A group of 10 members, led by MCC assistant to CEO Peter French, took off from Melbourne in the middle of a Qantas strike on November 2 last year for a cricket and safari tour of South Africa.
The party was in good humour despite the delay leaving Tullamarine and arriving in Johannesburg at 3pm the following afternoon, we were bustled aboard a mini bus for the six hour drive to the Buffalo camp, Kapama, located on the western edge of Kruger National Park.
We arrived just on midnight after escaping some horrendous peak hour traffic leaving Johannesburg but were welcomed at Kapama by a rhinoceros and her calf emerging into the glare of our vehicle headlights, followed quickly by a brace of zebra and then to our great excitement a lioness, padding along the dirt road.
On arrival at the lodge we were met with much enthusiasm and provided excellent hospitality by lodge managers after which all headed for their beautifully fitted out tents which bore the names of animals to be found within the Reserve.
Next morning most answered the 5.30am breakfast call for a 6am start on our first safari through the park led by Almero Klingenberg, a 22 year old wilderness lover from Germany and local man Crimson with a smile wider than that at Luna park. We encountered four of the big 5 no leopards about that morning!
Back for breakfast at 9am, followed by a refreshing dip or chance to catch up on sleep and basically unpack before all of a sudden it was lunch time and then preparations for the dusk tour. Once again our 2 guides were ready to show off their backyard and Almero was delighted with Kevin McGaw’s firearm knowledge and they spent some time discussing the merits of the Bruno armaments. During this tour we enjoyed cocktails at sunset watching a herd of elephants drink at a natural water hole.
Again that evening we had the thrill of seeing a lion and her cub on the hunt for prey.
A beautiful dinner followed before the whole process was repeated the following morning and this time some a leopard was spotted by some.
We departed that afternoon by road to Sun City for some R&R at this famous golf and gambling resort, which suited some but not all. However the trip through the Drakensberg Mountains and the native villages was of great interest to all.
We were grateful on board to have Robert Nurse and Ruth Fleming who, with their skill on iPads and internet kept us up to date with every sporting competition played around the globe.
The manager twice enjoyed the Sun City, Garry Player inspired golf course whilst others lazed by the pool or explored the famous Palace of the Lost City & surrounds.
Next we drove to Soweto and enjoyed a wonderful tour of that settlement, part of which still remains as when first established 40 years ago, whereas the influence of American counter culture can be seen elsewhere.
Visits were made to Archbishop Tutu's residence and Nelson Mandela's, but unfortunately we were unable to enter either.
Our guide, Mrs Allna Nkhosi-Mlloshwa was a remarkable woman born, educated and now a grandmother running a successful tour and restaurant business within Soweto and all would reflect fondly on our time there.
A standout landscape feature are the huge mountains of trailings from the gold mines which dominate the surrounding landscape but which are a nightmare on hot, windy days.
It was time to return to Johannesburg for the flight to Cape Town in readiness for the First Test at Newlands.
In Cape Town we stayed practically within a stone's throw of the waterfront area and all were delighted with the Ports Wood Hotel.
Unfortunately severe winds on three days prevented us from taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, but we did enjoy the views from the embarkation point.
The Test Match of course included one of the most historic days in Test Match history when 24 wickets fell for 160 runs, unfortunately 14 of them were Australians. (needs checking Shane)!!!
At lunchtime we reflected on the great bowling performance of Watson and Cummins? and really expected Australia to be able to set itself for victory up on the back of Michael Clarke's first innings century. What a surprise we were in for as Steyn, xxxx and Kallis tore through the Australian batting. The Test Match was over in 3 days which allowed us to not only visit the wonderful wineries at Stellenbosch and Franschoek, but also to take a tour down to the Cape a road journey which compares favourably with our Great Ocean Road.
One of our party, MCC guide Vic Parker, was voted MCC Tourist of the Trip, and to his credit he followed the Aussies up to Johannesburg and was rewarded with that wonderful victory.
The rest of us made our way home either via Sydney or Perth full of wonderful memories, remarkable hospitality in a continent I am sure will entice us to return again.
Thanks go to Dusty Miller, our guide and advisor in South Africa and to Gayle and Glenn Hedley of Events Worldwide for making sure all the travel arrangements were in first class order.