1

Kruger to Kokstad

It poured on our last night in The Kruger National Park and it was still raining lightly when we woke up this morning.  So packing up was a bit of a mission but we got it done quickly and were on our way by 6:30 am.   Other than impala we saw little else on our way out at Malelane Gate.

It rained most of the way to White River too.   The rain is much needed so we did not complain!   Lauren’s ex principal, Nick who now lives in White River arranged for us to leave our caravan at his friend Dawie’s house.   It was a mission reversing it up the curved driveway and almost impossible to get it under the car port.  But Dawie called on reinforcements from his school to push it the short distance the Everest couldn’t manage.   We are most grateful that we didn’t have to tow it back to Kokstad only to bring it back again in a few weeks time.  Thanks so much Nick and Dawie.

After having a quick breakfast in town we were on the road again at 9:!5 am. We encountered a lot of traffic on some of the roads which caused a bit of angst and stress but then things improved and The Earl got into the trip and didn’t want to stop for anything other than fuel.   We got to Howick at 5:00 pm and I suggested we spend the night there as the next part of the road would be hectic with potholes.  But The Earl refused – he wanted to make it all the way to Kokstad and was not tired.

Uh oh – we should have followed my instincts.  The road was dreadful.  Not only was it hectically misty we also had to play dodge the pothole and watch out for the livestock appearing like ghosts on the road.   There were a few near misses but finally we made it to Underberg by 6:15.  No way was I going to let The Earl drive on in the dark.  I didn’t have to ask twice!  We were both stressed out and exhausted.

Thank you Sani Window for taking us in at short notice.  After a quick freshen up we headed to The Grind for Pizzas which were excellent.

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I needed that glass of wine!

We had a really good night’s rest and enjoyed an excellent breakfast at this most beautiful B&B.

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Wonderful View

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Scrumptious Breakfast

Simon was the only one home when we arrived at the farm.   It was the last day of school for the teachers and Shannon had gone in with Lauren to help finish off.

The weather was lovely this morning but this afternoon it clouded over and Lauren said she thought there’d be a storm and was looking forward to lots of rain.   Well – she got her wish in a big way.   She’d just left to take Audrey (her housekeeper) home for the weekend and I’d just crossed the lawn to our little flat in the garden when the heavens opened.   It sounded like rocks were hitting the tin roof but it was hail!   It went on for half an hour.

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Hail on the lawn – the car seemed unscathed.

We seldom get hail in The Cape so this was an exciting event for us.   Lauren didn’t understand why I was worried about her out in this dangerous weather!

 

 

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2

Kruger National Park – Day 24

3 December 2017

We bade farewell to Pat and Tony this morning and they made their way through the park for a few hours before leaving for Witbank where they are spending the night.

The Earl and I decided to have a rest day and do a few things in camp.   Isn’t it great that each rest camp has a laundry with coin operated washing machines and dryers?   Just two five rand coins;  and half an hour later my bed linen was washed and ready for the dryer.  In went the next two coins. I pressed the start button – nothing!  Oh no!  Had it been clothes I could have made a plan to hang it out but Kingsize bed linen – Noooooo.  So I rang the duty manager and within minutes two charming young technicians arrived to sort out my problem.   “It took my money but it won’t work,”  I said sadly.

‘We’re here to help,” they said scratching their heads.  Then one unlocked the machine with a key, did something miraculous and hey presto the dryer started!  “What did you do?” I asked.  “‘Magic,” he replied.

I then put a load of clothing on while the linen dried and when that was done the clothes were ready for the dryer.  By 9:30 I’d done the laundry, cleaned the caravan, watched some birds and had a swim.

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Green-winged pytilia – otherwise known as a melba finch

The Earl and I then went to the restaurant for breakfast.  By this time the temperature was rising but it was cool relaxing on the deck under the trees.  The birding was good too,

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The white-fronted bee-eaters were very active

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The marsh sandpiper was as busy as ever

After sorting out banking and email on his laptop The Earl had a nap and then we did a two hour drive next to the river to Nkulu Picnic Site and back.  The trip there was very quiet with little to see except impala.   On the way back though, the animals seemed to have woken from their naps,

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I rather like this scene of elephant, fish eagle and water buck sharing the facilities

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He’s not called a water buffalo for nothing

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This is the way to travel

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Why are these people staring, Mum?

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I really need a manacure – no time with all this childcare

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Two beautiful male Nyala greeted us

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This elephant was right next to my window

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Aren’t I a handsome chap!

It was too hot to cook tonight so we went to the Cattle Baron Take-Away and got chicken wraps and I made a Greek salad.  A perfect ending to a very hot day!

 

3

Kruger National Park – Day 23

2 December 2017 –

We haven’t seen cats for a few days and were feeling a little restless about it as it’s Tony and Pat’s last full day in The Park.   It would be nice to get one last sighting of a predator for them.

I suggested we drive to Tshokwane for breakfast because lions and leopard had been seen in that area.   Everybody agreed.

Before we left camp we found this chap foraging on the neighboring campsite.

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White-throated Robin-Chat

We drove the scenic route along the river and took all the loops we could.

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Frisky male impala were butting heads and interlocking horns – it seemed more play than serious rivalry

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A hippo still out grazing before going back into the water for the day

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The Earl aways gets a fright when these giants suddenly appear and cross in front of him

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These gentle waterbuck said a cheery good morning

There was a lull in sightings when all of a sudden we jerked to attention.  Something was crossing the road ahead of us.  Leopard, cheetah – No LION!   We all got an eyeful of her and then she was gone.  Maybe some more would follow and cross over too.  We waited a few minutes but nobody came.  Just a little ahead we saw a stationary car.  As we approached I saw them – lion lying under a tree.  A farewell gift for our friends,

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The other car left and we had them to ourselves for a while. Suddenly another lion appeared and then two of them got up together to change position and flop down again

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What an awesome sighting.  But wait – there’s more.  We drove on a little further and spotted two more lionesses lying on a log. There was a lot of foliage blocking them so we didn’t get photos but enjoyed seeing them get up and stretch before settling back down again.

We were thrilled at this sighting which was just before we got to our breakfast stop.  At Tshokwane we were amused when this pied barbet settled on a plate and himself to scraps!  I’ve never seen a barbet do that before.

IMG_8272On our return we concentrated on bird watching and enjoyed seeing a common duiker, giraffe and zebra.   As we approached the lion spot a car stopped us and said there were male lions up ahead.   Our females had left but these boys had settled in close by to where they had been. The one remained asleep but the other gave us a bit of entertainment.

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Why did you wake me up?

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Oh how tiresome – yawn, yawn!

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Don’t you know a lion needs 20 hours of sleep per day?

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Oh well – while I’m up i might as well have a scratch

When we came to the place where we expected to find a leopard on the rocks, we got a klipspringer instead!

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We decided to take a long midday break as it was really hot again today.  We swam in the pool a few times and only went to Lake Panic later in the afternoon for an hour.  I would be quite happy to spend an entire day in this hide as even on a slow day interesting things happen.  You have to sit very quietly in a hide and at first you might think there is nothing there but when you really look you start to see things. It took a while for us to notice that a Jacana at the far end of the pond had four chicks that must have been just out of their eggs.  Father Jacana looks after the kids while Mom goes off to find another mate and another nest in which to lay her eggs.

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Father Jacana wtching his young

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Squacco Heron fishing

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Pied Kingfisher with is prey

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We heard the Water Thick-knees before we them

Once again it was a perfect evening and just as we were enjoying Magnum Ice-creams for dessert I heard a rustle at the paper packet that we use for a bin. I yelled and it ran away. I suspected it was a honey badger but I caught sight of something smaller.  African wild cat perhaps?  The cheeky creature came back again and Pat said – shine your torch on it which I did and saw it was a bushbaby!.  At that moment Pat and Tony’s daughter was Skyping from New Zealand.  Chaos ensued as we raced to see if we could find the intruder.  We found him behind the caravan on the branch of a tree.  He wasn’t at all concerned and just stared at us from his safe vantage point.  Tony was able to show his daughter, Maria, the naughty creature.

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Sorry Bushbaby – We’re not the type of campers who hand out leftovers! Go find your own food!

Sadly tonight is the last one in the park for P&T as tomorrow they will make their way back home.  We still have a few more days before heading back to Kokstad.

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!

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Kruger National Park – Day 20

29 November 2017 – A Day for Leopards

The weather was warm again today with the temperature reaching the mid thirties.

As I have mentioned in previous episodes – no two days are alike in Kruger.   Today was a good one for seeing the “Big” guys.

The bridge gave us our first thrill of the day.

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Hippos had an early morning meeting

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Saddle-bill Stork and Yellow-bill egret sharing a fishing spot

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Is the yellow-billed egret leading the spoonbills astray as the saddle-billed looks on?

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These two Fish Eagles had a confrontation over a fish

The black-shouldered kite is usually rare in KNP but due to the drought in the West of the country many have moved East and there is now an influx of them in The Park.   On one day we saw 18 of them.

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Yet another Black-shouldered Kite

As we continued along the tar road we saw a single stationary car stopped on the right hand side of the road.  It was open country with few trees and we couldn’t see anything at all.  But we never pass a stationary  car so we stopped alongside and asked – “What do you see?”  “A leopard,”  replied the rather good looking young man behind the wheel. He lovely wife was beside him with a huge smile on her face.   “Where?” we asked  and how come we hadn’t seen it?   “Reverse a little and look in the biggest tree you can see over there.” he pointed.

We looked at the tree – it was far away and we saw nothing until we trained our binoculars on it. “I have him!”  I said – “But how on earth did they spot that!”

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The distant leopard in the far away tree

It turned out that they’d stopped just to scan the area with binoculars and the lovely wife and spotted him quite by chance!   What a lucky break.  Before long there were four or five cars wondering what the fuss was about.  We were able to point out this special for them before we moved on.

Next we stopped at a look-out where you are allowed to get out of your car and sit in a boma to view the vast valley below.   At first we saw nothing but veld and trees and then The Earl said – Omigosh – look at all the elephants!

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They just kept coming – a huge herd of them

Just before we got to Tshokwane we saw a few cars staring into the bush.  Another leopard!  He was lying asleep under a bush, well hidden and a photograph was impossible.   But when he sat up The Earl managed to get one before he walked off into the thicket.

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Not our best leopard picture ever!

Tshokwane is the best picnic site in the park.  The kitchen and the seating area incorporate big trees, the coffee is excellent and the food inexpensive and good.

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The Shady Eating Area

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The Cooking Area

With out hunger satisfied we set off again and found yet another leopard.  This one was also in a tree and we could see him nicely.   But we did not manage to get a photograph.

 

we also saw lots of elephants today.   At Orpen Dam Lookout we watched them come down and have fun in the mud.

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Orpen Dam Lookout

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The View

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Elephants having a confrontation

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Mud glorious Mud – Mum, I think I may be stuck!

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Don’t worry – you’ll get out

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White-faced ducks and glossy ibis were also enjoying the dam

We spent a long time out this morning and enjoyed many fascinating sightings.

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Yellow-throated Longclaw

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Red-crested korhaan

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Male Kudu

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Playful Zebra

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Giraffe and Elephants

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Follow the leader

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Scary Crocodile

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Black Heron

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Mischieveous Monkeys

We have seen rhino a few times this trip but I am not mentioning on what day nor on which roads in case some poaching criminal comes across this blog and it helps him find his target.   Rhino are being poached at an alarming rate although Sanparks are going to great lengths to put anti-poaching measures in place.  We are delighted to have seen many men in camouflage patrolling and checking and we have heard that recent arrests have been made.

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A Happy Rhinoceros – Long may he remain safe from poachers

It was another perfect evening in The Park although the weather had clouded over.  We enjoyed The Earl’s chicken wing starter and a braai of chops, steak and boerewors with sweet potatoes and a lovely Greek Salad before retiring for the night.  Yes another great day in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Kruger National Park – Day 17

26 November 2017 – Satara to Lower Sabie

After the rain during the night, we thought we might have a wet pack-up this morning but although it was still overcast and cool the rain held off.  And by the afternoon the temperature rose to 35 degrees C.

We packed up, hitched the caravan, helped P&T with their tent and were on the H1-3 by 6:40 am.   P&T did some loops but we like to stick to the tar roads when we’re towing. The plan was to meet them at Tshokwane for breakfast.

Usually the tar roads are a little boring regarding sightings but today we were lucky.

At Punda Maria we’d seen the crested guineafowl which are not as common as the helmeted guineafowl and today the first one for the trip turned up.

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Elephants crossed in front of us and showed us their bums.

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I have been looking  for the weird and wonderful knob-billed duck and today he turned up in an unexpected place

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Knob-billed duck perched on top of a dead tree

Then we came upon a road block of cars and caravans

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A mating pair of lions

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Just having a break

We managed to get through the crush of cars and continued until the next road block!

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We made it to this spot just in time as the leopard was on the move and soon disappeared into the bush.  This was just 1km from the picnic site.

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Tshokwane Picnic Site

The Tshokwane picnic site serves a delicious Early Bird breakfast of egg, bacon and tomato with toast for only R25.   Coffee, of course, is extra but it is the best coffee in the park!   Pat and Tony caught up to us just as we put our order in and they ordered the same.   Should you ever find yourselves in KNP and at this picnic site, be aware that there is a huge problem with monkeys and baboons.  Guard your food!

On the remainder of the trip we continued to have some lovely sightings.

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A Zebra Crossing

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European Roller

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Elephants decorating the hillside

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Elephants scaring The Earl silly

We arrived at camp at around 11 am and got set up and then had a rest.  Pat and Tony arrived at 2 after taking the scenic route.

We all went out together again for short drive at 4 pm.  The birding was good first on the bridge overlooking the Sabie River.

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Giant Kingfisher

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Mommy Egyptian Goose with goslings

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Opened-bill Storks

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Catching something tasty

Then we went to the famous Sunset Dam.  We saw some special birds but with the sun setting photography was difficult.

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I managed a good shot of the white crowned lapwing

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Sunset Dam

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Pied Kingfisher admiring the sunset

It was a perfect evening our sweet husbands did a splendid braai for supper

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Thanks Guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

Kruger National Park – Day 16 – Satara

25 November 2017 – An Awesome Day

After yesterday’s heat we woke to rain this morning – very welcome as The Park is dry and they need their rains.  It was also quite cold but nothing dampens ones spirits when in The Park.  A Bad Day in Kruger is still better than a Good Day at home.

By 6:35 we were exploring the H7.   As usual we stopped for every interesting bird.  We saw common waxbill flitting about and while we were enjoying them we heard the familiar clicks and then kyip, kyip kyip – the call of the Red-Crested Korhaan.  Then we saw him strutting across the road.   He then flew up and tumbled down free-fall style.  What an awesome bird.  We expected he was showing off for a female but she was clearly not interested as she remained hidden.

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Next to pop up unexpectedly was this chap.

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We saw the usual suspects too, elephant, zebra, kudu etc  before turning onto the S39.  This drive was good too and we found a tawny eagle and some vultures.   As we trundled along we saw two cars alongside of each other up ahead.  “Either they’re friends having a chat about their next route or the one is telling the other what he has seen.  I bet it’s a leopard,” said I.
As we approached, the one pulled away and parked in front. The other indicated that we should take his place.  ” If you look carefully – you will see a leopard,” he told us. We looked but couldn’t see anything so went ahead a little way and watched some birds.  The second car left but the first remained.  He must still have it we thought so we reversed to take another look.  Oh Wow.  There he was – quite a big male but still well hidden under the tree.

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Oh those wild eyes

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J need my rest, you know

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Here’s looking at you, kid!

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How long are you planning on staying ?

Reluctantly we left the scene to let the next car have a chance and soon reached Timbavati Picnic site where we hired a skottel and cooked breakfast.  It was raining a bit but we were quite dry under the thatch shelters.

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Our return trip produced more hyena and lovely birds but it was raining so photography was a bit difficult.  Back at camp we had a rest. At 3:30 I went to see if Pat and Tony were awake – they weren’t so I told The Earl that we should skip an afternoon drive.  But when they woke at 4 they were still keen to go out  and so at 4:30 we hit the S100.  I had a strange feeling that something exciting would turn up and Pat voiced the same thought.

Sure enough we got a lovely surprise. We found the occupants of two vehicles staring into the distance.   We could just see the flick of a tail and a twitch of an ear.   Another car approached and asked what there was.  We told her not much and then one of the lionesses got up and moved!  We then all go lovely views of her and the other one until they disappeared in the undergrowth again.  We thought we might find them on our return route but they were nowhere around.

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It was certainly worth going for that short drive to find our lions!

You would think camp cooking would be problematic when the weather is cold and wet.  But we were lucky.  The rain held off and we were quite content to sit under our canopy and enjoy a fabulous meal cooked once again by our Bush Master Chef.  It was a most delicious chicken and vegetable dish cooked on the Snappy Chef. (Induction Stove)

The resident hyenas patrolled past the fence quite frequently.  One actually stopped and stared at us as if to say – Please share your meal with me!  But of course we said – No way – go and hunt your own food!

It rained in the night and we expected a wet pack up the next morning!