After negotiating the early morning gridlock of Johannesburg’s highways followed by a five hour drive into the humidity of the summer Loveld, the sighting of the thatched gate house at Crocodile River, which marks the southern entry point into the Kruger National Park, came as a welcome relief.
My travel documents were quickly checked by friendly staff, and I was soon on my way through stunning bushveld dotted with Marula and Acacia thorn trees, all shimmering in the late afternoon sunshine.
Accommodation for the first two nights of my time was at Pretoruiskop on the south western side of the park. En route I sighted large groups of impala grazing at the side of the road as well as smaller groups of Zebra, Velvet Monkeys and Baboons. But, it was getting late so I resisted the temptation to take photographs. The sun was beginning to sink below the distant hills as I drove through the gates at the camp after which night fell suddenly and completely, as it always does in Africa. Pretoriuskorp has a natural rock boma that has been converted into a swimming pool and I couldn’t wait to dive in after my exhausting drive.
As I floated on my back in the cool water, millions of stars pierced the pitch blackness of the night sky. From the glow of camp fires in the distance, came the aroma of sizzling boerewors floating across the surface of the floodlit water. This was a magical evening and the remainder was spent sitting outside one of the old thatched rondavels watching the glowing coals of the braai and throwing back a few Windhoek Lagers.
It was the beginning of a three week photographic odyssey through the Kruger National Park, taking me as far north as Punda Maria and providing an unforgettable and uplifting experience, leaving me a profound sense of personal renewal.
Although I love Australia and have made a new life here among many South African expatriates, I often find my thoughts returning to the majestic expanse of the African bushveld with all its unique sounds, sights and smells. Sitting on the summit of a koppie with an armed ranger at 5.00am with your telephoto lens trained on a pride of lions who squint in the light of the rising sun, is something that borders on the majestic for me.
I hope readers of Sabona enjoy some of the work I did on this trip and will be reminded that despite all of the complexities and problems that beset our former homelands, it is still intrinsically the land that Alan Paton unforgettably announced to the world as The Beloved Country.