We worked and worked and finally … we're off on holiday for some inland travel in South Africa. I'd spent odd moments throughout the week making lists and assembling what we needed to take for 10 days of travel … without overwhelming the captain. We picked up the rental car late in the afternoon before departure and parked it in the secure Point Yacht Club car park. I slept little during the night. I was excited to be up and on the road. The captain was as excited as he ever gets … all things in moderation. We were up at the crack of dawn and leaving the car park by 0530. Not a minute of our holiday was to be missed. We'd really enjoyed our first visit to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and decided we'd return there to see the northern part of the park that we'd missed on our first visit. We drove to Mtubatuba (love that name) and entered through the Nyalzi Gate, the gate we'd exited on our previous visit. We saw elephants as soon as we arrived. The old bull we'd seen previously had a young female fawning over him and as we watched two, three, then four others joined them.
This part of the park climbs higher into the hills and then dips back down to the Hluhluwe River. The self-drive gravel auto roads are in rough condition, and David's experience in driving Colorado mountain roads came in handy. We bumped along through the pot holes and mini-ravines in our little Volkswagen Polo without incident. We were delighted to stop for zebra crossing the road. David shut off the engine and I poured us some tea from a thermos. They weren't in any hurry and neither were we. They came closer and closer. I was surprised to see two colts that were well camouflaged while standing next to their mothers.
Around a corner, we spotted a couple of white rhinos in a mudhole. As we drove closer, we discovered there were actually four rhinos sharing the thick, brown muddy wallow. One grunted loudly, stood up with much effort, then settled himself down again between the others, causing further grunts of dissatisfaction from his cronies.
We saw a huge herd of buffalo grazing on the hillsides in far distance and I whinged that I couldn't get any photos. No problem … awhile later, we waited patiently while another herd took its time crossing the road in front of us. Buffalo are considered one of the big five though they don't seem to fit the bill for ferocity. Evidently, like American bison, they are cantankerous and can charge on a moment's notice, doing a considerable amount of damage.
We walked into the Thiyeni Hide enclosure and lunched on fruit and crackers and a bit of left-over chicken I'd brought from the boat. It was hot and sultry as we made our way through a long, enclosed bamboo walkway to the animal viewing area. There was barely any water and no animals were interested in this exposed area on a hot day.
Back on the road, we chuckled when we saw big balls of dung rolling across in front of us. We remembered dung beetles from our last visit to South Africa. These little guys work their hind legs hard, forming dung into a ball in which to lay their eggs. They provide a service to the environment and short term amusement for us. We'd only seen black beetles in the past, but evidently they come in colors … iridescent blue and green as well as black.
Throughout the day, as we meandered slowly on the pot-holed, gravel roads, we spotted lots of other animals and marveled at this environment which supported them all. Raptors circling lazily overhead. Birds chirping and singing whenever we stopped for a few moments to listen. Endemic animals were at every turn and our ability to get so close to observe them. As we turned the last corner of a forested path to head out of the park, an elephant crashed out of the forest, a lasting reminder of Hluhluwe Reserve.
We headed to the little town of Hluhluwe about 20 km away and where a comfortable room at the Hlulala Guest House waited for us. First day … already over, but so much more to come and so many memories to take with us.