Another early start and we go up the river road (H4-1) whilst all the other early risers go south in the opposite direction. Today there is a little high cloud but it is still sunny and clear.
After 15Km, we turn west along the most beautiful but oh so desolate S21 Nwatimhiri road. After a few Km’s we come to our ‘coffee stop’ pond and are amazed to find it brimming with water. Local evidence is that this area received a good deal more than 20mm of rain. But nothing stirs and even the waterbirds haven’t yet arrived, assuming that it will take a while for life to return to the pond. Some Knob-billed Ducks fly overhead which is always a sign that there is a lot of water about.
Yesterday we heard our first Woodland Kingfisher…..
and today Red–backed Shrikes confirm the arrival of migratory birds, not doubt hastened by the good rains. We await still the European Rollers and the Carmine Bee-eaters.
I find it incredible that just a day after the rains the frogs are in good voice. How can they survive baked clay in 45 degree heat? Just beyond the windmill we find the road blocked by mounds of earth which explains the ‘No Entry’ sign which had been knocked over at the entrance to the road. So we turn around and retrace our steps. Nwatimhiri has been exceptionally quiet for the last couple of years and today, even more so. Very little stirs.
Back on the main H4-1 tar, we turn left and then quietly idle along the Nwatimhiri Loop S79 but even Gareth’s sharp, youthful eyes don’t help. (Where are you Imogen?). All is deathly quiet albeit in beautiful cool light. Gone are all the masses of game coming down to drink. The Lullaby lion pride do salvage something for our morning as we glimpse them snoozing on the far bank.
We pause at Sunset Dam which is a picture. In retrospect, we should have spent this morning here as conditions are perfect.
Contrary to the weather prediction, the temperature climbs to the mid-thirties today ahead of a weak front which is bringing cloud and a little rain tomorrow. We enjoy lunch at Mugg & Bean and Gareth lingers to watch the end of the Sun City golf.
This afternoon we go out to beautiful Mlondozi along the H10 main road. We pass some very muddy tuskers which have been enjoying themselves in the pools that lie scattered in the veld. Then right along the S29 to the Mlondozi lookout spot perched above the dam with Muntshe mountain as a backdrop.
We are going to take the eastern gravel road back to camp and decide to record every creature type (animal, bird or insect) that we see along the way. By the time we reach Sunset Dam the total is well over fifty which goes to show that even if we see nothing spectacular, there is still plenty to hold our attention. As we enter camp we note some large clouds approaching from the south.
A sprinkling of rain at a cold and miserable 4.30am delays our departure from camp. With leaden skies we are going to spend much longer out in the Park today and are heading northward up the H10 to Tshokwane Picnic spot.
Crossing the Sabie river we come across a little herd of impala and……. there are our first two lambs of the season – already spritely and frisking around. Quite a bit of activity keeps us busy but beyond the end of Muntshe mountain everything dries up and the landscape becomes drier and more drought stricken. No rain at all has fallen here. From the Nkumbe Lookout point perched above the plains one looks out upon a parched, dry landscapes – in all directions brown as far as one can see.
We call at the Eileen Orpen dam which is but a little puddle amongst the desolate hills. Below, four Saddle-billed Storks wade about in the mud.
Our destination is Tshokwane for breakfast. Now I have been doing a bit of whingeing lately above the poor state of the Park. Not so Tshokwane which is bustlingly busy with excellent food being served, spotlessly clean toilets, a well stocked little shop and efficient and pleasant staff. What a pleasure. Gareth and I sample Tshokwane’s renowned pies and I can state that I have never had a better pie before in all respects. Delicious.
We decide not to return back down the drought stricken H10 road but choose to take the Skukuza H1-2 road home. Around Leeupan we begin to notice that rain has fallen previously and the green flush increases as we travel southward. We eventually turn left onto the H12, cross the Sabie and turn down the faithful old river road H4-1. We have not gone far before we come across a pile-up of cars, the occupants of which are watching a fine leopard strolling about in the riverbed.
He walks along, coming close to the road and suddenly disappears and then unexpectedly reappears on the other side of the road out of a culvert. So no struggling through the traffic for this streetwise leopard.
Back to camp at 12 noon which is quite late for us. Sunset Dam is not at its best on a dark, windy day so we bide our time for when conditions improve. This afternoon we drift up to the Nwatimhiri Causeway loop without seeing anything too exciting. We end off the day with a braai – perfectly Kruger.