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A cold winter night was turned into South Africa

One cold and dark winter night I mentioned safari in South Africa to Dorrit.  

6 months later, a Monday in August, we are in Hoedspuit. We are greeted by Ryno. Welcome to South Africa. To the biggest experience of our lives.  

On our way to the lodge we fool around. Have we been kidnapped? Where are we going? But what an amazing nature we are in. It looks promising.

What a reception, by the staff that makes Mpala so unique. On the patio, we are met by a well-set table. With that view – and a white-headed vulture hovering above our heads – we had a hard time focusing on the food.

Later in the afternoon, the Mpalas dancers arrive at the sound of drums, singing and tribal dancing.

It is early morning. We heard the lions during the night. Others are telling the same thing. On the Bush Walk we see birds and animals – among others things a scorpion and a dead giraffe. Then it is time to go for a drive on the 4-wheeled ATV. Great fun, and extremely dusty. We met a large herd of buffaloes – maybe 75 heads. It was incredible to be so close to such a dangerous animal.

Very filthy we arrive at the Bush Camp. Someone had really made an effort. It was a very cosy evening with open-fire food  and many great stories. Per follows us to the cars, in the dark we can see the Milky Way very clearly. I have never seen so many stars! Some of the guests chose to spend the night in a tent there.

Time for Game Drive. Because it is cold in the morning, we cherish the first rays from the sun. We see many animals but we still had to see some of the big ones.

Later, while I sit in front of our chalet, a large male baboon comes walking very determined towards the kitchen, opens the door, steals a pancake and takes off. Followed by the cook and no doubt by some swearing.

Up early and off to Kruger. Tonight, the lions roared again.

We haven’t been driving for long before we see a lot of animals. Dorrit have talked a lot about elephants and when we are going to see them. When a large old male elephant can be seen among the trees about 8 metres from us, she is very touched and a tear can be seen.

In a rest room in Skukuza Camp, a little school boy takes Dorrits hand. He just wanted to feel the white skin. He was really sweet and looked like a little bit of trouble, too. We wanted to bring him home with us.

It was awesome to see the leopard at sleep in a tree together with a killed Impala. We saw all the 5 big animals on the first day. It was simply wonderful to the animals in Kruger as well as back at Mpala. Knowing at the same time it was all on the terms of the animals. They are seen when they want to be seen.

The night ends with a lovely dinner, thanks to Theo and Ryno.

On our way back, at the last turn before the lodge, we can spot elephants on the opposite side of the river. In a hurry, we go down to the rider, where we sit 2-3 hours in the grass admiring the huge animals. It is so life-affirming to watch. Away from television, telephones, and computers. It is like everything going on outside this little world doesn’t matter one bit.

Wake up call at 06.00 AM. Panorama. A somewhat different tour awaits us. We are going into the Drakenberg Mountains. An incredible, beautiful tour. We see several waterfalls and spectacular views. We also visit a stalactite cave, in which an African tribe had lived many years ago. At one point, we are at 1700  m above sea level.

For once, we did not have to get up early the next morning.

After a nice dinner, everybody turned in. We agreed to enjoy a bottle of red wine on out patio. I had bought a ring back home for Dorrit so I nervously got down on my knee and proposed to her. She said yes! As we are sitting there enjoying ourselves, a lion roars very close by. We are very quiet. The animals grazing a few metres from us raise their heads and goes away without a sound. What now, are the lion going to come for a visit? After about 20 minutes I see a brownish back move by close to where we sit. I point my torch light out into the darkness. It turns out to be 2 striped jackals. A proposal and lions roar. Let’s call it a night.

The next morning we discover lions track in the sand. Everybody had slept safely, nobody had heard a thing. In the morning we are lucky to be invited on a tour by Helle and Per. We go to a closed cattle farm. Here we collect wire and barbed wire to protect the animals, of course.

On the way back, Per wants to show us something. He goes further up the river. As soon as we are there, 4 large giraffes are in front of the car. Down on a sandbar, we spot 3 adults and 2 young hippos. As we take pictures of them, the giraffes pass by right in front of us. Amazing pictures and a wonderful experience.

Before it was getting dark, we all drove around in the area to see it for the last time. We ended at the watchtower, where we had champagne and watched the beautiful sunset.

The last meal we had at the boma. We sang a birthday song for our remarkable chef and Irene sang a solo, a lovely African song, which gave us goose bumps and a little tear in the eye. The rangers got the smile and laugh back again telling jokes. A wonderful ending of a week that was over much too soon.

I happen to tell Theo that I had proposed to Dorrit. He offered to drive us back to the watchtower the following morning so we could see the sun come up by ourselves. He is a bit of a romantic. It was absolutely amazing to be there with a cup of hot coffess, absolute silence watching the sun come up… silence may be a bit of an exaggeration as lions were roaring from 3 different directions. We will never forget you did that for us, Theo. Only thing left was the sad goodbyes.

Thanks to all the great people we have met in the last 8 days. You will all be part of an unforgettable memory.

We are so happy we chose Mpala.

All the best

Dorrit and Preben