Charley Boorman Log- Day 24 and 25

July 5, 2012

Hippos 1In which Charley and the team take on a five hour ride, and visit the hippos of St. Lucia.

Zulu Nyala to St. Lucia

Today is a travel day. We face a five hour ride from Zulu Nyala to St. Lucia. It’s a relatively uneventful journey and towards the end we pass through kilometer and kilometer of Eucalyptus trees plantation. The air is full of the fresh scent of Eucalyptus and the sun is shining in a brilliant blue sky. Long rides aren’t usually that pleasant, but today is an exception.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia is a popular tourist destination on the East Coast of South Africa, at the edge of the KZN, which we’ve been traveling through these past few days. We camp just out of town to avoid the crowds.

It’s a very pleasant place, with a wide estuary leading (in non-drout years) to the sea past an enormous white sand beach. Hippos and crocodiles make their home in the estuary so it’s not a great place for a swim – although in St. Lucia, you’re not necessarily safe from the hippos in town either, as they’re often to be found wandering up the main street in the middle of the night!

Hippos 2We spend the day cruising the estuary look at Hippos from afar and I take a horse ride along the beach. This is (give or take) the Westernmost point for our journey around South Africa and it’s worth taking a moment to mark it.

As night falls (deceptively early – It’s easy to forget it’s winter here in the Southern Hemisphere when the daytime temperatures are often better than a British Summer), the chance to see hippos up close is too good to miss. We jump in the Pathfinder and go hunting around town. No more than a minute’s drive outside or camp, we find a Hippo grazing on a grass lawn at the side of the road!

Despite their friendly appearance, Hippos are in fact Africa’s second biggest killer of people (after the Mosquito). We get out of the car and cautiously approach the huge, magnificent animal. If it takes a dislike to us and charges, we could be in serious trouble. They can outrun a man on land and at least do serious damage to our vehicle.

We spend a minute or two edging to a spot where we can get a good view while still keeping a safe distance – but then, what IS a safe distance when you have nothing between you and the hippopotamus and nothing to climb nearby?

When the hippo suddenly stops grazing and looks straight at us, we know it’s time to go. We hurriedly pile back in the Nissan and head into town to swap stories of who got closest over a beer. Who knows, maybe later this evening we’ll get another chance as we step out of the pub?

For more updates follow us @extremefrontier