After nearly forty years of marriage, I was aghast that HeeHoo had misunderstood my holiday requirements!!
A beach, a deckchair, a book, a cool breeze and a glass of bubbly! I don't think that's too much to ask Air-conditioning, or at least a ceiling fan, and running water too, are most essential.. So why, oh why, did HeeHoo book a six day hiking trail in the Kruger National Park, I ask with tears in my eyes!!
My idea of hiking encompasses hiking from the bedroom to the kitchen in search of food!! It certainly does not include five hours of hiking every day for six days, and living in a tent with no electricity and no running water!!
The Nyalaland Trail, oooh it sounds exotic, but in the suicide month of October The day we arrived it was over forty degrees, and we set off for an early morning 'stroll' - Hah ! Frog marched we were, for five solid hours in searing temperatures !
By the time we got back to camp it was 45.5 degrees Centigrade. It was so hot that the glue melted off the soles of my hiking boots, it was so hot that the corks were easing steadily out of the red wine bottles, it was so hot that my body thought I had a fever and I developed a fever blister!!
Lying on my bed after brunch, I could hardly touch the pillow it was so hot, the afternoon siesta turned into a catatonic, hypnagogic trance! Then the wind blew fiercely like a hot sirocco howling gale, tearing across the tents, blowing sand into every nook and cranny.
This was not my idea of fun, in fact I could feel a female rebellion coming on and my marriage was in imminent danger of collapse!!
Fortunately a 'cold' front arrived the next day and saved us from divorce!!
As my hiking boots had literally melted! I resorted reluctantly to a snappy and chic, city-slicker pair of brogues which were forced to see me through the next five days of torture!! (I binned them as soon as I got home).The other ladies in the party were lithe and lean, without a trace of adipose, with long legs that covered the terrain with ease! Me I am two bricks and a tickey tall and needed to run to keep up!! In fact during an exciting encounter with an angry bull elephant, in thick sand, I found I was running on the spot at one stage!!
Now the Nyalaland Birding Trail in Northern Kruger is in fact legendary. The real bird aficionados fight for an honored place on that trail, booking twelve months in advance for the pleasure of hiking and bird watching there, binos at the ready, desperately seeking the Nerina Trogan and the Mottled Spinetail that frequent this part of the world.
This most remote and out of the way Wilderness Trail's Camp is situated between Punda Maria camp and Pafuri with the spectacular Lanner and Levhuvhu gorges along the Levhuvhu River a big attraction. The camp is hidden in a secluded spot on the Madzaringwe River with towering cliffs of the Soutpansberg Mountains in the background.
Punda Maria Rest Camp is the departure point for this trail and is only 540 km or a 5 hour drive from Johannesburg or a five hour drive (excluding that most foul and wretched Beitbridge Border Post,) from Bulawayo.
The area is one of the best in Southern Africa for bird watching and various localised species such as Verreauxs' eagle, Pel's fishing owl, grey-headed parrot, mottled spinetail and a lot more can be seen. If you are trying to add new birds to your bird list, Nyalaland is a good place to be.
The Birders amongst us would spend hours pouring over the feet, feathers and calls of the exotic birds that were indeed numerous. After dinner talk generally ended with the 'great bird count' and the intrepid Twitchers eventually reached an incredible 149 birdies!! I must confess I contributed little to the count as myopic as I am, and as deaf as I am, I was a total failure on a Birding/Hiking Trail!! However HeeHoo was in his element.
Full marks must go to South African National Parks, their Trail Rangers were impeccable, professional and charming, their knowledge of the bush and its safety second to none.
We had numerous dramatic encounters with the Big Five and never felt unsafe for one minute with these amazing, brilliantly trained and disciplined Rangers.
By the way, all of the above was tongue in cheek!! It was a fabulous trip and we loved every minute of it!!