Breaking Free from Lockdown – A Gecko Road Trip Day 7 Tshipise to Punda Maria

I was up before seven o’clock this morning and did not have to wrap up in hat and gloves to leave the caravan. The temperature started at 10 degrees C and kept rising to the mid-twenties. It was a still, sunny day with cloudless skies.

The Earl and I left before Cathy and Alec this morning as they were to meet up with a friend along the road and instead of waiting for them we decided to try to get to Punda as early as possible to try for a perimeter site.

The R525 to Pafuri Gate was in fairly good condition with just a few small potholes from time to time – easy to see and avoid. We passed through some bustling villages and dodged the cows, goats and donkeys along the route. It was lovely to see lots of baobab trees decorating the landscape too.

We arrived at Pafuri at ten to nine and received a friendly welcome from the gate attendant. We filled in a Covid Form and he took our temperatures before we checked in at the office. Here again the friendly receptionist welcomed us to The Park and processed us very efficiently.

The Gecko at Pafuri Gate

What a joy to be back in the Kruger National Park. This year we are travelling from the northern-most part right down to the south. This is the first time that we have entered from Pafuri Gate.

From the gate we took the H1-9 and then the H1-8 to Punda Maria Rest Camp. The first creature to welcome us was a squirrel scampering across the road and then a zebra hiding amongst the trees. Neither were too keen to pose for a photograph. But it was not long before some other creatures were more obliging.

Well not this elephant who only gave us a bum view
This zebra was more obliging
His friends were not as bold but got through the ordeal together
A whole line of baobab trees
“Hello! Long time no see. Welcome back.” greeted the friendly Kudu
And then my favourite enjoying the sweet leaves and turning his nose up at us.

We arrived at Punda at 11:00 and unfortunately found all the perimeter sites taken. However, we found one further back which still had a view of the waterhole.

Entrance to Punda Maria

We set up quickly and about an hour later Alec and Cathy arrived. Once we were all settled and ready we went to reception to check in and to have some lunch. None of us had eaten all day and it was 2 pm by the time we sat down to lovely chicken wraps, chips and salad washed down with refreshing Grapetisers.

Before lunch I had spotted something at the waterhole and dashed to the hide with my camera.

Saddle-billed stork and Impala at the camp waterhole
Blue Waxbills
And a blacksmith lapwing sitting down

Later in the afternoon the Earl and I did the Mahonie Loop. It was already after four o’clock and gate closing time was at six. This meant we could not stop at a sighting for too long for fear of getting in late!

We spotted the usual suspects and a few familiar birds none of whom were very photogenic. Then I heard squawking. “Stop,” I yelled and scanned a very green tree for very green parrots. We saw a whole flock of them flying and then I managed to get this contented chap nibbling something nutlike.

Brown-necked parrot
This guy didn’t like us disturbing his lunch and trumpeted at us
And we almost missed this cutie as he camouflages so well. He is looking for an apartment in this anthill.
We stopped to see an emerald-spotted dove on the road and then spotted these guys in front of us
Have I seen you here before?
Do you like my red ears?

From five o’clock the light begins to fade and it becomes a bit cooler. The gravel road, however, remains warm and attracts creatures to lie upon it to soak up the heat.

Mr Double-banded in the middle of the road. Mrs was not far away but so well camouflaged we almost missed her. Didn’t get a good photo.

Time was running out and the Earl did not want to make any more stops. But he had to when Jumbo took up half the road to drink from a puddle. He ran toward us and raised his trunk. It was scary but I think he was just being playful.

He then returned to his drinking and moved more to the side of the road. The Earl edged closer and then put his foot down and passed the elephant. He seemed annoyed but did not chase us!

This is my road and you’d better not forget it!

We made it back to camp with 10 minutes to spare.

How lovely it was to have a warm, still evening for our braai. The Earl braaied some pork rashers for starters and then some chops and wors served with vegetable parcels prepared by Cathy. She precooked some mixed veggies and potato in the micro added some frozen green beans and butter and wrapped them in tinfoil to be finished off in the coals – absolutely delicious.

And now as I listen to the giggles of the hyaenas it is time to say good-night.

15 Comments

  1. So nice to be “touring” with you in that wonderful part of Kruger! You had me puzzled with the Brown-necked Parrot, but I see Roberts gives it as an alternate name for what I’ve always known as Grey-headed Parrot. These names can sometimes be confusing!

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