So you are asking …. “What is it about Game Parks that you like so much?”
There are many of you who think we are a bit moggy in the head – visiting wild parks, putting ourselves in dangerous places, potentially dangerous situations, suffer endurances at times (be it the car journey to the destination, the accommodation, the environment)
1. …………….. The haters 😊
My Brother-in-Law Tommy once said “I’ve seen a lion – what do I want to see another one for?” (since emigrating he might think differently?)(how many of my readers have emigrated from Africa and how do you feel – miss or not?)
Friends of ours, Sandy & Paul, asked us to take them to Kruger National Park many years ago, where we would celebrate New Year together. We travelled in separate cars, which is always preferable – mainly for the passengers sitting in the back seats. This couple had a big, smart, high up 4 x 4 vehicle – with all the bells and whistles. Here I am leading you to think they would have a comfortable, air conditioned, cup holding, sound proof, dust proof, state of the art sound system etc vacation.
On day 4 both of us stopped at a Kruger Park entrance/exit Gas Station to fill up our vehicles and wash windscreens. Paul was pacing up and down, muttering to himself on the tarmac whilst this was happening.
As a matter of interest – in Africa Gas Stations all have Petrol Attendants who attend to customers’ vehicle needs – filling up vehicles with gas, washing windscreens, checking oil & water as well as, upon request, check the tyres and inflate them if required (air is Free here too !!!!) and process payment right at the drivers side.
Anyway …… Paul greeted a fellow Kruger visitor parked alongside him – and abruptly said (block your eyes and ears!!!) “****, I can’t wait to go home – this Game Park stuff is terrible!!”.
We were horrified , and so was the man who ….. looked shocked and stunned, his wife Sandy was really hurt and upset. Chris and I laughed hysterically all day every time this drama reemerged in our minds.
My darling Sister, Ginny, was the last we put through the paces of Wild Park agony. She flew out from the UK for a visit and as soon as jet lag was rested off – we headed for the closest wild area for a day out, with picnic blanket, cheeses, biscuits, olives, salmon, wines & sparkling water. There was an abundance of green leafy trees, whispering long grasses, endangered rhino, elegant giraffe, small waterholes with windmills, ostrich (who did a mating dance at our car and pecked the windows – bit unnerving actually….. who wants a lover like that!!??) , a variety of buck and hippopotamus who laughed their way through our meal at the waterside. She hated every minute of it and the only time she was not curled up in a ball sleeping ….. was during the picnic.
2. ………………….The lovers 😊
And there are friends, Bev & Malcolm , who asked us to take them to Kruger Park about 8 years ago…..
We planned our sunset meals + sundowners, suitable clothing, anti mozzi creams, hot water bottle (for Tamboti – a tented camp on a riverbed that has always been freeeeeezing at night – as always happens – it was roasting during their visit haha – typical), thermos flasks, maps, alternative routes to and from home etc. Great excitement.
We would part ways in the early mornings – planning to meet for a picnic at lunchtime (flexi during that hour – if either party couldn’t make it – no worries – we meet back at our Camp for at sunset).
In those days mobile phone reception was nearly non existent so things were more footloose and fancy free.
We would arrive at the end of a long hot dusty day – all excited (and weary to be honest) and ready to exchange wildlife stories and photos over Gin & Tonics outside whilst preparing the fire to cook the evening meal.
Then we would plan the picnics for the following day, put everything out enabling an easy early start the following day – to get out and see the cats walking on the tarred roads (they do this often during the winter months – possibly because the tar keeps its warmth – and you know how cats love the sun and hot places).
………………… we have visited Kruger Park with them twice more since then – delightful fellowship, game viewing, meals and laughter (they plan to visit us this year whilst we live 15km outside Kruger – our year of coddywompling in Mpumalanga).
Chris’s Uncle & Aunt are a delight to travel in the wild with too. In their early 80’s they asked us to take them to Botswana – camping. (They only know luxuary travel – so we were a bit dubious ….. knowing how basic & wild camping in Moremi, Savuti, Linyanti can be).
This is another story for another day……………..
Uncle Ron is very laid back and does not worry about the dangers, what we eat, how much we drink , time of departure, time of return………. As long as he is able to have delicious strong black coffee.
Auntie Audrey worries about everything and pampers everyone who will let her. She is so easy to tease – we pretend leopards are in trees above the bbq, honey badgers in the kitchen (they actually are sometimes), hyaena in the camp (they circulate the camps outside the fence at night – so its nearly believable) and the bats in the thatched rondavels who (who?) are vampires.
We have shared a few visits to Kruger Park with them, too, which have been very happy times (and hope they can visit once more – however they are nearly 90 now so we are not sure – although our coddywompling home is very comfortable for them) .
Jenny & Jacqui took the plunge and drove here a few weeks ago –
10 hours – all by theselves. They wanted to feast on the whole area, Mpumalanga, which we came to tour – an old mining town Pilgrims Rest, Graskop big swing and new glass lift into the gorge, yesteryear post offices & churches, Sudwala Caves and, of course, into the Game park. They were a delight to share and spend time with. Delicious meals, secret recipe chili tomato sauces with cheese, decadent prawns & irish coffees.
DO YOU TRAVEL WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Where do you like to travel to together.
What works best – sharing accommodation or
Do you mainly eat out or like to prepare meals together?
Travelling alone, as a couple, is much easier, has flexibility, room for losing our way (which is a regular occurrence much to the dismay of our friends and amusement to ourselves – “tourist route” can be the most fun actually), changing our destinations and stress free – but can be a bit lonesome at times and restrictive (many activities require 4 or more people – so we also miss out on a few activities .
PS -Kruger is single, couple & family friendly).
……………… the WHY?
We book in at the office under thatch where the staff are friendly and informative, have a last pee, an eye sweep over the huge map showing yesterdays & todays Sightings of the day (eg the Big 5).
The boom opens and we are waved through by a happy lady or jovial fellow – always full of jokes and teasing……………
INTO ANOTHER WORLD ….. raw nature, bird sounds, elephant squashed trees, well worn paths through the grasses – completely wild.
Its always awesome to be witness to creatures doing what they have done for thousands of years. Living by instinct and passing their knowledge on from generation to generation.
It feels as though one has stepped back into a time warp, devoid of ego, glitz & glamour, crime, demanding communications, terrifying drivers and self complexes.
We open our windows, letting the wind tease our hair, hearing the birds calling & tweeting as we drive by at a slow pace. Our eyes take on a new personality – straining to look far (city dwellers are apparently mostly myopic), under every bush, along branches of trees, in river beds, searching the long grasses for an animal to flick an ear, flash a tail, roll over, pull a branch – or just pop out and walk across the road (elephants have a knack of doing this – rather scary).
We switch the radio off and silence our phones – yessss, I still cannot resist stealing a glance from time to time “incase I missed an important – and not so important – message waaaaa 😊 .
We just drive where the whim takes us , sometimes we need to have a specific route, aiming for the Camp we will be staying at. Other days we look at the Sightings notice boards and decide to drive in the direction of interesting sightings. In winter we aim for areas that are clearer and have water as South Africa is a quite a dry continent and water becomes scarce out of the rainy season, this is where animals gather.
They have their own time tables and seem to respect one anothers’ times. A procession of large elephant will cruise by (to a reservoir behind the waterhole) and the zebra retreat slightly, then impala walk in amongst the zebra…. Bringing with them a few wart hogs (pumbas), on the horizon a white patch gives away a giraffe head as he wanders through the trees, with a few family, to the water to drink. In the water there may be some hippo and some old (dagga boys) buffalo wallowing in the mud. Then they all drift away, absorbed silently into the velt, to allow space for a leopard or smaller (cheeky) elephant and some storks ……………..
Over the past year or two we select only two camps to stay at, if possible – as our bookings are often last minute and we take what is available. One in the South, closest to arrival and departure and in the other in the middle.
Previously one of the thrills is discovering a new Camp – so we would book a night at each one – which would mean visiting 6 during that vacation. Over time the camps have become our friends and we know which units are best for our stay, the walks available around the camps, a viewing deck, a swimming pool for summer, possibly a restaurant & a well equipped shop (stocking irresistible unusual expensive gifts for family & friends back home) …….. we even know the animals living inside the electrified fences and those outside (mostly) nocturnal visitors.
Of course, each time we visited I would send post cards overseas to loved ones – but it seems that receiving a post card these days does not seem that special any more………. How times have changed and technology (with endless photographs … perfect … & selfies) has taken over.
The National Parks are about re grounding oneself, appreciating the genuine things in life, waking up with the birds and sunrise with a smile upon ones face, going to bed exhausted and satisfied …. But leaving one ear open for night sounds (a leopard sawing, lion growling, elephant tummy rumbling, night jar singing and owl woopwoopig , wild dog & jackals yeowling and hyaenas laughing…. Or just plain simple silence….
Now you know why, next time I will share some history, interesting animal facts, possibly some distressing stories of Kruger , even some places to stay …. We are here for a year and making the most of it….. and time is flying. Summer has gone (we melted) and winter is halfway through already………….. .
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR ……………