Wednesday, 15th November DAY 1

Lower Sabies

The period 15th November to 20th December must be one of my favourite times over the summer rainfall area of southern Africa. The heat has not begun in earnest, the rains have begun to fall and the migratory birds are flocking in. So, notwithstanding the changes taking place at home we have seized the chance to head for our beloved Kruger Park.

After a storm the previous evening, we set off from home at 4.40am as dawn is breaking and head north. Gladys is with us as she is attending a funeral in Swaziland and we will drop her off at the Lamumisa border post. North of Hluhluwe the countryside surprisingly gets progressively drier until in southern Swaziland it is almost drought stricken. They have finally given up on the potholed Siteki road and we gingerly creep along avoiding deep potholes. But northward it gets a little greener and at Mananga we find that they are making good progress on the new Swaziland border buildings. We stop in Komatipoort at the new Shoprite and stock up on groceries before entering the park at Croc Bridge at 11.30am.

Goodness but the veld is dry – almost as bad as a year ago before the rains came. But as we travel towards Lower Sabie a green flush develops which steadily improves. The sky is dark and threatening by the time we get to Skukuza where we find a perfect site – well shaded, close to the ablutions and the swimming pool. With a little help from “Godfrey” we have the camp set up in no time and retreat to the pool for a swim amongst many German tourists.

Refreshed we set off for a short drive to the Sand River (H1-2) which we find choked with cars. Downstream on a rock are perched eight lion cubs. Once the traffic has cleared we manage to get through and then dawdle along the very beautiful Maroela Loop (S83) for a short while.

After turning back and near the main tarred road we come across a female Kurrichane Buttonquail at the side of the road. She really is behaving strangely bobbing up and down but allowing me to take a photo in the gloom. I later learn from Shaun and Chane that francolins and quails do this when crossing a road so as to mimic the movement of a tortoise and put off predators. Most interesting.

Meanwhile back in camp we hurry for the showers as a storm is fast approaching. And here again the shortcomings of Kruger are exposed. The drains are blocked and the water is lukewarm. On our recent Cape trip everything in the five national Parks that we visited was immaculate but dear old Kruger with its millions of tourists pouring through is shabby. And the reason is all apparent. Whereas in the Cape management is appointed on ability, here they have management to reflect the demographics of the area – in other words an incompetent who has been appointed for reasons other than ability.

Whilst showering there is an almighty crack of thunder and the lights go out so both Renette and I feel our way back to the caravan which is still well lit from its battery. The rain buckets down and we know that this is a general downpour across the park as a cold front moves through. Snug in our caravan we have a good rest after an action packed day.