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 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!

 

 

1

Kruger National Park – Day 27

6 December 2017 – Last full day in Kruger

It rained in the night and it was still overcast and cool when we woke up and temperatures only reached the mid twenties today. As it was our last day in the park we decided to make the most of it and took a long drive stopping first at Crocodile Bridge camp for brunch and Afsaal for afternoon coffee.  We left at 6:00 am and only got back to Berg en Dal at 4:00 pm

It was an amazing last day and our sightings were really special.

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First to greet us early this morning was Mr Waterbuck

 

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The first of the many rhino we came across today

Giraffe are the most elegant of creatures and even when they’re having a confrontation it looks more like a ballet than a boxing match.  It’s called necking when they fight but it all looks so gentelmanly

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They don’t look aggressive at all

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Getting ready to knock each other’s necks

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Elephant spectators look on in amusement

We took a loop to be closer to the river and suddenly The Earl noticed this fellow fly into a tree.  It took a while for me to see him and when I did I was delighted as it’s the first for this trip and one of the less common kingfishers.

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Grey-headed Kingfisher

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He gave The Earl a fright

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A rhino road block

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Mom and baby giraffe

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The wind got into this Martial Eagle’s feathers

After breakfast at Crocodile Bridge we spotted some impala, wildebeest and warthogs just outside the camp.  The warthogs had piglets.

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Too much cuteness here!

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Sweeeet!

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Adorable

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Pretty Piggies

The Earl started moving on – “Wait,” I said, “I’m enjoying the piglets – don’t go yet!”  “We have to find the lions and leopards.” he said.  “No!” I complained. “Let’s enjoy what we’ve got!” But he wouldn’t listen and I was miffed!

But not for long – had we stayed as I’d have liked we would have missed this!

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Lioness on the move

We spotted her coming across an open field.   The Earl reversed and turned into another road where she came right toward us and then passed our vehicle.

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She was heading somewhere with purpose

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She paused when she saw some wildebeest

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She dropped down in the long glass – unseen by the wildebeest – Spot the ears

 

No way could she hunt those wildies on her own.   We stayed with her for a while but then it was time to move on.  What a great sighting.

while later on our drive we came across some more royalty  – this time there were four – one blocking the road and the others lying asleep in the veld.

 

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The King blocking his Highway

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Then flopping down to sleep regardless of the two cars wanting to pass by

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But in the end he got up and moved and joined his friends.

We thought we might get all five of the Biggies today but we dipped on leopard.  Not that we can complain as we have had so many lovely experiences with leopard on other days and who can sniff at two lovely lion sightings in one day!

Other interesting sightings before we finally gave up for the day.

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White-crested Helmet-shrike

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Don’t wander off too far, young one.

 

Toward the end of our drive the skies started to darken and it was raining when we arrived at camp.  We debated about what to do about dinner but it cleared sufficiently to enable us to go with Plan A and braai.  I stir fried some veggies to go with it.   It is still raining now so it will be a wet pack-up tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

0

Kruger National Park – Day 14 – Satara

23 November 2017 – Letaba to Satara and The S100.

After yesterday’s 40 degree C heat we woke to cooler conditions today.  In fact the mercury dropped by 20 degrees!

We were packed up and ready to roll by 7:00 o’clock.  Pat and Tony were to follow after going to reception to find out about getting Pat to a doctor.

The first excitement walked toward us on the tar road.   Mom, Dad and Little One

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Come on Mom and Dad – keep up!

Then they veered off the road and passed by the car.  We got a shot of Mom – or Dad – difficult to tell the sexes apart.

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She seems to be smiling about something.

When we arrived at Satara we got a call from Tony.  They were on their way and would set up camp and then head to Skukuza to see the camp doctor.

We set up next to the fence at the North-west side of camp.  There were quite a few interesting birds hanging around and posing for their portraits.

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Red-billed Buffalo-weaver

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Burchell’s Starling

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Grey-headed Sparrow

When Pat and Tony  arrived we helped them set up and then went to have breakfast at the restaurant.  They managed to get an appointment for 2 o’clock and set off for Skukuza at midday.

Earl and I had a rest and then at 3 pm set off to do a stretch of the S100, turning around and retracing our route so as to be back in camp in time.  The drive there produced some common residents.

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My favourite creatures

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Zebs had a dust bath

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A stripe of zebra

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Delighted to have this red-faced mousebird sit still for a second

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This non-breeding shaft-tailed whydah had us guessing for a while

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Red-billed quelea

We hoped to see a lot more as the S100 is famous for seeing both lion and leopard – but not luck there.  However, the birding was good.

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A lovely surprise – Trumpeter Hornbill

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Male Red-backed shrike

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Bateleur Female

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Bateleur Male

Seeing the trumpeter hornbill was special for me and I counted that as the highlight of the day.  I was in a bit of a complacent dream when suddenly I saw it, just a short distance away, so well camouflaged in the dry grass.  “There’s a cheetah!” I called out to The Earl.  “Where?” he said.  “There,” I pointed.  “Where’s there!”  he was frustrated.

“Stop!” I yelled.  “He’s going to come out in front of the car.”  And then he saw it too.

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What a brilliant surprise
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We had him all to ourselves

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The beautiful boy!

He crossed the road and then moved off into the distance.  We watched until he disappeared over the ridge.  A car approached – just a minute too late.  We were the only ones to have seen him!

Pat and Tony were back from the Skukuza by 6:15.   Pat’s wrist is badly sprained and the doctor strapped it into a brace.   She is comfortable but may have to have x-rays if the swelling doesn’t go down.

As it was so cool we decided that a stew would be best for dinner tonight. Once again our Master Chef of the Bushveld put our snappy chef and smartspace pots to excellent use and we dined in style once again.

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.

 

2

Sibling Reunion at Gariep Dam – Part 1

When my grandsons were very young we explained their relationship to me like this.   Granny:  Jay and Joshua, when Mommy and Aunty Lauren were little they had another mommy.   Her name was Colleen.   But a sad thing happened.  She was sick for some time and then she died when they were only 10 and 12 years old.

Jay:  Oh – is that her in the picture in Mommy’s room?

Granny:  Yes.  You can imagine that it was quite a sad time for Grandpa and his girls.  But then Grandpa decided that he needed a new wife and a mommy to help look after the little girls.  So he asked me if I would be come and be with them. And I said, Yes – I would so he became Lolly’s new daddy and we became a blended family.

Jay’s eyes widened and a big smile broke onto his face:   “Lucky for you, hey Gran!”
Of course I thought it was lucky for all of them but my precious little lad gave me a new perspective on the whole situation!   After all what did I get?  Two ready made little girls who brought great joy to my life and grew up to give me some adorable grandchildren.  He and his brother along with their mommy lived with Granny and Grandpa from infancy till their late teens – How lucky were we??

Not only that – I inherited a whole family on their maternal grandmother’s side who drew me unconditionally into the family and never questioned their brother-in-law’s choice of new wife and mother for their nieces.  Yes – Lucky for Gran, indeed!  Thirty- four years later I still feel very, very lucky.

Colleen had four siblings – Barbara who has just turned 70 and lives on a farm with Andrew in Kokstad, Kwa-Zulul Natal;   John who lives on a wine estate with Karly in Stellenbosch, Western Cape;   Shirley who along with Eddie has lived in many places in the country but now lives in Bloemfontein – Free State;   And the baby sister Diane who lives with Carey on a small holding at Great Brak River near George in the Western Cape.  As I mentioned we all have a good, close relationship and try to see each other as often as possible.  But being scattered  around the country makes it difficult for all the siblings to be together at the same time.  My Goodness even when siblings live in the same city it can get complicated.

John came up with the brilliant idea of all of the siblings, which included The Earl and me, to meet somewhere neutral to celebrate Barbara’s 70th birthday. This message was passed from one to the other but no actual plan was in place.  I was worried  – we’re old – some of us have health issues – the distances are vast – where would we find a venue that suited everyone.  I asked the question and everyone had a different idea.   “Who is organising it?” I asked.   “Would you?” came the reply.     “Yes!” I agreed.

The Earl and I looked at the map and decided that Gariep Dam in Free State should be it.  I sent out the email and within minutes I had a positive reply from everybody – Yes they would all come and yes the venue was fine.  My chief concern was for Eddie who has been undergoing intensive chemo and would not be strong enough to travel too far.  It would be only an hour and half for him and Shirl.   Those of us in the Western Cape would have the longest distance to travel but we would do it in two hops.  John and Karly would stop at Karoo National Park. Earl and I would pick up Diane and Carey at Great Brak.  Barbs and Andrew would also do it in two shorter hops and they were happy with that.

Well last week was when it all happened and I am happy to report that it went off extremely well.  The only dampener was that Carey could not join us.  Just before our week away was due, a fire broke out in the forest surrounding their property.  Diane and Carey helped save a neighbour’s house and were on the verge of being evacuated themselves.   By the time we arrived on Sunday afternoon, the fire was still burning and thick, black smoke hung chokingly in the atmosphere.    Carey was still very worried.  “Take Diane,” he said. ” And if things improve, I will drive up on my own.”    Just behind Carey’s work shop, where he builds motor homes, is a forest of gum trees.  If they went up in flames, his livelihood would be destroyed.  I am happy to report that the fire did not reach the farm but only because of the vigilance of the property owners and the fire fighters.

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The first view of the forest fire as we approached Rondom Mooi

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Fire Fighters at work at the edge of the pine plantation

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The wind just needed to whip this up into a frenzy

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Too close to Rondom Mooi for comfort

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Looking into the smoky distance from Rondom Mooi

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In spite of the fire, Carey entertained his grandsons who just loved the tractor/mower

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Daniel takes the wheel – Sit down Matthew!

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Watch out – I’ll run you down!

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Wow!  This is fun

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Now it’s Matthew’s turn

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Bella – My favourite of the Rondom Mooi dogs.

On the Monday morning the smoke still hung threateningly over the farm and after taking a drive to see how things were progressing, Carey decided that he definitely could not join us.  So leaving at 9:30 and stopping in George to shop for provisions and to have breakfast we continued over the Outeniqua Pass, then through the Karoo via Graaff-Reinet to the Free State – arriving at Forever Resort Gariep at 5:00 pm.

The Karoo’s semi desert landscape has a stark beauty of it’s own.  I just love the colours, the flatness and the koppies that break the eternal nothingness.
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The never-ending Karoo road

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A typical Karoo scene with the windmill in the foreground

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A Karoo Koppie

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A splash of Autumn Colours.

Everybody was already there when we arrived and it was a perfect evening. We set up our squatter camp next to John’s Mount Nelson on wheels and then everybody came down from the rondawel to braai with us.

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Our view of Gariep Dam

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John in charge

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Andrew, Barbara and The Earl

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Diane, Karly, Eddie, Shirl

The purpose of this gathering was to celebrate Barbara’s 70th which was in February but then there were 2 other birthdays too – Shirl turned 63 the day before we arrived and andrew turned 82 the day we left.  So I got Rachel from my favourite coffee shop to bake a big chocolate cake with Happy Birthday and the ages iced on top.

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Happy Birthday to Shirl, Barbara and Andrew

Travelling didn’t do the icing any good but it tasted delicious – best chocolate cake this side of the equator!

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Everybody listened politely as I waxed lyrical

We were all so excited to be together.  It was not easy for Eddie who is very weak but he made the effort and bonded with each of us.   Shirl was also recovering from foot surgery but never complained and gently supported her hubby, Andrew has had a few health issues but wouldn’t have missed this gathering either. Karly was the life and soul of the party in spite of recovering from recent surgery herself.   Wow – I love this bunch of positive people.   Nothing stops them enjoying everything that life still has to give!

To be continued ……..