Monday, September 08, 2008

Wildest Kruger

Thank you, members of the Legion, for forgiving me. Here, if you have nothing better to do at work, are some more musings from the road. First we go back in time a couple of weeks to when we were in the Kruger National Park. Read on..........

Too chicken to do a self-drive safari in Africa like Mr and Mrs Blog do?

Too fraidy-cat to camp in the wilds of the Zambezi valley, with lions and hyenas sniffing around your tent at night?

Too sensible?

Well, have I got the safari option for you. If you like the idea of camping out in the wilds of Africa – in the bush as opposed to a national parks rest camp – but don’t have the gear, the guts or the gumption to do it yourself, then try a camping safari.

Done me some camping in the last 13 years of travelling through Africa, Legion of Fans (LOF), and it’s fair to say that Mrs Blog and I think we have it pretty well sussed when it comes to living under canvas. (Actually, we live under polypropylene, which is cheaper, lighter and more water resistant than canvas, but I digress).

It was with great interest, then, that Mrs B and I signed up for an organised camping safari in the Kruger National Park in order to see how a professional outfit does life in the weeds.

The Wolhuter Tented Safari, run by my very good friends Thompson’s Safaris of South Africa, is named after pioneer Kruger ranger Harry Wolhuter who famously used his pocket knife to kill a lion that had dragged him (and his horse) to the ground.

The Wolhuter temporary tented camp is off the Sweni Road, near Satara, if that means anything to you. If it doesn’t then be advised that this is Animal Country with a capital ‘A’ and a capital ‘C’.

Our accommodation was in canvas bell tents (perfect for the dry season, though I stand by my earlier assertions re man-made fibres and water resistance), nicely kitted out with a bit of carpet and stretchers padded with not one, but two mattresses.

Mr Blog is padded in all the wrong places, and my hips ain’t one of them, so I do like a bit of blubber between me and my sleeping surface.

The only thing between us and the big, bad, carnivorous creatures of the Kruger Park, however, aside from a few microns of canvas, was a three-strand portable electric cattle fence, wired up to a car battery.

In the Army, many years ago when Mr Blog was a young soldier, we were issued with a piece of equipment called a “Smock, Psychological”. It’s proper name was “Smock, Tropical” (the Army writes everything ass-backwards), but people in the real world would have called it a camouflage raincoat. It was dubbed ‘psychological’ because it didn’t do a very good job of 1. keeping the rain out – it leaked like a sieve; and 2. concealing the wearer – it’s camouflage pattern of black and vivid green made one stand out in the Australian bush like a Dingo’s donga. (Also, for some reason none of us could ever fathom these coats always smelled of vomit, no matter how often they were washed. But I digress, again…)

Anyway, Mrs Blog and I went to sleep on our first night, safe and sound behind our “fence, psychological”.

As I’ve reported in my other blog, at we had quite an eventful second night, watching a clan of hyenas dispatch two impalas in quick time.

Meals, as I’ve also chronicled elsewhere, were top class thanks to the impossibly young and very talented Tish and Scott who managed to conjure up some culinary wonders in a kitchen that also looked like it dated from Australian Army surplus stocks (like my spew-scented raincoat, but with much nice odours emanating).

Around dinner time we had hyenas and a civet (look it up) patrolling our small but perfectly formed electric fence, and during the day a curious giraffe peeked into the camp over a tree and two elephants had a bit of sword fight with their tusks while we watched on from the safety of our wired enclave.

I don’t know if it was the three-strand fence or the stout green canvas, but I felt particularly safe and secure in this little encampment. The sound of lions calling nearby in the pre-dawn darkness woke me, then slowly began lulling me back to sleep as I snuggled under the doona.

If you ever visit Africa, or consider it, some silly people may try and tell you that the Kruger National Park is not “wild”, simply because lots of people visit it, it’s affordable and it has tarred roads and particularly clean toilets.

People who pooh-pooh Kruger usually haven’t been there, or feel compelled to bag it after having spent inordinate amounts of money visiting this place called the “real Africa”. I’ve also been to the “real Africa” and can attest that it has fewer visitors (because it’s so expensive), appalling roads, and very dirty (or non existent) toilets.

As I drifted off the hyenas whooped it up in answer to the lion’s call and somewhere in the distance an elephant trumpeted his own chorus. Not wild in the Kruger Park? Wild enough for me.


redcap said...

Tony, you totally rock. Without you, I couldn't even live vicariously ;)

Timepilot said...

Got to agree with you Tony. I've visited KNP on and off for 30 years and it is most definitely still wild bush. I've travelled most of southern and east Africa and just because there is a fence around it does not make KNP any different from any other African bush.

You write very well about Africa and I've enjoyed your books to date