In which Duncan arrives at the park
(after a five hour stint on the road,
and about 27 000 mosquitoes,
and one guy with an incredibly large shotgun)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________A lot of safari travelers don't realise, amidst stocking up on Tabard, and rifling through their underwear drawers in search of that elusive pair of khaki briefs (the kind mom said to wear if you ever thought you'd get eaten by lions), is that there's a reason these parks seem so untouched by modern living -
It's because they're out in the middle of nowhere.
After a brief, delightful breakfast at the Outlook Lodge, my group (myself and an older couple from the UK on their honeymoon, the Wards) met up with our ranger, Hulke. Side note: Hulke, if you ever read this, I would like to apologise now for the way I've spelled your first name. I googled and googled, but with no luck whatsoever on your elusive and subtly difficult name.The next quarter of my group's members were introduced to me after we picked them up on the way: Indian-Australian holiday makers, the Kharodia family, down in Africa on a mission to introduce their son, Adam, to the wilds of the Kruger National Park, before taking a round-about trip via ferry, airplane and assorted rental cars, around Cape Town and Port Elizabeth before heading back home. Introductions made, and excited questioning about his job out of the way, our near-complete safari group made our way down the N12 passage, and onwards to the Kruger...______________________________________________________________________________________________________...and five hours later, the sun coming in through my window had burned my Lilli-white left arm into a red-nose-day-red crispy version of its former glory. Also, we'd arrived!
The Northern Cape around summer time is home to many mosquitoes. I mean, an absurd number of mozzies. We'd swatted our way throughout the trip, most of us resigned to the reality of a warm, humid climate, in a country where the trade-off is gorgeous scenery, rich history, and the long awaited Skukuza rest camp! Regardless, we were all thankful for the brief reprieve from the buzzing while we unpacked and wandered around the camp foyer, stretching our city legs on the dusty Skukuza parking lot.
Shown to our rooms,
we were given the low-down on where to report (camp post on the corner), at what time to report (thirty minutes from now roughly - you might want to grab a shower, in the meantime), and where we could get beer and braai materials. Then Hulke left us to our own devices.Skukuza camp, as I would learn over the next few days, is quiet around the beginning of the year. Tourists often abandon their bush soaked ideals of the African holiday for hotels, rental cars and John Dory's dinners out in the bustling city of wherever, and many of the actual South Africans who've spent time out there for the holidays have jobs to get back to in those exact same bustling cities. So, the remainder of the camp's christmas-time guests turned out to be a handful of sunburned Swedish holiday makers, their kids, and random spatterings of last-man-standing South Africans, out for that elusive leopard spotting.The camp was quiet, and extremely beautiful.We left at 15:30 sharp for our afternoon drive with Robin, our official guide for the at-camp portion of our trip. What was our introductory trip into the outlying bushveld of the Skukuza camp area, turned out to be full of surprises. Out in the mid-day sun, we came across a group of four lionesses basking in the bushveld on the side of the road, unperturbed by the small group of land rovers that had gathered directly opposite to talk in hushed tones and point cameras.[[my apologies for the quality of these pictures - my camera did not appreciate the bush lighting]]
The rest of the trip included encounters with local baboons, elephants (actually the first animals we saw on our way out - they're every bit as huge as they look in photos), a brief sighting of the rear-end of a giraffe as it disappeared into the bush, impala everywhere (Robin called them the Mc Donald's burgers of the bush, you really can't go anywhere without seeing them), some Marabou Stork and Cape Turtle Dove, and one wildebeest, minutes away from our return to camp.Once back at camp, I met up with the remainder of my group - the Riis-Vestergaards, a Danish couple, down in Johannesburg for a few days before Vagn, the husband was set to run a company marathon. They were my immediate neighbours, and I would often seek them out at night while trying to find my way back to my bungalow in the pitch black dark of the bush.After a warm meal at the group's camping area, we all traded stories about the day's events over a bottle of wine. Vagn had been out the day before we arrived and had two riveting encounters during his trip: filming a male elephant grazing in the bush, Vagn and Robin had suddenly been charged by the bull, in a show of aggression that he would chuckle nervously about over the next two days. He had also spotted a leopard making a kill, a sighting many tourists will wait forever to make.Blindly entering my bungalow after dinner, I made my way into the comfortable single bed, shut off the light, and was out before my head hit the pillow.[[Stay tuned for day 3 of my story, following soon]]
OH! The guy with the shotgun I mentioned earlier? Not even in the park, it was a park security guard taking his lunch break at the Total Garage Quick-Stop near middleburg. Seriously, though, this thing looked like an anti-aircraft rifle - what kinds of giant robots are these guys protecting the park from, anyway?
Ok, it wasn't quite this big, but pretty close.