May 23, 2014
So varied. Changes in landscape, vegetation, vistas. And cultures as expressed by dress, manner, loads being carried by those along the roads. What an adventure. Went from South Africa to Mozambique, a border crossing, then 8 km over sand dunes to the coast. That was the main road to Ponta d’Ouro the laid back beach town on the Indian Ocean. Found camping in a park right on the beach. Good to kick back and be in one place for a few days. Did a dive. Not spectacular but got in the water, saw some coral, fishes. A tourist destination, sort of off season and quite basic. Three days was plenty so back over the dunes, got off track this time due to washed out sandy track but locals in a large truck happened by and showed us the way.
Added Swaziland to our itinerary, a kingdom within South Africa and a good surprise. Organized,neat, good farmlands mainly sugars cane, bananas and pineapple. Local crafts of weavings of sasil into wonderful table mats, bowls done by woman’s cooperative (Gone Rural) and intricate and colorful candles made by local artists(Swazi Candle Craft Centre). Staying at backpacker lodges, camping out in gardens and chatting with other travelers mainly 20-30 something Europeans.
Then onto Kruger National Park, South Africa’s best known game park. We have a Wild Card that covers park admission ( proved to be a good bargain with five visits covering the cost and we were now on 10+ visits). Camping is inside fenced areas along with the fancier bungalow accommodations, restaurants, good bathrooms and cooking facilities. We get up about 5:15am, quick breakfast/coffee, down with the tent and out the gate at 6 am for early morning game viewing. It is intense, staring out my side, looking through vegetation though we often spot animals as they cross the tarred or many dirt roads we travel on. Trade info with passing vehicles on what we’ve seen where. I am keeping a list of daily sightings and noted three pages for one 3 1/2 hr morning drive! Samples are lots of impalas, giraffes in groupings of 3 -4, springboks(many types of boks to identify), rhinoceros, wonderful birds from huge vultures and graceful hawks to tiny multi colored bee catchers, a solitary leopard walking along a dry river bed (our first large cat sighting), hippos and crocks laying about a waterhole, a small but dangerous puffer head snake crossing a dirt road, warthogs with tusks, and elephants either solitary males or in groupings with protective females running the group. Wow. One is tired after the intensity of 3 hours of sighting and photos.
We did a night drive with a ranger and 14 other tourists and that was spectacular. Went out at 8 pm and after 1/2 hour started seeing the big guys. Four lionesses, two older and two quite young, about 9 months according to the ranger. Just lying on the tarred road getting the warmth and keeping away from annoying insects in the grasses. Then a solitary female leopard, 4 rhinoceros, an owl on the road turning its head almost 360 looking for a meal, a large elephant feeding on trees and shrub, more rhinos and what are those eyes in a tree? Two leopards came down and quickly mated and repeated this activity four times, with the male opening his jaws and biting the female on the neck each time to distract her from the other pain as the ranger explained. This occurred near a group of impalas who called out warning to each other but the ranger said the leopards will concentrate on mating for several dyas and then get back to hunting. Extraordinary – we observe, animals go on with their behavior nonplused by us being around as long as we stay in our vehicles and are quiet. Then three males lions walking down the road – dark manes around their large beige necks. Hyenas, more impalas, more birds and ranger headed back to camp around 11pm. He had extended our night drive by one hour since sightings were so good. That’s plenty of info for now. Til next time.