Tuesday morning, after a lovely breakfast at our guest house, Jan drove us back to White River. In the afternoon we were all able to get a few hours of practice in and then we met with Anneke, the conductor of the orchestra we played with on Sunday. We chatted for awhile at a local pub and then, as we were formulating dinner plans, she invited us out to her place. She lives on an estate, which is essentially a small game preserve. The residences are inside a gated area and the animals can roam freely through the entire area. We passed quite a few entire herds of impala just driving to her house. When we arrived we went out on the back deck where we planned to hang out, and there was a zebra just grazing away in the backyard!!!
It was great to hang out with Anneke and get to know her a bit more--we just chilled on the back deck listening to jazz and taking in the incredible night sky--and ordered take-away dinner from the hotel down the road.
Wednesday morning we all fit in another practice session before being picked up by Lynn Boyd to go to Kruger. We had set aside a day to sightsee in Kruger National Park, and later on the trip we will also have a day at Vic Falls.
After a scenic drive over to our lodge we decided to track down an evening game drive. You can't go into the park after dark unless you are with a certified ranger. The two gates close to our lodge (we are staying just outside the park) didn't have any availability, but on the third try we found a night drive leaving from Kruger Gate, which is about 40 minutes from the lodge. We were supposed to be there in less than an hour so we piled into the truck and high-tailed it over there. We've decided it was meant to be that we couldn't find a night drive at the two closer gates-- because it turned out that the drive we went on was the RIGHT one! Maybe it was because of our driver who was named Lucky. :-) In our short 3hr drive from 5-8 pm we saw Leopard, Genet, Duiker, Steinbok, Elephant with baby, Giraffe, Zebra, Impala, Hippo, White rhino, Spotted hyena with baby, and
Scrub hare. The highlight was definitely the female leopard, which is very scarce--and when people do see one, it's often far in the distance. This gal, however, crossed the road a ways in front of us and just sat down, so that when we came up in the truck she was right off the fender. She got up after a while and sauntered off but we could have practically touched her, she was that close. She was unusually big and muscular, so quite the beauty for us to happen across.
We had dinner in the lodge when we got back and then headed to our respective rooms to try to sleep.
Thursday's all-day game drive left at 5:15am so we were up early having tea in the lodge and collecting our snack breakfast for the truck. Then we piled in with our driver Bernard, and we were at the Phabeni park gate by 6am right when they open. Another great day--we saw so many animals again, completing our checklist for the Big 5, but also so many other cool ones! Here's the tally of today's sightings: Cape buffalo, White rhino, Dwarf mongoose, Nyala, Lioness and cubs, Elephants with babies, Crocodiles, Giraffes, Zebras, Impalas, Spotted Hyena, Warthog, Hippos, Baboons, Tawny eagle, Southern Ground hornbill, Vulture, Fish eagle, Brown hooded King fisher, Starlings, Bataleur eagle, and Steinbok.
We've had a load of fun and lots of good conversation.
Friday we got up and left early for Maputo, which we figured would be a 4 hr drive, counting some time at the border to get our visas. We had an amazingly smooth time at the border--we were helped straightaway with no line and the officials were very friendly with us. We even invited one of them to our Saturday night concert at Casa Sigauque.
We arrived at City Hall (the venue for that night's performance) around 1pm. The cello had been riding in the back where there was no AC so it had gotten hotter than we thought it would. We were worried, but in the end it seemed to bounce back just fine once it cooled off inside the building. That was a relief!
We went with Merritt to find some lunch across the street at the French Cultural Center, then rushed to the hotel to get dressed, then back to the hall to practice some before the concert.
The strap on Becky's concert gown broke right when we were all getting ready so she was furiously sewing that together in the room--thank goodness for travel sewing kits!! Meanwhile Elisa and Maureen found out that our hotel was to be fumigated the next day. Aside from those complications we managed to get ready and get to the hall. The US Embassy set us up with a driver, Nyaka, and he has been carting us around since we arrived.
City Hall is a beautiful venue with big chandeliers and a rebuilt 1940 Steinway D. During rehearsal the acoustic was a bit confusing--we couldn't quite hear each other and we were a bit flustered. However when the people came in, it was the perfect solution to the acoustical issues, and the sound was just magical. Of course we didn't know this until the first note of the actual concert, but I think we were all so surprised by the great sound that we just dove in full force. The hall was nearly full with close to 400 guests, and they were a fantastic audience!
After the concert there was a very nice reception for us and we had a chance to meet quite a few of the audience members. We have met so many interesting people on this trip--one that stood out from this particular reception was Chude, a native Mozambican woman who as a teenager studied classical ballet in Philadelphia and then in Moscow for four years. Now she is a performance artist spanning a range of genres such as world music, ethnic dance, etc.
After the reception we went back to the French Cultural Center across the street as there was a bossa nova concert going on. We caught a small part of that show before dinner--one of the singers in particular really made a big impression on all of us. In addition to the fact that her pitch and rhythm were impeccable, her presence on stage was so electrifying it was impossible not to be mesmerized. We managed to tear ourselves away finally, as we were starving.
Dinner was at Piripiri, where we were able to order some authentic Mozambican cuisine. Sadly, the Mozambican mosquitos were simultaneously getting their fill of American cuisine by way of Maureen. We were assured that the mosquitos here are not the ones that carry malaria. However, in any case we are all religiously taking our anti-malaria medicine.