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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:40 pm 
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31 December 2007

Wish upon a million stars (Part 1)

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.
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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.
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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.
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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...


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:14 am 
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@Ludwig :lol: :hmz: Don't give me ideas.... :twisted:

Thank you everyone for the feedback, I really struggled to write about the last two days, as I am suffering of intense longing for Kruger and getting all choked up with memories. :cry:


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:24 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 10:35 pm
Posts: 575
31 December 2007

Wish upon a million stars (Part 2)

2007 ended underneath a velvety black sky with a million sparkling stars. My thoughts rose into the darkness on the wings of a warm summer breeze.

Yes…I wished… lifting my face toward the sky as if to meet the eyes of the Universe.

Unwillingly I returned to the game drive vehicle, wanting to stay in the fold of night’s blanket, my complete being drawn to the mystery of the unknown. I held my daughter and we smiled – this celebration of old and new at the only place on earth we would want or wish to be… Kruger…

But alas, I started at the end of our glorious night.. We boarded the game drive vehicle at 22:00. This was a special drive in lieu of the fact that we were celebrating old year’s eve and there was an air of joviality as we drove into the darkness. Hundreds of impala were gathered in the “small plain” at the Tamboti turn-off and at the corner, three elephants browsed on Knobthorn like giant grey ghosts.

A few meters from the elephants, we found a lioness on the road. I looked at her, so different her ease in the darkness as she stretched her lissome body and rose to an impressive size. Her paws padding silently into the grass, she turned to give us an imperial stare and then proceeded to roll around in the short grass. Her swollen teats evidence of suckling cubs. After a vigorous work-out she rolled back onto her stomach and started to call – her roaring cut into the night, through me, through my soul. A deafening silence followed as she slinked away into the night.

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Still in wonder about the lioness, a genet replaced the empty patch where she had been a few seconds before. The small spotted animal was hunting something - leaping through the grass in short bounds. It was not long before it chewed on something which we could not discern clearly. We traveled onwards, swallowed by darkness and magic that wove around us…a Fiery-necked nightjar, Thick-knees and lesser bush-babies, wildebeest shaking their heads at the light as to show their disapproval of being disturbed, another genet in a tree… And silence; the incredible stillness of the hour that covered the expanse of land as another year started to slip away…


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:33 pm 
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01-01-2008

Time to say goodbye

At first light we started to pack the car, relieved to have this task at hand. I woke at my normal Kruger time which is usually just before 4 am, and looked outside, through the branches of the Jackalberry tree silhouetted against the sky. It was completely and utterly silent; the only faint sound was that of my bewildered heart. I had asked under the stars to be granted never-ending thankfulness for 2008, but at that moment, as hard as I tried, thankfulness would not replace the deep sadness that ached in my being. I got up, thinking that once I busy myself, the emotion would be diluted, this pain was almost unbearable.

We slowly made our way on the white sandy road, and were greeted by the Mozambican nightjar as we passed the gates. We travelled back to Satara and from there to Skukuza where we would exit at Kruger gate. A few hours more in Kruger with enough time to absorb the very last drop of elixir to keep one’s soul nourished for a while.

I turned in at Elephant drinking hole to show Felis where I had a close-up and almost personal encounter with a leopard in June, secretly wishing that she would be there again... Less than half kilometer after turning back on the main road, we find a magnificent leopard, on top of a termite mound that surrounds a tree. Perhaps it was the same leopard of June, a perfect feline with the most soulful eyes. A few minutes, an eternity of memories later, she sharpened her nails against the bark of the tree and leapt gracefully into the undergrowth to reclaim her privacy.
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As if this blessing was not enough, we were met by Sable antelope a few kilometers onward. Twice in one trip at two different locations! We were close to the H12 turn-off where we found them grazing on the side of the road, their dark pelts shiny as if they were freshly groomed.
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Our last stop was at Lake Panic. Perhaps apt, as by now, my heart started to beat wildly, like a trapped animal in a crush. Once in the hide, my thoughts calmed once more. An elderly gentleman with envious photographic equipment was snapping away in the corner and I followed his example. A Black crake and an Allen’s gallinule were having it out on the shallow end of the water. After the crake scampered off, the gallinule returned to its nest and disappeared from view.
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I am not sure how to define it , but this always happens the last minutes before leaving Kruger, perhaps a roughshod description of it would be insanity. Taking pictures of everything that comes into view, those last desperate attempts to remain, to linger, to not say goodbye to something that has become part of your soul, to not know the ache and yearning of its embrace in the long hours of night when this here becomes a dream…

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