South Africa Day 05

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The plan for today is as follows: get to the gate before 0430 to be in the queue to go and see the 10 lions again; then come back and pack; drive to Malelane Gate to get my Wild card updated; and then go to Berg-en-dal which is not far from Malelane Gate.

So I set the alarm for 10 minutes earlier, i.e., it is set for 0350. And I'm at the gate by 0420. There are about 5 vehicles in front of me, and by the time the gate opens there are about 10 behind.

I wonder how many of these have the same plan as me. When it comes to the main cross roads outside Skukuza, only two of the 5 go in the same direction As me. I overtake one because it is going too slow, and later I catch the first vehicle up. It is still dark, and I can't reallyh complain about its speed: it's very close to the speed limit. So I sit behin=d it. Yippee, as at a road direction it goes left and I go straight on. So I'm in front. Soon after I see some others behind catching me up and so I speed up. Later as I'm approaching the site of the lkions, there's a car in front. So the two of us are the first to see the lions.

They are a lot further back from the road than they were yesterday: today, all of them are close to the kill. I take afew photos. But 4 more cars turn up. I'm worried I'm going to get hemmed in, and so I turn round and leave everybody to it. It's going to be mayhem here today for the rest of the day.

When I looked at the signtings board yesterday, I saw two reports of lions at the Transport dam which is not far here. So I aim for the Transport dam.

The klipspringer rocks are en route, but there's no sign of the klipspringer. At the dam, there are lots of birds (including a knobbilled duck and lots of weaver birds) and a hippo. Later, just as I'm thinking of leaving, lots of waterbucks turn up for a drink.

So it's back to the rest camp to check out. This means packing followed by putting the key in the key box that is near to the main gate.

I guess there are two ways to get toMalelane Gate from Skukuza: you can either take the H3 or you can take the H3, then some minor roads that run paraller to the H3 and then re-join the H3 later. I do the latter.

This rout first aims for the S114 dam (the place where I've seen a hyaena two mornings running). Today (albeit 3 hours later than normal), there are lots of zebra (normal), lots of wildebeeste including some youngsters (normal), and 6 rhino lying in the water of the waterhole.

Three main exciting things happen en route to Malelane Gate. First, I see my first Blackbellied Korhaan. I stop because I can hear it, and then it's hard work to find it. Eventually I do. It's one of my favourite birds and it's the first I've seen this trip.

The second bit of excitement starts when the driver of the car in front points out I've just passed a lion. I turn round and find it. It's lying under a tree. I take some lousy photos.

The third exciting occurs when, back on the main road, lots of cars stop, and the car in front points out a martial eagle sitting on a rock just about 20 feet from the road. I take some more photos.

I get to Malelane Gate and explain the situation to the person. Yes, he does have an update button on his terminal. So he updates my card. This produces some output that includes the fact that my card expires towards the end of 2007. The output also states my current balance. It doesn't look as if they have used last year's balance as part-payment for this year's conservation fee. I think about ringing Liberty up again, and whether to fax them when I get home.

I decide to make another vegatable and chicken stew. I choose to use a Cream of Vegetable Powdered soup as the bas rather than using some stock. Later, this turns out to be a mistake as the cream sticks to the bottom of the pand and is burnt. However, it doesn't affect the rest of the soup.

The soup preparation takes time, and so I'm late for this afternoon's drive. So I leave at 1618. I'm using one of my set routes around here. It's uneventful for the first 80 minutes as I only see a group of 2 elephants. But I then spot on the other v=side of the valley lots of vehicles. And so I go and join in. It's a leopard. Someone explasins that it is on the lowest branch of he the dead tree. It's dead easy to find, and I start taking photos. There are lots of cars jostling for position. I annoy a few people. Having got my phiotos how do I get out. It's not possible to reverse as there are other vehicles behind. It looks easier to go forward. This actually means I get more alongside the leopard, and so better photo opportunities turn up. In th end, the leopard gets up to see what tall the commotion is about. So this leads to even better photos.

I have the first part of the Vegatable and chickrn stew tonight.

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