Archie had invited us to join him in the boma, combination guest lounge/porch, for drinks and snacks before dinner, and after washing away Addo's dust, we headed there.
The lost "Germans" had been retrieved — but they were actually French, from Réunion Island. We chatted until Donald led us to dinner. In a candlelighted, antique-filled dining room, we sampled cold carrot and ginger soup, salad with smoked kudu (antelope), lamb shanks and a dense, buttery cake-like "pudding" with whipped cream for dessert.
Archie was our shorts-wearing sommelier and said his college-age daughter was chef that night. "My wife usually does the cooking, but she's out of town until tomorrow morning," he said. Then he told us in a conspiratorial aside, "She hates it that I won't dress up."
"If you want to see the animals, you can go along on the truck when they feed them tomorrow," Archie said. We agreed, then retreated to our cottage as cracks of lightning danced in the gathering clouds.
Visiting the ostriches
At 7:15 the next morning, in a misty drizzle, we met Lize de Jongh, who was in charge of feeding the ostriches and collecting their eggs. We bounced along in her truck to visit breeding ostriches and flocks of offspring.
At the hatchery, Lize made us remove our shoes before entering to avoid spreading germs. We peered into a sealed incubator, which held slowly rotating racks of 8-inch, ivory-colored eggs. In an adjacent hatching room, we peeked through a window to see babies busting their way out of the thick shells. "They use their legs more than their beaks," Lize said, adding that a kick from a grown ostrich can kill a human.
I'd been wondering if it was possible to eat ostrich eggs, and on our return to the lodge Archie offered the proof — scrambled. "You chip a little hole in the bottom of the shell, then shake it," he said. "One ostrich egg equals 24 regular eggs." I'd envisioned a Fred Flintstone-size fried egg overflowing my plate, but that would have meant cracking the shell, which alone sells for $6.
The taste? Not that different from chicken eggs.
By midday, the sun started to break through, and we left for Addo.
"Nobody's seen anything today," the ranger said. "It's too cool and wet."
So we checked into our park cottage, basic but pleasantly decorated with animal prints and outfitted with a thatched roof, bathroom with shower, a kitchenette and an outdoor brai (rhymes with "try"), the beloved South African barbecue.
We went searching for elephants, but because of the dampness, the only wildlife we spotted were shiny, 2 1/2-inch, black dung beetles swarming over piles of elephant dung like a miner who has hit gold. Then, mounting a crest, we were astonished to see the brown, mud-caked backs of at least 20 elephants feeding in the brush below. Near the road, a youngster trumpeted to get the attention of an older elephant.
Rounding a corner, we were surprised by a bull elephant as he sauntered down the road. We could only creep behind him until he headed toward a tasty-looking bush. Coming upon a small waterhole, we watched "teenage" elephants pile one on top of the other on a mound of dirt, wiggling, shoving and playing.
But Addo has plenty of other animals, and we hoped to find them on the "sundowner" organized game drive. ("Sundowners" is the South African term for evening cocktails, and after the drive we received drinks and snacks.) At 6 p.m., we set out in trucks fitted with nine comfortable, tiered bucket seats.
Along the way, Ilsa, our guide, pointed out warthogs, kudu and white storks, which migrate from Europe. And she regaled us with elephant facts.
"I'm going to take you up to where we last saw two" lions, Ilsa announced. After traveling cross-country for a couple of minutes, we spotted a tawny shape in the grass. A young male lion raised his head and gave us a sleepy glance. We could barely discern his buddy snoozing about 20 feet away.
On the way back to Rest Camp, Ilsa sent a spotlight spiking into the darkness, revealing antelope and the elusive African buffalo, with antlers that perfectly mimic a flip-style '60s hairdo. Another of nature's surprises at Addo.