“I always have the light of my nife with a bottle of Amarula”
Some friends (Julia & Pete), a few drinks, two tents and a Land Rover turned out to be a recipe for a fun alternative new years weekend in Kruger National Park. But before we even arrived at the gate we were distracted by a sign. “The home of Amarula – take the next right”. Without a second thought Katy changed course and before we knew it we were drinking free Amarula and stocking up on essential supplies for new year’s eve. For the uninitiated, Amarula is the South African equivalent of Baileys, but it is made from the fruit of the marula tree, so it must be better for you, right?
Sadly the Amarula didnt survive the night. It started with a scientific experiment at Tsendze Rustic Camp near Mopani Camp, to see if we could tell Amarula from Wild Africa. With a sample size of four (and of course multiple replicates), we concluded that it is possible to tell the difference, but both are good.
Mopani camp is named after the mopani tree that dominates that area of the park, and at this time of year the whole place is alive with mopani worms, edible caterpillars that people collect and eat. You have to squeeze them (alive) until their guts pop out before you can eat them, but we didn’t feel mean enough to do that ourselves, although we have eaten them before. They taste nutty!
We entered the park at Phalaborwa gate, next to the town of the same name. The name means “better than the south”, possibly one of the best place names in the history of the world! Most of the accommodation was booked out due to the holidays, so to avoid the worst of the army of tourists we stuck to the less populated northern section of the park, although this also meant we didn’t see as many species as may have in the south. Despite this we still spent a lot of time watching elephant and buffalo, along with zebra, giraffe, and plenty of birds (although we all know birds don’t really count). It was nice to see lots of the southern African animals again that we used to see frequently in Zimbabwe but that don’t live up the mountain at Lajuma. Although we didn’t see any large predators we did hear spotted hyenas, see leopard spoor, and we found a three legged baboon we named ol’ stumpy!
To save a bit of money we bought the “hard top” Defender model, which means the back seats are of the less comfortable, inward-facing bench variety. This worked out fine, although it turns out that in order to get the best visibility it helps to lay down. As a consequence occupants of the back seats (usually Julia & Pete) spent most of the trip horizontal.
Since we have long-term visas me and Katy were able to buy a Wild Card at the local rate (75% discount). It cost about the same as park entry fees for 3 days each as an international tourist, but with the card we can now visit almost all of South Africa’s national parks for free for the next year. So with Mukiwa and the Wild Card, I’m sure we will be back again soon!