Monday, 11th March
I am at the gate at 4.55am and the sky is completely clear but by 5.30am as I leave camp, thick clouds are racing up from the south – as usual. I am really set on tracking down a leopard so I am travelling south along the main H1-3 and then driving along the Nwaswitsonto (S125) river road – 25Km’s south of Satara.
Just past the H6 turnoff to Nwanetsi I and the two cars behind are overtaken by an African woman driving a new Audi at speed. By the time I reach the slope down towards the Sweni river, her taillights are way across the bridge heading across the far plain. To have reached so far ahead of us so quickly means that she must be travelling at well over 100KPH. Scandalous.
The road is wet in places where showers of rain have just fallen and by the time that I reach the Nwaswitsonto turnoff the rays of the rising sun are playing exquisitely on the rain clouds to the west.
My goodness but what a splendid start to the morning. I creep along seeing little items of interest as I go.
I am so enjoying myself that when I reach the end of the road I turn south towards Nhlangulene S36 with the road soaked by the rain.
At one point I come across a Wild-dog in the road which is very skittishly looking into the grass to the left. Some vultures on a tree suggest that lion are about.
I pass what remains of the Lugmag Dam which has been damaged by flood waters. In line with Sanpark’s new policy of doing away with artificial water points, the dam wall will remain breeched and the dam empty.
I next turn east along the beautiful Vutomi river road S33 which is lined by pools.
All in all, a really great morning but……… still no leopard.
This afternoon I go out west to Bobbejaanskrans on the Timbavati river, some 25Km’s along the Orpen Road (H7). It is striking how the veld dries out as one travels westward, so much so that at the intersection to Timbavati the grass is brown and wintery.
After a quick coffee overlooking the Timbavati riverbed, I retrace my steps soaking in the glorious vista of the Satara grasslands. Somehow the light has lost the white intensity of summer and the colours are richer and more contrasting.
East of the rather full Nsemane Dam, one reaches the rich basalt soils and with more rainfall to the east, the grasslands are lush in comparison to that through which I have just passed out west.