Last week, Mom and I had to visit the lodges in central Kruger for work. The first night we were spending at Hoyo-Hoyo Safari Lodge, but we’d got away after lunchtime from White River, because I first had an appointment to attend.
When we arrived at Phabeni gate, the guard cracked a joke that we need to “move it” to get to the lodge before dark. We’ve done this so many times before though, so we weren’t one bit worried about being late, we had more than enough time.
We were in my fortuner, and were having a lovely drive; we’d just passed the Hamilton’s turn along the S36, as the golden light was dancing along the trees. My favourite time of day was upon us, and I couldn’t wait for our three days in Kruger.
We stopped off at our usual spot along the S36 to get our last bit of signal, which is almost halfway between Hamiltons and Hoyo-Hoyo, and then we continued about 600 meters down the road, when I noticed something sharp fly up from the dusty road in the front of my car.
“What was that?” I asked my mom, “I’m not sure”, she responded. “ Let’s stop for a minute,” I said, “maybe it’s a flat.” We looked at the back tyre on the drivers side, and to my horror and disbelief, it was in fact a flat tyre. The tyre was badly damaged, and we realised it wouldn't just be a "quick fix" at the fuel station.
“I thought fortuners didn’t get flat tyres”, I said, laughing.
With about another 9kms or so to Hoyo-Hoyo, this wasn’t the greatest of places to be stuck. It was mid-week and Kruger was quiet, and we hadn’t seen any other cars on the S36, never mind the fact that the sun was beginning to set on us.
We couldn’t walk to Hamilton’s or Hoyo-Hoyo, it was really far on foot, we couldn’t spend the night there, although most likely when we didn’t arrive at the lodge, someone would’ve come to find us, but it would’ve a while, since they weren’t aware of what road we were on.
Our only option was to get back to the signal spot (which I didn’t intend on walking to, because even 600 meters is far in the bush), and so we reversed down the road with the flat tyre, and luckily for us, made it back to some signal.
As we stopped the car, an enormous dagga buffalo bull came strolling out of the bushes and crossed the road right in front of us.
We tried to reach Imbali Safari Lodge (the main lodge, that has a telephone), but as Murphy’s luck would have it, the landline was down. We then called Orpen Gate and explained to them where we were.
Our signal was coming and going, so I also told my brother, and Toni what had happened, and asked them to keep trying to get hold of the lodge.
Mom and I have never changed a tyre in our lives before (something we should probably learn how to do after this experience), but thankfully Toni managed to talk us through the beginning of the process; where the tools were (because I am embarrassed to admit, that I didn’t even know where they were in my own car), and also how to assemble them in order to get the tyre out.
Apparently the tyre was situated underneath the vehicle, and one needed to insert the tools in somewhere (as a sort of “key” to lower it down). Don’t even ask me what these tools are called, I couldn’t tell you ;)
I kept watch, standing on the side of the car for a better view, while mom quickly hopped out to get the tools and start assembling them.
It was a beautiful evening, the air was crisp and cool, I bundled up in my jacket, and admired the beautiful sunset, as everything went from gold to burnt oranges, and finally the big red sun slipped away behind the horizon, and the trees became dark silhouettes. It felt like we were the only people in the whole of Kruger, a stillness that left me feeling complete peace.
We eventually managed to get a WhatsApp message through to the manager at Imbali, and she sent two guides to our rescue.
Orpen Gate had contacted Talamati, and Talamati bush camp had sent a gentleman to help us as well, but he never actually arrived (our thinking was, that he went the other way), bless his soul for coming to assist anyway. Sanparks was wonderful.
Shortly after, help arrived.
“I am so glad to see you guys,” I said, elated, as the Imbali game drive vehicle pulled up.
But even they had a challenge getting the tyre out, as there was a padlock on it (which they first had to break). Of course, I didn’t have the key for it.
And eventually as nightfall was upon us, the task was complete.
I’d just like to mention, that even if we had known how to change a tyre – there is no way we could’ve pulled that off! And we were so thankful to Greg and Andrew for coming to our aid.
The stars were most impressive, as I enjoyed the night sky, with not a light in sight, while they were busy packing up. The nightly bush choir was pure magic, I could hear a little scops owl not far off.
Greg and Andrew followed us to make sure that we didn’t have any more situations on our way to the lodge. It was an exhilarating night drive; we saw more dagga buffalo boys, a hyena in the road, and one very grumpy elephant, which trumpeted loudly, in distaste, as we drove past him.
I must say, when we reached Hoyo-Hoyo I couldn’t have been happier. We were welcomed by the warm, and friendly staff, which are family to us.
We had a scrumptious dinner of butternut and feta salad, beef fillet, and the most divine milk tart. A civet came to the waterhole, while we ate our supper, as well as a beautiful breeding herd of elephants.
A warm bath, and a comfortable bed later, and I was off to dreamland.
The next morning, I woke up at sunrise, and watched the beautiful morning light filtering through the trees, in to the dry riverbed in front of our suite.
I sipped on a hot cup of French press coffee on our patio, with a beautiful dagga buffalo bull, who was on the other side of the riverbed, and just as I thought things couldn’t get any better, a pride of lions began roaring not far off, followed by a lone hyena howling.
Oh, how my heart beats for Kruger.
It’s these sort of moments that bring me to the conclusion, that we are not in control, and we must learn to simply give in to this crazy adventure we are all on, and just… go with it.