31 December 2007
Wish upon a million stars
The last day of 2007; announced by a coppery sunrise. We were heading for the Timbavati road and then the S100 via the S90 link. This morning held a different kind of stillness for me; it was time to say goodbye to my beloved Kruger and also to reflect on a year of incredible experiences, many of them anchored here in the bush and many of them nurtured by the peace and solace I had found here.
On our way, a hyena materializes along the road in great haste and don’t even hang around to pose for a photograph. It certainly looked like a promising start to the day. The Timbavati road was also freshly graded, and I secretly hoped that the same would not happen to us as a few days before on the S36. Never the less, there were enough raptors warming in the gentle morning sun to keep Felis and myself occupied, not noticing a complete absence of anything on legs.
I was getting a bit worried after a half an hour, when Felis announced that all the animals are readying for the New Year’s party. All except a lone elephant bull resting his one tusk in the fork of a tree, fast asleep and oblivious to the world. I wonder if they sometimes get tired of carrying their tusks? We watched the elephant in silence, not wanting to disturb the tranquility of moment. Somehow, the tusk glided off and one sleepy eye opened, curled his trunk and looped it over the tusk, closing his eye again.
By the time we reached the Timbavati picnic spot, we were in dire need of coffee, somewhat lulled by the heat, quiet drive and the after-effect of our lingering on the deck of our tent late into the previous night.
As we turned into the S90, we were met by an elephant that looked a little more awake than the previous one, surrounded by a meadow of yellow, purple and white flowers. The delicate flowers of the Cleome angustifolia swaying like thousands of butterflies in the breeze.
Passing the turn-off to the Mananga Adventure trail had us giggling about the Steyn’s adventure all over. Close to Gudzani dam, we started to see animals again, a herd of, now overly welcome, impala, wildebeest and zebra. We watched a mare scratching herself against a tree like an animated marionette lifting her front leg and then going backwards again. After ten minutes it became too hot and we drove on to the dam, but the mercury was against us. The animals were heading for shelter from the blazing sun and the S100 yielded a trickle of plains game.
At Satara’s carwash we quickly had the car hosed-down as by now it looked like a deluxe model of mud and dust. Driving out of Satara presented a problem of its own – two lions were spotted and it seemed as if everyone and everybody arrived at that very moment. I hardly or never get impatient in Kruger, but this episode had me boiling literally and figuratively – and after being parked on the edge of this crazed mob for almost twenty minutes in a 32 degrees sun, I started to incorporate a few power words in my conversation. Luckily a ranger came along and dispersed the culprits who were PARKED in the middle of the road. What happened to being considerate towards other people?
Back at camp we started to pack half-heartedly, eyeing the containers with a sense of disbelief, but by midday, only the essentials remained and a half a month of living in the bush was neatly bundled and ready for the journey back. Felis and I sat down underneath the shade of the Jackalberry tree and watched Timo hopping around the paving, turning his serious little face to check us with yellow eyes. “I will miss you too Timo” I thought silently, starting to feel how the sadness sneaked into my being.
By late afternoon, we headed for Orpen to cool down at the pool and found the magnificent rhino bull once more on the corner to the main road. Arriving at the pool area, the Greyheaded Bush Shrike was calling his lungs out and after some searching, we found it perching in a Fever tree – although we had seen it before in my sister’s garden, we could now proudly tick it as a Kruger sighting. After swimming a few laps, Felis and I were watching the webcam from the pool, our bodies submerged in the cool water and then we heard it, no, we felt it…roaring. Very much like an old Laurel and Hardy movie, we gathered our things and made for the car. A slow drive towards where we thought the sound came from and then a proud male, appeared for a few seconds, his mane like burnished bronze in the late afternoon sun. He roared again and a lioness appeared at his rear as he was making his way in the direction of the gate or maybe to the webcam…Every now and then we would see the yellow of his pelt through the undergrowth and then only hearing his roaring as evidence of his presence. We drove back to camp with wet bums, and started to make a fire for our last braai of 2007.
The sky started to turn dark inky blue with scatterings of sparkling stars when I looked up into the branches of the Jackalberry tree and there, silently, the Scops owl was watching us having dinner by candlelight. I never heard it calling during the time I stayed, missing its gentle voice in the symphony of night. We watched it for a while, forgetting about dinner, a quiet salute to its presence and then without a sound it flew away...