Friday, 19 November 2010

Day 3

It was a very early start this morning in preparation for our 6 hour drive up to the Kruger National Park and after a hearty breakfast we set off. The road network here in South Africa is pretty good, despite the rush hour traffic, but what struck me was the amount of people walking - all alongside the main mototway and the well worn tracks across the verges, then I realised it was because most people can't afford cars and so they walk to work / school. That's what's so strange here, on one side of the street there are large expensive properties surrounded by electric fences and on the other is a purpose built shanty town, part of the government initiative to ensure everyone has a safe place to live. The older shanty towns are literally just shacks made from corrugated metal sheeting, whole families live in these small 1 or 2 room "houses", in a lot of places, the government has provided porta-loos while the residents wait to be rehoused into the purpose built villages. I was going to take some pictures but I felt guilty, like I was imposing on peoples privacy. Despite their poverty, everyone is smiling and the children are waving at us as we drive by. The drive passed quite quickly and before we knew it we were at the main gate into the Kruger National Park. Not 2 minutes into our drive to the accommodation at Skukuza Restcamp we saw our first wildlife, away in the distance we spotted the unmistakable silhouette of a Giraffe and her calf! She turned towards us as we stood open-mouthed at what had come to greet us, what a great start!!! By the time we had reached the accommodation we had spotted Impala and Kudu, an amazing start to our game adventure. :o)

Our accommodation at Skukuza Restcamp for tonight is little rondavel huts with thatched roofs, we each have our own little hut and they're all slightly different but you can hear the birds and the insects outside. Below is my little hut, you can see the front door which leads to an "open" kitchen area (it's just surrounded by insect screens) the bedroom and bathroom part of the hut are to the right. It's really rustic and oldy-worldy but I love it!

Once we settled in to our huts, we met on the viewing deck for lunch. Overlooking the Sabie River, we ate while watching a Hippo in the distance and it wasn't long before we were joined by Vervet Monkeys. And what a bunch of cheeky monkeys they were! They jumped up on to the empty tables and started drinking the dregs from cans and coffee cups and eating the leftover chips and fruit (I bet they were hyper that night!)

After lunch we met our guide Nhlanhla and boarded our truck for our very first game drive - only the 7 of us in our truck, our own private drive! Literally within minutes we were again spotting Impala and Kudu and vultures, the various birds and insects singing their beautiful calls as we drove through the most stunning scenery. We spotted another group high up on an outcrop and our fabulous driver, quickly got us up to the same spot to see what they were looking at... a Leopard! He was stalking a small group of Zebra which were over to our right. It took me ages to see where he was but when I did, the sight just took my breath away! There he was, crouched down, such a familiar sight from watching endless wildlife programmes on tv but this was right in front of my own eyes it was amazing and everyone was so excited! As night fell, we finally lost sight of him and made our way through the dusk to our bush braai (barbeque) dinner.

The setting was stunning - pitch dark surrounded us as we headed into a clearing and there before us was a roaring fire and candle lamps lighting the way to an outdoor dining area! Unfortunately the clouds covered the moon and stars but it was no less magical. We dined on steaks and local vegetables followed by the lightest sponge pudding I've ever had with custard all washed down with gorgeous South African wine. Here we were in an unfenced area of the Kruger National Park listening to the calls of Hyenas and knowing we open to everything, it wasn't a scary feeling it was just excitement (but of course we had a couple of rangers with their guns, discretely hidden in the bush). We made our way back to the restcamp and using the search lights, found a Hippo out grazing! She just glanced at us and carried on what she was doing - the perfect end to an absolutely perfect day. Lying here in bed I can hear the insects and frogs chirruping to each other, and I can honestly say I've fallen in love with Africa already xxx

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