Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont……..

Day 13 – 16/08/2017 Outjo to Henties Bay, Namibia

After another early rise, breakfast, settling the bill and swapping contacts with new friends we departed just as the sun was rising.

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Sunrise in Outjo

We were delighted to spot other early risers including Steenbok x 12, Gemsbok x 50 and a few ‘Namibian bulldog’s’. One of the Gemsbok was on the road side of the fence and when he got spooked by us he flew over the fence with ease to get back to the heard.

 

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A lovely herd of Gemsbok

We drove to Otjiwarongo then on to Kalfield where we made a pit stop. Next door to the small shop was a baker who was busy removing a fresh batch of bread from the oven. The aroma came wafting out and David couldn’t resist. He purchased a lovely fresh loaf of bread for our lunch for $2 AUD. 

It is here we saw a sign which said ‘Dinosaur footprints’! We couldn’t believe our eyes and of course just had to go and explore. It seemed simple enough. Drove for about 10 kms down a dirt road before realising we have taken the wrong road. We stopped to ask a group of men who were working on the road for directions. They said we had to go back to town and there we would see the sign. However when we got back we found the sign but it still wasn’t clear which road to take. A lady who walked past us told us which route to take. It seems we took the left fork in the road instead of the right.

On the way the terrain starting changing with a few hills appearing in the distance and more bushes and trees. The gravel road wasn’t too bad.

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We stopped near here for lunch and ate the lovely fresh bread with cheese and biltong

I was very excited to see my very first dinosaur footprints. We found the sign and turn off  to the Otjihaenamaparero Farm. Here lie the 200 million-year-old ceratosaurus and syntarsus tracks fossilized in the sandstone near Mt. Etjo.

We stopped just outside a gate in front of the farmhouse where we were met by a man who gave us directions and took payment.

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Bridge on the way to the dinosaur footprints

We walked through another large gate on the edge of the parking lot, down a pathway past a tree full of weavers nests. Then we walked over a small bridge and down towards a small campsite. There were a couple of signboards here about the dinosaur tracks and one family camping there. We walked through a small gully and up a rock face following some very faded signs. It wasn’t always clear which way to go but we had been told they were about 300 meters from the camp.

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A lovely weaver birds nest

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Spotted this little fellow just under the tree near the nests

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The landscape outlook on top of the rocky outcrop

We finally saw a small sign at the top of the rocky outcrop which said ‘Footsteps’. 

The footprints which are three toed were quite clear. It was evident that someone at some point must have tried to cut the best one out of the solid rock. Happily without success.

There are two sets of tracks. The first set are smaller syntarsus tracks that run for about 12 meters. The syntarsus was a 10 foot long pack hunter that ran upright like a large bald chicken in shape. The second set are of ceratosaurus, a 20-foot-long hunter with a large nose-horn on its skull.

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I sat down and placed my hand into the syntarsus three toed footprint to see the scale and placed my foot next to one. How incredible to see these footprints embedded in stone. A message from the past.

We were advised to take the route from Kalkfiled past the Spitszkoppe. Drove through Omaruru, Karibib, Usakos and turned right towards Spitzkoppe which means ‘pointed dome’ in German. These are a group of bald granite peaks located between Usakos and Swakopmund.

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There are many examples of bushman artworks here and the mountains were the film location for 2001: A Space Odyssey and the “Dawn of Man” sequences. Spitzkoppen is spectacular.

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A few villages popped up shortly after turning back onto the main road. Some of these villages had small vending stands with a large variety of semi-precious stones displayed for sale. We stopped to have a look before continuing on our journey.

Awesome scenery with progressive landscape unfolded on route towards the west coast. The Kalahari is spectacular with more sand than you could imagine, revealing a unique atmosphere. It feels like you have landed on another planet. In the middle of the desert landscape trotting across the sand in perfect camouflage was a Ruppell’s bustard which looks like a bush turkey.

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The endless sand rolled right up to the ocean where we finally came to the turnoff south to Henties Bay.

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‘Lady Jane’ decided we needed to take the scenic route once we arrived in Henties Bay. This time I was really worried as we were in the heart of a shanty town. Fortunately the GPS eventually figured out the correct route and we arrived in time at the guest house. An absolutely delightful place run by a lovely couple, Usher and Thomas.

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We unpacked and went to have an early meal at a place called ‘Something Fishy’. Great little place with amazing food. After a long day on the road sleep came swiftly. 

 

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont …..

Day – 11 14/08/2017  Rundu to Outjo, Namibia

Woke to a lovely sunny day and a very welcome alfresco breakfast supplied. The table was set outdoors in the small courtyard. Lovely continental breakfast plus anything else we wanted, toast, a variety of jams, tea and coffee. Just what we needed for the next leg of our journey.

After breakfast we packed the car, filled the tank up with petrol and left for Outjo, situated just below the Etosha National Park. As we hit the open road David asked me “What can you see?” We were the only people on the road, no fences just a straight open road. He said, “An open road and a full tank of petrol”. That became a standard line from then onwards.

It was a good tarred road and a beautiful day what more could we ask for? We saw lots of warthogs grazing on the side of the road. The first road sign David saw he mentioned to me that it looked like a ‘funny looking bulldog’ and thought there might be some kind of kennel or dog breeding program somewhere? I was rather perplexed so I asked him to point out another sign if he saw it again. About 10kms on we spotted an identical sign. It turned out to be a sign for warthogs! After great hilarity at David’s expense he renamed the warthogs, ‘Namibian Bulldogs’!

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‘Namibian bulldog’ sign

The trip until now was pretty uneventful until we came across a sign saying ‘Meteorite!’ Well we just couldn’t resist. David said he thought it might be the sight of the largest meteorite in the world. We left the main road and travelled about 30 kms on a gravel road.

On further investigation we discovered it to be the Hoba meteorite which is indeed the largest in the world.

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Me sitting on the Hoba

Namibia is world-famous for its meteorites. The Hoba Meteorite is the largest single meteorite known in the world today. It is situated on the edge of the Kalahari plain on the farm ‘Hoba West’ not far from Grootfontein in the Otjozondjupa Region. It was first described by Johannes Hermanus Brits in 1920 and declared a national monument in 1955. The meteorite weighs approximately 60 tons consisting of iron, nickel and cobalt with traces of carbon, sulphur, chromium, copper, zinc, gallium, germanium and iridium. It is estimated that the meteorite fell to earth less than 80,000 years ago. The estimated age varies between 190 to 410 million years.

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Close up of the Hoba meteorite

The meteorite is dark brown in colour and cold and smooth to the touch. Absolutely amazing! I couldn’t get over the fact that this enormous chunk of iron, fell from space and landed here on earth so many years ago and still exists for us to see today. Spectacular and quite surreal.

Instead of kissing ‘The Blarney Stone’, I kissed the Hoba instead.

Just as the sun was setting, according to ‘Lady Jane’, we were nearing our accommodation for the next two nights. We turned off the main road onto a dirt road which just didn’t seem right. It was in the middle of nowhere. We passed an entrance to what looked like a farm and in front stood a couple of old rusty vehicles. I asked David to stop so I could take some photos. I love old rusty objects so this combination was irresistible.

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One of the rusty cars

Soon after ‘Lady Jane’ told us to turn off onto another dirt track. By now we were both convinced she was once again taking us on the ‘Scenic Route’. We passed through a gated entrance and travelled up a rather bad road. Much to our relief there was a building nestled up against a wonderfully picturesque granite outcrop (known as a koptjie.) We had arrived at the correct place at 6:30pm just as the last rays of sun disappeared behind the horizon.

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The picturesque landscape

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‘Lady Jane’ got us there!

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Watching the sunset from the deck

A lovely young lady came down the stairs to meet us with a baby on her hip. We checked in and were taken to our accommodation. This Lodge is run be a family and they welcomed us to join them for dinner a little later that evening. After a shower I headed back to the main building to relax. We all sat outdoors on the deck under the sparkling stars. Wilma, the mother of the young man running the business was visiting from Cape Town and she came to introduce herself. During our conversation Wilma told me how she supplies the woman at a local squatter camp with fabric and thread for them to embroider. The fabric is then made into table cloths, pot holders etc to sell. This not only helps them financially but develops their skills for future business prospects. It’s so hard for these people in the squatter camps to pull themselves out of poverty. Life is extremely tough and it is heartbreaking to see the sprawling squatter camps throughout Namibia.

We waited for a few other Japanese guests to arrive before dinner was served outdoors. It was delicious. A real feast was laid out for us, soup, chicken and chops cooked on an outdoor fire (braai/barbeque). Served with a variety of salads, garlic bread and potatoes in their jackets stuffed with sour cream. A very yummy marshmallow tart was served for dessert.

It was early to bed for me. I was excited about our visit to the Etosha National Park the next day. It was going to be another early start and it wasn’t long before I drifted off.

12 -15/08/2017 Etosha National Park

Up at 6:30am, quick breakfast, muesli in a cup with long life milk in the room. David really wanted to see a cheetah. We were told they had them at the Eldorado Cheetah Park on the way to Etosha. We weren’t sure if we were going to go or not as they were in captivity but seeing them in the wild was not guaranteed. However when we saw the sign we decided to turn back and go and check it out. The first thing I noticed was a room mounted with animal trophy heads, which did not bode well for them.

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The Eldorado sign

We were informed that the animals in the park had all been given safe haven after the threat of being shot. The animals were causing the locals grief hunting their livestock. Human animal conflict is a real problem in Africa. As the animals habitat shrinks and the volume of people increases major  problems occur with the loss of livestock and danger to the people. Supposedly the offending animals were darted, captured and relocated at Eldorado.

Eldorado has a variety of animals and they could accommodate us with a quick paid guided tour. We didn’t want to spend too much time there as we only had one day in Etosha.

The animals were kept in fenced areas which were fairly large. The first animal we came to was a Brown Hyena also called a Strandwolf. This was the first time that I had seen this animal and I was really excited. Unfortunately he was cowering in a corner with a large gash in his neck, covered in blood. Apparently the brown hyena was kept in a different enclosure to this one which is where the spotted hyena is kept. The Brown Hyena dug his way out of his enclosure and into the spotted Hyenas enclosure to pick a fight! Looks like the Brown Hyena came off second best suffering quite a beating.

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Brown Hyena

The spotted hyena was strutting around quite proud of his conquest, definitely the dominant of the two. I was assured by our guide Philemon that the owner was in town collecting antibiotics for the injured animal.

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Spotted hyena

Philemon lead us round the perimeter of another fenced off area to where a female leopard was kept. This female has been here for seven years and Philemon has been her keeper throughout this period. At first we couldn’t see her. Philemon called out to her in Afrikaans and asked her to go and sit on the log. The next minute she appeared. A truly magnificent animal in peak condition. She casually sauntered out of the long grass over to a fallen tree, climbed up and sat there happily posing for us. What a photo opportunity. It was quite difficult to fit and rest the camera in between the small wire gaps.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see this leopard out in the open for such a long time. Although in a fairly large enclosure she is still a wild animal and only responds to her keeper. I could have spent all day observing her. When she was ready she casually climbed off the log and swiftly disappeared into the long grass.

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Superb female leopard

The next treat were 2 caracals, another animal I had never seen before. The caracal is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Both these animals were very skittish. Although Philemon was feeding them through the fence they were not happy, hissing and swiftly running off to eat under the trees. I did manage to take a few photos but it was difficult. They didn’t stick around after feeding and melted into the bush.

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A handsome Caracal

While walking to the next enclosure we could hear a free roaming lion roaring in the distance. The chances of seeing this animal was pretty slim.

The last animals we saw were 4 stunningly sleek cheetahs. As Philemon called them to come and feed they slowly emerged one after the other. Absolutely exquisite animals. They took my breath away. The last time I saw a cheetah in the wild was on my honeymoon 35 years ago in the Kruger National Park.

The cheetahs were extremely vocal with high pitched squeals as they furiously competed for the meat that Philemon was feeding them. The sound is not at all what I expected. After feeding, the cheetahs flopped down and lay preening each other just like domestic cats. It was so magnificent to see. When they had enough of us they sauntered off back into the bush.

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Content Cheetahs 

It was now time to go. What a treat to see these animals.

We arrived at the Etosha, Andersson Gate at 9:30am. There was a queue and it took about thirty minutes to get through this gate and then drove approximately 10 kms to the main building to pay. There was another queue there and we were back on ‘African’ time.

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Entrance to the Andersson Gate

The Park, located in the Kunene region in north western Namibia was proclaimed a game reserve on March 22, 1907. Etosha spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres and got its name from the Etosha pan.

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A Himba woman

At the gate there were a few Himba woman selling their craft. The Himba are indigenous people living in the northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region.

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What a magical place, so stark and dry yet mysteriously beautiful

Not far into the park we could see a lot of cars parked in the distance. We made haste to see what was there. At this particular water hole there was an absolutely magnificent variety of animals starting off with a female Gemsbok and her baby. The giant Gemsbok/Oryx is a large antelope native to the Kalahari. This is one of the animals I have waited so long to see. So many times I have viewed them in books not dreaming I would actually get to see one in real life. Oh my word, I thought I was going to have a conniption!DSCN0430

A female Gemsbok and her baby

As the other vehicles pulled off we moved around the waterhole to have a closer look. We could not believe our eyes! Gemsbok, Kudu, Zebra, Buffalo, Springbok, Giraffe, blue wildebeest, and Ostrich all in the one place! I didn’t know where to photograph first. What a sight! All these animals drifted happily among each other, down to the waterhole and some lingering before moving off into the distance. Once again I could have stayed at this spot all day. But move on we did.

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Giraffe, Springbok, Zebra and Ostrich

There were various trails to take and we opted for the Rhino Trail hoping we would spot one. We didn’t see many animals at all on this trail except for one elephant and a few birds. By now it was nearly midday and it was hot and dry. It took some time to make our way back to the main road in the park.

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An elephant having a dust bath

On the way back to the gate we came across large herds of Zebra, Buffalo, Ostrich, Kori bustard, Lilac breasted roller, Crows, Red Hartebeest, Ostrich and Gemsbok.

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Red Hartebeest

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A fabulously satisfying but exhausting day in the magnificent Etosha

DSCN0864Namibian sunset

 Our accomodation was about an hours drive from the gate and we exited at 6:30pm. The day was complete. Thank you Namibia!

After another delicious meal, great company and early to bed. 

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont ……

Day 10 – 13/08/2017 Maun, Botswana to Rundu, Namibia

Had an early rise to rooster’s crowing, dogs barking and a fat headache. I wasn’t at all surprised with all the shaking from the previous day’s travelling to and from the game reserve.

We have a big day ahead of us, so must get my act together quick smart. First to negotiate the ablutions, then breakfast, pack the car and off to an early start.

Today we were are heading off to Rundu at the northern border of Namibia and Angola. We left Maun as the sun was rising, travelling west towards Sehithwa where we turn north  making our way towards Namibia. This road runs parallel with the Delta and at one point you can see a small portion of it.

DSCN9887Rural Botswana

If we thought the previous days roads were bad this stretch proved to be one of the biggest challenges of all. The potholes had potholes and in some cases sinkholes! This stretch of road was very slow and tiring as you really had to have your wits about you. It was quite comical to watch the big tucks in front of us as they swerved from one side to the other as they tried to negotiate the potholes. Making quick decisions was essential. Dodging in between the gaps if it was big enough or  hightailing to the left or right extremities. Some of the vehicles didn’t care and just ploughed straight through regardless. Can’t imagine how long their tyres lasted? The edges of the tar road were so badly deteriorated that it was safer and more comfortable to drive off the road on the verge. Some of the verge tracks were also well worn and almost in need of repair! 

DSCN9684The turnoff to Tsodilo

Just after Etsha we turned left onto a dirt road and headed west to the Tsodilo Hills located near the Namibian Border in the Okavango Sub-District, about 40 kms from Shekawe.

 

DSCN9853On the road to Tsodilo

The roads were unsurfaced and corrugated but hard, so it wasn’t too bad. We arrived on the outskirts of a very small village. This area was sparse and very dry with a few baobabs scattered, some livestock and a few people.

DSCN9697The village near Tsodilo – The horse and donkey are tethered around the neck

We saw a sign saying Tsodilo but couldn’t see the entrance to the park. We then noticed a gated entrance just a little way back and assumed that must be the way. The hills in the distance looked absolutely majestic in this otherwise sparse landscape.

DSCN9705Tsodilo Hills in the distance

As we arrived in the car park we were met by our (San) guide who took us on a short one hour tour along the Rhino (in name only) Trail. Rhino must have roamed this area at one point in time but were no longer present. Our guide told us that they are planning to re-introduce a variety of game back into this area.

I was extremely excited to be here and felt really privileged. This place reminded me so much of where I grew up in Rhodesia so many years ago. This was so strange as it was geographically nowhere near it. The rock paintings here were not dissimilar to Australian aboriginal rock art.

Tsodilo is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage sight with one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. It has been called the ”Louvre of the Desert”consisting of three main hills known as the Child Hill, the Female Hill, and the Male Hill and an unnamed knoll. Some of the paintings have been dated as early as 24,000 years before present day. Declared as a National Monument in 1927, Tsodilo is revered as a home of ancestral spirits and a place of worship by the Hambukushu and San people.

DSCN9749Our San guide

Our guide was very enthusiastic and keen to share his knowledge with us. I took photos, a couple of videos and he then lead us along a dry sandy pathway skirting the side of the rock face to a nearby cave. We walked through a narrow space between some enormous rocks to the cave. Here he pointed out little round shaped indentations on the rock floor of the cave. It is believed these were created by grinding by the bushman.

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Sadly time passed too quickly and we had to head back. After a quick look at the museum and paying for the tour we walked back to the carpark. I could easily have spent a day or more exploring this very interesting and spiritual place. I felt like I belonged, it was really strange. 

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Before leaving we decided to have a light lunch under the tree where we had parked our car. A friendly dog came and laid near us. It wasn’t until we looked at him closely that we noticed his back foot was missing. It didn’t seem to bother him and he somehow managed to get around quite well considering.

DSCN9837The friendly dog with a missing foot

After lunch we packed up and headed back to the main road anxious to get to the border post before closing. It was tricky to estimate the time it would take us to get there. Even though it wasn’t that far we had know idea what condition the road would be in from that point onwards.

DSCN9842A tree in full blossom spotted on the side of the road

On the way to the border there were a lot of warthogs grazing on the side of the road, a few ostriches, donkeys, goats, birds more donkeys and horses.

 

DSCN9643An eagle taking flight

DSCN9649Goats on the side of the road

DSCN9670Horses, donkeys, and a man with a gun

DSCN9890Ministry of prayer spotted from the car

Luckily we made it to the border in good time. It was very quiet and we got through very quickly. As we left the border post, for the next 30-50 klms we travelled on a dirt/gravel road through the Bwabwato National Park. At this time of day, late afternoon, there was quite a lot of traffic mostly heading into Namibia. The road was fairly good as dirt roads go but unfortunately all the dust made viewing difficult. All the cars raced past us at great speed, obviously on their way home. 

DSCN9931Dusty road and speeding cars

DSCN9925Not a sign you see every day!

 We had hoped to see many animals, but we only managed to spot a Roan Antelope, Sable in the distance very well camouflaged and a Kudu.

DSCN9921Roan antelope and a Sable

Once through the park we missed the turnoff and landed up at the ferry crossing. We stopped briefly to take a few photos and watch the ferry prepare to launch.

DSCN9904The ferry getting ready to cross

DSCN9905A vendor at the crossing 

After a few photos we doubled back and found the correct road. It wasn’t too long before we were back on a surfaced road which was excellent. This was very welcome and oh so comfortable. We passed through numerous villages with some vendors on the side of the roads displaying their goods. Pottery, thatch bundles and bundled wood for burning.

We read that the Popa Falls were quite near but couldn’t see any signs. We were driving alongside the Kunene River river which is about 1,050 kilometres (652 miles) long. The Popa Falls are near the town of Divundu, 200 kilometres east of Rundu. It turns out that these falls are not falls at all but small rapids which we did spot as we drove past. It was getting late so we didn’t have time to stop.

DSCN9960The sun setting on our first day in Namibia

Arriving in Rundu after dark we made our way through town. Rundu was much larger than I expected and luckily ‘Lady Jane’ took us directly to our accommodation at a guest house. It was very new and clean and the staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. The small guest house was surrounded by a very secure high gated wall, with a 24 hour security guard on duty. We checked in then headed off to have dinner at a local restaurant. Very pleasant ambiance and good food. That night the hot shower felt fantastic! After making a few notes I fell into bed and a deep sleep came swiftly.

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Sand, potholes and donkey’s cont ……

Day 8 – 11/08/2017 Palapye, Botswana to Maun, Botswana

Another early morning rise, breakfast and we were on the road by 7am. Before we left Australia I was warned about the many obstacles we would encounter in Botswana, they weren’t kidding.

I don’t think I have ever seen so many donkeys in all my life. Donkeys on the side of the road, in the middle of the road and donkey carts. As there are no fences to keep the donkeys contained they roam freely, well most of them do. The donkeys seem to have right of way and are not at all fussed by the traffic. Some of these poor animals are either tethered to each other or with a horse. They can be seen hobbling along trying to keep in time with each other, like a three legged race. It is absolutely heartbreaking to see. This practice is obviously to keep the animals from straying too far from home.

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Dodging the donkey’s

I thought we were going to see plenty of animal bodies along the way but to our surprise we only saw one. The drivers on the road warn you when they spot them,  everyone works together to avoid collision. We saw donkeys of every colour, size and condition. They all appeared  to look so forlorn  walking with their heads bowed down. This might just be how they normally walk, it really tugged at my heartstrings.

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Looking so forlorn

Although the road from Papalpye to Maun was not too bad we still had to be on pothole alert. In places there seemed to be attempts to repair the damage caused by the trucks, but most of the repairs looked quite old and were already starting to disintegrate.

We saw some game along the way but not much. The road was pretty straightforward and long!

We arrived in Maun at 4pm. Maun is situated centrally just below the Okavango Delta. The town was a hive of activity and our accommodation at a backpackers was pretty basic. The ablutions consisted of  a tent with cubicles with a flap as a door. These flaps had velcro which adhered to a velcro strip on a pole  if you were lucky. Being unisex made for interesting ablution time.

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The view from the backpackers

After checking in, the lovely receptionist came with us to show us where David could possibly get another sd card for his camera and where we could have dinner. The backpackers situated on the bank of a tributary of the delta looked over a very marshy but picturesque watercourse with lots of birds. They also had a very friendly resident dog who came to greet us.

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After unpacking we had a short rest and caught up with our emails. We then went for dinner at Cappello, a lovely restaurant opposite the airport and close to the backpackers. The restaurant was excellent and the food didn’t touch sides after a long day of donkey dodging!

We arranged to follow the backpackers tour vehicle the next day to the Moremi Game Reserve, Northern Botswana in the Okavango Delta. We were both really looking forward to this.

As we had to rise at 4am it was early to bed by 9pm. Sleep came swiftly.

Day 9 – 12/08/2017 Moremi Game Reserve

 We had a quick breakfast which we prepared ourselves in the backpackers kitchen, although adequate it had some really dodgy wiring. 

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The mural in the kitchen/lounge area

We were on the road by 5am. Keeping up with the tour vehicle was a mission in itself. They shot off at breakneck speed in the dark travelling well above the speed limit. It took so much longer than I thought it would to get to the entrance to the Game reserve.

As soon as we turned off the tar road onto a gravel road it was a nightmare. The corrugations were beyond belief and it was a case of shake, rattle, fly off your seat and bump your head on the roof!

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Arriving at the Moremi gate entrance

We arrived at the Moremi Game Reserve Gate at 7am after more than an hour on the bumpiest corrugations.  If shaking caused weight loss by now I should be skin and bone.

Not long into the park we spotted impala and then giraffe, so this looked to be a very promising day.

Little did we know what was waiting for us!

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In the Moremi Game Reserve it was very dry

It was fortunate for us that we were following another vehicle as the roads proved to be very challenging indeed. The vehicle in front had 3 tour guides and one problematic Russian passenger.

It was all going smoothly and we spotted quite a few animals and then turned onto a road which was extremely sandy. I mean really sandy. David said he wasn’t happy as the car was not handling well. We managed to get through a very bad patch and I breathed a sigh of relief.

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A lovely Tssesebe

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Red-billed hornbill

We headed close to the delta and stopped for a quick coffee break. One of the men headed off to a large termite mound for a smoke. I realised pretty quickly that he was having a joint. It was later confirmed when I cracked a joke and one of the other men realised I had guessed  what the smoke break was for. He smiled and laughed a little more than necessary!

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One of our happy friend’s

Quite close to where we were standing, under a big tree, stood a large elephant. He was quite happy going about his business and didn’t seem to take any notice of us. After coffee we ventured deeper into the delta where we spotted a variety of water birds. We stopped to observe a very large elephant surrounded by some Chacma baboons. This elephant however wasn’t happy with our presence and started charging towards us with ears flapping. David put foot and we left him in peace. The elephant must have been having a bad day. Maybe just one too many tourists for a day?

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He was heading straight for us!

Well it had to happen! On our way back on the same road as we had previously passed through we got horribly stuck, I mean really stuck in a thick white sand pit. Although it was now pretty hot, what unfolded over the next hour was like watching a comedy!

Another tour guide arrived who had two passengers and they stopped to lend a hand. Now there were six men and an irate Russian women all giving their opinions on what actions should be taken.  I stood back and took a video for posterity.

First came the pushing and yes you guessed it the car sank even deeper into the sand. Then came the digging followed by more pushing. Then to top it all the single passenger, the elderly Russian foreigner decided she had all the answers except she couldn’t speak English. So after much gesticulation, flailing of arms, hand signals with accompanied huffing and puffing she stormed off  to sulk in the car. “I Pay, I pay” she yelled at the driver, trying to persuade him to leave us there to deal with the problem as she wanted to see a lion! In the end I lost the plot and gave her a bit of a serve, much to the amusement of the driver and his assistants! By now they had, had quite enough of her! I think she would have been happy to feed us to the lions!

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Tug of war and lots of chiefs!

After more digging, pushing, brainstorming, then towing combined with pushing, the sand let go and the car was set free. All up it took about an hour and it was now time to head back towards the gate.

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Buffalo skull at the Moremi Gate

We arrived back at the gate by 5pm and then had to once again negotiate the awful corrugations all the way back to the tar road. Once we hit the tar road it was back to donkey dodging, goat avoiding and spot the potholes. We arrived back in Maun at about 7:30pm.

Some of the animals and birds seen during the day: Impala, Scrub Hare, Elephant, Giraffe, Warthog, Chakma Baboon,Vervet Monkey, Red lechwe, Tsessebe, Hippo, Kudu, Ground Squirrel, Dwarf Mongoose, Zebra, White Ibis, Egyptian Goose, Spur Winged Goose, Glossy Starling, Black Winged Stilt, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Jakana, Yellow billed hornbill, Red Billed Hornbill, Spoonbill, Ducks, Grey Heron and Glossy Ibis.

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During the day we stopped at this signboard and the driver in front was deciding whether to turn right or left. He should have turned left as the road to the right lead us to the sand pit! This was indeed a day to be remembered!

 

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Sand, potholes, and donkeys cont …..

Day 6 – 9/08/2017 Phalaborwa to Parfuri, South Africa

We set off fairly early once again this morning as this was going to be a long trip to the most northern gate of the Kruger Park. We entered the Park at the Phalaborwa gate.

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Spotted a large herd of wildebeest and a very big giraffe

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It was very dry and the grass was short. The lovely baobabs stood like guards on watch

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This wildebeest had a deformed horn

This leg of the journey was long but interesting and we arrived at the Parfuri gate near 6pm just in time to see the sun set. The gate was very quiet with no other visitors checking-out so we got through pretty quickly. By now we had travelled from the southern end of the Kruger all the way to the top in 4 days covering an area that spans more than 400klms.

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A very quite Pafuri Gate, at first we thought it was deserted until we saw the open door 

Now all that was left to do was to set ‘Lady Jane’ with the gps co-ordinates. Hoping not to arrive too late at our accommodation in the mountains near Louis Trichardt .

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As the sun set we headed off into the night 

Well life never omits throwing a few curved balls every now and then just to keep you on your toes!

Our gps took us through all the small townships on every dirt backroad in the pitch black darkness of night! The roads were horrendous! At one point we were on a gravel road with the one side piled high with gravel chunks ready to be rolled and graded. On the remaining side which we were travelling on was a donkey cart, so we got stuck behind with nowhere to go. The poor donkey was being whipped constantly to make him go faster. I felt so bad for the poor animal who was doing the best he could. We even dropped back so the donkey wouldn’t cop the flack. We chugged along behind the cart resigning ourselves to the fact that we had no other choice. The cart finally found a place where it was safe for them to move over and we got past only to find that the road condition got even worse!

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An example of the donkey cart we were following on the dirt road

Now imagine travelling through an area with no lights, potholes, a donkey cart and road works. It was not a good feeling as the road just never seemed to end. If only for every shake rattle and roll I could lose a few pounds in weight, what a bonus that would be.

I tried to phone the Lodge to let them know we were delayed due to road conditions and a gps that decided to take us on the scenic route instead. Unfortunately the office was already closed and the other number given went onto message bank. By now we had missed our last check-in time and we still hadn’t found the place. Oh what a sinking feeling. Maybe tonight was the night we might have to sleep in the car? Adding insult to injury it was now getting really chilly in the mountain air.

The dirt road eventually came to an end and we were back on a tarred road heading towards who knows where, meandering through a very mountainous area. If you have ever driven in these remote areas in South Africa, you know there are no road rules. It is free for all, so you have to be extra vigilant. Eyes everywhere!!!

By now my nerves were a bit on edge. Luckily David was driving and I was the extra pair of eyes. I was perched forward on the edge of my seat as visibility was very poor. Luckily my eyesight is pretty good and I managed to give prior warning of pending craters in the road. Looking out for sudden stop signs that seemed to pop out of nowhere, stray dogs and bicycles without any reflectors. The worst was someone walking right on the edge of the road wearing dark clothing, totally invisible until we were nearly on top of him. It didn’t seem to worry him much though. I think the people in this area must be used to these conditions.

When ‘Lady Jane’ finally located our destination it was about 10:15 pm. The gate was closed and it looked like there was no one around to let us in. After closer investigation David found that he could slide the gate open so we were able to drive in. There were no lights and there didn’t seem to be a sole around. Luckily a lady came out when she saw the vehicle lights coming up the driveway. We stopped just outside the building. She had been given instructions by the owner to look out for us just in case we arrived. I breathed a sigh of relief as I didn’t relish sleeping in the car in the chilly mountains without a blanket to keep me warm!

By now tired, the nerves a little ragged all I wanted to do was have a hot shower and sleep!

We were instructed to reverse the car up a steep incline where there were no lights at all. I offered to stand outside to guide David  in but he said he would just keep wacth out of his window as he had already spotted the large tree on his side. The other side was clear. He had to reverse quite fast as it was a pretty steep incline.

The next moment there was an almighty thud and we knew the car had hit something. He looked at me and I looked at him, we just could not believe it!!!! What next?

We jumped out the car using a torch to inspect the damage. To our horror we discovered a low lying branch concealed by the dark directly behind the back door had jumped out and connected with our car! The rear window was completely obliterated, the rear right hand light was smashed as well as a few dents to the rear door! BUGGER!!!!!

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After inspection the next day David removed all the shattered glass

I felt so sorry for David as it was not his fault. There were no lights and you just could not see the branch and that’s where we were told to park! The only problem now was with the back window gone the car was not secure. Well we were too tired and there was nothing we could do until morning so we just unpacked all our luggage as quickly as possible.

As I laid my head on the pillow I really hoped this wasn’t a sample of things to come with obstacles all along our way?

Day 7 – 10/08/2017 Louis Trichardt, South Africa to Palapye, Botswana

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The next morning we arose to a stunning view which lifted the spirits

The next day the owner Adre came down to see what had happened. She was very apologetic and helpful. However we suggested she should put some sort of barrier there so that it didn’t happen to anyone else. She offered her satellite phone for our use and David phoned the car hire to tell them what had happened and to organise a replacement car. They didn’t seem to be at all phased. We soon realised in time after seeing so many panel beaters all over the place, crashes were obviously  a very common occurrence!

We were told we first had to go the police station in Louis Trichardt to get a report for insurance purposes. We were warned that this would not be a quick process so we decided to have a hearty breakfast supplied by the lodge to give us strength!

Driving to the Makhado Police Station was not a pleasant experience. The diesel exhaust fumes came gushing through the back glass free window to torment me. I had to stick my head out my window as the diesel were making me feel sick. This worked well except that it was really cold! Luckily for me I had a beanie to put on my head to ward off the frost bite!

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Makhado Police Station 

We arrived at the Makhado Police Station at about 9:15. I went into the police station to inform them of what had happened. Both the men on duty were on the phone so I had to wait. Then the officer in charge said he needed to see the car. After filling out some details on his clipboard the policemen told David he had to accompany him into the station as he was the driver at the time of ‘branch versus car’ impact. I told David I would sit in the car to keep an eye on the luggage as the car was not secure. I waited and waited. As it was getting a bit warmer I got out the car, did a few leg stretches much to the amusement of the locals. This at least warmed my bones up a bit. I waited and waited, looking at the shopfront window displays  to find some interest. 

David finally walked out of the station at 10:46. We were now well and truly on ‘African time’, which cannot be rushed.

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Waiting, waiting and the odd leg stretch

On our way again we headed for the airport near Mokapane where we had to do the vehicle exchange. Once again I sat with the car and waited and waited. Got out the car did a few more stretches and exercises, walked around the car and waited and waited. All the paperwork had to be redone for all the border crossing’s etc.

The replacement car was identical and we were now on our way. We had to make the Groblersbrug/ Martins Drift Border before closing at 6pm.

We left Polokwane at 2pm and made it to the border by 4pm. The border wasn’t too busy so we got through pretty quickly and made our way to our designated accommodation in Palapye, Botswana. This took about another hour and half.

We found the place quite easily arriving at 5:30pm. Everything looked satisfactory so after unpacking we went for dinner. We found out there was a restaurant in the same complex just round the corner which was convenient, so we just walked there. We had a lovely meal and walked back to the room feeling like we could face anything.

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Outside the reception in Palapye

Back in the room I wanted to do a catch up on the internet only to find the wifi was NBG, (No bloody good).

Well tomorrow is another day and I couldn’t wait to see what Africa was going to throw our way! I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning woke to find the bathroom floor was covered in water. There was a bad leak from the toilet. Was this going to be a recurring theme……….

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Sand, potholes, and donkeys cont…….

Day 5 – 8/08/2017 Phabeni Gate to Palaborwa

Today we headed off on our own for the first time, back into the Kruger National Park. Heading north to exit at the Phalaborwa Gate.

It was a lovely drive from the Phabeni gate to Shokwane where we made a quick pit stop before continuing north towards Satara.

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Shokwane pit stop

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The vervet monkeys are very mischievous and can be very agressive especially towards women!

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Glossy Starlings patiently waiting for any little morsel

We turned off when we saw a sign for a large baobab tree. Winding along a dirt road we came upon a lovely breeding herd of elephants in close proximity to the road almost blocking the way to the tree. It didn’t look like they were going to move soon and were not upset by our presence. Cautiously we edged past them so we could get closer to the tree. After circling round the tree we headed back to the main road once again edging past the elephants quietly going about the business of filling their bellies.

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The big baobab

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Babies and juveniles, part of the breeding herd

We continued on our way towards Letaba with a pit stop along the way at Satara.

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Another pit stop at Satara and a close encounter with an elephant!

We came to a large bridge where quite a few cars had stopped and the occupants were standing looking over the edge onto the river bed. Curiousity got the better of us and we decided to see what it was that had grabbed everyones attention. There was a large monitor lizard swimming in shallow water below. He eventually climbed up the bank onto dry land.

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Monitor lizard swimming in a shallow pool of water

There was an Italian man standing next to me who asked me if I had seen the snake? He pointed down below the edge of the bridge and there nestled on debris that had washed up against the concrete lay an enormous python! It looked to be about 5 meters in length. Shivers went up my spine at the sight. A magnificent specimen curled up basking in the sun. I havent seen a snake that size since I was a child living on our farm in Rhodesia.

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Huge python basking in the sun

A little further on we spotted two saddle-billed storks. Beautiful large birds with the most colourful beaks.

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Saddle-billed stork

The next bird highlight of the day was spotting four secretary birds. I was so excited as this was the first time seeing these birds in the wild. Previusly having only ever seen them in books. Wow, what a spectacular bird. The wind was blowing and they put on a show with their crests splayed out. The only problem was they were quite far so my photos aren’t great! However it didn’t matter I was completely enthralled. What luck!

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Sectretary bird

Throughout the day we spotted giraffe x 15,  elephants x 40, buffalo x 50, wildebeest x 40, impala, crocodile, leopard, lioness with two cubs, duiker, zebra, steenbok, kudu x 12, bushbuck x 30, baboon, warthog and waterbuck. 

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Burchells Zebra

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A baboon just chilling!

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Impala female, such a dainty and handsome animal

Unfortunately with the good also comes the bad and you see things that make you really sad. This happenned twice on this leg of the journey.

The first was when we came across the body of a giraffe. This is the first time I have seen this and it was so sad to see such a majestic animal who had recently lost his life. It wasn’t clear what had happenned. There was definate evidence that portion of the body had already been eaten judging by what we could see. The animal wasn’t long dead.

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Giraffe body

Then a little further, on the side of the road we spotted a small black-backed jackal that seemed to be dazed and confused. We stopped to observe him. On closer inspection it looked like he was suffering from malnutrition and mange. The poor animal was in very poor health. Can’t imagine what happenned to him. 

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Black-backed jackal

At Letaba we turned left and made our way back out of the park into the town of Phalaborwa.

We exited the Phalaborwa gate at 5 pm after a very satisfying day of game viewing exploring the middle region of the park.

After locating our accommodation which was only about 10 km from the gate we had a quick look  and everything seemed to be in order. The owner of the accommodation showed us where to go to do a bit of shopping at Checkers and Game and where we could have dinner. As it had been a long day we decided to go for an early dinner at the Big5 restaurant. Here we met the delightful owner Cheryl and her little puppy. Cheryl’s husband was the chef. The food was outstanding and proved to be one of the best!

By now we were both feeling quite weary and decided to get an early night. Well that’s what we thought???

As we walked back into our accommodation the most disgusting smell hit us between the eyes!! A ghastly sewerage smell permeated the air like a thick blanket! It was quite obvious there was a blocked drain exhaust and there was no way we could stay there! It was fowl and completely toxic. After discussion with the owner who admitted they had been working on the sewarage down the road, she agreed to find alternative accomodation for us. By now it was getting late and all I wanted to do was have a shower and sleep! Luckily she was able to find us alternative accomodation not too far away, even though it was at such short notice. Unfortunately it looked like it was in the industrial area but I didnt care, all I needed was a bed! 

When we arrived at reception we couldn’t find anyone to check us in.  They were all busy with the  restaurant which was buzzing. We waited and waited, finally someone came to our rescue. At last a hot shower, bed and sleep!

The next morning an early rise to a beautiful day, a hearty breakfast and we set off back into Kruger Park for another day of adventure in the African bush.

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Sand, potholes, and donkeys cont……

Day 3 – 6/08/2017 Kruger National Park, South Africa

After a leisurely rise, Russell & Janice said they wanted to take us into the southern region of the Kruger National Park. We set off about midday and our entry point was the Phabeni Gate There was much anticipation as to what might unfold during the course of the afternoon.

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The day turned out to be extremely bountiful. We had the most amazing sightings and got treated to the big 5! This was just a perfect start to this expedition as this was my travelling companion David’s  first visit to Africa. I told David that he mustn’t expect this every day from now on as it was indeed a major treat, not only for him but for me as well! Africa put on a wonderful show setting a very high precedent indeed!

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Couldn’t make out if this spotted hyaena was heavily pregnant or just engorged from a large feed?

Day 4 – 7/08/2017 Kruger National Park

Russell and Janice wanted to take us for a full day into the Kruger Park so we decided on an early start. Got up, had tea and rusks and set off for the Phabeni gate arriving at 7:30 thinking we had a good head start.

WRONG – we forgot it was a Sunday and school holidays so there was a queue a mile long!

We made our way to Skakuza where we decided to have brunch as we were all starting to feel hungry. This place holds a very special memory for me as it is where my husband Menno and I honeymooned 35 years ago! Unfortunately Menno wasn’t with me on this trip but maybe next time.

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Skakuza outlook over the river just as I remember it

After brunch we made our way from Skakuza to the Lower Sabie stopping at a bird hide on the way. There were quite a few professional photographers in the hide set up with some very serious cameras. Some of which boasted the biggest, longest lenses I have ever seen with the added advantage of a camouflage finish! Very impressive! 

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Here we spotted a large crocodile and a few water birds

 

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A spectacular male Kudu

We continued on our way and when we arrived at a large bridge there were lots of cars parked, obviously something was going on? We couldn’t even get onto the bridge so we stopped just before the entry point with a small gap between us and the car in front. A car came off the bridge driving past us so we flagged him down to ask him what was happening. He told us there was a couple of rhino’s having a fight on the river bed and it was pretty heated. The next moment two female rhinos came rushing up an embankment towards our car with a very disgruntled male rhino in hot pursuit. The females ran past us, one behind the other in close proximity through the narrow gap between us and the car in front. Then shortly after in hot pursuit came the male bounding up the embankment. The male suddenly stopped abruptly right in front of our car and turned his head directly towards us, eyeballing the car! At this point I must admit I felt decidedly uncomfortable! I was thinking that if he thought our vehicle, which was grey in colour resembled a rhino we were in deep trouble as there was nowhere to go. There was not only a car in front of us there was also now a whole line of cars behind us too. We couldn’t have made an escape either right or left as it was too steep and also heavily wooded. I took a deep breath as this moment froze in time, hoping he would continue on his way. Much to our relief he decided the females demanded more attention and he trotted off much to our relief. By now with the action over the cars started moving on. We were able to drive forwards onto the bridge to give us a better vantage point of the goings on, on the opposite side of the bridge. The two females were standing quietly to one side while the male huffed and puffed, screeching angrily, trotting two and fro. Quite a spectacle as at times all four legs were off the ground as he seemed to effortlessly move around. Dont mess with an angry rhino!

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Mr huffing and puffing!

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A little later in the day we could not believe our luck! We spotted no less than 22 lions basking on rocks in the warmth of the day. Beautiful females preening their babies and young adults! They mingled happily moving from one group of rocks to the other. We spent quite a bit of time here soaking in this spectacle of the wild.

We made our way back via the S21 towards Skakuza and arrived just in time with only five minutes to closing! We headed back to White River with a short stop at Tanamera Lodge for sundowners. Another awesome day! Once again spotting all of the the big five plus a few extra birds and a variety of other animals! Wow, two days in a row the big5, how lucky were we!

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On our way back we were treated to a sundowner at the beautiful Tanamera Lodge situated on the edge of a gorge. A spectacular view and amazing place.

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Tanamera dining room and bar area

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The end of another perfect day in Africa

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