South Africa Day 04

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It's the alarm at 0400. I wonder why I planned to stay 3 nights at Skukuza (whereas only 2 nights elsewhere). What route shall I do today that will be different? No, do the same set route as the last two days. That route has produced wild dogs (two years), lions (two years), hyaenas (probably every year). So maybe I'll be lucky today.

I'm in the car by 0437. I'm doing the set route. So first I aim for the S114 waterhole. There's nothing there. Some impala turn up wandering to the waterhole cautiously.

Suddenly I hear a noise from in front of the car. A hyaena is rushing past my car about 10 feet away. I quickly grab the camera and shoot. It slows down when it's away from my car. And it then goes to the waterhole scareing the impala away. It seems to be following some scent as it wanders around all over the place disappearing at the far end of the waterhole for a few minutes but then coming back to the waterhole again. After 13 minutes it crosses the road in front of me and disappears into the bush.

I stay at the waterhole for some time wondering if anything else is going to happen. A different group of four impala turn up. They don't have a drink, but two of them are rutting.

I leave the waterhole carrying on the set route. 3K onwards I see two giraffes, and just after that a buck crosses the road at speed and so I don't identify what kind of buck it is.

4K further on I see two cars on the wrong side of the road. And lying on the road is a very small lion cub. But the occupants of the car are looking the other way, where there is a large contingent of lions and a kill. I think it was a giraffe and I count aanother 9 lions (making 10 in all) including probably 3 clubs. Some of them are sprawled out either exhausted, full or tired, whilst others are tearing at the kill.

I take lots of photos and then I wonder how I can get out of here. There's a cub on one side of the road and two cars facing me on my side of the road. A game drive vehicle comes along and squeezes in between the other two. The lion cub no longer has aview of the other lions and so it gets up and makes it way pass the vehicles to join the other lions.

Which gives me the opportunity to go.

Next stop is the klipspringer rocks to see if he's in today. On one side of the klipspringer rock there's a south african white male in his car on his own. He says he's seen two lion cubs on the rocks but they are not visible at the moment. This sounds unlikely, and not knowing what his game is I don't tell him where he can see 10 lions including 3 cubs. I hang around for a bit but I then leave to go round to the far side of the rocks.

Where lo and behold is my friend the klipspringer sitting on top of one of the lower rocks. I'm so pleased. It is Christmas Day, and my presents are 10 lions and a klipspringer.

I take some photos and sit there hoping it will jump up to the other rocks. They are amazing when they move.

Other tourists come. Some drive straight pass not noticing the klipspringer whereas others notice why I've stopped and get their binoculars or cameras out. During my stay of 90 minutes, I only tell three groups about the lions. One of these is from Manchester.

Yes, I stay for 90 minutes waiting for the klipspringer to jump to some other rocks. He does get up and then lies down again. Twice. I need the loo, and so I leave.

The roads are very busy today. On Christmas Day lots of black south africans come into the park.

It starts to rain a bit. I go back to Skukuza aqrriving there at asbout 0840, go to the loo, and then look at the sightings board. Our lion is on it, and people have elsewhere also seen two sightings of leopards and one of wild dogs.

So at 0917 I set off again to try to find them but it's all in vain. On the way back I do come across seven vehicles on the right hand side of the road some going the same way as me and others coming towards me, some slowing working their way forwards and others backwards, all of them trying to avoid each other and look into the bush at the same time. I quiz one of them as to what it's about. He says it's a leopard. But as to whether anyone has seen the leopard, that's very unclear. Masybe the real situation is that someone say the leopard 30 minuters ago and since then people have been looking not seeing but telling others that it's a leopard.

During this second trip, I see hippo, crocodile, the 5 maribou storks I saw yesterday, two saddle billed storks, a hammerkop, some baboons, four buffalos, another buffalo and two ground hornbills.

There are two single lane bridges across rivers near the start of this route. Whilst driving across the first bridge, I fleetingly see a pied kingfisher. So I reverse back and look around. It's a single lane bridge and I have to get out of people's way whilst looking around fro the pied kingfisher. This last ten minutes and there is no sight of it. It's been an unusual trip as I've not seen one before today, amd I should also have seend a giant kingfisher by now. I give up, and as I do so, two pied kingfishers fly pass me. No change of photographing them, butg at least I have now definitely seen one (well, two).

And then it's on to the next river crossing. It's a single lane long bridge across a dry river that is covered in grasses, and there are two vehicles stopped in the middle of the bridge. It's because of a lion sitting on a rock (surrounded by grasses). I find a passing place in the middle of the bridge and park in it and take photos of the lion and let vehicles behind me pass.

There are roars of other lions in the distance. And then another lion goes under the bridge behind me, through the grasses and joins the first lion. Then they both leave disappearing into the grasses.

Thinking the car waiting to cross from the other direction will be getting annoyed with me hogging the passing place, I proceed forwards. I don't want to do this as I guess the other lions will turn up later.

Of course on the way back I have to cross this bridge again. This time, there are two cars ahead of me waiting to go onto the bridge and there's a long queue of cars coming the other way not on the bridge yet. And in the middle at the passing place, there are about four vehicles. I assume that there are lions there, and wait patiently.

More vehicles arrive behind me. I can't work out whether the people in the middle of the bridge are still sightseeing, or whether they can't work out how to get pass each other. One of the cars in front of me drives onto the bridge and joins the car park in the middle. A horn (not allowed in the park) sounds behind me. A vehicle from the other side drives to those in the middle. This is getting silly. The owner of this vehicle shouts at the people from my side. When this doesn't work he gets out of the vehicle and tells them to move back. So two vehicles reverse back to in front of me. And then all the cars from the other side come my way. About 14 of them. Then it's our turn to move. When I get to the middle one of the cars from the other side has decided to park in the passing place. I look out. I can't see any lions. Maybe the people had earlier congregated in the middle bacuse of the whisper there's a lion someone in the river.

It's been an exciting Christmas Day morning.

For the afternoon game drive, I decide to try and find the leopards again, i.e., to repeat this morning's second trip. But I fail to find any leopards.

I'm travelling mainly on tarmac roads and today they are very busy. And there's litter about whereas there is normally very little.

At the first river crossing, there is a pied kingfisher sitting on the curb of the single track road that is the bridge. I take photos from some distance away, and then take photos alongside it, and then drive pass. They often sit in this place, and I've been surprised I haven't seen it before, and they are not shy: you can drive pass within 2 feet of it.

Well pleased. What about a giant (kingfisher)?

Not much else to say about this afternoon's trip. I see two adult warthogs with three very small babies; a fish eagle; 6 zebras; lots of elephants causing mayhem to the traffic; and two saddlebilled stork.

For dinner, it's the second night of vegetable and chicken stew with the very expensvie wine. I've had to store it in the fridge in 3 cereal bowls and one plate because the accommodation does not come with sufficient crockery. Anyway I hjeat it up. It is wonderful. I hjave 4 cvereal bowlfuls. The soup is a bit too chilli flavoured but it is not bland (as my soups have been in the past); the mushrooms and potatoes (both bought separately) are good; the vegetables from the vegetable-pack are a bit bland; but each piece of the chicken is a delight to eat. I had worried that I had overfryed the chicken, but no way as it was gorgeous. One of the most tastiest chicken meals I've ever produced. The wine was good too!

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