Living in Kruger itself is a huge privilege. And please believe me when I say that we feel extremely lucky and that we enjoy each and every second. Animal neighbours, garden invasions and creepy crawlies included;-) Sometimes, we have the privilege to spend a day off the beaten track. Deep in a wilderness area of the park, where tourists hardly ever come. Those times we get to do things that other people can only wish for…
Last week, Steven had some work related things to discuss with Marius, the Stolsneck Section Ranger. We decided to make a day of it and asked if we could spend the afternoon on Stolsneck Dam fishing. (Catch and Release of course.) Alex and Jack have never gone fishing before, but they are so fascinated by the fish they see from ‘our’ bridge, that they have been asking to go fishing.
With a cooler box packed with some drinks and stuff to make some food on our skottel, we set off towards the no entry at the Matjulu waterhole. Before I climbed out to lower the steel cable that blocks the road, I had a good look around. Steven told me that a few weeks before a leopard popped up only a few meters away from him when we climbed out of his cruiser to open the no entry to his wilderness area!
The road in Steven’s wilderness area goes through a beautiful valley with a long rocky outcrop on the left. It goes through a few dips, past some stunning koppies where I always hope to see a leopard or lions on top and through an area with lots of young Tamboti trees. It really is a stunning drive out. Then, after one last dip the land evens out and you can see a flat mountaintop on the horizon. That mountaintop always reminds me of Table Mountain!
After Steven’s work meeting with the Section Ranger, we all climbed back in the vehicle to enjoy the rest of our afternoon. It slowly started to cool down after the heat of the day and a nice breeze was picking up.
Marius had warned us of a very big crocodile in the dam and Steven said there were four hippos in the water, even with the water levels being very low at the end of the dry season. With that in mind, we parked on a high bank on the edge of the dam. That way, we could keep a good look out for crocodiles and hippos alike. Ava and Aiden, Alex and Jacks older brother and sister, were under strict instructions to each keep an eye on one of the little ones and that none of them were allowed anywhere near the water’s edge.
The looks on Alex’ and Jack’s faces were absolutely priceless! Ava and Aiden love fishing too. They are actually quite good at it so they were teaching their younger brothers what to do. They got a few nibbles, but no bites unfortunately. When it was time for Alex and Jack to try, Steven took the hooks of the dobbertjies because they kept getting stuck. Aiden would cast for Jack, who would then feverishly, and with the utmost concentration, wheel the line in. I think he thought the dobbertjie was a fish because he kept yelling: Kyk mamma!! Vissie!!
Alex could not stop pointing out the crocodiles that were out on the bank across from where we were sitting. The hippo’s peeked their heads out of the water for a moment, and snorted a tuft of water out of their nostrils, which had Alex in stitches. And in the distance two Fish Eagles kept calling. In the setting sun a giraffe came for a drink to our right and the last rays of the sun lit Jacks face as he once again caught an imaginary fish. It was an afternoon I will never forget…
As the sun was setting, we slowly started to pack up. Unfortunately it was time to go home. While we were busy, a big herd of elephants appeared on the rise a few hundred meters on the other side of the dam. With all four kids safely on the vehicle, Steven and I climbed in to bonnet to watch the elephants.
It had been a very hot day and the elephants were clearly thirsty. They ran the last hundred meters to the water. Their excitement to quench their thirst reverberated across the water to where we were sitting. Steven and I looked at each other. I think we were both thinking the same at that moment: ‘Gosh aren’t we lucky… Lucky to experience this on a regular basis, lucky to be able to share this with our children, and most of all lucky to be able to call Kruger home…’
Another herd of elephants came thundering down the game path towards the water and the two herds greeted each other in typical elephant style: Lots of trumpeting, belly rumbling, trunks up and ears flared out.
We watched as the elephants drank their fill and slowly started to make their way back into the bush. Then it was really time for us to go home too. We took a different road back than the way we came; A little two-tone track back that clearly had not been used for a while. We were really off the beaten track now!
The elephants had pushed over a few trees and had kicked some big rocks into the road, which, together with the now darkness, made for not so easy going. But to the children and us it was all part of the adventure!
Jack was sitting behind Steven and was pointing at all the stars. He was beaming pure joy! Alex couldn’t stop laughing at the little scrub hare that ran ahead of us in the road. Eventually he passed out on his brother’s lap. Exhausted from a marvellous day spent off the beaten track.