Kruger National Park And The Story Behind The Story
It is an undisputed fact that the Kruger National Park is our national treasure, and SANParks is probably one of the few state-run enterprises that works and has improved over the years. They have all my support and admiration for doing a sterling job. My photographs are just a random, liberal sprinkling of favourites taken during our stay and in no particular order. Connectivity is a blinding headache therefore we have to resort to shortcuts.
A liberal sprinkling of satire
Long, long ago, not a million years ago, but about 120 years ago, when things were still in a terrible state, and the English and the Boers and just about everyone else was warring in this neck of the woods, there was a chap called Paul who was a dreadful megalomanic, bully and brat.
Early on, his mother sent him off to the Voortrekkers, where he was taught some rudimentary manners and learnt basic camping skills. A tutor taught him to read the Bible (of all things. In all his life, he never managed to get through the whole Book and never read a novel. He missed out on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but the title alone was enough to ban the book until a hundred years later. Not that he needed any instruction, you’ll see he was well-equipped in that department.)
One day while on a camping trip with his commandant in Kimberley, he met an English Boy Scout, Cecil, and a few days later, a Girl Scout, Vicky (Victoria). He took an instant dislike to both. For one, they were English and competition, and he hated rivals. His word was law, and they felt zilch for any law. They broke all rules with impunity.
The three Musketeers soon became great rivals, and many battles were fought on the playground they called Africa. Leopold, up north, was tjoepstil (quiet); he needed no encouragement.
Our Paul, not Onse Jan, who was living it up at Groot Constantia, enjoying his Boeretroos in the cellars and didn’t give a flying fig about them. He was secretly pleased they were out of his hair.
Back to our Paultjie. In his school report, his nursery teacher said, “Pauljie was quick in detecting the false moves made by Cecil and adept in turning them to his advantage but hopelessly incapable of settling scores. To secure a brilliant and conspicuous success today, he was ready to squander the prospects if he had the power to forecast them. Soldiers (he had the rest of the class marching to his band) would call him a brilliant tactician but a hopeless strategist.”
Playground brawls were nothing new and while playing cowboys and crooks, or rather, Boer war 1 and boer war 2 they evened the scores 1-1 and called it a draw. Kruger narrowly escaped death twice—first, a piece of shrapnel hit him in the head but knocked him out without cutting him; later, a bullet swiped across his chest, tearing his jacket but not wounding him.
His mother, quite understandably, was furious and forbade him to ever play with Cecil again. There was no chance of that; of course, he admired his frienemy and only said, “my mom says I must go home now”, when he knew he was biting off more than he could chew.
One day Cecil even said, “we’ll just take Mozambique from the Portuguese,” because Paul, while playing Trek-Trek or was it “gold-gold,” said he needed access to the nearest port. Paul was furious; and declined the offer. Dom Carlos I (kaɾluʃ) was his friend, and he hoped an ally. He kept his friends close and his enemas closer. He often said "That English is not my mother's tongue." While sucking his moustache.
Anyway, long story short. One day while visiting Vicky in her castle on her estate Balmoral, the three little nippers decided to show their one-upmanship. While stroking her dolly, Vicky said, “My land is much bigger than yours, Paul. I own an island”, to which Cecil scoffed “, that’s nothing. I own the whole of Zimbabwe,” arms akimbo to show how large his territory was, "and I'm going to call it Rhodesia." “Ag, magtag” said Paul, “that’s nothing, man. I own a game farm that’s bigger than your whole island.” while pushing his yoke of clay oxen ever closer to her rocking horse. Out of spite he kicked poor Cecil on the shin.
Cecil yelped. In dismay, Vicky looked at Cecil for help but, seeing what he was up to, disgustedly bawled, “Yucky Cecil, stop digging for diamonds. When the clock strikes twelve, your nostrils will look like the Kimberley hole.”
Soon the wildlife farm had a good stock of animals; Paul fenced the whole lot to stop the animals’ migrations. He didn’t care. Fortunately, things changed, and now we have the greater Kruger, which encompasses many, many farms. Poor old Vicky would have a connipshit if she knew how small her island has become.
One fine day after months of relentless rains a ship in full sail came hurtling past Numbi, the trade persons gate, and there, to everyone's astonishment, a funny bearded man with what looked like a tablecloth on his head, opened the hatches and let all his doves out. They certainly weren't homing pigeons it was soon established and have remained to this very day. Their cries an incessant Le-ta-ba, Le-ta-ba. It was almost biblical Paul admitted.
Fathers in the area were starting to look at Paul with renewed respect/interest. When Mr Hobhouse asks his beloved Emily what she thought, she said, “He typifies the Boer character both in its brighter and darker aspects and is no doubt the greatest man—morally and intellectually—whom the Boer race has so far produced. In his iron will and tenacity, his ‘never say die’ attitude towards fate, his mystic faith in another world, he represents what is best in all of us.”
“Gosh,” he thought “, Emily is a smart cookie but too big for her boots. She’s only twelve, after all.” And took another large swig of Jameson while puffing on his cigar. After thinking for a minute, he responded, “That was quite a mouthful, my poppet.”
“Dash it,” said Lord Phillips, plucking bits of dry blood-soaked toilet paper from his cheek, causing his barber, the old soak, handling a Gillette steel straight razor, to nick his chin, “I’ll have to find another way of doing this” he whined. But he needed the capital and had heard of the Kruger millions buried on the farm. Once groomed, he wrote to Florence (conceived in Italy), suggesting a blind date with you-know-who.
“Once seen, he is not easily forgotten”, wrote Lady Flo Phillips. “His greasy frock coat and antiquated tall hat have been portrayed times without number ... and I think his character is clearly to be read in his face—the strength of character and cunning.”
Mrs Ossewania Kruger said enough was enough and soon had Paul marry Elsie, 14—Elsie of Afrikaaner stock and a committed Dopper. (no booze and no dancing!) Although not uncommon then, the union required written approval from both sets of parents and the bride herself. Dangling carats and Kruger rands, an agreement was soon reached.
The reception was held on the farm at the new lodge. There was an open chequebook and a guestlist as long as an Elephant’s trunk.
“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, Cecil whispered while twirling his BFF. Vicky agreed while staggering under her tiara sporting the Culinan diamond. “You are so gay, Ce-Ce”, she whispered, giggling, seeing him throwing a glad eye at the dandy Barney next to the wallflower Emily.
Paul admitted to his mother while drinking coffee (from his saucer no less) in his parent’s bed the following morning. *“Ek kan nie glo dat ‘n arm man so lekker kan kry nie Moeks!” Within five months the first child was born prematurely. Paul loved all his children and, once again, to keep up with the Jones’ named his homes (plaashuise and volkshuise) after his kids.
The twins Bergendal and Malelane, Bridget – aka Crocodile Bridge (she sported a set of teeth and had a skin condition), Letaba, Sabie, Mopani, Oliphants, the triplets Orpen, Maroela and Tamboti, and his fav Pretoriuskop (after his mentor and guide.)
Elsie lost the will to live and died young. Who could blame her?
A few weeks later, Cecil sent a telegram to Vicky: “Paul remarried the nanny Gezina. Stop”. He followed this up years later with a letter saying, “with whom he had 16 children—nine sons and seven daughters (some died young). He even had eight sickly grandchildren transferred to her from the concentration camp at Krugersdorp, where their mother had died in July 1901. Five of the eight children died within nine days, and two weeks later, Gezina also died.”
He ended his missive with these words. “I should be the Queen not you! Ce-Ce"
Time slipped by, and then before he knew it, Paul was seventy. A good age, quite long in the tooth really. He would celebrate with all his friends and family. Fumbling short-sightedly for his notes, a page from the Bible, Paul announced that Wilhelmina from the Netherlands had invited him to stay. He’d accepted the invitation and would be sailing forthwith.
His friend and political opponent Rev. Thomas François Burgers, who said grace, affectionately called Paul "Die ou Buffel" (a Buffalo).
Relieved, his children celebrated his imminent departure. They would later exile him to their holiday home Clarens, in Switzerland, where he had buried his nest egg in a Swiss bank vault.
Everyone who has ever had the opportunity to visit the Kruger National Park has done so. We all know how unique the wildlife is, how well-managed the Park is and how many options we have to stay.
Recently we’ve been able to visit the Park three times. Once for five days while cooling our heels in anticipation of our visit with friends in Hoedspruit. We stayed at Letaba and, on another occasion, a fortnight later, we returned after visiting friends in Komatipoort and now for three nights en-route to Mozambique.
We decided to wend our way from Komatipoort and spent a few days at Lower Sabie and Satara.
There were almost no campers while we were at Letaba, meaning getting out at the gate at 4h30 in the mornings was a dream. The campsite was good, and we noticed maintenance upgrades being done. The shop and restaurant are topnotch and well stocked; if we ran out of anything, we could stock up quite comfortably.
Every evening after our games drives or instead of a game drive, we’d wander over to the restaurant for a sundowner and spend a half hour enjoying the elephant coming down to the river to drink or bathe. Sometimes we were lucky and saw the hippopotami leaving to go foraging.
Their route passed our campsite soon after sunset, giving us a clear sight of them grazing. The hyena pounded up and down the fence line, waiting for scraps previous campers might leave out or, regrettably, throw out for them. Spotlights shining on them by campers were a novelty, and we’d observe them until they went in search of other easy pickings.
Satara was by far the most crowded camp. On the veranda, at the restaurant, we noticed many foreign tourists, a good sign tourism was coming back to Kruger. The restaurant and shop are excellent, and the staff are friendly and helpful. Although the watering hole was not attracting many animals, the summer rains provided many alternatives in the veld. We enjoyed having drinks and a meal there. Hearing foreign tongues all around us was like music to our ears.
NOTE: I tried, unsuccessfully, to make an online reservation at Satara, forcing me to enquire whether there was availability at the reception. Just as well. South African Retirees/Pensioners who book at the camps in person are entitled to an out-of-season 40% discount! Together with a Wild Card, it makes a visit to Kruger Park very affordable and attractive.
At Lower Sabie’s campsite, there was also hardly a soul about. We saw more tourists in the shop and restaurant where the Mugg ‘n Bean was making a roaring trade, not withstanding the renovations to the deck. I’m not a M&B fan. The portions are too generous, but I admit this was outstanding. I had a delicious Thai-inspired beef and noodle salad. The serving was perfect, with good flavours, and the noodles weren’t pasta. There was enough for Butch to have a taster portion!
Once again, Kruger delivered the goods, and we had excellent sightings. Instead of writing all about it, I will include a video and a photo dump of a few extraordinary experiences we enjoyed.
The heritage site we visited was fascinating and an eye-opener. The guide was informative, and we learned about early iron smelting, tool and weaponry making. I now know what Phalaborwa means too. "Better than the south". This particular tribe moved there, settled in the area and found iron deposits, mined and had a smelt and iron mongery.
The veld was green and lush, the rivers full, and the sky blue-blue with puffy cotton wool clouds. I seem to recall we only endured a day or two of rainy weather, and cyclone Cheneso was yet to come thundering in, causing havoc in Kruger Park and its surrounds.
The Kruger National Park is one of our top tourist destinations and should stay that way. Imagine if the powers that be filled SANPark’s coffers with a billion rand for five years, or advertising on promotional T-shirts for our sports teams’ shirts like the Springboks, Cheetahs, Lions, Proteas, etc.
Enough of politics. At least our lights stayed on while we were there.
What impressed us most: The AUTOBOIL electrical urn in the kitchens. There's constant boiling water on tap for your bevvies. So convenient, easy to use and a thoughtful.
Favourite campsite: the Tsendze Bush campsite, a satellite of Mopani Rest camp. Small and rustic yet spotlessless clean and well maintained the campsites are hidden under large Mopani trees. There is no electricity but sites share a common tap. There are numberous ablusions servicing a few campsites. Ours has two outdoor showers which are fabulous.
The camp manager Roger and his wife Helena came around last night to introduce themselves, they do so every evening except on Sundays. They are charming, friendly, hospitible and a sheer delight. The few minutes they spent with us was such a treat and one we'll never forget. This morning Helena showed us the resident Scops owl and a European Nightjar. This couple are pure goldern sunshine.
Impressed with: the shops/food kiosks at all the picnic spots served excellent picnic fare eg coffee, cold drinks and roosterkoek. The shops were well stocked. The staff were friendly, helpful and very proud of their terrain keeping monkeys away and making sure the sites were spotless.
Least Favourite: the internet. We really get the short end of the internet stick, not from SANParks but the internet providers. Expensive and poor.
Google Translate: *“I can’t believe that a poor man can have so much pleasure, Mama”