So it is!
Time to post.
Heading back down the H1-4 from Olifants, Mrs. Stark and I decided to not stop again on the bridge over the river. The morning was wearing on, and we wanted to hit the S100 before the animals headed for shade. Just as we started onto the bridge, something stirred 15 meters in front of us. A snake! As I slowed down to give plenty of room to be, what appeared to us, the largest snake we’ve ever seen in the wild. The vibrations of the truck must have set it on edge, as this magnificent reptile raised its head while we went by. Black Mamba! Holy Smokes! I’m not a big fan of snakes, as several venomous (and cranky!) species live in Arizona, but we just had to chance a better look. Okay, we had to stop now! I rolled the car to a stop as Mrs. Stark tried to spy the snake in her rear-view mirror. No snake. Hmm…do I get out?
We weighed the odds, and were 90% sure that the mamba was long gone, 7 % sure it was still near the end of the bridge, and 3% fearful that it was somewhere else…and somewhere close. It may sound chauvinistic, but I told Mrs. Stark to stay in the car while I got out to chance a look and a photo. Trust me, male dominance wasn’t my intention. You see, Mrs. Stark is a nurse, so I figured it was in my best interest to keep her safe. I may not be overly cautious, but I’m not stupid! As it turns out, our concern was for nothing…no snake, no picture, and no danger. Ah well, we were already stopped, so we may as well enjoy the view while we were there.
There really is no better place in the world to close your eyes, open your other senses, and take in the wonder of nature. Being from the city, I sometimes forget how much there is to hear when you’re away from civilization. The rush of the water as it courses around grass islands and rocks, the wind through the trees, and the splash of fish in the side pools, who surfaced just long enough to gulp down an alighting insect. And the smell! Water and wet earth, mixed with the rich summer foliage, provides the most clean smell imaginable. But, alas, this wasn’t the time to stand on a bridge with my eyes closed. Mrs. Stark wasn’t going too close to the edge of the bridge, out of respect for our earlier snake encounter. The least I could do was keep my eyes open!
We witnessed an elephant with a bushy tail in the distance come down to drink, and waterbuck on a small island. (Thanks for the ID, p@m!
As we neared Satara, we had a small procession of “Non-Impala” antelope species. While seeing several female Kudu, we had yet not seen any males while in South Africa. A nice little gathering of males were making their way through the bushes.
Shortly thereafter, we were surprised to see this little Steenbok close to the road.
Almost directly across the road from the Steenbok, we saw a pair of Southern Reedbuck enjoying the shade.
The close to Satara we drove, the more game we saw. This area really is a good place to see game of all shapes and sizes. A Kori Bustard paraded around the scrub brush, while zebra, wildebeest, and ostriches shared each others company.
Another Steenbok was keeping a respectable distance from the larger game,.
We gave the resident Satara elephants a wave as we passed by, and Mrs. Stark gave me her “Ice cream would taste really good right about now” look. Ugh! The S100 was Right. Over. There! She really couldn’t want ice cream at this time, could she? But yes, she did. And, to tell the truth, it sounded pretty good to me as well. The fence was turned off so the brush could be cleared, and a troop of Vervet monkeys took advantage of the situation to pay the camp a visit. While the young played on a nearby tree, a handsome male took a moment to watch the waterhole from the closest bench.
Mrs. Stark could have spent all day watching the monkeys, but our break was over. Sure, it was mid-day. Sure, it was hot! And sure, everything was probably taking a nice rest, but we were going! I quickly checked the sightings board (which showed nothing on the S100 on either map). In short order, we turned onto the S100! Finally, after all this time, we were on the road we’ve heard so much about. With Christmas morning-like anticipation, we slowly moved along this beautiful gem of Kruger. The scenery didn’t disappoint, but the sightings board, the rat pack, and the local rangers were all right….
...there was very little visible life on the S100. As Dotdan said…
Bust bust bust bust bust bust
Our list of animals sighted was pretty tame…a small skink with blue stripes down the side, some waterbuck, a mongoose who left the scene before we could identify, a single browsing baboon, impala, and some dagga boys snoozing the afternoon away. We were very excited to see a Martial Eagle on the wing, but it flew over the N’wanetsi and disappeared over the tree-line before we could get a picture. Were we disappointed in the S100? No, not really. Kruger didn’t grant us exciting sightings, but it was a very peaceful drive with beautiful scenery. And, it is the S100. We’ll be back!
Down the S41 we went, as we decided to stop at the N’wanetsi lookout before making our way back up to Olifants. We were rewarded with a Bateleur that was sitting very near the road. What amazing coloration…so we had to stop and take a few photos. (He fell into our "okay to stop for" bird category.)
At the first water crossing, we looked over and saw hippo nearly at eye level. While they were mostly submerged, it put a whole new perspective on how they must see the world.
After a stop at the lookout, we were both getting tired and longing for a rest. Who knew that vacation could be so tiring!! We pulled out our trusty map and decided to take the H6 over to the H1 3 and 4.
Sightings in the heat of the afternoon remained pretty standard, with mixed herds of impala, giraffe, and zebra. Only 1 other car met us on the H6, so we were defiantly aware that we weren’t in peak “sighting times”. At Satara, the two “resident” elephant bulls were browsing along the fence, and one took keen interest as a man walked past on the other side. It doesn’t show on the still picture, but he started and took notice in the same way a person would show surprise at a mouse suddenly appearing under-foot!
Storm clouds were beginning to build, so we got back on our way.
We stopped on the bridge again…it really is hard to pass up the opportunity…and shared stories with a very nice Saffie couple. We told them about the mamba encounter earlier, and they pointed us towards a croc resting just below the bridge. (They no longer wanted to lean against the bridge railing!) Mrs. Stark wasn’t about to lean over too far for a photo…she still had snakes on her mind.
But I wanted a full body shot! Over I leaned, outstretching my arms as far as possible. I’m happy to say that I didn’t go over, and no up-close reptile encounters occurred.
We made it back to Olifants, checked in (# 12), and drove over to our hut. Wow, nothing can prepare you for the spectacular view that greets you.
Whew, what a full day! We covered far more ground than we anticipated, and it took far longer. I had a great time! Mrs. Stark, on the other hand, looked a bit frazzled. We ordered some take-away from the restaurant, unpacked, and enjoyed a few sundowners to go with a beautiful Olifants twilight.
Up next, our FINAL FULL Day in Kruger begins with: Stark Goes Solo.