Our first visit to KRUGER
The normal sea holidays had become boring, the wind always blowing, the fish were not on the bite, the water sometimes dirty.
I bought a Tranvaal Weekender and Holiday Guide and paging through it came across a write up on KRUGER NATIONAL PARK with a basic black on white map. I read through it and thought this could be quite nice. I discussed this with Mom and dear old Dad. Mom thought it was a good idea and Dad bluntly refused, there is no way in which either him or his family was going to be trampled by Elephants.
Mom and myself realised putting it to the vote would not help as life is not democratic. After many debates Dad agreed but I was told all was at my personal risk.
I made an enquiry, requesting three days in SKUKUZA and two days at OLIFANTS CAMP, two rondavels each and posted it to P O Box 787 Pretoria. A few days later I received a letter posted in Pretoria, opening it I found a blue hand written form indicating that I have a reservation in KRUGER as requested.
Now we started preparing, film purchased, rusks and cookies are baked and tinned food is purchased as well as the odd piece of clothing. Eventually time arrives and the car is packed. The three of us are on our way. Leaving a cold Vereeniging behind at 02:00 in August 1967.
Driving through the heavy mist between Belfast and Machadodorp was quite an experience , then Nelspruit, then White River and then a road sign indicating NUMBI GATE, we are nearly there. We drive through a dip and on the rise we see a wooden gate with colourful Bauganvillea covering the horizontal wooden beams. We stop and a person comes up and halts, opens the gate and as we enter, gives us a cracking salute which matches his neatly pressed khaki uniform with sergeant stripes on the sleeves.
I go to the neat reception office where I am greeted friendly and I sign in - no firearms to declare. I get to the car and the sergeant appears and hands over a large TOTAL waste paper bag as well as two stickers, a green and gold one with the Lion head and another with a Steenbok on, reminding us of cleanlines.
The sergeant passes on another salute and we are off. Dad says " keep your eyes open for Elephants". A few hundred metres in we see some brown four legged creatures alongside the road - we are amazed - Impala. A bit further on a gravel road turns off to the left and we take the turn - then we see Zebra and excitement grows. After a while we drive on further and then a beautiful Kudu bull with his harem and their offspring, cross the road just in front of us - amazing. We drive on and dad says "keep your eyes open for elephants"
Further on along the Doispane road we see some more Impala and Zebra. Then just before Nwasitshaka waterhole turnoff we spot something golden in the grass just next to the road, Lions millions of them, hurriedly the windows are wound up and in amazement we sit and stare at this wonder of AFRICA. Eventually it gets stuffy in the car and we build up enough courage to wind the windows down a half a turn. Eventually we decide that as the Lions had already eaten and it would be safe to wind down the windows completely. Then I remember, oh the camera ,and I start taking slides of the Lions. after about two hours the Lions are bored with our attention and they decide to move off.
Dad starts the car and reminds to " keep your eyes open for Elephants " and I do as instructed. Driving on we see a road sign indicating SKUKUZA our anxciety again on the increase. Then some more Impala and a bit further on some Bluewildebeeste, we are in seventh heaven. Then a another sign indicating SKUKUZA, we turn left and there it is . . . . We enter the wide gates and notice the neatly kept lawns, the neat rondavels with cars parked close by, a bit of garden and some people moving around al seemingly very happy.
At reception a neatly dressed tourist officer welcomes us and we are allocated our two neighbouring rondavels. Turning around in the reception office I saw in a glass fronted display the skin of a Lion and a knife and a write up, on closer look I read the story of Harry Wolhuter and that Lion. I went to call Mom and Dad to come and have a look.
Then off to our accomodation. At the rondavels, a neatly dressed attendant with a wide toothless smile greets us and asks for the bedding slips. I go inside my rondavel and experience the fresh smell of thatch and creosote. I notice the colourful curtains and the matching bedspreads with a neatly folded towel on each bed with a small cake of green soap onto which the National Parks Board emblem is emblazoned on the towel. I decided this is not for washing, it is to be kept. Now 41 years later I still have this precious little momento.
Eventually all my things are unpacked and I decide to visit Mom and Dad.
I knock, and the door is opened and inside I find two very happy smiling people. Dad says " this looks good " Mom said she needs some hot water for tea, I grab the thermos and from the big black steaming kettle on the open glowing logs, fill it. Now Mom makes the tea and we finish off the left overs of the packed "padkos".
Having had our fill we decide to take a stroll through camp, we head for the river and see a clear slow flowing Sabi River with some fish near the reeds. We see and hear Kingfishers and then a movement in the reeds, a grey form appears - a Waterbuck bull. We just stare, not saying a word.
Next we visit the shop where some neatly dressed ladies are in attendance. I see " MEMORIES of a Game Ranger " authored by Harry Wolhuter costing R2.90 and decide to buy it.
Now as we had had a very early morning we decide to go for a nap. It felt if I had hardly closed an eye when a loud knock on the door brought me to reality, it was Dad enquiring whether this was the way in which I intended spending the rest of my life and was told we had things to do.
After having a shower in the ablution blocks covered in the clean fresh smell of germotol, we had coffee, again water from the steaming black kettle, Dad said " well lets see what there is to see and . . . . . . keep your eyes open for elephants "
So off we went carefully checking the gate closing times on the owls at the gate as we left. We drove down the Lower Sabie road and saw some Vervet monkeys and some Impala and Zebra and then our first sighting of a Warthog family with their tails upright as they trotted off. Later on some more Kudu and Bluewildebeeste and then we had to return to camp.
At camp Mom opened some cans of food which we warmed up at the kitchens and then started chatting to the other visitors and telling them that it was our first visit to KRUGER and . . . . . .
After supper we washed the dishes and off to bed. I paged through my newly acquired book and then decided to turn off the light and have a sleep.
Next morning we packed the " padkos " Mom had prepared the previous evening, hot water in the thermos, cameras in the car and off we went - down to Malelane and Dad saying " look out for elephants " We saw the normal game and then amazing, a Giraffe feeding close by - not taking much notice of us. Some more Kudu, Zebra, Impala, Bluewildebeeste and many imaginations ( this is what we called rocks or tree stumps or a shadow for which we hastily stopped and moved backwards and forwards in order to get a better view ). We had breakfast, in the car, parked under the shade of a tree. While parked we saw a movement in the veld and a Hyaena appeared and very casually passed by, we were all quite astonished by the strong looking jaws and teeth that could crush bones with such ease. I remember the little rock alongside the road with the Jock emblem thereon. I then remembered the stories dear old Dad used to tell his little son about this brave Staffie.
All of a sudden the car stopped and there they were, a grey mass of animals some of them with long tusks - Elephants in deathly silence we watched in amazement, a BIG bull, cows with calves, some teenagers all feeding and just ignoring us. Eventually these giants wandered off and as he started the car Dad enquired " did you notice how big they are ". Mom and myself nodded in agreement. On my own, I very softly added " and harmless "
Down to MALELANE and then to LOWER SABIE where had a cold drink, on the way back, now the afternoon, the car dusty we drove on and then ; . . . . a lean yellow spotted body trotting alongside the road, and next to it another, just slightly smaller, and another one also of the smaller size - a Cheetah mother with two cubs we accompanied them a little distance and she then decided the show was over and they disappeared into the bush. Now everyone was telling the other two about this experience not really realising or possibly caring that we all had seen the same. Later a lone Black Backed Jackal crossed the road in front of our car.
Getting to camp it was braaiing time on the already prepared glowing coals, now like old timers we were sharing our excitement of the day with the other visitors.
The following day off to TSHOKWANE On the way we stopped at the Orpen Comemorative Plates, after carefully checking for man eating animals, we got out at the KRUGER PARK plaques and took a few slides. Then underneath the neatly thatched roof, surrounding the massive Sausage tree we had a wonderful breakfast - tea and rusks in the company of shiny Black Starlings.
Breakfast had we set off to Lindanda to view the tree stump where Harry Wolhuter had his epic struggle with a Lion. We also viewed the the Trichardt plaque on route.
Then off to Orpen Dam, there below were Crocodiles basking in the sun, we just sat and watched, quiet, listening to the Cicadas.
Back to SKUKUZA all of a sudden Dad said "Lions" and there they were on the sandy bed of the Sand River, lying like freshly washed blankets drying in the late afternoon sun.
It was now our last night at Skukuza and we decided to have dinner at the Restaurant. We dressed up and arrived there, like royalty and were treated as if we were indeed royalty. I still remeber the beautiful paintings that adorned the walls and . . . . . . the massive head of a Buffalo bull, the shiny nose and piercing eyes, our first Buffalo sighting.
Early following morning, car packed - off to OLIFANTS, as we were soon to realise on a long dusty gravel road, but worth every bit. Now breakfast, bacon, eggs, liver, onion, toast coffee, the works, that Mom prepared for two starving men. while eating the Yellow Billed Hornbills were hopping around amuzing us. at TSHOKWANE
Then off on our way, SATARA a small camp, with a ring of rondavels appeared in the distance, we each had a cold drink on the Bauganvillea covered verandah.
Then off, along the way vultures turning high in the sky on the lookout for a meal. Then in the distance Ostriches. Then dust and a large herd of Bluewidebeetse and Zebra appeared, one following the other with heads nodding and tails wagging, seemingly never ending.
Driving along we stopped at Gudzane dame, there they were, the majestic Sable a bull with a few cows making up his harem - slaking their thirst and then posing proudly for the eager onlookers before disappearing in the bush.
Along the road we often just for a fleeting moment saw a dainty Steenbok disappear behind the shrubbery.
Then cars in the distance, parked next to the road, a funny place to park, there in the sun, then some dark forms became visible - Lions - a whole family again, the cubs tormenting the father, just as human children do. The old darkly maned father patiently or lazily suffering the torture with just now and again offering a soft swipe to ward them off. The watchful females were laying close by, watching the suffering, panting and quietly enjoying the goings on, again as often happening in a human family.
Eventually the family came to rest and ignored the thrilled humans, after a while we drove off. More Zebra and Bluewildebeeste.At a turnoff to the right we followed the route and ended up at the GORGE lookout, it was hot, very hot, we went to have a look and there flowing through rocks, was our first glimpse of the Olifants River. Further upstream the shapes of Cocodiles were just visible in the cool water of the Olifants.
Time was moving on and we had to to get moving, we returned to the hot dusty gravel never ending road and eventually crossed a low water bridge - over the Olifants River - in the reeds we saw Elephants feeding, often enteriing the cool clear water for a quick drink.
We were now on the northern side of the Olifants River and there were some big black birds - Ground Hornbills - black, glossy, large beaks, big feat and red faced making life difficuilt for anything small enough to eat. Then, they heavy winged flew up into a close by tree to get a better view of us.
Eventually the three of us, now hot, dusty and sweaty ,remember no airconditioned cars then, reached the last turnoff to OLIFANTS CAMP, then a gate with one elephant tusk in each wall on either side - we had reached our destination OLIFANTS CAMP. The main building had been recently built and just there I decided nothing but TOTAL petrol for me in future.
We checked in and at the alloted rondavels a repeat of our arrival at SKUKUZA. The following morning Mom prepared breakfast on the gas stove on their little verandah, overlooking the Olifants, Dad and myself eagerly trying to use up our binoculars, listening to the grunts of the Hippopotamus and the murmur of the mighty river far below. All of a sudden Mom gave a shout - an eagle had swooped down, grabbed the frying boerewors out of the pan and flew off - we were first quite shocked but later Dad and myself started laughing - Mom enquired about what was so funny, the laughing just got louder and eventually Dad uttered " Edith . . . . . . . your . . . . . . . . shocked . . . . . . . .face "
We had our breakfast, now without the boerewors and set off to LETABA. Our first glimpse of the Great Letaba River was that of Elephants grazing and enjoying the cool of this mighty river of Africa.
LETABA Rest Camp was a green oasis with a few Impala Lilies still in bloom. In the reed covered riverbed and under the tall trees on the far side were Elephant, Kudu, Waterbuck and Impala and then in a pool something dark, big and evil looking, binoculars were taken out - our second sighting of Buffalo, a few ofthem - laying in the shallows, masticating, only movement was the flick of an ear chasing off some pesky flies - we just watched and watched, realising how very fortunate we were. Now back to OLIFANTS, upon arrival we were all quiet, our last evening was approaching.
It was hot so we set off for a shower, on the way to the shower block Dad and myself discussed about how soon it all was over. After showering on the way back I enquired whether Dad was in a hurry to return home, the reply " not really ". I left my towels and dusty clothes in my rondavel and slunk off to reception. On my request that if we could stay over another day the smiling answer was " yes if you would like to ". I paid, got the bedding tickets and back to the rondavels. Mom said she was going to make coffee, my reply was, lets rather have some orange juice at the restaurant. Off we went. We spent some time at the lookout and saw some Giraffe in the far distance and Elephant approaching the river from the hill and in the shade some Waterbuck.
Mom and Dad had very little to say, eventually we pluckked up courage to return to our accomodation with my heart bursting to break the news.
We got dressed for dinner in the restaurant, in the dusk we walked to the Main Building. Softly discussing our experiences in this wonderful place. While sitting on the verandah waiting for the restaurant to open we admired the black and white photograph taken by Dick Wolfe of the Elephant herd - nearly life size, alongside the colour photograph much bigger than lifesize of the Lion Cubs on the rocks - taken by Clem Haagner.
At the dinner table the meal was served and while enjoying a bottle of cool Kupferberger Auslese, I casually reached into my shirt pocket and dug out a piece of paper and handed it to dear old Dad " and what is this "? the casual reply " your bedding tickets for tomorrow evening ". everyone was happy now it was like the sunshine immediately after a rain - an extra day in KRUGER.
The following morning we drove westwards along the Olifants River just enjoying the fresh air and the beautiful scenery and all the wonderful animals.
We went to BALULE parked under the big tree and were taken down to the river, to the Hippo pool to see these big beasts snorting and sizing up one another. Upon return we crossed the low water bridge below the BALULE camp and then we saw a strange looking doglike animal, brown, very hairy, bushy tail with a yellowish neck, pointed ears and faint stripes on the forelegs. I got out the by now well used " Guide of the Kruger and other National Parks " and there on page 35 it was - a Brown Hyaena. We returned to Camp, now no longer greenhorns but satisfied and in own eyes, very experienced visitors to this heavenly place called KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.
The drive to PHLABORWA GATE seemed very short but along the way we sighted some more Sable and about 2 Km from the gate a massive herd of mean, evil looking Buffalo. AT the gate we checked and were bade a friendly goodbye and after a farewell salute we were on our way.
Driving home we enthusiastically relived our experience. Many an evening later whilst playing cards we could not help but talk about those six wonderful days. Our first of very many visits and funny enough his grand children never heared dear old Dad tell me to " . . . . . . keep my eyes open for Elephants"
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 142 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.
Last edited by gmlsmit on Fri Mar 20, 2009 8:10 am, edited 1 time in total.