Our Southern African Adventure, Part 12: South Africa – The Return to Johannesburg

The memories of Matopo and walking with rhinos fresh in our minds, all that was left of our trip now was to return to South Africa. From Johannesburg, Rich and I would be catching our flight home. To be honest, knowing that we would be leaving Africa in just a few days was both upsetting and a massive relief at the same time. We had had a blast and would miss being on the road, but were so happy that we’d no longer have to live out of our backpacks.

Day 26

Climbing out of the tent this morning, we were surprised to find that there was no one out and about. Normally we were some of the last to get up, out, and ready every day and yet even though our alarm went off the same time as always, there was no one around.

As it turned out, in Australia that same morning, the clocks had been turned back for daylight savings. My phone, despite having been in Africa for over a month at this point, had not yet figured out the time zone, so we had been setting the alarm based on the time in Melbourne and accounting for the time difference ourselves. So while we were wandering about trying to figure out where everyone was, they were all in fact still asleep. We were up an hour earlier than normal and didn’t realize it. It took having one of the Norwegian girls clambering out to ask us why we were awake for us to realize the mistake.

Well, that was certainly annoying. At least there would be plenty of time to sleep on the truck.

Leaving Matapo and the Big Cave Camp in our tracks, we headed south to the Zimbabwean border with South Africa. Getting out of the truck to get the process started, the first thing we noticed was a group of baboons flocking around the cars in the visa office’s parking lot. The lot of them were eating crumbs off the ground or rummaging through the backs of the utility vehicles looking for food. Others were swinging off the side of trucks.

From the border we headed to the Drifters bushcamp. Surrounded by rocky terrain, the camp is situated on a private game reserve within the Limpopo valley. We set our tents up underneath a creaky old windmill, and just below a low cliff where the wind wouldn’t blow directly into us. After getting organized, we walked out of the camp to see some rock paintings on the Drifters property.

Rock painters at Drifters bushcamp
Rock paintings at Drifters bushcamp

From there though, realizing that this was going to be the last night that we all spent with one another, we found a little rock formation and climbed up one by one. Staring out along the horizon – towards a rock formation that only slightly resembled Pride Rock – we just sat and reminisced.

Rich looking out over "Pride Rock"
Rich looking out over “Pride Rock”

As we watched we noticed a small dam behind us and three people fishing. We walked down to take a look, some of us running down the rocky path, playing with our shadows. We later headed back to camp for the night, struggling to block out the noise from the windmill.

Fishing at the bushcamp
Fishing at the bushcamp

Day 27

After breakfast we left camp and continued towards Johannesburg. We arrived at the Drifters Lodge later that afternoon, where we spent the rest of the day taking pictures and trying to recuperate by the pool.

At dinner, the group of us took the time to discuss our favorite moments of the trip and say our farewells, after which Rich and I left the lodge to go to our hotel in one of Johannesburg’s suburbs.

The next day we were off to Australia.

The group in front of the Drifters truck at the Tropic of Capricorn. Thanks for the memories!
The group in front of the Drifters truck at the Tropic of Capricorn. Thanks for the memories!


Our trip through Africa, from Cape Town to Namibia into Botswana through Zimbabwe and off to Johannesburg was spectacular. There are moments that I would have changed – like the quad biking incident in Swakopmund, and staying in that creepy little town in South Africa – but overall both Rich and I had a blast.

There were times when we wondered if we should not have done this tour, and instead have done a self-drive where we would have been in complete control. However, I know that we wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun that way. With the tour we got to meet some incredible people from all around the world – several of whom we’re still keeping in touch with – and do things that I don’t think we would have even realized were out there. I’m sure there were activities we missed out on by not going at our own pace, but I know that had we not gone with Drifters I, wouldn’t have even thought to go track rhinos on foot, or sleep in a jungle camp in the Okavango Delta, or even canoe down the Orange river. It was wonderful.

This entire experience was incredible, and I don’t think anything I’ve written can really do the trip proper justice. Someday soon I really truly hope that Rich and I will go back to Africa again.

Maybe we’ll do Mozambique or Kenya.

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