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Published: March 24th 2016
Sicuelo expressed the indignation we felt.
Breakfast this morning from the small buffet was a most delicious juicy fat pork sausage, coarse grind. I also chose the large sweet tomatoes. Fruit was cantaloupe and honeydew melon, rather than the luscious mango and papaya and avocado at Timbavati. Having discovered at the morning coffee break in Kruger Park that the hot chocolate was actually powdered chocolate with not too much sugar and without milk, I have been enjoying it as a rich start to the day.
After breakfast at the leisurely time of 8:30, we set off on a nature walk with our guide from yesterday, Sicuelo (the “cu” indicates a click sound) and Sonnboy, who is a graduate trainee. They slowly led us along a path and told us about birds and plants. For some unknown reason, Sicuelo told us about customs of divorce and sexuality, the most interesting part being that all children of a mother belong to her first husband, even after his death and subsequent relationships or marriages. This talk brought us to a watching hole and a half-submerged crocodile. Birds flitted around in the bushes and trees. And the blesboek and impala in the grass paid us no mind. Towards the end
Well camouflaged eyes are above the white markings.
of the walk, we saw a tree full of Royal Ibis. At the gateway to the path was a gruesome display of wire snares used by poachers: 20,000 according to the sign, more than all the unguents in Swaziland.
After the walk we departed immediately for Hlane Royal National Park
, driving for about 1 ½ hours. The road away from Mlilwane was rough corrugated red clay and stones, but after 3.4 km, the road was tarmac, then a modern highway which led through Manzini, the second largest city. Being Sunday, the traffic was light. We saw a number of Church of Zion adherents (found throughout much of Southern Africa), who are distinguished by their dress. Women wear white trimmed with a solid colour such as blue or red or green, each colour indicating a different regional group. Men wear a black suit with an appropriately coloured ribbon. Also, we drove past a vast sacred ground where even now young unmarried women participate in a reed ceremony honouring the Queen Mother, a traditionally powerful advisor to the King. The reeds used to be for repairing the Queen’s house.
At Hlane, our immediate priority was to order lunch to allow the restaurant time
Modern, second city
to prepare it. On Duane’s recommendation, I had a burger of “venison”, which means game, in this case impala and wildebeest. When it came, the burger was tasty, but the meat was lean and a bit dry. The peppery sauce had just enough kick to enhance the burger flavour.
Between ordering and eating we had about forty minutes to watch and photograph the White Rhino and the hippos at the waterhole by the restaurant. The Rhino were about fifty feet away (we had a low barrier), snoozing in the sun, occasionally flapping an ear. At first there were two pairs (unknown relationship) and after a long time two more trotted over to the others, who remained oblivious. In the water three hippos were submerged except for their backs, and a twirling ear or two. After we had given up on seeing them move, they walked in procession along the bottom to the shade under a tree. Their pace was regal, their backs and their snouts just above water. Amongst all this inaction, the impala grazed, sprinted away, returned and leaped gracefully over a muddy patch – except for a few young ones who missed and had to clamber out.
Snoozing rhino ignores impala.
Following lunch we set off in a safari vehicle for a turn about the Hlane property. For most of the time we saw birds, and impala and warthogs, which now take for granted (!). The marvel of this park is how close we got to the animals. When we saw a group of elephants, they were about forty feet away, eating Sickle Bush
, a thorny plant that seemed delicious to the grazing beasts. One elephant was quite young – always delightful to see. They gradually moved closer and closer, until our guide realized they wanted to cross the road. He rather hurriedly backed up the vehicle to give them room. A bit later we saw first one female giraffe, then her mate, eating the Sickle Bush and other leaves. After a considerable time our guide spotted a little giraffe, perhaps eighteen months old. Very cautiously it moved closer and closer, always staying in tight proximity to its mother. They ate near each other for a while, then moved on. Our guide said they were female sub-adults, which possibly explains why they are sort of jolly or curious and stick together. The wonder of experiencing the slow pace of the animals’
This is what we looked like to the animals.
life felt like a great honour.
When ordering a drink before dinner, I heard the South African anthem on the radio of the barkeep. I said I knew the song and liked it. Because he was surprised I knew the anthem, I mentioned learning a Zulu song in my choir. Of Course he insisted I sing it. I fluffed it, but he shook my hand in appreciation. Glad to sing a Zulu song for Zulus!
Dinner: salad, chicken curry, stir-fried impala (delicious!), glass of white wine View video of animal Close Ups.
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