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.
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.”