Monday Musings And Trip Advising
A week ago one of the children asked me how old I felt, without missing a beat I said 18. We must never get wiser with age, just a little more careful, then, we're sure to keep our freespirit alive.
This morning while spinning I forced myself to stop looking at the very slow tick of the clock and instead let my eyes drift over my fellow spinners. We're not a young lot. Some are slender others well built, even rotund. At 80 something the sprightliest of the lot really surprises me with her agility and sheer bloody mindedness as she relentlessly grinds those gears. An ageless, jolly bunch who have a zest for life.
It takes a while to cool down and while I waited I checked on my friends' activities on social media, first up was a friends' son, a kid I've known for 35 years, it feels like a heart beat since I attended his wedding and another when I attended his childrens' Christenings and here they were showing their daughter off before she was whisked off to her Matric farewell. Impossible! My portly neighbour who celebrated his birthday yesterday came waddling past on his dodgy knees a while ago, I wished him well and asked whether he feels older today, "No!" he bellowed "just fatter'!
Sometimes when we've been on the road for 14 hours I feel I've bitten off more than I can chew. Every joint is stiff when I alight our Cruiser and I count myself lucky that I've not missed my footing and gone down like a ton of bricks in front of everyone having breakfast at the Wimpy.
I'd hardly touched down or got over my jet lag when we slipped away for a fortnight to the Kruger National Park and Mjejane Game Reserve.
Paul Kruger must rest easy, no spinning in his grave. Our most popular travel and tourist destination is a success story. We entered the Kruger National Park at the Phalaborwa gate and spent our first night at Olifants Rest camp and then meandered down to Satara.
The rondawels (cottages) have been revamped, painted and upgraded. The decor is simple but adequate, linens and towels fresh and neat. The showers are good with plenty of hot water, a good water pressure is maintained and the cubicles are spacious. After a long day sightseeing it's a pleasure to stop off, relax and have a braai. Our cottage only accommodated two guests, it was frustrating to find that the cutlery provided is only for two guests. Fortunately we always have a well stocked picnic basket with a very sharp utility knife. All the cottages are serviced which is such a treat.
Spring is a good time to visit the park, the plains are still dry as the rainy season hasn't started yet, but here and there green tufts of grass are beginning to show. Up north the Acacias and other flowering trees were blooming red, pink, yellow and purple. This of course is perfect for spotting well camouflaged animals.
It always surprises me how quickly the terrain changes from Mopane forests to grasslands and then again to hilly outcrops, Baobab trees and giraffe. We spent much of our time exploring the dirt roads, sitting at water holes, which are good too as there's not much water in the veld a good meeting place at midday when it's very hot. We were fascinated by a committee of Vultures swooping in to drink, bathe and dry their wings on one occasion.
After a grueling Boland winter it was bliss to wear shorts and T shirts again. We were back in the bush with magical sunrises and sunsets. Kicking up a dust storm is perfectly suited to these dry conditions and it all adds to the spectacular saturated colours of the sky. Nothing beats sitting somewhere cool overlooking a waterhole listening to the African Fish Eagle, the thunder of hippos vying for space, while quietly sipping a Gin and Tonic.
Our journey took us all the way to the south of the Park where we exited and joined friends at the very exclusive Mjejane Game Reserve near Malelane. Situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, Mjejane Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s premier reserves and the only residential estate that boasts a private bridge into the Kruger National Park. Positioned on the Kruger’s southern boundary between the Malelane and Crocodile Bridge gates, the reserve boasts 10km’s of spectacular river frontage and is fenced into the Kruger Park. We enjoyed two guided trips which Precious found a treat, no back seat driving from me and he could just relax while our guide did all the talking.
We lazed in the pool overlooking a waterhole, sipped cocktails on the deck, slept in comfortable beds and enjoyed the luxury of air conditioning. On the down side, to cross over from the one park to the other a toll has to be paid, although not too expensive at R300.00 we found it excessive especially since we were there for a week. The drive to Malelane gate is trouble free but the wait and inefficiency of the systems at all the Kruger gates for day visitors left one feeling miffed. On one occasion we waited in a queue for 2 hours before we could present our Wild Card. Although staff at the gates were all friendly, cool, calm and collected it must frustrate them too. Even on public holidays there were only two computers doing the job at most gates.
The distance traveled to enter the park on a daily basis left us no option but to stay there all day, although not what we're used to, it gave us the opportunity to venture into the rest camps, there we made use of the upgraded facilities, enjoyed the food and beverages from the restaurants, many are now franchised e.g. Mugg and Bean, Wimpy, Spur and Cattle Baron.
The Park shops are very well stocked with a large selection of almost anything you might need. The fresh produce is fresh, the frozen goods look appetizing. I enjoyed browsing and admiring the souvenirs and even bought a book or two, a T shirt to be posted and a beaded bracelet. Once again it was a pleasure dealing with all the staff who were knowledgeable, well trained, friendly and helpful.
We weren't lucky enough to see a Leopard fall out of a tree, nor a lion kill, but we did see creatures great and small and enjoyed them all.
Side-note, there are plenty of Pensioner specials on the Parks website! This is the one time I don't say how old I feel when asked. “You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” ― George Bernard Shaw
We were in Jock of the Bushveld country, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick must sleep peacefully too as the earth where he travelled with his beloved Jock has remained very much untamed. It's comforting to know that not all the world is our playground.
“... fortune is not in time or place or things; but, good or bad, in the man’s own self for him alone to find and prove.”
― Percy FitzPatrick, Jock of the Bushveld