Meow, meow, meow

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

My alarm rang at 6 a.m. and after snagging a couple of home-baked muffins from the kitchen, it was time to get going. Driving east along the N2, the horizon streaked with color, the sun slowly began to rise across the Indian Ocean.

At around 7:15 a.m., my car pulled into the long driveway of Tenikwa, a wildcat reserve just outside of Plett. This morning, I’d be helping to take two of their 14-month old cheetahs, Zulu and Duma, for their exercise run. These cats, along with all of the others at Tenikwa, were born and raised here — so they are about as domesticated as wild animals can be — and serve both educational and breeding purposes.

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

We put leashes on them both and started down a path. Soon, the cheetahs were showing off, jumping onto tree stumps and racing around while we struggled to keep up with them.

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

Cheetahs are amazing animals, they have tremendous power and speed but only in short bursts. As they panted and rested, we had a chance to pet them; this was returned with loud purrs of approval. Their coats were surprisingly tough, not nearly as soft and smooth as they appear.

dsc_0252a

We gave them some water and continued on our way. Suddenly, a guinea fowl unknowingly landed in front of us and Zulu took off after it, ripping his leash from the guide’s hand. Off he went into the bush — which was also beyond the reserve’s walls. About 15 minutes later, he had been located and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

dsc_0252a

After bringing them back to their pens, we had a chance to check out some of the other cats in the park, including meercats, African wildcats, lynxes and servals. The highlights were the two awesome 3-month old cheetah cubs and a rambunctious baby leopard.

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

On our way back, we visited some of the birds, including this monster vulture that liked having its belly rubbed.

dsc_0252a

Continuing east on N2, the Bloukrans Bridge came into view; at 216 meters high, it is best known as the world’s highest bungee jump, which certainly was not for me. (The jump off point is right below where the truck is passing by.)

dsc_0252a

My final stop of the day was Tsitsikamma National Park. Legs were still sore from yesterday’s Robberg hike, but that didn’t stop me from venturing out on a trail that crossed the Storms River by suspension bridge and terminated at a lookout point with even more spectacular views.

dsc_0252a

dsc_0252a

A late lunch at the park restaurant — my first hamburger of the trip wasn’t half bad and held me over for the final 2 hour drive to Port Elizabeth. Hertz didn’t give me any trouble returning the car and it was a quick 10-minute taxi ride to the hotel.

PE is the East Coast’s largest city and a working port; it reminded me of Long Beach, Calif. My overpriced room at the Courtyard Hotel had views of the water, but not much else going for it.

Knowing that tomorrow I’d be up before the sun, it was an early night.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: