Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 44. Kleinplaas to Home

The further south we travelled the colder it became. We were on our way back to winter! This morning at 06:00 it was 5 degrees C and it didn’t rise very much until midday.

We all felt that we’d come to the end of the lollipop and our hearts went plop! The road trip was over. This last leg of the journey was the shortest drive we had to do. We followed Route 62 and stopped at Barrydale’s Country Pumpkin for breakfast. The sun was shining and it was warmer to sit outdoors at a sunny table than inside where it was very cold. We ordered our coffees/teas and enjoyed the warming effect of the hot liquid. When the waitress took our breakfast order she informed us that as we were caravanners we got our first cup free! Good on you Country Pumpkin for being so nice to caravanners! I was the only one to order a second cup. We all had omelettes which were absolutely delicious . They were served with sweet potato crisps and a small pumpkin fritter.

Two Geckos parked outside The Country Pumpkin in Barrydale

From then on we travelled the picturesque Tradeaux pass and it was once again a pleasure not to play dodge the pothole! Western Cape roads are in good condition.

Finally we turned onto the homeward road.

When we got to Bredasdorp we stopped to say an emotional goodbye before splitting to go to our respective homes in Napier and Struisbaai. You really become close to your friends when you spend forty-four days together!

Other friends, Yolandi and Carl and their daughter, Lisa had been staying in our house while waiting to move into their new home in Napier. Yesterday Yolandi sent a cryptic message to the Earl, “Ollie and Benji can’t wait to meet you.” Who were Ollie and Benjy? Hint – The Earl is a bunny hugger!

Hello, We love your garden. Please can this be our new forever home? Benji in front Ollie behind

Of course the Earl was over the moon. I was less so – who would look after them when we travel? We have been assured that a bunny-sitter, living nearby has already been found.

We like it here!

What a lovely end to our adventure.

Thank you all for following our adventure. I hope those of you who have never been to KNP feel the urge to put this wonderful reserve on your bucket list. Should you wish to find out more about booking a Sanparks Holiday, see my tips here.

Dankie aan al die Gecko Familielede wat elke dag saam met ons gery het. Dankie vir die pragitge kommentare op WhatsApp en FaceBook. Ek hoop dat die inligting wat ek ingesluit het, nuttig is.

Tot volgende keer – Totsiens.

PS A fellow blogger, Bushboy, from Australia asked what Bobotie (which I ate for dinner last night) is, so for my non-South African readers here is a brief explanation.

Bobotie is a curried mince dish with a milk and egg custard poured over and baked in the oven. It was imported from Indonesia in the seventeenth century then adapted by the Cape Malay community whose origins are from Indonesia and Malaysia. Click on the caption for a recipe.

Recipe for Bobotie

Two Geckos on a Road Trip – Day 4 – Springbok to Augrabies

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.

Entrance to the pristine Augrabies Rest Camp

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.

The pond nearby had but one bird – a reed cormorant enjoying a fishing expedition
A rock sprouts a tree and I struggle to get anything to grow in my fertile garden!
There were plenty of pale-winged starlings about
I found two swimming pools and both were sparkling. The Earl and I spent an hour cooling off here later in the day

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!

These curious guys, sensibly resting in the shade must have thought I was nuts to be out in the midday sun
This one tried to hide in the foliage of a tree
I found the falls – lovely but not as thundering as I had expected

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 walkway is well maintained
A lovely rainbow in the falls
These guys were everywhere too.

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.

More about Augrabies in the coming days.

Travelling in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Farewell

Thursday 3 December 2020

When I was very young Max Bygraves sang a song about the feeling one had when coming to the end of eating a lollipop. That song always comes to mind when something I really enjoy comes to an end. All that is left after enjoying a lollipop is the stick.

But unlike the one which Max refers to, the stick I have left, holds all the memories of yet another amazing holiday in The Kruger National Park! Little did Mr Bygraves know that decades on, ‘stick,’ would have another meaning.

This morning was cool and overcast and the temperature the lowest it’s been since our arrival thirty-three days ago. However, 18 degrees C did not last long and by midday it was in the mid-twenties.

We left for our drive at quarter past six starting with the Matjulu Loop then made our way to Afsaal picnic site on the H3 for breakfast.

It was very quiet but a few creatures showed up to say farewell.

There were heaps of buffalo lounging about.

Goodbye – Thanks for visiting – Sorry for not getting up but it is rather early

The ellies were milling about too.

Nice meeting you – have a good trip home

All all along the loop there were a variety of vultures hanging about in trees.

Yes, we know. You’re going to miss the vulture trees. See you next year.
It ws great seeing you again!
I’m not just a pretty face! Come back soon!

We came upon a hyaena den where there were two adults and just one pup visible. The others must have been hiding.

You’re leaving tomorrow?
Say goodbye, Henry – remember your manners.
Sally Sabota sang us a farewell song

Zig-zags of zebra were grazing in the veld and several had young.

Zack, the smallest zebra baby we have ever seen was surprised to hear we were leaving so soon.

It was still chilly when we got to Afsaal Picnic site so we put on jackets to sit at the outdoor tables. They don’t do English breakfasts only toasted sandwiches using roosterkoek which I am not particularly fond of. It is a traditional South African bread baked on a grid over the coals. They are made from flour, yeast, salt, sugar, oil, and water, rolled into small balls of dough then brushed with butter and grilled until charred. We settled for wraps instead. The Earl had chicken mayo and I had a delicious one made with roasted aubergine (egg plant) and a few other ingredients.

The Earl looking a bit grumpy about the last African Bush Breakfast for a while.
Afsaal Picnic Site tries to keep a traditional African atmosphere
The Trading Store

On our return trip the rhinoceroses showed up to say goodbye.

We are not going to come out unless you promise to stay another day or two!
Excuse my two rude friends – Goodbye and please come again.
Mom says I must pose nicely for you as you are such regular visitors. I’m sure I will have grown by next year!
You’re leaving?
If that’s how you feel – goodbye then!

We saw lions far in the distance but they did not come close enough to bid us farewell. But that’s okay. We chatted a few days ago.

I know you’ll be back – I’m not walking all that way just to say goodbye!

We returned to the camp at midday and did some laundry and sorted out the caravan for our return trip. At three o’clock we decided to go for one last drive. What a good decision that was because Leopold was not going to let us leave the park without at least one Big Five day!

At first he hid shyly behind the foliage
Then he decided to come down
Here I come
You’ve got your Big Five day and I know I’m the best of them all!
See you next time!

We were lucky enough to be the second car on the scene and had wonderful views of him. The Earl took all the above photos of Leopold Leopard.

The rest of our drive was quiet but we were delighted that the kudu were polite enough to a us a last farewell

Cheerio

Friday 4 December 2020

This morning we were up by four o’clock and had the caravan packed and hitched by five. Malelane Gate opens at half past five but they let us out at twenty-five past. We are now overnighting at Midmar Dam and tomorrow will make our way to Kokstad where we will spend ten days with our relatives there. The internet is almost non-existent on the farm so I won’t be blogging much for a while.

Thank you to everyone who has followed regularly or dropped in now and then. Watch this space for more news of my soon to be published book, “A Judge Decided”, and other travel tales in the future.

Travelling in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Satara to Skukuza

Tuesday 1 December 2020

It was not a good start to the day again this morning. Yes, the water was working but my back was not! Thank goodness there was no heavy packing to do.

By six o’clock we were on the road and I soon cheered up when the creatures started to greet us. On the H1-3 we were happy to see wildebeest, zebra and impala. The baboons were also quite amusing. And of course we stopped to snap a bird or two.

Oh please let school open soon – homeschooling is driving me nuts!
A majestic ‘blond’ tawny eagle

Just before Tshokwane picnic site, the Earl called out, ‘hyaena!”

He had stolen a lovely bone from somewhere

His friends came to join him but he was not sharing. They had to find their own bones.

We stopped at the picnic site for coffee at about half past seven and although they were not officially open they made us each an Americano. Definitely the best coffee in the park at this place and the staff are friendly and helpful. The Earl went to the shop and found that they were selling buff pies and even though it was a bit early for such fare, we indulged! Well – my back was sore – I needed comfort food.

The H1- 2 gave us a big surprise. It was quarter past eight and the temperature was already 30 degrees C.

A morning nap was definitely needed.

The trip to Skukuza did not take long and we arrived at half past nine and set up in a lovely shady spot. My back was no better so I decided to medicate. Myprodol is my drug of choice. I use it only when I am in real pain and it usually works quite quickly. I lay flat until around half past two when we went for our afternoon drive. I already felt loads better.

The temperature had soared to 40 degrees C. We thought a nice long drive to Lower-Sabie in our air-conditioned vehicle was the best way to deal with it. Being so hot the first hour did not produce much but then – two sleepy lionesses hiding in the shade of some thorn bushes.

She stuck her snout in the air and refused to chat to us
And her friend didn’t even have the decency to wake up
Oh what bliss!
Giraffe always improve the scenery

By the time we arrived at Sunset Dam, just outside Lower Sabie Rest Camp, it had clouded over and a storm was threatening. We saw the usual crocodiles, hippos, weavers, jacanas, stilts. storks and water dikkops. Some impala also came down to drink.

Black winged stilt
Slaking their thirst
Lesser-masked Weaver
Mr Pied Kingfisher
And a legawan put in an appearance too

We popped into Lower Sabie for a loo break and to buy some water and then made our way back. The rain came down quite hard and there was thunder and lightning which was a tad scary!

There were lots of vultures decorating the trees and marabou storks and tawny eagles were on the banks of the river too. None of the photographs are good enough to post here.

When we got to the place where we’d seen the lions there were three or four cars blocking the road. We saw one of the lionesses moving through the bush. She was not easy to photograph. We wanted to move on but the cars would not move. When we finally maneuvered into a space we saw that they were staring at a lioness in the middle of the road. Fine, but she was going nowhere so please move to the side so we can get through. That was not going to happen and when cars from the opposite direction arrived on the scene they too parked three abreast. The poor Earl was frantic. No way did he want to miss gate closing time!

What’s all the fuss about? Haven’t you seen a lion on the road before?
Oh for Goodness sake, people. Move on!

Eventually, somebody started moving past stationery cars forcing them to move out of the way and that created a gap for escape.

We made it through the gate by six o’clock. My back by now was almost back to normal. We both went for a shower and then to the Cattle Baron for their famous Chateaubriand. We just can’t resist it every time we’re at Skukuza.

A perfect end to a lovely day

Travelling in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Letaba to Satara

Monday 30 November 2020

It was not a good start to the morning. I’d been awake since pre-dawn, listening to the sounds of the bush. The cicadas who had been silent all day yesterday suddenly awoke and started their buzzing. As the light started creeping into the sky I got up and went to the ablution. I was looking forward to a nice hot shower and a hair wash. I turned on the tap – Nada! Not even a drop! As you can imagine I was not a happy camper! All I could do was use our bottled water to brush my teeth and give myself a lick and a promise. At least there was boiling water on tap that we could use to make coffee. Don’t, please, deprive me of my coffee first thing in the morning!

I consoled myself with the fact that at least I didn’t have to face the public. I could hide in the car and only the creatures of the veld would see me.

“I’ll shower as soon as I get to Satara,” I told the Earl. He just laughed. Why are these things unimportant to men!

We had our coffee, bade our neighbours who were also leaving goodbye and were on the road to Satara by 5:45.

As usual when towing we only stopped briefly to greet our friends of the veld.

Not in the mood to start the day just yet.
Walter Warthog down on his knees – lucky thing found more water than I did!
About time you showed up, Korri – You haven’t been around much lately have you?

After spotting the Kori Bustard, I called out, “Jackal!

“Where?” said the Earl.

“There,” I replied. “Quite far behind that bush.”

“What bush?”

“The dryish one.”

“Which dryish one?”

“Okay – you see that tall tree way back there? Well keep coming toward the car from there and you will see him.”

But still he couldn’t see it.

It’s quite far away
Scan with your binoculars – It’s behind a log
Oh, there! You said far away – That’s just here!

Conversations like the above are common in The Kruger National Park!

We continued our journey and stopped for some more special sightings.

Brown Snake-eagle
Yellow Mongoose
Grumpy Gnu gives us a look while Zelda Zebra laughs at Gilbert having a sand bath

When we arrived at Satara we found that our friends, Jim and Maureen’s caravan was still parked in their spot. They were due to leave yesterday but when they returned from their drive we found out that they’d extended their stay till Thursday.

We found a shady spot near them, unhitched the caravan, went for a very welcome shower and then after a short rest went for another drive. We did the S100 which produced all the usual suspects.

Me enjoying a giraffe sighting’
Just ignore here – She’s snapping that camera again!

The Earl captured an African Hoopoe with prey!

We found three different swallow species in one tree

White-throated
Red-breasted
Lesser Striped
Donkeys in striped pyjamas were everywhere. “Does my ‘ass’ look fat in these stripes?”
Hurry Mom – I don’t like those humans staring at us
Uh oh, She spotted me!
We are rather cute, aren’t we!

We also visited Sweni Hide but didn’t stay long as it was rather hot.

Mrs Saddlebill was on her own
Kevin Crake had some fun
Ian and Ivor Impie fighting for dominance

We rested at camp until about half past four and then went out along the Orpen Road to see if anything came to the dam. A few elephants came down and there were some lovely ducks.

Mom and baby having fun
Proud as Punch with the knob on his nose
Eyes right but there’s always that one duck! White-faced ducks
We also got the Levaillan’ts Cuckoo

On our way back to camp we were held up by a road block of elephants. We watched them for a while and were delighted with the antics of the tiniest of the herd.

Ha – Got here before you, now you can jolly well wait!
The tiniest member of the herd
Don’t mess with our baby – you’ll come off second best!
And I’m not afraid on anyone!

In the evening we joined Jim and Maureen for a delicious Pork Belly dinner cooked by Jim in their black pot.

The Boys
The Girls – ching ching

It was a simply stunning evening with a full moon shining

And to top it all we had an uninvited visitor.

Abe the African Wild Cat felt quite at home. He sat under the car and groomed himself just like your kitty at home would do. But, don’t be fooled – try to pet him and you will regret it!

Travelling in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Punda Maria to Letaba

After bidding farewell to our new friends, Terry and Christie, we were on the road to Letaba by half past six this morning. It was a beautiful day with just a few white fluffy clouds crimping the sky. The temperature was soon in the high twenties. Once again, because we were towing, we took only the tar roads. Stopping to see creatures was kept to a minimum. Our first road block came in the form of three elegant giraffe gliding first in single file on the road in front of us and then deciding to go abreast before changing course and heading into the veld.

As far as the creatures of the game reserve are concerned, the road is for them, not the tourists!

At quarter past seven we came to a T-junction where we needed to turn right. There was a waterhole straight ahead and the Earl remarked that there was an elephant there. “Lovely,” I said and then looked left to check for approaching cars.

Isn’t it strange how the brain works, “Wild Dog,” came out of my mouth before I actually realised what I’d seen. They were facing in the opposite direction to where we needed to go but we could see them beautifully from the stop sign. They hung around until they were all ready to trot off.

“Wild Dog,” who said that? Oh it was me! Now I’m excited.
Are we all ready? Let’s go!

A car from behind must have been impatient that we did not move so crept up next to us. When he saw the dogs he turned right then made a u-turn to follow them. Unfortunately, that was not an option for us.

As we continued on our way I was struck by the beauty of our surroundings. The Kruger is like another planet and it felt like I was an alien taking in its beauty as if seeing it for the first time. The different shades of green in the grass, bushes and trees. The sky seemed enormous and the expanse of the earth seemed to go on forever, unbroken by man-made structures. Every now and then an elephant, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest or waterbuck put in an appearance. A yellow-billed kite then a bateleur soared in the sky. I felt privileged, really lucky to be able to experience all this wildness and peace so other than my normal life.

Another exciting moment presented itself. We saw a stationary car up ahead. I was in the back seat and looked left. The Earl looked right. “Lions!” he said. And I slid over to the right. There under a tree were three lionesses preparing for a nap.

Good Morning – sorry my sisters are hiding behind the tree.

At 9:30 we arrived at Mopani for breakfast. The Fish Eagle Terrace overlooks Pioneer Dam and is such a pleasant place to enjoy your morning meal. Afterwards we walked to the deck below to observes some birds.

A special one to see – the Paradise Fly-catcher – the male would not pose but we got his wife.

We then went to the park shop as Letaba’s burnt down store is still not rebuilt. As we were leaving we heard the call of the Klaas’s Cuckoo. It was loud and obviously the bird was very close, up in the leafy green tree. “Let’s put our shopping in the car and come back and have a good look, ” suggested the Earl. This bird is always elusive and I had my doubts that we would find him but it was worth a try. The temperature was already in the thirties so seeking it in the heat was not very comfortable. After several frustrating minutes the Earl saw it and with his help I found it too. Now to get a photograph – what a joke! It kept flying from one branch to another and expertly hid itself in the foliage, teasing us with its loud ‘matie, matie, matie,’ call.

Gotcha, you sneaky thing – Don’t try to hide behind that leaf!
Oh alright, I’ll pose nicely then.

Thank you Mr Klaas, I appreciate your being so obliging.

Who would have thought that a national park would have so many zebra crossings. No, not the stripy things across the road, real zebra crossing over! We had plenty of those as well as buffalo mowing the edges of the road.

Thanks for keeping the roadside neat, Mr Buffalo.

We arrived at Letaba a midday and it was probably about 40 degrees C. We are only here for one night so we did not even set up the awning but found a nice perimeter site with a concrete slab on which to park the caravan. Once we had the caravan level on its stays the Earl went off to the pool and I took a load of washing to the laundrette and then joined him a few minutes later.

So refreshing

After half an hour I nipped back to take the laundry out of the machine and popped it into the dryer. It’s R20 well spent, I believe. We then spent another hour or so in the pool and had just got back to the caravan when a strong wind blew up. Our neighbours were out and their tent looked like it would blow away so the Earl and I quickly did some securing. And then down came the rain. We were going to go for a drive but decided against it. We did not want to find ourselves caught in a storm outside of the camp. How strange that from a perfectly calm day such heavy rain can suddenly disturb your plans! It lasted for about two hours and then stopped.

When our young neighbours returned, nothing had blown away but their gazebo was wet and they needed to pack it up for departure tomorrow. They soon had it dried and their pack up went smoothly.

The weather cleared sufficiently for us to make a lovely braai and sit outdoors to enjoy it.

As I finish this post, I hear hyaena laughing, the barred owl screeching and the scops owl competing with its less harsh, intermittent prrrp. The cicadas for once are totally silent. I shall soon be drifting off into a wonderfully peaceful sleep.

Travelling in the Time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Letaba to Mopani and Back

Saturday 21 November 2020

It is an early start this morning. The cicadas are ringing in our ears as we wake and get ready for the day. At quarter past five we leave Letaba and make our way to Mopani Rest Camp for breakfast. We had heard hyaena laughing and lion roaring in the distance but will we find them?

It is a cool 23 degrees, there is no wind and the sky is slightly cloudy. It promises to be a ‘cool’ day. In fact temperatures do not rise above 30 degrees C and the average hovers around 28. Believe me that is cool by Kruger standards.

We decide to have a competition today. I keep the list and whoever sees the first of a species for the day gets a point. In the case of birds one has to be able to identify the species correctly to get the point otherwise the other gets a point too.

I believe I am the better spotter and The Earl believes that he is. He complains that being the driver puts him at a disadvantage as he has to concentrate on the road. I say that driving keeps him alert and aware of his surroundings while I have to keep the list so my head is often down updating which puts me at more of a disadvantage. Also I have from time to time check my bird app to ensure we have correctly identified a species. It is agreed that we are evenly matched and the game is on!

I am the first to spot an animal – A hyaena but it dashes away and the photos is blurred. We see a fellow camper, Dave, who is travelling alone. We pull up next to him and he tells us he is waiting for the lions that we heard to appear. We don’t have the same patience and move on and then stop to look down on the river where there is quite a bit of bird activity. This is fun – there are lots of birds to spot and the Earl is the first to get Burchell’s coucal, grey heron, little swift and fish eagle. He also sees the hippo first. I get grey hornbill, great white egret and green-backed heron. He is beating me and I don’t like it!

Great White Egret and Grey Heron
Greta Grey Heron catches a ride on Horace Hippo’s back – She uses her wings to balance as he moves forward

“Thanks for the ride, Horace,” she says. “You’re welcome,” he replies

I then spot the squacco but the Earl spies a brown-crowned tchagra. I’m not winning at this game!

Squacco Heron

An eagle drops down and we are both foxed as to what it could be. It strikes me that it’s an immature something or other so I suggest it could be a fish eagle. Upon checking I find that I am right so claim a point for that! The Earl is not amused.

Immature Fish Eagle

We continue our drive and see the usual gang of gnus, necks of giraffe, zip of zebra, clumps of elephant and even a warthog, ostrich and another two hyaena. The competition is becoming close. At the confluence lookout we find Saddle-billed and Woolly-necked stork

He then finds jacana, spoonbill, stilt, Egyptian Goose and wattled starling. I claim a point for identifying the latter.

We move on stopping at various points beside the river to find still more birds. Soon we are pretty even but the Earl is still ahead.

On the River Loop we are told by a fellow traveller that there are lion in the dry river bed. We look with our binoculars and find a pride of lionesses lounging in the sun. They are too far for a photo but a few km further one of the pride is guarding their kill – not a good photo either but it’s an impression shot.

Lioness guarding the buffalo kill
Woolly-necked Stork
Female Saddle-billed stork

When we stop at Mopani’s Fish Eagle Terrace for breakfast, the Earl is still ahead but I’m gaining fast. He leaves his binoculars in the car but I take mine and my camera too.

Entrance to Mopani’s Restaurant

The Tindlovu restaurants in Kruger offer a lovely menu and their “The One” breakfast for under R50 is perfect. It’s supposed to be one egg, one piece of bacon, one grilled tomato and one slice of toast but they add an extra egg at no added cost. Their coffee is good too.

We sit at a table on the deck which overlooks the river. The birdlife is awesome and I start spotting one after another. The Earl says, “I’m not spotting now – it’s breakfast time.” “You can spot while you wait,” I reply. But he doesn’t want to play. I claim the points anyway!

Golly, it’s a Goliath Heron
Giant Kingfisher
Mocking Chat
White-faced Ducks

After breakfast, I have almost caught up to the Earl in points! On our way to Shipandani Hide we find a car whose occupants are staring into the bush. They point out a male lion. Nearby is a Tsessebe that he and his mate have killed and half eaten. The lion is hiding behind the leaves of a mopane tree.

I get a good photo of his teeth!

The female is asleep nearby but something disturbs her and she gets up to sniff around before flopping down again. We manage to get some photographs

As we approach Shipandani we find a huge herd of buffalo

We also visit pioneer dam and find a cute hippo having a nap.

By now it is time for a loo break so we go to Mooiplaas picnic site which is another of the wonderful rustic sites in the Kruger National Park. Phineas is in charge here and he makes sure everything is pristine. While I am at the loo, the Earl chats to him and he shows him where an owl resides.

Mooiplaas Picnic Site
Resident Scops Owl

Phineas also takes us to Tsendze Camp to see the barred owl but he is not there. But back at Mooiplaas Phineas has a surprise.

A Paradise Fly-catcher on its nest

This is certainly the highlight of my day.

Other creatures we see and score points for.

Tsessebe
Steenbok

We return to camp at about one o’clock and rest during the heat of the day. At quarter to four we go out again and do the Mingerhout loop. It is quite quiet but we get some interesting sightings

Zebra
And of course giraffe

There are quite a few elephants too and the usual yellow-billed storks, spoonbills, Egyptian Geese etc. From time to time we hear red-crested korhaan calling but they refuse to show themselves. Then the Earl spots one camouflaging quite well. We hear the clack, clacking of its beak and then the piercing whistle. Suddenly he flies up into the air, curls up into a ball and free-falls to the earth. This is an amazing display he does in order to impress a mate!

Red-crested Korhaan

We arrive back at camp at six o’clock. I am the winner of the competition with 30 points to The Earl’s 26. My prize is to cook dinner! I make a chicken casserole in my electric Romosca pot. It has been a wonderful day!

Travelling during the time of Covid – Kruger National Park – Day 4 – Skukuza to Pretoriouskop and Back

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.

They were all over the place and very active but I managed to get three into one frame

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.

Brown-headed parrots decorating the dead trees
A close-up of two of them

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.

Red-collared widowbird
Lilac-breasted Roller
Crested Barbet

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

The ashes of Joseph France Ludorf who had a great deal to do with the early establishment of the park
are scattered here.

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.

These were the first
The rest of the troop weren’t far behind

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.

The three little pigs must have been waiting for the elephants to leave before they rushed down to quench their thirst
And then the oxpecker groomers arrived for work
Just checking to see if your nostrils need cleaning
Looking good, Mr Piggy
All done – could you please give us a lift home?

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.

And so ended a most pleasant day.

Gecko Goes to Kruger – A Bad Hair Day at Lower Sabie

9 December 2019

We have been in Kruger for close on a month now and have experienced all the pleasures and trials of caravanning.  Thank Goodness we gave up rooftop tenting some time ago.  Now that we’re ‘glamping’ we can deal with all the hassles that may befall us as far as heat, wind and rain are concerned. This trip we have had it all!

It rained during the night and it was still raining when we woke up this morning.  We decided not to go out at an impolite hour so lay in until 06:30.     By then it had calmed down to a drizzle and we got up and walked to the ablutions for a shower.  Yesterday, at reception,  we put in a complaint about no hot water.  This morning I am pleased to report that the problem was resolved.

We then went to the restaurant for breakfast.  It was still raining but we enjoyed watching the hippos frolicking in the river.

IMG_7635 Hippos 2019-12-09 7-55-06 AMIMG_7637 Hippos 2019-12-09 7-55-28 AM

At 08:00 we set off for our wet morning drive.  The temperature was 19 degrees C and did not drop any lower.   We took the tar road to Crocodile Bridge and back as most of the dirt roads were closed.   Before taking the Croc Bridge road we popped in at Sunset Dam

IMG_7647 Crocodiles at Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-14-01 AM
A pile of crocodiles

IMG_7653 Hippos Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-15-56 AM
Playful hippos

IMG_7673 Wood Sanpiper Sunset Dam 2019-12-09 8-23-36 AM
Wood Sandpiper, I think.

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A Ruff, I think

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Black-winged Stilt

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Collection of birds – Stilts, Jacana and Egyptian Goose

Taking photographs on a rainy day is challenging.  If you take the photograph through a closed window there will be raindrops in your picture.  Open the window and your lens gets wet and so do you!   It was a matter of taking the shot and immediately drying off the camera, the inside of the car and yourself!  Well – we chose to come to Kruger in the rainy season so we have to suffer the consequences!

Today we took a few bird photos.  Most of them were having a bad hair day.

P1190306 Bad Hair Day Fish Eagle 2019-12-09 12-22-32 PM
African Fish Eagle

P1190287 Juvenile Bateleur bad hair day 2019-12-09 9-55-19 AM
Immature Bateleur

IMG_7734 Bateluer Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-37-58 AM
Finally an adult Bateur posed for me

P1190269 Bateleur 2019-12-09 9-50-16 AM
The Earl got a shot after she’d smoothed down her feathers.

IMG_7706 Swainson's Spurfowl Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-01-55 AM
A Swainson’s Spurfowl trying to deal with the weather

IMG_7708 Purple Roller Bad Hair Day 2019-12-09 9-06-49 AM
The Purple Roller always looks rougher than his cousin the Lilac-breasted but it’s worse on a rainy day.

A few other birds were looking particularly lovely in spite of the weather.

IMG_7698 Cattle Egret breeding plumage 2019-12-09 8-55-34 AM
The Cattle Egret is always a pretty bird but is particularly so when dressed up for courting.

IMG_7721 Green Pigeons 2019-12-09 9-17-45 AM
A treeful of Green Pigeons

IMG_7713 Green Pigeon 2019-12-09 9-15-44 AM
This one might need to comb his moustache

We saw very few mammals.  Elephants were conspicuous by their absence as were the buffalo.  Only impala, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe showed themselves.

P1190290 Giraffe 2019-12-09 10-25-17 AM
Giraffe – always elegant no matter what the weather

IMG_7746 Impala Babies 2019-12-09 9-46-24 AM
The cutest Impala lambs

IMG_7748 Mom and Impala Babies 2019-12-09 9-46-32 AM
Mom keeps a close eye on them

At Crocodile Bridge Camp we had a coffee and then went back to Lower Sabie.  After a rest, we went out at 16:00.  We saw the usual suspects but it was raining hard and we didn’t take any photographs.

The rain had almost stopped when we returned so we took down the canopy and packed the groundsheet away.   Packing up camp in the rain is not the most pleasant experience so it’s best to do it when conditions are bearable.

Once we were done with packing up we went to the restaurant for dinner.  Lower Sabie has a Mug and Bean which is not my favourite franchise in any part of the country.  There were a few of them in the park but all were closed down because of bad service.  This morning’s breakfast was good and dinner was okay.  I had the rump steak, asked for rare but it came medium and was not very tasty. I had to add salt.  The vegetables and salad made up for it and one can’t complain about the price.   The Earl had ribs which he said were a little dry.

Loads shedding is a problem all over the country and one would think that Mug and Bean would be prepared.  Luckily our food arrived before the power went off.   Why, we wondered, did M&B not have candles on the tables?  Why did they not have an emergency generator?   Foreign guests were dumbfounded to find they would have to wait for up to an hour before they could put in their orders for food.  Not good enough, Bug and Mean!

Tomorrow, we will be going to Crocodile Bridge for two nights and then our sojourn in the park will be over!

Gecko Goes to Kruger – Lower Sabie

8 December 2019

Clearly, the school holidays have started as today we saw more cars than usual on the Kruger roads.   It’s lovely to see families enjoying the wild.  It is the most awesome way to spend a holiday.  We have had our grandchildren in The Park with us before and they just loved it.

When I booked at very short notice for this holiday, I had no problems getting the camps that I desired.  The only camp that was a little tricky was Lower Sabie – it was totally booked up except for the three nights that I wanted.   So I was a little surprised and disappointed to find that this is the worst maintained camp of all that we have visited this year.  There was no hot water in the ablutions this morning.  The men’s side had blocked drains, no benches in the shower cubicle and only one hook on which to hang a towel and clothing.  Two of the camp kitchens that I went to did not have boiling water on tap.  The third kitchen I tried did.  It is really a beautiful camp and it is a pity that management here is so poor.

It rained quite heavily last night and it was still raining when we got up at 4:30 am this morning.  After a cold shower, we set off at 5:30.    It’s lovely to have the rain in Kruger but it does mean that the animals are hiding somewhere we can’t see them and when we do photography is difficult.  So today I am simply going to show you the highlights of what we saw.

IMG_7468 Hippo in a small pond 2019-12-08 5-47-47 AM
When you have a whole river to swim in why would you choose a tiny, muddy pond?

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Baby Elephant

IMG_7488 Eye to eye with an elephant 2019-12-08 9-18-42 AM
I’d just taken a cell phone photo when this ellie and I had an encounter.  The Earl took the photo

Of course, birds feature a great deal.

IMG_7491 Brown-headed Parrot 2019-12-08 9-24-28 AM
Lovely to spot some Brown-headed parrots.  This one was all wet!

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A Black-bellied Bustard spread his wings and fluffed up his feathers

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A treeful of cattle egrets

IMG_7529 Green-winged Pytilia 2019-12-08 10-28-57 AM 2019-12-08 10-28-57 AM
A Green-winged Pytilia

IMG_7561 Blue Waxbill 2019-12-08 11-04-55 AM
A Blue Waxbill

IMG_7565 Treeful of Wattled Starlings 2019-12-08 2-54-35 PM
A treeful of Wattled Starlings

IMG_7568 Male Wattled Starling 2019-12-08 2-54-56 PM
Male Wattled Starling

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An immature Martial Eagle

IMG_7573 Treeful of Barn Swallows 2019-12-08 3-09-35 PM
A Treeful of Barn Swallows

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Zebra and Giraffe enjoying each other’s company

P1190239 Giraffe And Zebra 2019-12-08 3-27-01 PM
Giraffe Browse – Zebra Graze so they do not compete for food.

 

P1190245
Wildebeest

 

IMG_7588
Warthogs

This morning, just outside the camp we found this impala carcass hanging in a tree.  There was no sign of the leopard who had obviously left it there.  Unless a ranger had put there as a joke!?   A few cars decided to wait and see if the predator would return.  I’m afraid we don’t have that kind of patience.  We went past it again on our return and there were still cars waiting  – nobody had seen any sign of a leopard.  When we went out in the afternoon – same story.  And on our return at 5 pm, all that could be seen was the impala hanging in the tree but still, there was a traffic jam!

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Leopard’s pantry – perhaps he likes his meat well hung!

It will be interesting to see whether the impala is still hanging there tomorrow.

This evening the Earl cooked a curry in the Smart Space pots and we sat outdoors and enjoyed the wonderful ambience of a wildlife campsite.  Two bushbabies came to visit and entertained us with their amazing ability to bounce from the ground and into the trees.

I can’t imagine a more perfect place to be.