Minutes from the Johannesburg airport we’re in countryside that (once again) looks decidedly Australian, scattered as it is with eucalyptus trees. Strange, elongated, pointy hills dot the flatness – possibly mine dumps. We pass flat fields of sorghum and dead corn. Boomsprays sit in furrowed fields. I see cattle, red and glossy black, on the verge of the dual carriageway. What’s to prevent them wandering onto the road? A moment later I spy the man wandering alongside them trailing a thin, supple stick. They are grazing the long paddock, as we say in Australia.
Brick chimneys are topped by malign plumes. My destination, Kruger National Park, falls in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Ironically, Mpumalanga accounts for 83% of South Africa’s coal production. South Africa ranked thirteenth on the 2010 list of sovereign states and territories’ carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement manufacture.
Legally, people and animals “may not occupy the roof or running board … or any other place on top of a vehicle while such vehicle is in motion.” Nevertheless, this is a not-uncommon sight:
I was deeply thankful on my return to Johannesburg three days later to see that an overturned ute on the busy motorway had not been carrying anyone in the back.
The large food and fuel stop along the highway had rhino, buffalo, zebra and some animals from the antelope family. It seemed almost nonchalant, this display of native animals, but, given that they were accessed through the shop, knowledge of their value was evident.
People walk, sit and stand in what seemed, to my first world eyes, to be odd locations eg along major roads where there are no footpaths; along roads with no buildings in sight. Walking is a mode of transport.
Many trucks ply the highway north of Johannesburg. The government, in their wisdom, decided to cease haulage by train. The roads are now taking a beating. We drove for some stretches on the wrong side of the road to avoid the potholes. Indeed, some roads have signs warning of potholes, indicating the permanency of the latter.
Up near Kruger, the road signs have wooden posts, not metal poles – all rather charming and rural.
Then the high fences begin, and on them, signs warning of dangerous animals. We have arrived at Kruger. Its vastness (it’s the size of Austria) seems to promise a huge experience. Intellectually, I know what to expect but in my heart this is unknown and I am new to the world.