The ranger and the Flight Attendant

I fell in love with the South African bush and Kruger long before I fell in love with my husband who is a trails ranger in Kruger National Park.

I was a cabin attendant for KLM when I first went on safari to Madikwe Private Game Reserve on a layover.

It was the weirdest feeling. As soon as I drove onto the reserve, and opened my windows, it felt like I was coming home. That earthy smell, the reddish colour of the soil, it felt so familiar and comforting.

 

I met a colleague on a later trip to Joburg and another safari to the Waterberg. We happened to have annual leave at the same time. She loved the wilderness just as much as I did so we decided to spend our annual leave in South Africa. We would start with a week in Cape Town and after that, we would spend 10 days in Kruger. My first time in Kruger and it was amazing!

 

Over the next couple of years, I would go two, three times a year to this magical place. Where I could be myself, where I would drive around looking for that perfect sighting during the day, and braai and kuier with friends at night. See, I was very fortunate to have met some very dear friends in Lower Sabie on that first trip to the park. My one friend was a guide and whenever there was a space open on any of his activities, he would take me along. It was always this great big adventure. I loved it. I would soak up every little bit, because I knew I would long for this place when I had to return home to Holland.

And I did. Sitting at home in my apartment, I felt like I had left part of me in Africa. I missed that typical earthy smell and the smell of the thatched roofs of the units in the park, the sound of the Skops owl at night and the smell of a good campfire. I missed that sense of freedom and happiness that kept me coming back. Those carefree days where you have nothing to think about other than where you are going to find your next great sighting and whether or not to put another piece of wood on the fire; The excitement always growing as I got closer to Crocodile Bridge. I had my own little ritual of undoing my seatbelt as I drove over the bridge over the Crocodile

River. I would switch off the radio and open my windows to soak in the smells and the sounds that I had missed so much. Opening a Savannah as soon as I entered the gate. The game I played ‘which animal am I going to see first’. Around Crocodile Bridge there is always lots of game, but impala was often a winner. Although I remember a few times where hyena and once a porcupine was the first animal to see through the gate.

There was no place that I would rather be than in Kruger; my happy place.

 

I had been coming to Kruger regularly for about 10 years. I met my now husband on one of those early visits as the colleague of my friend the guide. I instantly liked everything about him – his sense of humour, his smile, his oh so sexy legs…. We could talk about everything and we had fun. So much fun!!

We were good friends at first, for years in fact, always keeping in touch between visits. When I came to visit my friends in the beautiful Lower Sabie, if he came over for a braai it was fun guaranteed. The morning walks he and my other friend the guide did, was like being on an activity with the comic duo of the Kruger National Park.

I always thought he was very handsome. We had a click; there definitely was chemistry between us. And those legs… I was in a long-term relationship and he got married, but later divorced. Nothing ever happened between us, until I ended my relationship of 14 years. And I came to Kruger, my happy place, to recuperate.

 

I came with a very dear friend from photography school. We had bookings all over the park, starting in Lower Sabie. Steven had moved from Metsi Metsi trail to Olifants wilderness trail after his divorce and was living in Letaba. I had sent him a message asking if he would be home when we were in Letaba but he was going to be on trail. Our next booking was in Olifants camp and he said he would meet us there for a braai between two trails on Saturday night.

 

Steven on the rangers bike
Steven on the rangers bike.

He showed up at our bungalow on the ranger’s motorbike. Backpack and rifle on his back! He had this boyish grin on his face when he got off the bike, and I remember my heart skipping a beat… I challenged him to take me for a ride on the back of the motorbike. We both thought that was going to be fun, so we packed a few drinks, and off we went. This time I had the backpack and the rifle on my back!

We drove along this two track no entry road. It was such an amazing feeling to be out in the open en not inside a vehicle, feeling the wind blow through my hair! We had a lovely afternoon, chatting, joking, and enjoying the lovely scenery and each other’s company.

That night, we had a delicious braai. And for some reason I thought it was the best idea ever to show Steven this star gazing app I had on my new IPhone. And he thought it would be an even better idea to do this at the lookout point 9 kilometres outside Olifants rest camp. One tends to be a bit more brave, or in this case maybe even reckless after a typical South African braai;-)

My friend shook her head as we set off in the pitch-black darkness to go look at stars. She must have thought we were barking mad!

Once again I had Stevens rifle and his backpack on my back. Steven gave me his bike goggles to put on and before I knew it, we were flying over the road towards the lookout point.

I have to say, that star gazing app really is amazing. It shows you the constellations, the planets; it even has all sorts of background information on astronomy. As we were checking out this amazing app, one of us (I can honestly not remember which one of us it was…) decided an even better location to do this would be the Olifants high water bridge. Granted, it was. Obviously in hindsight I don’t know what we were thinking, but in our defence we were slightly inebriated….

The stars from the bridge were incredibly beautiful…. The Milky Way clear as day, satellites quietly passing by overhead, I have never seen so many stars in my life! I grew up in the midst of a lot of greenhouses and their light shines up at night, giving the sky and orange glow. The first time Steven came to Holland to visit my family and me; he did not sleep a wink the first night, because he kept thinking the orange light was the sun coming up! Such different worlds…

 

Steven had borrowed me his bike goggles for the trip to the bridge, and as I was leaning his rifle up against the railing of the bridge, he complained he had a bug in is eye. As I came closer to check and see if I could get the bug out, he leaned in and kissed me…. His lips were so soft… but hang on… this is my friend! We are friends! Friends don’t make out! So I asked him… ‘are we making out??’, ‘well not anymore’, he responded after I broke our kiss, but it felt amazing kissing him… he obviously agreed and so we kissed some more!

Then something disastrous happened…I was leaning against the bridge railing and next thing I knew, I felt my phone slip out of my back pocket, I heard how it hits the railing, then the cement on the side and then….. Silence…. My phone had just fallen off the Olifants high water bridge!!!!!!!

 

‘Don’t worry; I will get it for you in the morning’, Steven said bravely. But also asked me if I had insurance for the phone. My heart sank a little; this was my brand new IPhone! I tried phoning it with the blackberry I had with a South Africa simcard, hoping the call would illuminate the screen, so I could at least see where it was, but there was no signal on the bridge. Or my phone had landed in the water and was dead. We would only be able to find out which one it was in the morning.

As we were driving back to camp, I kept yelling STOP, STOP in Stevens ear. Which made him stop and ask me, ‘what do you see’?? We never saw any animals on the way back to camp; I just wanted to kiss Steven some more, not wanting the evening to end!

 

Poor Steven ended up sleeping in my rental car, with Olifants camp being fully booked and no other place for him to sleep. I slept next to my friend, who was very pleased that we were home in one piece. Stevens rifle slept under the bed.

The next morning I woke up feeling the effects of the drinks we had the night before. My friend Petra was already up and I heard voices on the stoep. When I walked outside, I saw Steven sitting on the little cement wall of our bungalow. He looked about as bad as I felt. What on earth were we up to last night…. Oh ja, my phone has fallen off the bridge! And we kissed! I think I went scarlet red when I realised both!

Petra was busy making Steven a coffee, she never saw my face, but Steven winked at me and said ‘Well, I had better go see Dalton (the section ranger), and get some ropes and chains to try get you your phone back’. We agreed to meet on the bridge. He needed to get back to Letaba for another trail that afternoon and my friend and I had a booking in Lower Sabie that night so we needed to pack our stuff.

 

As I was driving towards the bridge, all the wile trying to explain to Petra what had happened to my phone, I could not help but notice all these fresh elephant droppings. We must have driven through herds and herds of elephants the night before on the motorbike and not noticed a thing!! That would have been an epic disaster. I also noticed something else…. The high water bridge is far!! Did we really come all this way last night in the dark?? I quietly shook my head.

Steven was already on the bridge when we got there. The motorbike was parked on the right hand side and he had put his rifle against the bike. He looked a bit worried. I was feelingquite confident about getting my phone back and asked Steven, ‘do you still remember where it was that my phone fell?’. The bridge is quite long, my phone could have fallen off anywhere, but Steven had stopped at a specific spot. He pointed at the railing. Under the railing was an empty glass… we must have left it there the night before. I love nature and would never ever throw anything out my window or litter in any way, but here it was: Our glass; and reminder that we really had been quite ‘distracted’ when we left it there. I turned scarlet red again. But the glass also served as a marker! This is where we could find my phone!!

Steven tied loops in the rope and weighed it down with the chain before securing it to the bridge. He asked Petra to keep an eye on his bike and rifle. As we were busy sending the rope over the side, people were stopping next to us, asking what Steven was up to. ‘He is going to try get my phone’, was my answer. ‘my new IPhone 4’. People nodded understandingly.

Steven used one of the bridges support columns to help him get down. I remember him looking up at me from about half way, and giving me a brave smile, but I saw the sweat breaking out on his forehead. This was not an easy climb down. It took him a while to get to the bottom. And by the time he got there, there must have been 20 cars parked on the bridge, everyone wanting to know what the commotion was about and why this poor ranger was climbing down there.

At the base of the pylon there was a lot of debris that was left there from the last time the river was in flood. There were fresh hippo tracks as well. Steven looked for a few minutes and then all of a sudden bent down to pick something up.

Steven holding up my phone in Kruger
“you are so lucky!”

“You are so lucky!” he yelled up at me, holding up my phone!! It had landed in the pile of debris on two sticks holding it up just over a pool of water. My phone was in complete working order. It did not even have a scratch! It just had about 30 missed calls from my SA number when it was finally at the top;-)

There must have been about 50 people looking down at Steven op top of the bridge and all of them started cheering when Steven held up my phone. It was such an amazing moment! A group of 4 farmers in their typical two-tone shirts and bare foot were parked close to us in a bakkie that had a winch at the front. They sent the winch down to help Steven back up. I can only imagine how grateful he was for that, hangover and all.

 

We had to say goodbye to each other on that bridge that day. But the day we got married, Steven carved our names, and the date of our first kiss in the green paint on the cement on the side, right were it happened….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

89 thoughts on “The ranger and the Flight Attendant

  1. Have just enjoyed reading your first post Linda! Lovely pic of the two of you and I see what you mean about the legs! Great to have the background about how you became a ranger’s wife and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. Dear Sal! Thank you so much!! You are my first comment and probably first ever person to read my blog!!! So very cool!! Still working on te layout etc but that will change and improve over time! Exciting stuff! xxx

      1. I’m honoured Linda! It will in many ways be a wonderful journey for you too, I have no doubt; enjoy the ride . . . as indeed will we 🙂

  2. Enjoyed your first post, looking forward to reading all your adventures in the park !! You so lucky and blessed to be living there !! Can’t wait for my yearly trips to the park in August/September. Regards Carmen 😊

  3. So so cool. Love the story.. love the bush.. love the Kruger. In my mind you are fortunate and blessed beyond everything i know. Keep on writing. Can’t wait for your next share.. thank you for sharing, and beautiful pic

  4. Linda I really enjoyed your first blog. I think you have a natural story telling talent. Now I can’t wait for your next blog. 😊
    A friend of mine from the uk after his first visit, including a one nighter to KNP told me on his next trip to SA how much he had missed South Africa and the bush. When I asked him ‘“how come”? His answer was quick and simple, he replied “once you’ve been to Africa you can’t get it out of your system”
    And that is so true of the KNP and other wild life Parks. I’m a Kruger nutter I can never get enough of it and am now planning my two weeks (minimum) solo trip for August or September starting at Pafuri and working my zig zag down to Croc Bridge. Maybe we will bump into one another

  5. Hi Linda,
    You asked if we would read your blog if you published it, we answered YES. I did and I really enjoyed the adventures in your blog. I have 2 sister-in-laws that were involved in the airline industry. One currently working for Alaska Airlines and a son-in-law that is a pilot for Alaska Airlines. My brother had a friend that was head game ranger in the northern part of KNP where he oversaw the entire northern part of the park. He lived there with his wife and infant daughter. He was a head ranger, captain in the army & captain in the police force. This was in the apartheid years.
    We had an opportunity to spend a long week-end there and were able to have picnic in the park and left to a herd of elephants and at the base of his koppie. Beautiful memories. Look forward to your next blog

  6. A lovely story..I wish you the greatest happiness for the rest of your lives..You are so incredibly lucky to live in that magic place..Really the best place on earth…

  7. Great Linda! I enjoyed your first story! I pray that you will be more responsible now and keep yourselves safe from all the Wild animals! Looking forward to the rest!

  8. Loved your first installment. So glad to see I m not the only Dutch girl falling for a nice SA guy….. 😂
    Keep writing, can’t wait to read more.

  9. Wonderful and so well written – please keep it going and remember – save it on your PC FIRST then copy it to your blog. Don’t lose any of it, ever. Congrats
    Erik
    Erik the Ready

    1. Hi Erik! Thank you😊 and thanks for your help along the way.
      I am writing the stories in Word first. Data is too expensive in sa to do it live;-)

  10. Loved reading this. Cannot wIt for next and next and next 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

  11. Hi Linda, net je eerste blog gelezen. Super ! Ik woon in Klaaswaal vlakbij Rotterdam en ben net als jij ook verslaafd aan Kruger. Ik heb familie in Nelspruit wonen en probeer 2 x per jaar op “visite “ te komen en verwen mezelf dan gelijk met een paar dagen kruger. Het voelt inderdaad als thuiskomen. Op 2 december dit jaar gaan we ons 12,5 jarig huwelijk daar vieren samen net mijn neef en zn vrouw die ook op 02 december 40 jaar getrouwd zijn. Natuurlijk met een goeie braai ! Best beetje jaloers op je dat je in zo’n paradijs mag wonen ❤️ ik kijk uit naar je volgende blog. Groetjes Ellen

  12. Thank you Linda! Your story is awesome… & being both a romantic & Kruger-lover since childhood, I identified with so many of your experiences & descriptions! Actually I remember Steven from a night drive we did when accompanying some American friends to Kruger a few years ago…. he must have been a ranger/guide at Lower Sabie then? We enjoyed his stories & sense of humour & adventure as well as great knowledge of the wild. That was a memorable experience for us all!
    My husband & I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary by returning to many of our happy places… one being Kruger of course! Believe it or not, we also still enjoy romantic kisses on quiet bridges without a hoard of tourists curiously looking on!!! Thankfully one can still find peaceful & remote spots in the beautiful Kruger wilderness….
    I look forward to reading more as your story unfolds!

  13. Sitting in the UK staring up at grey skies with the fondest most amazing memories of the Kruger. Keep writing your blog. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

  14. ah so lovely to read about home. I look forward to your future blogs. I lived in the Bush with my two boys for over 10 years and loved ever second of it…well not the scorpions or snakes and lets not forget about those pesky red roman’s but your blog brings back that sense of Africa and adventure.Thanks and can not wait to follow you wonderful story.

  15. Superb. Love your fairytale-like-true-love-story, especially because it’s all happening in my favorite place 🙂

  16. I loved reading this! Such a romantic love story ❤️ 🥂 your love of the bush is tangible. I look forward to your next blog!

  17. Now I really enjoyed this – you definitely have a talent for story telling. Cannot wait for the next episode!

  18. Such a lovely read – cant wait to hear all about the rest of your life in the bush. I get what you mean about Kruger being your happy place – that feeling as you arrive, nothing quite like it 🙂

  19. Hello Linda,
    Thanks for sharing your story and yes you both must have been mad. You write beautifully. Please continue doing so. Will follow you with much interest.
    Enjoy this experience.
    Regards, Breena

  20. Ek is mal oor die Kruger, dit is beslis ook my hartsplek! My hart klop so gelukkig & opgewonde dat jy so pragtige storie het om te vertel en dit met die wereld deel!❤️ Ek love jou manier van skryf en het hierdie eerste inskrywing so geniet!😁🌷 Kan nie wag vir die volgende een nie! Dankie vir die geleentheid om vir ‘n klein rukkie uit my eie realiteit te ontsnap!🙌❤️

  21. Hi Linda, well done on your “first instalment “. Enjoyed it immensely, and will definitely be back for more. 😊😊

  22. Leuk om te lezen Linda, zo herkenbaar jouw gevoelens (wij zitten tegen de Krugerfence aan en daarom extra leuk om te lezen). Geen ranger getrouwd, geen Zuid Afrikaan maar wel de liefde in, voor en door Zuid Afrika gevonden. Helaas nog niet in de situatie dat we met een tiener kunnen verhuizen dus wij mogen van de bush en dieren genieten in de vakanties. Jouw verhalen daarom des te leuker om te lezen 😉 So keep the stories coming, we are enjoying them with the daily Dutch cup of coffee….

  23. This is so awesome! Please continue your blog with the awesome adventures about life in the Kruger Park, you are so fortunate!

  24. Wow Linda, this was great reading I really enjoyed and will have to be patient for the next one. I now live in Australia, and I used to go the the Kruger at least twice a year so really missing the bush. Nothing to beat the African bush it is the greatest place to be. Keep up with your blog Cathie. Would dlove this in a book, with pictures, and yes certain men in shorts look great.

  25. Linda, what an amazing story!! You truly are so fortunate to have fallen for a SA hunk, and not just any one, but a game ranger to top it all!! That’s always been my dream since I was a young girl. But life takes you where you belong and I’m married today to a darling of a man, the only complaint I have is that he’s real sea lover 😭🤣🤣. Hoping to convince him sooner than later for at least a 2 week holiday in the Kruger.

  26. So pleased that you started your blog Linda, I enjoyed your first blog very much and I am looking forward to the next one 😊

  27. So pleased that you started your blog Linda, I enjoyed your first one very much and I am looking forward to the next one 😊

  28. Lieve Lin,
    Ik heb vanaf de zijlijn een beetje je/jullie lovestory “meegemaakt”, ook in JNB. Waar jij naar Steven was geweest… in dubio over veel dingen. Je liefde voor SA én Steven heeft je gebracht waar je nu bent.
    Stoer! Maar ik mis wel een top collega ☹️
    Nu al een groot succes, je blog, als ik alle enthousiaste reacties lees. Top!
    Ik blijf je volgen en je blogs lezen!
    Dikke xxxxxxx
    Anja

    1. Hi Anja!
      Wat leuk on een reactie van je te lezen!! Ja, ik zie ons nog zo zitten aan het zwembad in het Balalaika.
      Veel veranderd… ik mis het vliegen best nog af en toe. Met name lieve collega’s zoals jij!!
      mwah!!! xxxxxxxxxxx

  29. I really enjoyed your first blog. We got home (East London Eastern Cape) on Tuesday after 4 wonderful days in KNP. We stayed at Byamiti for 2 nights and Berg-en-Dal for a night.

  30. This story is amazing and so romantic. When you live in the bush you always do things for entertainment that won’t make sense to city slickers. (and maybe is a little dangerous)
    Wow. Really love your blog.

    1. Ahw, thanks again Liza, very nice to read your comments! We will definetely not be repeating that night;-)) But yes our entertainment options are a bit limited;-))

  31. I stumbled upon this by chance. What a lovely read! We can’t wait to get back to Kruger next month, and I will certainly look for your carving on the bridge. It is a special place for us too.

  32. Ah what a beautiful and funny story. This only ever happens to other people….But it’s a beautiful story! May you two remain blessed.

  33. What a lovely story, Linda! I’m so pleased to have found your blog, it’s like reading a letter from an old friend. I am from SA living in the US now and usually make one trip to KNP each year. This year we sent my son on his honeymoon so counting the days now until next year. Looking forward to more lovely blogs from you. Best wishes to you and your family.

    Christy

  34. Hi Linda, found your page on facebook by chance. I follow the CAROK group and just love reading about peoples travels in the Kruger and the amazing photos they take! I am originally from Middelburg/Lydenburg and so to say grew up in the Kruger. Most of our holidays were spent there either camping or in a chalet. I now live on the Isle of Man in the UK and try visit SA once a year. I started reading one of your blogs tonight about the 3 lions in Lower Sabie and am now hooked! Looking forward to reading your next one….and also finding your and your husband’s names on the bridge next time I’m over!

    1. Hi Carol!!

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I am glad you found my blog! I hope you enjoy the rest of my stories too;-)
      There must be moments you miss South Africa and Kruger terrible, living overseas. Those groups on Fb really help!

      Have a lovely evening from Malelane Gate!

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