Category Archives: Kruger National Park

Gecko #81 goes to Kruger – A day in the life of Berg en Dal

Friday 15 November 2019

As I stepped outside the caravan at 4:30 this morning, I heard something running toward our campsite.  I turned to look and almost wet my pants when an enormous hyaena loped at speed past me, toward the neighbours and disappeared.   He must have found a hole in the electric fence and slipped through it!   The Earl wouldn’t believe me.  “It must have been a bushbuck,” he said.  Like I wouldn’t know the difference!

Half an hour later, the Earl left for Nelspruit to have the Ford Everest serviced and I was left to spend the day alone in the camp.  Only, I wasn’t entirely alone.  There are two couples camping next door to us and coincidentally the men also had to go to Nelspruit as one of them had needed urgent repairs done to his vehicle.  It was now ready for collection and not long after the Earl, they too set off for Nelspruit.  Their wives stayed behind and as they busied themselves with camp chores and I was doing the same, we chatted to each other and grumbled about the baboons and monkeys that were constantly trying to steal food.  They’re particularly bad at Berg en Dal Camp. I told them about my hyaena and Julia said she’d seen the pawprints next to her caravan.

I achieved quite a bit during the morning – cleaned the caravan and did the laundry which required a bit of walking to and fro – urgently needed when you sit in a car for hours on end.   I was busy working on the computer when Julia called to me to join her and Jan for a cuppa.  And of course, that took over an hour!

Then I noticed monkeys trying to get into my caravan.  I ran to chase them.   All but one scattered but the leader had no fear and ran at me.  “Help!” I yelled and turned tail and scarpered.   Julia and Jan came with catapults and shot at him.  Thankfully he turned and ran up a tree!  Don’t laugh!  It wasn’t funny! Lol.

The Earl returned at around three and by then I had completed the computer work and was feeling that it had been a day well spent in spite of the little dramas I’d experienced.  Honestly – hyaenas and deviant monkeys.  What is the park coming to!

I thought the Earl would be all driven out but he was keen to go for a game drive straight away, so off we went.

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Adult Ground Hornbill

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Immature Ground Hornbill catching an insect

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A journey of giraffe emerging from the bush and proceeding along the road in front of us

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The baby zebra decided not to get underfoot!

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These two oxpeckers stopped feasting on a giraffe and had a quick drink and bath before returning to their duties

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What a procedure just to get a drink

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I bet you can’t do this!

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Zebra reflections

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Please don’t run me over

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These magpie shrikes were calling and flying from one tree to another.  The juveniles were vibrating their wings and begging their parents for food

 

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These poor endangered creatures.  We heard that nine were poached last week alone!   We saw six today.

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Our last braai at Berg en Dal

A word about Berg en Dal for those who plan to visit one day.

The campsite is beautiful.  During the offseason, it is easy to get a site on the perimeter with views across the veld.   All the sites are under trees and there is plenty of shade.

The ablutions are okay.  The showers work but it takes a long time for the hot water to come through.  There is also nowhere to put your soap and shampoo etc.  so you have to work from the floor.   I found that this time they were not cleaned regularly throughout the day but they were reasonably clean.  If you shower early in the morning you will have to deal with dead insects before you start.

The staff at reception were friendly and helpful.  When I went to get coins for the laundry I was greeted by a deaf employee.  She handed me a piece of paper and indicated that I should write down my request.  I did and she went off the fetch the bag of coins, counted the required number out – enough for a washing machine and a dryer.   I handed over my two R20 notes and gave her a thumbs up in thanks.  She smiled broadly.  How lovely that Sanparks are employing people with challenges!

The restaurant has a view over the dam. It is well worth taking this Rhino Trail walk. It starts at the restaurant and takes you right around the perimeter of the camp.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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Always exciting to see eagles – this one we think is an immature Martial

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Very common and very pretty – the lovely Macdonald’s for lions – Impala females

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And a shy grey duiker

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Gardenia Hide produced very little but this Natal Spurfowl entertained us

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Lots of small herds of elephants and of course quite a few single males like this guy

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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!

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Yesterday I posted the dark morph Jacobin Cuckoo – This is the pied morph Jacobin Cuckoo!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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

 

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There was a baby too but he was hiding from the camera

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A happy ellie

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Distinctive pattern on this guy’s rump

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A rather wet steenbok

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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.

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The Earl using a broom to push the canopy up so the water emptied

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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!

Gecko #81 goes to Kruger – Elangeni to Berg en Dal

Everybody who knows me is aware of the fact that The Kruger National Park is my most favourite place in the entire world.  I love lots of places and I would be happy wherever I found myself but if I could live in the Kruger National Park, I would be in heaven.

Our stay at Elangeni was lovely.   The caravan sites are grassy and under beautiful shady trees.  The ablutions are old and could do with an upgrade but the showers were hot and they were clean.  We left this morning at 8 o’clock, stopped in Nelspruit to shop for supplies and entered the park before midday.

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Goodbye Elangeni

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Chickens and weavers enjoying a feast of seed at Elangeni

Getting to Kruger a day earlier than planned was an extra special bonus for me.   At something past 11 o’clock this morning we arrived at Malelane Gate and I joyfully went into reception to announce myself.  I was just bursting with smiles and enthusiasm and didn’t mind at all that there was a queue.  As I entered a lovely, young, tall,  woman greeted me and handed me the indemnity form to fill in.  She also helped me do it!  What fantastic service!   I then stood in the queue for not more than two minutes.  The young lady who processed me seemed a bit serious at first.  “I’m a day early,” I said.  “Please, can I book another night at Berg en Dal”   She stared at the computer screen and then did the necessary.   “We drove here very fast so we could have an extra day,” I enthused.

This seemed to tickle her.   “You need to have as much time as you can get it seems.   You’re here for a month!”

“Yes,” I replied.  “We took four days to get here so we must make it worthwhile!”

She laughed. ” Seri-ous!  Then you must have a wonderful time! If you come so far from the southern tip – then you must stay long!”

I left Malelane Gate in the best of moods and rejoined The Earl in the car. Oh, the joy that filled my heart as we drove into the park at last.

Now when you’re towing a caravan you can’t reverse or manoeuvre the car to the perfect position when you come upon a sighting.  And nothing too exciting happened in the beginning.   First up were warthogs then a few interesting birds, impala and the usual stuff.  Then we noticed two cars staring into the bush.  We pulled up next to the first one and he shrugged his shoulder and said, “We’re just looking.  We haven’t seen anything!”

The Earl pulled away and then I yelled, “Stop! Reverse! Leopard!”

“I can’t reverse,” he said

“Okay – then go forward a fraction and look back.”

He did and we had an awesome sighting of an alert leopard under a tree.   Then she started to move.  We could not reverse or turn around to see where she went.  But at least we’d seen her.  And it was just 200m outside Berg en Dal Camp’s gate!

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Well, not half an hour in the park and already a leopard on our list!  It was certainly a good omen.

After checking in at reception we chose a suitable campsite and settled in.   It was a cool 25 degrees C, it was overcast but it only started to rain when we’d finished setting up.  The drizzle only lasted a few minutes.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a drive.  It’s not usually very productive in the afternoons because of the heat but being overcast and cool we were lucky to see a number of birds and animals.

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Emerald Spotted wood-dove

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Wattled Lapwing

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Dark morph Jacobin cuckoo

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Grey Hornbill

IMG_3018 Red-billed Hornbill 2019-11-13 3-23-28 PM

Red-billed hornbill

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Warthog

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Mother and baby elephant

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Go Away Bird

In the evening we braaied Texan Steaks for dinner.

It was an awesome start to our trip.

 

Gecko goes to Kruger – Getting There – Day 4

We planned to take it slowly to get to The Kruger National Park but this morning we were awake at 04:00.   Dawn had broken and we could not get back to sleep.  So we decided to just get up and leave.  Our plan was to stop and camp in Ermelo but we were making good time and after our breakfast stop at Ventersburg we decide to change our route and go to Elangeni Caravan Park between Waterval Boven and Nelspruit.  This would mean we would have plenty of time the next day to shop in Nelspruit and get to Berg en Dal in good time.   There would be no problem getting in a day earlier than planned.

The weather was warm but we did have a spit and a spot of rain along the way. Some of the roads were good but on others, we had to dodge the potholes.   Welcome to Africa!

There is not too much to report about today as most of it was spent travelling the through Free State.

We arrived at Elangeni Caravan Park at 17:30.   It is a really beautiful spot among leafy trees and next to a trout-filled river.   At first, we were the only campers there but half an hour later two girls from London arrived in a hired campervan.  They had already done Blyde River Canyon and The Kruger National Park and were on their way to Storms River.

I cooked a chicken casserole in our electric Remosca Pot for dinner.

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Share Your World – 11 November 2019

Here are my answers to this weeks Share Your World from Sparks

Is copying and pasting images or information off the Internet plagiarism?   Do you credit those whose work you ‘borrow freely’ or do you think the idea is repugnant?   (Credit for this question goes to GC and Sue)

I only copy free clip art.   If I take something off the internet I will place a link to where I got it from.  If it’s from Wikipedia I will put the information in my own words.

I seldom quote other people’s work but if I do I certainly give credit to that person.

Do you let sleeping dogs lie?

I usually do unless I’m really upset and then I’ll wake those dogs and let them have it!

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What’s the strangest pet name (for adults) that you’ve ever heard someone called?

I thought Toast was a strange pet name.  I never found out why this person was called that.   Budgie is another odd name for a guy I know.   No idea where that came from either.

Do you like to dance?   If yes, what’s your favorite and if no, why not?

I have two left feet and am not very co-ordinated but I enjoy dancing with my husband.  He is very good at leading and I just follow.  I can’t dance with anybody else!   I tried line dancing but couldn’t remember the steps as I was unable to attend the classes regularly due to all my travelling.

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Gratitude Question:

November brings Thanksgiving to Americans.  I know Canada celebrates Thanksgiving too, but I believe it’s in October.   Does your country celebrate a similar holiday?   If you’d like, share some traditions you observe around Thanksgiving or if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, what are some traditions you have?

We do not celebrate Thanksgiving in South Africa.   South Africans are all about Braaivleis, Rugby, Sunny Skies and Chevrolet.  (This was how Chevrolet used to advertise their cars in SA)

A braaivleis is a traditional way of cooking your food over an open fire (almost like a barbecue but better)   If you don’t braai – you’re not a real South African.

Rugby is the national religion.   We just won The World Cup – so don’t knock it.

Most of the year the skies are sunny and so is our mood.

We’re a simple lot and in spite of all our problems, most of us remain positive while we enjoy the South African Lifestyle.   Those who for one reason or another have left, never quite get Africa out of their systems.   If there’s one near you, you’ll recognise him by the smell of braai on his clothing.  He is probably wearing khaki and veldskoene.

 

 

 

Gecko goes to Kruger – Getting There – Day 3

Day one and two of our caravanning trip to The Kruger National Park is posted on Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Monday, 11 November 2019

We left Willowmore Caravan Park at 6:15 this morning.  Our first stop was Graaff Reinet where we had breakfast at The Blue Magnolia.  What a lovely stopping place this is.  There is space to park the caravan in the one-way street and it is safe.  The Blue Magnolia is a nursery and you can sit outdoors on a good day. This morning was still a bit chilly so we sat inside and ordered eggs and bacon.  It came with mushrooms, cheese grillers and tomato.

There were no problems on the road to Gariep and we arrived at 12:15.   We have a lovely shady site with a view of the dam.  The dam is very low at the moment and there is a desperate need for rain in the area.

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The first site we chose

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The view across the dam

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Later, because of the wind we moved to a more sheltered spot

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The wind dropped completely and we had awesome views

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It is pretty hot here.  After settling in we went for a swim.  There is a lovely recreation area with a big pool as well as tennis, volleyball and netball courts. There is also a kiosk where you can get drinks and snacks.

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On our way back we crossed a grassy patch where a crowned lapwing began looking nervous and making warning noises.   Then I noticed why – there were chicks.  Mom and Dad were desperately trying to distract our attention away from the babies – four in all.

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Crowned Lapwing with two of her four babies.  Dad had the other two.

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The birdlife was quite active and I got a few lovely photographs.

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This common fiscal was quite cheeky and came right up to us to beg for scraps

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Pied Starling

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Red Bishop coming into his breeding plumage

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Olive Thrush

At one stage during the afternoon the wind became quite gusty.  The Earl decided to move to a more sheltered spot so that we could braai safely.   I stayed in the caravan while he towed it a short distance to the new spot.  It was scary!

The wind dropped completely in the evening and as the light faded the views became more spectacular.  The moon was awesome.

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The Dam in fading light

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Awesome colours

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The full moon

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Great photography from The Earl

Gecko #81 Ending our Roadtrip at Warmwaterberg

We left Karoo National Park at 07:20 and made our way to Warmwaterberg for a two-night stay before returning to Struisbaai.

The skies were clear and the roads were long but they were a pleasure to drive. Travelling the Meiringspoort Pass was awesome!

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The Karoo roads are long and seem to go on forever – but the scenery is stunning

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Meiringspoort Pass had some winding bends

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The pictures don’t do it justice!

The pass ends at Derust where we stopped at Herrie’s Restaurant for breakfast.

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We enjoyed the setting

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A wholesome ontbyt (breakfast) with good Boere Koffie (coffee)

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We had a good chuckle reading the many amusing signs

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Isn’t that the truth!

Fortified by the good food we continued our journey to Warmwaterberg Hot Spring a place we visit quite often as it’s not too far from home for a short stay.

The Pool

Warmwaterberg Hot Springs

It was lovely to have a caravan site right opposite the pool gate and away from the main campsite.  This saved The Earl a long uphill walk back to camp!

 

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Our Campsite with the pool in the background

 

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At the braai!

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We had some feathered visitors – This is a Karoo Thrush

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The Peacocks were in a romantic mood

 

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And furry visitors popped in too – feral cats abound – this one was quite tame.

We thoroughly enjoyed just chilling at our campsite and popping over to the pool.   It’s the kind of place where everybody is friendly and there’s always someone to chat to in the pools.

 

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We even got up in time to watch the sunrise!

We are now home in Struisbaai and found the garden looking not too bad from two weeks of neglect.  The clivias are flowering beautifully! We had a gardener in today and after he’d mown the lawn everything looked pretty good.

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The caravan has been thoroughly cleaned, the washing and ironing done so now we’re ready for the next trip!