No trip ever goes off without a hitch and we did have one incident of bad luck when our little midget developed a slow puncture. Parked at Renosterpan watching a rhino wallowing in the mud, we were oblivious to the fact that our back wheel was decidedly pap. When another vehicle drove up and pointed it out to us, the first thing Rookie did was jump out of the car to take a look. Can you believe it! Through her open passenger door I saw three hungry-looking hyena eyeing her from under a tree barely twenty metres away. We’d totally missed them earlier. Either that or they weren’t there when we pulled up at the waterhole. Luckily, they took fright and scattered when I hissed at Rookie to get her butt back in the car.
Several 4x4s formed a protective laager around us and a kind gentleman with a compressor came to our rescue, pumping up our flat tyre so that we could get back to the picnic spot at Afsaal to change it.
Then the fun began when we couldn’t find a jack in our boot. Damn, we never thought to check that, I exclaimed. Rookie stormed off to enlist the help of the manager who promptly told her not to panic because the jack would be located under the passenger seat. “Jy jok, Meneer,” said Rookie indignantly. But true to his word, it was there. With rivulets of sweat pouring down our backs, we changed the tyre and were back on the road again in no time, eager to continue our game searching.
By now, Rookie was getting to know her bokkies.
We passed a young French couple on the road and asked if they’d seen anything interesting. No, they replied with downcast faces, only a group of seven sable antelope about five kilometres back. They must have wondered why we screeched into a u-turn and sped away leaving them in a cloud of dust. After driving up and down a bit we finally caught glimpses of patches of black and tan moving steadily through the scrub. Only when I was able to make out the magnificent horns of the lead male was I satisfied that they were indeed sable. Oh, if only they were closer!
When we came across a tawny eagle and a couple of vultures (a white-faced and a Cape, I think) I was relieved that Rookie hadn’t ended up as lunch for the bone-crunching hyenas because these guys would’ve polished off any remains.
On the last morning there was a short downpour which provided pleasant relief from the heat and the dust. The animals appeared to be friskier, birds looked bedraggled and a tortoise crawled onto the road to drink from a mud puddle.
I was fascinated to come across a pair of saddle-billed storks, never having seen birds with such odd-looking bills before. Like a kid had gone crazy with a couple of bright red and yellow crayons.
On the other end of the scale, Rookie found the lilac-breasted rollers to be pure works of art. Trying to capture that luminous flash of blue as the birds flitted from branch to branch proved impossible though, and only left us feeling frustrated. We need far better cameras than these, quipped Rookie. Time to start saving!
We did discover another buffalo kill near a waterhole and desperately tried to take pics of the rain-bedraggled lions but all we got were fuzzy blurs. This pic is from the first buffalo kill we saw.
Despite our misfortune with the pap wiel, Rookie was hooked. A passionate love had affair began right under my nose. Back at the office she showed our hundreds of photographs to anyone who walked past and stories were told and retold until staff started rolling their eyes at the mere mention of the word Kruger.
A few months later Rookie packed up her family and took them to the park. Her favourite camp was Lower Sabie and she was first out the gate each morning and last back in the evenings. She’s been back several times since then.
Then in December 2011 she temporarily ditched Kruger for a new lover – the KTP! We all know what an irresistible Don Juan the KTP is and Rookie lost her heart. Last I heard, the shameless hussy was two-timing them both AND planning a secret fling with Addo on the side. Look out ellies, here she comes!
As for me, I am no less shameless with a string of liaisons planned for the coming months – Marakele, Mapungubwe and Northern Kruger in April/May plus Agulhas and Ebb and Flow in March.
So, fasten your seat belts. Lots more TRs and happy snaps to come!