And just like that we turned One today. Yayyy!!!
One incredible year and 172 posts. I’m supremely thrilled and the icing on the cake, my blogiversary celebrations are spilling over unexpectedly. Today I have a guest post from Geraint on his travel escapades in South Africa, tomorrow Gayatri has kindly agreed to bring to you yet another travel piece. This will be followed by Nidhi’s out-of-the-box fiction. Who would have thought the celebrations would extend beyond a week!
I’m so grateful to these fabulous bloggers for their contributions, love and support despite challenging situations at their personal front. So here’s Gerain’t Kruger Adventures, for your reading pleasure.
Adventures AT kruger: Geraint Issit
When Natasha asked me to write something for her blog, and more specifically, a travel piece for her blog, I was a little unsure at first. A quick stop over to my blog will show its inactivity. Writing and I have always had an uneasy off/on relationship – and right now we are not the best of friends. But having found Natasha’s blog during the 26 day blogging challenge last April, I felt there was only one answer to give her. Obviously, since you’re reading this, you know the answer. So I guess, we should get to what I was asked to write about.
This past August, I and another blogger, Kim, embarked on a 13 day safari across three different private reserves near Kruger National Park in South Africa. While I could easily sit and write about any given day on that fabulous trip, I have decided to narrow it down to one specific event during our trip – and it happened quite early on in the safari too. In fact, we were still at the first lodge when it happened.
Our guide Michelle had been in great form all morning, easily navigating the twisting roads and seemingly always picking the correct way to go when we had any kind of directional decision to make. With our trusty guide Isaack sitting on the seat on the hood of the car, carefully scanning the horizon and the road for any signs of life, it was only a matter of time before we came across what we had set out to see that morning. And that morning, like all mornings, we were on the trail of lions. Two lions to be exact. And two lions that I, and Kim, knew well.
This was our second time staying at Thambo Tree Camp, the first time was in 2015. During the six days we had in the region in 2015, we had the privilege of seeing two female lions, known in the area as the Ross Pride Breakaway females (obviously they came from a larger pride known as the Ross Pride but these two girls branched out on their own), on no less than five different occasions. Already on this trip, we had seen the girls twice.
The life of a lion can be really tough, and while females live longer than males on average, and by about three years, ones that still hunt in a pack tend to fare better. These two girls had only each other, and their years are starting to catch up with them. Neither of them had managed to raise a cub to maturity, and the presence of big males and larger prides in the area was always something they had to contend with. Seeing them again after two years was a treat, and somewhat unexpected, although their appearance was not surprising.
Michelle stopped the jeep on a particularly sandy patch of road and Isaack hopped off his seat and paced the road ahead of the jeep. He knelt towards the ground, looked off to his left, and skipped up and back to the jeep. He stood in conference with Michelle and she turned round to look at the six of us in the back of the jeep.
“Isaack has found the tracks.” She smiled. “Who wants to follow them on foot?”
The jeep emptied one by one, each guest new to the safari game, each guest excited to step into wild Africa for the first time. Kim and I, seasoned pros at the safari game looked at each other with trepidation. We had come out on the drive with big cameras and zoom lenses, not realizing or expecting that we’d have to walk. We could have left the cameras in the jeep and went on the walk, or we could have driven around with Michelle while the others tried their hand at tracking. Michelle spoke to us, telling us that Isaack had been in excellent form recently and he was certain he’d ding the lions. Grabbing our big cameras, we joined the rest of the group for Isaack’s safety chat. Basically it was listen to him at all times, keep quiet, keep up, and stay in a single file line unless he tells us otherwise. Armed with a walkie-talkie and rifle, we headed out across the road and into the bush.
The terrain was flat, and since this was the tail end of South Africa’s winter season, the foliage had yet to grow in so walking was easy and at a quick pace. We stopped infrequently and only long enough for Isaack to tell us something about the medicinal value of certain trees and plants, how to use certain trees as toothpaste, and why you shouldn’t wipe your bum with a specific type of leaf. He then gave us a branch containing leaves that he likes to use when out walking if the necessity for it.
To my untrained eye, we appeared to be walking in circles, and when Isaack asked us if we knew which was the camp was in case we had to walk there, none of us knew the right direction (although someone did guess correctly). We had been walking for around an hour when we cut across another road and Isaack stopped us all and asked us to crouch around him. He pointed to the bank of sand that acted as a curb on this road, and the indentation of a lion paw, unmistakable and slightly smaller than my fist. The ridges between the paw pads were still peaked. The sand hadn’t had time to settle, gravity had yet to take its hold.
“We’re close.” He smiled. “This is maybe 10 minutes old.” As he spoke he scanned the horizon. He knew these lionesses well. He knew that wouldn’t go far, even on a concentrated march, in 10 minutes. Their frames couldn’t handle it. We would cover twice as much ground as they would. Isaack was concerned that the lionesses could be in the bushes near us, and if they felt threatened they could attack – and even an aging lioness could make that sprint in mere seconds. With that thought rattling around in my mind, I started to scan the horizon as well. You know, maybe Isaack needed some help. And having misidentified a rhino earlier in the trip, I figured I was the right person to lend my expertise to the mission.
We stood up, filed into a single line again, and started on. Only moments later, Isaack held his hand up and we stopped. He pointed towards a gap in the trees ahead of us, and the sleek slinking movement of a tawny lioness crossed through. The second one was right behind it. We were some 100 metres away, the lionesses moving across and away from us. We inched closer, but then the gentle rumble of a 4×4 wafted across the air and soon we were back in Michelle’s jeep trying to get ahead of our lionesses.
From there we sat and watched as our familiar lionesses walked towards us and past us, pausing briefly to sniff the air, to get the lay of the land, and to show us that they were still queens in this area.
We would see these girls once more before our trip was over, but this time was probably the best. The thrill of walking through the bush, knowing that a surprise could be around any corner heightens all senses. We knew we were tracking these girls, but of course there is never a guarantee that we would find them. Such is the beauty of the wild. They have their own rules, their own terms, their own way of doing things. I’m just glad I got to experience it with them.
Geraint Isitt has wanted to be a writer since he was 10 years old. Sadly for him, it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be at the time.
Born in the UK, raised in Canada, and currently working in Dubai, Geraint has been fortunate enough to see much of the world; with a particular affinity to Africa. A safari is his happy place, and it gives him the opportunity to practice his passion for photography. Geraint blogs at Penguin Ponderings.
This guest post has been written as part of my First Blogiversay celebrations that started on 1st December, 2017. The posts are on my three favourite genres; Fiction, Musings and Travel.
Check Varad’s Friday Fiction Matter of Tooth. Esha’s Monday Musing Our Life in Mauritius. Today on my Blogiversary day, I present to you Geraint’s Wanderlust Wednesday post. The next two days have a bonus of two more posts as I have mentioned earlier. Keep swinging by.