2

Kruger National Park – Day 3

12 November 2017 – Visit to Letaba and Tropic of Capricorn Loop

Today we decided to do a trip to Letaba Rest Camp and back taking the river loops along the way.  By 6:30 we were ready to leave.

First to greet us this morning was a wildebeest. (Erich, if you’re reading this – we gave him your regards 🙂 )

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Our most exciting sighting of the morning was when we stopped at view point to get a closer view of the river.  Looking down we were delighted to find a grey heron, a hamerkop, two pied kingfishers, two fish eagles and two saddle bill storks fishing in a shallow pond.   We spent a while there enjoying the scene and taking photographs.

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Female Saddle-billed Stork

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Fish Eagle

The Bug and Mean – oh sorry The Mug and Bean have been a resounding failure in some of the camps and Letaba is one where the restaurant is closed till further notice.  However, there is temporary arrangement in the form of The Rustic Kitchen operating an open air or under canvas restaurant.  What a stunning idea – so much better than the Bug!  You sit at a simple wooden table and your food is cooked in the rustic kitchen and served on tin plates.  Coffee is also served in a tin mug.  It was fun and we enjoyed our fried eggs, venison sausage and grilled tomato!

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The highlight on our return trip was just as we approached the Tsendse bridge we noted a stationary car with his lights flashing.   He’s seen something we thought as he indicated to the car in front of us to stop. Said car ignored and overtook him.  Then I spotted them lying flat on the river bed.   There were five of them. They were so well camouflaged but then one got up and moved his position  – wild dog.   We watched them sleeping for a few minutes and when we saw they were not going to do anything for the rest of the afternoon we left them in peace.

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Back in camp we had a cup of tea and I started downloading photos and The Earl pottered about sorting out technical stuff to do with the car fridge.  A few hours later we went for another game drive.

On our afternoon drive we found the usual zebra, giraffe, buffalo, elephants, waterbuck etc.   We took the Tropic of Capricorn Loop which produced some lovely sightings.  Sometimes there are stretches of nothing and one can lose concentration as I obviously did at one point.  Omiword – The Earl slammed on breaks.  Did you see that. I looked back and saw a bird of prey on a tree but he flew off.  Darn we missed him and he was on your side – why didn’t you see him.  Maybe because he was so small?   Not that wasn’t it – I’m usually on the lookout for small raptors.  Just a lapse in concentration I’m afraid.

The Earl wanted to carry on but I persuaded him to go back to see if we could find him again – and we did.  He led us a bit of a dance flitting from one tree to another but in the end we got a nice shot of him and were thrilled to identify him as a Gabar Goshawk.

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Other sightings that we enjoyed were the following:

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Tsessebe having a rest

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The Iconic Lilac-breasted Roller

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Heaviest flying bird – the kori bustard

Sadly it was our last night in Tsendze but we really loved this camp and will certainly be back.

 

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11

Kruger National Park – Day 2

11 November 2017 – Tsendze

How fantastic to wake to the sounds of the dawn chorus in the bush.  It was already getting light at 4:30 am and that’s when the gate opens.  But we had no intention of making such an early start.  I went to shower at the ablution block just after 5 and we were packed and ready to leave at 6:30

Our first exciting event was an encounter with  Ayres Hawk-eagle.   There were actually two.  The light was bad so the photo is not great but we found this one on a kill.

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We also got a good sighting of the common black-shouldered kite – but what a pretty bird.

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Elephants, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and zebra were also on the menu and we got to see a lot of birdlife.   Here are a few photos that we managed to get.

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Lesser-striped swallow

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Hippo

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The uncommon yellow-billed oxpecker – grooming a zebra

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Cute little blue waxbill

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Shy steenbok

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Beautiful giraffe

 

A rarity in the park is an antelope similar to a red hartebeest – the Tsessebe – We found a few of them which was lovely.

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Time wore on and we were getting hungry.  We decided to head back toward Mopani and have something to eat there.  After a few hours of game driving you rather hope that you won’t see anything exciting as all you want is to have a break and get some strong coffee into you.  I yelled at the earl to stop with a couple of interesting birds but either I was too late or he’d lost interest because he just drove on.  Thank Goodness for that because just a few kms from camp we spotted some stationery cars – always a good sign – It has to be a leopard, I said and as we got closer I spotted a tail hanging down from the branch of a tree.  Oh joy – all thoughts of coffee and food disappeared in an instant.   There was a young leopard on a kill up in the tree.  And was she having a delightful breakfast – lucky creature.   If we’d delayed over the birds I’d called we would have missed her as after a minute she slid down the tree, washed her paws and slipped off into the bush!  Gone!  The only evidence were the remains of impala hanging in the tree!

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We lingered long over breakfast at Mopani as its restaurant has such a lovely view over the river.  We saw marabou storks and watched greater striped swallows take off and land back in the branches of the trees again.   There was a lot of activity.  I had a second cup of coffee while the Earl went to another section of the facility to pay accounts and send emails from his laptop.

We like to rest in camp in the middle of the day and it was now just after 11.  We just did one more loop to Mooiplaas Picnic site, spotted some birds and hippos and then did a little river loop where we saw buffalo and elephant.

We got back to camp around 1 o’clock and rested until 3:30 and then went out again.   We saw all the usual suspects and were not expecting anything too exciting.   It was nearing 6 o’clock when we were in sight of this morning’s leopard tree and gate closing is at 6:30.  And what should we see – three cars stopped at the tree.

“They’re probably looking at the carcass,” I said the Earl.

But no as we got closer I saw that the leopard was back.

But wait there’s more – “Look there,” said The Earl,  “There’s another one in the tree.”

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And then all hell broke loose as the two leopards started growling and slapping each other.

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This is my dinner – Be off with you!

 

After a brief skirmish one decided she’d better get out of there and slipped down the tree and disappeared into the bush.  The victor sat in the split in the tree for a few minutes looking for all the world like any domestic kitty cat.

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Then he climbed onto the branch where the impala carcass was and proceeded to finish his meal.

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Soon other cars appeared and in the end there were five of us watching this amazing sight.   It gets dark quickly in the Kruger and by 6:10 I had enough photographs in good light.  It was time to head quickly back to camp before the gate was locked!   We made it with 10 minutes to spare

3

Gecko, Haenertsburg and Tzaneen

When one is in the misty mountains of The Magoebaskloof, it’s easy to forget that you’re in Africa and that it is Summer.  The temperatures can be very low any time of the year here!

Haenertsburg is a tiny place and there are often problems with electricity.  For most of yesterday afternoon we were without power, it came on again for a short while in the evening then was gone again for the rest of the night.  This morning it was still not on but it didn’t bother us as we were out for most of the day.

How exciting it is to take possession of one’s new caravan!  Our Gecko is simply the best!  We loved our Imagine but we had so many setting up problems, so we decided that something a little simpler and easier on the old bones was required.   Keith and Alison greeted us just before nine this morning and took us through the handing over process.  They also provided us with a superb manual for easy reference.   It was so interesting to find out that the reason they started building their Gecko caravans was because they too had owned an Imagine and after two trips in it decided to make something better!   So they really understood what we were looking for!

We had so much fun learning all the ins and outs about our new van and Keith also took us on a tour of their impressive factory.   The Earl was hugely impressed and you know what a perfectionist he is!

After our orientation we went to Minki’s for an amazing breakfast.   Their coffee was to die for.

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This ‘jug’ of hot coffee was a welcome warmer to the day

 

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The breakfast was excellent

After breakfast we drove 30 km to Tzaneen to shop for Kruger.   On our return we went back to Gecko and packed the caravan.

We had all our gear in the boxes on top of the Ford Everest and we spent about an hour sorting out and packing.  It’s all done and dusted now and we’re ready for departure tomorrow morning.

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I made the super new kingsize bed!

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Alison suggested pantry bags – what a good idea – everything fits in so snugly

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There is packing space in the cupboards, drawers and under the benches — note the aircon!

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It has a loo

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And a shower!

After all this activity we needed more coffee so back we went to Minki’s to pick up the ground coffee and relish we’d ordered. We also indulged in another of their amazing coffees and cappuccinos and shared a slice of delicious carrot cake!

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The weather cleared in this afternoon and I did a bit of birdwatching around our cottage.  It’s really in a superb spot with a great view of Stanford Lake.   I was thrilled to find a long-crested eagle perched at the top of a tree.

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The view

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Long-crested Eagle

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Taking flight

We have just had a lovely braai of lamb chops, boerewors, sweet potatoes and salad.  It’s not as cold as last night and we have power!  We’ll be off to bed soon as tomorrow is an early start for The Kruger National Park!

4

From KZN to Limpopo Province

All too soon our five days with the Kokstad Clan came to an end.   We caught up with Barbara and Andrew, saw our friends Neil and Rose who live on the farm next to Lauren and Alan and just relaxed and got ready for the next phase of our journey.

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Masked Weaver in Barbara’s garden

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We visited some huge gardens on Friday but Barbara’s smaller one is just a beautiful

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Small by Kokstad standards – big by mine!

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Barbara with her grandson, Caleb

Shannon went back to St John’s on Monday afternoon and on Tuesday we were all set to say farewell to Lauren, Allan and Simon.   It will be another month before we see them all again.

The weather was not too hot and not too cold but when we reached Underberg we saw snow on the mountains!  From there to Howick we went through several patches of mist and had fun (not!) playing dodge the pothole for many miles.   But after that things improved, the weather warmed up and the scenery was stunning.

 

We stopped in Ermelo to refuel and as we try to collect U-count points we searched Google Maps for a Caltex garage. It took us a roundabout way and when we found one we were a bit disconcerted to see some huge trucks at every pump.   However, the boss came running over and told us not to worry – we would be next in line. I asked if he would direct me to some clean loos and he immediately called a staff member to show me where they were. She took me to the extremely clean and well-maintained Fresh Stop rest room.  When I emerged the boss checked that I was completely satisfied.   Once again – what excellent service.   The refuelling was ready within minutes and the attendant explained exactly how we could back to the N11 and warned us about upcoming road works.  What a pleasant refuelling stop!

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What a shock to find these monsters at every filling pump – they were on their way to Botswana

Our overnight stay was at Pumpkin Tree Lodge in Middelburg a very different Middelburg the one we spent the night at in The Eastern Cape!  Mpumalanga’s Middelburg is quite a big town.  We were greeted by a friendly owner with whom we had a long conversation on the merits of different caravans.  She too was shopping for a new one and was very interested in hearing about our pending new Gecko.

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This just outside the rooms

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Bath converted to bench

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Very lush garden at Pumpkin Tree Lodge

We decided not to go to the Italian restaurant she recommended as although we felt like having pizza it did not seem to offer Banting options.  However, there was a take away menu from Pizza del Forno in our room and we decided to go there instead.  Because I put in the wrong address in the GPS we found ourselves at the wrong place and had to start again and it took us a while before we finally got to our destination. On our return home we laughed because it only took two minutes!

At first it looked like it was in the dodgy part of town and we were afraid that our car might be broken into. But there was secure parking right outside and we could see our vehicle from where we sat.  The food was excellent our waitress was attentive.   I had a Banting Base Pizza topped with feta, avo and bacon and Earl had the same with normal base. Both were excellent.  The owner was wonderful too.  We asked him about the condition of the roads to Haenertsburg and he gave us excellent advice on which way to go.

In this part of South Africa at this time of the year it is HOT!   The climate is subtropical and we are also in a Malaria area.  (We are taking prophylactic medication)  I heard a mosquito in our room in the night but luckily I was able to kill him!

In the morning we dressed in cool clothes but because we knew the temperature would be lower in the Magoebaskloof, we had our jackets ready.   The trip once again was very scenic.  How lovely it would be if our Western Cape dams had as much water as we saw in Loskop Dam just before entering Limpopo Province.

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It took just on four hours to get to Haenertsburg and our first port of call was to the Gecko factory.  And there she was – our brand new caravan!   What a thrill to see her.  Alison greeted us enthusiastically and brought out the stuff we’d couriered up. We spent the next half hour packing things in and admiring our new home on wheels.   Tomorrow we will have our orientation and on Friday we take her into The Kruger National Park

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Originally we planned to enter Kruger on Saturday but the weather is cold, misty and wet and seems to be set in for a while.  Earl no longer does extreme fishing so we decided to book an extra day in Kruger instead!

Once we’d settled into our accommodation – a two bedroomed front cottage at Stanford Lake we set off to town to shop for supper. The little supermarket has a limited range of produce but we managed to get some boerewors, steak, garlic, sweet potatoes, baby marrows, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and olives for tonights supper.  We also bought eggs and bacon for tomorrow’s breakfast.   Then we found a lovely little coffee shop called the  Book coffee shop.  It was the most fascinating place that sold all sorts of goodies as well as old and interesting books.  We ordered a hot chocolate and cheesecake to share!  It was divine.

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Cold, Misty and Wet in Haenertsburg

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An interesting shop to browse in

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The one next door was also quaint

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Hot chocolate and cheesecake to die for

The electricity was cut for a few hours due to some cable problems but this did not bother us too much.   We lit a fire in the stove and made our braai and by supper time the lights were on again.   It was altogether a very pleasant evening.

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The Earl at the braai

 

 

 

6

Fun Photo Challenge 27 June 2017

This week’s fun photo challenge calls for all kinds of furniture.  Here is my take on it – Shabby Chic at Diesel and Creme, Barrydale, Western Cape, South Africa

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I love the cushions.

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Relaxing in the winter sun, waiting for coffee

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Fabulous outdoor decor!

1

The All Coastal Bottom Fish Interprovincial Competition

The All Coastal Bottom Fish Interprovincial Competition was hosted by Suidpunt Deep Sea Angling Club at Struisbaai from Tuesday 21 March to Saturday 25 March 2017.   Thanks to Leander Wiit (Chairman of Western Provence Deep Sea Angling Association), DP Burger (Convener)  and Louis  Becker (Tournaments Officer) for their organisation of the event.

The three days fished were Wednesday, Thursday  and Friday.  Conditions were superb although the sea was quite rough on Thursday.

There were nine teams, namely

  • Western Province White – DP Burger (Captain) Iaan Viljoen and Gus Rautmann
  • Western Province Blue – Morne Marais (Captain) Ron Pennninkhof and Philip van der Walt
  • Western Province Juniors – Christof Dahl (Captain) Divan Burger and Karla Rautmann
  • Natal DSSA – Abed Khan (Captain) Heino Meyer and Timothy Munnick
  • Southern Cape White – Terry Terblanche (Captain) Koos Scholtz and Johan Crouse
  • Southern Cape Blue – Rod Kieser (Captain) Chris Schorn and Thys Uys
  • Eastern Province Black – Wayne Gerber (Captain) Christopher Gerber and Sheena Gerber
  • Eastern Province Red – Kevin Clark (Captain) Peter Dawson and Alie Matthysen
  • Border Deep Sea – Rory Leonard (Captain) Allan Ford and Everitt van Loggerenberg

Thanks to the skippers who put in their boats for this competition

  • Kitty Cat – Pietro Cutino
  • Haven – Colin Joubert
  • Sea Dodger – Roger Marais
  • Cavalier – Mark Truter
  • Men @ Work – Piet Wessels
  • GT – Patrick Christodoulou
  • Relentless – Daniel Hughes
  • S-Catman – Louis Bekker
  • King Fisher – Erik Dahl
All Coastal Boats

The boats used in the competition.  Thanks to the awesome skippers.

 

All the catering was done by Marinda de Kock and her team. All can attest to the superbness of the breakfasts, lunch boxes and dinners.

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A Delicious Spread at the Opening Function

The radio communications were ably controlled by Andrew Perris and assisted by Earl Fenwick who also took most of the photographs.

Thanks too, to the following people, Grant van der Westhuizen, Elize Beukes and Dick le Roux   for doing an awesome job as weigh masters at the scales, Mark Westhook for organising the bait and Louis Becker and Patrick Christodoulou for doing the scoring.

At the opening function it was great to see the teams dressed in their colours, newbies were capped and there was an auction to predict and ‘buy’ the winning teams.  He/she who predicted the first, second and third winners would win a handsome cash prize.

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Leander Wiit and Patrick Christodoulou with the newly capped WP Juniors – Divan Burger, Karla Rautmann and Christof Dahl

Launching time was 7:00 am which meant a chilly and early rising if you wanted to enjoy a good breakfast before setting off to nab your catch.  The aim was to get as many bottom species as possible.  They had to be measured, photographed and released. However, if it was a pending record fish it had to be brought to the scales to be weighed.   Yellowtail could be caught, kept and brought to the scales for points.

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Busy at the scales

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An awesome catch of yellowtail by Southern Cape White -Terry, Johan and Koos

The Gerber family – Eastern Province Black –  did exceptionally well and were a tough team to beat!

 

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Sheena Gerber achieved a SADSA Lady’s 6kg line class record with her beautiful yellowtail

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The only juniors fishing and didn’t they have an awesome time – not to mention a three day break from boring old school!

A special word of thanks is due to the skippers of GT, Cavalier and Haven for hosting the Juniors.  Thank you guys for your patience with and your guidance and support of these delightful youngsters.   Long may they continue with their passion for the sport.

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Christof Dahl holding his Red Stompneus which is a pending 6kg line class junior record.

It was a close competition and on Saturday all held a collective breath waiting to hear the final results at the prize-giving function.   Roger and Sonja Marais were particularly delighted to hear that Western Province Blue, the team they ‘bought’ were the winners!

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Sonja and Roger with the winning team!

 

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What an exceptional Eastern Province family in second place

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And Border came an awesome third

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Pietro Cutino (Kitty Cat) was the skipper in third place

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Colin Joubert (Haven) was placed second

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And the top skipper was Louis  Bekker (S-Catman)

And so ended another awesome Suidpunt Deep Sea angling event!