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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!