The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April 6. Johannesburg to Satara Rest Camp, Kruger National Park

Monday, April 6, Day 63 - Johannesburg to Satara Rest Camp, Kruger National Park 

We are heading to Kruger National Park today! Excitement rules and we both wake up before the alarm goes off. Dick is not hungry so he goes to get the car at 7AM and Carolyn goes down for some breakfast. She goes back to the room to pack up and wait for Dick. He shows up at 8:15 with the requested SUV! It was a bit of a cluster f**k getting it however.

First he goes to the counter he went to yesterday, just outside of the terminal, and waits to be served. The clerk looks at the reservation and says, "Oh this is a Gold member need to go to that desk. It is in the back of the parking garage on the next floor!" OK, after asking two guys for directions he finally finds the office. Great news! They have our SUV! Bad news is we have to have an approval letter from the main SA office of Hertz to take the rent car into Swaziland....and that request takes 8 days!!! Dick explains that Carolyn had talked to American Express and they had called directly to the Airport office three times about getting approval and were told each time no big deal, we will just give you the letter the day you pick it up! Not exactly sure what happened, but the clerk disappears and soon is back with a form for Dick to sign and then a little later she is back with the completed letter! She just smiles and says she has her ways!

Back to the hotel to collect Carolyn and the luggage and we are on the road to Kruger by 9AM. Kruger is a very special corner of our earth. It is a 20,000sq km National Park, about the size of Wales...and home to at least 147 mammal species, 507 kinds of birds, 114 reptiles, plus various fish and amphibians. By the late 1800s much of the game had been nearly wiped out by uncontrolled hunting. In 1926 Kruger was established with the joining of two earlier reserves, Sabbi Game Reserve, established in 1898, and Singwitsi Game Reserve, established in 1903, to slow the slaughter. Together with adjoining protected lands in Mozambique and Zimbabwe it forms one of the largest protected areas in Africa. It is a gem and a delight to visit.

We have to be in the gate of the Satara Rest Camp by 6PM. To the Numbi Gate entrance it is a four hour drive and from that gate to the camp it is a three to six hour drive depending on stops and routes, plus we have to stop for groceries before we enter the park. We have nine hours so our time is really close. The car business cost us our cushion, but the GPS says we should be OK.

The highway to Kruger is the N4 which is a good road and we make good time. It is also rather scenic and the time flies. We get to Nelspruitt about 12:30PM and stop at a McDonald's for a fast lunch and then run into a big grocery across the parking lot and get water and a minimum of supplies for our meals for two days.

This drive to Numbi Gate is as interesting as the drive to Kruger Gate was in 2009. The road goes through one little village after another. Everyone is out, either walking down the road, waiting for one of the local van type buses or gathered around one of the 100's of small road side stands.

We arrive at the Numbi Gate at 2:30PM with enough time left to get to Satara if we go the direct tarred road. Thank goodness! Carolyn had hoped for another hour, but is just glad we made it! After paying our entrance fee and getting our pass we head out, The GPS says we should be at Satara by 5PM. So that means we have an hour to play with if needed. Actually this turns out to be a very productive, fun three hour game drive!

We start on N1-4 and get to Shitlhave watering hole and decide to turn down to it. Good choice as we find a herd of waterbuck drinking at one end and some crocodile sunning on a sand bank at the other; we are off to a good start. On down the road we see impala and zebra. Near the Transport lookout we spot rhino! We are stopping a few minutes at each site, but so far there is no traffic so we are doing OK with our cushion of time on the GPS.

We turn north on H1-1and go around Skukuza rest camp. This is a busy area and there isn’t anything to see here this afternoon. That changes as we get to the Sabbi River bridge. There are hippos in the water and baboons all over the bridge and everyone is stopped taking pictures. We pick up H1-2 at the bridge and head on North. We see more hippos, several elephants, one big one crossing the road, and several lions lying on the sandy river bank.

Then we turn on H1-3 and there is a little dry spell until we spot several rhino just off the road. Our time is still good so we stop and watch for a few minutes. Then we watch a big elephant stroll across the road in front of us. On up the road we see a mixed herd of zebra and wildebeest along with the odd groupings of impalas; they are the rabbits of Kruger! There is also another bull elephant. Then there is another traffic jam caused by a troop of baboons.

Dick is getting impatient and eager to get to the camp site. Carolyn has just said that the only thing she would like to still see today is giraffe. Well, as we take a bend in the road, we pass a pair eating the tree tops...but Dick is going to fast to stop...Jack makes a smart comment and we continue on. Maybe they will still be around tomorrow!

We have maintained a 30 minute cushion most of the trip and we are just a few KM from the entrance when we come to a huge traffic jam on the bridge just before the camp. We inch forward as cars adjust for better and better views. Remember, you can't get out of your car!  As we pass the middle of the bridge we can see a large black spot and some movement around it right on the edge of the river. Dick manages a stopping spot for a couple of minutes as we try to see what it is. The sun is almost on the horizon and this is down in a ravine area so it is in deep shadow. With the aid of the good camera zoom, we can see that a male lion is working on a cape buffalo. It is a very fresh kill, but it is too dark to see much...we will check it out first thing tomorrow. On to the camp. We are very happy with all that we saw today!

We arrive right at 5:30PM and get our perimeter rondaval. It is just down from the one we had in 2009. These are basic cabins with twin beds, shower bath, A/C and outdoor, minimal kitchen, though they are fully equipped for self-catering. We had picked up basic food for the next few meals earlier. Dick opens a bottle of white and a bottle or red wine and we fix cheese, fruit and crackers to munch on while the spaghetti cooks. A bottle and a half of wine later we are very mellow and well fed by our simple meal. By 8PM we are in bed in a very dark room, sound asleep. The jackals are the last thing we remember hearing!

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