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Final drive- H9 to Phalaborwa Gate via Sable Hide.
Shoestrings Airport Lodge.
It seemed like we saw more elephants from Letaba to Phalaborwa than the rest of the park combined. One group had over fifty pachyderms!
And it was there I spotted (pun intended) our very first leopard. I was in shock; I couldn’t even speak. I just waved my arms around, grabbed for the binoculars, grabbed for my camera, grabbed for Greg (who didn’t know what the hell I was doing), before I was finally able to hiss “There’s a leopard!” “Where?” “Right under that tree!”
I was shaking, ready to puke! Four miles from the park entrance, our last day, on our way out, in broad daylight, sitting right in front of us. It’s as though Kruger planned it- her way of luring us back. We sat there watching him for two hours; so long G and I both had to take turns peeing in a cup and dumping it out the window. One does not get out of one’s car when there is a leopard about.
We witnessed two impala attempts and though I originally told Greg I would never want to see a kill, I sent that leopard every predator vibe I could muster and the impala my condolences. Alas, the leopard was unsuccessful and the impala lived another day. Or hour. Or minute. Croc probably got one thirty seconds after the leopard tried.
I read a story (with pictures!) about a Kruger impala chased into a waterhole by a hyena into the jaws of a croc only to be saved by a hippo who pushed it back to shore straight to the same hyena from which it escaped again back into the water and was immediately snatched by a different croc. It’s the cirrrrrrcle of life…. and you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t.
It’s long and there’s no kill, but it’s still damn exciting:
Finally we got to mark a leopard sighting! Greg likes to call me ‘Lazy Eyes Loftin’ but I was far and away the Game Game champion of this trip. Suck it, 20/19 (that’s Greg’s vision). (I refuse to compete with him since we’re on the same team but since he’s still throwing black bears in my face from three summers ago he can suck it.)
It was terrible pulling ourselves away from that cat, but we were high as kites leaving the park. We were stopped at the gate so rangers could check for illegal contraband and we were like kids “We just saw a leopard! Most beautiful so exciting couldn’t believe it blah blah blah!” They were very happy for us, and happier we didn’t have any horns or tusks hidden away.
The drive back to Jo’burg was much longer than anticipated, but we went through some beautiful country and some beautiful storms. We were supposed to have the van back by 5:00p but it ended up being around 9:00p. A cop stopped us in the mountains to check Greg’s license and was so excited we were Americans. He told us all his American dreams and asked for our info for when he comes to visit, then he called the hostel for us and told them we were going to be late. Good old South Africans!
What do you suppose that ‘map’ button on the left does? I’d think it would turn on the map light, wouldn’t you? It doesn’t. It kills the engine. While you’re driving down the highway. Greg yelled at me (in a friendly way) for not knowing. What the hell?
Nearly ran out of gas and had to stop to fix another flat. Three men came to our aid this time but we didn’t have any pb&j’s to offer them, only rand. Greg kept saying “Remember how I fixed that tire?” Oh, you and three men? Yes I do. We didn’t have directions back to the hostel so we had to stop and try to find wifi. The gas station didn’t have it, but a man standing in line behind me heard me ask and offered to create a hotspot on his ipad so we could access his wifi and get the gps going on my phone. Good old South Africans!
A great night at Shoestrings- highly recommended if you’re flying in/out of Johannesburg. Cake wanted one last picture with the van, and we left our mark.
Kruger National Park was our BEST. TRIP. EVER. In fact, I’m writing a whole other post to on the Big Ten Reasons to visit. Stay tuned! And start planning your own trip!
See our other days in Kruger: