The Lioness and the Flat Tyre
Last week Saturday was a wonderful day for me. In the early morning, I had a fantastic sighting of two of the princes of Crocodile Bridge, just over a kilometer from the gate. They were lying on the no-entry road almost adjacent to the S25 turn off. I'd spent a couple of hours with them, but as the day progressively grew warmer, I decided to head home for a couple of hours and return again in the late afternoon.
At about 4:30pm that afternoon, I headed back in the hopes of catching another glance of the royalty, but I couldn’t spot them anywhere. I went up to Vurhami, and did a bit of the S25, but to no avail. We had Toni’s brother and wife coming for a braai that evening, and as I was now running out of time before their arrival, I headed back to the gate.
When I arrived at Croc Bridge , one of the gate guards asked if I’d seen “my” boys, and when I replied with sadly not, he told me that they'd just received a call that there were lions on the S28, just past the no-entry power line road. I couldn’t resist and turned around to go and check it out, knowing that I may just be a little late for dinner.
I passed the power line road, turned the bend, and saw a few cars parked looking at something. Could this be the royalty, I thought? There was a car parked next to me, with 4 passengers in.
“What do you see?”, I asked.
“Well, we saw a lioness back there, but we have a flat tyre now, so we are just parked here and aren’t actually sure what everyone is seeing”, one of the ladies said .
“Oh, my goodness, do you need me to call someone for you?”, I responded, “just don’t get out of your car here, whatever you do, this is a lion infested area,” I joked.
“We are ok thanks; we did call, and they said they are sending a ranger or something. Please let us know what everyone is looking at if you find out”.
I drove a little bit forward and asked this lovely family what everyone was looking at. It was a lioness about 15-20 meters from the road, lying in a shady area. It took me a little while, and then I spotted her. I reversed back and told the car with the flat tyre, but with the way they were positioned they couldn’t see her.
I decided to call the gate to double check that someone was coming for them, and whilst I was on the phone, a Sanparks bakkie pulled up. They parked next to the car on the side of the road and were now between the car and the lioness. Two rangers then got out the car with a few tools to change the tyre.
The passengers in the car quickly informed them, that there was a lioness not far off. The rangers shrugged their shoulders and one said “ah don’t worry, she isn’t a problem”
I stayed there, with my eye on the lioness just to make sure everything was ok, and also in case the passengers in the car should need a lift back to the gate, or needed to get in my car while they fixed the tyre.
One of the rangers came to my car and asked me If I had the tool that looks like an “X” (also known as a wheel spanner, which I found out later on)– I’m not too clued up with this sort of thing… haha, so I told him that I was sure I did, and that it would be in my boot, and it was open.
I realized that the poor man wouldn't want to open my boot and rifle through my things, so I hopped out to assist him in locating it. Of course, I am so bad with these things, I wasn’t even sure where these tools would be.
I called Toni to ask him where the tools were, and the conversation went as follows (He is the calmest man I know):
“Hi Handsome, where are the tools in my boot to change a flat tyre?”
“Do you have a flat in Kruger, are you out the car?”, he replied, ever so calmly.
“No, it’s not me, it’s some tourists. And yes, I’m out the car, and there’s a lioness here, but I’m with some Sanparks rangers”
He was about to tell me, when we found them stashed in a little compartment in the side panel of the boot.
“Never mind, we found them. Call you just now. Love you.”
“Love you, be safe,” he responded, still so calm.
I turned around to have a look at the lioness, she was looking at us, but was not one bit perturbed. She continued to lie there, being a typical lazy cat. But wow, this was the first time in my life, I was seeing lion on foot, a mere 15-20 meters from me, that is without a fence/tent/deck between us. It was thrilling.
The funny thing was, I didn’t feel frightened. I could see her, and her body language told me she was absolutely fine. Also, there were cars around, and two Sanparks rangers who were completely bush wise.
I always used to be terrified of lions, but the more time I spend watching them, that fear seems to have dissolved a bit (Only a bit though) ;)
I hopped back in the car, boot still open, and they continued to work on the car, needing another tool, which they managed to borrow from the car behind me.
I looked for the lioness, but she had now disappeared into the thick bush, and all the cars began to move down the road to where she was. She was hunting impala and wildebeest, but of course I couldn’t see any of this.
They put the spare tyre on the car, the passengers all hopped back in, thanked the rangers and I (although I really didn’t do much), and off they went, along with the rest of the cars.
The ranger came back to my car to put all my tools back. “Maybe it’s because I am an old man,” he said, “but I can’t seem to find the cap, that goes on here for the tools. Could you please come and help me look?”
And so, I had to get out my car again. This time I was a bit more nervous, the simple reason being… I couldn’t see the lioness anymore, but I knew she was there and that she was hunting.
I always say, “Better the lion you can see, then the one you cannot”.
The ranger and I were rummaging through the boot, and eventually found the cap, he was still trying to fit it back on, when I said “Never mind leave it off. I am feeling rather vulnerable now with this lioness hunting behind us here, and we can’t see her.”
The ranger thought that was hilarious, and he closed my boot and bid me a farewell.
I thanked them for their help, kindness and efficiency. Pity I didn’t get their names, but in the chaos of the moment, I didn’t even think to ask.
I drove up the road, to see if I could catch a glimpse of the lioness again, when a Shishangeni vehicle pulled up with a few guides on (I love running in to them in the park because we always compare sightings notes, and talk about the lions in the area. Mostly they joke that their big males are chasing “my” boys all over the place).
I was busy telling them the story about what had just happened, when one asked if I had seen “my” boys, adding that they were lying next to the road again in the same place as this morning.
I thanked them and headed back to the gate to see them quickly before going home. (Bear in mind I was now terribly late for my own braai- Fortunately Toni and his family are incredibly understanding about my love for chasing lions all over the place).
I pulled up at the no-entry road, to a most captivating scene. The two handsome princes sleeping amongst the flowers. I watched as the golden light shone down on them, a woodlands Kingfisher singing cheerfully in the background, flying ants emerged from the bushveld (there was something in the weather, perhaps a storm brewing), the backdrop of the Lebombo mountains were a hazy dark blue, and the dirt road winding down to the staff quarters of Croc Bridge, was enchanting. The road to paradise, I mused.
The young prince began cleaning his brother, in turn the other putting his giant paw on his brother’s head.
My heart was bursting with happiness and contentment, a lovely scene to end an adventurous afternoon.
Many ask if I get lonely or bored living out here. It’s not exactly booming in terms of restaurants, shopping, night life and a social existence. But Kruger has its very own culture, and that’s become my way of life.
Everyday is a new adventure, and I never grow tired of living here. And if it’s even possible I fall more in love with my life here as the time passes. I like the solitude, and the peace and quiet, I like that I become more in tune with nature and the bushveld each day.