Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It…

Super jealous. My sister and cousin were fortunate enough to head off to London for about two and a half weeks in total. It was my sister’s first time in London and while I am super jealous, I am also super excited for her because I was sure she was going to have a great time. And she did!

Just before they left, I gave them “Top Secret” envelopes. In these envelopes were letters to them, instructing them of their “Top Secret” Mission – should they choose to accept it. Their mission was to be the best tourists London has ever seen. I know people frequently say “be a traveler and not a tourist”, but sometimes being a tourist is the part of the fun! There’s a reason the iconic sights are iconic and so many people flock to see them. And so, attached to their letters were “Photo Bucket Lists” consisting of a number of these cliche tourist-type things to do in London, and some of the things that I enjoyed most. I kept them pretty ambiguous so that it doesn’t become a complete checklist, but is rather a guide for things to do. And to make sure my sister brings back the photos that are expected. Haha.

Here is the list I sent them with for their mission (in no particular order):

□Platform 9¾

□Drinking a Cup of Tea

□Oxford Street

□Christmas Tree

□London’s West End Musical

□Red Double Decker Bus

□The Queen’s Guard

□Drinking a beer in an English Pub

□Red Telephone Box

□A model (hint: Abercrombie)

□Big Ben

□The Queen

□Tower Bridge

□Shakespeare

□Buckingham Palace

□The Union Jack

□A Lion (hint: Trafalgar Square)

□Drinking Starbucks

□Eating Mushy Peas

□With a Mime

□As a Mime

□Eating a Scone

□One Direction

□With Ms. Brown

I thought I’d share this list on here as an example of things to do while in London. It is such an amazing place, I think you could spend months there and still learn something new every day. Most of us are only lucky enough to get there for a few days unfortunately, and as such have to cram a massive amount of awe-inspiring sights into what effectively becomes a total blur. Its quite funny though, because they came back saying that they felt like they had “failed” at seeing London because every time someone asked if they had done something they said no. Which just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks you should do on your holiday – as long as you have a good time and make memories you will have been successful!

Become A Storyteller.

“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”

- Ibn Battuta

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Where Douglas Green?

I’ve been mentioning that we were having “Douglas Green” days in the Kruger National Park, and so here is the video that explains what that means. It’s an old South African ad for Douglas Green wines, and sees two men driving frantically around searching for “Douglas Green”.

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Mopani, Harrie’s and Nelspruit.

Tonight we are spending the night in Mopani Camp, which is a camp in the Kruger National Park. It’s much further North than you can reach on a normal day trip if you enter through Crocodile Bridge Gate, because it’s basically in the middle of the Park. We started out at about 7, because we figured that after the wait he had at the gate the other morning it wouldn’t help to get there much earlier. The line was still kind of long, but we got to skip it because we had a reservation, so that was cool.

We drove through the Park only on the tar road – another “Douglas Green” type of day. But somehow we still managed to have the best sightings! We saw the Big 5 again. We saw a leopard on a river bank, and then we were fortunate enough to see a lion on the move. It ran parallel to the car for quite a while before crossing the road, running off to scare away a massive group of vultures and then going off in the distance with something in its mouth (we couldn’t see what it was). We were also lucky to see a herd of elephant with some young taking a stroll across an open plain after playing in the water.

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Herd of Elephants - the young ones are so small in comparison.

Herd of Elephants – the young ones are so small in comparison.

We arrived at Mopani. The camp is nice, with a variety of accommodation types. We were in a chalet on the end. The bedrooms were big, and it had air-conditioning – something we welcomed as it must have been close to 40 degrees outside. The kitchen was outside on the patio which was something new for me. We went and had a drink at the bar and watched the sunset over the dam that it looks over. Later, we went back for dinner – really good standard food for a rest camp!

View from the deck of the bar/restaurant

View from the deck of the bar/restaurant

It’s unfortunate we only had one night there, as it was very rushed. But that was all we had and so we were off early the next morning again.  We stopped to look at the Baobab tree on our way out. I love Baobab trees – I saw them for the first time that I remember on my trip to Zimbabwe last December. They always remind me of the Lion King. It was cool to learn some more about the Baobab from the signs around the tree, and we also had a chance to see where the Barn Owls were making their nests. We would be going out a different gate to normal, because today we’re off to Nelspruit, instead of straight back to Marloth Park.

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The Baobab Tree

The Baobab Tree

We saw two Hyenas’s lying in the road as we were driving out. They looked very annoyed that we had come past and woken them up, but we were so excited to see them up close again, and when we were the only car there. That’s one of the advantages of staying in the Park, especially in a camp in the middle – there are long periods of time where you are the only car around.

Hyena in the road.

Hyena in the road.

We drove past some forests, and then got to Harrie’s Pancakes. You can basically get anything you want on a pancake – it’s amazing. I had a strawberry compote pancake. Once we were done, we were off to Nelspruit. We went shopping at the mall there and had lunch at John Dory’s. And then on the way home we sat for hours at the Stop-and-Go’s. It was completely ridiculous.

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My yummy pancake.

My yummy pancake.

But eventually we were home, and off to bed we went.

Kruger Park Day Four.

This morning we had visitors again; two Zebra this time. They came right up to our front gate like they were expecting an invitation inside for coffee or something. They moved around front eventually, where it’s much easier for us to watch them clearly, and they were making noises and scratching themselves and biting each other (play biting I hope). We filled up the “watering hole” outside and while we were doing this we saw a colourful lizard on the tree. We watched him basically change colours as he moved which was very cool. I also saw a butterfly (I love looking at butterflies) and we later identified it as a “Blue Pansy Butterfly”. Just spent the day chilling at the house and relaxing instead of driving around.

One times curious Zebra at the door

One times curious Zebra at the door

Me with the Zebras outside on the deck

Me with the Zebras outside on the deck

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The lovely Blue Pansy Butterfly

The lovely Blue Pansy Butterfly

We went down to the river for sundowners, and we got a really good spot because we were there quite early. So we set up our chairs with our drinks and our chip and dip and watched the herd of elephants in front of us (on the other side of the fence). There was even a little one with them. Then we saw what looked like about a bazillion buffalo coming down to drink a way away from us, and so my sister and I took a walk that way. There were so many of them, and we couldn’t even see them all!

Not even 1/3 of the Buffalo who were down at the river

Not even 1/3 of the Buffalo who were down at the river

Went back to the chairs, fought off some ants and enjoyed the sunset. The elephants were trumpeting and then eventually they crossed the river to head off. Watching elephants is fascinating because they’re so family-oriented. For example, when an elephant (relation not known) came towards the group where the baby was, all the elephants moved around it like they were forming a barrier. And then the one trumpeted and all the others starting making their way there, and then they all moved off in a line. There was one lone elephant that didn’t seem to be with the herd, but was also eating on our side of the river. When he realised the others had moved off, he basically broke into a run to cross the river as close to them as possible and then went his separate way. I wonder if this is a safety thing?

Nothing quite like a cold Hunters and an African sunset

Nothing quite like a cold Hunters and an African sunset

My dad was happy because we saw a fish eagle and it made its sound – this is his favourite bird!

Tomorrow we’ll head into the Park again, but it was nice to have a day just hanging out here.

Kruger Park: Sunset Game Drive.

And we’re off on our Sunset Game Drive from the Crocodile Bridge Gate. My sister and I very quickly volunteered to sit in the middle and not on the sides by the windows (or lack thereof). The cool part about the game drives is that you’re higher up than normal, and you also drive on the “no entry” roads. We’ve always had this theory that the animals actually sit on these no-entry roads having a party and discussing how close they are to the people who are searching so hard for them on the normal roads.

We saw some Giraffe and also some Zebra who crossed the road in front of us. Then we saw a Spotted Hyena, which was awesome because we haven’t seen one yet! He came out from deep in the bushes on our left and crossed right in front of the vehicle and disappeared into the bushes on the right moments later. Amazing how timing is everything in the wild! Another second later and we probably wouldn’t have seen the hyena at all.

The hyena coming out of the bushes

The hyena coming out of the bushes

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We saw a rather lovely sunset happen, and an elephant. We saw a Lilac-Breasted Roller which is one of my mom’s favourite birds. We later learnt that this bird is called a “troupant” in Afrikaans. Another interesting thing we learnt (thanks to our driver) is that Praying Mantis’ make nests. I did not know this. I also did not know that the Red-billed Buffalo Weaver makes its nest on the West-side of the tree it is built in.

Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

Our next sightings were awesome, because they’re animals that are not often seen! We were fortunate enough to see a Honey Badger, as well as three Civets. We’d been talking about seeing a Honey Badger – they can be super fierce when they need to be. The Civets are beautiful, with their spotted coats. Throughout the rest of the drive, we also saw some bushbabies, which are also really cute.

The civet that I was lucky enough to get a decent(ish) photo of!

The civet that I was lucky enough to get a decent(ish) photo of!

The story of the evening has to be a result of one of the children behind us in the vehicle. What happens on most game drives is that if you see something you yell “Stop!” and the driver stops and gets in a position to identify wha tit is you have seen. We had plenty of false alarms, mostly for Impala, and then people started getting over excited about the bushbabies eyes. Now this boy had a spotlight he was using at one point, and suddenly he starts yelling “stop, stop, stop!” So we stop, and as we’re reversing, he says that he saw a butterfly. But not just any butterfly, no. He says he saw a “butterfly without a body”. Yeah. I do not even know what that is supposed to be or how that made sense at all, but thank you for the laughs it supplied.

Every time we rounded a corner I had like a mini-heart attack (surprising considering that I had been taking Rescue tablets before we left) that there would be a leopard or a pride of lions in the road. This isn’t unusual for evening drives as the lions lie in the road to get some of the warmth. Obviously that’s what everyone wants to see on a game drive, and so even though I was scared I was hoping we would see a big cat. But we weren’t lucky enough. Maybe next time…

Kruger Park Day Two.

We tried to get into the Park early this morning, but when we got there just before 6am, the queue at the Crocodile Bridge Gate was super long! It ended up taking us about an hour and a half to get in because they only let in a certain number of cars at a time. This system is actually pretty good because its fair – if you are at the front of the queue at the gate, you’re going to be the person at the front actually entering the Park. At least the process once you were across the bridge was quick and easy.

We stopped at the Hippo Pools first. Here you can get out of the car if you wish and walk down to the pools where there is a “guard” to “protect” you. I did not get out. No ways. I have not gotten that comfortable in the bush overnight! My parents got out, and also had the chance to walk up to some old rock paintings nearby. It was here I had the genius idea to try and take photos through the binoculars, and turns out it works, even if it is a bit of a technical challenge.

Photo through the binoculars - Mom & Dad on the koppie

Photo through the binoculars – Mom & Dad on the koppie

We drove around a bit, and we saw some Zebra, Impala (obviously) and a Rhino. We also saw a Steenbok, which is the cutest little ‘bokkie’ ever! It’s got these tiny little horns as well, and can stand so still. We also saw an Elephant, a lot of Buffalo lying down in the bushes next to the road and some Waterbuck. I love the Waterbuck, they are so fluffy!

Steenbok

Steenbok

We stopped by the Hippo Pools again on the way out, and we saw the most magnificent male Kudu right by where we stopped! He even stopped and posed for us for a bit. There were also some Warthog, and we saw a Kingfisher and a Giraffe.

Photo of the Kudu taken by my mom - thanks mom!

Photo of the Kudu taken by my mom – thanks mom!

Home time, and finally Braai-time! There’s nothing like a Sunday night braai with the family. We’re off on a sunset game drive tomorrow courtesy of my aunt and uncle and I’m kind of excited because we haven’t been on an official game drive in years, but I’m also really nervous (surprise surprise). I’m sure it’ll all be fine though! We’re not going to go into the Park tomorrow because of the game drive so we’ll just spend the day around Marloth Park.

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