GREETINGS FROM SOUTH AFRICA!
(Dear friends, please note that these blogposts are NOT sponsored in any way...this is my small attempt to promote my amazing country and its diversity of beautiful tourist attractions. This small 'shout out' is my way of saying thank you to the management and staff of a beautiful lodge.)
*** If you would like to 'catch up' and read the account of "DAY 1" please click HERE
(DAY 2 : EARLY MORNING GAME DRIVE...)
Despite all the comfortable amenities, our sleep is disturbed during the night. Inside our suite, we are warm and snug, but the Baboons on the nearby cliff-side definitely think otherwise. Loud screams of domestic dispute punctuate the silence of the African night and infiltrate the whole valley. The Baboon troop scuffles and jostles for the warmest ledge in the long dark night. Hierarchies are negotiated and tempers flare while they sort out their differences.Temperatures plummet too and, from the sanctuary of our warm beds, we 'hear' all about it.
Our ranger, 'Thomas', gives us a 'wake-up' call at 6am. (We discover later that his name is actually named 'Sela' - 'Thomas' is his radio call name and is apparently easier for the tongues of international tourists) We throw on some clothes and grab extra layers of jackets. Then we make our way to the main lodge for coffee and rusks. The dawn is just beginning to break over the horizon. Together with two other couples we finally take our places on the game-viewing Landrover.
"Is there anything special you would like to see this morning?" Sela asks
"LIONS!" is the unanimous answer.In the early morning dawn, the temperatures are freezing and I feel a flutter of empathy for those poor Baboons who have to brace this cold every night.
Frost lies thick in the low-lying river beds and the surrounding grasses look silver and brittle. A prominent aroma fills the countryside. It's the sap of the Beechwood trees.
Thomas explains the intrigue about these trees. African folklore suggests that they attract lightning and it's taboo to burn them near African dwellings. I think the fragrance is beautiful - never mind the lightning.
Sela navigates the Landrover carefully - picking a path through the trecherous terrain.
Every now and again, Sela stops to read the tracks on the road.
"Yes, they are definitely in the area," Sela assures us.
(Above: Lion tracks)
On the radio, another ranger confirms that the lions have travelled overnight and are definitely in the area. Where are these elusive creatures? Despite our growing anticipation, they are nowhere to be seen
To appease us, Sela speaks about the trees, the grasses and the beautiful vegetation in the valley - essential elements to keep the antelope well-fed (and the lions happy). It's fascinating, but we still want to see the lions.
(Above: Warthog bull)
(Above: Zebra and Kudu cow in background)
(Above: Impala/ "Rooibok")
Finally Sela declares that the lions have moved into a restricted area. Unfortunately we can't track them further. Patience is called for. The rangers will unite and attempt again to find them for us this evening.
We stop at a nearby dam and Sela lays out a feast. A small table is retrieved from the vehicle and tastefully covered with a tablecloth. Biscuits and steaming hot-chocolate is served. Our chilly fingers wrap themselves around the mugs - absorbing the heat - while we interrogate Sela about the Pride of elusive lions.
"It's only hearsay," we gentle jibe.
The reflection of the early morning light is breathtaking. Grasses shine golden and a lonesome bleat of a Wildebeest reaches our ears.
' Maybe tonight,' Sela tries to assure us.
'The cats are hungry and need to eat...maybe tonight...?"
Back at the lodge....
After a scrumptious breakfast on the deck we settle into the day. It's time to laze by the pool, in the jacuzzi alongside our room, or simply sit and read - ensconced in the plump cushions on the deck.
Squirrel families sprint across the low walls of the lodge, scurry up the trees and under the rocks.
(Above: Crested Barbet)
The squirrels are constantly on the go - in search of any morsels of food and small insects.
We watch them from the deck and also marvel at the many colourful birds.
In our room an endangered 'Stick insect' doesn't move an inch.
These beautiful, endangered creatures will seek out shelter during colder times and will remain immobilized for weeks. Indeed, this one - in our bathroom - didn't move at all throughout the entire 5 days of our visit. It was about 8cm in length.
A delicious lunch is served at 3pm (late, by anyone's standards, but planned that way to accommodate new arriving guests, and to fill tummies in preparation for the all-important evening game drive).
"So, will we see LIONS this time..?" is the question on all our minds.
"There's a very strong chance," is the non-committal answer. "Unfortunately nothing is ever guaranteed in the African bush. Take the time, however, to enjoy the lodge and its restful amenities. We'll soon be on our way again...and we promise to look hard for them..."
(Be sure to follow the next blogpost...Will we see the Pride of 7 lions next time?)
(Dear friends, be sure to follow the blog posts during this next week as I share our FULL adventure. Many thanks to the management and staff at the beautiful SHIBULA LODGE for your incredible hospitality!)