Kruger Park – Day 1

We are back! This morning we were up at 4am for a collection at 4:30 am to get to the airport. We had a 5:45am flight to Johannesburg and then a connecting flight to the Kruger International Airport (KIA). We got to the airport just before 5am and the check-in process went smoothly.  Two family members didn’t remember much of the first flight. Helen woke on landing and asked “Did they serve breakfast?” and Michael – well that is best illustrated by the photo! All the flights were bang on time and we arrived at KIA earlier than expected but only to get to the baggage belt and find one piece of our luggage MIA.  We always take a car fridge with us which we use while traveling around the Kruger and of course that was the item that was missing. Even more importantly it contained our flasks (for coffee) and my wine for the 5 days we are here. Fortunately the baggage lady was very pleasant and helpful and we discovered the missing item was on the next plane arriving about an hour later.

We went off to do a quick shop in White River. Shopping at Spar in White River is another whole experience. Just getting there means evading potholes which are strew across road and some of them are so big you could lose a Mini in them. We did through the shop in relatively quick time but not before they announced the daily specials. The accent was just so typical of English being spoken by an African gentlemen that Michael & Helen could hardly keep from wetting themselves. What made it even funnier was that he was standing right behind Helen was doing the announcements. And then when we got back into the car Michael copied him perfectly and we were in stitches.  And then Stephen told us that he noticed that all the women store their cellphones in their cleavage. He said they must have Nokia’s because only a Nokia would work after being kept there.

We got back to the airport and picked up the fridge, re-packed the VW Minibus and headed for the Hazyview and then into the Kruger.  We had a quick stop for lunch at the Wimpy in Hazyview and then to the Numbi gate.  The roads are in a terrible condition. I know I have said this before but I can’t understand why they don’t fix them in such a tourist area. I have very little doubt that a whole lot of money that was meant for roads in the province has ended up in someone else’s house or back-pocket.  The other thing that strikes me is that there aren’t shacks. Everyone has some form of permanent house (from mansions for some to basic 4 walls, roof and a door for others). Everyone has a permanent dwelling on a plot of land though. Not like in CT or Jhb where there are squatter camps. So at least they have gotten that right.

We entered at the Numbi gate and headed for Skukuza.  It is about a 50 km drive from the gate to Skukuza and it took us just under 2 hours to do it. As it was after 1pm when we entered we didn’t really expect to see much as it was middle of the day and already quite warm (27 degrees). Animals don’t have aircon like we did in the VW Combi so they tend to lie down at that time of the day. However, we did see quite a lot of game on the whole route. We have already seen one of the Big Five (Elephant) and a whole host of buck (antelope for the foreign readers!).  We have seen Impala (as you would expect as there are more of them that ants in the Kruger); Kudu (we almost saw as many of them as we did Impala); Steenbok; Common Duiker; Klipspringer (on a rock in the traditional pose – we upload the photo tomorrow) and most importantly Roan Antelope. Roan Antelope are incredibly rare in the Kruger.  There are only about 70 in the Kruger Park and we saw two of them. There are 50 times more Lion in the Kruger which hopefully illustrates how rare they are and how fortunate we were to see them.  We did also see Zebra and Warthog and Elephant (mother and her baby). It was a slow start to the Birding but by the end of the day I had ticked off 18 species seen so far (at least a third of which I saw in the Skukuza).  We didn’t really consider today a game viewing day and really will start in all seriousness tomorrow am.

We got to Skukuza at about 3:30pm and after checking in and settling in it was time to watch the Springboks demolish the Wallabies. My only question is why they don’t play like that every week! The mandatory braai for supper (chops & wors) followed by marshmallows on the braai and a family chat; a quick episode of Leverage (DVD series watched on the laptop) and then everyone abandoned me for their beds while i completed the post. It is now 9:30pm and I feel like I have been up since 4am (oh that’s right I have been up since 4am!).  And so I apologize for the lack of photos – I will upload them tomorrow.

Sleep well – I certainly will!

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