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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Sheedy

The Ellie That Blocked The Road

Yesterday, my friend, Dee and I spent the day in Kruger, and it was simply magical. We began our trip from Crocodile Bridge and headed all the way up North to just past Tshokwane.

Dee, although from the area, doesn’t visit Kruger all too often, and although her and her husband had actually spent the weekend with us at Ellie Walk with some pretty amazing sightings, including lions hunting right in front of their unit, and a gorgeous breeding herd of ellies, we wanted to do a little Kruger adventuring, and we needed a little Kruger soul therapy…

And it really was just that...

We had stunning sightings. Two gorgeous prides of lions, cheetah near to the road, tons of ellies, buffalo, rhinos, jackal chasing hyenas, and an array of different bird species just to name a few.

We chatted nonstop, about all things Kruger, I told her stories of Harry Wolhuter, and James Stevenson-Hamilton, and the wildlife of the reserve, as we marvelled at the enchanting landscapes.

Magical Kruger Landscapes

I had timed our trip down to a tee, to make it out of Croc Bridge Gate before closing, and as we were nearing the low water bridge of Lower Sabie, we were right on schedule. I turned to Dee and laughing, I said, “We are making perfect time, just as long as we don’t come across any ellies in the road”.

But, as Murphy’s law would have it, we came around the corner to a traffic jam.

The cause?

An absolutely massive elephant having his dinner in the middle of the road.

The Ellie having his dinner in the road

Now anyone who knows me, knows that as much as I love ellies, I have a profound respect for them, and much prefer to keep my distance. Especially when said elephant is so large that he takes up most of the road.

So, I reversed – a lot. And we waited and waited and waited. The time at this point? 5:30pm… Gate closing time? 6pm. Distance from Lower Sabie to Crocodile Bridge: 35 Kilometers. Maximum speed one is allowed to travel on tar road? 50 kilometers per hour.

My calculations confirmed that we would indeed be late.

In all the time I have spent in Kruger, I have never been late for the gate. I respect the rules, and above that, the thought of me driving in the Kruger as darkness has swooped over the reserve, makes me nervous.

Elephants, to be exact, are the cause of my fear. Dealing with them in daylight is hair raising enough but in the dark? Totally different story.

Plenty of Ellies near to Lower Sabie

As Kobie Kruger wrote in her book Mahlangeni, in the chapter Elephants in the night, “One of the reasons why tourists are not allowed to drive in the Park after dark, and why the Park’s personnel prefer not to, is because elephants become invisible at night. Even if you shine a light on them, they seem to merge into the blackness of the night.”

She is possibly one of the bravest women I can think of, and even she as a rule, avoided driving in the Kruger at night.

I called Lower Sabie Camp and asked them for advice. First they asked me how many cars were in the traffic jam, and then they told me to contact the ranger.

I felt rather sheepish having to call him, with my elephant problem which didn’t seem all that large (no pun intended), considering what they deal with on a daily basis.

But I really wanted to get home, so I plucked up the courage and called.

“Hi there, I am so sorry to bother you, but we are parked just before the low water bridge at Lower Sabie, coming from the Mlondozi side, and there is an enormous elephant blocking the road. There’s about eight cars in the traffic jam, and we need to get back to Crocodile Bridge”, I said.

“Well, it just so happens that I am coming out that way, so I will come by and check it out”, the ranger replied. He was so very nice about it.

I also called my grandparents and Toni, to let them know our little situation. And of course my darling angel grandparents that they are, had within seconds, booked us a safari tent at Lower Sabie, just in case we should be stuck there for any longer.

It would’ve been a great adventure, had Dee and I not needed to get home to our adult responsibilities ;)

We called Croc Bridge to let them know that we would be late, and a little while later our knight in shining armor arrived, and convinced the Ellie to remove his large body from the road.

It took a little while, and the Ellie shook his head a few times and waved his ears, not really wanting to move, but eventually he gave in and moved off the road. Not far off, for as we drove past, there he was right next the road, continuing to eat his heart out.

We didn’t linger, and promptly began our journey home to Crocodile Bridge…

The road home...

The last rays of sunlight were disappearing beyond the horizon, as darkness began to creep in. We followed the speed limit, even going slower at times to be safe.

We opened the windows and let the cool bushveld breeze sweep through the car as we drove along, chatting away about our exciting day. I had Dee on serious elephant watch.

There was very little moonlight, and the bush was very dark. Our only lighting was from our headlights along the tar road, and a couple of stars flickered in the sky.

The bushveld choir was in full swing.

We passed herds of impalas, a breeding herd of elllies (off the road thankfully), kudus, many little francolins and a few night jars along the way.

It was a thrilling experience, driving through Kruger in the dark, but as much as I really enjoyed the magic of it, I was rather relieved when we got to Vurhami Bridge. Because Vurhami meant we were home.

(Unfortunately I have no photos to document this experience. It was that dark. And I was that anxious to get home).

As we drove through the gates of Ellie Walk, I could hear a night jar whistle in the distance and an elephant trumpet.

The most delightful thought came to mind, home sweet home. I have arrived home to our little piece of Kruger paradise.

How very blessed I am.

How very blessed we are as South Africans to have the Kruger National Park as our heritage.

And I am so thankful to each and every person that works so hard to preserve our Kruger.

And of course, a special thanks goes out to the sweet ranger who asked his ellie to move off the road for us so we could get home to our loved ones... :)


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