The people make a place. So many travellers I know go to a destination for the beauty, the sights, the animals or the activities – but they go back for the people. On a recent road trip through South Africa and Mozambique I acquired many lasting memories – the strongest, most dear of which involve not the land, but the people who call it home.
One sure fire way of meeting people in a foreign place is by landing up in trouble. After getting solidly stuck in soft sand in Mozambique and meeting a cattle herder with a heart of gold who helped us out, we thought our car problems were over. However when we heard a whining noise, followed by a burning smell and the coolant light went on, we knew our car problems were only just beginning – and we were in the middle of Kruger. After driving slowly past what could have possibly been a magnificent leopard sighting we made our way to the nearest picnic spot where we could get out and check the car, only to find water running out the engine.
My fiancé was convinced the water pump had gone but we could still drive (granted we stopped every 20km to put water in and kept a close eye on the temperature gauge). So we made it to Satara rest camp where we called it a day and so began our journey of meeting some of the kindest people on Earth.
At Satara an elderly Afrikaans couple prayed for us to make it out of the park safely, in Hoedspruit a mechanic confirmed our findings, a call to the service center in Nelspruit and a new part was on its way – to arrive in three days. A call to Tanda Tula in the Timbavati and a lift was arranged so we could leave the car in Hoedspruit – little did we know that this lift would involve the managers, Dale and Hayley, personally taking time out of their day to drive us back to our vehicle at the end of our stay.
After a gentle journey (with lots of stops) down to Kruger Adventure Lodge in Hazyview the manager there lent us his personal vehicle so we could self-drive Kruger and after we finally made it to Nelspruit the workshop mechanic dropped everything and worked two hours of overtime to fix the car so that we could drive it back to Cape Town.
I was blown away but the sheer generosity of people to do everything they could to help us out of sticky situations – be it that cattle herder that pulled us out of soft sand in Mozambique, the Afrikaans people who all they could do was pray – and so they did, in earnest, or the managers at the various lodges who went above and beyond the call of duty, offering up their personal vehicles to come to our rescue and ensure we had a great time in the place they call home.
It is these people I will remember, these people I will return for and people like these who make a place worth visiting.
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