Wednesday, November 14, 2012

On to Kruger National Park.....

Barry was at the wheel as we headed down the long dry stretch of road southward through Botswana. The speeds change frequently  so he was zipping along at a sedate 89, the top speed is 120.  Unfortunately it was in a 60 zone and you guessed it, he got caught. (Barry says to tell you that he was within 200m of the 120 sign when he was flagged down).He had to pay on the spot and scooted across the road to see how much it was.  He had to pay in pula the currency in Botswana and we were running short, so he came back to the car and borrowed all the pula that Tagish had, it wasn’t much because we were going to be leaving the country shortly. When he tried to pay the rest of the fine in Rand the police said that they would only accept pula, what to do??????  In typical African fashion, they adjusted the speed that they put on the ticket to 69 so that the amount of pula we had left was sufficient! Barry came back to the car with a huge smile on his face!!
That night we stopped at a really snazzy hotel, the only alternative we could find after the rather dinghy spot we first looked at located in the middle of a dirty downtown. It was way above our price range and we were about to walk out when the clerk asked us what our price range was.  We conferred and agreed on a price that was just more than half of what she first quoted us.  A phone call to the manager later and we were checked in to a swanky hotel, only in Africa, you say. When we went for dinner Barry and I had a glass of red wine, the windows and doors were open to let in the air and the atmosphere of  the beautiful grounds.  A huge moth flew in and fluttered about Barry’s wine glass, the waitress was setting the table and as I waved my hands at the moth he took a nose dive into Barry’s wine, after a little sip, he flew off , he was so big he barely fit into the glass. The waitress actually had to ask the manager if she could bring Barry a new glass, he of course, was tempted to swig down most of the rest of the wine but managed to resist!!!
A jackal                           
The next day we dead headed for Krueger National Park hoping to be able to spend the night there, no go. It was the weekend so most of the spots that we would be able to reach before dark were full and they do not allow you to drive after dark in the park. You also are not supposed to get our of your car except in designated picnic spots which are fenced.  Over the next 3 days we slowly made our way south through the park encountering herds of elephants playing in the water, wildebeest hiding under a tree to get out of the sun, zebras eyeing us with great curiosity, uncounted teams of impalas nervously twitching their ears as we inched by.  Thanks to Anne, our guide on our first tour, we had a good idea how to look for game and managed to spot some real treasures. 
We saw a leopard the first day we were in the park, someone had seen it walking along and was still watching it.  We would never have seen it if the South Africans had not pointed it out to us. What a thrill, we could now say we had seen the big five!!
Chewing on the remains of a wildebeeste
The next day about 5 km from the park entrance we came upon five lions tearing away at a recent kill.  It was RIGHT beside the road, within 10m.  What a truly awesome experience, to watch these magnificent animals growling at each other over their part of the kill.  A big male had finished first and we saw him saunter off to digest his meal under a tree, then the alpha female (I think) wandered away. She lay out of sight in the tall grass, then turned on her back and flaked out with one foot in the air, the tail occasionally whipping away the flies. We could hear the sound of the lion’s teeth scraping on the bones of the wildebeest, we were that close. 
We felt privileged to see this interaction
We happened on two young male elephants playing in the water.  At first we weren’t sure  if they were serious but as the diorama went on it was clear they were just practising for the real thing.  They were up to their knees and sometimes their bodies in water, they would engage each other with their tusks and push.  At times they would become almost totally submerged and their trunks looked like snorkels. It was fascinating watching this interaction. 
We saw one more leopard, you could only see his neck and head, occasionally he/she would turn it’s head but it was very intently watching something over a rise.  There was almost road rage with all the vehicles jockeying for  position to get a good look and more importantly a good picture.

The male went back to check on the heavily pregnant female
We were so excited to spot a group of hyenas, they are magnificent animals, they would continually lope along the road.  We followed the one for quite awhile and he seemed quite blasé about our presence, but would not stop and cooperate  so we could get a good picture.  A new strategy was needed, we motored past him and stopped, sure enough he approached the car from behind, stopped to check us out and then loped past us.  A little ways down the road we came upon two heading out of the bushes, there was a male and a heavily pregnant female.  She went across the road and then just lay down, staring up at us, I wonder if she was in labour.   I could empathize with her condition and as I watched her I almost felt her tiredness and wish that the birth would commence. 
We stayed the night in Kruger, going on a night safari.  We learnt some fascinating facts about the elephants digestive system. There were night creatures on the prowl, little weasel like creatures called genets, lots of wide tailed mongoose (do you think the plural would be mongeese???) and perhaps a civet, a small member of the cat family. Two hippos were rather startled as the lights picked out their ponderous bodies as they fed.  They only leave the water at night because their skin is subject to sunburn and they need to keep cool.  The way you see the animals at night is that someone holds spot lights out of the two sides of the safari vehicle and flashes it around. Once they see the reflection of the eyes of an animal they yell at the driver to stop and then they back up until the animal can be spotted.  
We headed south to the edge of the park and drove the short distance to Swaziland.  Today we are going to go up to a traditional Swazi village, to have a tour, learn about their culture, get fed and sleep up there. Stay tuned….., and check back for pics, too tired tonight.
Two waterbucks locking horns
To cute not to share