Thursday, May 16, 2019 | South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal, Salt Rock | Petra
BACK IN SOUTH AFRICA
WE LOVE TO BE BACK
We’re back in Africa again. Win arrived in South Africa in March and I followed in April. We both enjoyed the six months at home in Germany very much. Win used the lead in March to technically trim our vehicle back to travel mode. And, best of all, he enjoyed two fantastic weeks of dad-child-holidays with his daughter Lisa. Very similar to the one they had when Lisa was a little girl and they traveled to the Adriatic Sea or to France together with the motorhome. What they experienced in their cuddly South Africa vacation, you can read here.
It’s great to be in Africa again. Time flew by so fast the last few weeks. Since we’ve seen so many beautiful landscapes, met so many wonderful, warm people and collected so many great impressions. Lucky guys we are!
This time we want to spend more time in the Kruger National Park than we did on our first visit in August 2018. For a full fourteen days we enjoy the wild animals in the huge nature park and the cosiness of our daily routine. All we have to do is watching exciting animals, sitting by the campfire and chatting with our happy neighbours at the camp. Henk gives us a huge strap for our truck – always helpful! – and recommends us a great butcher in Gravelotte. From Heinrich we get good tips for our upcoming visit to the Kgalagadi-Transfrontier Park. That’s how we enjoy it!
Rhinos, lions, leopards, big and small birds, countless antelopes, wildebeest, hyaenas, buffaloes, elephants and even a chameleon we encounter on our many game drives and at the different waterholes. We watch and watch for hours, discover a lot or nothing at all.
THE BIG MEAL
Once we observe a cheetah that has just killed an impala and is guarding its prey. As he powerfully thrusts his teeth into the flesh of the small antelope to eat it, more and more vultures appear on the sky. A whole crowd, maybe 50 or more, positions itself to quarrel with the cheetah and a jackal for the treat. But the ranking is clear: first the cheetah, then the jackal and what is left, belongs to the vultures.
A WALK IN THE WILD
Very exciting for us are the bush walks, we do as a group of four or six with two guides and their loaded rifles in the early morning at six. With eager attention and in silence, we follow our guides through the bush in single file. There is no sound except the birdsong and the rustle of our footsteps in the dry grass. There, lion traces! But unfortunately – or fortunately – no lions are in sight. Behind us a shy jackal is watching us. “Do you hear that call? These are hyenas that may be heading in our direction.” We get to know plants and their healing properties, stir up a herd of zebras and take a closer look at the remains of rhinos. Jack, our guide, has some exciting animal-themed stories in store, telling them as vividly as if we had experienced them ourselves. Such a bush walk is something very special and can’t be compared to a walk in our native forests in Germany.
THE MOCK CHASE
On one of our game drives, an elephant herd with some young animals appears unexpectedly right in front of our truck. We stop immediately and eagerly watch the mood of the animals. Did we scare them? Or are they angry about our appearance? In fact, elephant cows with calves can become very dangerous if they fear danger to their offspring. Everything, however, seems calm until this little guy trumpets and strikes at us with rowing his big ears – no doubt, it’s a mock charge, at least a weak one. (Well, we have to admit, that the little bighead looks anything als but dangerous on the picture.)
As we weigh up whether to stop or drive slowly backwards, the little hero is frightened of his courage himself, runs away and almost stumbles over his own feet. That looks very funny. In the meantime, the big elephants don’t feel disturbed and keep on eating and constantly pushing branches and leaves into their mouths.
LAND OF THE RAIN QUEEN
We drive to Tzaneen, the fruit basket of the country with its subtropical climate. Not far from here, since the 16th century, generations of the Rain Queen, also known as the Modjadji (“The woman who belongs to the sun”), protect the region around the small Modjadji Cycad Nature Reserve. She ensures that there is enough rainfall in the area for waterfalls and to grow lush green forests, avocados, bananas and other fruits. The future Rain Queen, Masalanabo Modjadji, now is only 12 years old and will not be able to take office until 2026 and until she has fully mastered the Lubedo custom.
On the way to Tzaneen, of course, we stop at the butcher in Gravelotte, as recommended by Henk, and fill up our meat stock with the best quality meat. From the very friendly butcher in turn we get the tip to have a look at the more than 2,000-year-old baobab tree nearby and also to stop at the former home of Paul Kruger. It’s around the corner in Leydsdorp, an old goldmine settlement. There we meet a nice couple from South Africa, who warmly recommends the extremely charming Mountain Café at the Magoebaskloof Pass behind Tzaneen.
Later, when we fail to find the farm, where we’ve planned to camp for the night, we stop in front of a house in Haenertsburg to study the map once again. All of a sudden the homeowner next to us aks: “Did you get lost?” – “Not really, but we can’t find the access to Bali Will Will Farm.” – “Wait”, the lady says, “I’ll get you the owner!”. She quickly disappears into the house and finally presents us Francis, the farm owner, who on a visit just for cup of coffee. Francis tells us where to go and we’ll meet her later on the farm. It’s always that easy in South Africa!
JANE GOODALL AND THE CHIMPANZEES
Still filled with the wonderful experiences in Kruger Park, we use our stay in Nelspruit to visit the Jane Goodall Institute. It is a shelter for traumatized chimpanzees who have been abused as circus animals, in experimental laboratories or as part of the bush meat trade. In this protected environment they get back a better animal life and they will stay here for the rest of their lives. They wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild, they’ve never learned it.
Visitors are welcome as silent observers and can learn a lot about chimpanzees and their way of life. From our guide, who leads us along the fenced, expansive grounds, we learn interesting, touching and amusing stories about each and every one of the chimpanzees living here, about their respective destinies and their individual characteristics or habits. There is no doubt at all that humans and monkeys are very similar.
STOP OVER IN SWAZILAND
We move on to the southeast to visit the coast. It’s a good reason to combine it with a visit to the beautiful kingdom of eSwatini (Swaziland) for some day. We were there last year in the winter and again like it very much this time with the country all in green. At the border crossing Josefsdal – Bulembu we experience the cosiest border crossing ever. As if we were visiting somebody in his garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon. When we enter Swaziland we get a warm welcome by an official, get our passports stamped within a minute, and on we go.
It is also cosy with Anne and Heiner, two happy, well-traveled travelers from Germany, who after three years have to return home little by little, as they say. We meet them for the first time in the Malolotja Nature Reserve and later again in the Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary. The four of us chat into the night when sitting around the cosy campfire and observing the process of “baking bread with love”. They use a cast-iron Dutch Oven to bake fresh bread. It’s very popular in South Africa and you can do excellent cooking, frying and baking on fiery embers, they say. If we also should have such a solid roasting pan?
THE BATTLE OF THE BLOOD RIVER
Less than two days later Birgit and Jürgen contact us, who also move towards the coast with their MAN. We arrange to meet each other at the uMkhuze Game Reserve and soon enjoy cosy hours and beautiful (travel) stories together. Then the two set off for Mozambique, and we head to Blood River, where a piece of South African history awaits us.
On December 16, 1838 in the cruel battle at Ncome River 464 Voortrekkers, protected behind a wagon fort, fought with weapons and cannons against the spears of 10,000-15,000 Zulu warriors. While the Voortrekkers had only three casualties to deal with, over 3,000 Zulu lost their lives in just seven hours. It is to their blood that Ncome (Zulu) got the name Blood River or Bloedrivier (Afrikaans) from then on.
Today, a monument of 64 bronze ox wagons commemorates this dark time, as well as two museums, one that recounts the events from the Zulu’s point of view and one that portrays them from the perspective of the Boers.
The Reconciliation Bridge over the Blood River, a symbol of reconciliation and hope for the citizens of South Africa, unites the two museums and the history of the Voortrekkers and Zulu.
DOLPHINS AND THE OCEAN
Wind and sun drive us finally to the sea, swiftly on the R68 / R66 and the N2 past huge, green sugar cane fields. It’s almost like having holidays when we’re sitting on the beach in Tugela Mouth and Salt Rock, gazing at the ocean and watching the dolphins gliding through the water. The schoolchildren have a lot of fun, too, and we are amused to hear them squeaking with pleasure.
It is autumn in South Africa, and on the coast north of Durban, the sun is still warm and the nights pleasant. Real holiday feeling!
It is always a wonderful gift to us to meet so many friendly, helpful, warm-hearted people who brighten our days with words and deeds, good tips, a happy smile or pleasant conversations.
We think of our dear friends like
- Sue and Ingo, who have looked after us and our truck so well for so long
- Alex, who supplied us with the right paints and information, and his beautiful mother Frederica, a cool woman “with eggs”, bush pilot and off-roader.
- Henk and Heinrich, who gave us many good tips.
- Birgit and Jürgen, which we hope to see again soon.
- Anne and Heiner, who embellished our evening.
- Johan from the Hippo Waterfront Lodge, who supported us experiencing the most comfortable vehicle breakdown ever when our starter batteries gave up.
- Peggy, who is bursting with zest for life at the age of ninety, running one of the most beautiful campsites with Kiaat Campsite in Hazyview.
- Vimal and his family, who have touched us with their warmth and kindness.
We could continue listing all the people who enrich our lives so much. Thank you to each of you!