Tuesday 27 March 2012
My SO, two grandsons and I set off from Cape Town to Oudshoorn straight after school on Friday 24 March. We overnighted at a lovely self-catering cottage and then continued to Kokstad where we were to collect our other two grandchildren. This would be the first time we've taken the kids to Kruger. The older boys who live with us have been to Addo and Camdeboo for brief visits but we thought the time had now come to introduce them to more of the wild. So after a bit of rest time with our daughter and son-in-law we were read to leave at 3:30 a.m. this morning. Lauren gave Jay Pronutro and the other three some toast and jam, dosed them with Concerto and Car sick medication respectively and by the time Earl and I were ready to pack the car at 3:45 they were all ready to climb aboard the Caravelle and we were off on the long drive to Kruger.
“Its so quiet, early in the morning, Gran,” said Shannon. “Yes – only the night creatures are out – I wonder what we will see.”
I was the only one to spot the genet and later a caracal slip across the road like a quiet, pale ghost. Earl was too busy concentrating on the potholes in the road and the small passengers in the back had fallen asleep. The potholes were really scary and we had several scared – but luckily no punctures.
Once dawn broke the kids were awake again and becoming quite noisy. They loved watching the sun rise, though and it was lovely to hear their appreciative comments.
We stopped at Ladysmith where we had breakfast at The Wimpy. I couldn’t believe how much our younger grandchildren could tuck away. Shan had the special – two fried eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato, Si had chicken strips and salad, Josh only a toasted cheese and Jay nothing at all – Concerto takes away his appertite and he’d already had Pronutro. He just settled for a strawberry milkshake. It was much later in the day before he tucked into a ham and avo roll and some chocolate muffins.
All through the day the car went from raucous to quiet depending on the level of boredom that set in. We tried playing counting games, we laughed over their dreadful spelling of the Kruger animals – but I think they’ve got it now – and we gave history lessons on the places we passed through. Finally just before entering the Park at Malelane gate we impressed upon them how privileged we were to be visiting the wild animals in their natural habitat and they were amazed that the area covered an area as big as Israel.
Although they were tired and Simon , 7, complained that he’d never spent so long in a car in his life – 10 hours is a bit long for a small boy – they all were excited to see the hippo and waterbirds as we crossed the bridge to Malelane gate.
Then once in they wanted only to find elephants. We did not – but a group of rhino were hiding behind the bushes, impala greeted us warmly and a juvenile martial eagle caused some delight. It was 4 o’clock when we arrived and on our short drive to the waterhole and then to camp we found zebra, lilac breasted rollers, red-billed woodhoepoes, a coucal, yellow-billed, red-billed and grey hornbill and finally at the waterhole a fish eagle and some zebra.Wednesday 28 March 2012
Last night we were all exhausted. We unpacked the entire car so we could get sorted for comfortable travelling in the park. Lauren had cooked us two meals and froze them so as nobody felt like waiting for a braai we quickly cooked the savoury mince and had it with rice. Earl was so tired that he couldn’t even eat! Shannon mislaid her asthma pump which caused a bit of an upset but after turning everything upside down and searching under the seats of the car she found it where she’d put it in the first place.
This morning we were up and out of the cottage by 5:45. We arranged seating in the caravelle so that nobody sat at the back where the windows don’t open. So I had Simon up front with me and Shannon and Josh shared a seat. It worked very well and after brunch Shannon and Simon swapped places.
Each child has his/her own binoculars. Simon has my very first digital camera – a 3.1 mega pixel, 3x optical zoom which when it was bought 10 years ago cost R7000! Josh has my first super zoon – a 12x optical zoom Canon Powershot, Jay has the 20x optical zoom Canon and Shannon has her dad’s superzoom Nikon.
I usually make careful notes when we travel in the park but with four children to supervise it was quite impossible and I must admit it was great to just relax and enjoy them enjoying themselves. They loved having cameras and once the novelty of clicking wore off they became more selective about when they would and would not capture a moment.
Our first bird shoot gave us a red-backed shrike.
All the children were dying to see elephant – but I don’t think they were quite prepared for their first encounter – a young bull came towards us, felt threatened and began to ‘charge’ us while resting his trunk on his tusks! Lauren had just phoned to check on her children when this little incident began and I relayed to her what was happening – “Tell Grandpa to reverse quickly,” she demanded. But we were in no danger and once he found a safe place to escape us the elephant went into the bush and started browsing on the juicy leaves of a roadside tree.
Another great sighting was a lone rhino lying next to a muddy puddle. Clearly he had just had a ‘refreshing’ bath and was enjoying a well-earned rest.
Warthogs appeared and gave the kids a giggle, they delighted over being the first to spot birds and we were pleased to see that although they were dying to see the big stuff they appreciated all the little things too.
Simon at seven did ask, “when will we see a lion?” but when we saw buffalo he was back with the programme again.
A red-billed buffalo-weaver
This beautiful European Bee-eater delighted them
And they'd were intrigued by the double-banded sandgrouse. "Lovely eyes, Granny"
We stopped at a hide which provided an opportunity to stretch legs and get rid of some wriggles.
A silent woodland's kingfisher was perched right in front of us and seemed not to mind that we were so close.
The turtles on a log drew a lot of interest
Our brunch stop was at Afsaal where we had toasted sandwiches, looked at the resident scops owl and enjoyed an encounter with at friendly bushbuck.
Simon used his pocket money to buy a photographic book on Kruger and then we were back on the road again.
Earlier this morning we caught a brief glimpse of a leopard as it walked off into the bush – basically it was its tail and a distant back view. Shannon remembering this said, “I really want to see a leopard properly – not in a tree but walking along the road close to the car.” Grandpa said, “Well – put in your order then!” Not five minutes later what should we see but a young leopard walking toward us followed closely by a single motor car.
We could not believe our luck and Shan was thrilled that she got her ‘order.’ We turned around to follow the creature and soon other cars were behind and ahead reversing as it approached. Some impala on the left barked a warning. A wildebeest appeared on the right and the leopard crouched down on the road as it leapt across in front of it – but it did not give chase. We found that the most exciting moment. After a few minutes we decided to let the cars behind us get ahead and then turned around to continue our journey. Wow – what a wonderful sighting.
We continued to have some lovely bird and animal encounters and then returned to camp at 1 o’clock. The kids went to the pool and Earl and I had a nap. At 4 o’clock Earl and Jay went out for a brief drive and saw lovely game – rhino, buffalo and other things. The younger ones did not want to go again but found a parrot and a purple crested turacco in the trees.
To be continued