Onward and eventually homeward
Blimey, have I left it this long? Oh well.
You guys missed a treat at our anniversary bash – fine food, fine wine and a private table in a private room to enjoy it all.
Any road up, we left our secret location somewhere south of Bloemfontein early on the morning of the 30th and headed south to Cradock. Needing a few bits ‘n’ bobs we popped into Cradock, shopped, had lunch (Biiiiiig mistake!) then back-tracked to the Mountain Zebra NP.
The drive into the park yielded ostrich, red hartebeest, springbok, kudu, gemsbok and eland.
These eland seem a tad wary of itinerant Brummies
This is more the welcome we expected!
We were booked in at the guesthouse (it was all that was available when we booked). For those who haven’t stayed there – do! It’s magic – well worth the few extra Rand. Those of you who have stayed there will know what we mean.
We had a choice of three bedrooms – we chose this one.
An afternoon drive presented us with a few springbok, some black wildebeest, kudu, red hartebeest and a very nosey ostrich that seemed to want to climb in with us!
Then it was back to the restcamp for a rather splendid evening meal. They arranged for the camp gate to be left open for us, so that we could drive back to the cottage. Great – our own freebie night-drive! All we saw was a couple of kudu, but the experience of driving back to the cottage at night was a real thrill.
Next morning we breakfasted at the cottage and then drove both of the two loops. The Rooiplaat loop seemed fairly quiet, some black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok and kudu (all at a distance from the road)
and a solitary buff with a snooty look on his face.
Then we tackled the Kranskop loop. As others have said, this loop is, in places, tricky when using an ordinary car. Water levels were low so crossing the streams was quite easy; however, some of the steep climbs were a tad daunting. We were the first of the day to travel the loop (we know because we were breaking ice at each crossing!). Mountain zebra (of course!), mountain reedbuck, springbok, kudu and a more interesting group of buffs were our tally – then back to the restcamp for lunch and then we set off for Addo. Sadly no rhino (baby or otherwise)
So that was the Mountain Zebra finished with.
Well not quite. We left the restcamp and had travelled about 1 km when an animal trotted across the road in front of us. It was unmistakable, it was a cheetah – sadly by the time we reached where it had crossed it was well on its way up the hillside – too far away to photograph (just like that pesky roan in KNP!). We sat and watched its leisurely progress up the hillside until we could no longer see it (about 15 minutes in all when we didn’t see another vehicle) and then said a sad farewell to MZNP.
Addo was reached late-afternoon and by the time we had found our rondawel and settled in there was only time for a short foray which yielded very little, then we had an evening meal and settled down for the night.
Next morning we set out to cover most of Addo’s roads. As with Kruger, it seemed as though most of the game had decided to take a winter break. We came across a BBJ busily trying to unearth something,
but apart from ellies, warthog, kudu, ostrich and red hartebeest, not a lot popped up. A bushbuck gave us a wary look and then scuttled away, a hoopoe led us a merry dance as it posed on one branch, waited for us to frame a photo (missed!) and then flapped off to another branch to pose again.
We returned to the main camp for a light lunch and then a lesson in not trusting anyone. The guy on the gate recognising us from the morning let us into the game area without a pass. Coming back ready for our planned meet with HP the chap was a different one – and it took a bit of explaining as to why we hadn’t got a permit! Eventually he let us go and after a quick dash to reception our second meet did actually happen.
Having grilled HP for any info on the likeliest places to find lion, we set out the next morning with a plan (and we know all know what happens to Brummie’s plans!). Sadly Addo didn’t have any farewell gift and all we saw on our way to Colchester was a few kudu and some ostriches (at a distance).
So we set off towards Swellendam. We stopped overnight at George and then after a diversion via Oudtshoorn arrived at the Bontebok NP mid-afternoon.
The weather from Brummieland was catching us up now and we were greeted by grey skies that threatened rain. Our best sighting was the small herd of bontebok that we passed on our way to reception.
I guess you can see how grey it and damp it was splashing round the park.
We found that the area around Lang Elsie’s Kraal was shut off completely (judging from the work going on there, the announcement in June about new accommodation was a tad premature!), as was part of both of the loops. We spotted a few bontebok and zebra – all a long way from the road – and a solitary secretary bird, again a long way away. That was it! Given the poor weather and the road closures, we decided to call it a day and headed off into Swellendam to find our overnight accommodation.
The next morning we decided that, rather than revisit the Bontebok NP, we would press on to Simon’s Town. We now had two nights booked in the Boulders Beach Lodge – so we now enjoyed what was a virtual three-day pengfest.
This was the first family we met so we visited them every morning and night!
And this little guy asked to be remembered to Gwennie.
OK, we did quick forays to Cape Point (three baboons) and Kirstenbosch, but the penguins took centre stage.
After a couple of days in Cape Town (with typical Brummieland rain) we headed north on the N1 – for an overnight stay and a mooch around the Karoo NP. Game-wise this wasn’t very rewarding. There was a few black wildebeest, a couple of red hartebeest and some ostrich, oh yes, and a pair of black eagles doing practice bombing runs over our chalet. However, the real winner was the scenery.
Part of the route up Klipspringer pass was closed (where did you read that before?), but what we did see was well worth the visit. We left mid-morning for the drive to Kimberley.
Now, Kimberley proved very frustrating. Our ‘quiet’ evening meal was spoiled somewhat by having a foghorn leghorn of a woman sitting at a table near us telling the entire dining room how splendid it was to shoot everything that moves. She was still advocating slaughtering everything in the neighbourhood after we had finished our meal – so we left her to her carnage and retired for the night! After three weeks of enjoying the fruits of wild-life conservation this was a real downer.
Next day, after the obligatory visit to the Big Hole (It was EF’s first visit to SA) we tried to find Mokala. We should have read some of the later posts on the forum! Another Brummie plan went down the pan – we got hopelessly lost and gave up. So we opted for an early night, ready for the drive to Jo’burg and the flight home. Shame, we were looking forward to visiting the new park.
Strange as it may seem, we actually got back to Jo’burg, caught our flight and got back to UK. OK, the plane arrived 15 minutes early and we then had to wait nearly an hour before we could get off – but compared to the outward flight………
But there is a final twist. When we got home and started downloading our photos onto our PC Brummie discovered that all the photos taken with a newly bought 70 - 300mm zoom lens were blurred. I went back to the supplier and discovered that the lens was, how can I put it – er – knackered, it was stuck at f22 so all my photos had been exposed at about 1/30th of a second – or slower- with attendant shake and blurring. Yep, Brummie’s bad luck just keeps coming back to bite him on the bum. Good job EF went bananas with her camera. Lesson – don’t buy a new lens 1 week before you leave – and if you do test it carefully!
So that’s it. We covered over 6,300Km and visited 6 National Parks. There were highs and lows, plans that went wrong and a few that went right.
The highlights for Brummie? – The roan antelope and rhino in Kruger and the Cheetah in Mountain Zebra.
The highlights for Ezio Fan? Got to be the penguins (about 130 photos prove it!) and the guest cottage at MZNP. Also those fabulous Kruger sunsets and sunrises.
The lows? Two nights without any sleep worth calling that, followed by the drive from the Airport to Letaba with EF feeding Brummie ‘stay awake’ pills. Driving past half a dozen dead goats lying on the R71, obviously killed by a speeding driver, leaving rivulets of blood all over the road. Not being able to locate Mokala, Fog-horn Leghorn at Kimberley and; oh yes, the discovery that Brummie’s zoom lens was kaput.
Should we have spent longer? – well, yes and no. We felt that we could have happily spent longer in MZNP (provided we could have the guest cottage!) Kruger, likewise could have done with more time – we missed the real north and there were places we would have liked to see that we didn’t have time for. But that applies to South Africa in general. We didn’t have time to visit Kgalagadi or Augrabies and we missed out KwaZulu-Natal in its entirety. Having said all that 3 weeks of near constant travelling with only one driver is probably enough!
Finally, some thoughts about cleanliness and catering within the parks and camps. Because it was a celebration of 30 years of wholly deadlock we had opted against self-catering so we were at the mercy of the camp restaurants and cafeterias. Now, some weeks after our return, we can look back and pretend to be food critics.
Looking at all the parks, the worst food we received (no contest) was at Addo. It was luke warm, greasy and totally unappetising. (The bacon Brummie received at breakfast the first morning was so overcooked he couldn’t chew it, let alone eat it! An experience only endured once!)
The KNP cafeterias all offered cheap meals and seemed fairly consistently offering reasonable quality food. The idea of a wholemeal cheese and tomato toastie for breakfast may seem odd to some , but if you wanted it, you could get it!
The best? Well, we could say the Selati Train at Skukuza which offered good food in themed surroundings, but we think that it was edged out into second place by the restaurant at Mountain Zebra – the food was excellent, cooked perfectly and reasonably priced (the brandy pudding was to die for).