Piet Retief while awaiting our take-away pizza from a restaurant close by. and we returned to the sound of Johnny Clegg and Savuka, Scatterlings of Africa, released in 1994. I have to say that having that music playing as we drove back into Johannesburg was emotional for me on many levels.






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