Bergendal 10-11th October

Bergendal 10-11th October

Thursday, 10th

Constant flickers of lightning light my way to the showers at 10.30 last night. At 1am I am awakened by lightning flashes and crashes of thunder followed by a little rain. The bowl-like setting of Bergendal seems to amplify the sounds which roll about between the hills.

When I leave the gates at 6am it is dark, thundery and wet. Pools are forming in the veld and along the road verges and the wind is cold from the south. It stays like that all the way to Malelane with the odd squall of heavier rain. I take the S110 gravel loop road back to camp, revelling in the sodden earth that surrounds me. One of Africa’s great experiences is to witness the falling of the first rains after the dry season. And this morning I do this with relish.

Close to camp on some open ground, I stop, switch off and marvel at all around me. The lightning is now really fierce and every minute or so a bright flash strikes one of the hills close by me followed by a deafening crash of thunder. This is nature at its very best and I wonder what goes through the animals minds as the change from the past six months to this could not be in greater contrast. And all the while the rain is falling and everywhere water is sluicing along channel ways. What an inspiring time I spend.

Fortunately I have the camp weather station right next to my campsite and I find that 35mm of rain has fallen – a wonderful start to the summer. But not enough to get the streams flowing and the dam in front of the admin block remains dry.

I choose days like today to do my admin and housework so I stay in camp for the rest of the day going through oh so tedious but unavoidable things like bank statements. Outside a cold wind is blowing from the south and tomorrow I will resume my travels along the Park roads.

Friday, 11th

Again it is heavily overcast at 5.30am but the wind has dropped. With the prospect of a cool day, I intend doing my Mlambane and Biyamithi river wanderings.

So, quickly down the S110 tar, up the H3 , right onto the S114, right again onto the S25 Croc Bridge road and then left into my destination – the Mlambane S119 river road. All along my route, pools of water lie along the road verges and in the veld itself. Amazingly after just one day, a chorus frogs are already making themselves heard from the larger pools. A Jacobin Cuckoo has timed his return well.

Yesterday’s rain does seem to have been widespread although Jenky at Sabie-Sabie, north of Skukuza, reports only having had 2mm. I look forward to the flush of grass bursting through – a welcome change from the brown, lifeless veld. I creep along the Mlambane with very little stirring other than some Ground Hornbills. After a while a tourist bakkie overtakes me going fast — which can only mean one thing. A radio call to come quickly to a sighting. I speed up and follow and before long come across two bakkies stopped with the occupants gazing across the riverbed to a clump of rocks. Draped across them is a leopard. I marvel how anyone could have seen this over such a distance.

I cross the causeway along the S114 and head northward towards Biyamithi weir. This is the particularly bad, corrugated road and I speed up and concentrate on dodging the worst bits but pay a high price for doing so. Arriving at Biyamithi a following tour bakkie says that I missed a Caracal hunting a Duiker right next to the road. Oh dear! Still heavily overcast, I drift along the picturesque S23 Biyamithi River Loop with pools of water still lying next to the road. I do see a Martial Eagle on its nest but little else as I cut across to the main H3 road and turn southward. A quick stop at the very damp Afsaal picnic site, then south again to the Mlambane where I again turn left and dawdle along the S118. The Kruger Waste Disposal brigade have been hard at work on the elephant carcass down in the riverbed. Little remains of the large form that lay there three days ago.

I again proceed right to the end of the S119 and with the cloud cover thinning the light becomes most attractive.

The good rains will hasten the birth of the Impala lambs which are expected soon.

I then leave Malelane Gate to buy a few things in Malelane town and pause on the high level bridge over the Crocodile river. A rather sad sight is the amount of water hyacinth floating downstream, flushed out by the rising water level. With all the farming and fertilizer along its banks, I suppose that it is inevitable that these aliens will proliferate.

After town I return to Bergendal at 12.30 noon. Not the most exciting of mornings but always interesting and pleasant.

I settle down to do my correspondence and outside the birdlife has been rejuvenated by the rain. Bushshrikes and Robins, so common in Kruger’s restcamps, are calling beautifully.

Orange-breasted Bushshrike
The mournful call of the Grey-headed Bushshrike
White- browed Robin-Chat (Heuglin’s Robin)

The sky clears completely this evening and I snatch some moments at the Matjulu water trough.