Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Here is the recipe for sourdough hot cross buns which I promised on my Instagram Page.

If you don’t have a sour dough starter, you can follow the instructions to start one here. Step-by-step Sourdough

For my basic bread, water and salt sourdough recipe click here. Baking bread with sourdough.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of active, room temperature sourdough. (I fed mine an hour before)
  • 1 cup of water
  • salt to taste (half a teaspoon here)
  • 5ml mix spice (I used my lovely speculaas spice that I got from my friend Linda from Our life in Kruger)
  • 10ml cinnamon spice
  • 1/4 cup of raisins (You can add more, I just have a little and I am trying to work with it sparingly until I can buy again. Rural living problems and you might possibly have lockdown issues too :))
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/2 cup of double thick plain yogurt.
  • 5 cups of flour
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Additional 1/4 cup or more of flour to use in step 2.
  • Additional tablespoon of sourdough with a 1/3 cup of flour and a bit of water to create a plain dough which will make the crosses. For the glaze you will need:
  • 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of honey

Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients except the flour and oil. Add the 5 cups of flour and combine well. Lastly knead in the olive oil and leave the ball of dough covered at room temperature for 4-6 hours. It needs to rise, if necessary, leave it to rise overnight. At the same time you can also make a small ball of dough to create the crosses with. (You can also leave the crosses out and call them spicy raisin-bread buns ;))
  2. Dust the dough with the 1/4 cup of flour or more and form little breadrolls or buns. I made 8 large buns, but you can make them smaller to make more. Place next to each other on a flat, buttered or sprayed baking plate. Now take the small ball of unflavoured dough and shape tiny dough worms and press them flat to shape the crosses on the bread. Cover and leave to rise for 2-3 hours.
  3. Bake bread in a pre-heated oven for 55 minutes. When placing the bread in the oven, simultaneously place a flat oven pan filled with water at the bottom of the oven to create steam.
  4. Immediately after taking the buns out of the oven, paint them with the glaze, so it can be slightly absorbed by the hot bread.
  5. Let them cool and enjoy.

Remember with sourdough it will always be best on the day it is baked. It is not a shop-bought bread filled with preservatives, so it will loose some of the softness with time. Even though they are still delicious in the following days, they might not make it that far anyway… I store them in the fridge after a day or two.

Let me know how it goes? And feel free to ask me questions.

You are most welcome to share my recipe anywhere you like, but please credit my original recipe link. Be nice 😉

Baking a bread with a Sourdough starter

For the past week I have explained the process of making your own sourdough starter on my Instagram and Facebook Pages. It was so exciting to go through the process with other people and troubleshooting issues and watching the starters become active.

As I have explained in one of my posts, I have a starter that is over a year old, but for the purpose of this tutorial, I created a new sourdough starter from scratch and went through the process with everyone that wanted to partake. Some handy hints and tips also came out in the comment sections, so could be worth-your-while to go through the posts.

At day 7, you should be ready to bake or attempt to bake your first sourdough bread.

Disclaimer: Artisan bread chefs might cringe if they read this recipe. There is no window-pane tests and proofing in linen cloths and baskets involved in this recipe. My idea is to share a recipe that will be possible without a state of the art kitchen and a great knowledge of baking bread. There are wonderful recipes and tutorials available online to create all kinds of breads and the more you work with it the better you will understand it and the better your bread-baking will be.

So let’s get going.

First of all you must understand that baking with sourdough is not difficult at all, but it is also not quick. You cannot plan a bread an hour in advance. It doesn’t physically take that much time, but it takes time for the natural yeast to do it’s job. It is helpful to plan your bread one day ahead, so that you can start on-time and your sourdough starter is ready to be used.

The have tested the recipe below on both my old starter and the 7 day-starter which I just created. Remember that starters are growing on natural yeast and are variable as a result of factors like temperature and natural occurring lactobacilli and yeast populations in your home. I might have very healthy populations as a result of baking with sourdough for such a long time and also keeping good bacteria populations healthy by using Mrs Martin’s Microbes‘s cleaning products in my home.

Don’t be discouraged if your first bread isn’t perfect, the more you work with the dough, the better you will understand it.

What you will need for this recipe is:

  • 1 cup of sourdough starter (You can find the steps to creating your own here: (Instagram Sourdough Starter Tutorial – step-by step)
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour (bread flour is great, but I used cake flour as it is what I have)
  • 1/4 cup of flour for step 3
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 pinch of salt

Step 1

Before you start baking, make sure starter has been cared for. Feed it and bake within the next 3 hours. I fed mine and mixed the dough an hour later.

Step 2

Mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of sourdough. If you have an electric stand bread dough mixer, add the 3 1/2 cups of flour, the pinch of salt and mix for around 4 minutes.

If you do not have an electric mixer, knead with your hands. A stainless steel surface and a dough scraper will be great for this, but I don’t have this, so I find mixing and kneading inside a stainless steel bowl helps a lot.

Once you are done with this cover the dough in a bowl and leave it to rise for 4-6 hours. If your kitchen is very cold you can try putting it on a heat pack or warm water bottle. If you have an electric oven with a light inside, simply switching on the oven light might be enough heat to help the dough rise. Whichever way, it needs to rise and expand.

Step 3

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup of flour over the dough and take it out shaping it in to a ball. Place the ball in a sprayed or buttered bread pan. Cover and leave the dough to rise in the bread pan for 2-3 hours. (You can try to proof in baskets with dusted linen if you like and carefully flipping it over onto a flat baking sheet or stone. There are loads of tutorials available on the internet. I like the fact that I can just let it proof in a pan and pop it straight into the oven. )

You can now try your hand at scoring, cut a superficial cross or some lines into the top of the dough with a sharp knife or blade. This is called scoring and it helps the bread to expand creating weak points… (Yeah I know. Here is a video to help you understand Scoring your bread)

I have a gas oven which I preheated to 220 degrees Celsius.

Step 4

Baking the bread. Prepare a shallow oven-pan or dish with water and place this into the bottom of your oven at the same time you put your bread in. The steam in the oven helps your bread rise and creates a crispy crust. Bake your bread for 55 minutes.

Take out, remove from the pan, cool on a wire rack, admire and then slice and eat.

Please send me pictures of your first breads baked and enjoy every bite.

Happy baking.

A very special encounter – My first time to see a Temminck’s Ground Pangolin

As a result of the Pangolin being such a heavily trafficked animal, I will not be disclosing the exact location or time of this sighting and will withhold various details of the sighting for the safety of these beautiful animals.

As you might now, my trailcam has been privileged to photograph a Pangolin, Smutsia Temminckii, in footage which I had posted last year. Pangolin on my trailcam

I hadn’t quite expect my first personal meeting to be like this. I imagined that maybe I would be on a game drive and have a lucky sighting. Or maybe I would have been walking in the bush, stumbled across one and got to spend some time with it on my own in nature.

Unfortunately this is not exactly how it went. Someone we know confiscated two Pangolins, a mother and a youngster from poachers. We happened to be in the vicinity shortly after and had the privilege to go and visit them while they were being safely guarded. They were in a nature reserv, guarded and under supervision to make sure they were fine after the trauma of the poaching.

A registered Pangolin first responder we spoke to, told us that these animals are often hurt, dehydrated or they get pneumonia as a result of the conditions in which they are being held when they are captured.

At the time, the two Pangolins seemed to be fine and had a healthy appetite for ants.

We got to see the Pangolins in their natural habitat, doing what they do, really close-up. It was absolutely priceless and something I will never forget.

For many wildlife lovers, seeing a Pangolin, is a bucket-list item and a much sought after mammal-lifer.

It was a very exciting moment, but also a deeply sad one. Pangolins are the most trafficked animal on earth. I couldn’t help looking at them, thinking that I might never see a Pangolin again. It took me 34 years to finally have my first Pangolin encounter and besides the rarity of sightings, there might anyhow be none left soon…

Last night I also watched the film. “Eye of the Pangolin” It is heartbreaking and terrifying at the same time, to see what happens to so many Pangolins. I highly recommend that you watch this movie if you haven’t and share it too! As explained in the movie, we know so little about them that it’s hard to predict what the effects will be on the ecosystem if they are gone, but it could be drastic. It is weird to think that these beautiful animals get killed for something as seemingly insignificant as their scales and it’s so pathetically sad to see the images of bags and bags filled with scales.

As far as these two I saw goes, they have already been released into a safe area, may they stay safe after this ordeal!

Now for the fun part. The footage.

I hope you enjoy this with me. You can click on the individual pictures to enlarge them! I also took a (shaky) video of the two as they were foraging for ants and this will be embedded below!

Lastly, if you are ever in the situation where you are first on the scene of a trafficked Pangolin, this is a useful downloadable resource to have.

First responder Pangolin Manual

Country People – Meet Matthew Jordan, Gorongosa National Park

This is my first Country People interview for the year 2020 and what a people-story to kick this year off with.

Gorongosa National Park is high on my list of places I would like to visit and I love daydreaming about it.

I have also written a short insert on Gorongosa last year on a Trailcamming-posts about being a citizen scientist, a fun way in which you can be a part of Gorongosa conservation. You can read the article here. How to become a citizen scientist without owning a trailcamera.

Besides being an awe-inspiring African National Park, Gorongosa also has something else which I am passionate about. Coffee! And what is better than coffee? Coffee for a cause of course. Have a look here: Gorongosa Coffee.

Let me introduce to you, one of the personalities of Gorongosa.

Meet Matthew Jordan, the Director of Sustainable Development in Gorongosa National Park, he also leads the organisation’s “Rainforest Coffee” and “Eco-Tourism” projects.

Sional and Matt crossing the Murombodzi river to reach the coffee, all smiles | Matthew Jordan – Gorongosa Project, Mozambique, 2019

 Tell us a bit about yourself? Your life story, how did you end up where you are now? 

I was raised in the deserts of southern California by two hard-working people: my dad the ironworker and my mom the horse trainer. However, I didn’t feel at home until I found my way to the savannas and woodlands of Gorongosa National Park.

As far back as I can remember, I have been intrigued with natural systems: cycles, food webs, seasons, and the slow incremental changes made by aeons of geology and evolution. My fascination turned into investigation while studying engineering in school. What I discovered was a simple lesson: that the fates of human society and of the natural world are intertwined. 

The more I learned, the more I knew that I wanted meaning. I wanted somehow to serve people or the environment. After college, I travelled to Nicaragua where I worked as an engineer in a rural village helping people access clean water. It became clear that simple technical knowledge wasn’t enough to tackle the enormous problems facing us. These were enormously complex socio-environmental systems. 

I continued to travel, and to serve, and in 2013, I joined the Peace Corps, who sent me to Mozambique. 

I spent two and a half years in a remote village near the Tanzanian border. There are a thousand stories to tell from those days, like the time I nearly burned down the high school or came close to being eaten by a lion!

But the most interesting story for me is how I came to work at Gorongosa. I heard Greg Carr speak, and was so inspired by his vision that I applied to work with the Park when my work with the Peace Corps was over. 

That is how I found myself in a small cabin in the middle of Mozambique, surrounded by elephants and crocodiles, working on one of the most amazing wildlife and human development success stories in modern history. 

What is your favourite part of working and living where you are? 

Enthusiasm and optimism are part of my personality, and in all kinds of difficult, boring, or alarming situations, I can see promise and hope. 

These are important qualities working here, and the situations that we encounter and work through bind us together as a community. 

At Gorongosa, I come alive when I am swept up in the passion of problem-solving, and I revel in the crystal clarity of purpose that focuses the mind. 

At other moments, I enjoy the simple pleasure of fellowship with other human beings quick to laugh and thoroughly committed to a mission. It reminds me of the stories I’ve heard from family members who have served in the Army. I share in that deep sense of comradery.

Although there is never a typical day in the African bush, I asked Matthew to share a bit of his daily life and share a story of what it’s like to live in the Gorongosa National Park.

I remember one week that was characteristic of the range of experiences that define Gorongosa. I started the week drinking buckets of coffee and pouring over spreadsheets of budgets and administrative rigmarole. We were looking to expand our coffee project, to save a rainforest and uplift the community, so I had to see if we had the means, or what it might take for us to do it. The next day, I headed out to the rural site we wanted to work in with the head of the Coffee Project, and my mentor in all things agronomy, Quentin. 

The road we were travelling on was in such a state of disrepair that we crawled along for miles, occasionally watching barefooted old ladies pass us and wave cordially. When we arrived at the new project site, there were two mildly concerning figures there to greet us.  The local healer/village elder who had been communing with the spirits, (in the chemical sense of the word) and an armed man, dressed like a simple farmer but holding a rusted AK-47 instead of a shovel. 

We filed in behind them, and made our way to a gathering place, passing more armed men, stalks of corn, small dogs the colour of the red soil, and troops of children playing and staring at us. We were greeted by a commander, asked to sit, and told not to be nervous about the weapons, that they were normal given the current political situation. Quentin, as usual, was unfazed. He is as courageous as he is generous. So, I put on a brave face and sat down to begin. 

The meeting was lengthy, wide-ranging and diverse (we touched on the topic of breast-feeding twins, there was some discussion of the correct manner of offering a goat to a brother) – but we also got around to talking about coffee. 

We chanted and sang, and worried about how the healer was going to manage to walk the short distance from his chair to the ceremonial tree. (In the end, someone had to help him.) 

We concluded the ceremony with a clap, and an agreement to work together, leaving us all feeling satisfied with the whole process. We shook everyone’s hands and started the long journey back home.  

That was a Tuesday. 

The following day, Wednesday, I met with Park management and told them the previous days stories, and we strategized about how we were going to get the Coffee Project up and running and in the hands of the community.

We talked about how the Health team and the Education team would follow in the wake of the Coffee team, bringing desperately needed services to this very remote community. After much discussion and revision, we had a plan.

On Thursday, I was back at my laptop answering about 150 emails that began with “Sorry for my late reply, I was in the field this week”. I remember specifically, someone had sent me an email, telling a story about being on the phone for two hours with the shipping agent, but also telling me that they had managed to find a solution in the end! I celebrated their effort and kept on ploughing through emails. In the evening, we all sat at a long table at the camp’s restaurant. There had been a sighting of leopard tracks, and the whole table was alive with discussions about what an amazing job the newly trained rangers were doing, and how we should be seeing more leopards in the future. 

Over the weekend, we had an important political visitor, and I was the point person to tell them about the coffee project.  We spent hours talking about the project, walking through the waist-high coffee plants, and telling stories about the hope and vision we shared for Gorongosa. It’s such an honour for me to share stories about the Park, and about our work here, with such esteemed guests.

I worked through the weekend, and on Monday started my week again with even more coffee answering even more emails.  

Matthew says:

“I am filled with gratitude at being a part of this amazing story here in Gorongosa. I sometimes don’t know where my life stops and my work begins. In a world that is very concerned with balance, I don’t mind mashing it all together and charging ahead. I’m approaching a decade in Mozambique and I’m hoping that this is only my first decade here. I would be proud to serve on this great project for many more years to come. 

I hope that those of you reading this story are compelled in some small way to engage with us, to reach out to our team, to reach out to me personally, and become a part of something. 

Even better, come to Gorongosa!  Soak up the sun and see things that will fill your imagination with wonder. Finally, drink enough of our coffee to fuel your journey. And when you get home, share your experience, and share the strength and hope you find in Gorongosa.”

You can follow Matthew and the Gorongosa Coffee Journey at the following links:

Website: www.gorongosacoffee.com

Instagram: @Gorongosacoffee

Facebook: Gorongosa

Tuesday Trailcam-takes, A Genet kitten on camera.

Since my last post, it has finally rained!! We are so thankful. We received more than a 100mm of rain in less than a weeks time. Everything has turned a bright shade of green overnight.

I have had my trailcams out at different spots and got some images of animals which I have already showed you several times last year. I have therefore decided to post much less trailcamming posts than last year, but to rather share the really good and special finds or rather summaries of the best over longer periods of time.

I did get this very short, but so sweet, video of a Genet and her kitten. It is not very clear unfortunately. The rainy weather made the screen foggy as you can see on this image.

Enjoy the video.

Its summer and its wild out there – update on farming in the Govuro district, Mozambique

A very happy 2020 to you. These past few weeks left us in no doubt that we are living out here in the African bush.

As the first rains fell there was a lot of snake and insect movement. The migratory birds, like Woodlands Kingfisher, are back in their full splendour and we even had some huge animals passing through the farm.

There was an elephant in and out of the farm on one border, constantly breaking the fence, creating havoc for our fencing theme. Unfortunately, I have no trailcam-pictures.

Our neighbours were also visited by a lion and there were various rumours of lions roaming through the area. It caused great excitement but seemed to have moved on. I am sharing this picture of its tracks, courtesy of my neighbour, Dominique Nel.

The past few weeks, however, the rainfall has been much less than anticipated. The temperatures were also soaring. Some days measuring 52 degrees Celsius in the sun. My vegetable garden is suffering in this heat and the new grass in the bush is dying again from the lack of rain. We are praying for enough rain to start falling soon.

The fact that it hasn’t rained too much doesn’t seem to bother the birds. We were and are surrounding by breeding birds.

The Village weavers have been breeding like crazy, in some trees I counted roughly 200 nests. We have Paradise Flycatcher nests all over the garden and even had a breeding pair of Racket-tailed Rollers here in camp. Lots of the birds currently have juveniles and they make birding quite interesting if you only see the juvenile without the parents.

I have identified two new species of bats on my life list. One being the Damara Woolly Bat (correctly identified thanks to the help of John Kinghorn from Untamed birding) and the second one the Mauritian Tomb bat. I currently have 6 of the Mauritian Tomb-bats around my house of which one is a pup.

Mauritian Tomb-bat

Talking about pups and youngster.

My trailcam caught very cute footage of a White-tailed Mongoose and juvenile. You can watch the video here.

We have also seen Kudus, Njalas and a fair amount of snakes over the course of summer. I managed to take this picture of a Kudu bull while driving with my husband on one of his weekend cattle checks.

This past few weeks, however, were so hot and dry that the biggest thing we have on our minds is rain. Hopefully, the rain will come soon.

Tuesday Trailcam-takes – A Civetory update

I have been a bit quiet lately, but all is well and I am back with some photos from the spot at the Civet midden where my camera is currently out again. Here are some of my favourite shots.

First Civet on the cam
And another sneak-peak
Some day-time baboon shenanigans
Larger Galago
Springhare
Civet doing business on the civetory

Hope you enjoyed the collection of pics. I will be posting some of the videos that goes with these pics on my Facebook Page, Country Living in Southern Africa Blog and also on the Facebook group, Trailcamming in Southern Africa.

One year as South African Expats in the Govuro district of Mozambique

Looking back on one year in Mozambique from my point of view and frame of reference.

Beautiful Govuro in summer

A year ago, we moved to come and manage a cattle farm in the Govuro district of Mozambique. We were excited, but also a bit scared of the unknown. We are quite far from a town. (Closest town for shopping, is Inhassoro and is more or less 1.5 hour’s drive away) We only have solar power with a generator for back-up. The generator is mainly used for pumping water, when we have loads of cattle around the house and they are drinking faster than the solar pumps can work.

Thankfully, we have Wi-Fi! This makes life much more bearable as we are a video-call away from our family and can keep up to date with news and social media. We do miss out on get-togethers, birthdays and events. That part isn’t easy.

In certain ways, the year felt very long, but it’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s just the way that you get to observe the seasons here. We saw everything for the first time and are looking forward to see if things make a pattern and a full circle in the next year.

Because we are removed from society’s normal happenings, things also go slower. Even though farm-life and work can completely absorb you and tire you to other levels.

In a year’s time, we have expanded the vegetable garden and now rarely have to buy vegetables. We have a strong chicken population and haven’t had to buy eggs in a long time.

We were also gifted two milk-goats of which one is currently in milk and produces enough milk for us to make cheese once or twice a week.

This past year, Mozambique also saw two major cyclones that brought massive destruction and devastation with them. Even though it was quite far from us, we watched everything unfold, because it was in the country we live in currently. Cyclone Idai

Also, my blog is in general, a feel-good blog. Just because I don’t write about poaching, logging, deforestation and other bad things doesn’t mean they don’t affect us. It in fact has and hurts us deeply.

On a more positive note;

I have really enjoyed birdwatching here in the bush and I seriously need to compile a proper list of everything I have seen.

I have had so much fun with trailcamming this past year. Go and look at the awesome animals I have captured on my camera. Trailcamming

In the past year we have had so many special family-time moments. We loved exploring the beaches of Inhassoro and Vilankulo and will hopefully explore a bit more of that and inland in the year to come.

I am very proud to have published my first children’s storybook in this past year. A story about a family visiting Kruger National Park, called “We are going to Kruger National Park”

A few random things I have learned this year in no specific order:

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

It is lonelier to live in the city between people who pretend to care than it is to live in the middle of nowhere, but to know who your friends are.

We don’t need as many things that we are made to believe that we need.  (Appliances, gadgets, clothing etc.) Being far from any big shopping centres helps you to think very carefully about what you buy.

In the words of one of the Inhassoro Lodge owners: “When you have onions, tomatoes and rice, you can make a darn good meal.”

In the words of our closest next-door neighbour. “I am out of black tea, maybe I will go to town next week, or maybe the week thereafter…” This was a month ago. He still hasn’t gone.

Country People – Meet Megan Loftie-Eaton, who is batty for bats and find out why you should be too.

Meet Dr. Megan Loftie-Eaton

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Limpopo Province, South Africa, but moved around a lot as a kid! From Louis Trichardt, to England, to Stellenbosch, to Cananda, even the Klein Karoo and now I find myself in the wonderful lowveld bush ,Hoedspruit. My earliest childhood memories are of camping trips to the bush and spending time on my grandfather’s farm in Zimbabwe. I definitely inherited my need for adventure and urge to explore the unknown from my parents. They encouraged my curiosity for the natural world and nurtured my love for the great outdoors since I can remember. Sport has also always been a big part of my life. I started swimming competitively at the age of nine and kept at it for the next 12 years, but eventually I chose to focus my energy on my bigger passion in life, that of wildlife conservation. Swimming taught me many life lessons though which I will forever be grateful for. I have always kept active and in the last three years I have taken to trail running. I absolutely love it! Being out in nature, running in the most breath-taking areas makes my heart sing. I feel a strong sense of duty to do whatever I can to help and protect nature, and to plant the seeds of caring for nature in other people’s hearts too.  

I obtained my PhD in Biological Sciences through the University of Cape Town in December 2018. My research looked at the impacts of bush encroachment on bird distributions in the savannah biome of South Africa. Prior to that I completed an MSc in Zoology (UCT) and a BSc in Environmental and Conservation Sciences through the University of Alberta in Canada. I also have a FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) Level One Nature Guide Qualification which I obtained through Ulovane Environmental Training in 2013.

Where are you currently based and what work do you do?

Currently I am the communications, social media and citizen science coordinator for the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Prior to my work for the BDI, I coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. I also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. I am super passionate about biodiversity conservation and a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation. 

I do some part time work for the Hoedspruit Hub too. The Hub is an agricultural skills training centre, an AgriSETA accredited one-stop-shop for commercial farmers’ training and local community development and upliftment. The Hub is a social enterprise, and endeavours to maximise positive environmental and social impacts alongside profit for their stakeholders. They aim to increase the resilience of commercial farming enterprises in South Africa.

You will soon be running for bats tell us about that and why bats?

I’m combining my love for nature and wildlife with my love of trail running. I’ve decided to run the Karkloof 50 Miler on 21 September 2019 in support of bat conservation. Bats around the world play vital ecological roles that support ecosystem health and human economies. Many bat species consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. Bats are farmers’ friends! Other bats pollinate many valuable plants, ensuring the production of fruits (like bananas, mangoes and coffee) that support local economies, as well as diverse animal populations. Bats are vitally important to the survival of forests too! We certainly have a lot to be grateful for because of the existence of bats.

‘Bats are the unsung heroes of nature, often misunderstood and feared, they play a vital role in keeping ecosystems healthy. From pollination to seed dispersal to keeping insect populations in check, we have bats to thank for all that!’

How can people contribute and follow your journey?

I am batty enough to run 50 miles for bat conservation and to raise awareness about these incredible flying mammals. But I need your help! Please show love for bats by helping me raise funds for ReWild NPC and the amazing work they do to rescue and protect bats (follow the link here https://www.givengain.com/ap/running-batty-for-bats/). ReWild NPC is a local wildlife rehabilitation centre based in Phalaborwa, Limpopo Province, South Africa. They help wildlife that have been injured or orphaned and, when they are ready, return them to the wild. But they do far more than this! They specialize in bat rehabilitation, they also work hard to educate the public on the importance of bats, they help with human-bat conflict resolution, they help farmers to use bats to control crop pests, they make bat houses and apply many other bat conservation measures. 

Please help me to help bats by donating crucial funds to ReWild NPC via my fundraising campaign at

https://www.givengain.com/ap/running-batty-for-bats/ 

You can also follow Megan on Instagram at @sunrise_seeker 

The Pafuri Road, from the middle nowhere to Kruger

Take the road less travelled they said, it will be fun they said. Well, that is not how we felt at 6:30, somewhere on a bumpy dirt road and only having travelled 50 km’s in two hours.

The road that we had to drive on got worse and worse until it came to a complete dead stop, with two side-deviations created from there, but no idea where they were going…

Let me start from the beginning. My family which consists of me, my husband Gustav and our 2-year-old daughter are currently living in Mozambique on a cattle farm in the Govuro district. We are living in the bush and at least two hours away from the road normally driven from Pafuri to the coast of Mozambique and vice versa. That road is already kind of, of the beaten track. We, however, took little bush roads from our home to get to that road, to get to Kruger.

 We only had a weekend to explore. We wanted to see the road to Pafuri and our hearts were longing for the park.

Despite everyone’s warnings that it shouldn’t be done, we left the house at 4:30 with nothing more than supposed ideas of how our little bush roads will connect with the Pafuri road. My husband told me to pack some emergency supplies in case we did not make it or had trouble along the road.

The road was going slow and bumpy, but all went well for a while until we drove past a T-section which we thought must connect our road with a bigger road that leads to the Pafuri road. We turned around and drove on this road for a while. The road became more and more difficult and we came to a complete standstill. There were two deviations on the route. One going left and one going right. There was no telling which, if any of the two, could connect with the route we need to be on. None of these roads was shown in any of our map books and the newly created ones weren’t on the GPS app we were using either.

“We are not going to make it to Pafuri tonight.” Gustav, said as he turned around the car. “Let’s just try,” I said, thinking about the tent in the back of the vehicle if we don’t make it. I only packed the tent, a picnic blanket and 2 sleeping bags. It will be an uncomfortable sleep.

We pushed on, back on the first road again and Gustav said that we will aim for Mabote. If we make it to Mabote in time, we will do try to make Pafuri. If not, we go home. I am the forever optimist, but at 25km/hour our chances to reach Pafuri seemed pretty slim. The road we were travelling on, now with a bit higher average speed took us to the village of Chechangue. We suddenly got a cellphone signal and my hopes lifted. Cellphone signal means civilisation, meaning we are on a bigger road…hopefully. We were pretty tense until we reached Mabote, but we reached Mabote at 8:00. We should make it in time, we thought. We phoned friends who drive the Pafuri road quite often and their estimate was 7 hours to the border. The border post closed at 16:00 and we had accommodation booked at Shingwedzi, which means there would be no stopping at sightings on the way to camp. 

Map of the Pafuri Route

We kept driving and I was dancing in my heart. I was going to get my Kruger-fix.  

The scenery on the road was marvellous. Now-and-again the vegetation changed. Suddenly it’s forests of Ironwoods then to change again to Mopane veld. We marvel at the height of Mopane trees in some of the sections.

A group of big birds flew over our heads and landed close to the road. It was 6 Ground Hornbills. We looked at them briefly. Long enough to see that there is a juvenile with them, but we didn’t even take pictures as the better cameras were still somewhere in the bags in the back of the vehicle.

Between cattle moving, roads that weren’t shown on any maps, overfallen trees and some kind of overfallen line, power or telephone, we still reached the bordercontrol at 15:00.

By this time we are all tired and silently contemplating our sanity for attempting this drive for just two nights in Kruger.

On the drive in we stopped very briefly for a quick look at elephants and showing the zebra and antelope to our 2-year-old daughter.

We reached Shingwedzi just before gate closing time. My whole family passed out just before 8:00. I went to wash the dishes and then sat outside trying to keep myself awake to enjoy a little bit of the Kruger sounds… Lions roaring, just what my tired ears wanted to hear.

The next morning my internal Kruger clock started waking me at 3:45. I resented myself as another hour or two of sleep would be beneficial. Before I fall back asleep, I got up and opened the door, so I will see the first light coming through our door to wake me up.

I woke before my family and made myself a cup of coffee to enjoy while I emerge myself in the sounds of a Kruger-camp waking. There must be few other places where tourist wakes up so early and so quietly as in the park. Cars slowly started-up and made their way to the gate for a morning game-drive. Our morning game-drive was definitely out of the question after the 13-hour drive the previous day.

I just sat sipping my coffee, listening to the red-billed hornbills singing their hearts out, enjoying the little squirrels and marvelling at how close a group of green woodpeckers came to peck on a tree right next to our bungalow.

I set the breakfast table and prepped a big bush-breakfast. My family slowly awakened and later we took a walk to the Shingwedzi restaurant to have coffee overlooking the Shingwedzi river. We saw a troop of baboons busy with their shenanigans and some impala on the other side. As we spotted birds and showed our daughter the marvels of nature, we started to feel less crazy.

A game-drive and a braai later and our hearts were full.

We left the Park at gate-open time the next morning. On our arrival at the border post there was a queue of cars waiting to stamp there passports, which resulted in us taking a coffee-break at Crooks Corner, what a lovely way to end our short weekend.

As we checked out of the country again to take the long drive home, I pondered on the words of James Stevenson Hamilton. “No doubt it is only congenital idiots who deliberately and unnecessarily seek hardship and discomfort. So I am driven to the unwilling conclusion that those of us who deliberately invite the austerities of life, must, in some way or another, be mentally deficient.”