Category Archives: Kruger Park Experiences

Day One Proper in the wild!

Three o’clock in the morning. Dark. Eerily quiet. No amount of wriggling, desperate commands to my bladder failing dismally to produce the desired result, and I have no choice but to make my way to the loo on the opposite side of the camp.

Determinedly ignoring the harrowing silence, I am startled into immobility by a shuffling sound coming from the direction of the camp fire. My son had been woken by a hyena outside his tent in Skukuza the previous night, but this “hyena”, materialising from the gloom was suspiciously pale and upright – one of the two guys in the group!

When I related this story later in the day, Peter confessed to being the human hyena.

“Peter! It couldn’t have been! Were you up in the night?” exclaimed his wife, Rozz. “You didn’t have a stitch of clothing on!”

Our five o’clock call came as promised, accompanied by wonderful basins of warm water, “to wipe the windscreens” as Aron called it. The kettle was singing on its ashes, and slowly we straggled from our huts for a much-needed caffeine fix. Before six we were loaded into the vehicle and on our way as the sky lightened. The air of expectancy was tangible.

We arrived at a point, overlooking the Oliphants River, a young baby Baobab tree. Aron called us all together, once again to discuss “politics”, this time of the bush.

IMG_1977

“We are going to walk behind that ridge, and down to the confluence of the two rivers. We will walk back along the river bed. Absolom and I will be in front. You are to walk, quietly, in single file behind us. I suggest that you change places often so each person gets a turn at the front.”

He look searchingly at our early morning faces for comprehension.

During his talk, Beryl seemed to be refining dance moves, stepping purposefully with one foot and then the other, making imprints in the sand.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m making sure I know what my print looks like so I’ll know if I’m walking in circles.”

A few last minute shufflings, a couple of darts behind bushes to ensure maximum comfort and we were ready. It was an overcast day, much to our collective relief, but the rumble of thunder and the flash of lightning was unexpected. The sky was black in the direction we were headed.

One look, and Aron confirmed we would not be walking to the confluence. Back in the vehicle.

It wasn’t long before we turned off onto an indiscernible track, and pulled up near an interesting looking kopje, where our first walk, and our first lesson in the ways of the wild, began.

We were fascinated when Aron showed us the “sights” of kudu horns. Did you know that there is a direct line through the curves to their eyes, allowing them to home in on leaves atop thorn bushes without damaging their sight?

A Kudu's line of sight - straight from the eye through the curves of the horn
A Kudu’s line of sight – straight from the eye through the curves of the horn

We then walked down to a dry riverbed, and shivered with excitement at the spoor, especially that of a leopard. Out of the river bed, and along a hippo path. We were enthralled with our guides’ knowledge as they pointed out signs that heralded the news of the bush, largely contained in the excreta of various animals. It was a baobab morning, significant in a way as the trip was organised by Els Hooft of Baobab Boutique fame, so when we arrived at one of these giants, it seemed a good spot for breakfast, especially as a soft rain was falling.

It was simple fare, made delicious by the vague sense of danger, the fresh air and exercise we had had, and made special by the gaily coloured cloth Annemieke provided.

Colourful breakfast
Colourful breakfast

By now an easy camaraderie had evolved, and, well refreshed we set off again. A lone giraffe, fascinated by the caravan of “two-legs” watched us from a distance, impala and gnu were not willing to take a chance on getting too close and scarpered before we really got a good look at them. But we were rewarded with a beautiful display by a brown-headed parrot, who danced happily in response to Aron’s call to it – he is able to mimic many, many bird and animal calls.

We arrived back at camp ready for the scrumptious brunch Shadrack had prepared, followed by a siesta and the injunction to meet at the boma at 3pm for part two of day one.

 

This giraffe was fascinated by us, and watched us all the way
This giraffe was fascinated by us, and watched us all the way

IMG_1992

Baobab Breakfast
Baobab Breakfast

A Walk on the Wildside

It was a hot and gusty day that first day of spring in the Kruger Park. I would like to say that Leo, magnificent old lion of the Letaba pride, was resting in his favourite spot under the black monkey thorn tree, but if the truth be told, he was lying in the shade of some reeds on the sand of the Sabie River!

Our first day in the Kruger Park was highly successful, animals lined up waiting to greet us: Gnus, impala, zebra, a large rhino sleeping in the shade of a tiny shrub, elephant grazing in the river bed, and buffalo indolently chewing cud to some inward rhythm and beat. Seeing the black-maned lion relaxing in the river bed was the cherry on top of a rather delicious animal cake.

My son, Dwayne, was travelling with me, making the most of a chance to visit the Park he loves and hasn’t seen for three years. We checked into camp, and discovered that my trail companions were ahead of us, relaxing in the coolth of our huts. Once the sun went down, we ventured out to exercise cramped limbs and have an early supper. We had to be in Letaba by three the following day to meet our guides and depart for the bush retreat, so it needed to be an early start from Skukuza.

It turned out to be an easy run, with much to entertain and amuse along the way, including a silent protest by a posse of five rhinos. They took their position in the road, and seemed to go to sleep, holding vehicles on either side of them stranded!

These five rhino came into the road, stood unmoving for twenty minutes.
These five rhino came into the road, stood unmoving for twenty minutes.

“Enjoy them, Mum, they might be the last ones you ever see,” my son’s words brought a faint shadow into my day.

“How could anyone want to kill these giants of the bush, they look so harmless and quaint?”

Some twenty minutes passed before they decided they had made their point, and began to shuffle off into the undergrowth.

We were in Letaba with time to spare, and a cup of tea went down very well. Here we met one of the foreign contingent, James. Not sure how he found us, but he seemed to know we were the right people, clever man!

At three o’clock on the dot, our transport arrived and we found the rest of the party manhandling cases and cooler boxes into the trailer. Quick handshakes and introductions and Peter, Roz, Annemieke, Beryl, Els, Carlie, Glenda and James were a unit, some strangers, some old friends. Our guides, Aron Mkansi and Absolom Mkhabela were patient with the sixty-something panic that seems part and parcel of life now:

Have you got the cooler box? Did you put my small case in? Did you lock the car? Where’s my hat?

Ambassadors of the Bush
Ambassadors of the Bush

In retrospect, I think they were quietly sussing us out, get a sense of what might lie ahead for them over the next few days.

At last, we were off, or so we thought – this time it was our guides who had the grace to look sheepish as they tried to pretend they always drove around the circle to begin with. Roz took the chance to look for a last minute item in their car.

“Please check that I locked it,” called her husband, Peter. He hadn’t!

“This is like sending you off to boarding school,” quipped my hilarious son as he waved us a relieved farewell.

We set off again, this time for real, on a three hour journey to what would be our home for the next three nights.