Winter Wonderland

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I love the winter! I love the smell of dust in the air, the crackle of dry grass underfoot, the fireball sunsets and the cold crisp nights with the stars putting on a display that defies Hollywood. The hidden promise of spring lies in the chill morning frost and the dirty grey green beige of the winter landscape. My Family? Not as keen!

However we all love to get out of town and into the bush. With the deadlines and general tension of the everyday work week beginning to get under our skin, we accepted an invitation from Barney and Venetia of Fun Time Tours to spend a weekend with them in Hoedspruit. We packed our 4 x 4 on Wednesday and headed off to Hoedspruit.
I may have misled you …. Although we packed the 4 x 4, we were headed for crisp white sheets, air conditioning and cocktails with friends. No adrenalin sport for us this weekend. No dusty 4 x 4 trails, no burnt boerewors and pap and definitely no early mornings.

 

Sunset at Hoedspruit

The road after Lydenburg was heavy with trucks and paved with potholes but we arrived safely in Hoedspruit just in time for the most splendid sunset. The sunset, the mild evening and the company of good friends was a great cure and our city tensions melted away leaving us all mellow and content.
On Thursday, after a leisurely breakfast we went for a drive around the Hoedspruit Wild Life Estate. This is a private residential estate with a large section of the given over to game. Although there is evidence of leopard, it is not a big game park and the warthog, Nyala, Kudu, giraffe and the elegant, ever present impala, are quite tame and one can drive up close to them and spend some time viewing them before they disappear into the bush. The management have implemented quite a few conservation measures to combat soil erosion and the spread of invasive alien species of plants on the estate.

The estate was formerly a cattle farm and as a result has had to be rehabilitated to accommodate the wildlife. The work on the recycling of waste has resulted in the development of a small wetland area which promises to attract a variety of local birds to the estate.

Although Barney was disappointed that we preferred to stay at the estate rather than take a drive into the Kruger Park he rose to the occasion and we enjoyed an informative and interesting day learning more about the habits of the animals we encountered and also the habitat we found ourselves in. He also took us to see two vulture nests on the estate.

 

Golfing with Giraffes – Only in Africa

Friday saw us golfing at Hans Merensky golf course in Phalaborwa. Although our golf was not up to scratch on the day, the golf course delivered.

The fairways and greens are well maintained and the presence of wildlife on the course adds to the game. Ian hit a cracker of a drive on the 14th hole only to find a couple of young baboons fighting over his ball when he got to it. When he protested, one of the youngsters grabbed hold of the ball and made off with it.

Ian gave chase as did the rest of the troupe followed by my son in the golf cart. The youngster was suitably intimidated and dropped the ball and disappeared into the trees. On the 16th hole, three giraffes strolled casually across the fairway just in front of the green and then watched our play for a while before wandering off to wait for us at the 17th tee. The rest of the day was incident free from a nature perspective.

Not so sure about the golf though! We were however too relaxed to let this worry us and enjoyed our game nonetheless.

 

 Herons in Hoedspruit

On Saturday, Casper (one of our Gurus) accompanied us into the bush on the estate for what was our second birding experience ever. Although we had originally intended to go to Mariepskop, the weather was overcast and could have hampered our progress and visibility on the steep narrow climb to the top.

Instead we headed into the bush on foot and as it turns out, if you know where to look (which Casper certainly did) you don’t have to go far to find a varied and interesting array of birds. We spent two hours spotting and learning about the habits of various birds. We saw about 20 different species within approximately 10 meter square area.

Afterwards we headed off to one of the hides on the estate where a Grey Heron has made itself at home. As an added bonus we saw a Green Backed Heron there as well. What a rewarding excursion. We are now confirmed bird watchers and look forward to our next trip.

Sunday we drove back unwilling, but rested and refreshed.
Thank you Hoedspruit and Barney!

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