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Published: January 29th 2016
Clouds amongst the mountains
We were higher than the sky!
Last night I was so tired I went to bed before 10:00 and thus awoke early just before 6:00 fully refreshed! When I opened the drapes my idyllic view of trees, pond and mountain was obscured by a cloud laying of top of it. After putting some things together, I looked up to see the whole scene clear and bathed in golden dawn light. Magical! I opened the French doors and delighted to hear the birds twittering.
Breakfast, like dinner, was held in the Misty Mountain
dining room overlooking the infinity pool and the breathtaking view above the mountains to the east, this morning touched by white mist. The menu was confusing - too many unfamiliar choices; I just ate a cold Scandinavian style meal, complete with papaya (tiny pieces and delicious).
Then we hit the road for a long morning drive, gradually descending through the foothills and northern escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains
. Farms of knotty pine
dominated the landscape, most of the branches trimmed off to make the trees grow straight. About midmorning we stopped a little off the road at Berlyn Falls
. A deep gorge was cleaved at one end by a narrow cascade that split part way down into
Bourkes Luck Potholes
Just put his hand in and grabbed gold!
a haze of multiple streams. A fairly short way after these falls, we stopped at Bourke’s Luck Potholes
. Bourke came upon the natural sandstone deep depressions and found gold in them, becoming very rich. Now the richness comes from the dramatic falls and whorls. Our final viewpoint was a look back at the Blyde River Canyon
, which has been more or less our path for the morning. According to Duane this is the third largest canyon in the world; we wondered how it was measured but politely allowed South African pride.
Our arrival at Timbavati Lodge
was hurried, because of the full plans for our afternoon. After a quick lunch of sandwiches and fries with a glass of juice, we joined a local guide to walk across the road to his village for a tour. Although the Lodge employed him, this was not a slick tour, particularly since his English was limited. However, it was done with genuine pride. First he showed us the house of the local sangoma
(traditional healer) and explained a bit about casting the bones
; the 37-year-old sangoma herself had to go to town and wasn’t there. Then we walked along the few dusty streets while he gave a modest
Now this is different!
commentary. The kids were just coming from school and were cooperative about having their pictures taken; picture taking is certainly more friendly now that people can be shown their photos on our digital cameras. We ended at the village store, which was stuffed full of goods and processed foods. I asked the proprietor for his photo in his store – he was really surprised and pleased.
With only a few moments back at the Lodge for ablutions, we set off for a Sundowner Safari. In the safari truck we drove about half an hour down the road to a private game reserve. All such parks adjacent to Kruger National Park
are fenced on three sides, so the animals can cross freely in and out of the parks but vehicles may not.
For about three hours, our guide and driver, Bennet, maneuvered the four-wheel along very rough dirt roads and trails, with all of us peering into the bush to catch sight of animals. He said he wouldn’t stop for common animals such as birds and the antelope family, but, perhaps because nothing else showed up for quite a while, he did. I was startled enough by kudu, impala and waterbuck
to feel thrilled. Two giraffes on either side of the road chewed and looked at us steadily.
When finally we saw an elephant, he was so far away he looked like a dark shadow. The elephants are very dark, almost black, as we witnessed when a family group appeared on the side of the road. They wanted to cross and were disconcerted (it seemed) to have us in the way. A very cute baby elephant came fairly close to us, trying to assess our role in his life, perhaps. Not much farther along, we came across a troop of young, mainly male Cape Buffalo
milling about near the side of the road. They were not very curious, just a bit annoyed to have us “blocking” the road.
As the sun turned yellow, Bennet drove us to a large water hole. Zebras, impala and waterbuck were ranged along the lake area. After our eyes became more accustomed we saw a crocodile sunning on the beach. And for a moment, we saw a hippo’s jaws extend hugely above the water – then he disappeared below the water line. For a final thrill of near perfection, a family group of elephants entered
almost on the horizon line, eventually to disappear into a fold of the land, presumably to drink and splash. Meanwhile we had beer or wine and biltong
(dried meat, better than jerky).
Bennet was determined to find one of the big cats, but determination was not enough. As the park grew more and more shadowed, he drove through every-more dubious trails, shining a search lamp, and finally giving up when the Park was closing at 7:00. As it was, we were twenty minutes late leaving and forty-five minutes late for dinner by the pool. We were all exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.
Dinner: Malaysian soft meat loaf, called Bobotie
, and stir-fried vegetables. Too tired for wine!
of Zebras at sunset.
of trip to date.
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