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Published: November 27th 2013
Mom's 80th birthday bash.....it was a bit touch and go, not sure if we were going to fulfil her birthday wishes, as mom had to undergo a spinal fusion with a bone graft, plates and screws just 8 weeks before her birthday due to two fractured vertebrae. A couple of days in ICU because of cardiac arrest and vital signs going for a loop, we were all in a spin, because we were very concerned about her. In the background we were still planning her birthday, but we thought it would never materialise and at the most we would all have to fly down to Cape Town and have a subdued celebration either at her home or next to a hospital bed. We didn’t even want to think of anything worse than that. Mom's birthday wish:
to celebrate her birthday with her children, somewhere in the bush, with a braai (barbeque) dinner and hopefully be able to see a wild animal or two. To put this all into perspective, let me fill you in on some family details. Mom lives in Cape Town, Paul (her son) and I live in Johannesburg, and Karen (her daughter) and Clive live
in the UK. Karen and Clive would fly to South Africa, but not sure if it would be Cape Town or Johannesburg, depending on where we were going to have the birthday celebrations. Initially we wanted to take mom to the Kruger National Park, where we could stay at various camps and fulfil all her wishes. This was before we were aware that she would need a back operation. When we worked out the travelling times and distances, we scrapped that idea and knew there was not a chance that mom would manage this after such a major operation. Because of her days in ICU we thought we would all have to fly down to the Cape and just spend a few days with her. But slowly mom started recovering, walking and managing to do a little bit more each day. The specialist who operated on mom gave the go-ahead that she would be able to fly six weeks after the operation, which would be cutting it a bit fine, but could be accomplished. Mom gave the go-ahead as well and said she thought she could still manage her birthday trip, so we went ahead with our plans. Paul decided
it would be best if I fly down to Cape Town to assist mom with her packing and with the flight back up to us and Karen and Clive in turn booked their flight to Johannesburg. With the motivation of a looming trip mom worked hard to recover sufficiently to be able to travel and enjoy her birthday.
At this stage we were limited to where we could go, because of availability of accommodation, deposits to secure bookings in amongst all the uncertainty and of course the most critical - travelling distance and comfort for mom. I managed to find two places in the Waterberg north of us and about 2 to 3 hours away, had no idea whether they would be suitable, but we took the chance as in theory they were just the kind of places we were looking for.
The trip from Cape Town to Johannesburg went well for mom, considering it was her first major outing since her operation. Seeing mom with our own eyes and what she was capable of, we were satisfied that she would manage the trip with a bit a planning, care and consideration. We headed
for our first destination which was about 3 hours away. We stopped for a light lunch at a lovely goat farm called Geluksfontein goats cheese farm just before Vaalwater. Clive being a great cheese lover, had to sample the cheese platter which was obviously delicious as he bought some cheese to take with us for our lunches for the next couple of days, which we sampled and had to agree tasted good. Some interesting names for the pickled cheese balls: Bok-E-Naters, which were soft Goats milk cheese balls in a chilli oil and Moerse - Naters which was cheese balls rolled in pepper. For those that don't understand Afrikaans, naters with a 'k' in front is a derogatory word for testicles and 'moerse' is derogatory for massive or impressive. Unfortunately the explanation is a bit lost in translation, but I think you get the idea.
The last 10 kilometres to Koshari game ranch, was on a gravel road - rather corrugated but mom seemed to handle it quite well. Arriving at Koshari we were welcomed by Zonkey, Donkey and Zebra (I am sure they have other names, but that is our names for them). Zebra was rescued
when she was young, before she became lion feed and was put in an enclosure near Donkey. Donkey had ideas of his own and became amorous and as a result Zonkey was born. They are kept separate from the other animals in their own enclosure now, a happy family of three.
Koshari is a small private game farm with about 1000 head of small game - none of the big five, although occasionally other guests have had leopard sightings very close to the guest cottages and boma. We had two well equipped self catering houses allocated to us, but the best part was that for the three nights we stayed there, there were no other guests. The peace and tranquillity was food for the soul. Our two chalets faced onto a dam, but with only a little bit of water on the far side. Last year there was a major downpour with a dam bursting its banks on one of the farms near Koshari. This in turn caused all three dams on Koshari to burst their banks and since then there has not been enough rain to fill the dams again. We still had impala, kudu, warthog
and wildebeest come down to drink water which we all loved watching. The warthog were a treat to watch while they wallowed in the shallow water and mud with a look of bliss on their faces and then suddenly taking off up the dam wall in case they were in danger. We could walk or drive around the farm at our own free will, but if we wanted, we could go on guided game walks or drives. We drove around a few times, enjoying sundowners on a koppie watching the last rays of the setting sun. One morning we went for an early morning walk and the following morning we took our coffee and rusks, drove to a spot and had a staring competition with nine giraffe. Karen wandered off to take a closer photo and Clive panicked because he thought he might lose his wife, but they were actually far more worried about us and would back off very quickly.
We were warned about the squirrels that were mischievous and I should have known better than to put fruit out on the kitchen table, but the first morning we woke up and walked bleary eyed into
the kitchen, we found lovely little teeth marks in our fruit! After that we put away everything we thought they could get into and would eat, out of their reach. They were very cute to watch around the house darting from tree to tree, though.
Every evening we sat around a fire in the boma - a true Bosveld fire, and probably the highlight of mom's day. We had thoughts of other visitors’ leopard sightings near the boma, but it never made an appearance while we were there. Mixed feelings that we didn’t spot a leopard, because it would have been awesome to watch it, but on the other hand I don’t want to be on the leopard’s dinner menu. Mind you, behind walls and windows I would have been very happy to see one!
Our last morning at Koshari was mom's birthday. After a celebratory breakfast we left and headed to Marakele, a SANPARKS reserve in the Waterberg, about 100 kilometres away. Unbeknown to us, the route we wanted to take was once again a long gravel road – this time about 60 kilometres! It was a bit jarring, but the game that
we saw through fences on either side made up for the discomfort. Just before arriving at Marakele we had to drive down a winding road of a pass and the view that we saw from there was just an appetizer for the rest of the views and vistas we would see in the park.
We booked in for two nights and were warned that the monkeys were 'very clever' at the tented camp. The park is divided into two sections, of which the area where the tented camp was, was apparently where the Big Five were. With the dense vegetation we didn't see any of the big five, however, I am sure they could walk around there and you would be totally oblivious to the fact that they were near you. There were other little animals that made themselves known - monkeys! Just as cute to watch as our squirrels previously, but then the first day they got into Karen and Clive's tent and proceeded to pamper themselves with creams and lotions. At first we thought that they must have sneaked in through a window but then saw there was a gap between the tent wall and
roof where they could get in. At least our enclosed kitchen tents with sliding doors that were separate to the sleeping area, were safe, or so we thought.
We drove around a couple of loops looking for animals, but they were very limited. Around each corner though there seemed to be a better view than the previous one, looking down valleys, up mountains or over plains. To me the scenery was worth the visit, even though the roads in certain areas in the park needed to have some attention. One of the best views was when we drove up a narrow steep road to the Lenong view point. Some people would find the drive a bit daunting, but you will be rewarded with a spectacular view and some great bird life. Hopefully my photos will give you an idea of how great the view was.
The last morning at camp the monkeys were particularly pesky and managed a shifty move, by opening the sliding doors of the kitchen, going to the fridge and helping themselves to our milk and a couple of other bits and pieces. If Karen and Clive hadn't seen it with
their own eyes we wouldn't have believed them. Chatting about this while sitting in front of mom's tent thinking they had had their fill, Paul noticed one of them in the tent, grabbing mom's pill box with her weeks supply of blood pressure and pain pills, salmon oil, vitamins and minerals and leaping on to the top of the tent where of course we couldn't get to them. Running circles around the tent, trying to get them to drop the pill box, the alpha male becoming rather aggressive and possessive, we were just not succeeding in getting them to drop the pill box, until they had opened all the compartments for every day of the week and emptied out each one, eating some of them, apart from the few I managed to find lying on the ground outside the tent. We now had drugged monkeys, high on vitamins and any other ailment taken care off. At least we were leaving soon, so we wouldn't have to deal with the aftermath once the pills wore off! Once again they had managed to get in where there was a small gap in the canvas. The office staff were right in saying that
the monkeys were clever, they just didn't tell us how clever they were, because they managed to get in where we thought it impossible. We did warn them at the gate when we left just what the monkeys were capable of doing and felt that other precautions and warnings were necessary.
The tented camp is in a lovely setting, overlooking a dam and there is constant activity of birds flitting around, dipping to the dam to quench their thirst and a resident monitor lizard that we were fortunate to see on numerous occasions. On occasion we saw impala, zebra and warthog coming to drink and I spotted the head of a giraffe behind the trees who might have drunk water earlier in the morning. The second night produced a spectacular thunderstorm that we could watch in panorama. Both nights we had howling wind with the canvas from the tents flapping around, but they seemed well secured.
Those five days flew by so quickly and we were thrilled that mom could celebrate her birthday just as she wanted to, even though she had to give away some of her pills in the process! We trust
she enjoyed her birthday trip with a few interesting snippets to tell her friends. DISCLAIMER:
No mature ladies or animals were intentionally or purposefully harmed during this trip.
Our photos are a collection of photos from each of us. Some aren’t the greatest quality, but sometimes it just captures the moment. Apologies in advance if I have named birds incorrectly.
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