We left Elephant Sands trying not to fall or get buried in the soft sand. Melanie was smart and elected to catch a ride to the main road.
At the junction, Henriette headed West and we continued South, toward the Botswana/South African border. One of the first towns we came to had a surprise waiting for a non-local. I would like to thank the Police of Botswana for my VERY FIRST performance citation. The posted speed limit was 60kph and they showed me the number on the broken down, uncalibrated radar gun at 78kph. As you all know, I do the speed limit while traveling. GPS showed 64, so I was slightly over. We just smiled and I told him I was a minister. Oops, face drop. Then I told him, “Thank you and God bless you”. I hope I ruined his day. LoL
Continuing on toward the border we noticed a lack of wild animals the closer we got. They were again being replaced by domestic animals in the road and humans. The large wild animals in South Africa are “owned”, as they are all contained in private gated reserves or gated and fenced National Parks. They are deemed too valuable to leave loose. Once out of South Africa you may find them, anywhere they want to be. Elephants, Giraffe, Zebra, or Lions everywhere and anywhere. In or near camp, on the side of the road or even in the road. You definitely need to be alert and cautious. We know for sure that elephants do not like the sound of a BMW GS motorcycle as we were charged several times. Gets the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing.
The next day we crossed the uncomplicated border, why can’t most be easy, it seems so simple. We found a small hotel/campground for a couple nights. One of the girls running the place knew Henriette from when she stayed there and just loved her.
Rain was in the forecast for the next day and it didn’t disappoint. Our destination for the day was the town of White River, just outside Kruger National Park. Riding north into the mountains, the mist became heavier as we climbed in altitude, to the point of such a heavy cloud cover, 15 kph was treacherous. The beautiful views that we rode that way for, were nonexistent, which was disappointing. Riding on to White River over the next 5 hours the rain didn’t stop. We were both soaked to the bones, realizing an upgrade of our rain gear was sorely needed.
Michnus Oliver had hooked us up with a couple they knew in White River. Nine year prior, Neil and Silvie had driven their 1999 Land Cruiser from the UK to South Africa over a year. During that time they had traveled with Michnus and Elsebie for a month in Africa, becoming close friends. They had generously offered to keep our bike for us while we rented a car to go the Kruger for a few days. Just before we got there they also offered to host us for a couple days, and then so generously offered us the use of their beautiful Land Cruiser. They had a wonderful family and we enjoyed meeting all of them and will always remember our time there.
We took off in the morning headed towards Kruger. Feeling like proper overland explorers in the cruiser, we had a great time exploring all the roads on the southern part of the park. Kruger was established in 1926, has an area of 19,485 km², and has a high concentration of the Big 5, which include lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. The largest concentration of those are on the southern part of the park, where we would be camping.
Over the next 3 days we drove most of the roads in our area, looking for the most elusive Big 5. Elephants were plentiful, as were other big animals. At the end of the first day we set up camp along the fence line at Berg-en-dal Rest Camp, in the SW corner of the park. Visitors along the fence line, a six foot electrified chain link, would arrive as a shadow in the bright full moon and stare at you. The visitors included a Hyena and a Civet Cat. They would appears from the darkness, stare, then continue to the next camp, for hours. Then, during the night as you were attempting sleep, the crazy call of hyenas and the grunting nearby of lion. There was a couple next to us, Graham and Nicky. They invited over to their camp the second night and we hit it off like old friends. More on them in the next blog.
Over the days in the park we saw it all. Elephant, White Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Hippo, Cheetah, Leopard, plus so many other unusual birds, mammals, bugs and reptiles. The one thing we were missing was seeing a large pride of lion walking on the road, in and around vehicles. On the last morning we were out at dawn, like every morning, but this time with our camp already packed. We had one more chance to see lion on a road. This usually happens early morning or sunset, out of the warm part of the day.
JACKPOT! Just a couple kms from camp, there they were. One at first, just trotting along with us down the road. Then we saw the whole pride of maybe 13 lion. A couple cars in front of us had to stop as a big male with a full mane decided it was time to clean up. He laid down in the road fully stretched out, blocking both lanes. Then without a care in the world and as shutters clicked in all directions, he prunned himself for 10 full minutes before yawning, and getting up to continue his walk.
Leaving the park with a forecast of rain left us stranded in White River for the next three days, as this was the continuation of the bad rains that had flooded the wild coast, washing out roads and destroying villages leaving over 450 dead.
On to the coast, a different way.