How Not to Drive to Kruger:
We arrived in Joburg without a map.
Why the hell I didn’t order one on-time from Amazon, I don’t know. All I know is, I assumed the rental agency would have a map, or the airport, or that google maps would be reliable. WRONG.
We used google maps (the car agent said everyone uses google maps), and I even checked its directions with the car attendant, but we made the mistake of not looking at the big picture (scrolling out) to study the main highways to Kruger. So I don’t know what happened, but somehow google maps got us on the R25 followed by the R33 – which was way the hell out of the way – before getting us to the N4.
The R25 (or maybe it was the R33) was riddled with huge potholes. Our first inkling that it wasn’t a normal road was when we saw a small truck and a car driving toward us on our side of the road–before swerving back to their side. We quickly found out why when we reached the same spot – there were massive potholes that we had to swerve around to avoid hitting.
We’d already hit a few small potholes toward the side of the road, but suddenly they were all over the place. My husband hit a few big ones before he got the hang of it. The key was to drive in the middle of the road unless, of course, there was oncoming traffic. Discolorations in the asphalt meant potholes, so we needed to slow down, swerve around, or creep over. I helped keep an eye out and would motion with my hand to tell my husband to go around. There were too many for him to see at once.
Our sheltered teens were scared to death. My son ‘threatened suicide’ if we “broke down out here,” and my daughter hid her face and tried to sleep (of course she couldn’t). The drive was like being in a video game–we got pretty good at it!
There was no way we were going to make it to Kruger before they closed the gates (yes, you HAVE to get there before they close and lock the gates), so I found an Inn through google search (thank you technology!). We ended up staying in the tiny one stop town of Belfast.
The inn was called Woody’s Place and it was really nice. They had cottage rooms out back with pretty furnishings and comfortable beds. Belfast is one of the coldest places in South Africa and it got very cold that night. The gas heater at Woody’s Place didn’t do much in the living room, and they said their fireplace smoked a bit, but the master bedroom heater was good, and all the bedding was very warm. We didn’t complain. I hadn’t slept more than four hours in the last two days(I’d been running on adrenaline), and we were all exhausted from the drive. I slept seven hours that night–heaven!
When we arrived at Woody’s Place I quickly told the proprietor about our overnight delay at the Zurich airport and our pothole ridden drive from hell: “It HAS to get better from here, right?” I asked.
Luckily, it did. We made it to Kruger the next day, safe and sound.
Lesson Learned: Don’t trust google maps!