6

Kruger Adventure with Grandpa, Gran, Simon and Shan – Day 4

5 January 2018

Yesterday’s scores were as follows – Simon in the lead with 70 points.  Grandpa has 64 and Shannon 55.  Grandpa was annoyed as at first we scored him the higher score but Si reminded us that we hadn’t entered the Walk points which pushed him ahead. Grandpa hadn’t done the whole walk but he did score for creatures he saw first before he went back to the caravan and none were scored after that!

Today we moved to Skukuza Rest Camp.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures into the thirties.   Packing up the caravan and tent was fast and efficient and we left Berg en Dal at 6:20 and made our way quickly along the tar road arriving at 8:30.  We did not stop much along the way.

Check in at Skukuza was quick and efficient.  We found a campsite next to the swimming pool and an attendant came to help us set up.   We were done quickly and then walked to the shop for ice cream.   It was really hot!  We decided to rest and swim and only to go out after 1 pm.  We were pretty sure the animals would be sleeping in the shade and not showing themselves in the middle of the day.

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Shan enjoying the water – Simon kept hiding from the camera

After the kids and I swam and Grandpa napped we set off to see what we could find.  Today turned out to have long stretches with absolutely no sightings – not even a bird!  Of course there were some interesting things and we were thrilled to get the following:

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Black shouldered kite

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White-headed Vulture

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The monkeys had the kids in fits of laughter

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The baboons behave like humans!

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Elephants are always fun

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The oddest duck ever – Knob-billed duck

Usually it’s okay to do the distance but today it was really hot and the ‘dry spells’ of no sightings began to work on the patience of the un-caged kids in the back seat.   Concentration was lost, giggling and high jinks took it’s place.   How much longer became the plaintive cry.   And then — up ahead a traffic jam.   A naughty tourist was sitting on the roof of her car – Her binoculars were trained on something in the distance.  We were next to a river with a rocky bank.  “There are supposed to be lions here,” she said.  “But I can’t see them.”   Well if from her vantage point she couldn’t, what chance would we have.  We asked some others and they too said they’re here but out of sight.

Grandpa tried to maneuver the car into a better position and then he said, “What’s that walking toward us!”

All attention went from the elusive lions to what suddenly appeared and we were the first to see him!

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The leopard was quite unconcerned about the interest paid to him by the tourists

We watched this magnificent creature of the wild nonchalantly walking past the cars.  He stopped to sniff and spray and mark his territory and the excitement caused was phenomenal. It was 15 minutes to gate closing time so once we’d absorbed the sighting we made our way quickly back to camp.  What a great way to end our day.

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2

Kruger National Park – Day 21

30 November 2017 Lower Sabie to Skukuza

It’s hard to believe that we have been in the park for three weeks now.  Each day has had something special and we are still loving every moment.   We now have the pack up and go routine totally sussed and everything went smoothly for our departure to Skukza this morning.  Pat’s hand is very much better and she felt that she could cope helping Tony with their tent but The Earl insisted on giving a hand – we don’t want her using her wrist too much and causing it more damage!

We hit the tar road at 6:45 and Pat and Tony took the scenic route.   Our first road block – elephants of course.  This photograph is taken through the windscreen but I couldn’t resist the cuteness of the baby rolling on the tar.

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Skukuza is only 35 km from Lower Sabie on the tar road and we did not stop for much as we just wanted to get to camp to set up.  We were just done when Tony phoned to say they had arrived. We met them at reception and took them to our site.  They decided not to join us for brekkie as it looked like rain and they wanted to set up before it came.

The Earl and I went to The Cattle Baron and sat under the Sycamore Fig enjoying the ambience. The service today was slow but when you’re in Africa you don’t really care.  When we finally got our eggs and bacon it was delicious – and the coffee was good.   While we were waiting we watched the starlings, weavers and sparrows in the tree and then The Earl said, “Hey there’s a green pigeon.”  Our first for this trip!  Where had they been hinding?

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This elusibe Green Pigeon and three others posed beautifully for us

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The spectacled weaver has a quizical look

Today was more of a rest day as it turned out to be quite hot – the rain never came.  We took a short afternoon drive and these were the highlights.

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Golden Breasted Bunting – he sang beautifully

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Trumpeter Hornbill

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Dung Beetle cleaning up the bush – such an amazingly hard worker

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Dark form Wahberg’s Eagle – I think

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A useful tool is the elephant’s trunk

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Can’t resist the cuteness

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What was he thinking getting right into the tree

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Yellow-billed hornbill

This might sound repetitive – but it was a braai again tonight.  Honestly there’s no better way to eat in the bush!

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.

 

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!

6

Share Your World 8 May 2017

Here are my answers to this week’s Share Your World from Cee.

When you’re alone at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?

In the summer you might find me barefoot.  Right now I am wearing shoes, but I often kick them off and wear slippers.   I like my feet to be comfortable and in winter I might put on Ugg Boots.  They may be ugly but they’re comfy.  I have the generic version – not the overly expensive ones.

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What was your favorite food when you were a child?

When I was very young, I was an extremely fussy eater but for breakfast I loved my  Jungle Oats. My mother told everyone that if it weren’t for that one meal, I would probably starve because for the rest of the day I would eat very little else.  My uncle teased me constantly and would make me cry by telling me the factory had burned down.

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Perhaps that’s why I went off it and started on eggs instead.  My sister and I would share a boiled egg – she would eat the white and I would have the yolk!

Yes – I was a very picky eater and would not eat cooked vegetables but being of Greek origin we always had salads with every meal and those I ate quite happily.    For a packed lunch, my mom would give me polony or chunks of cheese and carrot sticks because I wouldn’t eat my peanut butter and jam (jelly to the Americans) sandwiches, although I loved them freshly made.  My mother despaired of me ever eating properly but thinking back, I wonder why she worried – I ate lamb, beef, chicken and fish and plenty of salads.   Pretty healthy I think!   I didn’t like pasta, rice, potato or anything that looked suspicious. I had a fear of food and stressed if I had to eat away from home. This changed when I went away to college.  The food was awful but it was eat it or starve!   I got fat at college but lost it all in my last term – by starving myself!   My fight with food continued into adulthood but only as far as  trying to keep the weight off was concerned.  Finally in my old age I have discovered Low Carb High Fat and it fits in almost exactly with how I used to eat as a child, the only difference being that now I will eat the veggies cooked.picky-eating

Are you a listener or talker?

I enjoy conversation – both listening and talking.   Friends tend to come to me for advice and I do listen but then I try to fix things with lots of advice – not always the right approach.

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Favorite thing to (pick one):  Photograph?  Write? Or Cook?

I can’t pick one so I’ll tell you what I like to photograph, write about and cook.

I like photographing birds and wildlife.

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A striated (Green-backed) heron

I like cooking omelettes.

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Bacon, onion, tomato and Feta omelette

I like writing about my trips to wild places

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“Then suddenly we came upon a leopard languishing on the branch of a tree”

 

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for the wonderful week we had catching up with family at Gariep Dam, Free State.   The weather was pleasant and we just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company.

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I am looking forward to planning our next trip away in the caravan.

 

4

Wild Adventure Chapter 6 Lions at Kij Kij

8 March

The advantage of staying in a bush camp on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is that there are fewer people in camp and one really gets to commune with nature – it’s living on the edge as there is always a chance that a wild creature could wander past your caravan or tent.  This is what the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs love about Camp Rooiputs Number 2.   It is also closer to the water holes so you get to them before the crowds from Twee Rivieren arrive.  But Rooiputs has the added advantage of being close enough to Twee Rivieren so that when you need to replenish your stocks it’s a quick trip there and back.  On this particular morning the friends decide to check out the Kij Kij Waterhole nice and early and then take the long dune road that connects to another road that takes you to TR.  The plan is then to leave the park and shop at the Kgalagadi Lodge shop – and have breakfast at their restaurant.  There is nothing as good as mixing a bit of rustic living with luxury now and then!

And they are well rewarded when they get to Kij Kij and find some frolicking lions.

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Good Morning Kgalagadi

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This is fun!

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Come on let’s play!

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Time to go!

The Dune Road is very long and bendy and can be boring but today a honey badger rushed over the road in front of them and they saw 19 Northern Black Korhaan

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The best of the bunch

On the return journey the Grum-Peighs stop for every bird.  Ho-Hum!

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A lesser grey shrike

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The ever-present tawny eagle

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Southern Masked weaver and Lark-like Bunting

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Male and female red-headed finch

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Grey-backed sparrowlark

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Male red-headed finch

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Immature Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Jackal

The highlight was seeing a cobra try to invade a sociable weaver nest.

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In the evening the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs had another delicious braai.  There was no sign of stormy weather and the sunset was magnificent.

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The Earl and The Friend bonding in front of the fire

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Sunset

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Camp Rooiputs Number 2 at night