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Trip Report South Africa, Kruger National Park Day One

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After spending the night in Nelspruit, I wake up excited to head to Kruger National Park. A few hours of carefully getting lost through small South African towns and I end up at the Numbi Gate entrance of the park. A brief informal registration and I am made aware of the parks rules along with what to except for the next few days.

I am told it is about fifty miles to my accommodations for the night and that I should allow at least four hours to get there. Since there is no driving in park after dark I will have to manage my drive time accordingly.

It is not long before I am welcomed to the park by a family of impalas that dash across the highway in front of me. A detour loop and soon I am watching some of the most feared and unpredictable animals in the park taking an early morning bath. A herd of water buffaloes are getting cleaned up before starting their day.

Next, it's a mother warthog with her kids followed by an almost never ending sightings of the park's other residents just mere feet from the highway. A brief stop and I am surprise to find some dude is staring me down like a wild animal. In the end, I think he is just as curious about me as I am about him.

A pause at a roadside marker and it is hard to imagine that had I been here a few years ago, at six feet tall I would be almost submerged under water. It is a vivid reminder of the contrast of the seasons here. This time of the year is the dry season. However, during the rainy season many of the roads in the park become impassable.

An almost dried up waterhole provides yet another sign of the sometimes harsh conditions here. A hardly visible hippo has taken claim to an area of it as few birds occasionally drop in for a drink. Meanwhile, an eagle watches from above probably waiting for an unsuspecting meal.

Giraffes and elephants become common sightings in the park as I continue my drive towards Satara Lodge. Kruger National Park is not the place that one would expect to pick up hitchhikers but I do. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, I keep a clear distance between us but he seems to be enjoying the ride as we cruise along about thirty miles an hour down the highway. I guess it's easy to hang onto a windshield when you have six legs.

A few days ago when I arrived in South Africa I was given an introduction to the Baobab Tree at Mandela Square. Now, I am less than a mile away from seeing a real one but I have to wait patiently as a huge obstacle is in my way.

After about ten minutes my patience wears thin and I feel the urge to move on. Putting my car in gear, I begin to inch forward hoping to not get noticed. Not taking kindly to my actions I am a lot closer and almost face to face with more tons of gray wrinkle skin than I ever hope to encounter again. For me, fortunately my ignorance is forgiven and I don't end up like a cigarette inside of a crushed beer can.

Leaving tons of bones and flesh in the distance, I catch my breath and I am soon fascinated by rolling poop. Well, to be politically correct it's rolling dung. Watching another level of nature at work leads me to plagiarize one of the more old school sayings with a new twist.

What's one animal dung is another one's dinner …. Rollin, rollin, keep them dungs rollin... rawhide!

Looking ahead in the clear blue sky, something seems a mist as the world seems upside down. However, this is normal as I am looking at the Baobab Tree. Symbolic to many Africans, the Baobab Tree also known as “The Tree Of Life” seems to be growing upside down as it towers over the neighboring vegetation.

A short drive from the Baobab Tree I arrive at the fenced in and gated Satara Lodge. What would have been a straight four hour drive has taken me almost ten. At the front office, I complete another registration process then head for a cute round bungalow that is well equipped. The ice cold air conditioner is welcoming.

A little wine down and I walk across the lodge to watch an outdoor theater. Playing on the big screen is one of those films that fascinates and attracts all of us to Africa and the untamed part of life. A nice way to end the night.

The only thing missing, popcorn.


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