As a ‘Dutchie’ I grew up celebrating Sinterklaas and Christmas very differently than we do here in South Africa. Sinterklaas is a concept I won’t even begin to try and explain, but I loved it and I am sometimes a bit heart sore I cannot share that part of our Dutch December tradition with my boys.
Christmas in Holland is celebrated in the cold. The days are short and people put up fairy lights and candles everywhere to brighten up the cold dark days. I even remember a few real white Christmases. Christmas in Holland as I remember it is not so much about gift-giving, we do that with Sinterklaas. But Christmas is all about family.
Steven, the boys and I usually go to Holland for Christmas to spend time with my family. But now that both Holland and South Africa are experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, I sadly don’t get to see them for Christmas this year. So we decided to just have a stay-cation at home in our beloved Kruger.
Alex and Jack are at an age where their imagination is so vivid. And ever since Father Christmas came to their little pre-school, they have been counting the sleeps till Christmas. And asking funny questions only boys growing up in Kruger can ask; like if zebras can also pull Santa’s sleigh.
The look of pure joy and excitement on their faces when they burst into our bedroom at 5 am on Christmas morning to tell us that ‘kerstvader’ had eaten the cookies and drank the milk we had put out the night before is something I will remember for many Christmases to come. They even noticed the ‘spoor’ (tracks) that Santa had left and figured out that Santa had come through the window. They might just be great trackers one day;-)
After unwrapping their presents and having pancakes for breakfast, we packed a few things and headed out to Stevens camp. He needed to make sure the camps freezers were still running and check if everything was still ok after the heavy rains of recent. After the rain we had at the beginning of October, we had a bit of a dry spell. But after the recent rains, everything is so lush and green in our area I hardly recognize it! Even the Matjulu waterhole and the adjacent wallow have so much water in it now, we don’t have to worry about ferrying water there for a while.
The rain has also brought out lots of tortoises and terrapins. Steven had to help a few make it safely across the road. They look just like elephant poop and we don’t want them to get driven over. I helped this tiny baby. Look how cute he is. Steven recons it is just about freshly hatched!
We stopped at the Stolsneck Section on our way there to wish Marius and Ronel a Merry Christmas. A Section Ranger’s work never stops. So Marius was still very busy on Christmas Day. When he told us the chopper was going to land soon to pick up a few things, we all went to the helipad to watch it land.
The yellow and green helicopter soon appeared from the south. Small at first, almost like a dung beetle, but it quickly got bigger and bigger and turned in to come and land. I held on to Alex and Jack and turned away from the rotor wash and dust as the helicopter touched down. The children from the staff village also came to watch the chopper land. Such a special sight. Even for us grown-ups;-)
Marius quickly walked over to talk to the pilot. All I could see inside were people wearing Christmas hats; Rangers on duty, but still in the spirit of Christmas in Kruger. I love it!
When Marius came back and the helicopter was getting ready to take off, I saw Marius carry something in his hands. I thought it was a piece of elephant tusk or something at first, but it turned out to be two hands-full of sweets that Marius started handing out to all the children like a real-life Santa Claus in camouflage. I promise you, Alex and Jack now think that Father Christmas not only drives a sleigh but can fly a helicopter too!
We had planned to meet up with one of Steven’s friends in Skukuza on Boxing Day. We packed our trusted skottle braai to have some hamburgers at a place called ’10 minutes’; a lovely spot that staff can go to on the Nwaswitshaka just outside Skukuza. The ’10 minutes’ referring to the time it takes you to drive there from Kruger’s biggest rest camp. There is a ‘5 minutes’ and a ’25 minutes’ too! But we like ’10 minutes’. There is lots of shade and sand for the kids to play on.
Much to our delight, there was water flowing in the normally dry Nwaswitshaka! Now that is too nice of an opportunity to pass up. So Steven first went down to the stream to make sure it was safe and that there were no hippos or crocodiles hiding in the deeper pools. Living in the park, we are always cautious about that around water.
Luckily all was clear so Alex, Jack, Ava, Aiden and I went to enjoy the crystal clear water while Steven and his friends were cooking up a storm on the skottel.
As we approached the water’s edge, a few impala spoor in the mud reminded me that we were not on a beach, but still very much in the wild. The water was flowing slowly and was knee-deep at some places and only ankle-deep at others. And it was surprisingly warm! The kids had an absolute blast catching little tadpoles and running after small fishies that were flowing by. It is still a mystery to me how those fish end up in a stream that only flows after heavy rains.
Steven brought me a Savannah and one of the plastic chairs we had brought from home. And while the kids were enjoying themselves in the water and on the sand, I planted my chair in the middle of the Nwaswitshaka and enjoyed my Savannah and watching them. I just wished my family could be here to enjoy this with us because I miss them terribly!
The Woodlands Kingfishers were calling all around us. Steven even heard a black cookoo! We saw a few impalas in the dense vegetation on the other side of the stream too. What a way to spend Boxing Day! And what a way to grow up… Getting Christmas sweeties delivered by helicopter and having a stream all to yourself in the middle of the Kruger National Park. Alex and Jack are two very lucky little boys!