A bright idea is born & it grows:
In May 2011 my friend convinced me to surprise the hubbies with a visit to the Kruger. Who am I to stand in the way of such a great idea? However, this was going to be a surprise for the hubbies, and they were not informed at all. I have never been so creative in my life. I told my SO that I needed to get away on my own for a weekend and he said it is o.k. We arranged with his boss that he would not be at work on the 3rd of June and made him promise not to say a word – and he never did! My friend told her SO that she had interviews in Mmabatho and that she would like him to come along and that she would book them into a B&B, so he was prepared for one night away from home. He was going to explore this area where he has never been before. Oh what a tangled web I weaved, when first I practiced to deceive …I was enjoying that as much as the planning…
We were going to stay in 2X 2Bed tents in Letaba. We bought the ‘padkos’ & food beforehand because we had to keep ourselves busy otherwise we might have cracked. The Thursday before we left I bought my G&T, Amarula, Pepermint Liqeur and a few Ciders, some wine and everything that was still on our list. My SO decided that he would check my car to see that I had everything I might need along the way, spare tyre, water, wheel nuts not too tight, but tight enough – even put my music back into my car!! But when he saw all the booze that I wanted in my coolbox - and I even asked him for a sixpack of his ciders - he nearly fainted (1G&T over the weekend is a big party for me!!). But I kept a straight face and just told him that a nice cold cider is very refreshing when it is so hot and I wouldn’t want to go and buy some in the store just for myself. He did start to look a bit more worried at this point… I arranged that my children would stay over at friends from the Thursday evening, as I told my SO, he might not pack the correct sandwiches and this would also allow him to relax for the weekend, seeing that he has arranged to have the Friday off as well!
My car was loaded with everything for my weekend except my toothbrush and I have secretly packed his clothes, and toiletries earlier in the week at the bottom of my bag. We dropped the children off and returned home and I was like a child before Christmas and he was beginning to look a bit sorry for himself. I tried to convince him to go to sleep early but he would have none of it, he was still chatting to friends and family on Facebook when I woke up at 1 o clock! When my alarm went off at 4 I got up and got dressed, brought the coffee in and woke him up. He was not very happy with me when I insisted that he got up, get dressed brush his teeth just to see me off… Eventually I told him our friends were coming by to pick up something I bought for their trip. He was not convinced and absolutely refused to get dressed just for that. Then I had to try something else, it was only 5minutes before they would be there to pick us up… and in desperation I told him that he was joining them at the B&B in Mmabatho… but this was even worse, there was no way he was going to be a 5th wheel etc. etc. I was giggling by now in panic. Then I told him that we were going to the Eiland for the weekend and that all his things are packed, the friends are on their way and that Jakkie still doesn’t know that they are not going to Mmabatho. He was a bit shaken but more willing to get dressed. Jakkie was very startled when we started loading all our luggage into their car‼
We had a very pleasant breakfast on the N1 and the men were still in the dark! The two were very curious about the weekend, but when we passed the Eiland turn off, I think at least Jakkie knew where we were heading… I tried to keep it going with: “I want to visit the Amarula factory”, but the jig was up.
We stopped at the Phalaborwa gate to do the paper work and I made the mistake of going in to, or should I say, attempted to enter the ladies public toilets… I nearly died, when my SO saw my face (must have thought: “That serves you right!”) thought I found a corpse in there but alas, it was just your garden variety filthy toilets. So, we got into the car and started our Kruger weekend.
The animals must have sensed all the anticipation that we felt and they did their best. The ellies, were neatly arranged in pods around the main road, nicely interspersed with other animals, and neatly arranged in open spots in the veld. We stopped at the Masorini ruins picnic spot and used the facilities there and had a quick look around. We took the turn off to the Sable dam. I would love to spend a night at the hide, maybe 2012 will be the year. Saw the usual hippo’s, impala, zebra, ellies. The elephants were enjoying the water to the west of the hide, you know, when you drive past the hide and drive to the edge of the water.
On our way back to the Letaba road we took the scenic route off course. Saw a lot more elephants and zebra’s on our way to Letaba. Saw the usual hyena, dead hippo and many, many birds but if you are a passenger and the only birder...
We reported at reception and got our keys for our tents, and was very relieved to be back, although a bit disappointed. It seems every time I return to Letaba is looks a bit more tired and dried out than the last time, hope it will take a turn soon and start to look more cared for. It used to be such a beautiful place. But it is still one of my favourite camps. We moved into our tents and the contents of my cool box were distributed more evenly and it took on a more sensible format. By this time my ‘padkos’ has delivered a shocking sugar spike and we endeavoured to dilute it with water and lunch. Some people were beginning to look a bit tired from a lack of sleep the night before and all the excitement, but were too excited to rest in any case so we decided to do a quick scout up to the bridge and maybe to the lookout point, but definitely to the bridge.
Those big trees on the river’s edge is a sight for sore eyes! There were not many baboons around and the Mopani trees were so full of leaves that it swallowed big elephant bulls up 2 to 3 metres from the road. It always amazes me how these big giants can disappear while you are watching them.
We walked around on the bridge and although the river was quite low, we still saw a few crocodiles hanging/floating in the streams, there were a few big fishes swimming around, but I am not a fish fanatic - not for the menu neither for identifying - so I stick to my description: fish. I love this bridge. It takes my breath away everytime I get out there. They say it is the smell that does that - might be true - but it is one of my favourite places to be just after and just before the gates open and close, when there are not too many other cars around. I have taken many of those chocolate box sunrise/sunset pictures there over the years.
We drove back, taking those nice loops down to the river. When we got back to the tar road, we came upon baboons and elephants, and the biggest flock, school or congress of ‘blou blue waxbill s’ I have ever seen. I think they are beautiful – the blue waxbill , but very frustrating. I get the urge to research a veterinary version of Ritalin every time I come across them though. Just when I found one that’s not flitting around and I have manoeuvred my camera and myself into position to take a close up picture of that gorgeous little birdie, I hear these strange strangled sounds in my left ear. Totally distracted, did we park on an elephants trunk, did we…? Oops!, and I jump off my perch, and start to resuscitate my SO. In my eagerness to capture the perfect and elusive blue waxbill and win all photographic competitions for the next 5 years, I planted my – not waxbill-like – self, elbows and all on his thigh. When he regained his composure 5 minutes later the blue waxbills were still around and I tried again, a lot more restrained and very considerate. Saw a blotch of blue, moved the camera slightly to the right, focus, focus and … never mind, it’s a piece of a Fanta label faded by the sun to exactly the same colour as the blue waxbill!! By now, I decided to give up and just focus on things at least 30kg and more - no more macro photography for today, mik&druk is all I am qualified to do! We drove slowly back to camp saw another elephant cross the road and vanish into the Mopani’s that are scarcely higher than the elephant. Elephants are worth their weight in visual satisfaction. They don’t fly scintillatingly over your head, this way and that way, and over the roof of the car, give you a flash of eye and blue, vanish, and leave you with eyes rolling in your head like a doll. They are huge so they don’t do pirouettes and pliés around you, mostly they just go about business at a sedate pace, they look at you, they rest their tired legs in very entertaining poses, and sometimes they rest their bodies against interesting objects, they scratch themselves with their trunks… the list is endless. Mostly, you just have to stay well away and let them be and they will give you opportunities to just enjoy them or photograph and experiment with new lenses, but those Ritalin-birds are way too small and energetic for an amateur like me and I can only envy the pro’s their pictures.
Back in Letaba, we were welcomed by the guineafowl, hornbills, pigeon’s and the bushbuck. They are openly begging for food and if you drop anything there is a stampede. They are also quite willing to give a toothbrush a try and they are not very considerate users I might add. I would hate to think how fast these little beggars would pick up any pills that you might drop by accident! (I obviously need to ensure my vanity is properly closed/locked when I plan to take a walk with it.)
We had an early braai enjoying the sights and sounds of Letaba, and enjoying some of the contents of the infamous cool box. We were relaxed and very happy with our selves and life in general and looking forward to a nice shower & sleep…
11 April 2014 Shipandane Hide
12 April 2014 Tambotie
30 June - 4 July 2014 Shingwedzi