Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Your first visit to a Game Reserve

Hello Em,
Last weekend we all went to the Umfolozi Game Reserve.  Gumpi and me, you and your Mom and Dad, Greg and Sharon and Sharon's parents Rita and Dennis.  Its the first time we have all been away together and it was great fun! 
The Umfolozi Game reserve is the oldest game park Africa and it used to be the favourite hunting ground of the Zulu kings, especially Shaka.  The Hluhluwe/Umfolozi park was established in 1895, mainly to protect the rhinoceros which had become endangered.
280km is a long way for a little one like you to sit still in a car so Mom and Dad left very early, straight after you woke up. They attached the portable dvd player to the back of the driver's seat and you were able to watch Barney - your favourite dvd - on the road.
We left at about 6h30 and finally caught up to you at the Petro-port where you had stopped for a nappy change and something to eat.  We drove north to the Memorial Gate at the Hluhluwe entrance and drove slowly south towards the Hilltop Camp.  We saw Giraffe and impala, a few warthogs and an inyala and Gumpi and I saw three elephants on a distant hill. 
We stopped at Hilltop for a toilet break and had a little picnic in the car park, you sitting on a beach mat to have your juice and a muffin.  Although it was cool when we left Durban in the morning, it was getting really hot in the reserve - ending up at 31.5oC in the afternoon.
 As we left Hilltop we passed this cairn of stones - the Isivivana - which is a pile of stones created on the side of a path by African travellers in order to bring good luck on a long journey.  People passing would pick up a stone, spit on it and add it to the pile.  They believed that by doing this, the spirits or "AmaDlozi'  would protect them for the rest of their journey.  It seems that there are some things in life that are universal - practised by all people no matter whoch continent they live on or what their culture is.  I have seen similar cairns in England and Spain, some a few metres high.  This one is about 1.5m high and has been since the park was created.

Soon after leaving Hilltop, you started to get really tired so Mom and Dad went on ahead to reach Mpila Camp at Umfolozi and get you down for your nap.  We carried on more slowly, stopping every now and then when we spotted game. 
We stayed in the new thatched, A frame huts in the camp. You and your Mom and Dad in No.1, we were in No.4 and Greg and Sharon in number 6. Rita and Dennis in No.9. After lunch, the others went off game spotting again and you, Mom and I explored the camp, the curio shop and playground. As we were walking back to our huts, about a dozen Zebra came walking through the camp, right past our hut.

You and Mom stayed back until they had passed through.  That night we had a braai outside your hut - you didn't want to go to sleep and Mom stayed with you for nearly an hour until you fell asleep. We ate dinner at our hut (so that we wouldn't wake you up) and while we were eating, the hyenas came scavenging around the fire. While they were still there, a family of bush pigs came snuffling around the hut. Sharon threw a piece of potato and sausage at them and the largest one of the pack climbed the three steps and pushed his snout through the slats of the gate! Dennis got such a fright! Sharon bent down to take a photograph and I took a photo of her taking the photograph of the pig. In this picture you can see the pigs face on Sharon's camera screen!

The next morning we left early, at about 6am, before breakfast.  It was a beautiful morning and after a while, your Mom let you sit on her lap.  You loved looking out of the window and when we stopped for giraffe crossing the road you looked up at it and said, "Oh, wow!"  When you saw a herd of impala on the side of the road you shouted at them, "Hello wow-wow!"  We went all the way to Sontuli loop but there wasn't much game about.  It was very dry, the grass almost grey-blond, lots of dry parched trees and those with leaves were heavy with dust and sand.  They need rain desperately up there.  On the way back to the camp I took this photo of you 'driving' Mark's car!  You looked so pleased with yourself even though the car wasn't moving!