Day 112 (Feb 20th)
We were up at "stupid 'o clock" and on the road by 5.30am.
Elsa and Klystron have a beautiful BMW 4x4, so we had a very quick and comfortable journey, and pulled into the Home Affairs car park not long after 8am.
Imagine our disappointment to find that the officials that we needed to see, had just left to go to the Tzaneen office for the morning!!!
We were told they would be back between 1-2pm, so that put paid to a leisurely drive from Phala Gate back to Burchell's!!
Klystron suggested that we go straight to the park and have at least a few hours there, before we were due back at Home Affairs.
We drove to Phala Gate, and Elsa bought us all one of the delicious pies that they sell in the local community shop, and then we set out through the boom into the park!!
Little did Dungy and I know that when we had said goodbye to the Phala gate on Saturday, we would be back again so soon..............life can be very strange at times!!!
We turned off down the S131, and made a plan to drive through to Letaba for an ice cream.
Sightings were very poor, just a small amount of general game, and as we were parked outside the shop at Letaba we heard other people say the same. It seems since the floods, and with the thick lush vegetation, it is becoming increasingly difficult to spot much!!!
I treated us all to an ice cream, and as time was moving on, we got back in the car and drove towards the Phala Gate.
During our four month stay, Dungy and I always stopped at Rhidonda Pan, and today was no exception. As usual there was nothing much there, except the Hippo that took up residence after the floods.
I scanned the area with the binocs, and declared that there was nothing to see, but just as we were about to get back on the road, I thought I could see something under a the tree in front of the pan!!!
I looked again and shouted "I think it's a cat.............maybe a Lion."
Klystron said he also thought it was a Lion, but then I thought I saw some spots, and as it was quite a large cat I said "No I think it's a Leopard!!"
I then got the binocs out again, and there staring back at me were two tear marks..............I could hardly believe it, but it was a beautiful Cheetah!!!!!
It was quite amazing, but after all this time, and when we had just about given up all hope, we had eventually found our elusive feline, and as an added bonus it was actually in the north!!!
If we hadn't needed to drive to Phala Home Affairs, and if the officials had been there at 8am, we probably would not have found this beautiful animal!!!
We wondered if it was one of the two Cheetahs we had tried to find the other day, after a BB notification that came via a friend of ours, but we could only see the one.
We spent a few minutes snapping away for all we were worth, but eventually our new found friend got up and sauntered slowly away into the distance.
We pinched each other, just to check that we weren't dreaming, but no, we had really just found our Cheetah!!
By now it was gone 1pm, so we drove back to the gate and made our way to the Home Affairs office.
My heart sank when I saw the long queue, and we sat down to prepare for a long wait, but luckily when we had been there early that morning, they had booked us in and so our names were actually first on the list!!
We were shown into the immigration office, and the official said "Oh I remember you, why are you here today"?!!!
I explained that we had received a phone call from Pretoria, to say our permit papers were there, but she said "Well I don't know why they would say that because they're not"!!!
We asked her to double check, but she was right they weren't there!!! I could not believe that we had come all this way, and still we didn;t have our permits!!!
Our only consolation was the beautiful Cheetah that had shown itself to us!!!
I felt awful when we got back to the car, and had to tell Elsa and Klystron that it had all been a wild goose chase, but they also were very philosophical, and said in view of the fact we found our Cheetah, it was meant to be!!
We looked at our watches, and decided that if we made good time back down the R40, we could go back into the park at Phabeni, and have an hour or so before the gate closed.
Klystron put the car into reverse and released the parking brake....at least he tried to!!!
To cut a long story short, the parking brake would not release, so we were going nowhere.
By now it was 34c, so we all piled out of the car to find some shade, and the staff brought us some chairs and some cold water.
They were quite bemused, but I don't think they quite understood the problem with the car, seeing as it was such a technical problem.
More long stories cut short, initially we thought that a breakdown van would be needed to take the car to the nearest BMW approved garage at Nelspruit, and that we would need to hire a car to get us back to Burchell's.
However after a few conversations on his cell phone, Klystron was advised by the on call BMW mechanic to cut the parking brake leads..............something that sounded a bit drastic, but actually worked, although it took a long time to find some cutters and actually carry out the job!!
Eventually just before 5pm we were on our way...........but of course with no hope now of going back into the park that day!!!
As we drove back it was gradually getting darker, which made driving through Bushbuckridge very unpleasant, as it was difficult to see pedestrians and livestock in the fading light. Klystron is however a very good driver, and just before 8pm we arrived back at Burchell's safe and sound.
We had planned another braai that evening, but decided to do a quick meal of stirfry steak strips and pasta in sauce, though sadly an untimely power cut meant that the sauce had not thickened as much as we would have liked!!!
We were all so tired that we didn't even have our usual Amarula, and we were all tucked up in bed by 9pm.
As we drifted off to sleep, Dungy and I reflected on a very strange day, that definitely had given us mixed blessings.
We had been on a wild goose chase as far as Home Affairs was concerned, but had it not been for them, we would not have found our beautiful Cheetah!!!
So our mission was now complete......we had found Cheetah and Painted Dogs, although strictly speaking the dogs has been in the south, however that magnificent, beautiful wonderful Cheetah was most definitely found in the north!!!!
We wondered what tomorrow would bring us....................
To be continued................