Gecko #81 goes to Kruger – Berg en Dal to Pretoriouskop and Back

14 November 2019

Don’t go to Kruger in summer!   It will be too hot!  You won’t be able to cope with the heat!  The grass is too long.  You won’t see any animals.

The above is advice I have received from many well-meaning people, most of whom have never been to Kruger or who only go in winter.   All the information out there suggests that the winter months are the best.  It’s warm during the day but chilly at night but you will definitely see the animals as they won’t be hiding in the long grass!

Well, most of my visits over the past 20 years have been in summer and yes, it’s hot and the grass is long but the game viewing is still awesome.  Also, it’s a fantastic time to see birds as the migrants from Europe love the Kruger.

Now what we have never been warned about – mainly because the prophets of doom have never been here themselves – is that you might just get flooded out!   The weather can become rather extreme at this time of year.  In past years we have had a spit and a spot of rain and on a few occasions have had to pack up in wet conditions.  But read on dear reader to find out what happened to us today!

The roaring of lions woke us at an impolite hour this morning.  I turned over and ignored them!   Only crazy people go out at 4:30 in the morning.  The saner among us wait until after six!  I was up before the Earl and after my shower, I had coffee and a rusk ready to tempt him from his comfy bed.  The weather was overcast and warm and while I pottered around, a lovely white-browed robin made an appearance.

IMG_3063 White-browed robin 2019-11-14 5-57-00 AM

In order to have the Ford serviced we have to get to a certain number of km on the clock.  It didn’t have enough before we left home and by the time we get back, we’ll have too many.  So our Bredasdorp man organised for us to have it done in Nelspruit tomorrow.   We were just short of the required kilometres so we decided to do an extra-long trip today.   After coffee and rusks, we set off just after six stopping at Afsaal picnic site for breakfast and then continuing to Pretoriuskop Camp,  arriving around midday.

The overcast weather meant the light for photography was not great.  We hoped for a bit of rain as the park, like the rest of the country, really needs it. Since arriving in the park we have not needed to put on jackets or jerseys.  The temperatures have hovered in the early to late twenties.  Today it went right up to 33 degrees C.

There were long stretches of driving when there was absolutely nothing happening – not a bird nor a buck – yet by the end of the day we’d seen some interesting creatures and four out of the compulsory BIG FIVE!  Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephant.  Sorry  – no lions.

IMG_3073 Immature Martial Eagle 2019-11-14 7-35-38 AM
Always exciting to see eagles – this one we think is an immature Martial
IMG_3077 Impala herd of females 2019-11-14 7-53-03 AM
Very common and very pretty – the lovely Macdonald’s for lions – Impala females
IMG_3084
And a shy grey duiker
IMG_3102 Natal Spurfowl 2019-11-14 8-47-20 AM
Gardenia Hide produced very little but this Natal Spurfowl entertained us
IMG_3121 Elephant approaching 2019-11-14 9-16-16 AM
Lots of small herds of elephants and of course quite a few single males like this guy
IMG_3120 Terapin at elephant's feet 2019-11-14 9-14-17 AM
At the waterhole, he almost stepped on a terrapin

As we drove along we came across a stationary car.  “What have you spotted?” asked the Earl.   He was foreign and his answer sounded like, “kudu”  We couldn’t see a thing so the Earl drove on.  “Go back,” I said, “They’re still staring into the bush.  There must be something there!”

“Anything to make you happy, my love,”  he sighed obligingly.  And then I saw it – not a kudu – a cuckoo!

IMG_3129 Jacobin Cuckoo Pied Morph 2019-11-14 10-46-13 AM
Yesterday I posted the dark morph Jacobin Cuckoo – This is the pied morph Jacobin Cuckoo!
IMG_3137 Waterbuck 2019-11-14 11-38-40 AM
First, he refused to look at me but I asked nicely so he posed beautifully – Male Waterbuck

After we’d stopped and enjoyed an ice cream at Pretoriouskop we got back in the car to make our long way back to Berg en Dal.   The skies looked threatening and we expected a shower of rain.

IMG_3174 Storm clouds gathering 2019-11-14 2-25-41 PM
Not too scary looking

There was first one big splash and then another on the windscreen, a few stokes from the wipers and it was clear again.  This went on for a minute or two and then the wind got up. Omiword – it was gale force – almost like a hurricane.   The rain pelted down in huge drops and then the hail hit sounding like shots from a gun!  The Earl drove with full headlights on at snail’s pace and then had to come to a complete stop as visibility was zero!

IMG_3178IMG_3179IMG_3183

I was terrified!   I was afraid that the golfball-sized hailstones would crash through the windscreen or windows, we’d be drenched or drowned and never see home again!   I was wearing a fit watch that measures your heartbeat and mine went up from its normal 70 to 91!   The storm went on for an agonising 15 minutes and we were alone in the middle of the wilds of Africa!

And then it was over as suddenly as it had begun.  We were in one piece and perfectly safe.   What an adventure!

We continued and saw a few more animals.  Miraculously they’d survived the storm too!  Imagine being a tiny bird or helpless buck in a violent storm like that!

IMG_3185
A klipspringer surveying is surroundings – How that rock doesn’t tumble I do not know!

 

IMG_3193
There was a baby too but he was hiding from the camera
P1180341 Elephant 2019-11-14 8-19-00 AM
A happy ellie
P1180354 Zebra pattern Earl 2019-11-14 11-58-51 AM
Distinctive pattern on this guy’s rump
P1180358
A rather wet steenbok
P1180361
One of the many buffalo seen today

We also glimpsed a leopard again today.   It took us ages to locate him hiding under a tree and then he got up and disappeared into the bush.  Too quick for a photograph, I’m afraid.

The skies clouded over again as we approached Berg en Dal.  The Earl wanted to get back to camp quickly to secure our canopy and make sure the hatches were securely battened down!

Just as we got to the caravan the heavens opened, there was thunder, lightning and a heavy downpour.  We secured the poles and the Earl made sure the canopy didn’t collapse under the weight of the water collecting in it.

P1180363
The Earl using a broom to push the canopy up so the water emptied
P1180365
Suddenly we had a river running past our caravan!

This storm too lasted only about half an hour and then all was calm again.   We abandoned our original plans to braai and I cooked chicken in the Remosca pot.   So yes, we survived!

Published by puppy1952

I am making the most of the South African Lifestyle and hope with my blog to share some of the adventures my husband and I are having in our retirement. We live at the Southern Tip of Africa in the small coastal town of Struisbaai. Earl and I have a Gecko off-road caravan and we travel around South Africa frequently. We are bird and wild life enthusiasts so are often in game reserves.

7 thoughts on “Gecko #81 goes to Kruger – Berg en Dal to Pretoriouskop and Back

  1. Oh wow, Helen, what a day!
    Such beautiful photographs and weather that’ll remain in your memory for a long time to come! Few things as impressively powerful as an African thunderstorm, and that smell of the raindrops hitting the dust!
    I hope your vehicle wasn’t dented by the hailstones?

    Like

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