South Africa · 16 Days · 58 Moments · November 2017

Ngwenya 2017


9 December 2017

And so another journi reaches its end. I'll continue to add things to it for a while as I use these entries as the basis for my journal of the trip. But there won't be much left of general interest I don't think. I hope the next journi will be of a road trip to the Cape in the new year. No real plans yet but Chris and I chatted about it in the car yesterday. Time to get out the map book and start dreaming.

8 December 2017

Sheesh. Friday. And in the N2 South Wimpy near Richards Bay. Fine dining at its best. The road is hectic. It's warm and of course the ac in the Sani is kaput.

7 December 2017

And so to Thursday. Our last day here. It's raining hard as it did for most of the night and evening. We were all quite pleased to go into the warmth of the dining room for supper. We did very little yesterday. I got irritated exercised and astonished by messages from Niall and Sally which didn't help. On the good side I clocked a red backed mannikin as our 137th species. An easy new Ngwenya total for us.

6 December 2017

Wednesday. Didn't do any travel today so settled down to a big cooked breakfast but only after I'd fixed the toaster. Then the others went for a walk and I set up my laptop on the verandah and made a start on admin in particular Niall's med aid. First Robert arrived to clean the braai. Then Nellie to clean the house and then Victor to see if there was any maintenance needed. During all this I was preparing and sending Whatsapp messages about my thoughts last night wherein I decided to offer my services to Niall and Sally as mediator in the hope of speeding things up. But enough of that as it has nothing to do with the trip. Very satisfying noises of lunch preparation taking place.

5 December 2017

Prawn night at 340! A total indulgence with a kilo each braaied perfectly. Lots of cold wine and off we go. This will be the holiday's Memorable Meal.
A good news and bad news sort of Tuesday. First off happy birthday wishes for Mo. Then after the usual wonderful coffee and rusk session on the verandah watching the day begin we set off for the Park in convoy eventually i plucked up courage to switch on the ac. And nothing happened. A second batch of gas had gone! Damn it. So far Nico has collected R1450 from me so I'm not going back again which means that now we face the prospect of driving home without ac. Pooh. However the session in the park was amazing. Wild dog and lion and as usual some unknown waders. The four of us enjoyed toasted egg bacon and cheese sandwiches at the Mugg & Bean in Lower Sabie. After checking Sunset Dam and popping up the road a km to see why cars were collecting there (no idea) we drove home on the speed limit on the tarred road without stopping. 5h40m. 107km.

4 December 2017

And here's one of an elephant crossing the river just down stream of our patio
Thinking about using this pic of the bridge at Crocodile Bridge as the cover picture
So it's sundowner time and it's my mother's 96th birthday. It's utterly impossible to imagine what she would make of me now. Or me of her.
For the second time in 3 days we are back at 340 with the Sani in the car shelter boasting of a repaired ac. Hopefully this time the repair will be effective. We came home back along the N4 to Komatipoort and didn't choose the long and winding route through the park. Komatipoort yielded a sausage roll, half a dozen eggs and 60l of diesel. In getting back to Ngwenya Lodge we went the half km into the park between the gate and the reception complex. We turned around there to come home but not before capturing the plight of more mop birds. One pair is trying to escape the yard behind the reception offices. The other is awaiting it's fate at the toilet block Shem. Today's drive: 3h30min 107km
So now back at EJ Auto electrical in Malelane with Rico and the magic machine. In the Sani engine compartment both the pipe connections to the compressor were loose and have now been fixed so the 30 minute cycle with the pedantic machine begins again. The irony is that when the loose connection was discovered a small turn of the nut allowed the remaining gas to escape with a huge woosh . Cue JGG moving backwards smartly. Cue the greenies having conniptions and screaming "eco-terrorist" while clutching their bottles of imported water. That's Nico in the picture pressing buttons on the regassing machine.
Anyway it was great to have J & B here. I dicovered that the rather special hardwood firewood I'd bought requires all kinds of skills to use so I backed up and braaied the fillet (rather well if I may say so) on good old charcoal. A convivial dinner even with stewed apples brought the day to a close as we were all eager to get to bed. Only 4 more nights. The river tumbles down the rocks just 40m from our patio and makes a soothing sound. The birds are starting to take up their positions for the day and my coffee is here.
All my plans for a well illustrated entry yesterday after our friends arrived came to nothing.. I was uncertain which of the 2 parking bays assigned to 340 was tall enough to accommodate the Landy. So I moved the Sani to a shady spot else where. After they arrived I fetched her and took a short drive out to fetch firewood and discovered that the ac had failed again. This news plus the really intense heat and missing lunch depressed me a great deal. Now instead of thinking about setting off for the Park shortly I need to go back to Nico in Malelane. Pooh

3 December 2017

Pretty damn hot with a nasty wind today. Joe and Barbs are in Komatipoort so lunch is imminent.
Sunday morning and the Goliath Heron has caught and now swallowed a huge fish. Way to go fellow!

2 December 2017

I assumed the sarong as appropriate garb for the braai and reaction from neighbouring chalets sounded suspiciously like derision and hilarity. Chris photographed the sight and posted it elsewhere. Jealousy. The velcro is however getting ratty and the garment does have a disquieting tendency to suddenly fail and hit the deck. Chris taught me how to drink box chenin blanc with chunks of ice. I'm a slow learner but may now have mastered the task.
Both the bokke and the blitz bokke were in action this afternoon. The 15 man side lost to Wales in what to my eyes looked like a very poor performance. The 7 man team romped out winners of the Dubai tournament. They are fun to watch but I was intrigued at how hard I found it to adjust while switching from one to the other since they were taking place simultaneously.
Back home in 340 after quite a morning which began by driving to Malelane where the SANI aircon was fixed and then returning via the park going in the Malelane gate and coming out Crocodile Bridge gate with a stop at Gardenia hide. The main event at the hide ( aside from the two rhino loitering at the entrance) was coming a pitiful 3rd in the lens size competition. Other highlights were a lovely sighting of an Orange Breasted Bush-shrike, some small ele, one of which came close to running in front of the car ahead causing his mum to trumpet loudly and stir everyone up. Particularly the guy driving the car. Then there was the litter of very exuberant warthog piglets that were putting in serious "running with tail up" practice. And a splendid White Rhino who we watched ambling purposefully to a midden which he inspected then peed on. But it's a 63km trip from gate to gate and despite the ac now being fixed, gets tedious at midday.
The aircon was far more serious than my guess. The gas was gone and there was a leak. Forunately the chap in Malelane agreed to open his workshop and with the aid of a wonderful but super pedantic aircon regassing machine detected the leak, replaced two valve stems (identical to tyre valve stems but bigger and R50 each) and gassed up. The pedantic tedium is that the machine won't stand for any refrigerant gas escaping and spends up to 35 minutes each cycle degassing vacuuming and recycling any traces of refrigerant. The old girl needed 600g of new refrigerant. Sorry but the old stuff escaped into the wild about 48 hours previously. My bad. So there we are leaning on the car while the machine sucks and blows and samples in turn being all eco friendly and then suspicious while 20 yards away the traffic on the N4 races to and from Mozambique billowing black diesel fumes and passengers dicard tons of KFC boxes and plastic bottles.
My poor rusk crumb control measures have been eagerly noticed.
Monday. Another early morning. Another scene of the Crocodile River on its way to Mozambique

1 December 2017

On Check-in Fridays the Reception at Ngwenya has goodies like a soft serve machine and sparkling plonk. We selected the ice cream ( last week it was the plonk) and went home to unload the shopping. Then a phone message from Niall to Chris came in. He is fine and quite enjoying a new life repairing and renovating his house. However there are many issues and unresolved matters that Chris and I don't have answers to so I had another bad mood. Great Pity. And one can't escape to the patio as it's really hot out there although it does sound like there's a storm somewhere. Yup big thunder.
Hmm. This could have been a good day but on the short trip with the Sani all loaded with our stuff for the move from 311 to 340 it was clear that the car ac was not working. After unpacking into our new abode we set off for Komatipoort which sans ac was brutal. Went to two different possible repair shops and in both cases the mechanic was out. Will try again tomorrow. I'm fairly sure it's a trivial electrical problem solved by fixing a parted connection or a duff relay. Anyway it's put me in a bad mood and our shopping trip thereafter was not good. With guests arriving on Sunday, Chris did a major shop starting in a really gaudy and downmarket Shoprite store that was full of Mozambicans picking over processed meats of unholy hue. We did escape back to Spar and Tops and the butcher where most things are more recognizable as edibles. Driving home in 30 plus heat with all windows open was filthy. How soft and spoiled we have become
After that early and much anticipated start to the day with a coffee and a rusk shared with the weavers we slowly packed up and piled the stuff in the lounge. This seemed like a good excuse to amble round to the restaurant and order toasted bacon and egg sandwiches in the name of breakfast. Very pleasent. We sat indoors as the heat was already picking up seriously out on the deck.
Some lovely colours on the river to start Friday and our second week at Ngwenya

30 November 2017

Thursday night supper. The chef was awarded 6 out of 5 stars. A Dagwood with home baked bread. Oh my goodness.
Venue for first swim of the season. Last day in November. That's late!. Water wasn't warm though. All the rain I guess.
Thursday's park excursion was quite short. 46km and just over 4 hours starting at the rather relaxed time of 7am. The part from the resort to the KNP gate (about 5km) is hazardous for us as we crawl along the main road there searching for birds. It is surprisingly productive. In the park we stuck to the roads around the gate but still managed a number of great sightings. The croc that we saw with a terrapin yesterday seemed to be still busy with that rather grisly meal. We spent a long time just sitting at the so called hippo pools where I got a nice lesser striped swallow pic. And we scored a hooded vulture. Uncommon although he didn't seem to be worried by this status. Managed to get a good dollop of mud on the Sani too negotiating a very slippery and treacherous puddle.
And our resident hippo has arrived to take up her spot for the day right below our chalet.
Thursday. Another day in paradise. The morning coffee and rusk on the balcony supervising the air traffic up and down the river. And two crocs on the sand bank. It's cool and overcast. Good weather for a drive into the park.l

29 November 2017

Only 2 more nights in 311 and then on Friday we move over to 340 which is close to the rapids. The river has come up a lot so that will be a soothing noise. On Sunday Joe and Barbara will arrive. We've discussed where to go tomorrow and not yet come up with anything other than just the same old route. Because we go so slowly there's always something different in the bush to see. Probably two thirds of the time that we stop completely and switch off we see something we hadn't stopped for! Been playing with Chris' phone learning how to transfer pictures from mine using Bluetooth. Also been doing a great deal of housekeeping of all the Garmin data on my laptop computer. The USA trip generated so much that I want to annotate and record logically. Also I have now owned a Garmin device for almost 18 years - I'm on my third one - so there's a huge collection of way points actually recorded at the location. Angola, Mozambique, Mauritius and Reunion, St Helena, overseas and all over SA
Wednesday was a stay at home day. Didn't start the car (perhaps the new battery won't! ) and just read and wrote. C did some laundry and baked a loaf. Real little home maker. Went for a long walk to Hippo Bend houses. Now back on the balcony with sundowners
Which brings us to Wednesday. It threatens to be a hot one. We have seen the anti-poaching patrol walking along the far bank and polished off breakfast. No driving today. Too much of adventures yesterday. I'm going to sit on the balcony and play with my toys. I might even read.

28 November 2017

Moving on I swiftly dispatched a six pack and a great deal of box wine paired with the braaied fillet and went to bed muttering.
So we went straight to Midas in Komatipoort where I bought a new battery which I commenced to change right there in the street. Chris meanwhile went to the Indian general store and bought bicarb and water and prepared an alkaline solution that we used to wash down the affected parts. All was going great until I put down the 13mm spanner in the wrong place and it dropped into a narrow slot between the radiator and the front grille. More pooh. Long story short: back to Midas to buy a new 13mm spanner. Drove home stopping to pick up pieces of sugar cane we thought might help to fish out the dropped spanner. At home stripped and dumped my clothes into the bath because they were spotted with acid. Then with a torch and two pieces of wire C and I tried to fish the bloody spanner out of the slot. The pieces of sugar cane were useless. Eventually gave up and Chris bent down to retrieve something when she noticed that the missing spanner was perfectly accessible through a hole in the grille.
We turned off the H4 onto the S21 a dirt road in quite poor condition and very corrugated, a feature that probably was the source of our problems later. This is remarkably isolated and remote drive for the southern end of the park. We encountered very few other cars although of course the law of sod ensures that as soon as one stops to look at something another vehicle appears. We steadily added to the bird list and via the S114 at the delightfully named Renosterkoppies and then the H5 got back eventually to our familiar main road. The koppie is a jumble of really huge granite boulders that must be full of klipspringer, python and dassies. This is where we ticked a martial eagle. We pulled into the camp at Crocodile Bridge as my knee needed a stretch and also Chris reported a funny smell from the engine. On inspection it proved to be repeat of the issue where the battery gets dislodged and ends up touching the fan belt which wears a hole into the casing and acid starts to leak. Pooh.
With the briefest of stops at Sunset Dam to ensure that the crocs were as big as ever we travelled north west up the H4, - not a road we use very often. Almost immediately we came across a car scrum which invariably means big cats. In this case lions. They were a long way off across the river and we paused briefly in the middle of the road to gaze over the top of lesser vehicles at the sizable pride. The gent in the car looked worried and asked what was happening. He and his wife were frantically sharing the binos and scanning wildly. We tried to direct them and may have helped but something he said as we pulled away made me realise that English was not his best. The park is full of overseas visitors. Our interest in birds makes us possibly too dismissive of the big furry quadruped. Must try harder
Our earlier attempt at Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp to secure toasted egg and bacon sandwiches having failed (thr proclaimed take away facility is a scam and chimera ) ensured that our progress towards Lower Sabie grew in significance as the trip progressed. At this stage I must publicly recant my scepticism and doubt about replacing the Sanparks food prep outlet with Mugg and Bean. It's great. Chris naively and obediently ordered from the displayed menu which failed to mention egg. I simply asked for toasted egg bacon and cheese. On arrival they were huge . Two eggs nogal.
Our progress along the road when we are bright eyed and bushy is very slow. We stop at every wing beat and argue. The new binoculars from London Ontario are really great, so light and easy to use. 1st proper stop was at the little bridge where we saw a huge croc with a terrapin in its jaws! We then took the Cat Corner road which failed to live up to its name but at last produced a lovely herd of buffalo most of whom hadn't got up yet!
Chris and I have agreed a huge list of things we would like to record for today so here goes. We left at 6 am and it took almost an hour to get to and through the Crocodile Bridge gate what with stopping to look at birds meeting new friends at the parking lot which included an elderly lady who shared her travel wardrobe plans with us when we remarked how cool it was, and a really silly Sanparks entry system when "the gate computers are down"
Tuesday. Wow. What a day. Five o'clock and back on the balcony with a whole load of experiences which include a car battery replacement, a spanner lost and found, a croc and a terrapin, a toasted sandwich, lions, the long way home, plenty of nice new birds , a six pack almost finished and no closer to finding prawns to braai in Komatipoort.

27 November 2017

That turned out to be a nice lunch but would have been much improved if it had been warm and sunny. The big sliding doors out to the pool and garden were not exciting today. Went home for an epic snooze. Then sat down at the laptop on the balcony and completed writing the Ndumu Club AGM minutes. Not much going on with the wildlife except Chris got a very good sighting of a bat hawk chasing down a bat. Chris muttering about small snack for supper. She has evidence on her side about the wisdom of this as we have just had news that our good friend Joe had a stent fitted today.
Who knew there was a place like this in Komatipoort. Prawns on order.
Monday. Very wet overnight and quite cold this morning. Both of us pecking at our keyboards and not too fussed to drive out anywhere. Why would you need to when you have this saddle-billed stork right in front of the balcony?

26 November 2017

And so the waterbuck are wondering if it might be OK to cross the river. It isn't. There's a huge croc in there
Sundowner time on the balcony at 311.
Sunday. Back at Chalet 311 after a 6 hour 90 km excursion into KNP via the Crocodile River Gate. Very few big mammals and no cats. About 40 new birds for the holiday list including at least 1 lifer I think. Called in at Lower Sani rest camp for a brace of chicken and mushroom pot pies from the Mugg & Bean takeaway section which we then took to eat in the car parked at the edge of Sunset dam. The usual HUGE crocs there and a few waders. There was a Barn Owl roosting in the high rafters above the shop area at Lower Sabie.what splendidly disdainful birds.

25 November 2017

Now there are two elephants down at the river in front of us. Earlier there was a very unusual sighting of a flock of 5 Ground Hornbills - enormous birds that don't fly very much - marching in rough formation along the far bank scouting for munchies. The birds that nest on the ground and raise their young there were kicking up hell.
Saturday was pretty wet. We didn't leave camp and filled the Big Birding Day 2017 list from in and around Chalet 311. As I write our list is just over 50 long compared to 90ish last year when it was warm and sunny and we spent several hours inside KNP. The winning team will probably score around 400 species! Anyway the braai fire is on, the bokke beat Italy easily and we had a good day on our own.
Saturday at Ngwenya. Rained hard all night and still bucketting down. But it's Birding Big Day and we have 17 species already including a lifer. White backed night heron. Whee

24 November 2017

Lizard bridge.
Friday. We left at 5:30 am on the dot and rolled into Ngwenya reception nine and a half hours and 600 km later. It's actually a hell of a trip. Two border crossings, one exceptionally badly potholed stretch of 45km in central Swaziland and a vintage selection of African driving methods. To be fair about an hour of that was spent shopping in Komatipoort. Getting the stuff we are not really supposed to take into our neighbouring country. Like meat veg and booze. For the first time too I stopped for diesel in Swaziland. It's a bit cheaper than in SA. However the orange iced lolly from the garage shop tasted like sheep dip.
Sadly, not one scene of the Great Lizard Herding Event was captured on film. The outcome was good however and the stripey fellow is out on the balcony, flanks heaving a bit but safe and unharmed. I discovered him on the dressing table shelf in our room shortly after moving in here. While trying to organise a bridge to the open windows for him he leaped to the floor and under the bed. Left him there for Chris to deal with. Only she didn't. Much OMG later she appeared with the broom and handed me the mop. Long story short: bed stripped, mattress up ended, bed tilted, Lizard bolts for door. But the wrong one. Intrepid husband uses mop to encourage him to leave the sanctuary of the toilet. Lizard bolts under TV cupboard. But in the end out doors whew. Time for tea and cake and remake bed.

23 November 2017

Good grief but pacing has been stressful. I seem to have lost the rack for the Garmin. No idea where it is. Then I lost the Garmin itself for a few hours until I found it under a cushion on the sofa in the study . Then I forgot the map for KNP
Good grief but packing has been stressful. I seem to have lost the rack for the Garmin. No idea where it is. Then I lost the Garmin itself for a few hours until I found it under a cushion on the sofa in the study . Then I forgot the map for KNP
We ha just heard that Joe and Barbara Martin will be able to join us for most of week 2
I thought it might be interesting to make a list of my "toys" that I like to have with me when we do these bush trips: Camera Binos Zippo Kilber knife Gerber Curve knife Key knife Keyring pen Keyring stylus Hiking and walking sticks Laser pointer Mobile phone Ipad Laptop Lots and lots of reference books Maps and pamphlets especially for the destination. Garmin Adapters cables and plugs Pencil case Small camera tripod Barometer Bungee cords Camping chairs for comfort
One more sleep and then we're off to Kruger.