Friday, 24th August DAY 7

Last night I had no sooner posted my diary than thunder began to growl in the south and soon rain drops began to fall. This all intensified into a deluge and heavy rain began drumming on the roof of the caravan. Water is sluicing along the roads and pathways accompanied by thunder and lightning. After half an hour it subsides and that is the end of it.  All I can think about are those blackened, burnt areas and how well they will respond to this early most welcome rain.

On Wednesday we drove along the scenic Mlambane road with everything right but we saw precious little. Today we go out on a miserably dark and damp morning. Large puddles line the road and evidence of rainwater washing along and over the road is everywhere. I have lost my rain gauge so I leave the vehicle and dig a hole in the veld and find that the rain has penetrated well below grass root level. This rain was caused by a cold front sweeping across Kruger so one can assume that it was  widespread. We drive along the Fayi Loop (S14) which circles the camp. Unlike Mlambane, the prospects are not good.

But soon after having our coffee we come across an  African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) that is hunting amongst the trees. With his usual flapping and hanging upside down he emerges with a lizard which he begins to feed on.

This picture was taken in very dark conditions. ISO 3200 ; Speed 1/200th

These new Nikon cameras are incredible.

This scene is reminiscent of one that we saw on Sweni a couple of years ago when we saw a Gymnogene also catch a lizard. Here a vehicle stopped and an Oomie (elderly man) asked what I was looking at. I replied that it was a Gymnogene which set him peering curiously into the bush. “Yirre” he muttered, “Jim and Jean”.

Mary spots a Sable antelope but it quickly disappears into the bush.

Next we come across a mother hyena in the road with three little pups. They come running past us to their den – a storm-water drain under the road.

From this emerges a number of other family members, all of different ages.

A pup lying next to a vertebra bone.

We spend a good forty minutes watching them and I must say that it is probably my most interesting sighting of hyena. The entertainment is superb.

At the koppies we see four klipspringer together and then a Black-crowned Tchagara ending off a really interesting and unexpected morning.

Back in camp Mary and I take a nostalgic stroll around camp remembering our first visit to Pretoriuskop sixty years ago in 1958. Pretoriuskop certainly has an air of history to it with little snippets of interest scattered about the camp. It and the surrounds are places of great beauty but unfortunately the already sparse animal life has been affected by extensive veld burning.

This afternoon it is heavily overcast and cold with a few spots of rain. We circle the imposing Shabeni koppie and then continue to the large Mestel Dam. Most of the area has been burnt, is desert like and devoid of life. I really feel for these bakkie loads of tourists who travel these roads with very little prospect of seeing anything – let alone the Big 5. They like us have not timed it well.

As night falls the sky lightens and there is every prospect of a lovely day tomorrow.