We were invited for three nights at Boulders Lodge, but Tanya couldn’t get more leave, so we had to leave on the Sunday, see how far we could get, and then complete the drive home on Monday (which was a public holiday, “Family Day” aka Easter Monday).
So we left as early as possible, which gave us the road and this pack of hyenas all to ourselves.
It was still pretty dark, as you can see. Tanya’s camera coped better than mine.
Down the H1-5 we found a clump of cars, people pointing. Three lionesses, although we can only really claim seeing two.
About 300m from the road.
I spotted the likkewaan crossing the road, made a quick U-turn so that Tanya could get pictures.
The southern part of the Kruger is cat country. Saw this male lion under a tree.
And a bit further on, an unknown number of females and cubs. We didn’t stop for long, the road ahead was calling.
This is the tiniest little elephant ever. Must be very very new.
And from there it was pretty uneventful. Left Malelane gate around 14:00, drove straight past Hananja on the way back (it was dark already) and got to Bloemfontein at around 23:00. Booked into the Sun 1 (the hotel formerly known as Formula 1) which is inexpensive and more than adequate most times (this time, the water was fine the evening but cold when we got up at 06:00, so I skipped the morning shower and we hit the road).
Got home late-ish Monday afternoon. All’s well what ends well and all of that.
Tanya’s brother is a big birder. He told us that yellow-billed oxpeckers are somewhat rare (apparently at some stage they were considered extinct in South Africa), but that he had spotted one. So we went out and spotted one too.
Someone’s been feeding the turtles.
I stopped the car and these fellows came charging, some all the way from the other side of the pool. Then they just sit there looking at you. If they could, they’d get in the car.
Hyenas can of course get in the car, which is why it’s a bad idea to teach them that food comes from tin cans with wheels.
Just don’t feed the animals. You’re making them into welfare recipients.
Back up the H1-6 towards Mopani we came across a pile of cars. Eventually found what they were staring at.
If I’m not mistaken that might be a lion (in my days in Boy Scouts, we had reasons for animals being named the way they are. The lion is the only clean one I can remember. They’re called lion because most of the time, they’re just lion there).
This being the only feline spotted so far, and it being around three in the afternoon, we decided to wait.
They say that young women tend to compare their boyfriends… equipment *cough* to that of their brothers’.
Well, I stand absolutely no chance.
Much later (OK, three quarters of an hour or so later) there are signs of life.
What is it I spot over there?
Looks like a tree.
Good. I’m not called a lion for nothing you know.
Shingwedzi for lunch. S50 up. H1-6 back down.
Kori Bustard. This is the heaviest flying bird in Africa, maybe in the world (the UK Great Bustard is also a contender for the title). They run over 20 kilograms sometimes, I’m told.
Tsessebe are quite rare in the park, so finding a small herd with calves was nice.
We found this tusker next to the H1-6 south of Shingwedzi.
After popping in to Mopani for a quick loo break we were off to Boulders Lodge, an exclusive non-fenced lodge south of Mopani. It consists of a large living area and six double rooms, sleeping a maximum of twelve people (but you can book the whole place out for as few as four people).
Some elephants came to visit.
We decided to go to Letaba for breakfast, past the maybe-dead zebra foal. Turns out he was fine. Just past that, at Twisappel, I saw something sitting — thought it might be a leopard, but it turned out to be a jackal — two of them in fact.
This is at full zoom + digital … they were far away.
Here they are on the sunny side of the vlei.
Tanya’s brother had told us that there’s a dead hippo close to Letaba so we went looking for it.
The hippo skin is so thick that the vultures can’t get inside.
The central to northern part of the park is better for birds, not so good for cats.
Look at the wingspan on that thing.
This little fellow took forever to cross the road.
This fellow was slightly quicker.
Up early, on the road, and into Kruger.
Now normally the first thing you see inside the park is a herd of impala. Pretty much guaranteed.
Not this time. The doggies had already picked up a following.
We didn’t bother joining the parade, but I’m pretty sure they followed the pack all the way back to Phabeni gate.
Look at this plonker. There’s a herd of elephant just off the side of the road, look where the Land-Rover is looking. Makes for a good selfie, no?
I had the camera ready to film the carnage which sadly didn’t happen.
More (different) rhino.
And also the little(r) things.
The Kruger was very dry. Look at this poor hippo in a mudhole barely bigger than he is.
We drove up via Skukuza, Satara, Letaba all the way to Mopani, where we were booked in for two nights. It’s a long but very scenic drive.
Marabou stork. I grew up on Huppelkind.
Not that far from Mopani, around 16:30, we came across a herd of zebras. This little fellow seemed to have given up on life, so I decided to come back early the next morning — a dead foal should attract some predators for a photo-op.
Dullstroom is a delightful little town I hadn’t visited for way too long. That made it the preferred lunch stop.
We stopped at Pickles & Things where we had to try the trout. It’s what the town is famous for. Then we dropped in at Tram’s Antiques where they had a player piano for not a whole lot of money. Coupled with the auspiciousness of the date I only barely managed to avoid temptation.
So we proceeded on to Sabie where we found the Sabie Brewing Company, where I ended up buying 12 bottles (lager and IPA) after tasting all six their beers. I was impressed by the lager.
Went shopping and booked into the Hazy Park Lodge which is somewhat eclectic but very good value for money at R450 for the two of us, and also about half an hour from the closest Kruger Park gate (Phabeni).
Big bedroom, big living area, lots of kitchen space, available per night or for longer periods (like a month, for example). This would really be a good place to stay if you want to drive in to Kruger every day.
So we were on the road, Vereeniging to Hazyview. First stop, Trichard, to pick up some Philips SXA radios. Trichard is where potholes are made. They make them in big factories and load them on the back of a truck. As the truck shakes and bounces, some of the potholes fall off the back. Around Trichard there are many potholes, and then as you get further away from town you see fewer of them.
That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
From there the GPS put us on a road that’s perfectly good until it gets to some kind of a SASOL installation, after which it turns to crap quite spectacularly.
This is the last pic Google Steetview has. After this point, it gets … interesting.
Should have taken the R547 instead.
In Witbank we met up with OM Johan who has (had) what we believe to be the only existing copy of the documentation for the locally made Fuchs R10 Type Receiving System* — of which I have only the FAP-901 antenna tuner. He got the signal generators, I got the documentation, to be scanned. From there I took the N4 toll road to to Middelburg and found that the place I was looking for was half way back to Witbank on the R555 — should have skipped the toll road completely.
And that took care of the deliveries and collections and the holiday could begin.
* It’s a copy of, or based on, or similar to (I’m not sure which) the THOMSON CSF TRC-180x
We left De Rust fairly late because Meiringspoort is much less spectacular at night. The bridges in Meiringspoort are often washed away by floods, and the subsequent upgrades have been a constant improvement, making for a really nice road to drive.
Other side of Meiringspoort, the N12 runs past Caroluspoort and straight on to the N1 just before Beaufort West. And from there it’s the long slog north.
Not being as young as I used to be, I wanted to pick a halfway (between De Rust and Kruger) spot to overnight, and I settled on the Vaal. Distance-wise it’s more than half-way, but remember that I have deliveries and pick-ups and I wanted to take the scenic route via Long Tom Pass so the Vaal’s a good choice.
The guest house I googled, not so much.
The geyser plumbing is interesting in a Not Right way, which makes the shower very difficult to get right. I left it running after I finished showering so that Tanya wouldn’t have to go through the same process of finding the one spot where the water was neither scalding hot or freezing.
Don’t get me wrong — apart from the shower the place is perfectly adequate — but if you compare this at R550 to Olivier’s Rust in De Rust at R500, it falls flat miserably.
We had supper at Fandangos which is pretty good but rather expensive.
From Vereeniging the R42 goes past this gorgeous place just outside Heidelberg, which I’ve blogged about before. Accommodation is not in the main house but in converted outbuildings, and it’s also rather expensive at R600/night. But I’ve made a note to drive a bit further and consider Heidelberg as an overnight stop next time.
There’s this theory that back when the world still had kings, if the king was mildly displeased with you he’d give you a horse. You would have to take good care of the horse, since the king gave it to you, and that would slowly bankrupt you.
This trip was a lot like that.
Specifically, Tanya’s brother invited us to visit Kruger with him, he’d pay the accommodation. How can we refuse an offer like that? Of course we’d have to pay for fuel and accommodation on the way up and down and food… but it was worth it.
Of course, as always, I had a few deliveries and collections. A rifle safe to Oudtshoorn, a whole stack of signal generators to Witbank, and bring back some old radio documentation and a 2m linear. So on Sunday the 20th of March we took Route 62 to Oudtshoorn, dropped off the safe, and proceeded on to De Rust.
There are not many options for supper, so we went to Harrie se Plek (Harry’s Place) — Herrie being C.J. Langenhoven‘s imaginary elephant. I can recommend the burgers.
And the wine was pretty good too.
We even got atomic cookies.