16 September 2007 (Part Two)
Reception at Kruger Gate is not too busy and when Kgomotso looks up, I am greeted with, “Not you again”. We smile broadly at each other and exchange greetings. Some things we take for granted, and those are the things we struggle to survive without. I look at the young man I have come to know over years of visits to Kruger, and realize that he has become part of the ritual. It would be a loss not to have him greet me and chat a bit about the city and then a bit about the Park.
If anyone was watching me, they would have thought that I am a bit dilly. Huge smile on my face whilst I was sniffing the air. The smells of Kruger permeated my skin, thatch, dust, earth and sunshine. That incredible awareness of being settled over me as my eyes roamed the small circle at the gate, the familiarity of it all and the newness of anticipation.
Then suddenly, the curtain of a world that no longer exists, closes and finally the veld absorbs me. It is as if loving arms enfold me and the magic of love dances in my heart. Love that sees everything with wise eyes, love that hungers yet waits patiently.
Spring has started her slow dance across the savannah, touching Marula and Acasia trees. Their tender tendrils of green in sharp contrast to the bleached remains of winter. Perhaps ubuntu does not describe human behaviour after all, but was stolen from the earth itself. Where do the trees find the strength to burst forth in life and the birds sing their mating calls as if they know secrets of abundance?
Skukuza comes too soon, but first things first, although my being is protesting against any structure after it was released to run wild with the impala, to see far with a giraffe’s eyes. I am booked in after a few minutes, and then it was time to meet with my hosts, but more of that when the time is right.
I cannot say that I unpacked carefully – driven by the call of the savannah and rivers, I literally chucked everything down and grabbed my camera as I rushed out the door. There was not a lot of time for exploring, as a night drive was planned, which meant a change of clothes, and a girl needs to have just a sprinkling of vanity even in the bush.
The highwater bridge on the H12 yielded Ververts practicing for the new Superman movie…
Kudu having a chat with me…
Lake Panic afforded these exciting sightings – please help me to identify the bird in the nest and the one with the funky hairstyle?
The water level is very high at the moment, but the hide was surrounded by quite a number of waders on the banks. Goliath Heron, Yellowbilled Stork, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, a huge pod of hippo with quite a few youngsters, bushbuck and Cormorants. Then, as I start walking back to my car, the Emeraldspotted Dove breaks into song, the notes carried on the warm breeze of late afternoon. Mesmerized I listen to its melancholy song underwriting the definition of silence.
The first sighting on the night drive was a Marabou Stork. Our guide, January, a well-seasoned man of the bush. Soon he had us spellbound with his incredible knowledge and also in stitches with sharp wit. Darkness descended, changing the face of the bush. That primal feeling of intense awareness surfaced, every sensory dimension in my human body worked overtime. Perhaps the lessening of sight in darkness was compensated for in hearing, smelling and feeling. The spotlights picked up grazing hippos, but they did not like the limelight and scampered off into the darkness. Again our guide filled us in with amazing facts and left me wondering how much of nature do I really know about?
A while later, the game drive ended at a clearing in the bush which was softly lit by lanterns and fires. We arrived at the venue for the bush braai. Laughter mixed with the delicious smells of food. After a welcoming speech, our hunger pangs were stilled by the most delicious braai I have had in a long time.
Dinalêdi – means stars in Northern Sotho. I looked up into the night sky and the stars winked at me. I smiled my gratitude. I have met the incredible people who keep the magic alive in Kruger, and their professionalism makes it look all so easy. What made this whole experience beyond special was the warmth with which they included me into their circle. I deeply thank Wanda, William, Sinna, Lerato and January for affording me their company – you are indeed the stars that winked at me.