Friday, August 5, 2011

Bloemfontein Getaway

Car parts are hard to come by in Maseru. Sometimes, we literally need to travel to another country to find them. For a while now, our hooter has not been working (a hooter is what folks back in the States would call a horn). For the part we need, it seemed we had to go to Bloemfontein (a.k.a., "Bloem"). But why go all the way to Bloem just for a car part? Why not make a bit of a getaway out of it? After all, we were about due for another. So we did some research and found this lodge and private game reserve, complete with a full spa on site, just outside of Bloem, called Emoya Estate. So we booked a room there, and then, when the weekend arrived, we headed out.

Bloem is only about an hour and a half's drive from the border (how long it will take to cross that border can vary from a few minutes to a few hours), so it did not take us long to get there (as the border was not bad that day). We stopped in at the appropriate car shop, only to find out that even there, they need to order the parts in advance. So our hooter still does not work. Good thing we did not make that our only reason for going!

So, like dutiful Americans, we then went to the mall. Shopping malls in Bloem are pretty much indistinguishable from malls in the States (except, of course, for the large numbers of Afrikaners.) While there, we saw a very disappointing movie, "Horrible Bosses". In our defense, it looked like it would be funny...

But then the getaway began. We arrived at Emoya, where we spent a relaxing and rejuvenating night in a wonderfully appointed room. The next morning, we discovered some of the animals wandering literally just outside our door:

Kathy enjoyed a treatment at the spa, then we had a splendid breakfast in a rather idyllic spot right there on the Emoya Estate grounds:

While dining, we were treated to a visit by none other than Atilla, the owners' miniature pot-bellied pig:
Then came the game drive, as Emoya is, among other things, a private game reserve:

The game drive began with a visit to the Cheetah Experience, which is a big cat rescue and breeding center right next door to Emoya. While there, we got to pet a cheetah. No, really, check it out, here we are with one of the staff doing just that:

We got to see a baby black leopard playing on the lap of one of the staff:

Apparently, that baby black leopard has done more damage to the staff than any of the other seemingly far more dangerous residents of the facility, as it has to be watched closely but loves to scratch!

We also got to play with lion cubs! Again... no, really:

And one of the lion cubs got to play with this gentleman, who was on our tour and wearing a tasty-looking sweater:

This is Kitana, a three-legged rescued serval:

And this is one of the two Canadian wolves they have there. I gather that they were rescued from a South African farm and are doing quite well, having grown up and become friends with a pair of lions:
Then there are those moments when we simply felt as if we were being watched:

After leaving the Cheetah experience, we were taken on a game drive around the reserve by Jock, a trained and amazingly learned guide:

In fact, the best part of the drive was just listening to him, his stories, and learning so many interesting things about African wildlife. It was also fun to watch a giraffe outrun a backhoe...

And to see the various animals at such close range, like these springbok:

And their well-camouflaged friends, the warthogs:

Just to give you an idea of how close they were, here they are running behind our guide, Jock:

This guy (a bontebok perhaps?) is affectionately know as "Number 7":

I think this is a steenbok:

These are sable antelopes:

A bontebok:

And another (steenbok?) who again made us feel as if we were being watched...

It really was a lovely getaway for us, and the place inspiring enough that I spent the next few days trying to convince Kathy that we should open our own game reserve, complete with vegan cafe and bakery, when we are done here. These animals are so amazing, but they and their homes are constantly threatened. All who contribute to helping to preserve them, and to educate others, like me, about them, are doing the world - and future generations of human animals - a tremendous favor. From the volunteers who form the entire staff of the Cheetah Experience to professional guides and hunters like Jock who are so obviously passionate about these animals and these places and with treating them with the respect they deserve, I am inspired by them.

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