Into Kruger we go!
We spent a couple of days in Johannesburg with some of my gorgeous cousins, who gave us suggestions on our best route into the Park.
Our destination for the first two nights was Satara, and so (after studying numerous maps and a fair bit of head-scratching) – we headed for the Orpen gate.
We decided to do this via Blyde River Canyon – somewhere I’d never been before. It was visually spectacular and well worth the detour.
I think what was even more spectacular was the fact that we managed to make it without getting lost… and I’m very pleased this was the case, as the total travel time from Jo’burg to the Orpen gate was just over 7 hrs. Suffice to say we were VERY happy to see the cheery faces of the SANParks staff when we arrived!
Heading down the H7 towards Satara, our bets were placed on which animal we would see first. Our currency when placing these bets in Kruger is in the form of biltong, not money, and I had my “biltong” on impala. Mork decided his “biltong” would be on giraffe… we were both wrong…
Not far up the road we saw our first giraffe – so we decided Mork had won that bet – but since it (technically) wasn’t the first sighting, I could keep my “biltong wager” – awesome, I call that a “win-win” situation
Forever the optimist, Mork decided that after his part-victory – this was going to be a lucky trip to the Park, and that he would like to see leopard, cheetah and wild dog…
From here the conversation went something like this: *insert a whining, nagging voice here*
"Moooork – you know we would be lucky to see just one of those animals… it’s not about the big stuff, you’ve got to appreciate the small stuff too… in 11 visits to the Park, I have NEVER seen cheetah or wild dog, and we were extremely lucky to get a glimpse of a leopard last time – plus all those lions!… let’s just enjoy being in the park with no expectations… no we’re not listening to music while we drive here… yes I know it’s warm but I really would like to keep the windows down so I can smell and hear the park… no, I don’t want to drive faster – 30km/hr isn’t too slow, there’s no need to go the speed limit… etc… etc… etc…”
[Hehe poor Mork – he has the patience of a saint. Secretly I was hoping to see a serval and a pangolin, but of course I couldn’t say this!
This conversation came to a grinding halt when I slammed on the brakes for the first time, and it was for one of the strangest looking creatures I have ever seen in my life
Perhaps someone can help us with this – I assume it is some type of caterpillar?
Not far behind us was a taxi that had been catching us while we crawled along… he went to overtake us, and we stopped him – we didn’t want him running over our furry friend! I think the taxi driver thought we were a tad loony, but he was kind enough to let the fur-ball cross the road before hooning off. Good deed done for the day! (We ate biltong to celebrate this – we at biltong to celebrate everything – biltong is practically unaffordable to the average person in Australia)
Continuing down the H7 we had a few more “first” sightings:
We were having a great old time. Then we hit a bit of a road block – and not the awesome, animal-kind of road block:
Our visit followed the second lot of floods in the park, and there was still some repair work to be done. Our original plan had been to get to camp, unpack and then head out for a late-afternoon drive, but according to our good friend Tom-Tom (the trusty GPS) – this required detour down the S106 would add quite a bit of extra time to our travels.
Nothing we could do about it, so we decided to slow down even more, with a view to arriving at camp right on gate closing time.
Not 5 minutes down the road, we managed to catch a glimpse of this little guy
I’m hoping I’m correct in saying this is a slender mongoose?
A bit further along and we saw some more giraffe friends
I’ll try and refrain from posting too many pictures of giraffes – I love them, they are the most bizarre yet beautiful creatures I think I have ever been lucky to see (actually I think they are tied in first place for bizarre looks with the Proboscis Monkey, but I digress)
We drove on for a little bit, spotting more impies and zebras – until this guy caught our eye
He was having an intense head-scratch in one of the bushes, and we watched him for a while. It was highly amusing – he seemed to have trouble scratching the right spot, and the scratching got more and more vigorous to the point where he seemed to become really frustrated! I felt like getting out and giving him a good head rub but – well – for obvious reasons that didn’t happen.
We came across a few more firsts before the S106 ended:
Then it was back on to the tar road (H7). We decided to up the speed from 30km/hr to 40km/hr, as time was marching on. Just as we did this, Mork said “SHHHHHHHHH!!!” – to which I slammed on the brakes. Two male impies came bolting across the road making their “clicking” noise. I quickly turned off the car and we listened – but nothing. Whatever had frightened them was nowhere to be seen… still, it got our hearts racing.
After waiting and listening for 5 or so minutes – we continued with our journey – and spotted our first ellies (YAY!)…
And another 10min of travel found us our first waterbuck (but the photo of I have of him is sadly out of focus - I think my eyes were getting tired by this stage!
Awesome! We’d seen quite a selection of animals on our drive to camp!
By now we were nearing the turn-off to the H1-4, and the entrance to Satara… and just in time – we drove into the camp at exactly 2 minutes before closing time
Check in was painless, and before long we were enjoying a coldie while the braai heated up… we were starving by the time our “5-star camp meal” was ready.
It was such a great day – we’d already seen quite the buffet of creatures and we still had 4 and a half days of Kruger goodness to enjoy. But I think more than anything – we were just happy to be there after a long day of travel.
With the alarm clocks set for 4.30am, we retired early – oh I can’t wait to tell you about our second day, the fun had only just begun…