And so it was time to leave Mozambique and head back to Dana's homeland.
We were up at the crack of dawn for a 6am departure. I was awoken at 5am by what sounded like an attempted break-in but turned out to be Andrew in the shower. When he was done, he informed me that he'd kindly chased the frog out of the shower and it was now residing on the ceiling. I was however concerned to find that the cockroach I'd inadvertently stood on barefoot and killed during a middle-of-the-night bathroom visit and unceremoniously left upside down on its back by the toilet, had disappeared.
We had a rocky ride up the hill as the luggage trailer had been taken up the previous evening and so the aisle of the minibus was backed with suitcases and backpacks but Eddie successfully got us up the hill without getting stuck in sand and we unloaded the bus and attached and packed the trailer before successfully navigating the 6.5km of off-road road back to the N1 to continue southwards. We'd left before breakfast but the lodge had prepared us packed breakfasts of chicken burgers that cushioned our malaria pills nicely. Mr Finn, who'd already infuriated Dana, usually so chirpy, by taking the best seats on the bus, right behind his, meaning that a) they were right behind him and b) the Germans were not, asked if they'd refrigerated over night and Dana walked away from him in disgust.
It was a hot day and the sun beat down on the bus. Mozambique at 6am is a lively place as the sun has already been up for a good while and the road was already busy with pedestrians and piled high busses and trucks with all sorts of wares strapped precariously to their roofs.
We stopped only once in Xai-Xai to pump up the tyres which had been lowered for the sand road and then we were on our way again. Kim and I had ended up on the back reseat again and as we left the N1, turning right inland at around 8.30, so our 'African massage' began again. I slept and read alternately, somehow managing some successful periods of shut-eye until I felt someone tugging at my jacket. It was Dad whose seat was in the direct line of the sun and so instead of putting him in the not-reclining-wheel-hub seat in the corner, I moved to take his place next to Sam. The aircon seemed to be struggling for the first time and I quickly began to understand why Dad had wanted to move. But I persevered, unable to sleep or read or even think clearly but watching the scenery and leaning forwards out of the direct sunlight.
The landscape was again changing fast. Gone was the greenery of the ocean road, the sand became redder, the trees leafless and brown, the dwellings fewer and there was little evidence of any water. But despite the uncomfortable environment of the bus, time passed relatively quickly and just before 11, we were making another stop, our last one in Mozambique close to bathe border and on the edge of the Limpopo national park.
The road deteriorated further still - there was a huge amount of construction going on around a large, beautiful dam. There was a large lake to the left and the water ran gradually down in beautiful hues of blue and green to the left as we drove over the dam before being diverted again off road.
We drove 60km on the bumpiest track yet through a seemingly animal-less park to the Mozambique border. It twisted and turned, had several speed bumps, pot holes and ditches, the combined effect ensuring that anyone would struggle to break the 50kmph speed limit. I'd lent Sam my iPad to watch a movie but with the noise of the bus rattling and the bouncing (and this wasn't even on the back seat), I was surprised he managed to keep going. I moved back and forth alternating between leaning forwards out of the sun and resting back on my sweaty chair.
Eventually after an hour of nothing but noisy bumping and the occasional scrape, we approached the border post. As we exited the bus with our passports the heat and the dust was overwhelming. Whilst the others queued to exit Mozambique, I went to the bathroom and ran my arms under the taps, splashing the cold water on my face and neck. It was quite possibly the hottest and lost uncomfortable place did ever been.
Although the service was slow, getting out of Mozambique was much simpler than getting in. They had no computers at this border post but instead wrote down each of our surnames, nationalities and visa numbers in a huge log book before was walked over to the South African side.
And getting into South Africa again was also much easier than getting into Mozambique. That side they had computers and air conditioning and before we knew it, Dana was relievedly welcoming us back to his country and doing the funky chicken dance in celebration, much to the combined amusement and distaste of the border officials.
We'd entered South Africa directly into Kruger national park. Spirits were lifted and although we were still hot and dusty, our eyes scoured the landscape for any sign of wildlife. Sam made our first spot, five or six zebras around 20m off the road in the bush - zebras really do have the worst camouflage! We clambered over each other in our excitement to take pictures as Dana advised that zebras was definitely something we'd be seeing a lot more of. And he was right, shortly later we came across a large herd accompanied by several warthogs. Next came a giraffe, spotted in the distance by Corinna, followed by a buffalo spotted by Dana.
As we continued towards our next bathroom stop, Dana pointed out a group of hippos in the water - they were far off and could have easily been mistaken for rocks had one of them not splashed heavily every few minutes.
When we had a break, there was a 'proper shop' at one of the park lodges and I bought my first ice cream of the trip - now I was most definitely really on holiday, even if we were slowly homeward bound.
At the border, Mrs Finn had spotted Eddie's passport and asked him if his real name was Hennie... Turns out it was. One of us had clearly misheard Dana when he introduced the driver on Day 1 and, spread the word. For some reason, he'd been answering to Eddie ever since without correcting us. Even Dana was calling him Eddie now too. It was going to stick for the rest of the trip.
After our break, Dana declared that we were stopping only for Big 5 animals and, shortly before we arrived at our lodge, we spotted three or four elephants in the water below us, probably enjoying the water on a hot day.
When we eventually arrived at the lodge, it was 4pm and we'd been on the road for the full 10hours that Dana had predicted. The majority of the group opted to go out on an evening game ride whoever, having seen a few animals already and knocking there were more to come, as well as the knowledge that, once again, I didn't fancy getting back a in a vehicle of any sorts again for a while.
We checked in to basic huts, again with conical thatched roofs, washed off the day's dust, bought beers and went to sit at the viewpoint. We were up high on a cliff and from the viewpoint could see a vast, wide, rocky river bed far below. At that distance we couldn't see any animals but it still looked very Lion King. The wind gradually picked up, seeds from the tree above us hailed down on us stinging as dust blew in our eyes. But after the heat of the day we stuck it out, enjoying being cool.
The rest of the group returned at 7.30 from their game drive looking exhausted and windswept having driven around in an open sided vehicle. We ate dinner and had one of the earliest nights in a while.