Written September 17, 2011
Getting out of Jo’burg proved to be more difficult than anticipated. First, the guesthouse’s credit card machine wouldn’t accept any of our credit cards, so add an unplanned trip to the bank to replenish our cash. Then, due to traffic we missed one of the exits on Jo’burg’s web of interchanges, losing another 30 minutes winding back around to where we should have turned in the first place. But once we were on the N4 to Kruger the five hour drive was easy, passing through flat grazing land, towns spaced far apart with large power plants looming off in the distance.
It’s only just before Nelspruit that the landscape becomes more interesting – flat terrain becomes rugged; grazing land turns into fields of sugar cane, papaya and cabbage.
Upon entering the south end of Kruger the wildlife show begins immediately as we cross a wide river full of crocodiles with elephants in the distance. Shortly past the guard gate we see our first impalas and a steenbok, a small solitary antelope. Off in the distance our first rhino rests in the heat of the day under a tree.
This time of year, late September, the landscape of grasses and shrubby trees is dry and barren looking but full of life. Wide flat expanses of brush against distant ridges. Green areas mark the river beds where animals can still find water at the end of the dry season. Temperatures are quite warm in the afternoon but comfortable in the shade with a gentle breeze blowing. Mornings are cool but not cold.
Berg-en-Dal is a large camp of cabins and camping spots at the south end of Kruger. An electrified fence reminiscent of Jurassic Park surrounds the camp, supposedly separating the animals from the people. Despite the fence, frequent signs warn of possible danger. In the late evening light monkeys play in the trees above and we spy a few elephants on the opposite bank of the nearby watering hole.
The two-bedroom, unadorned cabin is clean and comfortable. The kitchen has the basic equipment necessary to cook a simple meal, including an electric kettle, toaster, refrigerator, microwave, electric stove top, but no oven. On most cabins the patio faces the park perimeter trail allowing you to watch for wildlife as you sip your sundowner.
For dinner Don whips up a pot of the cabin chicken stew that he developed on the banks of General Carrera Lake in Chile. An easy one-pot meal to find ingredients for – chicken pieces, onion, potatoes, carrots and garlic cooked in chicken bouillon and white wine seasoned with the local herb mix. Brown the chicken and onion before adding the liquids and other vegetables. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
At night the park is black and the sky clear. Perfect for star gazing, but here the southern sky displays a completely different pattern of stars with the faint cloud of the milky way also visible.