Monday, March 20, 2017

Wild Animals & More


Patched up and feeling a bit better thanks to an evening of musical toilet seat Chuck and I felt a bit more confident as we left the mountain top Magoebaskloof Hotel. As this dilemma unfolded it was discovered suffered from this ailment. Now we're  now on our way to the Hippo Hollow. Yes this name conjures up images of over inflated wiener dogs dancing in tutu’s and frilly umbrellas but it’s a very nice lodge that is one of many lodges servicing the masses visiting Kruger National Park. On the way to the lodge we experience a large elevation drop of 3000 ft. made up of winding twisting narrow paved roads cut through the rolling hills but on the way we made stops at three incredible view points. The first had us walk up a steep pathway to a wide vista of the Lowveld. The sky wasn’t perfectly clear but that didn’t stop seeing a distance of 50 miles of more. The next stop Bourkes Luck Potholes (not named after the road nascence) was a nice stone pathway with a couple short pedestrian bridges that took you to eroded sandstone canyons in round “pot hole” formations with swirling water fed by a 100’ waterfall. Before the waterfall was a series of cascading shorter falls and pools from the river finding its way through the rolling hills of the valley. Lastly, the Rondavel view site was a mountain range with three massive rock formations that fancied itself like a traditional tribal

About 3PM we arrived at the Hippo Hollow lodge designed for accommodating large bus loads of visitors to the Kruger National Park. Fortunately Chuck and I and others were given two person cottages set into a spacious semicircle layout with a pool 30 yards away. For a lodge, this place had a nice bit of character with lush grounds next to a river housing hippos that came up to the hotel and grazed on their lawn every evening. Caution, these sausage boys are not cuddle animals. If cornered they will swiftly attacked humans.

I haven’t mentioned too much about the food because most of which is “buffet” food in a line of warming trays. I really don’t want to pan these offerings but…let’s just say some of the selections are regional. If you are a foodie, find another tour.   

Once in Hazyview, Chuck, Ken Richmond, and I walked to a nice local Italian restaurant I can’t recall the name but the owner was Johann made a really fine pizza. This was a very pleasant change from the buffet.

In the evening the hotel put on it’s tribal dance show to delight the motor coach crowd and I have to admit some of the dancing and singing being a kin to Paul Simon’s Graceland, was pleasing.  After the show everyone lined up, served themselves some local cuisine…as much as you want.

Before I headed back to my room, I was going to stop by bar the for an evening cleansing as the Aussies describe it, when I happened to see someone fall from the outdoor dining terrace 5’ high wall. The wall cordons off the nightly hippo activity from the entertained diners. I started to assist in the rescue but soon there were many on the hippo pitch to bring aid to this woman. I found out shortly after the victim was Clare, a sweet lady from our group that didn’t stop quick enough and stepped off the terraced dining area. Fortunately she only received a large bruise on her hip and slightly twisted ankle. But to everyone’s surprise Clare was a real trooper and continued to ride pillion for the duration of their stay. Gary, Clare, and their son Josh all came on the tour for a holiday.

With the singing, dancing, and Clare’s tumbling act over it was time turn in for the evening. The morning rise will be early to begin the Kruger Safari at 5AM


looking for breakfast
The sun still hadn’t risen when we all meet at the two 4X4 modified Nissan safari vehicles with rag tops and extra seating. The group divided into two groups that helps cover a wider area to find . Breakfast bags were handed out while we boarded the trucks. When we left Hippo Hollow it was quiet. Within 20 minutes we arrived at an entrance to Kruger along with at least a dozen others. Our driver and guide, Smiley reviewed the rules of being on safari. These rules are rather simple no eating, no feeding the animals, no yelling, whistling to attract their attention, keep all arms and bodies inside the truck and use the toilet facilities before entering the park. Once done, Smiley fired up the 4x4, drove through the gate and immediately alerted by one of three communication devices, lions were on the road. Any previous plans or notions were abandoned. He was determined to get us to the lions post haste.

Mostly the roads are paved and are shared by other tour companies and if you wish you can take your private car in as well. Within five minutes we see a group of cars parked every which way on and slightly off the pavement. The 3 lions were lying very calmly on the left side. Though the others left and others filtered in, Smiley provided an in depth commentary. As he was speaking one lion crossed to the right side fixing his gaze on a mother and baby giraffe off in the bushes. His gaze turned to an intense stare focused on the baby. Suddenly the lion darted and made his move chasing his prey back across the road but both giraffes escaped the charge. The lion gave up within 30 seconds. A zebra standing in the bush next to the road then became the lion’s next prey. Again the lion organized himself and launched another attack this time at the zebra. The zebra darted off as the lion took a wide swipe at the zebra’s left hindquarter simultaneously delivering a hoof to the jaw of the lion defeating the attempt once again. Shortly after the lion’s action, a large group of wild dogs trotted down the road towards our vehicle. These colorful dogs, having no relation to our domestic dogs, were totally unbothered by our presence.

Smiley once again received communication Rhinos were off to the side of the road a short distance away. Once more we drove up to a group of other vehicles with all cameras fixed on one black and one white Rhino to the right of the roadway. The chattering of cameras didn’t both the animals grazing as they slowly paralleling the tarmac.

Great hair piece
After these events, other animals such as elephants and more giraffes were sighted as the sun rose. It seemed as the sky lightened the animals disappeared into the grass. Soon we returned to the park’s head quarters to consume our bag breakfast. After eating we made our way back to lodge to relax for the remainder of the day.


Smiley's commentary

second breakfast choice

Wild Dogs and Englishmen