Back to my beloved South Africa

11 August
We awoke rather early again to make our way to Palapye, a small stop-over town in the southern part of Botswana.  It was a super long trip and we were glad to get there and stretch our legs.  Once again we put up our tents and I went to bed almost directly after dinner as we were up at the ungodly hour of 3:45 am the next day for more travelling!

Our home during the long travels

Entertaining the kids during the journey

12 August
When travelling with a truckload of families, you grow to learn very early on that children apparently need approximately 45 mins longer to get ready in the morning than adults.  This is somewhat annoying when you have to be up early anyway, but get rudely awaken well before your alarm goes off with complaining kids about how cold and dark it is and how they don’t want to get out of their sleeping bags.  I slept terribly during the night, so was rather grumpy in the morning and sat at the back of the truck away from people so that I could nap during the long journey ahead.  However, I had forgotten that the back of the truck is usually free for a reason:  it is EXTREMELY bumpy!  So sadly I had no rest on the journey to South Africa.  We arrived into our next destination, Blyde River Canyon, 1.5 hours later than planned as we took what was described as a shortcut….  We unfortunately didn’t have much time to hike around the beautiful canyon, which was a real shame as it seems like such a spectacular place and, if I believed in fairies, I am sure this is the place that they would reside.  The deep valley is like a small rainforest with crystal clear rivers running through it and small waterfalls at every corner. As you ascend upwards, vast cliff faces and steep mountain ranges surround you until you reach the viewpoint that overlooks “The Three Rondvals”, which are three rounded structures atop a huge mountain and look not too dissimilar to the traditional huts found across Namibia and Botswana called rondavels.  After snapping some pics and marvelling at the rock hyraxes (a.k.a. dassies), we wandered back up the hill to have a well-deserved drink in the posh restarant that overlooks the vista.  We then went back to camp for dinner and bed. 

13 August
The next morning we had a truck drive around Blyde River Canyon, the Lucky Potholes and God’s Window – all wonderful viewpoints in the Drakensberg mountain range in Limpopo that abuts Kruger National Park.  The Lucky Potholes are named after a gentleman who found gold there, but after some digging (which made the circular structure s in the cliff face) he realised that there was only a few fragments and indeed was a rather unlucky place to be prospecting.  All three viewpoints were superb, with fresh air and vistas that overlooked the surrounding environments for many kilometres.  

We then arrived into Kruger in the early afternoon for a quick lunch before heading off for a night game drive in Sabi Sands, a concession that abuts Kruger.  We saw the usual suspects in terms of game, as well as a rather curious bull elephant who got within a metre of the truck and a lone male lion in the distance.  

We stopped in a clearing to have a sundowner (drinks in the bush), where we were lucky enough to see herds of giraffe pass within 40 metres of where we were standing.  They were rather curious of us and stopped to watch us as we sipped our drinks and snapped some photos.  As the sun began to set, we wrapped things up and all went to the bush toilet.  The last person to go was a Polish lady, who went behind a mound about 20 metres from the truck.  The rest of us were stood the other side of the truck talking about hyenas and how acute their hearing is, with our guide telling us how they like to come and see what makes new noises such as humans stood around talking.  No sooner had he muttered this sentence, when he proclaimed “and here comes one now!”; Lo and behold, there was a lone spotted hyena coming out from the bush behind us and trotting along the grass line towards us!  This was when I remembered that the Polish lady was still behind the mound, so I shouted to her “errr there is a hyena!  You better hurry up!”.  Evidently she thought I was joking as she didn’t come rushing back.  I shouted again, this time with more urgency “the hyena is coming straight for you, you need to come back!!”.  Finally she noticed this large predator with the strongest bite of all mammals making a B-line for her but instead of coming back to the safety of the rest of the group, she got her camera out and started snapping photos!!!  The guide was very concerned by this point and rushed over to her to usher her back.  Fortunately they both returned without having parts bitten out of them, and the hyena wandered off.  Not long afterwards, a herd of zebra arrived from the same direction that the hyena had left.  They sniffed the ground where the hyena had been and cautiously wandered across the clearing.  

As the sun was set, we decided it would be best for us to get back into the truck and continue on with our drive.  Shortly afterwards we saw another hyena, this time it was sat having a bit of a snooze.  Other than that, we had a bit of a quiet drive, with just  few antelope sightings and a small spotted genet.  Even though we didn’t see much else, it was still great fun being out in the bush at night time marvelling at the stars and Milky Way.

14 August
This entire day was spent in Kruger National Park; my favourite place in the world.  I was somewhat worried that my previous thoughts of the place would be shattered after spending a year living in Africa in areas with lots of game, but I was not disappointed: by lunch time we had seen all of “The Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino – both black and white), named for being the most dangerous animals to hunt.  We also saw many other animals, including a lone male nyala (a medium-sized antelope related to bushbuck and kudu), which I’d never seen before, a hippo that had just recently been attacked and had huge gashed on its side, a leopard next to a tree with its kill (an impala) stashed away in the treetops, two spotted hyenas within 10 mins of arriving and another one sat by the road moments later, a lioness that had just eaten with blood all over her chest, a male lion asleep on a sand bank, another lioness that had attacked a porcupine and came off badly (she had a number of quills stuck right into her skull), loads of hippos, elephants, buffalos, crocodiles and many birds at a waterhole that we visited.  It was great to see a martial eagle sat atop a tree and saddle-billed storks fishing.  Kruger never fails to disappoint!  After a long but extremely successful game viewing day, we went back to camp happy and sleepy.

Next blog: my final days in Africa :-(


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