OK, here is the first installment ...18 July 2009
Six long weeks ago ….
I looked up at the thatch and logs of the lapa, listening to the waves crashing down on the beach. It’s quiet and sound carries far. My heart ached for we should have been in Kruger, but unforeseen circumstances made it impossible to go. Not all was lost, for our June trip was rescheduled for July. So another month to wait, not so may sleeps to count considering that it was almost not going to happen at all!
A few days ago we made use of the Park’s online facility to try and find accommodation for 7 consecutive nights. Knowing how full the Park is all year round, I was not very optimistic that we would be successful on such short notice. Just as I had expected, it was not an easy task. We could get 2 nights here, 3 nights there … one night way out north and then back to where we started. Worst was that there was always a night in between without a place to lay our weary heads.
The distance between camps where accommodation was available (always one night missing) also made it difficult to plan our stay. We changed our dates, running through the calendar weeks like a marathon without end.
At last!!! Berg-en-Dal!!! Six nights and a perimeter chalet thrown in to make our holiday extra special. Phewww, I could breathe again!
The month flew by and then it was time to start packing. I always promise myself that THIS time I’m going to be the queen of packers. Hubby just looked on with a smile as I slowly lost the battle. “It’s just the two of us and the new car has lots of space” was all I could think of to defend the growing mound of “necessities”. It’s a woman thing I suppose. Now it would be his chance to prove himself as the king of packers … I count myself lucky to have such a patient boss.
It was a tired but happy Cat that went to sleep that night. Up early to make coffee, getting the eats and drinks in the cooler bag, feeding the pets (had organized babysitters for them) and carrying the smaller stuff to save hubby a few trips … maybe to ease my conscience. Just so you know … I left the sink!
It is a two hours drive to the border post and for kilometres the electrified fences of private game reserves run parallel with the highway. I haven’t seen any wild animals in the past, but I’m always hopeful to see anything that does not resemble the cows, dogs or goats grazing at the edge of the road - a sight that makes me cringe every time one of them ventures too close.
The border post wasn’t busy, so we were through in a jiffy. The road through Swaziland is a pure joy to drive – very good maintained, only a short stretch that needs a “top up”. We made our usual pit stop at Nisela, about 30km from the border. Clean restrooms and a restaurant if you like a bite to eat.
The road continues through the Hlane Royal National Park and this time we were lucky to see two white rhinos, warthogs and impala. The big 5 are found in the Park – we have once seen a lioness in a tree!! A very nice appetizer indeed! But we are on our way to THE Park! Very soon the border was in sight and again our exit went smoothly, passports stamped and back in the car for the last part of our journey. Did some shopping in Malelane, where we also made sure that the camera and binos were within reach, for the next stop would be the entry gate to heaven!
Friendly and swift service, we did not even have to wait in a queue! It was the weekend before schools open, so I gather that most people were heading out instead of in. We didn’t see much on the magic road to B&D. A lone ellie was lazily making his way across the ridge …. Then a traffic jam! Oh my, was I glad we had the camera ready! But all we could see was the hind leg of a lion sticking up in the air, the rest of him/her frustratingly obscured by the long winter grass. Well, at least they were in the area. We were tired and did not want to wait and watch part of a lion enjoying his siesta. Experience has taught us that they are most happy sleeping off a night’s gallivanting during daylight hours when we are “hunting” for them, and that we are sleeping when they do their hunting. But … even though just a leg, it’s still attached to a lion!
I had phoned in advance and asked for chalet no 25. The staff at reception was friendly and helpful and soon we were unlocking the sliding door of our home for the next few days. I was thrilled that it was one of the renovated chalets with an unrestricted view of the riverbed. Even though it was dry, we were entertained every day with sightings of animals moving down towards the dam.
I was busy putting everything in the cupboards when hubby called me. Our first riverbed visitor was an ellie right by the fence. A rhino ambled past not long after and understandably we were thrilled by the prospect of many good things still to come.
Tomorrow will be our first full day in the Park…..