Apologies for the late report. Satara has now a reputation for having either weak or non-existent coms – especially over the weekend when no one is on hand to correct it.
On another bright and hazy day, which indicates the approaching cold front, I travel the so attractive Maroela Loop S83 across the Sand river. A red, molten sun bulges over the horizon at 6.12am, already 18mins earlier than when we arrived at Kruger on the 7th August. The changeover to summer is imminent as another 34 degree day is forecast.
From Maroela, I continue along the H1-2, cut across to the Sabie on the H12 and then down Salitje S30 – a lovely choice of morning roads. But again, as I go quietly and really in spotting mode, I see nothing untoward. Kruger fans however, will recognise that the beauty of the bushveld – even without spectacular sightings, makes for a most satisfying morning.
Time for a change and our late booking only allows us to return to Satara again. So, I pack up all the remaining bits and pieces and I set off at 11am with the caravan in tow along the H1-2 heading northwards. We enjoyed our time at Skukuza, so enriched by the magnificent Sabie and Sand Rivers – and Lake Panic.
Arriving at Tshokwane, I am keen to sample their famous pies but the crowds are so great that I decide to press on. It is heartening to see the continued popularity of Kruger despite the absence of foreigners. A financially strong Kruger is its best protection going forward so one must just make allowances to avoid the popular roads.
Just north of Kumana Dam I come to some cars viewing a leopard sleeping in classic pose on a nearby tree branch. But jostling cars with a caravan behind urge me to bypass the melee and move on. Back at tinder-dry and dusty Satara I find a better campsite than the exposed one we had two weeks ago. After the earlier excursions and the heat, I venture out again only at 5pm to Nsemane Dam along the Orpen H7 road.
The edge of the cold front that is bringing snow to KZN is due to reach here at midday. Unlike at Skukuza, where we were always first or second in line, I trail out behind twelve other cars when the gates open at 6am. The difference in approach between the tourists at the two camps is striking. Fortunately, not many take the Sweni S126 road today and I creep along by myself – but without again seeing anything exciting.
I stop at the dry Welverdiend water hole (the water trough is full) for a breakfast snack and then retrace my steps.
At the rocky little koppie with its encircling road, I am informed that I have just missed a leopard hunting an impala. Not far beyond I find an immature Bateleur which provides some photos.
At lunchtime the south wind arrives on schedule and clouds of billowing dust roll amongst the flapping canvas. No good sheltering in the caravan so, despite the wind, I set out at 3pm along the Nwanetsi H6 tarred road out east. Conditions really are difficult as I take the S41 gravel road northward towards Gudzani. The veld may be tinder dry but the water courses are wet following the wet summer. The Nwanetsi and Gudzani streams are still flowing strongly – something than I have not seen at this time of the year for a long, long while – indicative of the high water table.
With my camera support permanently clamped to my door, the window must stay open allowing clouds of dust from passing vehicles to enter the car. A rather trying afternoon – made worse by arriving back in camp and finding that all coms are down. So, no welcoming messages from me to Renette as she flies in to the Cape and settles in our new home in Somerset West. No coms either at the petrol station so no petrol by credit card. And no blog I am afraid. The wind rages on through the night and I am very grateful that I am not in a tent.
I scrape together a little cash for some petrol and muse how, when I was at university in the early 70’s, I used to pay 8c/lt for fuel – now 1860c. I choose my route today to minimize the dust and head north along the H1-4 before cutting across east along the quiet S90 road towards Gudzani East. The amazingly perennial Mavumbye stream is still pouring over the causeway. Approaching the end of the road, I come across two Secretarybirds striding through the veld.
I next turn down the S41 and after a while come to a flock (parliament) of vultures in the long, dry grass close to the road.
Amongst the mainly White-backed vultures are two enormous Lappet-faced vultures.
I cannot find what is attracting the birds as they are not feeding on anything and yet more are landing regularly.
I continue down to the brimming Gudzani Dam after crossing the strongly flowing streams that wash over the causeways before emptying into the dam.
Then up the S100 with the strong south wind ensuring that the dust blows away from me.
This afternoon I set out early for Orpen H7, with the main object of making coms with Cape Town. Just beyond the Timbavati S39 turnoff some cars indicate two Cheetahs lying in the open, burnt veld not far from the road.
It is to be expected at this time of the year that Sanparks burns blocks land which may be necessary but it does make it unpleasant from a viewing point of view.
I arrive at Orpen with its coms in good working order and make the necessary calls. I learn about the amazing snowfalls across KZN – and I also fill with petrol after some anxious moments. Dawdling back towards Satara, I come across the same cheetah. I take the S12 loop road to Girivana Dam which is now empty. The wind has suddenly dropped and the prospects for a good day tomorrow look good. Back along the S40 to the large Nsemani Dam on the main H7 road, and then back to camp – WHERE THERE ARE STILL NO COMS.
A still, clear and chilly morning awaits me this morning. Given the amount of traffic the lovely S100 Nwanetsi River road is not an option with hanging dust clouds. So, I continue to the much quieter Sweni S126 with the sun rising at 6.07am.
I am met by a stately giraffe.
Back at camp there is still no internet and I have more pressing matters to deal with. I have no option but to set out again for Orpen, 46Kms out west. Not far from camp along the H7 road I come across four black maned lions near the road.
One frequently hears the Pearl-spotted Owl calling in camp – even during the day.
This afternoon with a light north wind clearing the dust, I venture down the S100. I soon find what must be the biggest rock monitor that I have ever seen sunning himself on a log.
At the scenic pool and its overhanging giant sycamore fig, I come across cars watching a male leopard feeding on the ground at the base of the tree. Unusually, I learn that it caught a waterbuck, a little too big to drag up the tree.
After a while the leopard leaves its meal and climbs into the sycamore, stretches out on a comfortable branch and falls asleep behind some leaves.
Another lovely warm day in Kruger, far from the icy conditions prevailing over much of the country.