With Mother’s Day just having passed, I think it only fitting that I share some of my mom’s adventures of growing up on Kruger…
On the South Western border of our property are sugar cane fields and a dam, which my mom used to go and play at often, when she was little.
The neighbouring farms didn’t really have any fences back then, and the Kruger fence was only about 1.2 meters high with 3 or 4 strands of barbed wire, which meant that all sorts of animals would visit.
My family had a lovely veggie garden and the ellies just loved to climb over for a snack whenever they pleased.
One particular day, while my grandparents were at work (My Gramps had a woodwork factory, and my Gram was a ballet teacher at the time), my mom went to play at the dam.
She’d had a wonderful time, and as it started getting late, she decided that she best be getting home, only to discover that her route home had a massive roadblock.
There was an entire breeding herd of ellies having their late afternoon tea in the veggie garden. Obviously she was rather nervous to pass the giants, so she ran all the way to the top of the property, trying to take a detour to reach home, but decided that even this was too risky.
So instead she went to the staff quarters, where they lovingly prepared her a delicious meal of tinned baked beans and maize meal (pap), while she waited for my grandparents to come home from work.
You can read more ellie stories here: The Elephants of Elephant Walk
Our property runs all the way to the edge of the mighty Crocodile River, so we have always had an access gate in to Kruger, but when my family first lived here, it was just a single gate that they would use, if they wanted to go down to the river.
After the 2000 floods, when the fence was washed away, a much bigger and “safer” electrified fence was erected, and our access gate was turned in to a double gate. Life here has changed a lot since then.
Ah, that access gate, even now in my adult life, I have nightmares of that gate being left open, and the lions coming through it to eat me. It’s the strangest thing really; I adore lions, yet I have nightmares of them often.
In the old days, many years before my time, Sundays at the Coetsee's/Klopper’s consisted of the entire family packing a picnic and heading down to the river. In those days, the river looked quite different to what it does now. It was rocky, and had these magnificent sandbanks, which the ladies would suntan on, while reading their books and magazines.
The kids and the dogs would have a wonderful time swimming in the river, playing on tubes and having slime and mud fights, while the men folk would fish.
As the afternoons began to cool down, the whole family would take long walks up the river toward the neigbouring farm’s weir.
Somebody once asked my aunt, “but what about the hippos and crocodiles?” to which she responded, “well we never saw them”
If I think about how many hippos and crocodiles I see here everyday it’s hard to imagine doing this now.
But like I said, life was different back then; Simple and carefree.
One sunny day, my mom and her cousin, along with her cousin's boyfriend and his cousin, went for a walk up the river, with their faithful (but cowardly) St Bernard Dog.
They were having a lovely time, when all of a sudden a grumpy dagga buffalo bull came charging out of the reeds at them.
Luckily for them, the buffalo had an old injury where he had been caught in a snare around his hoof, and couldn’t run very fast.
The children and the dog ran as fast as their legs could take them, and came racing through the access gate and back up to the house.
Out of breath, and scratched and bruised all over from running through the thick bush, they finally explained to my Gramps what had happened.
He called the section ranger of Crocodile Bridge, who came to check out the injured buffalo, along with his very obedient dog, and a couple of game guards.
They tracked the buffalo through the thick reeds (a very risky business), and eventually found it. The injury was septic, and the ranger could see that the buffalo was in pain. With nothing left to do for the poor animal, they had to put it out of its misery.
My mom, and her cousin, were standing there watching, with their dog on a leash. As the shot went off the dog got the fright of his life, and bolted, dragging my mom and her cousin behind him through all the reeds, and veld.
The ranger gave the buffalo meat to my grandparents, who don’t believe in letting anything go to waste, so they decided that they’d cook the buffalo meat. But because of foot and mouth, it had to be cooked next to the fence, so they put it in a big drum and began to cook it.
When it was finally ready to consume (or so they thought), everyone including the dog gave it a try, but the buffalo meat was so tough, that not even the dog could eat it.
My mom's love of Kruger began from a very young age, and she had a magical life growing up here.
You know that giant fig tree you see when you cross over Crocodile Bridge, the one near to the old railway bridge? Well, she loved to play under that tree. She was fearless, she rode motorbikes and horses at top speed on the neighbouring farms, and Gramps built her a tree house on the property that she used to camp out in.
One night when she was having a sleepover in the lounge with some friends, she even shared her mattress with a snake! Of course she didn't know it at the time.
Now that she's all grown up, not much has changed. She's still fearless, and still has a great love and passion for the park. She is involved with the Kruger National Park, on the Mluwati Concession in central Kruger, where she conceptualised three magical private lodges; Imbali Safari Lodge, Hamiltons Tented Camp, and Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge. She walked the concession mapping out where those lodges would be, and came up with the names and look and feel of them. Those are her babies.
Because of lockdown I haven't seen her since March 21st, and I miss her more than words can say. But not one day goes by, that I don't think of her. I'm so incredibly proud to be her daughter, and I can't wait for our next Kruger trip together.
You can read more buffalo stories here: