The beginning of something new (May 2013).
Towing a caravan from the Cape to the Lowveld is not something that you expect to be easy. Expectations met. Nevertheless, at dusk on the 3rd day we arrived in Hazyview, where we would spend the next week relaxing, with just one sneak preview day trip that encompassed a little part of the south of the park, and took in a visit to the nursery at Skukuza, lunch at the golf club and a marvelous hour at Lake Panic (added a Black Crake to my bird list).
On the assigned day, the caravan was packed, hooked up and off we went; we travelled from Hazyview to Phalaborwa on the R40. This was OK, except for the last 30 or so km to Phala, where the road is a little suspect. In at Phala gate, and then on with the H14 towards Tsendze. After check-in at Mopani we made our way to the camp, and our assigned spot (number 18). Ok; here is where reality and expectations separated. Let me say at the outset that the map of Tsendse camp (and the layout of the campsites) on the website and the actual layout bears a only a passing resemblance to each other. I selected site 18 because it appeared quite large (on the map) and I was also quite nervous about getting our caravan into our space with a limited loss of face (we were new to this, remember). I actually drove right past site 18 before I realized that it actually was the square piece squeezed in between squares 17 and 19….I got funny looks from all the folks in sites 20 – 33 as I circled past them on my way back to 18…sorry about the dust, folks…After expertly parking our caravan (by unhooking it and pushing it into place by hand), we had the groundsheet and canopy in place, the chairs and table unpacked and a beer in hand (not necessarily in that order) in next to no time.
Just had to include a pic of the caravan...
What a place. The map issues aside, Tsendze is a wonderful place, and we were, as countless others before us, looked after so well by the inimitable Roger and Elinah. The first evening quiet was shattered by the calls of a Giant Eagle owl (Roger photographed it and posted it on facebook). During our three day stay at Tsendze Roger also pointed out (one late morning) one of the local resident owlets:
Game-wise, the trip was rather quiet; the park is very green, and the grass and Mopani around that area quite dense. Still, we saw the usual, and trips on all the loops were fairly productive (but if you are waiting for a description of the lion/leopard/cheetah, you are bound to be disappointed). For me the memories that will last from Tsendze would be the owls, the absolute peace and quiet, and chats with Roger and Elinah on their rounds each evening. We’ll be back.Punda...No fires on the ground (and 7de Laan at the Bird Hide)
The trip from Tsendze to Punda Maria (for a further three nights) was quite interesting, with the evidence of the destruction around the Shingwedzi area a lasting memory of the day’s drive. We arrived at Punda around midday; after the orderly quiet of Tsendze the Punda campsite was quite an eye-opener. We eventually figured out that you could (kind of) tell where the campsites were by looking for the braai stands.
We could also kind of tell that I should have brought a very long extension cord. Which I did not. But, we found a spot under some trees, close enough to an unoccupied power socket for my measly 25 m cable to reach, and proceeded to park the caravan. I wish I could tell you that I expertly and faultlessly reversed the caravan in between some trees and into the required spot, but that would be factually incorrect (a lie, in fact). I am sure that the number of embarrassing moments will decrease in practice as well as in the retelling of these stories: talk about selective memories. The van was parked.No fires on the ground….
..or 7de Laan at the bird hide. There are large signs at the camp kitchens and elsewhere saying: No Fires on the Ground. Amazing how some people just cannot read.
But first: After we had parked the caravan we did the Mahonie loop and saw some great stuff, some of which we photographed:
And some of which we drove away from at slightly higher than normal speed, the latter being an elephant that took exception to us in no uncertain fashion. This was the full Monty, no mock charge, he kept coming. Got the adrenalin going, I can tell you.
So back to the fires. A couple of couples (two different campsites) had a braai together, and proceeded to make a (large) fire, on the ground, virtually against the fence. I once saw a veld fire start inside Olifants camp when a gust of wind blew coals from a nearly deceased braai fire onto grass next to some bungalows, so this fire in the fence kind of freaked me out, just a little. And let me tell you that old(er) folks can be just as rude as some youngsters when you want to discuss (for example) their stupidity with them. The reason I am telling you this is that it became clear to me that you have a far greater interaction with your fellow tourists when you camp…so many interesting people, and so many different types!
Then there was the 7de Laan at the bird hide episode. For those of you that know the Punda bird hide; I was quite amused, on the second evening there to observe that a gentleman had parked his (quite frankly enormous) caravan quite close to the bird hide, and had (a) an air conditioner in the caravan nose cone going, (b) an extensive canopy/verandah set up with (c) a huge fan going full blast and (d) a friggin great flat screen TV (and dish) set up in one corner. So that evening you could sit in the bird hide and listen to the favourite Afrikaans soapie blaring from the TV just 30 yards away. Not a keeper in the memory stakes.
I would rather remember the Bearded Woodpecker, or this battle-scarred dagga boy..
But all of this fades into insignificance when compared to the wonderful day trip we had to Pafuri. I had not been to Pafuri in many a year. I actually found some photographs my late dad took of me and a family friend at Pafuri in 1970 or 1971. So maybe I was chasing some of those long-held memories when we took this trip. Pafuri definitely lived up to the expected (selected?).
En route my birding experiences also took a few giant leaps forward: for example our first African Hawk Eagle..
And there was the side-striped jackal…
And the quite beautiful Nyala loop…Balule revisited
The next day it was back to Balule, this time on the other side of the fence. Added Hamerkop to our bird list (I work on the principle that if I haven’t photographed I haven’t seen it)
and the evening sunset was followed by the braai and the Hyenas either side of the fence. What a magic place.
Sadly, all good things come to an end, and the last day in the park was spent traveling to Malelane (had a shocking experience there with a power socket), but at least we saw the compulsory cats at Tshokwane.
So having now embarked on a new phase of our Krugerparking, what about the future? To paraphrase Arnie; we’ll be back. Maybe not with the caravan on every trip, but definitely more camping than otherwise. Let the good memories stack up.