Friday 23 December. Depart Fish Hoek 0600, sleep over in Bloemfontein at Reyneke Park.
Saturday 24 December: Bloemfontein to Boksburg, easy trip.
Sunday 25 December: Boksburg
Monday 26 December: Boksburg
Tuesday 27 December: Depart Boksburg, 4 hours 20 to Hazyview via Dullstroom and Sabie — where there will be stops.
Wednesday 28 December: Depart Hazyview 0500 (gates open at 0530), head on up to Satara, one night in a CK6P (camping with power), two nights CK6 (camping, no power). Hey, this is all that was left in September when I made the bookings.
Saturday 31 December: Move to Skukuza, three nights.
Tuesday 3 January: Move to Berg-en-Dal, three nights.
Friday 6 January: Pull up stakes, head south, maybe via the toy store in Witbank.
Left Fish Hoek 0600-ish. Stopped frequently to check the teardrop wheelnuts, which were loose when I collected it from Bellville and worked loose again between Bellville and Fish Hoek. So I tightened them down well and marked them and so far so good.
Stopped at the Caltex in Richmond for fuel. I figured I’d make Colesburg but didn’t want to take the chance and good thing too, because when we got to the Caltex at Colesburg (where we were anticipating a good late lunch) there was a chain across the gate and a sign saying “closed until 2017” so we drove on – you know the story -and found an excellent little farm stall place (Meerkat Valley a.k.a. Kuilfontein Farm Stall) outside Springfontein.
The owner must be some kind of a radiohead because they have this Pioneer SM-Q300B (Interesting to me because I have an FM-B101 in storage — different radio but very similar looks). Also an Akai M-8… wonder if it’s potentially for sale…
Got to Reyneke park and they’re half empty. Over Christmas. This was… unexpected (I didn’t expect to get a campsite when I asked a month or so back, thought I’d been lucky to get it). Anyway. Half empty. So Tanya upgraded us to a chalet because aircon (It’s 37 out there and muggy).
Nicely designed, just like the ablution blocks that impressed us last time. There’s an interconnecting door so you can also rent two connected chalets for a big party.
Not quite what I envisaged when I built the teardrop,
So we saw the circus and it was great. Bit rusty in places, but do go.
Then we drove to Hazyview, with some shopping along the way. Anvil brewery in Dullstroom. It’s the first 8 beer tasting menu where I liked all the beers. Hell, I even bought a bottle of white and I don’t like wheat beer in general.
The Hazy Park campsite is good, plenty shade, grass aplenty… that’s if you actually want to stay instead of just overnighting like we did — we left at 04:30, thinking the gates open at five. They opened at 05:30, but we were still #8 in line. Some keen people out there.
Saw some animals, found a nice spot at Satara, went out and saw some more animals, had supper with a cheetah. Well, he was eating, we were taking photographs.
Then came home to the biggest thunderstorm out. 48mm, they tell me, but it felt like more (Lower Sabie had 120mm). Took the power out, they had to start the genny (we’re in a no-power campsite, but anyway). Found that the teardrop leaks… a bit. No fun at all.
Thought that this would all clear up today but after leaving in the rain and coming back in a downpour, sticking the towels and the sleeping backs in a tumble dryer, and cosying up in the teardrop with wine… it’s still raining. Feh.
The day was good to us though, started the day with a cheetah (maybe the same one from the previous day), saw four of the big five in a couple hundred meter radius, saw about seven lions… of course more elephant and impala than you can count, of course zebra and giraffe and wildebeest. This place is amazing in December.
We got up early as always. Not many options of a route to take, since all the untarred roads were closed because of the rain. Drove down to Tshokwane for breakfast.
Just before Tshokwane we spotted three hyena, one walking in the road and these two by the side of the road. They skulked off to the left, good thing because just on the other side of the road we spotted…
… the breakfast they didn’t get.
The rest of the day was mostly quiet, spotted a family group of rhino and later a lion on our way back to Satara.
One of the Scops owls that live in the tree outside the reception at Satara.
For once we slept in. Hitched the teardrop, proceeded on down the road to Skukuza, our home for the next three nights.
These guys were enjoying the water.
Had breakfast at Tshokwane, again. Some idiots people had a punnet of grapes, which immediately became the target of the resident monkeys.
Just after the drift just before Skukuza, there was an unhappy noise.
Yes, that’s me, out of the car in Kruger. Off camera you will notice Tanya taking the photographs to make sure that if a lion got me, there would be evidence for YouTube.
I had to unpack the car and take the Minus 40 out to get to the spare wheel… no fun.
Set up camp on a nice spot in Skukuza, and headed out of the camp, back to Hazyview for a birthday party.
Our leisurely start, monkeyfied breakfast, the flat tyre and…
… the leopard* we saw just before Kruger gate made us already late, but I also wanted to get the tyre fixed because driving around Kruger with no spare is just stupid.
But it was after 12 on a Saturday, the end of the month and the end of the year. Fortunately Thomas Tyres could help out — R950 for a new Continental (I put four new tyres on Tanya’s car last month for R2250, so R950 is high. But we were out of options).
All of which made us about two hours late for the birthday party.
We had to leave early to make sure we got back before 18:30, when the gates close. Got to camp to find Philip and Justine glamping it out next to us, they will share our campsite for the rest of our time here (You pay a basic fee for a campsite for two people, and then an additional fee for each extra visitor up to a maximum of six. Jessica would also be joining us later).
Proceeded to braai and drink wine and talk nonsense ’till late.
* This is the best photo we have, he was probably around 300m and heading away from us, but Tanya has a 600mm lens which helps.
This little bugger woke us up at some insane time of the morning. And bear in mind that my alarm was set for 04:00, this was well before that. Out of focus because the autofocus did not cope and manual focus is a bit difficult to someone who is used to a split prism viewfinder.
Heading out we encountered the resident tribe of banded mongoose out foraging for breakfast.
First stop was Lake Panic, I’d never been there and wanted to see what it’s like. Saw two Fish Eagles and a Dwarf Kingfisher.
“I want my two dollars!”
Found this fellow on the S7 close to Pretoriuskop.
Went back to Skukuza for a siesta. We found that it’s best to be out the gate shortly after it opens (no need to be in thequeue, but try to get out as early as possible) and then to drive around until nine or ten. After that, not much moves. Then go out again at around four, stay out until the gates close.
We did just that, drove out on the H4-1 towards Lower Sabie.
There were some cars stopped on the right-hand side of the road, we investigated, they were watching what looked to be about six or seven sleeping African Wild Dogs — these two under a tree, and four or five in the river bed. Not much was happening, so we drove on to Nkuhlu, where we saw some baboons and a bushbuck.
On the way back to Skukuza the car in front of us stopped — a leopard had crossed the road just in front of them and disappeared into the bush. They thought it was gone and left, but we persevered and found it about 20m into the bush and hardly visible.
Checked out the (GPS waypointed) spot where we saw the wild dogs and there was nobody there. But the dogs were still sleeping, so we decided to watch them until they woke up.
After a while they started stirring and more and more dogs emerged from various spots — there were about 20 of them in total.
African Wild Dogs are extremely weird creatures. Alien, even. A pack of dogs is an entity, they exist as a unit. Fascinating to watch.
They crossed the road behind us and went off into the bushes to hunt.
Took the H1-1 to Numbi gate to pick up Jessica who would be joining us for the rest of the trip. At the De Laporte bridge we spotted a rhino snoozing. Waited for about half an hour but the only thing that moved was his ears.
Picked Jessica up, went around the S3 / S7 loop, saw a lion but couldn’t get good pictures (he was close to the road but hidden in the grass).
Met Nkulu under the Sign of the Martial Eagle. They were on their way home.
Siesta at Skukuza, went out again towards five. First checked to see if the wild doggies were still in the same area, they were not. Came back via H1-2, found a troop of baboons having a bath next to the low bridge to Skukuza.
There was plenty of sunlight left so we drove past the tree with the impala in it (with a whole lot of people waiting for the leopard to come back) and on towards Paul Kruger Gate when… we spotted cars. Plenty cars.
Yup, that close.
‘e’s just a puddy tat!
Of course by now it was a complete clusterfsck.
Something scared him…
… I think it was those two guys on the back of the bakkie (that’s exactly where he was looking). They looked like rangers, which presumably exempts them from the rules?
But I jockey for position like a mofo, so we managed to get some more photos, albeit further away.
(The other 500 photographs are available on request :-)
When it’s time to move camp, some people pack up their caravans and leave.
This is stupid a sub-optimal use of time and resources.
We get up at the normal 04:00, go out looking for animals, come back in around 09:00, pack up and leave (you have to be out by 10:00). Well, that’s what we normally do.
Remember, your most productive times are gate-open to 09:00, and 17:00 to gate-close. Or at least that’s what works for us, in summer. YMMV.
Took the H1-2 and the S30 Salitje Road towards Lower Sabie. This road has been good to us with lions before, but not this time — didn’t see much, until we got the intersection and decided to take the S29. Just around the corner, found three large rhino quietly browsing.
Light’s bad, but this gives some idea of how big they are.
Then the elephant came, and this five-legged version blocked the road for a bit.
Just after we hit the tar of the H10 south, a girl with stunning eyes stopped us and said something like “there are two lionesses off to the left about 2.7km down the road”. So we drove, checking the bush, didn’t see squat. Got to around 3km and I decided to turn around, have another look.
Fortunately the lioness then decided to look up, and we saw her. When they’re lying down you have no chance, see the one on the right?
Hard life, being a lion.
Went to Lower Sabie for a quick body break, as we came out a fellow stopped us and told us there were lions with cubs at a buffalo kill 12km up the S29 (remember that plan about being packed and out of Skukuza by 10? Wasn’t going to happen).
They were quite close to the road but in very dense bush.
We eventually got back to Skukuza at 10, packed up, headed south to Berg-en-Dal, got a nice campsite at the top, set up camp, and went out for an evening drive.
We saw this little family again, on the night drive. I’m still of the opinion that night drives are a waste of time and money, although the fellow I sat chatting to reports seeing all kinds of things on night drives. But then, it sounded like he goes on them all the time.
Jessica wanted to go to the book store in Sabie, I had a slow leak in the new tyre and wanted to get it fixed in Hazyview, and I felt like some Sabie beer. So we headed off early, H3 and H2-2 Voortrekker Road to Pretoriuskop, get out of Kruger after 9 when everything’s asleep, get back around 4, drive back to Berg-en-Dal while looking out for leopards and lion.
Sounds like a plan.
What have they got?
Who then proceeded to flush a pumba which ran straight at our car, veered at the last moment, and stuck his backside in a culvert under the road.
This is a pic I got later, when he ventured out and got chased back in again.
Nobody messes with a pumba with his back in a culvert and his sharp end facing you. The dogs were so frustrated they were biting the ground and pulling sticks around.
Beer (and lunch) at the Sabie Brewing Company (got the slow leak sorted. It was a puncture in my brand new tyre).
There’s always some horse’s arse who spoils your shot.
Found a hyena with cubs in the culvers just before Afsaal. Thought it might be a den but we went back a number of times and didn’t see them again.
The night drive didn’t yield much, we saw a few owls and a mongoose of some type, as well as rhino, buffalo and impala. I can however report that the radio in the vehicle is an Icom IC-F5063 (I’m presuming VHF based on the antenna size).