Friday, May 03, 2013

Kruger Long Weekend

Well the rest of my day at work was great fun :) I was made to wear the bunny ears & tail and then a man-sized bunny showed up with my gift (a twitter mug) and sang The Bunny Song to me. It was hysterical! And there was delish chocolate cake too :)

I didn't know what to expect, and these things always make me sort of nervous, but this year was definitely a million times better than last year and although it was momentarily embarrassing (while I stood next to the bunny who's song never seemed to end with at least 2/3 of the office standing watching, laughing and taking photos), it was a great day and I felt very loved. More and more I am happy with my decision to stay here (And even more news came on Monday, that one of my least favourite colleagues had resigned. I was doing cartwheels! Haha).

Anyway, I left an hour early and headed home to meet The Trucker who had bought our weekend supplies and packed up almost everything we needed already. This boy is amazing. He even did the dishes before we left. So we got on the road at about 15h30 and headed out of Joburg.

I was in a bit of a panic because the Agent had phoned me during the day about the Rental Lease and wanted it signed and faxed back asap. I tried to explain I was on my way out of the office and would have no way of faxing it back to him after The Trucker and I had both signed it as we were going away and I'd only be back in the office on the 2nd May. He wasn't very helpful and declared how jacked up Kruger was and we would find a way to fax it to him from there this weekend. This left me in a mad fluster ... I didn't not have a very good hour between 2 & 3pm.

But once we were on our way, things got much better. I read the lease to The Trucker as we drove. And then I got to open my pressie :) Wow. I was blown away. I was completely spoilt.

He bought me the upgrade on his camera, which I absolutely loved using in Vietnam! I love it :) This boy is amazing <3

The drive was okay, we got slowed by a road block (which was there on our way home too, so maybe it's permanent?) but we made pretty good time to Kaapsche Hoop by19h30 ish. In time to meet my Mom's Cousin who we'd be staying overnight with.

We had dinner at this weird little Sports Club in the little boomed "town" called Ngodwana. We stayed in a little flat above the garage which suited us perfectly. And we rose early with the sun streaming into our room. Kaapsche Hoop really is such a cute little picturesque town. But we were on our way quite early. We ate breakfast at the Wimpy in Nelspruit and then headed to the Malelane Gate. But first I was in for another birthday surprise! Just before we got to the gate, The Trucker turned off and we stopped at Thulani Spa for a massage. Awe.

Unfortunately while his gesture was amazing, the massage and experience at the spa was terribly mediocre and especially at the price he paid. I wouldn't go back again if I was in the area and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else either. He'd tried to book something at one of the Spa's inside the Kruger, but apparently you can only go if you're a guest at the Lodge it's in. Ridonkulous.

And then it really was into the Kruger with us! We just drover straight up to Skukuza to check in initially. We spent 2 nights at Skukuza and I won't bore you with all the driving we did. But we did a lot. We went for a later afternoon drive on the day we arrived (all the gates close at 6pm). After that we enjoyed a braai at our little chalet. The next morning we headed out as the gates opened (at 6am) and did quite a long drive, getting back in time for lunch. We booked a Sunset Game Drive for Sunday evening. You get back at about 8pm from that. And then we headed to their Jackalberry restaurant. It is quite a shoddy experience, honestly. The menu is very limited and they didn't have The Trucker's original order. I had a spinach & feta quiche which was quite nice, so the food wasn't terrible. Just the decor feels very old and the service leaves a little to be desired.

On Monday morning we headed out for a day-long drive up to Satara, where we were booked in for another 2 nights. It wasn't a very restful holiday, we were up at 05:30 every day to head out in the hopes of catching the animals in the early morning. We were out till the gates closed every night too. Dawn and dusk apparently being the best times for animal spotting. Satara was very disappointing. I booked the same price accommodation but at Satara, although it says "self-catering" it was a "no utensil" unit. Urgh. At least we'd brought some stuff with us (in anticipation of making lunch on the road). What was most frustrating was not having a kettle. It was this weird combination of accommodation. Skukuza warns you the monkeys can get into your fridge but they don't provide locks for them ... and the monkey's did get into our fridge. Luckily we arrived shortly after and all they managed to get were 2 yogurts and a banana or two. But it had everything else we needed. Satara had locks on everything (fridge & an outdoor pantry cupboard) but nothing else ... not even a sink for you to wash your own utensil :P Yeah, for the price we paid, I hope it is going mostly to the park and animal upkeep, cause it's sure as hell not going to the accommodation or the restaurants ...

We did an afternoon drive after arriving at Satara. And the next morning we did a Sunrise Game Drive with them. We did our own drive again that afternoon.

And then, on Wednesday, it was time to head home. We headed out early again, in the hopes of any last special sightings.

We were luckier than we realised this trip, I think. Generally we think we have pretty bad luck at animal spotting together. I had my heart set on finally seeing a leopard in the wild, but that didn't happen :( The Trucker was keen for lion ... which we managed to see twice. The first sighting was en route to Satara and not that great. The second sighting was an amazing one of a male lion lying right on the side of the road on our last afternoon drive. Made it very worthwhile. We didn't see anything amazing by doing the Game Drives with the camps. I do think they should offer South African drives and Tourist drives. Because I really don't need to stop and listen to him talk about impala or zebra or giraffe, I've heard it all before. And boy did we laugh as people drove past us while our driver had turned off the engine so we could look at a male ostrich. Then you know you've had a less-than-fruitful game drive :P

Anyway, we managed 4 of the Big Five. But what was more special for me were some of our more unusual sightings. We were spoilt by seeing a Hyena mom with her newborn pup on our first afternoon drive from Skukuza (the road to Transport dam). She must've given birth that day as she still wasn't even moving, exhausted (first pic). We managed to see her again the following day when we went past again, this time tho her pup was hidden in the den (I managed to see him poke his head out briefly, but didn't get a photo) while she watched both him and the cars crowding around them (second pic). I was amazed at how black they are at birth.

I think Hyena was our most unusually prolific sighting was the Hyena (that's not to say we saw more of them than anything else ... I reckon this should probably be renamed to the Impala National Park :p). After seeing the mommy twice, we also encountered three of them walking down the road towards us on a separate occasion and we saw a male guarding a den on our morning Game Drive from Satara.

Then on our drive to Satara, we were lucky enough to spend time watching a male cheetah pacing up and down the road side (not too close, but good enough to see him clearly). Shew and he was a big guy.

Here's the full list of what we saw: Elephants, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo (in & out the water), Hyena with newborn, more Hyena, Wildebeest, Zebra, Waterbuck Kudu, Impala, Klipspringer, Nyala, Steenbok, Warthog, Monitor Lizard, Honey Badger, Genet Cat, Owl

The Trucker was quite thrilled with his Monitor Lizard sighting ... unfortunately although he got some great shots of it, by the time it had wandered off and we took a look at them, we realised the camera had shifted to the wrong setting and the photos were almost completely white. I was kinda amazed we managed to spot Klipspringer on three separate occasions.

Oh, the other thing I wanted to say was, I was surprised at how little we used @LatestKruger while we were there. I've been following it for a while, in anticipation, and I expected to use it more. But we didn't have much signal up around Satara. And I found when we were viewing animals the last thing I was thinking of was trying to figure out where we were and tweeting about it. Also, the park is so big, it was never really likely that if we saw someone mention a sighting, we could get there from where we were ... I found the same thing with the sighting boards at the reception. There's no times, so who knows how long ago that sighting was, there is no guarantee if you head out in search of it you'll find it ... we saw our amazing Lion sighting, purely by chance. We'd driven down the road and seen nothing. But we had to stop when a Bull Elephant in musth wouldn't let us pass. We were the first car to arrive upon him, but soon there were 2 more coming in the other direction and then another behind us. While waiting we chatted to that car and heard about the Lion 15km behind us. We decided to turn back rather than just sit and wait out the ellie. We made the right choice! The lion really wasn't going anywhere and those other people were stuck waiting for the elephant for about half an hour. Chance and timing, as frustrating as that is, is everything.

The drive home was uneventful and we got home around 14h30. Did some much-needed grocery shopping and came home to unpack and put washing on. But most importantly to cuddle the Gypsy cat. Sheesh. I can't believe how much I missed this (not so) little thing! I thought she'd be all weird with us for leaving her (The Trucker's sister & neice came thru every day to feed and play with her). But she wasn't she was thrilled to have us home :) She hadn't forgotten us at all. She really is our cat :)

The last 2 days haven't been very exciting. I'm stuck home with Laryngitis. I started feeling my glands were sensitive last week and took a few MedLemon (the cure for *everything*). And seemed fine. The Trucker took some Sinuclear and MedLemons too ... he was feeling worse than me. But it kicked in while we were in Kruger and we had nothing more than MedLemons and Sinuclear there ... By the drive home on Wednesday I was losing my voice. I went to the Doc yesterday. Apparently the infection isn't too bad, but I guess because of the Allegy-induced asthma meds I'm on, it masks the symptoms till I'm worse ... So the post-nasal drip has inflamed my larynx and I can't talk above a whisper. I'm on anti-biotics (which I never usually take!!) to get it sorted asap. Fun fun. It is actually really boring being home alone and actually sick :(

Oh, and in case you were wondering, we got Mom's Cousin to fax off our lease document and I paid the first month's rental and deposit last night! We should be getting the keys this weekend. Eep, we are officially moving into our very own place together. One that is both of ours, equally. May looks to be a long month with already very busy weekends, which will now include moving little by little :D

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