As long as I remember I have had a dream of going to Africa, maybe right since I read Kiplings story about “the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River”. I wished for experiencing the animals in their natural enviroment. Those animals I often visit in the zoo’s wherever I travel around the World. Suddenly in March 2017 I got the opportunity to join on a travel as the travelmate/translater for Mie and her mum.
Mie has a handicap and she loves elephants.
Prior to the trip we discussed about the chances to see any animals in the vast country we were going to visit. If you want to be sure to see animals you must visit a zoo. So it was with great excitement we went off on our African journey.
But come on!
From the main road we entered a big gate to the nature reserve and the experiences speeded up. During the half hour it took driving from the gate along winding, hilly, bumby, red roads to the lodge I dare say our expectations
were fullfilled. Impalas, giraffes, zebras, elephants and a kudu. We spotted them all before we arrived to the lodge. At the parking area we were met with a very warm welcome by Stacey, Irene, Ryno and the whole lot of staff
and a couple of dogs. Already now at this very first day the thought stroke me that we have had all the experiences that we had wished for and that we could already return to Denmark happily !
NO, of course we stayed. But in that moment we really didn’t know what was waiting for us during the following week full of experiences for all our senses.

 

At the terrasse overlooking the river we were again met by a warm welcome, a chilled drink and fresh fruit. Amaced we just stod and absorbed everything. The house behind us, the river with drinking elephants at the oposite side of the river, the smells, the people and the sounds. The sounds were sudenly mixed with drums and singing approaching. Here they were – a group of fantastic beautiful and colourfull people intertaining us with their traditional dances and songs. We enjoyed it a lot.
We were led to the house that should be our home for the next week – and what a home – tasteful all the way through! I will have no problems of feeling at home here. At the dinner we got a safety instruction for the new and unfamiliar surroundings that we were about to experience. Common sence is always good, but as we were “far away” here, we were all ears and had a lot of questions. I had no doubts they would take great care of us while we were here. We also got the programme of the week – we will not come asleep to the experiences. Tomorrow we start at 5 am!
As I think back, which I often do, it is difficult to highlight a specific climax because we had so many starstruck moments. Talking about stars, we had at our 2 days in Kruger National Park a great clear night. Our ranger Rhyno showed us the names of the stars and star constellations on his Ipad with the use of an app: StarWalk. This app I have great joy of using here at home as well after Rhynos introduction.

The most fantastic starry night I had in the bush camp. After a fun ride on quadbikes – we certainly didn’t break the speed record – we were really in need of being freshened up – at Mpalas bush camp in the midle of the remote bush we found there were both a washbasin and a flushing toilet! How Fantastic!

 

 

 

At first we enjoyed a couple of Gin/Tonics to controll the malaria mosquitos – hmm yes yes. Then followed a wonderfull dinner of a barbeque a “small” humble steak, approximately at the size of a slice of a whole cow. Later, seated in the safari chairs, we held fireflies in our hollow hands. In this warm evening filled with sounds and scents myriads of stars appeared. I have never seen so many. The Milky Way was so clear and visible and felt so near as if you could almost reach out and touch it! On the night drive with spotlights at our way home to the lodge we met a rhino. How lucky can you be?

 

 

 

More about the stars – the really stars here are the animals – counting from the smallest to the biggest. From the small “fallen” baby bird gently returned to the nest – and the tortoise liftet out of a water basin,  I guess it was tired of paddling – to the elephant who pushed down the fence towards our camp to pay us a – I guess – not so welcoming visit – naughty boy! Luckily it was mostly us visiting the animals and not the other way round. From the early morning walks seing the sun rise, colouring the mountains and plains red, and all the dayactive animals starting to wake up, to the trips on the plains – a paradise for me – lots of different animal species feeding peacefully side by side – except for a couple of buffalos who muddled around so the oxpeckers felt their ground swinging, while the big buffalo bull from the top of a hill overlooked his kingdom.

 

The fantastic 2 days trip in Kruger National Park was packed with experiences and our heads were moving as mounted on ball bearings so we wouldn’t miss anything. Just as the situation with the man we meet in the midle of the park on a bicycle  – some just live their life dangerously – I mean – without a wearing bike helmet!
During lunch time in Kruger National Park, the steaks sizzeling on the barbeque, the table was set and we talked about the animal’s camouflage. Knowing a lion could hide in the bushes right behind us, suddenly a loud spectacle makes us jump up high – a lion? No just a box of cutleries tumbling down. Phew! Big laughs! Kruger Park simply MUST  be experienced by every one.

 On the way back we got the infuriating message that the booked hot air ballon flight next day was canselled due to “wrong” wind direction. Well, what to do then instead? I came to think about a TV-program I’ve seen of a huge hippo Jessica – the tame hippo! The lodge arranged it for us to go and meet Jessica. Next morning we headed of to go there. It was quite an experience to bottlefeed it with sweet tea (it tasted well), sweet potatos and to give her a kiss! A bit personally cross-bordering for me to be so close to the animal that causes most human deaths along the rivers in Africa.

 

 

 

 

Don’t think I have forgotten the lodge. As the first impressions of being treatet as VIP’s had settled I felt at home everywhere. I loved my terrasse where I spent excellent time watching the river with crocks, hippos and the elephants on the opposite river bank. One evening as I sat there thinking of the days experiences, I suddenly heard a lion roarring. Very quicly I decided NOW is a fine time to end this day and withdraw to my room. Forgotten is certainly also not all the lovely people I got the pleasure to meet. Generous and helpfull, competent, ready to fullfill all my wishes and needs, answering all my more or less intelligent questions and always in a super great mood! In the kitchen they were always in the process of preparing all kinds of delights to be served on the terrasse, in the boma, in the bush camp, and on the trip to Kruger. The dinners were plentyful and delicious. We even tasted the local tradition of corn porridge which is what the local people eat for all meals – the kids in the kindergarden had it with great pleasure in the shadow in the sun shade.

Even though I was not yet fed up – apart from my well filled stomac – all adventures and holidays come to an end.  This one had it’s ending with a champagne farewell accompanied by a colourful sunset at the view point overlooking the bush. The goodbye to the people of the lodge next morning was with warm hugs and tearfull eyes.

 My dream of Africa is still alive – the dream is now to come back!

 Lots of warm regards from Jane Mikkelsen, Denmark

 

PS. Mie, my travel mate, really got to see a lot of elephants as she hoped for. She put her foot on this elephant footprint and our ranger Rhyno gave her a toy elephant to take home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Translated from the original version by Helle Scheel Grunert