Bergendal 7th October

Bergendal 7th October

Camp gates open at 5.30am in October which almost coincides with sunrise. Today the gate guard has used his initiative and I find the gates open at 5.20am. It is heavily overcast this morning and I decide to take the S110 Matjulu gravel road – heading towards Mlambane S119 river road. Mist covers the surrounding hilltops.

The route takes me over the Steilberg S120 and I pause for a moment as I gaze northward over this wilderness that stretches 360Kms to the Zim border. All thoughts of plummeting shares, negative news reports and troublesome people evaporate as I enter my Kruger “bubble” – at peace with the world. I pass the usual impala, kudu, giraffe, ellies and others before turning onto the main H3 road. At the Mlambane river I turn right and dawdle along this beautiful river road S118. Reports in camp have it that leopard, lion and cheetah are being seen regularly here but no luck this morning despite creeping along at 10kph.

Without purposefully being too specific, I was delighted to see seven separate groups of White Rhinos, all with three or four individuals each. Heartening was to note how relaxed and calm they were. This has not been the case previously when I have regularly seen some very agitated animals.

Reaching the S114, I cross the bone dry riverbed with not a pool in sight. On the far bank, a solar powered borehole keeps a water trough full and impala and zebra are milling about.

I decide then to head northward to one of my favourite Kruger spots – the Biyamithi Weir. But oh my goodness, the corrugations are terrible which prompts me to get on my “soap box” a little. Without doubt one of SA’s major assets are our wonderful national parks, something that are so important in competing for international tourism. Kruger does so many things well but for some reason stubbornly refuses to maintain their roads. A “chain mat” towed behind a bakkie is all that it would take to eliminate the corrugations which make travelling on many roads in Kruger so unpleasant. Letters of complaint go unacknowledged.

I recommend to all Kruger lovers the book “Shaping Kruger” by Mitch Readon. This is a fascinating read which tells of so much of the scientific works that goes on behind the scenes in the Park.

So with rattled teeth I finally reach Biyamithi, a real oasis amid the parched landscape. Although the water level is below the weir spillway, the deep pool still holds a lot of water and is magnet for both birds and animals.

A pair of Saddlebill Storks are busy fishing.

For some obscure reason, a Tawny Eagle is diving onto a sand bank and then hopping about trying to catch I know not what.

Fish-eagles are calling from their perches in the trees and a steady stream of impala and kudu come down to drink. At the weir itself, I photograph a Green Backed Heron………

………. and then get a surprise when an unseen and snorting hippo surfaces nearby.

After a while I decide to climb to the vantage point on the south side of the weir and watch the Saddlebills. Two tour bakkies arrive and I note some tourists inspecting the rocky koppie behind me. Nothing untoward – probably a Klipspringer. But when a deluge of radio linked bakkies arrive at speed, I decide to reverse and turn, just in time to see a female leopard walk from the rocks towards the road and without a pause casually stroll through line of vehicles. She disappears into the bush beyond no doubt going for a drink. I always feel so elated for the tourists who are so fortunate to witness such a rare and beautiful sight

The sky has cleared and I return to Afsaal for some refreshment before taking the main tarred road back to Bergendal camp.

I spend most of the day working on a backlog of photos that I have built up over the past month or two. At 4pm I go quickly down the S110 tarred road towards Malelane, back up the H3 main road and then take the S110 Matjulu gravel road towards camp. Nothing much is about so I make for the Matjulu water trough. And here I get a surprise. Yesterday the trough was empty with a little mud on the bottom but today it is brimming full. I am told that the Park has been shuttling two 1,000lt water tankers from camp throughout the day which has happily filled the trough.

Four rhinos arrive to enjoy the fresh water followed by some buffalo.

Sadly some tourists tell me that a rhino was poached two days ago at Afsaal.