We have arrived at the last day of this challenge to self – wander travel memory lane all through April 2020. A way of travelling virtually while in my lockdown bubble. Dreams of travelling again when this too has passed. An exercise in gratitude for all I have been given in this life already.
Going to finish with Kruger memories part two.
No more stories…. Just some Johnny Clegg wisdom… from the Johnny Clegg & Savuka song Great Heart
There’s a highway of stars across the heavens There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass There’s the rolling thunder across the savanna A hope and dream at the edge of the sky And your life is a story like the wind Your life is a story like the wind I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart To hold and stand me by I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart Under African sky
Only two more posts to go for this virtual wander down my travel memory lane.
Two days of Kruger National Park memories… this is part one.
I was just looking down the list of rest camps in Kruger. It turns out over the many adventures there since childhood I have stayed at all but two.
My favourite area to wander would be from Satara northwards.
Pafuri is particularly magical with all those fever trees and glimpses of nyala in the shadows by the Luvuvhu River. That brings to mind the Nyala Walking Trail – sublime!
Actually any of Kruger’s walking trails are a fabulous experience. Lucky enough to have walked a few of these over the years too.
Kruger visits were so formative for me. I learned so much about ecology and how ecosystems work simply from soaking up all the info I could get my hands on. Here is where I fell in love with birds and took up birding under my wonderful Dad’s guidance.
Kruger has a distinct spirit of place. The air crackles with its magic as you arrive at the gate (any of the gates). I thought this might change over the years, grow dim somehow as I aged. But no. I got to visit again last year briefly and the magic is still there.
Now I probably need to say at this point that I am fully aware of Kruger’s history. Not all decisions made in regard to its management both for wildlife and for the surrounding communities have been sound or just over the years.
All I want to focus on right at this moment in time is the gratitude I feel for having had so many opportunities to pass through Kruger’s gates and get swallowed up in that bushveld magic.
Last virtual wander through the Okavango Delta and surrounds.
Today I am thinking of magical wildlife moments. I got to experience so many during my years there. I still have to pinch myself this time really happened.
There’s the time I had to sleep on the pool lounger as a family of hippo were grazing all round my little housie that night.
Or the 5am deep breath and tiptoe past three sleeping bull elephant (all round the house) to make sure I got to the main area of camp to get ready for guest arrival.
Then there’s a moment with a young she leopard making her way across our island in the Delta. It was twilight and there she was sat on the path ahead of me. Too close before I realised she was there. But she paused before moving off, just long enough for us to acknowledge each other.
Then there’s the time our resident bull elephant stuck his whole head through the office door to get at a couple of marula fruit that had found their way onto the floor inside. Yes, I was in this little camp office at the time.
A lone spotted hyena would make the rounds with me most evenings on lock up after guests had retired for the night…. trotting along after me along the boardwalks…. not too close…. after the first few times of feeling insecure, I actually found him quite companionable.
The Pel’s Fishing Owl family nesting in the tree above my house.
The big python who lived under my house. I never had a rodent problem.
And many more…. that’s breathtaking Botswana! Best place to experience real, wild Africa (just my opinion).
But this kind of magic has a life span. Too much of a good thing and all that… still, I am left with incredible memories and oodles of gratitude for this chapter in my story.
In the wise words of Prime Circle from their song Breathing…
“Here’s to the good times The bad times The times that could have been To the wrong times The right times I know we’ll breathe again…”
Another set of pics remembering my time in beautiful Botswana.
Today I am thinking about the Botswana rhythm. There is a wonderful rhythm to the seasons and natural cycles. The flooding then drying of the Okavango Delta. The migration of the zebra and the elephant.
A time for marula trees to bear fruit which brings the elephants.
September is amazing…. a deep breath before the rains arrive. Unexpected flowers bloom. Babies abound – impala, lechwe, zebra.
January is prickly hot. But some afternoons turn black on the horizon and then the lightening and thunder and rain arrive. The cuckoos and Woodland Kingfisher call continuously. A good time to venture into the reeds in a mokoro hoping for a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga. At Xigera Lagoon the African Skimmers are nesting.
The people of Botswana have a rhythm too. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to move the cattle. A time to gather from the wild.
There is a beautiful kinship that weaves the Ba-Tswana together as a people but also connects them to this land. It was so easy to fall into this rhythm and be mesmerised by its beat.
So we are back on the Panorama Route headed towards one of my most favourite places on earth.
Many happy childhood memories spent driving this route. Our end destination today, Hoedspruit, holds a particularly special place in my heart.
Wind your way along the R532 which hugs the edge of the escarpment. Definitely a stop at the Three Rondavels lookout for photos of these iconic mountains and into the Blyde River Canyon below. Mariepskop in the distance.
The R532 meets up with the R36 at the Abel Erasmus Pass. This pass takes you through the last of the mountains past interesting vegetation and rock formations. As you are nearing the J G Strydom tunnel there’s a pretty waterfall if you know where to look amongst the cliffs. Peregrine Falcon breeding spot apparently?
The other side of the tunnel you will start a sharp descent into the lowveld of the Limpopo Province, the Olifants River to your left. You gain a different perspective of those same mountains and cliffs of the escarpment from below.
Drive past the game farms and citrus orchards until you get to Hoedspruit. So much to see and do in this area. I highly recommend staying for a while.
Today’s wandering takes us to the other side of South Africa. To Mpumalanga.
Near Ohrigstad there’s a pass that winds up towards the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment – Robbers Pass. At the top of this pass there is a forestry track off to the left, hard to spot unless you’ve been there before. Bump along this track through the pine plantation for a short way until you turn a bend and the whole valley stretches before you. You have arrived at Themeda Hills Mountain Camp.
Now I don’t know if it still operates anymore, but this spot has to be one of Mpumalanga’s best kept secrets. My family have been visiting for years. I can’t remember who found it first, but I definitely associate trips to Themeda with my Grandad Jim.
Eight little stone rondavels perch on the edge of the world here with simply spectacular views. At a fairly decent altitude there is a distinct alpine tinge to the air and vegetation and the sometimes moody cloud. Rondavel 8 is the best. I saw my first African Crowned Eagle here.
Words and photos do not do the magic of this pure space justice.
After losing yourself on top of the world for a little while, time to join reality again. Down the other side of Robbers Pass you will come to Pilgrims Rest. Two options from here.
First, the road less travelled. A dirt road the follows the Blyde River from its source near Pilgrims Rest as it ambles and meanders its way toward Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
The second option is the more popular R533 to Graskop. A stop at Harrie’s Pancakes before finding the R532 which will start you on the Panorama Route through the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve with lots of scenic stops like God’s Window, Lisbon and Berlin Falls along the way.
Its our last day in the Kgalagadi. Time for one more little adventure – the Nossob 4×4 Ecotrail.
A perfect way to meander through the dunes on the tracks less travelled. Stop to investigate the less iconic wildlife often overlooked. Hear stories about the unique plants including surprising flowers that bloom in the desert. Climb a dune to drink in the view to infinity.
Making camp in time to enjoy a spectacular Kgalagadi sunset before enjoying an evening round the fire. Going to sleep to the screech of an owl or the jackals calling. Wondering what the rustle in the bush close by is during your midnight toilet break only to discover the leopard tracks in the morning. Kgalagadi magic!
Day 3 and we are still in the Kgalagadi. This time highlighting landscape, light and colour.
Light and colour would change constantly during a day and with the seasons or the mood of the weather. I was profoundly captured with each change – a spiritual experience. More a feeling than just using my sense of sight.
And the stillness, the quiet was incredible too. Standing atop a red sand dune staring at the infinite horizon – serenity… You need to be comfortable with silence in the Kalahari, in my experience.
There is a purity here I have never felt anywhere else – it is a soul journey.
My Kgalagadi time actually inspired the name of this blog.
But it wasn’t always serene. There is a harshness here too. It is a place of extremes and paradox… as so much of the human experience is.