It rained overnight and it was still overcast this am. We decided to just go out for a short drive. Our usual is to go to Engelhart Dam on the north side and so that is where we headed. Not far out of camp there was a grouping of cars and on approaching we saw lions. About 4 of them (at least). Not far off the road and somewhat active. We watched them for awhile and then moved on. Birding was very quiet as it was overcast. We saw a reasonable amount of game – impala, waterbuck, elephant etc – as per usual. There is a bird hide on the road to the dam and we stopped there on the way back and added a few birds to the trip list. It was also very peaceful and pleasant in the hide as there was a slight breeze coming into the hide off the water.
We had a baby (H called it a toddler) elephant decide to fake charge us and trumpet at us. More funny than anything. It clearly wasn’t going to do anything about us and was just trying to show off. It ran next to us at a safe distance from the car. The rest of the herd just ignored us and continued eating.
We spent the rest of the day in the camp relaxing, working, watching TV series – all the things that make time in the Kruger worthwhile. It was cooler today (temperature only got up to around 35 C) but it was humid for much of the morning. I sat outside working for a bit and eventually had to come inside the room as the sweat was running down my back.
This evening we decided to head south along the river – H’s choice of route. Not a lot of game around except for a reasonable amount of elephant. Letaba camp is known for it’s elephant and there was even one right at the gate when we left this evening. About 7 km from the camp we came upon a herd of elephant and passed them safely only to come to two elephant fighting about 100 meters on. They were pushing and shoving each other, stamping their feet etc. Only issue was that we needed to get past and we were basically trapped because the herd behind us (not very far behind us either) were now crossing or in road.
I moved forward slowly and eventually gauged that I had sufficient space to drive quickly past the two fighting elephants and get out of the trapped situation I was in. Unfortunately the car we have (Nissan Quashai – piece of rubbish – never think of buying one – hopefully none of you reading this own one!) basically makes a lot of noise but doesn’t actually accelerate (especially when the aircon is on). It soon became evident that the one elephant bull was now more interested in fighting us than the other elephant. This all happened in a few seconds but the elephant started to turn, to come at us but fortunately he had to backtrack out of the bush to turn around and I reckon that is what saved us.
By the time we were level with the elephant he was almost turned around enough to punch a hole in the car with his tusks. The accelerator was flat on the floor board, dust billowing behind us, elephant trumpeting and turning aggressively. I managed to keep as far left as I could possibly do without being off the road. It was so close I could smell the elephant and if I had put my arm outstretched out of the window I could have touched it. No I am not exaggerating. It really was that close. I have had a few run ins with elephants (generally when our son M is driving actually!) but this was by far the closest I have ever had. I would not want to ever get this close again. H was screaming/shrieking/shivering/shaking. We fortunately got past undamaged and alive.
We stopped down the road at the Engelhart dam (south side) and H showed me how she was shaking. It was impressive shaking – almost as impressive as my driving. She said “How on earth are you still able to drive?” … I’ll take that as a compliment! All we wanted to do at that point was get back to the camp – it took us another 30-40 minutes to do that as we certainly weren’t going to do a U-turn! A drink while starting the braai was definitely in order.
It was our last braai tonight (run out of meat). Unfortunately we picked the night to braai with a massive thunderstorm brewing. The clouds were impressive and so was the lightening. Fortunately I managed to burn down the logs and get the lamb chops & chicken wings cooked before the rain came down (it is raining now quite heavily).
Both a relaxing and stressful day … if that is possible!
P & H