Berg en Dal Camp
On arrival in South Africa we spent 2 days with friends in Johannesburg, and then drove with friends to Dullstroom, the trout fishing capital of South Africa, where we spent a lazy 2 days fishing, souvenir shopping, and eating good food.
We picked up our rental car in Witbank, and despite my misgivings, we managed to drive our little rental Corolla on the correct side of the road all the way to Nelspruit.
The wedding went really well – the ceremony and reception were at a wonderful venue called Kavinga, and we stayed at a great guesthouse called La Roca. Both highly recommended if you happen to be in the vicinity.
But the day I had been waiting for dawned, and at 6:00 AM the 5 cars carrying our family, including the newly weds departed La Roca, heading for Phabeni gate, which would get us in to Kruger National Park.
None of us could wait to be there, and munching on the wonderful packed breakfast provided to us by La Roca, we embarked on the one-hour drive to the park via White River and Hazy View. Finally at 7:00 AM we arrived at the gate. So did a cast of a thousand other cars.
For 2 hours we waited in the queue, inching slowly toward the gate. Most frustrating! As we got closer, I became more and more excited, but my enthusiasm was severely hindered by the park rangers who were meant to be dealing with the traffic control, but who were actually quite annoying and rude. We were handed a form which needed to be completed, and required our passport numbers. When Brian stepped out of the car to retrieve a pen and our passports which were securely in the boot, he was admonished for delaying things. It was quite obvious that the inefficiency of the staff was causing the delay, but not wanting to start an international incident we apologized and did the best we could. Finally, 2 hours later we were through the formalities at the gate, and finally in the park. Yay!
No sooner were we driving along the road in the park than we saw a family of giraffes. Now, I love ALL animals, but I have a particular affection for giraffes. Who could not love their long graceful necks and huge eyes?
Next we came across some zebras. They are also totally amazing. I love the way their manes stand on end, and how their stripes extend into their manes. They are just the cutest things to watch, especially the babies. That’s when I discovered one of the problems with our mode of transport. There were several tiny zebras right near to the car, but I couldn’t see them properly through the long grass. Being somewhat short, and riding in a low car, my visibility was severely limited. I looked around. Everyone else was in SUVs or vans, and much higher off the ground. Note to self. Never attempt a safari in a Corolla again.
Luckily the elephants were easier to spot, and we saw many, making my day. We stopped for one particularly large elephant to cross the road, and were soon surrounded by cars on all sides, wanting to check him out. He was not a happy camper, and was shaking his head at us. I then remembered those videos on You Tube with titles like “”Kruger National Park elephant attack goes viral”, or “Tourists hurt after elephant attacks car in Kruger National Park”, and I could see our little Corolla ending up like a pancake. We had tried to give the elephant his space, but the folks around us totally crowded him. Luckily he had must have had places to go and people to see, and he went on his way with no further ado.
We stopped at Skukuza for lunch, and checked out the great shop there. I have a photo of my grandfather at Skukuza in 1946. It has changed a lot since those days, although the rondavels do look the same.
Two of the good things about Kruger are that it is accessible and inexpensive. One of the bad things about Kruger is that means that it gets quite crowded, and there are cars everywhere. We started causing traffic jams. Now when we are in the park, we want to see everything, so we stop to look at the birds, admire the trees, enjoy watching the impalas, marvel at the wonderful rock formations. Every time we stopped, all of the cars around us would stop too, expecting that we had sighted a cheetah or some other such elusive creature. We would then have to explain to them that we were just watching a lilac breasted roller on a nearby bush. Unimpressed they would drive on.
We saw many herds of elephants, both off and on the road, as well as some beautiful kudu
and a very friendly looking rhino family. It is so great to see that rhinos are thriving in the park. It is incredible that poachers would remove their horns and just leave them there to slowly die. I get so mad just thinking about it.
We had a marvelous day driving around the park, and just as we headed for our camp in the fading light we caught a glimpse of a lion near the camp. No wild dogs, but it was the perfect way to end the day.