Without Janet to direct me, at this point in the trip I'm not sure what day it is or where I am supposed to go, so I have to look up my notes to see where I am and where I am going. I'm lost in Kruger and don't care about anything other than the minute I am in. I determine it is December 31st and I have reservations at Bateleur. OK, when I get packed I head south. But Punda Maria and the north are now part of my Kruger repertoire and I'm sure I'll be back.
The local impala herd watch as I drive away.
I notice the same Sharpe's in the same place on my way out.
I make the turn towards the Dzundwini lookout and am delighted to see the flock of crowned guinea fowl and get my first tick of the day.
Crowned guinea fowl
The loop around Dzundwini is very nice and remote. I took this loop before when I drove up to Punda Maria and I recommend it. Each time I saw numerous Sharpe's grysboks, nyala, elephants, kudu, steenbok and now the crowned guinea fowl. Up at the top you get a very nice westward view that goes for miles and miles.
Another nice chance for a woodland kingfisher photo op
Back on the road I get to check off my second new bird of the day, there were 2 black storks in a tree. Here is one of them.
It was a windy day and I liked how the wind was ruffling this bird's feathers.
I took the Mphongolo loop but it was very quiet. I have yet to see a leopard to finish my Big 5 for the trip, so I pulled into every lookout and loop along this road. The sights were beautiful and I looked in every tree, crawling along in 1st gear not having to use the gas at all. This is the last day of the year and I couldn't think of a better place and time than where I was.
The Shingwedzi River was a big change from the first time I crossed it the other day. When I came through 2 days ago it was flooding and dirty, foamy looking. It was back to normal today and there were more animals to see. I stopped at Shingwedzi to stock up for my 2 nights at Bateleur. When I got out of the car I almost passed out. Everything was so bright, like I was walking in an over-exposed photograph. I was glad when I got back into the truck and snuggled into my seat and put on my sunglasses to help deal with this over-exposed world and headed off to the remotest camp in the park.
To get to Bateleur, I decided to take the S 52. It is an amazing road. The map I had was a little confusing, at Red Rocks the road actually crosses the river and becomes a loop. I wasn't sure where to go, because the way forward had a fallen tree blocking access. Cars had been driving around and through, so I decided not to cross the river and carry on, but I felt I was really getting deep into the bush. There wasn't another car to meet the entire way.
Soon it became apparent I was on the right track and my apprehension level went down a little bit. This drive is worth it. People who are not staying at Bateleur can go as far as Shigomane viewpoint which is an extremely remote get out point. The return trip would take you on the other side of the river with different views.
Zebra peeking out
There were a lot of hornbills around Bateleur. I got to see as they made their odd sounds. Now I know what that sound is from past trips!!
I got to reception and found Frieda and Paul. What wonderful friendly people. Paul explained he had a night drive going out that night and did I mind going on that. I had a drive booked for tomorrow, but I was the only one. Of course I decided, but my dizziness had returned. I took my blood pressure and was shocked to see it was 82/40. Well, that explains things. Kruger was doing what my medicine couldn't do, bring my blood pressure down. I was so relaxed I was almost dead. I had instructions from the Doc if this happened and I lowered my doses of meds. I have had no problems since.
Paul picked me up for the drive and there was a family of 5 going along. I left the lights on at the bungalow, outside and in the bathroom, when we left as we would be coming back quite late. DON'T DO THIS!!
Paul was an absolutely amazing guide. This was the drive of my dreams. If only they could all be like this. If you have a chance to go out with Paul, DO THIS!! He told everyone to be quiet and made sure everyone was.
Paul explained how the hare runs from his shadow and when the spotlights/headlights cause double shadows, the hare doesn't know which way to run away. That is why the hare seems kind of stupid, changing directions and zigzagging and not getting out of the way.
Here we see a bronze-winged courser, 3rd new tick for the day.
And then, and then, Paul stops the car and I see what he is stopping for immediately. ClickClickClickClickClickClickClick, like as fast as I could click, hoping I could get at least one good picture. The family in back are going "what?" A caracal is what.
Paul and I were high from the encounter. On New Year's Eve, what a way to end the year.
And then Paul impressed me once again by locating this chameleon. I guess if you are trained you will notice a reflective stripe along the chameleon's body, and it is easier to see at night than in the day, but still. Finding a chameleon camouflaged in a tree at night was fantastic.
We saw the scrub hares, night jars, a small genet, bush babies, impala, nyala, buffalos, I get hit by a sand grouse which flew at the vehicle, giraffes, spitting cobra, scorpion, chameleon, Sharpe's, eagle owl, and our shy little caracal. Again, what an excellent drive.
When I returned I was in dismay. My bungalow was mayhem. Although interesting, bugs had taken over my bungalow. Leaving the lights on was a big mistake. I had to make dinner yet and there were so many bugs I had to include some in my meal.Then worse, inside I found a bat. This was very disturbing. I don't mind bats but this bat was distressing me. It was a little bat and I didn't know if it was a baby or hurt. It wasn't flying, rather it was scuttling around on the floor like a little crab. I trapped it in a glass and carried it outside. When I released it, it continued a frenzied scuttling around the patio and I found myself dancing to get out of its way. Sh!t. Ultimately it scuttled off the patio and got lost into the night. I don't know. I would have helped it more if I could, but it was just plain creepy.
I finally got to bed. Not a minute went by when I felt something drop onto me. Yagh!! The bat was back. I turned on the light and there were 2 of the crab bats now, scuttling around. I packed up shop and closed the door, blocked the crack under the door and went into the other room. I was hoping the bats would find their way out on their own, the same way they came in. Happy New Year!