Lions and tigers and bears…NOT!

3/15/11 Tuesday

8:00am  SA
1:00am AL

On the road again…it is sobering to know that we will be on the asphalt for two solid days. Yikes.

Today is Tuesday.  I feel as though I have lost the weekend.  We arrived at Kruger Park on Saturday morning about 9:45am.  This was not the most ideal time to look for animals, but that fact didn’t hamper our excitement.  Immediately upon driving into the gate we saw some animals: impalas.  They are beautiful animals.  We stopped and I ooohed and aaahed, and then Peter mentioned that we would be seeing lots of them.  I didn’t want to believe him, as I felt we had a real find.  But he was right.  He/we began calling them “ushers”, the implication being that the ushers are the first people you see upon entering a church, and there are normally plenty of them, but THEY are NOT who you came to see.  We saw lots of ushers!

So we drove on.  I definitely will not give a blow by blow of the next two days, mainly because I cannot recall every detail.  It really is just a blur of bush and animals, so I will give a general description.

We are riding in an Isuzu 4-door truck.  We are all fairly comfortable.  Peter normally drives but, since Tim has his international drivers license, he takes over occasionally.  For most of the trip, Alyssa and I have been in the back seat, Tim and Peter in the front.  Alyssa and I are covered with pillows and sing a lot.  I have taught her a few songs much to Tim and Peter’s chagrin.  She loves “My hat, it has three Corners”, “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza”, and “There once was a farmer” but I have limited their “playtime” to once a day.

BUT, we left the pillows in the back of the covered bed as we entered Kruger.  In Kruger we rolled down the windows and drove slowly looking for any creatures that may appear on the sides of the road.  I must admit that looking at the bush for long periods of time was rather draining.  I felt hypnotized, mesmerized and trancelike for those long periods of time.  We were covered with dust and getting perpetually sunburned amidst all the sweating. Tim and Peter were very good at spotting the animals and I finally got the hang of it.

Among the first animals we spotted were the elephants.  They would kind of just appear…almost as if their grey color camouflaged them by appearing as shadows.  They were so much bigger in person than I expected and we saw several of them at different points of the few days we rode around.  I loved watching them pull down tree limbs with their trunks and eat them like salads.  It is no wonder that the bush does not have tall trees as the elephants knock them down so easily.  We saw the baby elephants, too.  Yes, they are cute!  At some points were as close to them as 20ft.  It was an adrenaline rush, for sure!

We saw some hippos far away in the river but they liked to stay low in the water kind of like the crocodiles.  The crocs didn’t excite me much as I had seen so many alligators in the states.

My most desired animal to see was a giraffe and it wasn’t long before they, too, appeared.  They are H-U-G-E and we were so close to them…amazingly close.  They would walk up to the car and observe us just like we were observing them.  Then some zebra might randomly appear behind them.  I got a great pic of a zebra appearing between the giraffe’s legs.

By mid-morning, as it was growing hotter, the sightings of the animals grew sparse so we resorted to bird watching.  MOST of these birds I did not even know existed and they were stunning.  We stopped every few yards for me to take “just one more pic.”  During the heat of the day we would stop at one of the fenced off areas where they had restaurants, overlooks and pools.  Peter and Alyssa swam and I took a nap. Not sure what Tim did…I should ask him!

Then, by about 2:30 we were back in the truck again. By about 3:30-4:00 the animals were moving again.  By the end of 2 days I was worn out and opted out of the bush exploration on day 3.  Peter and Tim trudged on without me and even went on an evening safari with a group last night where they finally had their much-desired sighting of some LIONS.  Tim’s regret is that he chose not to take the camera on the evening ride, so alas, no still photos of the lion (Peter did get them on video, so there was proof!)

All in, during those three days we saw: Impalas, Elephants, Giraffes, Cape buffalo, Zebras, Baboons, Monkeys, Kudu, Hippo, Rhinoceros, Hyenas, Wart hogs, snakes, porcupines, iguana, Crocodiles, Rock lizard, birds (eagles, vulture, lilac crested rollers, horn bills, secretary birds), mongoose, wildebeests, ostriches, and lions.

The equally wonderful aspect of this Kruger outing was our host family, the Flemix’s.  Arthur and Ermine home could not have been more beautiful nor their hospitality more gracious.  (The Flemix’s daughter, Michelle, was Peter’s father’s personal assistant at the Lighthouse for several years.  Her parents were close friends of the Snyman family.)

The Flemix’s own a furniture company called FFG (Flemix Family and God).  They buy furniture and sell it to the people in Mozambique.  Mozambique’s border can be seen from their home, as can Kruger Park.

They showed us to our rooms (KING BED for Tim and I!  Woo hoo!) Arthur then mentioned that he hoped he had not overstepped his boundaries, but he had planned a Braii (rhymes with BUY).  Now a braii, as I explained a few weeks back, is a cookout where one cooks many different types of meat.  The Flemix’s garden is rather large with many types of fauna, trees, and pathways.  In the middle of it all is a big stone pit (looks almost like an alter!) where Arthur was preparing coals for the meat.  Ermine and I chatted while Tim and Peter and Alyssa went swimming.  Pretty soon the meat came out: lamb chops, chicken shish-kabobs, and boerewors (sausage). They had another covered area that had two tables and a serving area.  Ermine had prepared stir-fried vegetables.  Needless to say, we were starving and were so grateful for the grand meal.  We loved chatting with them about the Lord.  They were so full of life and joy and they were genuinely glad that we were there to fellowship with them.  They had left their church only a few months before because of the legalism.  Their town is so small so there were not many other options for church.  (Before we left this morning we prayed for opportunities for fellowship for them.)

Anyhow, their home was beautiful.  She is a decorator so every inch of the house had a story: the furniture, the art, the books and the keepsakes.  It was a feast for the eyes.  Arthur took me on a tour of the garden on the day I stayed home.  Ermine formally did landscaping and had in intricate understanding of the plants, trees, and design.  She had an oriental part of the garden complete with coy fish, a Jewish garden and a few other garden areas.  Everything was green and lush.  Their growing season in this part of South Africa is year round, though things flower seasonally.  She had 3 azalea plants, one of which had plum-colored leaves…wish I could have brought it back for my yard.  The garden had lots of lizards and salamanders.  They had spotted a black mamba skirting across the tops of some of their plants once and had captured three python which they let loose at Kruger.  Ew.

Oh, this part of South Africa, including Kruger Park is a malaria zone.  The Flemix’s have something like Glade Plug-ins in each room that kills mosquitoes in their home and they keep a can of spray out and use it continually.  Oh, yes, all of us are on once-a-week Malaria preventive medicine, which we will continue to take till mid-April.

Anyhow, the Flemix’s were so gracious.  An inspiration.  They fed us extraordinarily and each meal (and tea time) had a colonial feel about it.  Ermine always used a tablecloth for her properly set table.  Her domestic, Emma, came “with the house.”  She shows up each morning at 7:00 and works till 3:00.  Emma is illiterate but works like a machine, cleaning up after each meal.  Whoa.  That took a bit of getting use to.  She also tidied our room.  Though she didn’t speak English, she smiled in our language.  Beautiful.

After our second day in Kruger, the Arthur and Ermine met us at the gate and led us to a little place for pizza.  Well the “little place” was about 7-8 miles down a very rocky road…we all mentitioned that this pizza must be VERY good for them to go down this road.   I must admit that I was NOT crazy about going to a restaurant since I had sweated, ridden in dust, took a nap on the ground and just felt, uh, sticky!!

Well, as we arrived we read signs that said, “enter at your own risk. The big 5 can be found here”  WHAT?!?!  The place was a private resort that overlooked a watering hole at Kruger.  WE met Michelle (the Flemix’s daughter) and her husband, Bernard.  We all sat on the balcony overlooking the watering hole.  When we arrived Michelle pointed out the bathing elephants and the kudu (or were they impala!?)  And then the sun started setting…wow…it was surreal!  I was like a kid jumping up and down from the table, taking pics of the elephants and the sunset intermittedly.

Arthur ordered us some fruity drinks (sans alcohol!) and we sipped them and enjoyed the final moments of day light.  The pizza (foccacia) was well worth the drive and then they insisted we have dessert, too! (How could I say “no”?)

Our relaxing time there quickly came to a close.  Ermine gifted me with a home-made beaded necklace that she owned but wanted me to have.  She also gave me two books: one on cantering across South Africa, the other on true-life mysteries from Mozambique.  We hugged and blessed and bid our farewells.  Arthur promised that they would come to visit us in Montgomery within two years, so hopefully a few of my 12 followers will get to have the joy of meeting them, as well!

We got on the road about 7:30am and traveled till about 5:00, went to a mall for supper and then met up with Kenith in Bloemfontein.  He, too, is a friend of the Snyman family and was a most gracious host for the 11 hours we were with him.  He lives in a townhouse and it was masterfully decorated.  All the pieces of furniture were different from each other, but he had a way of tying them all together to make sense.  He also had quite the eye for art and had some beautiful pieces.  YES, I took pictures of his pictures.  They were so inspirational.

Today is Wednesday and it is 7:15am.  We have been on the road for one hour but there is a lot of road construction so who knows how long the remaining 1100Km will take….

Back to they Snyman’s at 6:15…12 hours on the road.  We saw black headed sheep, regular sheep, cows, ostriches, goats, horses, donkeys, and baboons on the trip home.  What an animal Kingdom FEAST we have had!

Charlotte’s brother, Jonathan, is in town for a few days.   We all ate some chicken and potatoes for supper and then watched American Idol…it was nice to chill for a while and tomorrow we hit the ground running again!  Woo Hoo

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