Sunday, March 16, 2014

The park opens at 4:30 am!

During my time here in South Africa I have become quite the "hanger-on." I rarely turn down an invitation, even if the invitation starts out with "I'll pick up you up at 5:00 a.m. on Saturday!" Saying yes in this case meant a weekend trip to the beautiful Mpumalanga Province in northeastern South Africa.The drive was five hours each way; with the rest of the time spent driving around in Kruger National Park.   

With only a brief coffee and re-fueling break on Saturday morning, we reached the north gate of the park around 11:00 and spent the entire day driving nearly deserted dirt roads. As usual, my photographs don't begin to due justice to the scenic beauty and the majesty of the animals.

We were a bit late to the waterhole! 

Kruger National Park is pretty rugged and wild.
The landscape was diverse and more untamed than the other reserves I have visited. We started on the grasslands, drove along the river, and roamed these rocky hills. There was a lot of rain, so I was very happy in be a large Land Rover. I was a bit worried when I saw a few small economy sized rental cars negotiating the flooded dirt roads.

 His mate and their baby were a bit too busy too come out for the photo shoot.

We were lucky enough to see a 1/2 dozen rhinos during the weekend.

The highlight was a "high noon" stand-off between a pack of wild dogs and a herd of zebras. Sightings of wild dogs are pretty rare, as there are only 120 wild dogs left in the park. The female in the foreground is wearing a tracking collar. 

We watched the ongoing negotiations and posturing for an hour. Eventually the zebras decided not to cross at this point.

As we rounded a curve in the road, we spotted a small group of elephants. The small group got larger and we decided it was in our best interests to reverse back out of their way. They decided we could have the road back after about 2 kilometers. 

We spent Saturday night in the park in a rondavel, think very cute round cabin with a reed roof.
Photo credit: Kruger National Park 

The kitchen was on the outside of the building; in locked cages to prevent the monkeys and badgers from carrying off our supplies and the kitchenware. 

When finishing dinner (which we cooked) my companion mentioned that the park opened at 4:30 a.m. Since we were three minutes from the gate, I negotiated getting up at 5:00 and leaving our room by 5:30. As a result I had to live down that our view of two rhinos was blocked by another car before the sun was even fully up.

The scenery on the drive back to Johannesburg was equally gorgeous.

Of the 38 hours that I was away from my Johannesburg apartment, I spent 26 hours in the car. Yet one more reason to be glad that it was a Land Rover!

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