Thursday, 10th A light south wind has brought up some cloud but no rain. A good Skukuza/Lower Sabie tactic is to travel the wonderful H4-1 Sabie river road early in the morning before the traffic builds up. This road is just so, so beautiful with proper bushveld vegetation, riverine trees, little ravines under the road, the prolific animal and birdlife, always set off against the backdrop of the river.
So this morning we are out of the gates at 6am and slowly making our way up the road. At the badly flood damaged Nwatimhiri high-level bridge, we come across a pride of lions.
Just before we reach the Nkuhlu Picnic Spot, we find this brilliant African Barred Owl right next to the road – and in the open. The Pearl-Spotted Owlet is far more common so I am ecstatic to be able to photograph this difficult to find owlet so well.
We enjoy a break at lovely Nkuhlu which is so beautifully quiet before the crowds arrive.
Thereafter we turn and drift back towards Lower Sabie. There is non-stop interest along the way.
The Nwatimhiri S79 causeway loop is the only road still closed and one can only speculate of what damage the raging floodwaters did here.
This afternoon we travel a short way up the Sabie river road and then return to Sunset Dam.
I am distressed to see a pair of Indian Mynas making themselves at home in the Buffalo Weaver nests in the dead Leadwood tree.
We end the day at the H10 bridge over the river.
Friday, 11th We need to do some running repairs so today we are heading for Malalane. The plan is to leave LS at 6am and quickly get onto the S25 Crocodile River road and quietly make our way to Malalane with the rising sun behind us. Things just don’t work out though.
Firstly, a big bull elephant has knocked over a tree onto the road at the S130 Gomondwana turnoff and leisurely sets about feeding off it. No amount of coaxing will budge him and only at 7am does he finally allow us past.
The sun is well up by the time that we reach the S25.
The road corrugations are so bad and large areas of veld have been burnt making the whole morning disappointing. At the end of the road near the H3 intersection a cluster of cars indicate some cheetah lying asleep some way off the road.
Outside Kruger we come back to earth with a bump. The town is a mass of seething humanity and word has it that an armed holdup of a CIT van took place earlier this morning near the town. After doing the necessary, we leave Malalane for Crocodile Bridge at midday and compete with the hundreds of coal lorries that ply this route to Maputa.
Back in the Crocodile Bridge camp our humour is restored by this scene.
Begining the 35km trip back to LS, we soon join another Croc Bridge lion induced carjam. With that finally behind us and at the Gomondwana water point, we come across the biggest traffic jam that I have ever seen in Kruger – caused by a leopard. Cars are scattered haphazardly together along 200m of road and are all wedged in tight with no hope of disentanglement. Tempers are frayed and shouts can be heard above the bedlam. Fortunately, a tour guide takes it upon himself to alight from his vehicle and act as traffic cop. Had he not done so I think that we would still have been there. Meanwhile the poor leopard had long ago fled. Really, this sort of thing is the ugly face of Kruger and is not for me. The problem is basically caused by greedy people who get into a good viewing place and then refuse to move.
This evening is just beautiful and we enjoy time at Lubyelubye, Sunset Dam and the bridge. Hopefully, we return to normality tomorrow when we can again enjoy the solitude of some of Kruger’s back roads.
Saturday, 12th After the traumas of yesterday we choose to take a peaceful route today. What that really calls for is a visit to the little track that runs behind Muntshe mountain S122. That should be as peaceful as it gets.
So, at 6am we are out of the gates and up the H10 Tshokwane road at a steady 50kph. It is going to be a race to see whether we reach the top end of the S122 before the sun rises at 6.30am. We make it there just in time for a cup of coffee just as the sun slips over a clear horizon.
We begin a slow crawl along the track with the early sun’s rays playing on the slopes of Muntshe to our right. And it strikes me that I know of no other place in the world where I would prefer to be. The bushveld at sunrise is just breathtaking and all the horrors of the world are forgotten in this scene of utter peace and tranquility. Little do we anticipate that at the end of this S122 road today, we would both agree that this has been our best morning of the trip. There is certainly not the grandeur of the Sabie river or Salitje here, but to our left is a green flush of recently burnt veld whilst to the right is long, golden dry grass – a lovely combination.
We have not gone far before we come across a group of lions at the side of the road. What a picture they are in the grass in the early morning sun.
Thereafter, there is non-stop action from both animals and birds and for two hours we do not see another vehicle.
Whereas on picturesque Salitje and Nwatimhiri, I do not lift my camera once, here I am kept busy continually.
At 9am we return to camp pausing on the bridge to admire the view towards the Lower Sabie restaurant building