October 9, 2006

South AfricaThis morning we woke up early, having been trying not to roll into the middle of the bed all night. We had our Corn Flakes for breakfast, then packed up the car and were ready to leave for Kruger by 8:30 am.

This time we found our way through the streets of Nelspruit to the N4 with only one wrong turning. We headed east on the N4, paying the R33 toll at Nkomazi, through groves of citrus and fields of sugar cane. It was only about 40 kilometres to the Malelane gate at the south end of Kruger Park.

At the entrance gate we had to stop and show our confirmation letter—our reservations were all prepaid—and we were given our permit. We also spent R25 on the Visitor’s Guide to Kruger. So we were on our way along one of the park’s tarred roads, the H3. The speed limit was 50 km/h on the tarred roads and 40 km/h on the dirt roads. Before long we saw a flock of cattle egrets, so we stopped to investigate. Lying in the grass we saw a small herd of grey animals that turned out to be Cape buffalo, with what appeared to be last year’s young. We sat and watched them for quite a while. Birding was good here, and we found several new species.

We continued slowly north up the road, spending the whole morning along the road to the picnic spot at Afsaal. On the way we saw a couple of kudu and a small herd of zebra. In Kruger Park you aren’t allowed out of your car except inside the rest camps and at a few other designated spots, such as the picnic spots. So we got out to visit the toilets, then had a look into the gift shop. Then we got out our lunch fixings and sat at a picnic table. We had buns with peanut butter and jam, a can of Fanta (their cream soda is not very good), and some cookies.

Afternoon is not a very good time for wildlife spotting, so we decided to take the direct route along the Voortrekker (H2-2) Road to our destination, Pretoriuskop Rest Camp. But we did see an elephant waving his ears at us, and a white rhinoceros with her calf. Herds of impala seemed to be everywhere. And we saw a leopard tortoise right at the edge of the road, eating a green plant.

Before long we arrived at Pretoriuskop. We checked in at Reception and were given directions to our hut, #122. It was situated on the outer ring, with a grassy area in front of it. It was quite large with two single beds, a large bathroom with shower, and an outside kitchen. It also had air conditioning, which we probably wouldn’t need at this time of year. It looked like a comfortable place for our next two nights. So we unloaded the car, then went exploring.

We found the restaurant and the gift shop, where we bought a small cross-stitch kit of a Yellow-billed Hornbill and a T-shirt of Kruger Park. And the building labelled “Laundry” on the camp map was a laundromat with coin-operated washers and dryers, so we went back to get our dirty clothes. Washers were R5 per load and dryers were R2, which was a quite a bargain. The only problem was that we needed a new-style R5 coin, and we didn’t have one. They couldn’t just open the till at the gift shop, so we bought a bird checklist for R15 and got one in our change.

Back at the laundry building we loaded our washer and started it up. We had an hour to wait, so we went back to the hut for a cup of tea. Then back to the laundry to load the dryer; no problem with the coins for that. On our way we passed two impalas in the parking lot, and outside the fence was a mother warthog with two piglets.

For dinner we had a stir-fry with potatoes, onions, carrots, beans, and zucchini with honey mustard sauce. It turned out really well. For dessert we had canned peaches with custard, followed by tea. And a bag of Simba peri-peri potato chips for post-dessert. We sat inside to write our journals, as the lights were attracting a lot of flying insects.

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