The next day we were up early. We had a long drive ahead of us. We needed to reach Bateleur by nightfall.
The night before we had simmered chunks of hubbard squash in olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper and a little chicken stock. Served with steamed baby marrows and beef stew, and teamed with a snazzy Shiraz, it made a meal fit for royalty.
There were no visitors to our deck that last night in Tamboti. A neighbour told us that a honey badger had broken into his fridge. He had found it ripping open his milk based foods. When he confronted it, it had acted as if it wanted to tear into him too.
We packed up, closely monitored, but unmolested by the monkey mob.
Then we set off on our long journey, stopping briefly at Bobbejaanskrans for coffee, rusks and malaria muti.
Back on the road, we had not gone far when we saw a car stopped up ahead.
A chameleon was tottering as fast as it could go across the road and onto the grassy verge.
A bit further on, a safari jeep had stopped. Its passengers were looking around, first this way and then that way. The driver leant down and said to us, “They said there is a leopard lying down somewhere around here”. Then, raising his binoculars to his eyes again, he added rather sadly, “but I haven't seen it."
We wished him luck and drove on.
In a bush beside the road a pair of long tailed shrikes were showing off their front and back views
We saw monkeys walking in the river bed. Wildebeest, zebra and warthogs grazed on the banks.
Then we came across a group of guinea fowl in the road. The male was running madly behind one of the hens. His beak was latched onto the feathers on her back. She was leading him a merry dance. She dashed this way and that with him swerving wildly behind her like an out of control trailer.
At Nsemani all was quiet. There were just some hippos in the middle of the dam looking like half submerged submarines.
At the gate into Satara, the car in front of us stopped suddenly. A boy jumped out and scooped something from the middle of the road. He carried it carefully in his cupped hands and placed it in the grass beside the road. It was a tiny terrapin. The kind hearted kid had been putting it out of the way of immediate harm.
Satara was busy, busy, busy. Safari jeeps swarmed about and jostled for parking spaces. The shop was well stocked with potential gifts, but there was no time to browse there that day. We still had many miles to go. The tables on the stoep were packed with people. Everybody seemed to be talking at once; each person louder than the next one. It was like the Tower of Babel out there.
Near the car park, in a tree above the hubbub, a Scops owl sat quietly snoozing.
The new picnic site looked nice, but there was no time to explore it that day.
We ate our lunch in the car; a delicious, buttery Acornhoek avocado.
Then we went on our way northwards again. We saw kudu, wildebeest, baboon, zebra, giraffe, elephant and impala beside the road.
Near Ngotso North we passed a leopard’s pantry. The horns, skull, and lower legs of an impala were hanging from the fork of a tree. The leopard though, was lying low. It was nowhere to be seen.
The high bridge over the Olifants River was lively with people milling about out of their cars. There were hippos wading over the rocks in the middle of the river and elephants wandering along the far bank. We leaned our arms on the green metal guard rail, enjoying the sunshine and the view.
Then a tour guide, with a carrying voice, began talking loudly to his group. He was in his element. They were enthralled.
We were as entertained as they were; especially when we heard him say that the goliath heron is the largest bird in the park. It was tempting to offer an observation about the ostrich, but it seemed somehow impolite to interrupt.
Not wishing to embarrass him in front of his adoring audience, we kept our counsel.
We climbed back into our car and carried on across the river and on up the road.