Dawn cracked magnificently in the Mountain Zebra National Park, near Cradock in the Eastern Cape – you thought I’d forgotten to tell you all about episode III of the travels hadn’t you? Well let that be a lesson.
Seeing azure skies caused Mrs Chips to voice her joy, “Seeing azure up, how ‘bout a coffee then?”
[There should be a couple of other pics here – but for reasons best known WordPress – I am unable to load them. I’ll keep trying – and here they are…]
No, but seriously, the sun’s warming rays penetrated the frost nipped valleys, tents, toes and hearts of all who were up at that hour, and promised a good day’s game viewing. After a quick brekkie of toast and coffee, we heaved the camera bags into the truck and were off on the first route.
As anyone who knows yours truly will confirm, he is more your late night owl, as opposed to ‘I’ll-play-Reveille-at-sun-up’ kind of person. However, he is also first to concede that early morning vistas of banks of mist silently, slowly and majestically rolling back to reveal the vast flatness of a Karoo valley can almost make up for getting up at an indecent hour.
Being thus motivated, we drove on and, choosing our sites carefully, were rewarded with sightings of several species.
A hint for travellers in the camps: Unlike American or European tourist places, there aren’t restaurants, take-away joints or other food emporia every 100 metres, so take plenty of water, food and sun screen. Water might be considerably less interesting than any of the soft drinks, but you’ll last a lot longer in the heat if you sip water. Seriously, the ads might have some bloke who’s all abs and pecs; or a curvy bint getting to grips with an ice cold coke in the midday heat, but plain old water is like a broken drum – you can’t beat it.
Just after mid morning, we tackled another 4×4 route. Although there were fewer animals, the landscapes were dramatically awe inspiring, and it was deeply enjoyable just being away from people – so far away in fact, that we only saw one other car on the whole 3 hour route.
However, we did spy a couple of rather hungry looking Eland as well as a variety of Springbuck, Hartebees, Black Wildebees, Mountain Zebra and the ubiquitous Ground Squirrel.
On each of the three 4×4 routes, we noted that none were particularly demanding, and could quite easily be negotiated with most city SUV’s – and the Toyota Hilux just laughed them off without breaking a sweat.
We returned to the camp just after 4:30pm and decided to test-drive the Park’s restaurant for supper – which turned out to be one of our better decisions. After a refreshing shower, we made our way from the camp site to the main building where a welcoming ambiance awaited us.
For starters, we executed a combined attack on a scrumptious salad comprising of fresh, crisp greens, a few flavoursome slivers of onion, cucumber, avocado pear and lashings of freshly sliced, perfectly spiced biltong. Second course was an ostrich fillet, done to a turn with roasted vegetables. Naturally, I selected chips as my starch while Mrs. Chips had the baked potato.
Each course was well presented, tasty, and the service could have matched most of the better restaurants in South Africa. All in all – an absolute delight and I’d go there again in a heartbeat. Despite the offer of dessert, we surrendered and waddled off to the tent for a good night’s kip.