Today we did quite a long morning drive. We started on the H1-4 then did the S89, S90 and S41, before returning to Satara via the S100. We saw a lovely variety of birds and animals. I am posting the highlights and letting the photos tell their own story today.
We arrived back at camp at 13:30. After doing camp chores and having a rest, Cathy and Alec went for a short drive at 16:00, but the Earl and I decided to stay in camp. They returned after an hour to say we hadn’t missed much except for some lovely hippo.
Apologies for being missing in action for the past two days. The internet at Satara is not that great at the best of times but for the past two days it has been down completely. I will try to catch up as quickly as possible.
Sunday 22 August 2021
Today’s weather was not very pleasant. It was overcast, windy and cold. All dressed up in jeans and jerseys we left camp at 07:50 with the Everest in the lead. We started our drive on the H1-4.
The first excitement of the day came in the form of two very large birds.
“Oh – look – a Secretary Bird! Two Secretary birds!” Then one took off and flew to the other side of the road. We could not see it but Cathy and Alec could.
Then just after that another member of the Big Six birds of Kruger National Park made an appearance.
The Big Six Birds to seek are Pel’s Fishing Owl, Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Secretary Bird, Martial Eagle and Saddle-billed Stork. We have seen five of the six this trip and there is little chance of getting the elusive Pel’s!
At 08:25 we turned onto the Ntomeni Road. As we were looking in the trees for birds the Earl stopped when he saw one that looked familiar. “What’s that,” he asked. “It looks different to the lilac-breasted roller.” And it was indeed a cousin, but even in the dull light the Earl noticed something was not quite right.
We then followed the S40 toward Timbavati Picnic Site. Just before the turnoff we came to the bridge that crosses the river. A few cars were stationary on the bridge and on the other side. And for good reason. Lions had made a kill and were busy with buffalo for breakfast.
We managed to get a few photos and then went to the Timbavati where we planned to cook our own breakfast but the wind was gusty and it was very cold so we just had coffee and then returned to the lions before continuing.
We followed the S39 and stopped at Ratel Hide but there was not much going on there. However, we enjoyed watching a crake and Cathy managed to get a photo of a three-banded plover.
Back on the road we stopped from time to time to photograph those creatures who would oblige. Some helmet-shrikes flew into a tree and one kindly perched in a suitable position for just the right enough of time to snap his portrait.
Looking down from an omrit overlooking the river we saw a lovely riverside scene.
There were plenty of impies about.
At 11:15 we turned onto the H1-4 and continued to see more creatures
Back at camp we made scrambled eggs for brunch, had a rest and then went back for a drive on the S100. We saw herds of zebra, wildebeest and waterbuck but we dipped on the lions that are often found on this road.
We certainly enjoyed our wonderful five days at beautiful Tzendze but all good things must come to an end and this morning we quickly packed up and were on the H1-6 to Letaba by half past seven. It was only a 50 km drive and we wanted to get there as quickly as possible in order to nab a good position. The Earl tried to keep a steady speed and only stopped for road blocks. We did, however, stop to snap a Tsesebe.
The caravan park was pretty full but as the Earl and I entered, we saw two caravans leaving. “Perhaps they’ve left us a suitable spot,” I said hopefully. The first potential one we saw was near the ablution, quite large and very shady. We drove around a bit more thinking we might have to return to it but found an even better one – number 6 right on the perimeter. Cathy and Alec were ten minutes behind us and I rang to tell them where to find us. When they arrived they approved of our choice and before the heat set in we quickly set up and then went to the restaurant for breakfast and to do some shopping at the Park Shop. There is a new temporary one as the lovely old one they had before burned down in October last year. No progress on rebuilding it has been made.
Later in the afternoon the Earl and I did the Mingerhout Loop and Cathy and Alec did the S62.
Our drive was really beautiful taking us next to the river but perhaps because of the heat there wasn’t much activity but we enjoyed the creatures that did come out to greet us.
First up were two very well camouflaged sandgrouse. These creatures crouch at the side of the road and look just like stones until you’re almost upon them.
At a lovely waterhole we found two elephants having a drink to getether.
A treeful of vultures were also on duty. The Earl took some lovely close-up shots
While we were enjoying our drive Cathy and Alec were having some lovely sightings too.
There was a lovely sunset this evening.
Our campsite is proving to be really good. This afternoon an elephant came to visit and this evening a hyaena patrolled along the fence. As I started blogging, I also heard a hippo. Right now the Scops Owls are croaking out their calls to each other.
As we are in a main rest camp again, we have the internet albeit it a bit slow and so I should be able to
get my posts out each evening from now on. Thanks for following and for the lovely comments on WordPress, Facebook and Gecko WhatsApp Group. And thanks to Cathy for allowing me to post some of her fabulous photographs.
Cathy and I both use Canon PowerShot SX HS. The Earl uses a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
We decided to have breakfast in camp this morning and only left after 9:00 am. We had an interesting ride to Augrabies and were particularly fascinated to see a solar farm with hundreds of solar panels on the side of the road. With all the sun in the semi-desert it certainly makes sense to feed some solar power into the grid.
The caravan park at Augrabies was relatively empty. The Earl and I arrived ahead of Cathy and Alec and we soon found a shady spot to set up. Photos to follow in my next blog.
We parked and did not unhook as the following day we needed to take the Gecko to Upington for new shock absorbers on the tow hitch.
Once settled I went to explore.
I found the signposts to the falls so decided to continue my walk to preview them on my own. It was a crazy thing to do as it was midday and very hot!
Our friends were not far behind us and after they’d set up we had a bite to eat with them before going off for a swim.
After our swim I walked with The Earl to see the falls again. In the afternoon light we could see a rainbow in the spray.
The facilities here at Augrabies are very good. Hopefully, the ablutions will be adequate over the long weekend when I expect the place will fill up. There are only two blocks with two loos and two showers on each of the male and female sides. They are sparkling clean though.
The secret to enjoying a road trip is to take it slowly. What a pleasure not to do long distances on our travelling days. Our morning started with a leisurely cup of tea/coffee and rusks, a chat with fellow campers and then packing up to go.
Gecko 109 have me completely determined to get movers before our next trip. Wow setting up and packing up is a real picnic with the magic wand in the hands of Cathy. A group of fellow campers were standing around chatting as she quietly pressed some buttons and guided her Gecko. Seeing the enormous van slip off on its own caused one gallant prince to leap forward to ‘save’ it. “Don’t worry,” we yelled, “Cathy has everything in her control.” He was totally blown away and I do believe he now plans to upgrade his camping equipment to include this modern device too.
We bade farewell to the wide-eyed spectators and were on our way to Springbok by 8:00 am. The skies were clear and after a slightly chilly start to the day it soon became pleasantly warm.
Our first stop was to refuel and have breakfast in Vanrynsdorp.
Once our vehicles and ourselves were refuelled we continued our journey.
We had not pre-booked a place to overnight but had no trouble getting into Springbok Caravan Park. On arrival there were just a three or four other sites occupied but by 5 pm it was pretty full as a group of five or six trailer campers arrived.
We had two shady campsites next to each other. Everything was in good order. There is a laundry and the wash-up facilities and ablutions are clean and well-maintained.
Our supper tonight was pork rashers, steak, sweet potatoes cooked in tinfoil with a dash of Amarula, butter and salt, gem squash and a salad.
Tomorrow we head for Augrabies.
I know that a number of our fellow Gecko Family members are reading and I thank you all for your support and comments on the WhatsApp group.
The overcast conditions of yesterday were gone and we woke to a bright sunshiny day. Alec was up when I emerged from our Gecko at 8 am. We both put on our kettles and got tea and coffee on the go for our respective spouses. After we were all up for the day we decided to go to the restaurant for breakfast and then hit the hot bath.
I can’t praise this venue enough. The facilities are awesome. Everything is pristine. Our campsite is not very close to the pool but it is shady and private. The road to the pool is narrow and there are the disadvantage of the campsites closer to the pool mean that you are disturbed by the cars passing by.
After our swim The Earl, Cathy and Alec went back to camp but I decided to stay with the intention of walking back later. However, I ended up spending the rest of the day in the shade, reading my book and dipping in and out of the pool for the rest of the day! Although the camp was fully booked the pool was quiet with guests visiting in waves throughout the day.
The Earl came looking for me at 3:30 and stayed for a swim. We met some other guests and we got to chatting about caravanning and camping. They were staying in one of the duplexes. We took them to see the Gecko and then we went to see the duplex which was really lovely. We also got to see the other facilities on offer. There are lovely natural rock pools and jacuzzis that are available to all guests. There is also a salon where you can go for facials, massages and other treatments.
In the evening The Earl, Alec, Cathy and I went to the restaurant to have dinner. It was really good and highly recommended. I had calamari, The Earl had ribs and Cathy and Alec had fillet steak. All were served with chips and a good Greek salad. Afterwards we had an evening swim in the pool before retiring for the night. It was a really good day!
Alec and Cathy, live just up the drag from us in Napier, Western Cape. The only connection we have with them is that they also own a Gecko Off-Road Caravan.
These caravans are manufactured in Haenetsburg a village situated on the edge of the Great Escarpment in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, on the R71 road between Polokwane and Tzaneen en route to the Kruger National Park. It’s a small family business and each of their caravans are numbered. We are 81 and Cathy and Alec ar 109. Since they began in 2013 they have produced 160+ caravans. All Gecko owners belong to a Facebook and WhatsApp group and share tips and information about their caravan and camping experiences and this is how we met up with our ‘neighbours’ just 50km down the drag from us.
So shortly after meeting them they invited us to join them on a spur of the moment, two week Road Trip. It took only a heart beat of thinking to reply and say, Yes indeed we will join you.
Today marked the beginning of our our trip from Stuisbaai/Napier to Citrusdal, The Baths Natural Hot Springs. We decided to leave in our own time and meet up at The Baths.
It poured on Sunday night before departure and was still a bit iffy when we left at 8 am. We stopped to shop at Checkers, Bredasdorp and then at Springfield in Robertson to stock up on wine. It was overcast but not too wet. It was after 10 when we reached Worcester when hunger pangs insisted we stop for breakfast at Mountain Mall. The Wimpy, as usual, provided us with a satisfying and inexpensive breakfast of scrambled egg, cheese griller, bacon and toast. Wimp coffee also never disappoints. A text from Cathy confirmed that they too were having a sandwich and coffee somewhere in Worcester and we were just behind then on the road to Citrusdal. The route was scenic and they arrived just minutes before we did.
Our campsites are 23 A and 23 B. We set up camp and chilled for the rest of the afternoon. How amazing that we met other Struisbaai people camping nearby too. It is indeed a small world.
We had an awesome braai for supper and turned in early this evening. More of our adventures tomorrow.
If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be for? (Covid considerations are suspended for this question)
It would probably be for someone in my family reaching a milestone – like 21, 60, 70 100 etc. I don’t like huge parties where you just don’t get to interact with everyone but sometimes it is necessary. I prefer to celebrate with a Champagne Breakfast and I would serve a variety of fruits, Greek yogurt, muesli, croissants, rolls, small pastries, smoked salmon, ham and other cold cuts, pates, cream cheese and savoury quiches. There would be fresh orange juice and chilled champagne. And everybody would help themselves. There would be both indoor and outdoor seating and everyone would be free to mingle and chat.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? Elaborate.
Sometimes, yes. A stunning sunset/sunrise, a silhouetted giraffe on the horizon, lions having a drink at the waterhole in the early morning light – priceless. You can describe these things in words but the picture tells it far more eloquently.
Where IS Waldo? (Waldo, for those unfamiliar with him, is a cartoon character featured in many “find Waldo” images and puzzles) <—— WALDO
Waldo would be hiding behind a tree at a Kruger National Park picnic site, binoculars glued to his eyes as he searches for a bearded woodpecker.
What’s the best part of waking up?
Finding that I’m still alive!
No seriously – it’s the coffee.
Would you rather be covered in fur or covered in scales? (Wee disclaimer. I’m certainly not advocating the slaughter of creatures and the use of their skins for clothing or accessories. No! This question is a ‘grow your own’ type question…if you had an option of your own skin being made of fur OR scales, which would you choose?)
Fur would be lovely. It would be warm in winter and cool in summer after I moult the winter layer. And imagine the lovely feeling of being stroked – I’d purr like a cat!
GRATITUDE SECTION (Always optional)
Feel free to share your gratitude for our world!
I am grateful for my friend Kim who came to stay bringing her daughter and friend along. We have had such lovely adventures with them which has cheered us up after keeping things low key during Level Three Lockdown. (We’re now on Level One.)
Today we left camp at six o’clock. It was overcast and started at a cool 23 degrees C. There was no wind and it did not rain. The day’s high was 28 degrees C.
We started on the H11. As we crossed the bridge over the Sabie River we had our first sighting of the day – eight hyaena scampering in the river bed. There were five adults and three still outgrowing their black, baby fur.
The birds, at this time of the morning, are very active. The Earl called out that he could hear parrots. We stopped and scanned and this is what we found.
Another special bird to make an appearance was the European Bee-eater
The elegant giraffe were also silently munching their breakfast
There were also plenty of elephants about today.
Just before Kruger Gate we turned left onto the S3 and found a warthog fraternising with a herd of impala.
We then followed the S1 and found kudu and zebra
We were also amused to see two sleepy hyaenas taking their nap in full view of the tourists
We arrived at Nyamundwa Dam at eight o’clock and were delighted to find this scene.
There were waterbuck, blue wildebeest, at least forty zebra, hippo and a few interesting birds. The zebra entertained us with their antics and the waterbuck were also in a frisky mood chasing each other across the veld.
As we continued we came across a black-bellied bustard. What an entertaining bird. He was quite happy to demonstrate his call which sounds like a frog’s croak followed by a pop similar to a cork releasing from a champagne bottle.
It is a very pretty drive to Pretoriouskop and soon the kop came into view.
Because of the dense trees and bush it is not easy to spot animals in this area. However, the birdlife is interesting.
We took a break at Pretoriouskop’s Wimpy which has lovely seating outdoors and in.
We then started our return trip on the H1-1 where a buffalo popped out from the trees to greet us.
Soon after this we turned down a dirt road to a waterhole where we found some giraffe and more buffalo
We then did a detour from S11 to see the Nahpe Boulder
We made another detour to Transport Dam but there was not much to be seen there beside zebra, waterbuck, a yellow-billed stork and some starlings.
We continued our journey and spotted more of the usual suspects, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala etc. De Laporte Waterhole is about 5 km from Skukuza and we turned in there for a look and see. There was absolutely nothing or rather that is what The Earl said but I insisted on scanning with my binoculars and found two crested francolin, a three-banded plover, greater striped swallows and a pin-tailed whydah. They were too far for photos but fun to watch. The Earl was about to start the car and move but I insisted he wait ten minutes. Only three minutes later these giants came silently onto the scene.
They frolicked drank and showered and then turned around and left as silently as they had arrived. The Earl was about to start the car when I noticed more visitors approaching at a rapid rate.
We arrived back at camp at half past one and then went back to the De Laporte at half past four. It was quiet for a while but then European Bee-eaters came swooping down to drink in mid-flight, settle in a dead tree and then swoop down again. It was most entertaining to watch. A few male elephants visited in turn and just before we left it looked like some giraffe might come down but they decided to browse instead.
If we thought moving south was going to be cooler, we were wrong. It is just as hot in this half of the park. This morning at 04:30 it was already 25 degrees C and it got up to 43 by 14h00!
We were on the road to Skukuza with the Gecko in tow by 05:30. Remember the sun is up really early in this part of the world and it was shining brightly at this hour.
We were greeted by the usual gang – impala with their gambolling lambs, zany zebras expecting us to wait patiently as they strolled across the road and grumpy wildebeest turning their heads snootily away from us.
Being in the right place at the right time is what it’s all about when seeking creatures in an African game reserve. This morning Kruger decided to reveal some of her drama to us.
First, we saw two or three stationary cars. Then we saw a scattering of about nine or ten hyaenas. “There must be a kill,” I said and scanned the scene. “Lion – I see a lion under that bush. Wait, there are others!” Altogether I counted five.
As we watched one hyaena after another snatch a bone and run off with it, vultures suddenly dropped down from the sky.
One by one four of the lionesses left the scene, crossed the road in front of the cars and disappeared into the bush. We think they went to find a pond to quench their thirst.
That was quite a lot of excitement for 6:30 in the morning! Luckily it was at a place where we could stand with the caravan and even though it was next to a tar road there were only about four cars there.
We continued our journey and stopped at Tshokwane for breakfast.
At Skukuza, we found a lovely shady spot for the caravan. I needed to do some washing but when I checked out the laundry found that the washing machine was missing! There were two groundsmen about so I asked if there was perhaps another one close by. Fortunately, there was one near the safari tents not far away. After putting on a load, the Earl and I went to the pool to cool off. After the 45 minutes, I walked to the laundry and hung the washing and then we went off for our afternoon drive.
We enjoyed watching our close relatives having a picnic under the trees, noted that the impala lambs were multiplying and there were lots of baby zebras about too.
We ended our drive with a visit to Lake Panic which is my most favourite spot in Kruger. Even at 17:00, it was very hot and the Earl could only take it for fifteen minutes before having to return to the air-conditioned car. I stayed a minute or two longer but as there was not a great deal more to observe, and I didn’t want him to get lonely without me, I left too.
Clouds started gathering as I brought in the washing and a gusting wind began to blow. I decided it would be better to cook in the Remoska rather than braai tonight. We fully expected a thunderstorm during the night.