A great start to 2011 Part 1 Kokstad to Mountain Zebra

vSaturday 1 January 2011

Well another year has begun.   What are my plans for this year?  I have absolutely idea.   We had such a crazy 2010 that I think we should just take this year as it comes.  I have not planned any holidays except for the ones we are about to take on our way home from Kokstad.   Will we do Kruger again this year?  Probably but who knows – we shall see what comes up. Perhaps an overseas trip – perhaps just chill at home!

This is the year that Jay starts High School.  That is the one big thing on my mind. He will no longer be just metres from school, he will have more than one teacher, I won’t know them intimately and will not be able to give him as much help, as I have been able to at Primary School.   I will talk to the Student Counsellor and ensure that he has a facilitator for exams but he is going to have to take a lot more responsibility for his own progress than before.  I can only pray that he will mature sufficiently to make the most of his high school years.

The weather improved today and it was quite warm.   I read in the morning then went to Murray Mackenzie for lunch as it is also his birthday today.   We had a very pleasant time sitting outdoors and watching the kids in the pool and chatting – a good family time.

The thunderstorm came preventing Earliebird from taking the kids to the dam to fish.  I popped over to Barbara to see if I could fix her computer problems but it seems she will have to take it to an expert.

We got home at about half past three.  Earliebird and I read and he finished his book.  I only managed to finish The Help later in the evening after supper and watching Sherlock Holmes on T.V.

Sunday 2 January 2011

We slept in quite late this morning then spent some time sorting out our packing.  Earliebird got the kids roped in to clean the car –what a difference after two weeks of farm dirt and mud! After lunch we had nap and when I woke up there was thunder, lightning and heavy rain – it had been raining on and off all day and now it was pouring.   We were meant to go to Barbara and Andrew for afternoon tea but Earliebird was not prepared to go out in the storm nor to get the car sullied againJ

Lauren and Allan did a chicken in the Weber – under the thatch boma – and after supper we watched Alice in Wonderland then went to bed.

Monday 3 January 2011

We left Kaag’s Post in drizzly weather just after 6 this morning. Josh was first up to say goodbye then Jay.  Simon came through sleepily but Shan slept on until I whispered goodbye in her ear. Earliebird was on his way to do the same but she got up to spend the last few minutes with us.

The rain continued all the way to Queenstown.   Everywhere we looked there was water where there had never been water before.  Every ditch, donga and gully was full.  Wonderful to see and much needed by the farmers of East Griqualand and the Eastern Cape.   We stopped in Queenstown to buy bread and get something to eat.  We thought the Pick ‘n Pay Centre just outside the town would be our quietest bet – how wrong we were – first we had to negotiate our way through town then when we got there we fought a traffic jam of note.   Luckily we found parking for our car and trailer in a tandem bay.   First stop was a loo – I paid R1 for grotty facilities.   The only restaurant looked sus so we bought chicken mayonnaise subs from Pick ‘n Pay, got into the car  and made as speedy a getaway as possible.   Remind me never to seek refreshment in Queenstown again!

The weather remained overscast but dry the closer we got to MZNP. We arrived at the gate at ten to two and were greeted by a friendly and efficient official.   He checked our booking and wild card, gave us clear directions and wished us a pleasant stay.  We were hugely impressed.

The park was green but looked like it had not received rain that day.   The man at the gate told us their last rain had been on Thursday.   The first creatures to greet us were white-tailed Gnus (black wildebeest).  Red Hartebeest were shy and ran off as soon as we tried to take their portraits.  We were pleasantly surprised at how plentiful the game was – springbuck, eland, kudu, zebra, gemsbok etc were all grazing and browsing contentedly.

Cape Mountain Zebra

We drove slowly to reception and saw a nice variety of game and birds – white tailed gnus (black wildebeest), red hartebeest, springbok, kudu, blesbok, barn and striped swallows, ostrich, brown-hooded kingfisher, white-browed sparrow-weaver and fiscal fly-catcher.
We arrived at reception at 3 and  were once again impressed by the friendliness and efficiency. Small park – better service. We were assigned to cottage 12 for the mobility challenged but I still wondered it was sufficiently adapted to a wheelchair user as the spaces were small.

We went out again at quarter to five and were delighted to find Mountain Zebra, blesbok, eland, monkeys and buffalo as well as the other species mentioned before. Birds included grey-backed cisticola, blue crane, Cape Longclaw, Karoo robin, lots of ant-eating chat and Namaqua dove.

Red Hartebeest
Buffalo
Kudu
4 January 2011

We went out at quarter past six and went in search of the blue korhaan but we did not find it! But the park had other things to offer. The overcast weather had cleared and we had a lovely cool morning – 16degC going up to 22 by 9 o’clock.

We enjoyed watching a group of red hartebeest interacting at a muddy puddle, rolling in the muck, drinking and sparring with each other.

Red Hartebeest Baby

Red Hartebeest Baby

Sparring

Muddy horns

Interesting birds seen were pin tailed whydah, grey-headed sparrows (lots), steppe buzzard, Eastern clapper lark and acacia-pied barbet. There were 2 clappers, mom and junior I think. We managed to get reasonable pics.

Eastern Clapper Larks

Eastern Clapper Lark

Our morning drive ended at 9:30 and there was hardly 4 minutes between sightings. It was lovely to see the animals doing so well. I thought of Melody because there were so many babies of all species. We also saw surricates and ground squirrels. We also saw other small rodents – rats and striped mice.

Striped Mouse

Yellow Mongoose

After brunch and a nap – yes Earliebird napped ever single afternoon of our holiday – we set off again at quarter to 3. The temp was 27 but it had clouded over and we got some rain before it cleared again. At a dam we spotted black ducks and enjoyed the usual previously mentioned game and birds.

This buffalo eyed us suspiciously

The Vervet Monkeys are always entertaining.  We were in fits of laughter over their antics.  I think they are so ‘human’ and the babies remind us of our grandchildren – though please don’t tell them that!

My favourite antelope are steenbok and I was not disappointed. And of course there were plenty of “rugby buck ”  (The grandchildren’s nick-name for them.)

We were nearing the end and losing concentration when I suddenly caught a movement in the bush and yelled “aardwolf” It stopped and turned to look right at us. Earliebird aimed and shot but it dashed off into the undergrowth and there was no aardwolf in the photograph. But still – we had seen him beautifully and we returned to camp on a high. We placed the marker on the spotting map with great pride.

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