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.
Our route took us through the towns of Colesberg, Middleberg, Graaff-Reinet and Willowmore to Oudtshoorn where we are spending the night at Kleinplaas Caravan Park. The roads were amazing and we did not have to play Dodge the Pothole or Pass the Truck.
We filled up with fuel at Caltex Colesberg, found their restaurant and shop closed so continued to Shell Ultra City for breakfast at their Steers. The further south we travelled the cooler the weather became. It was lunchtime when we arrived at Willowmore where we filled up at Engen and then went to a quaint little coffee shop called Kapoet. Some of these small town have the loveliest ideas when decorating their shops. This coffee shop sold a variety of crafts, beauty products, confectionery and jams etc. The Earl and Alec went straight over to the confectionery section to see what was on offer. There were so many wonderful things in the shop that the Earl ended up spending more money than he intended on some specialty meats. Finally we sat down to tea/coffee and pancakes – cinnamon for Cathy and Alec and Spinach and Feta for the Earl and me. If you’re travelling through Willowmore with a caravan there is enough room to park in the street outside and Kapoet is well worth a visit.
We arrived at Kleinplaas at 16:00. Kleinplaas has lovely well-laid out, shady campsites. At reception they suggested we share a campsite so it cost half of what it would have. You are given a key to the ablution block and they are pristine. Kleinplaas is highly recommended as a stopover place in Oudtshoorn.
It was a little drizzly and cool so we decided not to order pizza and sit outside to eat as we did the last time we stayed here. Instead we went to Nostalgie. Alec was not feeling well so he did not accompany us. Cathy had the lamb shank – delicious. Earl had an ostrich fillet burger – divine and I had the best bobotie I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is an old 80 year old converted house consisting of different rooms so when one is full they open another. The service was friendly, quick and efficient and you felt you were being entertained in somebody’s home. We just loved it.
Tomorrow will be the last leg of our long, wonderful holiday.
Sorry everyone but I got the name of the place we stayed at wrong in my post yesterday. It is not Sonop but Moreson which is 10 km outside the town of Vrede in the Free State. I have made the corrections.
As I stepped out of the caravan this morning, I spotted a little scrub hare hopping across the path and into the bush. It was a lovely start to the day.
We were on the road by 07:15 and once again rattled over the awful road until we joined the R34 then R103 to Warden. From there we travelled the R714 to Bethlehem before turning onto the N5 to Senekal and on to Winberg where we took the N1 to Gariep. On all of the R roads we played Dodge the Pothole, a dangerous game that was no fun at all. But we survived and changed the game to Follow the Truck and Pass When You Can which was frustrating as you simply couldn’t win but it was a tad less dangerous than the previous game.
A highlight of the trip, though, was our stop at Senekal Padstal. It is right on the N5 and has plenty of parking for caravans. The men were delighted to find a variety of confectionery on sale and indulged a few packets of crunchies, ginger snaps and soet koekies. Our breakfast was fluffy scrambled eggs, delicious pork sausages, bacon, tomato and toast at a very reasonable R60 per person including large mugs of excellent coffee.
At Winberg a fellow Gecko owner who was not towing his caravan passed us and posted a message on the Gecko Family Whatsapp Group. The Earl noticed that a Ford Ranger with a CCC registration had zapped past us. He is observant that way! Nice to meet you Charl and Tillie. Hope you found a lovely place to stay over.
We arrived at Forever Gariep at 15:00, checked in and found two level caravan sites near the wonderful ablutions for which this camp is famous.
In the evening we went to the restaurant for dinner. The service was a little slow but the food was fine. The Earl had rooibok shank, Alec had chicken schnitzel and Cathy and I had Chicken Breast de la Casa. All were served with chips and salad.
Gariep Forever Resort is highly recommended as a stopover or a holiday destination. The facilities are great and there are many activities on offer for adults and children.
Sadly today we left Kruger National Park and started on the first leg of our journey back to Struisbaai and Napier. The Earl and I were ready by 07:00 and left slightly ahead of Alec and Cathy. We drove slowly along the S110. My favourite creatures were there to bid us farewell.
Just before we were due to turn off onto the H3 which would take us to the Malelane Gate we saw a line of cars moving very slowly toward us. But who were they following? The king and queen of Kruger.
But instead she broke away from him and passed right by my open window,
It was a heart stopping moment and a wonderful way to end our visit.
Alec and Cathy were slightly delayed by the giraffe crossing the road and they too saw the lions but by then they’d left the road and were wandering off into the bush.
We waited just outside the exit gate for them to catch up and then drove in tandem the rest of the way. We tried to find a place for breakfast in Carolina but there was nothing suitable so we pushed on to Chrissiesmeer. The restaurants we passed looked a bit dodgy until we found Lake Chrissie Lodge. Outside a sign announced that the pub was open. I went in to ask if they did breakfast and the barman went in search of somebody in charge of the kitchen. A charming young lady emerged and said they would cook breakfast for us. I summoned the others and she showed us to a lovely dining room, brought in some coffee and within 15 minutes presented us with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and chips. We were the only patrons and it was really kind of them to accommodate us. The breakfast was lovely.
The roads we travelled were mostly good until we got to Standerton and travelled the R546 to Vrede. We had to play ‘dodge the pothole’ all the way and then turned onto the most horrific road to get to Moreson Ranch. Before booking Cathy had asked what the road condition was like and the reply had been, “It’s fine. It’s a tar road.” Well it might once have been but now it’s a corrugated mess which shook us up and rattled our vehicles and caravans in the most unpleasant way. To add injury to insult we found the campsite less than satisfactory. We were the only caravanners there. Our sites had not been raked or cleaned of buck droppings and the private ablutions had not been cleaned. The electricity also tripped because of the hot water geyser not functioning properly. Cathy reported the problems to reception and after a while the farm manager, Peter, arrived to sort everything out. Two young women came to clean the ablutions and later Peter himself came with a bucket and mop to clean another ablution that we had to use because the hot water problem could not be fixed.
Our campsite has a lovely view across the valley but is spoiled by a full on view of the lions they have in captivity. This farm breeds lions, a practice that I just don’t approve of. I find it upsetting to see these lovely wild beasts living in enclosures, never being able to roam and hunt or do things that lions should do.
We went to the restaurant for dinner and all four of us had rump steaks with mushroom sauce, chips and salad. The food was good.
Peter told us that he has just taken over the managing of this establishment. He knows there is a lot wrong and he intends to sort out all the problems as soon as he can. It’s a matter of putting to rights the things that have been neglected due to past bad management. He is a lovely young man and we wish him luck but it’s doubtful that we will ever come down that dreadful road again so we will never see the progress.
It was very hot in Kruger today the maximum reaching 39 degrees C. Summer is definitely on the way! Kruger National Park winters are short and even then the days are warm while the early mornings and evenings are cool. We have really enjoyed the August weather having only had very few cold days.
On this our last day we first did a short drive to the waterhole and back, made breakfast, did a few chores and then went out for a longer drive at 11:00 and returning at 15:00. Cathy and Alec did a longer morning drive and did not go out in the afternoon. The middle of the day is not the best time to be driving in the park but it was good to be in an a air-conditioned vehicle and we had a few nice sightings.
The visit to the waterhole at the end of S114 produced flocks of grey headed sparrows, yellow-fronted canaries, quelea and golden-breasted bunting coming down to the water’s edge to drink.
On S110 just before the turnoff to the H3 we found a honeymoon couple. The bride did not show herself properly but the groom did.
We wanted to go to Gardenia hide but the elephants had other ideas for us.
Two other vehicles were waiting patiently. There was a narrow route past the big mamma and the Earl wanted to risk passing by. But I said, “No, I am not yet ready to die.” Fortunately he listened to me and turned around. You never know what these creatures might do if they feel their young are threatened.
There had been nothing at Wimpies Waterhole but on the way back we found buffalo having a swim.
There were lots of giraffe around too.
It has been wonderful as always to visit Kruger National Park. It is always the highlight of my year and I hope to be able to make many more trips while the Earl and I are fit and healthy enough to do so. Having our new Power Touch caravan movers is a great help and will probably mean we can caravan for longer than might otherwise be possible. It has been encouraging seeing a number of people still camping/caravanning well into their eighties.
Berg-en-Dal is without doubt a great place to camp but there are a few problems. One would think that with so many caravans having Porta Potties there would be a facility for their disposal but there isn’t. This is the only camp we have been to where there isn’t one and using the toilets for this purpose is just wrong.
The ablutions are clean but are in need of an upgrade. The taps at the basin don’t work properly. The shower cubicles are a bit small and there is a need for a rack for your shampoo and soap etc. They do not have mixer taps which makes getting the temperature right a bit tricky.
Many people use their own caravan bathrooms which is great but some do not manage their grey water correctly and instead of collecting run off water in a bucket they let it out under the caravan leaving a scummy mess for the camper who comes after them. Park management needs to make a rule about how people manage their water disposal.
We love the park but this year we have noticed that litter has become a bit of a problem. Never before have we seen toilet paper blowing about or hanging on a bush, but this year it was glaring. There are plenty of picnic sites with toilet facilities so it is seldom necessary to risk getting out of your car in the bush when there is an urgent call of nature. But if you have to why would you leave your loo paper behind. How difficult would it be for offenders to put a Zip-lock bag in the center of the cardboard roll for holding their disposed paper. Who do they think will clean up after them?
In spite of these small problems the park is still a wonderful place to be. The staff are cheerful and friendly and will go out of their way to help. Each main camp has a swimming pool, restaurant, shop, laundrette and petrol station. Just remember if you wish to visit the park, book well in advance especially if you wish to visit during school holidays.
Today we were supposed to travel in tandem with Cathy and Alec but we left slightly earlier and planned to meet up on the road. But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The Earl and I checked out the waterhole at the end of the S110 before doing the Matjulu loop. There was nothing going on there and instead of waiting for Cathy and Alec to catch up we carried on. Bad choice! When they arrived they got the most amazing sighting which delayed them for another half an hour. To cut a long story short, things just didn’t go according to plan. We went on ahead to Crocodile Bridge and when they failed to catch us up on the road we guessed they’d been delayed by something exciting. When we got to Crocodile Bridge we called them to say not to try to catch up as the road was bad. Luckily they were in a spot where they could get cell reception.
We had had some awesome sightings and so had they so I am making this a two part report. I will showcase all Cathy’s fabulous photos in Part 1 and in Part 2 I will report on what happened to the Earl and me.
Part 1 Cathy and Alec’s Awesome Sightings
As I have told you before Alec and Cathy have not had much luck with leopard sightings in Kruger in the past. Earlier on in this trip they did get to see one walking toward them but the photos were not great. Today all that was to change. They arrived at the waterhole just minutes after we had left and had the most amazing leopard sighting anyone could wish for. I am going to let Cathy’s photos tell the story.
When they told us all about their day, Alec said that sighting made his holiday and nothing else mattered from then on. However, they continued to have some lovely sightings the photos of which are shown below.
Part 2 A Long Day for Earl and Helen
We left camp about twenty minutes before Alec and Cathy and what a difference timing can make to a day. However, although we missed the awesome waterhole leopard – the famous Berg-en-Dal leopard, I think, that is often seen near the camp, we did have a great day ourselves. Our plan was to travel the dirt roads to Crocodile Bridge, have breakfast there and then return on dirt roads too. BUT some of those roads are just not comfortable to ride on so we decided to return the long way round on mostly tar roads. This meant we were out from 07:15 to 17:00 making it a pretty tiring day.
On the S118 near Wimpie’s Waterhole we found one of the Big Five
Cathy and Alec saw rhino at Gardenia Hide but they weren’t there earlier. However, we did watch some little birds outside the hide.
On the S119 we saw Jim and Maureen’s stationery vehicle and guessed they were looking at something exciting. As we drew nearer I saw exactly what they were peering at.
They had been with the leopard for a while and had taken some good photos of it looking at them. After a chat with us they left and we slipped into their spot. I would not let the Earl leave until the leopard showed us her face. After ten minutes she lifted her head, then stood up and stretched before turning around and facing the other way.
She decided to be polite and gave us quite a few lovely photo opportunities. At this stage we did not know where Cathy and Alec were. We called on the walkie-talkie – no response. We phoned – no response either. Later we when we phoned them from Crocodile Bridge they answered and were at this very scene, their second leopard sighting of the day. However, at that time she was fast asleep and did not look at them. After their morning at the waterhole they didn’t mind at all.
After spending some time with the beautiful leopard we moved on toward Crocodile Bridge and had some lovely encounters on the way.
We arrived at Crocodile Bridge at 11 o’clock. There is no restaurant there but you can buy sandwiches or pies from the shop and there is a verandah where you can sit to enjoy your snack with a good cup of coffee made on the premises.
On our return trip on the tar roads we stopped in at Sunset Dam near Lower Sabie Rest Camp.
Driving next to the Sabie River was rewarding. We saw large herds of buffalo, hundreds of elephant, kudu, impala, giraffe and zebra.
We also saw a big male lion walk through the bush and flop down out of sight.
There were many other animals and birds that we kept stopping for as we continued our long trip home but I think I have posted enough for today. Sadly tomorrow is our last day and we plan to do a short morning drive so that we have the afternoon free to get ready for the long trek home.
Today we enjoyed mild temperatures with a low of 19 degrees C and a high of 25. The Earl and I left camp at half past seven and did the route that Cathy and Alec did yesterday while they tried some other roads.
We started on the Matjulu loop and stopped when we saw two stationary cars. “What have they seen?” asked the Earl. I scanned with my binoculars and spotted something half hidden by a bush – “Lion,” I said. But the Earl could not see it. However, he’d spotted his friend, Jim just up the hill and he headed toward him. “Don’t move!” I yelled. “We have a perfect spot here. The lion is moving.” But he ignored me and went to chat to JIm and Maureen who could just make out the lions from where they sat. I was not pleased to lose our spot and insisted the Earl return. Instead he continued to the dam at the end of the road.
“Stop,” I yelled. He thought I meant stop and turn back for the lions so he just drove on. “Stop, Bird!” I insisted. So he stopped and I got a photo of a brown snake-eagle.
It wasn’t far to the end of the road and the waterhole where the Earl intended to turn around but I hoped it wouldn’t be too late to see the cats. I didn’t want to delay the return but who can resist taking a quick look at a waterhole scene. There were zebra having their morning drink.
And then they bounded up the embankment to cross over in front of us.
“Go, go, go!” I urged the Earl. We have to see the lions.
When we got back to the scene, Jim was still in his spot but the other cars except for one had gone. “Oh no, they’re hiding behind the bush so now we won’t be able to see them,” I lamented. The Earl parked at the spot where I’d first seen one and low and behold a cub emerged from behind the bush and tried to chase an impala!
Soon a few more members of the family appeared. We watched them regroup and then they all ran across the road in front of us and disappeared into the bush.
All of this happened in half an hour and after the pride had disappeared into the bush we continued with on the S114 with Jim and Maureen following. We stopped to photograph some lovely Kudu standing on an outcrop of rocks and staring into the distance.
At the end of the road, J&M went left and we continued along the Crocodile Bridge Road.
Ground Hornbills seem to like us because they have appeared to say hello almost every day. We’re not complaining. They’re fascinating birds.
At half past nine we turned onto the Mlamambane Loop. We kept a close eye on the riverbed for animals and birds. Just ahead of us we noticed a single stationary car. We thought he might be birdwatching but as we got closer I spotted her – Lion – I called.
From where we were we could see a campervan parked in a loop closer to the river bed and, wondering what they were looking at, we went down to join them. When we came alongside them they told us that there were ten lions on the rocks to the left. It was a pride of several males, females and cubs. The males seemed to be very good dads and were allowing the cubs to pull on their manes and bite their ears and tails. It was wonderful to watch.
Jim and Maureen appeared from the opposite direction and enjoyed the sighting with us.
After spending some lovely time with this pride we continued to Gardenia Hide where we found a single male giraffe.
Some aliens were sunning themselves on the rocks. Seems they want to meet Uncle Cyril.
Outside the hide we found a few birds flitting about
By this time we were getting hungry so we made our way to Afsaal picnic site where we met up with Alec and Cathy. We told them about the lions on the Mlamambane Loop and they made their way to the scene after lunch but there were only two visible when they got there.
After lunch we visited Renoster Pan and found some impala, wildebeest, zebra, a Dark Chanting Goshawk and a Malachite Kingfisher.
At another waterhole we enjoyed watching a giraffe drinking.
Just before getting back to Berg-en-Dal we saw elephants but the resident Berg-en-Dal leopard has still not made an appearance. Maybe tomorrow!
Today was the day that we had to take the car to Malelane to have ithe cracked windscreen replaced. We also decided to have the car serviced at Malelane Ford while we were at it. The service would be overdue by the time we get home in two week’s time. Once the car was booked in at 07:00 a driver dropped us at Wimpy. We ordered breakfast and then spent the morning entertaining ourselves on our devices. There was nothing else we could do until the car was ready at 14:00. We then did some shopping and returned to Berg-en-Dal. Our drive there and back through the park yielded the usual creatures namely elephant, giraffe, impala, warthogs and kudu.
While we were missing in action Cathy and Alec took a drive to Gardenia Hide. Here are some their day’s highlights.
In the evening we braaied pork chops. It was a stunning, still warm evening. And that is all for today everyone. See you again soon.
I have neglected participating in Share Your World for several weeks now. This is mainly because I am in Kruger National Park and all my blogging time is going into my daily trip reports when the internet plays fair. Right now, though, I am sitting in a coffee shop waiting for the car to be serviced and the cracked windscreen to be replaced. To pass the time I am catching up with reading WordPress blogs and doing a SYW.
Are human beings required to better themselves and will doing that make them happier?
Some people I know strive for perfection and it does not make them happy it just stresses them out. Others strive to better themselves and are pleased with the results and are happy because of the feeling of self-fulfillment. I believe that we should all strive to learn from our mistakes and try to become better human beings as this makes the world a better place for everyone. Happiness comes from within. I believe you choose to be happy and you choose what to do with your life. Expecting to be happy all the time is unrealistic. We have good times, bad times and in between times. That is the nature of things on this earth.
Is it easier to love or to be loved?
Of course it is easier to be loved. The trick is to accept that love graciously and to give love in return. Loving someone else is hard work but worth it. It’s easy to love a loveable person but unconditional love is something else. You can love a person but hate what they do. The exhausting part about loving someone unconditionally is exercising tolerance and withholding judgement.
Outside traumatic brain injury, can memories be completely erased?
I don’t think so. Your conscious mind might totally forget but somewhere deep in the subconscious those forgotten memories exist. Something might trigger a memory from absolutely nowhere. How does that happen?
Is there such a thing as a good death?
Yes. I want to die without pain or suffering. That would be a good death.
and one ‘silly’ one because the former questions were fairly serious: What do you imagine is inside a baseball?
What’s a baseball? Just joking – of course I know what a baseball is. I’ve never owned one though. What’s inside one? All the Americans’ passion for the game.
Feel free to share something uplifting this week!
Well, I have so much to be grateful for all the time but this week I am hugely grateful that I can be spending time in The Kruger National Park. Back home it’s cold and wet while here the mornings and nights are cool and the days sunny and warm. I am communing with nature and enjoying the African wildlife. What could be better than this?
It was moving day today. Getting the caravan safely from one camp to another before the roads become busy and finding the perfect camping site was the Earl’s prime objective so it was an early start for us today. It was 7 degrees C when we left but it warmed up considerably and by the time we reached Berg-en-Dal the mercury had climbed to the high twenties. We left ahead of Cathy and Alec at quarter to seven and arrived just after nine o’clock. Of course, as usual, on a day we did not want to be delayed, the animals had other plans for us.
The Earl did not want to stop for the four hyaena I saw but reluctantly obliged for a few seconds allowing me to take some unpostable photos. They were still there, with their pups, when Alec and Cathy came half an hour later. Cathy got some awesome shots.
Giraffe, zebra, impala and kudu simply waved at as we passed by but just before the turn-off to the H3 we stopped to see what two stationary cars were looking at. One drove off but the other pointed and said, “There’s a leopard walking through the bush.” Then he drove off.
If only we were not towing we could have turned around and followed her. There were no other vehicles in sight.
The above shot by the Earl is a reflection in his side mirror
The creatures were all out to greet us this morning which was lovely to see but we only stopped to take a few photographs.
Alec and Cathy ran into some interesting sightings too. Our friends Jim and Maureen recognised their CS registration and Gecko caravan and realised they must be our travelling companions when they saw them at a very special sighing.
When we arrived at Berg-en-Dal we found the campground to be very full. There was no chance of getting a perimeter site but we found a fairly suitable one not too far from an ablution. It turned out later that it was close to Jim and Maureen too. We were all set up by the time Cathy and Alec arrived. The rhino had delayed them somewhat!
There were lots of birds about while we were busy including a brown-crowned tchagra, blue waxbill, bulbuls, sparrows and doves. I managed to get a shot of a sunbird.
By the time both caravans were set up, we went to the restaurant which overlooks the dam for brunch.
Afterwards I did the newly upgraded Rhino Walking Trail which is about 3,2 kilometres long starting at the restaurant and following beside the perimeter fence. Part of it is a Braille trail which also has a cable rail for the use of those needing it.
The trail has information boards with descriptions of various creatures. There are also riddles for children to solve. The answer can be found by lifting the flap.
It was a lovely trail to do and I saw quite a few creatures right beside me on the other side of the fence.
Later in the afternoon we did the Majula Loop and saw a big herd of buffalo at the waterhole.
We saw other creatures too but the light was not good for photography. It was a perfect evening after the past two days of chill we have had so we had a lovely braai for supper. Tomorrow the Earl and I have to take the Everest into Malelane to have the cracked windscreen replaced. Hopefully it won’t take too long and we can do a game drive in the afternoon. See you all then!
It was a cool 13 degrees C when we left for our morning drive at 08:00 and it did not warm up much at all during the day. All we did this morning was drive around the roads close to the camp. We did not find much but below are the highlights
After the buffs we popped in at Metsel Dam and found a mother with a very new baby.
When we got back to camp, nobody felt like cooking breakfast outdoors so we went to the Pretoriuskop Wimpy. We then spent some quiet time in camp, got the caravans ready for departure tomorrow and only went out again at half past four. We spent an hour at Shithave Dam in the hope that the creatures would come to us. I think, though that they, like us, were feeling chilly and were hunkering down in some warm and sheltered spot that we could not see.
And that was all that we had for the day.
The cold drove us to the restaurant again this evening and it was surprisingly good. Earl and Cathy had Chicken schnitzel with salad, Alec had a chicken salad and I had grilled chicken breasts with spinach and butternut.
Pretoriuskop is the oldest camp in Kruger National Park. It is named after the Voortrekker, Willem Pretorius, who died here in 1845.
Pretoriuskop has a large swimming pool which we did not use and I did not take any photos but it is known to be the best one in the park. There is also a play park for children. The Park Shop is good and the restaurant, a Wimpy, is open from 07:00 to 19:00.
The ablutions were clean and neat and seemed well maintained. There are hooks in the shower cubicles but no bench as there is not enough room to put them. They do not have mixer taps which makes it difficult to adjust the water to the correct temperature. Tonight, there was no hot water at all. Another problem is that when someone is running a bath, the hot water in the shower stops running.
The laundromat was out of order. However, we were able to have our washing done by dropping it off at reception in the morning and collecting it beautifully done and folded in the afternoon. It is a free service but they say you may give a donation which we did.
There are two sections to the campground – the upper tier and the lower tier. We were on the lower tier and it was the better section. The campsites are not well laid out. It is difficult to know which area belongs to you. The ground is also hard and uneven. However, we had enough shade and access to electricity and a tap.
It is a very pretty camp with lovely trees and it is good for birding.
Game viewing around Pretoriuskop, we found, was not as good as elsewhere. It is supposed to be good for finding rhino, sable and roan but we were not lucky in this respect. Having said all that, it is not a bad place to camp and I would go back another time.