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 Post subject: June 2010-Maroela at last-vlakvarksegat
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:16 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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I've heard about it, I read about it. I drove past it but have never been to it. During my life long excursions to Kruger, I some how never been to Maroela camp. Everybody raves about the place and I decided it is about time to go and see and experience for myself.

The caravan is packed, padkos made, bakkie full of diesel, batteries charged and yellow ribbon ready to be attached.

We will be leaving around 2 am, about 6 hours from now.

We should reach Orpen around six o'clock and then the fun starts......... :clap: :dance: :thumbs_up:

See you all when we return on Monday, enjoy the soccer world cup.


BAFANA VIVA BAFANA

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:25 pm 
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OK.....OK....I'm back, but you know the excuses for late starts. Sorting photos, deciphering scribbled notes made by SO. It was cold in the morning and it was cold in the evening, but nothing a sip of sherry couldn't cure and the sightings made it all worth while. I promise to start the report before the week-end :pray: please be patient. :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:19 pm 
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Our daughter and a friend are coming to visit during their June university break. They will arrive on the 8th of June and leave for Durban on the 22nd. Danielle absolutely loves Kruger and her friend has never been. She wants to use the opportunity to teach Ruan that antelope do differ and why you can’t call them all impalas.

Our initial plan was to go somewhere close like Lower Sabie or Berg and Dal for two nights, but after a lot of fruitless attempts to find a chalet, I started toying with the idea of camping. Ruan will just have to endure the lesser luxuries of caravanning and hopefully not be put off camping for life, he is a city-boy after all. SO and I discussed the proposition and informed Danielle about our decision. She will just have to gently ease Ruan into the idea of camping.

Decision made, it was time to make the reservations. Again all the southern camps were fully booked, as to be expected, as it is the middle of the winter school holiday and the soccer world cup is in full swing.

I remember that we were going to visit our dear friend Martie at Maroela but her trip was suddenly interrupted and we never got to make the trip. This was as good an opportunity as ever and as luck would have it there was ample camping available at Maroela.

Reservations made, going to Kruger was eventually a reality and anticipation and impatience set in……

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:15 pm 
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The kids eventually arrive and packing and planning starts in earnest. The initial plan was to let Ruan sleep in the add-a-room but we eventually felt pity and decided that he can have the bunk bed in the caravan, provided that he fits as he is 6ft tall. The whole caravan gets unpacked and re-arranged. The week’s meat gets packed in the freezer, groceries and snacks are stashed all over the lounge floor, ready to be packed on the morning of departure. Binocs get cleaned and dusted, camera batteries loaded.

In-between all the hustle and bustle, SO takes the kids to make a close acquaintance with elephants on a nearby game farm. It will be Ruan’s first encounter and he hardly sleeps the previous evening. Their appointment, with the kind help of a friend, is for 10 o’ clock. They are going to feed and groom the ellies that are used for safaris on the farm. At 8 o’ clock Ruan is all dressed up and ready to go, even though the farm is only 30 minutes away. On their return, I can see that Ruan has just had the experience of a life time. He’s babbling non stop and if it wasn’t for his ears, his smile would make full circle around his head……

Image

Ellie hug

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:29 pm 
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15/16 June 2010

The smell of frying “boerewors” sausage wafts through the house, a pot full of eggs boils merrily, puffing clouds of steam and spitting spilled water off the hot surface of the stove plate……..”padkos” food for the road. Biltong and dried wors, buttered bread and a flask of hot coffee will complete the menu.

Earlier today we parked the caravan on the pavement for easy access, space in the garage is very limited. Just like last time SO and I will sleep in the caravan on the pavement, just in case somebody feels like relieving us of some of our worldly goods.

Around 9 o’clock, everything is packed or stowed in its appropriate place. The sausage is cut into neat bite-size chunks, eggs are shelled and sprinkled with salt and pepper and the buttered bread halved. All is packed into plastic containers ready for the trip….can’t wait.

The alarm eventually announces 2 o’ clock; I thought it would never arrive. I give SO a nudge and she awakens instantly. Into the house to wake the kids, who stumbles bleary eyed from their rooms. It takes them a minute to realise that the moment has arrived and suddenly there is no stopping them. Teeth brushed, blankets into the truck and coffee gulped down in two ticks. They are ready to GO…..I eventually have to remind Ruan that I need help hitching the caravan and that he must relinquish his cosy place under the blanket. After a little coaching, the caravan is hitched, lights checked, handbrake down and we are ready to go.

We hug our dogs, they look so forlorn every time we leave, re-assure them that their care-taker will arrive soon (he lives in our house while we are gone) and hit the road…….

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:06 pm 
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I round the first corner and mentally check the most important stuff…binocs-check….camera-check….YR-check…..reservation-check…..”Padkos”-check….coffee aggh no :slap: , it’s on the kitchen-counter. But all is not lost, I have to stop at the filling station to check the caravan’s tyre pressure and we can get our morning fix from the machine in the shop. Won’t be nearly as yummy as the coffee in the flask on the kitchen counter which was prepared with much love and attention, but so be it.

We drive onto the N4 and head west to Nelspruit; we are travelling the route via Hazyview as we want to arrive early to give us ample time to prepare our camping spot. The hiss of the tyres on the road lulls everybody around me into a slumber. It is a clear night and the stars form a dazzling cloak over the Lowveld, this is why I live here!!!!

Soon we are off the high ways and through White River, on our way to our first pit-stop in Hazyview. The coffee wasn’t that bad but now it’s time to get rid of it. I pull into the filling station just before the Spar Centre; we find it to be the cleanest in Hazyview.

We all pile out of the bakkie and run for the building, it is freezing cold outside…the heater in the bakkie fooled us all into a false sense of summer, while winter was in full swing outside.

After a quick check of the tyres, lights and if everything in the caravan is surviving, we are back on the road. Just as we reach the hilly area of Bushbuckridge, a thin strip of light starts to appear on the horizon, sunrise is not far off. The sun peaks over the hills just as we approach Acornhoek, not with the normal fiery orange, but a pale haze of light blue, reminding us that this is the middle of June.

Young people dressed in their best outfits, armed with vuvuzelas starts to gather in small groups at the bus-stops. They must be on their way to the community centres to celebrate Youth day, today is the 16th of June, when South Africa commemorates the 16th of June 1976 when more than 20 000 pupils from Soweto began a protest march, with dire consequences for many people, but which was instrumental in the success for the fight for freedom. Here endeth the history lesson……

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 7:31 pm 
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16 June 2010

We reach Orpen gate at around 7 o’ clock. It is the first time that I enter through Orpen since the changes was made. The entrance gate has been separated from the camp and it is very welcoming and neat. Registration is handled very professionally and friendly. I enquire if I can book into the camp now as it is way before 2PM which is the new check in time. I am informed that it shouldn’t be a problem as we were camping, but I must register at Orpen Camp. It felt weird to check in, drive 800 metres and check in again.
With all the formalities behind us, we drive through the gate to Maroela. One can see the anticipation on Ruans face; it reminds me of my first time. I expected to find a lion or something exciting behind every bush. Every shape, shadow, rock or log looked promising. Danielle sits in the backseat watching him with an amused expression on her face.
Our first encounter is with giraffes, which Ruan proclaims as his favourite animal. He never imagined that they were that tall, he is gob smacked. Wait until he sees a real elephant, those elephants on the game farm were mere teenagers……

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:27 pm 
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The turn off to Maroela is about 1 km from Orpen camp, from where you travel on a gravel road for 2 km to the quaint little camp on the banks of the Timbavati river. The camp caters for 20 caravans or tents or combination of. The camp sites are not demarcated, with the result that everybody crowds around the fence. The gravel road is rather corrugated, so if you feel sorry for your caravan and contents, approach with caution.

On the corner where we turn off the H7, a few blue wildebeest and warthog pay us little attention. With gritting teeth, I ease our way down the corrugated dirt road, I keep to the right hand side of the road where the corrugation seems bearable. We enter through the gate and hope for the perfect spot, next to the fence of course.

The camp is full except for a few open spots in the centre of the camp, which unfortunately borders the communal kitchen and ablution block. We park with-out unhitching and take a stroll to see if we can’t find a suitable place. Some places are very uneven and difficult to reach with a caravan. We are in luck, campers right next to the fence under a huge tree looks like they are packing up. We enquire and they confirm. While we wait for them to finish packing we explore the rest of the camp. The ablution block is spotlessly clean, and I am impressed. On closer inspection I notice that the shower heads are mounted about 1.5 meters from ground level, one will have to stand on your knees to get your hair wet.

The campers have left and we manoeuvre the caravan over the uneven ground with a lot of…not so fast!!!....turn,turn..TURN….no,no, to the right…STOOOOP. Phew, that was close. Leave it like it is, it’s perfect. We set up camp but not after a slight panic. I unpacked the tents from under the bunk and could not remember taking out the roof section. I search frantically, hoping that nobody will notice my concern. After awhile SO wants to know what I am looking for…..the ROOF, it’s not here. “I’ll have to drive all the way home and fetch it”, I can’t believe that I made such a basic mistake. :big_eyes: Triumphantly, SO lifts a piece of canvass and wants to know: “What is this?” With a side ways glance I declare that it is that flimsy piece of canvas that covers the gap between the caravan and the ground, and no, we can’t use it as the roof. I search again where I’ve search ten times already and then step outside the caravan to inspect the bags I unloaded already. I sneak a peak at the piece of canvas I dismissed earlier as being useless, and instantly realise my mistake, that is what I’ve been looking for the last 15 minutes. With out making it to obvious I pick it up and start threading it onto the caravan. All SO commented was: “Good thing you don’t have to rush home now”…..

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 3:40 pm 
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Hi VVSG

I was also one of the big group of forumites who met u at Maroela.
Forumites were;
Charming1
Wingman
Lion Cub
AshBash
Cane Rat
Ellies

Tsendze was great. Rodger and Helina came around enery morning and every night to see how everything was going, and if we had any good sightings. The camp was amazing

We eventually found the wild dogs, but the pack at Skukuza. We never saw the orpen pack even though we spent every morning/afternoon looking for them. We found the Skukuza pack on our last day, we were busy leaving the park to start our long journey back to durban when we came across some cars that had been following the dogs for a few mins as this was 6.30 and we left at 6.14. The dogs were running down into the river bed, then into the road then back into the river bed, then into the bush, so it was quite hard keeping up with them. But all in all it was a magnificent siting.

Cant wait for more of your TR :popcorn:
Lion Cub

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:11 pm 
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Hello Lion cub, thanks for all the forumites names, it was nice to meet you all. Glad you enjoyed Tsendze, it will always be a special place to me. I camped there last December for my 50th birthday.

To everybody else, thanks for reading and commenting, this will be the last episode with-out pics, not that the pics will be great, but hopefully will improve the report.

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:16 pm 
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The tent is secured to the ground, chairs unpacked and fridge and freezer is connected and running, it is time to relax with something cold. What a feeling to sit back in your favourite chair, relax and gaze into the bush. You can feel the tension and stress seep out of your body to be replaced by that mellow feeling that only the calm of the bush can provide.

It is midday and still plenty of time for a drive. The 50 km to Satara and 50 back should take us around 4 hours at a leisurely pace, hopefully with some good sightings included. We rattle and shake our way towards the H7 and reach it with no sightings to report. The same blue wildebeest and warthogs are still grazing at the junction.

I turn onto the tar towards Satara with great expectation. The first couple of kilometers are uneventful. I drive with my window down even though a chilly breeze nips at the tip of ones ears and nose. It is just not the Kruger experience if you can’t feel, hear and smell the surrounding wilderness. Impala and wildebeest are all over the place with playful zebra dashing around, bucking with hind legs flailing through the air.

Just after the Rabelais junction, we get flagged down by an approaching car. “There are lions up ahead, it’s easy to find, just look out for the traffic jam” he tells us. Thanking him, we drive on, with a wide eyed Ruan, suddenly very alert. He was silently wishing for lions but didn’t expect to see them on the first day of his first visit, how lucky can one get. We reach the jam and the sighting for us veterans is somewhat disappointing. The lions, we eventually agree that there might be five, are around 300 meters off the road in tall grass, and all you can see is top half of their heads bobbing up every now and then as they are feeding on something. Through the binocs, the colour of the skin and the size of the rib cage suggest that it might be a wildebeest. When I eventually convinced Ruan that they will still be there on our return, he reluctantly agreed that we may leave and find something else to show him.

The rest of the road was uneventful and we reached Nsemani dam and I was pleasantly surprised. It is the fullest I ever saw it. Their was water as far as the eye could see, way up around the furthermost bend which is normally dry, the area must have had good rains until late into the season.

We drive on to Satara with two ladies in the car desperate for a pit stop. Opposite the entrance we see our first rhino of the trip although only fleetingly through the dense bush. I promise Ruan to show him rhino close up before we leave for home.

We have a quick pit stop and while the ladies go about their business I add some ice to the cooler box. There must be something cool to have on the way back.

Time has flown by and it is 4 o’ clock, 1 ½ hours to closing time, no time to waste now.
The return trip is peaceful; the serenity of Kruger has rubbed off on us. The sun has started to set and covers the veld with a soft golden glow. The lions are still there, lying belly up after a hearty meal. Pity that it is so far, the photos I try and take is a total failure.

We reach the dirt road entrance with a couple of minutes to spare. Another car drives ahead of me and I hang back to avoid their dust. I drive very slowly as the light has almost faded away. Suddenly two shadows appear in the dust, can this be??...it is the unmistakable shape of wild dogs. They stop briefly before they disappear over the verge of the road. In the blink of an eye, it is all over, I’m not even sure that Ruan realised what he just witnessed, one of the rarest animals in the wild. For a newbie, he is extremely fortunate……

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 9:47 pm 
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17 June 10

Last night while relaxing next to the fire, we forged our plans for the next day. Early morning coffee and rusks in camp to kick-start the day, a quick shower while we let the bakkie engine run to warm up the cab, it is freezing, we were told. Then we will take a drive to Timbavati for breakfast and back to Maroela via Satara.

I wake first and ftch boiling water from the kitchen, they wrere not kidding, it is coldest I’ve been in a long time. I dressed in a woolly tracksuit with a thick jacket over but still I shiver involuntary. I let the hot water from the boiler warm my numb hands. I hurry back to the caravan to get the kettle going for coffee. Coffee made, I wake everybody up, Danielle bares the tip of her nose from unsder layers of blankets and utters a groan of displeasure. It takes a lot of pleading and coaxing to get them moving, but once they are up excitement once again sets in.

Goodies basket packed and cooler box loaded for warmer times, we set of. I decide to take the Rabelais loop to investigate the hut where the original gate to Kruger was situated until it was moved in 1954 where Orpen gate is today.

Image

One old daggaboy stands baking in the early morning sun, warming the old bones after the cold night. Patches of burnt grass spoils the scenery while a troop of baboons scavenges around rocks and old fallen tree stumps for tit bits to eat, some stand upright reaching into thorn trees to pick off the ripened pods. Rabelais dam is bone dry and a notice board reveals that, although the plan was to break through the wall, the heavy rains during the summer, broke the wall via a donga that eroded through the wall from the down stream side. So nature did the job for them. Modern believe is that the dam compromised the delicate ecosystem by attracting to many herbivores with the result that the surrounding area was badly over-grazed.

Game sightings are scares and only the reliable impala are ever present.

We reach the S39 and turn left towards Timbavati. In a barren tree, this tawny watches us go by…….

Image

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:51 pm 
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Three vehicles passes us from behind and a dense dust cloud puffs up from under their tyres, we try and close our windows, but in vane, the dust penetrates our car and leaves us all snorting and gasping for air. Inconsiderate what ‘n whats. I slow down to a crawl until they disappear in the distance.

The road is quiet in terms of wildlife but the scenic route makes up for it, the road winds its way on the banks of the Timbavati river, which is mostly dry. Huge trees line the banks and the birdlife is abundant.

Leeubron is alive with impalas. Ewes are grazing peacefully while a couple of rams strut their stuff with loud snorts and grunts. Every now and then a ewe takes a ram on a wild romp through the veld, just to end up back where they started. There nimble movements turning and twisting around bushes with the occasional leap, is amazing to watch. We spend some time with them until I hear grumbling tummies urging me on to go and make breakfast.

Just before we reach the picnic spot, a traffic jam slows my progress. We are told that a leopard killed an Impala and is hiding in the tall grasses. I was secretly hoping for a good sighting, without taking away from the beauty of the impalas, to impress Ruan. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would be a leopard….but it was not to be. The impala carcass was lying in plain sight about 50 meters off the road, with a patch of tall grass behind it. That was where the leopard was apparently resting after the kill. Nobody saw the hunt take place but arrived just as the impala exhaled its last breath. The leopard immediately lay down and disappeared from sight. I scan the entire area inch for inch but do not even see an ear twitch or the flick of a tail. After 20 or so minutes, everybody else has already left, I suggest that we go to breakfast and return afterwards. That would give the leopard enough time to relax and rest and come out to feed.

It is only 4 km to Timbavati and we get there with out any more excitement. It is rather busy and all the gas braais have been taken. The attendant must have seen the desperate look on my face and brings me a very dilapidated looking skottel and gas bottle. He apologises for the appearances but says it is in full working order and that I can use it if I don’t mind. I did not get your name, but thank you very much for your consideration and kindness, the skottel worked perfectly.

Ever present beggars

Image

And @rse H*les

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In no time breakfast was done and dusted and we were on our way to see the leopard enjoy its breakfast. We reach the spot and nobody is around, not even the carcass, it disappeared into thin air. We scan the veld again, every tree, every patch of grass, every shady spot, but nothing. I drive up and down, look again, and confirm that we are at the right place, but no leopard and no impala carcass. It could just as well not have been there, ever.

Disappointed, we turn around and head onto Satara via the S127. The road is empty of life accept for zebras and blue wildebeest specs on the horizon.

We pop into Satara for a pit stop and leg stretch. Two ellies quench their thirst at the webcam waterhole and the scops owl snoozes in the tree, not paying noisy curious tourist any attention…….

Image

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2010 7:34 pm 
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The ice in the cooler box needs replenishing and we pop into the shop. It is extremely busy so it takes a very patient wait in the queue, but at last we get out and continue our journey.

We linger at Nsemani, a favourite halt for me, no matter what time of day it is. It is quiet around the dam but for a few water fowl in the distance. Hippo ears and eyes are just visible on the opposite side. The sun is rapidly sinking towards the west to indicate it is time to head for camp. I find it difficult to guess the time of day during winter; it always looks later than it is especially on partly clouded days. I peek at the car clock to set my mind at ease; there is still plenty of time to get back to camp. The mood in the car is that of lethargic people after a long day of driving, it will take something special to get my passengers interested again, even Ruan’s head starts to nod in slumber.

Then it happens, cars in the distance. That’s when the guessing game starts. :hmz: Everybody is on full alert. As we approach, everybody wonders aloud: What can it be, maybe a leopard, or cheetah, can be the lions of yesterday. We look around eagerly, we always try and spot what people are looking at before we ask. We follow the direction in which everybody is staring. With the help of a lady who frantically points towards a huge male lion, we find it at last. He is lying on his side in the tall grass. He is hardly visible as his colour and that of the grass is almost identical. A slight breeze gently pushes through his thick mane. He is sound asleep.

We decide to hang around to see if anything will transpire. After what feels like hours, he starts to move, I hear Ruan suck in a sudden breath of expectation. The lion rolls onto his stomach and looks over in our direction. He ponders us for a while, turns his back on us and starts his cleaning routine. He uses a huge hind paw to scratch behind his ear; he licks the full length of his mane in slow long strokes. He pauses every now and then to stare intently into the bush, as if he is listening.

It is time to leave as I have barely enough time to get back to camp before gate closing at 05h30. Danielle pleads for just another minute and I oblige, my sweet daughter knows exactly what tone of voice to use to convince me. We barely settled back into our seats when the lion gets up and turn towards us. It feels as if he is staring right at us. A sudden rush of sound trembles through my chest as he starts to roar. His breath blows puffs of steam in the cold winter air as he exhales with each roar; Ruan is stunned by the intensity of the sound. He says that he will remember this moment for the rest of his life. We depart, satisfied with a perfect end to our day.

Apologies for the quality of photos but the light was very dim and was taken over a distance beyond the capabilities of my camera.

Image

Image

Image


Just as we approach the junction to Maroela, another traffic jam, not those dogs again. They race through the cars without a sideways glance; it is so dark that we can only make out the shadowy figures passing through the grass as they disappear. What else can still be awaiting us on this perfect day??????

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 Post subject: Re: Maroela at last
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:18 pm 
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We return to camp in the nick of time, Citiose, the friendly camp manager glances at his watch as we pass through the gate. We reach our camp-site and agh no, we have neighbours and their camp is virtually on top of us, crossing stay ropes. If I wanted close neighbours, I would have gone to a packed holiday resort. I grit my teeth and ignore them, they are at least quiet.

We start our fire and plan the route for tomorrow. We will leave early as we want to take Ruan to the elephant museum at Letaba. In the meantime, our neighbours have left, most probably with the night drive. We watch the patrolling hyena sauntering up and down the fence when a sudden commotion breaks out next door. It sounds as if somebody is ripping the drawers from their cutlery cupboards, tossing everything on the floor. We all jump like one and aim for the caravan door, clueless of what is happening in the dark tent next door. With my family safe in the caravan, I grab the torch and try and see what invaded the neighbours. The badger looks up momentarily before he continues to raid the fridge; I let him be as they can be very aggressive and fear nothing. My family has joined me in the meantime and ooh and aah how cute he is. With his prize held high in his mouth, he lumbers away to disappear in the darkness. He becomes a nightly visitor and one can hear his progress through camp as he up-ends the trash cans.

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Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
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Submitted by Ang at 05:07:35 Submitted by grannyb at 21:35:53 Submitted by Anonymous at 15:50:48 Submitted by Stampajane at 00:46:04