So, we’re heading to Kruger National Park, but keep hitting obstacles. We called in at the Mapungubwe National Park for a few hours yesterday and saw what we were able to see in a 2WD car: a tree-top walk which took us close to the Limpopo River, and then a short walk on a paved path to see the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers, where the borders of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet. We didn’t see many animals as we were there in the heat of the day and the temp was around 37C. Getting to the Treetop walk was interesting – we had to drive over an electrified cattle grid. The park is trying hard to keep elephants out, but part of the tree-top walk near the river was demolished … by elephants. There was a dead monkey on the walk …. very sad to see, although that’s really just part of the great Circle of Life, as Elton John would say or, more likely, sing. (Note: Char, I’d try to find the Youtube clip, but our internet access is so bad, I’d probably just lose access to the interwebz forever!)
We were aiming for the northern-most gate of Kruger, but realised we would have to stay somewhere along the way. Not heaps of options – a very expensive campground that looked totally deserted, no surprises given the prices they were charging. We found another wildlife reserve, the Nwanedi Game Reserve, down the road and decided to stay there last night. 13kms down a dirt road to the front gate, then another 7 kms once we were inside the reserve. We asked the gatekeeper if the road was suitable for our car and he said it was, but we discovered it was a bit tricky in places, and almost impassable in one spot where a couple of concrete road slabs have lifted up. As we drove out this morning, we noticed the gatekeeper’s motorbike and wondered how long it had been since he had actually driven down that road himself.
I think the best way of describing the campground is, in Greg’s words … the Marie Celeste of camping. And the song ‘Hotel California’ also comes to mind. It was … eerie. We were the only guests there, although we saw plenty of staff around the place. They have a full set-up – conference facilities, self-contained cabins, huge campground, restaurant … but no guests apart from us. The receptionist asked if we would be dining in the restaurant. I’m very glad we declined, I can’t even imagine how old the food there would have been! The ‘protector’ (gatekeeper/security guard) took us across to the campground and turned on the power for us, but between him and Greg they couldn’t get it to work. Not a big deal, we only use it to run our fridge and can hook it up to the car battery.
The ablutions block was amazing. 12 toilets, half of which were closed with faded ‘Out of Order’ signs on them. 5 bathtubs, 3 showers. The showers were all tucked away in dark corners and I chose the one with the most light … but it didn’t have a shower rose. The force of the water was very invigorating!
The tax invoice is a classic. The complex is part of the Limpopo Eco Tourism chain, but the invoice has space for various categories including ‘Sale of Live Animals’ and ‘Sale of Carcasses’. Er, not so ‘eco’ after all? We heard baboons this morning but didn’t see any wildlife in the reserve.
And so we get to today’s adventures so far. It’s only lunchtime, so there may be more yet. We headed east to the Pafuri Gate at the far north of Kruger, but 50kms down the road, and just 18kms from Pafuri, at a little village called Masisi, the road was completely closed because a bridge had been washed away and not been replaced. We had had that experience before, just past Mapungubwe National Park , but the road had been diverted along the river bed. Impossible when it rained, but we were able to get past without any trouble.
Not this time, though. There was a dirt road south but it wasn’t really where we wanted to go … or we had the option of turning around and going back the way we’d come. Which we did. A bit more dirt track driving, including one very interesting bit along the edge of some huge puddles. We were just about to turn around and retrace our steps again when Greg noticed a car coming from the opposite direction, so we just sat and watched how they tackled the puddles and copied them in reverse.
And then we got to a road block in a small town where a traffic cop stopped us and asked us where we were going. Greg told him that we’re heading for the Punda Maria Gate, the second northern-most gate into Kruger. The cop told us that we couldn’t get there as there is a strike in a town somewhere along the way and it’s not safe for us to drive that way. We’re currently sitting in a Wimpy cafe in Thohoyandou … exploring our options. Trying to work out what to do. It’s looking like the best option is to head down the highway and go via the main entrance, but it’s a huge detour and we had planned to do stuff in the northern part of Kruger.