The worst thing about travelling to Africa from Australia is the jet lag. Going west it’s not too bad at all. You’re a little tired for 24 hours and then it’s all over and you’re back to your normal sparky self. Coming back is a different matter though. At least it is for me. I always feel dopey and fuzzy headed for at least a week. (Some unpleasant people might suggest that this is my normal state.) I always go straight to sleep when I go to bed, but then wake up at 1am and stay awake until 6am at which time I feel like falling asleep again. Experts tell you that to reduce the effects of jet lag one should avoid the consumption of alcohol while flying. Such people should be dismissed as mentally unstable.
Anyway, I’ve just spent two days at Cheetah Plains Lodge in the Sabi Sands Private Reserve adjacent to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and I must say that it was truly delightful. It’s a compact lodge surrounded by whitethorn bushes and marula trees. It has an electric wire around its perimeter to deter elephants who rather like to dig up water pipes and push over large trees, but apart from that the animals are free to wander through the camp.
The rooms are fairly small, but very comfortable. I guess you’d describe them as 3 star, but the good thing is that there are only eight of them, so even when the place is full it only hold sixteen guests, which makes for a very personalised safari camp experience. The food at Cheetah Plains is anything but 3 star. It is sensational and it seems that there is an opportunity to feed your face every half an hour or so. At 5.15am you are woken for your morning game drive. Having washed and dressed you then make your way to the restaurant for coffee, cereal and toast with all manner of fresh fruit and yogurt. Then halfway through your game drive it’s time for a coffee break in the bush. More food – usually muffins.
After your game drive the ranger will offer you a walk – just a short one to stretch your legs. Then it’s time for brunch. Eggs done any way you like, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, you name it. Then before you know it it’s time for high tea prior to your afternoon game drive. This time it’s quiche, sandwiches, sausage rolls and cakes. The afternoon game drive halts at sundown for a drink – a glass of wine, a beer, a gin and tonic – whatever you like, and you guessed it – more food. Samosas, biltong, maybe a marinated chicken leg. But wait, there’s more. When you get back to the lodge it’s time for dinner. Three courses of supreme cuisine and great South African wine. My final meal there was thick ginger and pumpkin soup with a freshly made crusty bread roll, chicken breast stuffed with camembert and spinach and a creamy white chocolate mousse.
Oh yes, and we saw some animals too.