Tuesday 7th August 2012
Today I will complete this blog… no lost passport to panic about and then find and no son’s shorts to repair at the last minute!
I am sitting in a beautiful restaurant, based in a disused steam railway station, with this lovely bunch of people. Those of you who are steam engine experts will probably be itching to know what the engine is… it’s big and steam enginey, which is all I can tell you!
We have had a day when the majority of phrases used were ‘stop, stop, reverse the car!’ ‘wow’, ‘unbelievable’, ‘amazing’, ‘look over there’, ‘have you seen….’
Some of us left Berg-en-dal Rest Camp for an early morning drive. It was still dark at 5.45am but the sun was gradually rising. We drove slowly out of the camp, over the electrified cattle grid and out into Kruger Park. The first wild animal we saw was a bird of prey circling over the hillside. We drove a bit further, enjoying the sunrise and the scenery, but not seeing many animals. Suddenly, there was a squeal from the back of the car and we’d seen our first herd of impala (the first of many impala that we would see over the day). We continued driving and spotting different animals, none of which, in our wildest dreams, we thought we’d see so easily… a giraffe walked right in front of our car, across the road. It was such a beautiful animal and we felt so privileged to see one in its natural habitat.
In addition to this we saw elephants, buffalo, rhinos, and assorted beautiful birds. We have begun to try to identify all the different sorts of animal droppings which are all over the roads. Back to the campsite for breakfast, pack up the cars and we back out of Berg-en-dal heading into Kruger Park, towards Skukusa Camp. One car load took a slightly different to the other two cars. I was in one of the two cars that kept to the tarmac roads but we have all been overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells we have experienced.
More impala, more giraffes, elephants, rhinos, more impala, hyena, greater kudu, kudu, more impala, lion and lionesses, African grey go-away birds, leopard, wart hogs, more impala, wildebeest, dwarf mongoose, red billed hornbill (which is also known as a zazoo bird), more impala, zebras, lilac breasted roller, hippos, rock dassie, baboons, bats, hoopoes, blue lizards, Goliath heron, crocodiles, pied kingfisher, blue starlings, bush buck and tree squirrels. You can probably imagine how exciting it has been to see all of these animals in the wild, but it hasn’t just been the animals we have been overwhelmed by. The scenery we have driven through is stunning and my words cannot express the magnitude of the views we stopped to take in. A panorama that stretched for thousands of miles with not a single building in sight.
I have had so many wonderful moments today. I was so happy to see a giraffe just after sunrise, and the elephant we nicked named ‘Billy’ who was having a wonderful scratch against a tree trunk, but I think the biggest highlight today must be the lions. There were four lionesses walking along the road in front of a trail of cars, which were all jostling for a place to see the lions. We crawled along not quite believing that we were within touching distance of these beautiful cats. They drifted off the road into the bushes at the roadside and sat down. I noticed their tails were twitching and they were staring intently ahead. Just then a herd of impalas crossed the road and the lions got up and slowly moved on towards the herd of impala. We wondered if we might be in for even more excitement…it was long after lunchtime after all! We were all trying to take as many photos as possible and as I had a lioness on my side of the car, I tried to get a close-up of her. My friends in the car seemed to find it extremely amusing when I suddenly shut the window, saying ‘oh my goodness that’s just too close.’ Sadly, because of the closeness of the lioness (she was just by the car door looking up at me!) I missed taking the best photo of the day!
We have had a wonderful day. I would love for you all to be here experiencing this amazing country and meeting the wonderful people that we have met. Thank you for reading our blog. We know there are quite a few of you who’d like photos, but this is really tricky to do when the internet connection isn’t strong enough!
By the way, for all you steam engine buffs, the steam engine in the restaurant is Locomotive No 3638 one of 100 Class 24 steam locomotives used by South Africa Railways and was built in 1949.