Friday, December 7, 2007

Kruger Park

10/22/07: On this day I moved from Jo'Berg to Nelspruit, one of the launching points for Kruger. After arranging my transfer to the Rhino Post, I had dinner and watched TV, as I was still sick.

10/23/07: I started my Kruger safari in Plains Camp, which was taken right from the pages of a Hemmingway adventure. Elephants greeted me at the Rhino Post, and then I met Bernard, my guide at Plains Camp, and he took me there.

My room at Plains Camp

There were Cape Buffalo in front of the camp for about two hours. Before dinner we headed out for the evening game drive and we find a pride of lions, hippo, elephant, impala, kudo and a lone male lion by his watering hole. Bernard was actually able to call to a second male lion, but the he refused to show himself. On the drive back, we were caught in a stampede of buffalo and we were forced to wait them out. After that it was back to camp for an oxtail dinner.

Get out of the way!

10/24/07: On the morning walk we broke open a termite mound and Bernard proceeded to eat several termites, including one with jaws big enough to snap small twigs. We also spot giraffe and kudo. That afternoon we drove in pursuit of lions, and happened upon a pair of rhino instead.

Giraffe and Rhino spotting

In the evening we were back in the land cruiser, rather than on foot. That night I got to drive co-pilot and use one of the vehicles spot lights as we cruised and look for game. Bernard was amazing at this game, and he was able to pick out animals while driving and scanning the bush with his light. Not only that, but he was able to mimik just about any animal you might come across in Kruger. He was specifically recommended by a good friend, Jeff Chisholm, and he lived up to his legend. I turned up several types of animal as well, as we saw rhino, elephant, genut, hippo, kudo and many antelope.

10/25/07: A rainy morning game walk led us to many rhinos, perhaps as many as 12-13 White, but no Black. At one point the second guide got very agitated as we were within 10 yards of a feeding bull. The problem with rhino is that they are practically blind, which means he had no idea we were there, which means if he heard or smelt us (they have excellent hearing and olfactory) or finally spotted us, he would have been so startled that he would have charged. We moved on, quietly.

In the evening it's another game drive, and it's equally fantastic, as we spot a pack of wild dogs, and they were just finished with a kill and were at play. I counted about 22 individuals, and seeing any is quite rare.
"Hello, I have 2 radar dishes instead of ears"

On this evening we attempted to do our sleep out, where you set up a sleeping mat and a bag on an elevated platform in the middle of the bush. It's a fireside bbq and then a few drinks, all the while you can hear the sounds of Africa calling to you.

The sleep out

Unfortunately I was woken at midnight with a light, wind driven rain on my face. The camp is not designed for wind, so we had to bail out, which featured a lightning fast pack job and a death defying ride back to Plains Camp in the rain, as the Land Cruiser is an open air vehicle. I was not dissapointed to be back in my bed, which had been heated for me with a hot water bottle. Nice touch.

10/26/07: We had a we drive in the morning, no hiking today, but we saw more dogs, which was worth it. That afternoon I was moving to Rhino Post, which was gorgeous, complete with big rooms, heated outdoor showers, a huge deck and gourmet meals.

The evening game drive was good as usual, and we spotted part of a pride of lions lounging in the afternoon sun. That night we returned to camp and enjoyed a fine meal of Impala Shank in a red wine reduction. Yummy.
This is just what lions do

10/27/07: Day 5 in Kruger might have been the best day I had. We had the luxury of an elephant bull carcass (he had been killed my disease or another bull) close by and we started there to check out the Hyenas feeding on the bones. We also saw my first leapord, which crossed the road in front of us, however I was not able to squeeze off a good shot. Marina was a good guide, she actually relieves the other guides when they need time off, and she got us close to the youngest elephant I have ever seen, and she got us on top of a big bull rhino.
Kiss kiss

Probably 2 months old
This fed local animals for weeks. And local guides.

Finally, that evening, we were able to spend some real time with a leopard. We had found a female that was stalking a steenbok, and we got to watch her for a good 30 minutes before we went on. When we got back, I had an lively conversation with the guides. As they only carry rifles, and as any hunter can tell you that might give you time for one shot with a charging animal, I asked why they didn't carry a sidearm. Sure, it wouldn't work on a buffalo or an elephant, but with a lion, leopard, hyena etc. it could mean the difference. Basically their reply was that they wanted to die in the bush. I thought that was interesting. Wierd and interesting.
She sees the antelope now

10/28/08: This was my last day in Kruger, my transfer service via Chris from Nelspruit was retrieving me at around 7:45 am. So I was up and out with a box lunch from the staff, and off to catch my bus to Jo'Berg. It was an amusing ride:
Chris' brother trying to talk his way out of a ticket

That night I was back at the Brownsugar backpackers, funny enough I ran into two people I had met in Bulungula, Sharikay and Eric, who have been traveling around africa for the last 21 months. If I have my information right, they had just finished working thier way down the East Coast of Africa and were preparing to head back up the Western side. Nice.

10/29/07: Heading to the wedding.

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