The nutty francolin starts at 4:45 sharp, and continues until the arrow marked babblers start to protest. This morning is bit cooler than yesterday. My mobile rings at 5:00. “Happy BIRTHDAY!!!! Why are you a morning person when you are in the bush and not in the city? Dhu. What’s your birthday wish? Someone of Sanparks telling me I can stay in Tamboti for mahala for a year to finish writing my book…or maybe just a lion sighting today…”
The ghost bird starts to call. Long drawn out notes that fill the air with its melancholy. The green spotted dove joins in. I sit on the side of my bed in ecstasy. This is how a birthday should be. I get a bun with one candle in (
my daughter is an angel) and a cup of steaming coffee. The hyena whoops from across the river and the baboons start their day in a true hysterical baboon way. The lions roar from far away, a gentle calling roar. The silence that fills my soul is more precious than any gift I had ever received. This place…this keeper of my soul.
We head for N’wanetsi. It’s really cold this morning. At Nsemani dam, we stop and scan. I nearly faint with shock! Three grey headed seagulls sit at the brim of the water. We look in disbelieve.
We check our Sasol and Sinclair and sigh, they are found inland, but it’s first for us to see GULLS in the middle of KNP! So we speculate that they must be from Moz. We also spot a tern, a first for us as well. Excited we travel on, and find two Bateleur’s just past the Nwanetsi river bridge on the road. Another thing we noticed that after the rain, a lot of grasshoppers and crickets started to cross the road, and the consequent road kill provided a feast for the hornbills and starlings. That might also be reason for yesterday’s guinea fowl road-block.
The H6 turned out a few sightings of Zebra and Wildebeest. We turned off at Sonop and had a wonderful sighting of a breeding pair of Saddle billed storks. It was very cold at the picnic site. The lookout was quiet and windy. A small family of Waterbuck were grazing on the opposite bank. The river was the fullest I had ever seen it, and a noticeable absence of water birds, except for a crake or two. We drove to Sweni bird-hide and sat there with chattering teeth for a while. Two crocs, a large family of Hippo’s with three very small calves. I have never seen the water so deep at Sweni, thus never seen Hippo’s there before. Both of the places we had been to were very quiet, it almost felt as if we had the place to ourselves.
We took the Gudzani road and save a few Impalas, we sighted a lone ellie bull. Gudzani dam is filled to brim. There again, water birds were not in sight. We turned back to the S100, and were entertained by masses of Zebra and Giraffe. The one herd we sat watching, were antsy, biting and kicking and generally HORSING around. Slowly, the Giraffes started to appear and as soon as they started to cross the road to the other side, the Zebras lined up in single file! and started to follow them. This was fascinating to watch. We also found a Crombeck, which was a first for my daughter. On our way back, the gulls were still there.
We stopped at Orpen to book a night drive and were told that someone sighted the Cheetas about two km’s from the gate. So back we travelled, but after searching for a while, we decided to call it a day. But behold, five kitties instead came to few. A huge male and four females, passed out on a sandy patch, looking like balloons with tails. SO! There was a kill, because they were inches away from bursting! I silently sat and said thanks for my granted birthday wish.
20:00. We board the gamedrive vehicle. It just us two and our guide. I don’t care what we see, I just want to be in bush in the dark night and see a million stars and know…that there are THINGS out there who are alive, hunting, hiding, making noises and that there is this incredible silence that I can smell, taste, hear and put away in my heart like a precious gift to be opened when I am in bad need of sustenance. So we learn about the stars, we see the giant eagle owl, the night jar, a bush baby and a chameleon curled up like a luminescent banana in a thorn tree. I feel the cool night air on my face, and the dark blanket of Mama Afrika folds around me. I wish I could just sit there on one spot the whole night and look at the path of the stars until daylight came to put away night’s beautiful gems.
We head off early to Muzandzeni with full picnic regalia. A bush breakfast of note coming up. The raw eggs close at hand, as there used to be a gregarious ellie hanging around there. For those of you frowning, I read about a ranger who did raw eggies on ellies and they didn’t like it one bit. We see a Bateleur doing a snake on the side of the road in two minutes flat. It makes us hungry…
At the picnic site, we are alone. I’m starting to like this illusion of being alone in the park. A huge Jackallberry tree has been unearthed but part of its roots are still in the ground and it continues growing. At the base of the uplifted roots, there is an elephant skull and a large bone underneath it. We unpack our stuff not far from it and walk over to look. There is still flesh on the skull and bone, or as my daughter put it, it’s fresh up mom. We were both a little awkward with this. The giant old tree with the skull of the elephant at its base. Life, nature and cycles.
We start breakfast and I guiltily turn my back to the skull when I crack the eggs open to fry. The old man at the site told us that they found the elephant dead at the drinking hole at the back. It was ill.
We take the S126 after our bush brekkie. A lot of Giraffe and Zebra. The first time we travelled on this road and it thus a new exploration. I like the roads turning off from the S36, I found all of them beautiful and have been fortunate to see kitties on most of them, however, I made peace with the fact that this trip would not yield easy sightings. Thus our flora knowledge expanded. We even had time to explore our SA Grasses book. The last 5 km’s were filled with Lala palms on the river side, and since it’s one of my favourite plants, I liked it very much.
The road to Orpen yielded a small herd of Buffalo, piggies and a baboon road block. I need to say at this point that I cannot include any of the photographs taken at this particular sighting as I am sure Sanparks will sue us for extreme nudity and pornographic material. EESH, things are surely going
bump in the Park…