The weekend instalment.
Weekend = 2 days
Part 13: 5 June: Speed Kills!
I awake to the giggle and laughter of a Hyena pack and then the lions join in with their ‘hump, hump, hump”. I’m missing my LS Hip(po) Harmonic Orchestra but this Tamboti Hyena-Lion Ensemble ain’t too bad either.
At 4.30 am the kids are starting to stir in their beds and I jump in for a cuddle (the 4 pax tents in Tam have 4 x single beds). But once it’s 5am, out comes the whip – time to get up! I’m having withdrawal symptoms from not having done an evening drive yesterday.
The gates are wide open when we drive out at 5.55am (opening time is 6) but I’m not complaining. It’s dark, there’s still clouds in the sky and before we reach the main road we spot the yellow eyes and shape of a jackal.
Our sick impi is now dead – we see the silhouette of the stretched out carcase and the antlers against the pale dawn light. It doesn’t seemed to have been touched by the predators…..yet…a whole 12 hours after we spotted it dying. I make a mental note to check this spot on our return.
We come across some buffalo in the hazy early morning light and as the morning breaks a lovely ‘fingers of God’ through the clouds.
Ostrich! No, it’s a road-sign. Then stop for an impi and waterbuck crossing. They first stare at us from the edge of the road undecided, then some dart across. Then the ‘cool ones’, buoyed by the safe crossing of the pioneers, saunter across nonchalantly.
We turn right on to the S36 headed for Sweni Rd and cheetah territory. We stop for a Tusker and finally our first ostrich close up. When they stop to graze it does look like they are sticking their heads in the sand.
We enjoy a stretch and cereal, coffee and my favourite – Ouma rusks - at Muzandzeni.
On the Sweni we come across grysbok, giraffe and nyala or is it female kudu with young???
They are beautiful and the light gives them a "garden of eden" aura.
As they graze they are getting a ear and body clean by some energetic oxpeckers!
Then bump into a herd of ellies – 8 adults and 6 smallies – headed for the Sweni waterhole.
We follow them there and position ourselves down wind (actually we just happen to be downwind but “position’ sounds so much better
) and get a great view of the biggies drinking from the tank and the smallies drinking from the spillway. The little ones – 6 in a row drinking – look like the trumpet section of a big brass band.
After the ellies trundle away we move on left onto the H1-3 towards Satara. It is time for crossings – impi, gnu, zebra (of course). They are all headed for the Satara waterhole and for their mugshots on the forum webcam.
The white and yellow dots stare mockingly at us from the sightings board. It just wasn’t OUR day today. WE are learning to be patient and let things happen. We have realised the value of appreciating what is revealed to us rather than constantly chasing a ‘ghost’.
As we leave Satara I see the sign for the S100. THE S100 – the "road of legend" and ……..cardboard cutouts (as per WTM
). Not today, maybe tomorrow, …. the kids are tired and we have a huge bundle of clothes to wash.
baby giraffe and impi somewhere between Satara and Tam.
At the “dead impi” intersection we see few cars pulled up. There is a huge pack of vultures (about 40)- mainly white backed and cape and a couple of lappet faced. They huddle and hop around what must be the impi carcase in a tight moving circle. It looks like a rugby scrum but more frenetic – maybe a group of bargain hunters round a table full of specials at the Myer Boxing Day Sale.
The vulture shopping sale scrum circles as the individuals fight and squabble. There are mini arguments and chases but they all return to the main huddle and get on with the task at hand.
Overlooking the proceedings at a reserved distance is the lappet faced vulture with a sort of snobbish air. He reminds me of Mr Peacock from “Are You being Served”. Hands joined behind his back nose in the air patrolling the floor.
At one instant the pack breaks and I see the impis head with it’s eye staring at me. It sends a shudder through my body but I’m captivated by the whole macabre scene and I am not able to tear my eyes away.
Later we find out that the impi was hit by a vehicle and an hour earlier a pack of hyena were fighting for the carcase. The vultures are here to finish the rest.
It is easy for us to look at hyenas and vultures with disdain - as parasites who steal from other animals. This incident however, puts them in a totally different light. Here, the 'rejects' are the ones that are cleaning up the mess made by MAN.
On reaching Tam we find the sound of singing coming from our tent! It’s Sibongele our housekeeper and she has a BIG smile to match her lovely voice. We learn a few Swazi, Zulu and Xhosa words from her. When she finds out that we are going to Orpen to wash clothes she offers to do them overnight for us for whatever payment we see fit.
And so we relax around the camp and watch the animals and birds over a lazy lunch on our wooden porch overlooking the Timbavati river.
After the cleansing rain last night it has warmed to a hot day with clear blue afternoon skies. I put up my feet and crack open the top of a cold Castle
…….Ah! This is the life.