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!

 

 

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0

Kruger National Park – Day 26

5 December 2017 – Berg en Dal

We are nicely settled here at Berg en Dal at the south end of The Kruger National Park.  Our campsite is right next to the fence and when we arrived yesterday we saw a herd of elephant close by.   Also in front of our site is a tall tree where two yellow-billed kites have built a nest.  It is well hidden but we have seen Mom and Dad in the open a few times – but in poor light.  Hopefully better photos will be possible soon.

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The whole of Berg en Dal rest camp is in pristine condition.  The paths are swept and there facilities are kept sparkling clean. In all the other camps we have found there are issues with maintenance. If Berg en Dal can get it right – then so can the others!

The one problem we are having here is with the monkeys.  Oh my – they are so cheeky!  The problem probably began because tourists insisted on feeding them and now thy take the easy way out and try to steal from the campers.   Our neighbours had a whole loaf of bread taken from under their noses and our butter very nearly went Awol but The Earl managed to frighten the culprit and she dropped it.  A bit of dusting off later and it’s now safely secured in a plastic container in the locked fridge.

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This baby was right outside our caravan  – I yelled at him and he ran to Mom

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“That nasty old lady yelled at me, Mom”  he said.                                                                                                                                         “How could you?!” she looked at me in disgust.

We were out by six this morning and were back for breakfast by ten.   At first we did not see much but then things improved.  Once again today there were more of the biggies and unusual smallies.

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Lovely to see a red-breasted swallow

Gardenia Hide is usually stunning but there was very little there today.  We were also disappointed to find that the path to the hide had been neglected, there were poles missing from the fence and there was an overflowing bin at the gate as well as litter on the path.  Not good enough Sanparks!

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African Wattled Lapwing

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Tree-frog nest built over water so that when the eggs hatch the tadpoles will fall in.  They fend for themselves from birth.

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A well camouflaged Water Thick-knee

Kudu, tortoise and buffalo were next on our list.  We also saw a few herds of elephant but they were hiding in the trees.  Four rhino were also some distance off.IMG_8705IMG_8710P1120459

And finally a leopard turned up this morning – not the best sighting ever but good to see him on a rock. He was fast asleep and didn’t stir for anyone!

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After the leopard we continued to see some lovely sightings – elephants, kudu, tortoise and buffalo until we returned to camp.  We rested until 3 o’clock and then went out for our afternoon drive.

First we encountered a herd of elephants. The babies were adorable

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A ground hornbill crossed our path

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A wainterhole we visited proved to be absolutely stunning.  We found a rhino having a wonderful, wallowing time and when the elephants came down they gave him a wide berth.  I wonder what it was that made them nervous of a rhino – his lovely long horn perhaps?

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Blissfully wallowing in the cool water

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Elephant giving a wide berth

Eventually the elephants left with a great deal of trumpeting.  They chased the poor impala from the scene.   We stayed to watch the rhinoceros complete his beauty treatment. He had a few itches to scratch  and amused us with the solution to his problems!

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Emerging after a lovely muddy bath

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Oooh what a lovely scratch

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Well, nobody’s going to do it for me, you know!

Finally he trundled off to his midden quite a way off but which we could still see.  He sprayed liberally into the midden and then wandered off.

We continued on our way too and enjoyed these other creatures along the way

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A common duiker peeked at us

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A hyena on a mission

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A red-breasted swallow

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And another rhino having a mud bath somewhere else!

It was another perfect evening and we braaied chicken kebabs for dinner.

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Only one more full day left in Kruger – how time flies.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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.

5

Kruger National Park – Day 9

18 November 2017 – Shingwedzi

This morning while we waited for Pat and Tony to finish packing up their tent, and before we said farewell to Punda Maria, Earl and I  paid one last visit to the hide.  This is the only camp in The Park that has a hide and a lit waterhole and it is frequently visited by many animals.  Elephants were already there and we watched them finish their ablutions and take on some refreshing liquid before they lumbered off into the bush.  It was quiet for a few minutes and then we heard loud and excited trumpeting and another herd came racing down to the water.  It was as if the little ones were calling – Mommy, I can’t wait to get into the water, please can we run ahead.

 

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It was awesome and we would have lingered longer but it was time to head to Shingwedzi.  Earl quickly helped with the tent packing up and then we set off separately.   The only disadvantage of towing a caravan is that you can’t stop suddenly, nor do all the reversing and manoeuvring at a sighting as you would like to. Also there is always the fear that you’ll be confronted by an oncoming elephant!   So we took the direct tar road and only stopped when we could.   We did manage to have some lovely sightings but once we got to Shingwedzi, we set up quickly, had a bit of a rest and then went to the restaurant for lunch.  Pat and Tony met us there. They had taken the river road and had lingered over bird and animal sightings.

All the usual patron of the Kruger Restaurant were about – elephant, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra so when we saw something a little out of the ordinary it peaked our interest.  This shy creature was kind enough to stop to have his portrait taken.

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Sharpes Grysbok

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Another large herd of buffalo

We checked in at Shingwedzi at around 10:30 and quickly found a lovely site next to the fence and close to the ablution block.  We had some feathered hosts welcome us.  The red-billed woodhoopoes were quite vocal but seemed in a hurry to be somewhere else and didn’t stop to chat.  Mrs Burchell, hower, asked if had any crumbs for her.  No – sorry we don’t eat bread.

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Burchell’s starling 

The arrow-marked babblers are always busy but blurted out their greetings as they flew from tree to tree.

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Arrow-marked babbler 

After lunch P&T went to set up camp at Shingwedzi  while The Earl and I did the river route which was very productive.   The Mopani Diner was open and the patrons were helping themselves to their offerings.

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Baboon feeding on Mopani leaves

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I am safe here with my mommy

It was very hot and most of the birds were napping in the cool of the foliage. It was later in the afternoon when we started to spot a few as they emerged from hiding.   This lovely raptor was hoping there would be a slithering reptile on the menu.

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Brown Snake-eagle

Sometimes you have to take the kids out to eat too.  Mom is trying to teach this youngster that he must eat by himself now.IMG_5414

The next feathered diner we met is a new one for us.

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White-throated Robin-chat

At the same cafe, skulking in the foliage we found an old friend.

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Long-billed Crombec

Some of the residents prefer to eat ‘seafood’  In this case, actually, it’s river-food. There were Egyptian Geese, Grey Herons, three-banded plovers and other waterbirds checking out the menu but our favourite was this lovely chap.

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Yellow-billed Stork

I have hundreds of giraffe photographs as I just love these stunning creatures.  I couldn’t resist taking more today.

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We are only at Shingwedzi for one night.  We weren’t very hungry after our lunch at the restaurant so it was well after sunset when we braaied.    A honey-badger entered the campsite and tried to steal from the humans and a hyena passed by on the other side of the fence.  Hopefully he never finds his way inside.

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Sunset at Shingwedzi

Tomorrow we head to Letaba for four nights.

 

 

 

 

 

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