Tuesday, 2nd April
Rather predictably, a strong south wind comes through at about 9pm last night, the temperature drops and a light sprinkling of rain falls.
At 6am it is dark and dismal as we leave the gates to head down the Sabie river road H4-1 towards Salietjie. As we have our coffee on the high-level bridge over the river, Renette spots three ratels busy in the reeds below us. Three vehicles pass us and all of them turn down the S30 Salietjie road ahead. All thoughts of surprising exciting animals lying in the road vanish. Not that we are overly optimistic. The wind is blowing strongly and showers of light rain are sweeping across the veld – not the best conditions for birds or animals. Notwithstanding, we come across a lioness lying in the grass near the pond some 10Km’s along the road.
We double back towards camp reconciling ourselves to the fact that today will be a camp day.
Back on the H4-1 main road, a bakkie overtakes us and about 100m beyond appears to throw up a ‘stick’ in the road. Drawing abreast we realise that is in fact a meter long rinkhals (spitting cobra) that has reared up with its hood flattened. I quickly reverse but it quickly drops and slithers off into the grass before I can get my photo.
Photography is my passion and I am afraid that dismal, dark days such as this are not conducive to good photos. At 4.30pm we do go out to the Sand River but I never lift the camera once. We hope for better things tomorrow.
I am now going to touch on something that I find deeply distressing. You may remember that I recently mentioned Bob and Katrin (our US/Swiss friends) had come across a dehorned rhino carcass on the trail that were doing on foot. I am now including the pathetic photo that they sent of the surviving rhino at the scene.
The money involved, the corruption levels in this country and the breakdown of the judicial system means that these rhino have no protection left. When the warden turns poacher then the future looks extremely bleak indeed. The only hope lies in the international intervention by conservationists but given the corruption in the highest levels of government, I cannot see this being allowed.
I am sorry to end on such a sad note but that I am afraid that is how it is.
Wednesday, 3rd April
It is jerseys on for the first time as we are first in the queue at 5am. We are trying to repeat my good day down the Malelane gravel road S114 which reaped such rich rewards on Sunday. We intend employing the same tactics – quickly along the H1-1 tar and then down the S114 to the Renoster koppie leaving the traffic well behind us.
Things start to go awry from the word go. 20m out of the gate the second car, a bakkie, screams past us and tears down the H1-1 into the distance way over the 50kph speed limit. Then an avalanche of cars follow so that at Renoster koppie, we sip our coffee ruefully watching the traffic surge by. How I got it right on Sunday allowing me so much time to sit by myself with rhino, lion and leopard, I do not know.
The sky is dark and a cold wind is blowing from the south and we see absolutely nothing of interest down to the Biyamithi weir. The birds are lying low and after a little breakfast and a little brush with a rude tour guide, we come up the S23 river road seeing very little along the way. It then begins to drizzle and keeps this up for the rest of the day.
At 4.30pm we go to Lake Panic for an hour thoroughly enjoying the quietness of the evening. Of course the activity cannot compare with the frantic early mornings but we enjoy the peace and tranquillity.
Influenced by the miserable weather, these have been two quiet days but as those who know Kruger know only too well, that can change very rapidly.
Correction Please refer to the message in “Comments” from Katrin and Bob wherein we misunderstood their earlier report. The rhinos depicted in the photo above are all well whilst the dehorned carcass was found nearby.