|Tall giraffe in Kruger|
|"Baboon One calling Monkey Control"|
|Spotted hyena (massive animals, much bigger than we had thought)|
Today marks the eleventh month anniversary of when we left the UK. It is really strange now to be at the one month left to go stage rather than the one month completed stage. That seems so long ago now that it feels like a lifetime ago.
We were awake early but still didn’t make it out and onto the road until about 9:00am, an hour later than I’d hoped. Someone (I leave you to guess who) was in total dither mode this morning and it’s incredibly hard to get sorted when you have a slow coach blocking your move at every turn. We left Skukuza and were soon at a concrete bridge crossing the river Sabie. The river was wide and water flowed pretty quickly beneath it. That has been another difference to Etosha. In Namibia there are big rivers but they had no water in them, here water seems to be in abundance throughout the park.
About half way across a small group of storks was watching the world go by. I had to chuckle because seeing that we’d stopped about three other cars stopped behind us. It’s part and parcel of the game resort “game” of “they’ve stopped I wonder what they’ve seen”. It happens all over the place and we play it as much as everyone else. As we carried on across the river a Waterbuck crossed the road in front of us, a large deer like animal with large spiral horns.
We pretty much stuck to the main roads for most of the day heading north to Tshokwane, then to Satara and finally ending up at Olifants where we spent the night. As with yesterday we had a pretty full day of spotting animals and have even added a few new ones to our running tally. Giraffes greeted us as we left the river and a little further on we ran into our first elephant of the day. They come so close to you it’s a pretty amazing sight to see. Generally peaceful they can turn nasty but fortunately all the ones we saw were quite happy to have us nearby watching them.
We pulled off at one of the watering holes and watched the hippos basking away. They stay under water for ages and when they do come up to have a yawn they’ve normally disappeared again before you can get your camera out. We perplexed a fair few people when we stopped to take photos of an unusual tree, with what looked like beans hanging from the branches, and some pretty flowers. You could sense them all wondering what we’d seen and getting frustrated that they couldn’t see it too. Little did they realise they were looking straight at what had caught our interest.
Mating season is just about starting and we came across a frisky waterbuck that was doing his best. The female he’d picked on wasn’t so sure though so she made him work hard. Between Tshokwane and Satara there is a short turn off to see the southern most Baobab tree in the park. Stef had read about them and knew that they were meant to be pretty impressive trees so off we turned. A sign warning that buses, trailers and caravans were not allowed was a little warning of what lay ahead as we had to forge a, thankfully dry, river. No attempt had been made to smooth out the rocks at all and I wished dearly that we still had our 4x4 truck rather than a very low slung Kia. The crossings either way were uneventful but the Baobab tree itself was not what Stef had expected. It was pretty large but he’d expected something quite a bit bigger.
Monkeys, baboons, zebra, lots of birds, dragonflies, very dark coloured giraffe (which we’ve since learned means it was male) all kept us company along our route until we had one of our best sightings. Ahead of us on the road we saw a female elephant with a little one trailing behind her. We sat and watched for a while and then realised that we were pretty much surrounded by elephants. It was quite a sizeable herd with lots of young elephants and we were so close to them. We both sat there musing about how lucky and privileged we were to be experiencing this.
We stopped at Satara and had a picnic lunch. From here we doubled back slightly and went along the N’wanetsi River Road as the sighting board showed that people had seen lion and leopard along here today. We had no such luck but we did see a large herd of buffalo, a huge tortoise on the side of the road and another rhino. A few of the river crossings along the way had water across the road and with a storm starting to rumble overhead I started to get wary about making it safely to Olifants. Stef on the other hand, in true sailor mode, looked out the window and said it was going the other way. We did have the odd shower but for the most part he was right.
Further on we came across a family of hyaena just off to the side of the road. There were cubs (I’m not sure if that is the right term for baby hyaena’s but it will do for now) as well as adults and the males as well as the cubs were after the mother’s milk. They are strange animals with blunt rounded noses and a sturdy thick body. They look like a hybrid between and dog and a cat but the noise they make is more like the mooing of a cow.
We finally made it to Olifants with darkness drawing around us. We checked in, did a quick stop for supplies and then headed for the viewing point to watch the sun set. Where there were breaks in the clouds you could see the golden light of the sun going down. This was overshadowed though by the sight of the storm. Huge flashed of lightning lit up the sky on the far horizon and I was glad that I was not one of the people still making their way along the gravel road in the dark.