Sunday, 5 May 2013

A week in my favorite place

Day 1:

So yesterday I landed at OR Tambo Airport and Gareth, Danielle & I hit the road for the bush. Got to be honest, the thought of a long drive straight after a long flight was a bit tiring but, I was so tired I didn't even notice it and before I knew it, we were in Lydenburg for a quick pitstop.

At Lydenburg I quickly put my Ghost road bike together and put it back in the car, ready for a quick ride down the Strydom Pass. Bike was fast to put together and I was ready in the same time as Gareth and Danielle took to get drinks and sweets in Spar. The drive to the pass was quick and before I knew it I was mounting my bike and was cruising down the pass. It was pretty awesome racing down into the Lowveld by bicycle!! So in 2 days my bike had ridden on 2 continents - pretty darn cool!! I cruised down the road, focussing on just the road, my bike and occasionally Gareth in the car behind me. Traffic was non-existent and it felt like full road closure. Corner by corner I carved through them. Ok, small pothole, twitch left. Next corner, no cars, can go a bit harder. Next corner, small pothole but not gonna risk it, take it on the right. The road eventually flattens out and I see the target / end. That was awesome.

After my quick ride, I took control of the car and we were soon out of civilization and in the bush. I had decided to drive for 2 reasons, firstly I knew the road to the house my parents wanted us to take and secondly, I needed to stay awake! I was shattered and I was not going to admit it.

Was awesome arriving at the house and pretty quickly we were unpacked and sitting having a drink on the deck. (Mom had made my bed.) Oh wait.. First we unpacked my beers. I honestly just wanted to continue the adventure and as for the other stuff, well, that's local stuff that's cool. Kinda like if a tourist from here takes Amarula home, I had to get Peke and Raki. Anyway, I caught the family up on my trip, and we had a traditional braai around the fire for our first night.

After dinner I started nodding off but insisted I was still awake but soon I found myself in bed and next thing I remember was the sunlight peeking through my window.

This morning started nice and slow with a stunning shower in the outside bathroom followed by a breakfast which obviously included my chocolate spread I had bought! That stuff is amazing!!

We then hit the road to go find animals and we were not disappointed!! Herds of impala, zebra, warthog and giraffe greeted us as we drove. We even saw a beautiful elephant bull (he was fortunately not very close)! It's amazing how big they are, even from afar. Then we were greeted by an animal which sadly will go extinct if the dumb people don't stop poaching them - rhino. The one was a bit antsy and gave us a nice rev! My poor brother swears it was aiming at him and to be honest, I think he is right since my bro was wearing a blue bulls shirt and naturally anyone wearing that team's kit should be punished for that sin. (I am really not a bulls fan so no apologies to fans.) I think an animal of that size would do some mega damage to a landie! But, this dude was not aiming at a real charge but rather he just wanted us to go away. After the sports, we started to meander home and were treated by a sighting of a black rhino as well. Sadly we didn't see the elusive cheetah we had been wanting to see but I think the other animals more than made up for it!

At home I attempted to fix a light whilst Mom and Danielle prepared lunch. Sadly the light was bust and needed replacing. Lunch was yummy cold meats, rolls and salads and was followed by me washing dishes. Then came my favorite bush past time: reading my book on my bed - or so I thought! I lay down and fell instantly asleep and was woken up in time for us to leave for our game drive.

And once again, we were not disappointed! We saw lions on this drive. Ok, fine, they were deep in the bush but we did see them. Just just. Other than that, we just saw the usual stuff until not far from the house on a river road when we came across a hippo. Hippos are notorious for being aggressive when out of the water so the idea of driving past this guy on a narrow road where he had nowhere to go on the one side (the side of the road where he was just had rocks) was not an option. Driving past him would have just been stupid and we would not only have been charged but the vehicle would most definitely have been damaged! So, we turned around and went another way home. I am brave and its the one animal I won't mess with.

Hoping to see buffalo tomorrow or even a better elephant sighting. But first, time to play a practical joke on Gareth and Danielle....

Day 2:

Before I go into today, the practical joke went off quite ok. Had put a walkie talkie under my brothers bed and waited for him to fall asleep before making it crackle. He knew instantly what it was and apparently grumbled about me doing that - mission accomplished!

Anyway, today was a bit of a slower day fortunately with us kids taking the landie out for a spin. Headed out in the general direction of no where and waited for the inevitable call to say where the lions were and we were not disappointed! But first we were treated to a sighting of bataleurs that cannot be beaten!! 2 of them in a tree right by the landie. It's not often you get to see them that close let alone for so long so we felt honored to be allowed this sighting of these beautiful birds. It was here my camera died and couldnt be resurrected. We then had big herds of impala greet us with their grunts before we got the radio call: lions at a spot. I upped the pace of my driving but before we could get there they had moved out of sight. So, I just adjusted my route and we headed elsewhere. We had a pleasant trip with some good general stuff and lots of signs of elephant. Them we got the call. Lions that were relaxed by a dam. I pulled a quick left and motored there, ignoring the breeding herd of elephant on the left. And we were not disappointed!

Ok, first we had to negotiate tjops who think parking in the middle of the road is cool and one tjop who said I stole his spot yet he had been in the road and I pulled off the road. Anyway, I got us a great spot and we watched the 2 flop around until we got bored and moved on and returned for breakfast.

Brekkies was nice! We had a brunch with bacon, eggs, sausage, toast and tomato. Then I retired to read (ok, sleep) whilst my poor brother had to wash all the dishes and admittedly a few extra that I dirtied just for him.

Then came evening drive time! We headed to where we had seen the lion earlier but alas, nothing but we heard reports of cheetah so we high tailed it up to that area and in the mean time got to see 2 biggish herds of buffalo. We didn't see the cheetah and after a while we headed off again, only to respond to the next lion call.

And this time we were spoilt!! About 8 young lions and 1 mature adult in clear view!!! We watched them cuddle and walk around for ages whilst we got to bond as a family too. We joked and laughed at my brother's insane need to mark his territory! We also had a good few laughs at some other people who were at the sighting. After sitting there for ages, we moved off and headed home to a yummy meal, a warm fire and warm beds.

Tomorrow is up early for an early game drive.

Day 3:

Argh!!! Stupid alarm.. It's too blinking early. It's dark outside. Ok get up, put kettle on, pack tea, coffee, sugar, milk and rusks. Ok, rest of family are up and somehow I am behind the wheel and we are on the move.

Day started with the most amazing sight of 8 cubs / young adults and 1 adult walking in the road for a good 400 - 500m. Best was little tiny cub who who kept sneaking into the bush and sneaking up on teenager cub (who was bringing up the rear) and pouncing on him. Was so cute! Actually felt sorry for teen cub and you could almost see him saying that enough is enough little brat. Was one of best sights I have seen in the bush. But, all fun and games end and babysitter lion took them off the road and into the bush and we moved on in search of other elusive animals. And we were not disappointed! And those who you don't see anything on morning drives had to admit they were wrong...

Aside from the usual impala and other animals (which were plentiful) we lucked upon the hens tooth of animals!! 2 cheetah. The viewing couldn't haven't have lasted more than 3 or 4 minutes but it was spectacular with them walking carefully through the plain and occasionally stopping on a mound to survey their kingdom. Sadly they moved off into the veld and we lost them.

But, in our search to find them again, we stumbled upon the herd of buffalo from yesterday but quite a bit closer.

Rest of the drive was fairly uneventful but pretty stunning nonetheless.

After the drive at home, I got to my hard work of making scones. Such hard work! Crack a few eggs, add some milk, add some oil, mix it into premix, split it into the scone pans, bake and serve. And since my brother said I must make it just like Dad used to make it, I even bashed on the pans a little bit... Just like Dad used to do.

After brekkies, it was time to get serious and open my book and read whilst the others fiddled with the landie or built a puzzle. I decided to let them struggle with the puzzle. I needed to finish the book I had borrowed 8 months ago. Serious stuff....

Then came lunch and we had an amazing macaroni and cheese! Am gonna miss Mom's food whilst they are still here on the farm. And then came snooze, read and puzzle time. I opted to read on the deck for a change until it was just Mom doing the puzzle. That's when I took my gap and jumped in to help and make a real dent in the puzzle. You see, I am a covert puzzle builder. I don't admit to having a knack for these things but come when needed. And today I was needed!

Then came more reading followed by a short drive with Mom where we didn't see much. Ok, other than the usual game, crocodiles and some odd people drinking European beers.

The evening ended with dinner around the fire and reminiscing about school and youth.

Tomorrow we are planning a quieter day with a later sleep....

Day 4:

Got to sleep late this morning (6:30) and then spend some time reading in bed before getting up for some tea and rusks followed by more reading and muffins for breakfast.

After brekkies, we loaded rubbish into the landie and we headed to the camp to get fuel, ice and obviously get rid of the accumulated refuse. We also got the one battery sorted for the spot lights whilst there. (Turned out to be a loose wire that we had all not spotted.) After that we headed to a dam to sit and read... I mean, watch for game. Sat there for about about an hour watching hippos and also had some fun watching 2 plovers chase a baboon. Other than that, the only noise was impalas rutting and the sound of Gareth and Danielle's Samsung tablets bleeping and chirping. (Think they were playing bird calls.) As much as I was enjoying my book, I realized nothing much was happening at the dam so moved on.

Took a slow, meandering drive past some dams before aiming in the direction of home. But, before getting home Gareth needed the loo and that fell right into my evil plan! At the river I hooked a left down to the river road and found the "perfect spot" for him. A nice section with trees. I switched off the engine (which I never do when he needs the loo), let him get off and then casually said to Danielle (as the liquid started to hit the ground) "do you see that?" She responded with a gasp, I quickly switched on the engine and whilst doing so I shouted to Gareth "get on the vehicle now!!" Well, he did. Within seconds he was on the landie and Danielle and I were doubled with laughter. Needless to say, we were not popular and he was allowed to return to his spot behind the landie.

Once home it was puzzle building time followed by a yummy braai. We then got to the serious task of looking at my holiday pictures which ended when the laptop battery died. Mom and I then continued building puzzle whilst the others slept and we made great progress on the puzzle!

Then came the evening drive where we headed to a dam and waited for the elusive leopard but it was not to be and after a while we moved on and went I search of other animals. Fortunately we spotted a hyaena but it moved off fairly quickly and we lost it. Then we spotted it again! And since it was so close to a herd of impala we were certain it would kill. After about 15 to 20 mins however it had not moved so we moved for a better view, only to discover the second sighting was an impala. Argh. But, we did get to hear lions roaring in the distance which was cool.

After this failed sighting we moved off to where we were to enjoy our dinner in the bush. We get to the spot, everyone gets off the landie and starts to get things out when we hear a roar that is a little too close for comfort so we packed everything up and got back on. I was still happy o eat there based on how far away it seemed but i was out voted. Everyone else said they weren't hungry so I was left to finish off a bag of pretzels to curb my starvation (in my defense, I do have a fairly fast metabolism so get hungry often and admittedly get grumpy when hungry. So off we went in search of the lion and we were not disappointed! Just down the hill from us, here he was. I had guessed his distance wrong. We followed him, watched him drink and then followed him to where he lay down (obviously switching off when he roared to listen). He wasn't a huge boy but he was big nonetheless. We also called the sighting in and were able to share it with 2 other units.

Then my hunger kicked in again and I grabbed the mielies out of the basket and polished off 2 in quick succession. This lead to us opening up the rest of the containers and having dinner right there. Although not the most comfortable of places to eat, it was pretty cool and the left overs just as nice as when they were made.

After dinner meandered home and we all crawled into bed, thus ending yet another awesome day in the bush.

Day 5:

The morning started a bit later after a late sleep and read in bed. I then gate crashed Gareth and Danielle's little solo game drive. Was not a bad drive, we saw lots of general game and a few interesting birds. Just wonder why Gareth stops for every Lilac Breasted Roller!

The rest of the day went well. Had a great lunch, a fantastic nap and then we went out in the veld where we saw a stunning sighting of cheetah. Ah man, so wish I had my camera!!! We then stopped for a drink and watched the remains of the sunset before heading on and seeing something none of us had ever seen! A crocodile at night out of the water. Pretty darn awesome. He or she must have been a good 2m or so long. After doing some reading, it turns out that they do go out of the water at night to hunt.

Then, as we turned a corner to go left, I spotted cubby and his family once again on the right. So after some maneuvering, we turned and pursued them. The cubs were going to greet mommy lion with big licks and kisses. Dad commented that she must have killed. He was right cause off they walked along the railway line, right to where she had killed 2 animals - one for her and one for them! We watched them have dinner. Was such a cool sound! I then realized my sunglasses had come off. My lovely new Oakleys that I had just gotten from the insurance. Kind of a suck way to end the day. We did find them (family insisted on hunting for them) but they were crushed. The family has various opinions on what happened and Mom's guess is that she had killed and when they came back to the plain she killed a second impala opportunistically. I am starting to come around to her theory.

Not gonna lie, I was rather irritated at myself for having another pair gone. But, on the positive we had had an exceptionally good night of sightings so it wasn't all bad...

Day 6:

Another lazy start to the day with a yum breakfast of poached eggs on toast. Then headed to main camp to dump the rubbish and get a few things from the shop followed by a short game drive where we found 2 of the big 5. Silly leopard still eludes us though!!

Rest of the day was spent relaxing on the deck with good food, some reading and of course the game rummikub (which I am the current reigning champ in here). You see, it's not just a game of strategy but also about reading your competition because then you know what they have on their board.

Whilst playing 3 elephant came to visit the house. Really nice to have them so close!! They stuck around for quite a while and left sometime whilst we were in the lapa.

Dinner was jaffles filled with leftovers which I attempted to make (wasn't a bad attempt considering none of us had made jaffles on a fire before - we usually make them on the stove).

Was perhaps our quietest day thus far but had included 3 of the big 5 so from a sightings perspective it was quite good!

Day 7:

Save the best for last.... And this morning was no exception! I woke up just after 6am and dozed a bit, enjoying the rising sun through my window. Just before 7 I read through my planned blog entries and by just before 7:30 I was up making tea and sitting in my lounge enjoying my book to the sound of the hippos at the river.

At some stage Dad came in to make Moms coffee before heading back to bed. Eventually Mom emerged and started making the best thing ever! Scones. And Mom doesn't cheat by using premix!!! She mixes everything herself. Whilst they were in the oven, I had a shower outside and had the view of the hippos in the river and a hornbill in the tree. Honestly, things could be worse!

We enjoyed brekkies which included my putting chocolate spread on a scone and everyone else being normal. We then all got ready and hit the road for our drive.

Our first stop was the office where Danielle and I schemed with the receptionist about us paying the bills for the week without my folks knowing.

The drive itself was good. Saw the usual and a member of the big 5 before cruising slowly home.

At home I set about packing and getting my self organized for the sad return home. I packed my awesome road bike (my Ghost which I cant wait to ride again) and my bags. At least most of my stuff sorted. But! I have just been reminded that when we got home, we had 2 elephants in front of the house who swam and played in the river. The older one even got quite irritated with the youngster and pushed it and trumpeted at it, even blowing water bubbles at it!

Then came a lifer!! Well, for us. Dad came to tell us about a croc eating a fish, a few minutes later we had 6 crocs on an animal. Twisting and turning to tear off a juicy piece of yummy meat. Some of these crocs were enormous!! I mean, over 2m long and super fat!!!! We tried to workout what buck it was bit the crocs were not letting on what they had killed. Eventually, we got a sighting of the underside of the face and we could work out that it was a nyala bull. Poor dude had probably been at the river to have a drink and was taken quickly and silently, not knowing anything. We certainly didn't hear anything. Can imagine him dreaming of the lovely green reeds he was about to munch on then snap! No more thoughts and a few hungry crocs with full tummies.

We watched for ages, as they twisted and turned, ripping off meat and limbs. The one massive dinosaur croc ripped off an entire leg and then swallowing it with a SNAP as a bone was broken so it could fit in the mouth.

Eventually they were all fat and full, resting their heads on the remaining carcass before them eventual sneaking off bits and taking it to their underwater pantries for snacking later....

We then packed drinks and snacks and headed into the veld for our last drive. And naturally once again no disappointment! Cubby's family in a dry river bed. And of course young Cubby was biting someone's leg. I swear that cub is gonna be a super hunter. Such a cute cub. We then moved on to find the big male who was spotted at a local dam. We found him but where we were told he was but he was super lazy and didn't even lift his head when Gareth sneezed. We moved on quickly cause he was boring. Drive was cut a bit short because the landie's gauge was showing the vehicle was running hot but, it was an awesome drive nonetheless!!

We ended the night bonding around the fire. A great end to the trip....

(Have included a few random pics from the trip.)

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