Kruger 19th November
I wake early. This day has been anticipated for so long. Fannie and his girls give me an early breakfast and I’m off. I follow him driving through Soshanguve, wave my good-byes as he turns for school and I’m heading down R80 then N4 heading East. At the junction of N4 and N1 there is a traffic jam. Road works taking the carriageway unnecessarily down to just one lane, there are lots of workman standing around, some waving flags, some not and other leaning on their shovels. Just like home – lots of workers and not much happening! I hope I clear this soon as it’s wasted time. Then I’m off again. It’s a cloudy day - very welcome indeed. I stop at Highveld Mall for supplies. A quick visit to Outdoor Warehouse and Pick n Pay for shopping – lots of fruit, water and fresh items that I hope will last – I don’t expect the shops in Kruger will have improved much since last year. I have a Spur burger for lunch. I’m not a great fan of burgers and fast food but today needs must and I have to keep moving. Soon I’m on my way again. Then the debate in my head starts. It always does though today I have to resolve the questions myself. It’s my decision and mine alone. I wonder if other occasional visitors to Kruger have the same debate. The first part goes like this.
You get to the park gates, check in your car and pay your conservation fees. Do you then get out cameras, lens, binoculars, maps and guide books and prepare as you would like for a visit to Kruger and waste precious park time doing so? (I’m assuming you travel like I do with all valuables safely stored in the boot) or do you quickly throw what you think you’ll need onto the passenger seat and get into Kruger as quickly as possible? If you do that you risk discovering later that something you need or want is out of reach in the back of the car. It’s a difficult one and for me the answer is determined by my mood rather than anything else.
I’ve already decided as I’m staying at Pretoriuskop tonight I’m going to enter the park by Numbi Gate. Off N4 and through White River and onwards. Finally I’m on that long straight down to Numbi Gate. It feels so good to be back.
Then there’s the second part of the debate in my head. What to do when I enter the park? Do I chase a sighting, any sighting just to reassure myself that all the animals and birds in the park aren’t around Satara and further North? Or do I just take my time and head to one of my favourite spots? Again it’s a hard question to answer but decide I must. I have two favourite parking spots near Numbi. The loop off S3 at Mestel Reservoir – good doggie country and a great view of Shabeni hill in the afternoon light. Or Shitlhave dam for the birds, hippos and waterbuck. Decisions, decisions.
After checking in at Numbi Gate I’m finally back in Kruger getting into the park as fast as possible. Forget being organised today. Yippeee! This is great, so green and wild. Spring is such a lovely time of year after the first rains. Keeping my eyes just vaguely on the road I’m scanning left and right for any living thing. What will I see first? I keep on driving slowly and then even slower. Nothing just green, broken trees and the sound of insects. Past S3 and on. I'm overtaken a few times by others seeking glory ahead. I’m just content to move at my own pace. Past S7 and S8 and onwards down H1-1 towards Shitlhave. My decision has been made without me consciously making it. There are no sightings and then there just moving off the road as I approach a Leopard Tortoise. They may be small and slow but I do find them hard to photograph. Always heading away and this one is no exception – lots of photographs of their hind quarters, very few of their head looking towards the camera
Later at the side of the road a large Waterbuck. What a magnificent animal. This is going to be a good trip.
A short stop at the dam to gather myself and calm my nerves. Relax, Adrian, relax. There is plenty to time and plenty to see. Gradually Kruger comes into focus and I see more and more.
I drive on. It is now about 3pm and while I’m tired I have time to truly settle before I must get back to Pretoriuskop and check-in. Somewhere down the road I see two familiar shapes in the distance. Just wonderful, I am well and truly back. Loxodonta africana
is a favourite animal. I have read books by Cynthia Moss, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Caitlin O’Connell, Sharon Pincott and numerous others about the earth’s largest land mammal – I can spend all day with elephants. And there’s a White Rhino too – they may be far away but it is special to see them walking together. One with the other, two special threatened beasts together out in the wild.
It is getting late and I must head back to camp now. This is a special place and I am blessed.