Part 2…Harrowing, exciting and frustrating day in Kruger National Park…A staple gun dictated “safari luck!”

This baby zebra leaned into mom as we stopped for a photo. For all we knew, we could have been the first humans she’d ever seen.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Shortly after we returned, several kudus stopped by to say hello.

To make heads or tails of today’s story, it is essential to read yesterday’s post, which may be found here. Today’s post is a continuation of our harrowing and yet exciting day in Kruger National Park, and yesterday’s post explains the comment in the heading, “a staple gun dictated “safari luck…”

In one of yesterday’s closing paragraph’s we wrote: “But tomorrow, we’ll share the balance, a story of making mistakes, taking wrong roads and choosing a ridiculous shortcut that only cost us more time and frustration, all of which we must admit, was softened by this scene of the elephants…”,

Zebras and baby were wandering down the dirt road.

And mistakes we made that day, one of which was venturing out on those awful dirt roads in a highly unsuitable little car which was designed to take the battering of the washboard roads, not unlike its passengers during the harrowing drive.

At several points on the dirt roads, we heard a rattling in the car, even at the low speeds we were traveling, that sounded as if something was going to fall out or off of the vehicle. 

A male zebra posing for a photo.

We both stayed as calm as we could but were thinking the same thing…what if the older little car broke down and we were stranded on this remote road?  Yes, we had a SIM card in my phone, which was almost fully charged (the phone charger outlet in the car doesn’t work).  And there was an emergency phone number we could have called in the back in the park’s map book.

But, the thought of sitting in a broken-down rental car waiting to be rescued was not appealing to either of us.  Even while Tom slowed to a snail’s pace, the rattling continued. So we continued, stopping only when we finally made it to the gate after driving for hours, to travel the mere 60 km (37 miles) to reach the Malelane Gate. Turning in our paperwork and getting on a paved road couldn’t have been more of a relief.

After we spotted the elephants crossing the road after we’d decided to head to the Malelane Gate when the Crocodile Bridge was blocked for hours by a stuck boat trailer, we encountered this lone giraffe.

We’d never entered or exited Kruger at the Malelane Gate. We hadn’t been to Malelane since our arrival in South Africa over five weeks ago. Four years ago, we had a great dinner there while chickens wandered about the interior of the restaurant. We remembered that about Malelane. (See that link here from December 22, 2013)

Once outside the gate, we watched for roadsigns indicating how to return to Marloth. We saw one sign that read Komatipoort, and that seemed the right direction for us.  Somehow we missed the sign for N4.

A warthog family on the rough dirt road on the way to the Malelane Gate.

After the awful drive, we were exhausted and distracted.  Plus, there are very few road signs that point to Marloth Park. Why we stayed on the main highway R570, we’ll never know, when in fact, we needed N4.

We drove for over 32 km (20 miles) one way in error before we realized, in the pouring rain, that we didn’t recognize any of the names of upcoming towns such as Pig’s Peak and Jeppe’s Reef.  We’d driven almost to Swaziland! We had to backtrack the 32 km to return to Malelane to get to N4 and Marloth Park.

This warthog appears to have been rolling in mud as she hangs out with male impala.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that we did have a map in the glovebox. Oh, what a day! For some reason, we thought we only had maps for Marloth Park and Kruger. In checking out the map, we realized our error.

We noticed on the map that we’d pass Hectorspruit, a small town between Malelane and Marloth. Big mistake! Once on the road heading back N4, we encountered a sign indicating a route to Hectorspruit, a shortcut, according to the map.

The rough washboard road seemed as if it would never end. It took us hours to get out of the park.

If we thought the washboard dirt roads in Kruger were terrible, we were in for a big surprise. The road from R570 to Hectorspruit to N4 was, by far, the worst paved road we’d ever driven on of all of the above. 

Talk about potholes!  There were deep potholes every meter (every few feet), many we couldn’t see until a tire dropped into one after another, with nowhere else on the road or the shoulder to drive, and for us, after the harrowing day, no turning back.

More elephants were spotted at quite a distance.  We continued on the road.

During that horrific half-hour drive, we bounced, rattled, and practically rolled in the pothole clusters that occupied the entire road. Only our friends and readers in this area can grasp the severity of this road had they ever had the misfortune to travel on it.

Yes, we know this is Africa, and indeed, our comments aren’t tendered as complaints. However, they are tendered as to our failure to find our way back to Marloth Park more diligently.

A few more elephant photos we’d yet to share in yesterday’s post.

Finally, we reached N4 and easily found our way back to Marloth Park. By the time we pulled into the driveway, it was almost 4:30 pm. We’d yet to put a dent in the day’s post. We still had to shower again and clean up to go out to Jabula for dinner as intended.

We decided to ditch our dinner plans, stay in and make bacon and eggs for dinner (nothing was defrosted), and spend the evening on the veranda. At one point, the much-needed rain and wind drove us indoors. But a few hours later, we had finished and uploaded the post, cooked our feeble dinner, and were able to dine outdoors during the balance of the soaking rain.

We couldn’t believe how many there were, as many as 30 to 40.

Whew!  We were grateful we’d seen the elephants crossing the road, which most certainly softened the blow of the remainder of the day. We’re curious about when and how they got that boat and trailer stuck on the Crocodile Bridge moving again. If you’ve heard anything, please let us know.

Last night in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day (Tom is Irish), we headed to Jabula for an enjoyable evening, running into friends, making new friends, enjoying the chatter with owner Dawn and helper Lynn, suddenly finding ourselves retelling this story, only to find locals practically rolling on the floor in laughter over our mishaps on the road.

A hornbill in a tree.  We spotted dozens of hornbills in Kruger.

We’re both easily able to laugh at ourselves and laugh we did along with everyone else.  Could the complex parts of these scenarios have been prevented? Should we have waited at the Crocodile Bridge for what may have been hours to have been able to get through? We’ll never know.

Should we have paid more attention to where we were in the rainstorm when we exited the Malelane Gate? Sure. Should we have avoided the pothole detour and driven further back to Malelane to get to N4? Absolutely.

A lone male impala stares as we pass by.

So here’s our story, folks. Today at 2:00, we’ll visit the home of locals we’ve met that have quite an account to share, which we’ll be posting here in a few days. Tonight, on this perfect weather day, we’re making pizza and look forward to dining on the veranda while we wait for visitors to stop by.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 18, 2017:

Visitors were sitting on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, enjoying the view. We had taken the Manly Ferry to come to see the opera we’d booked but arrived one day too early. At that point, we were preoccupied with our illegal immigrant status, possibly attributing to the error. Thank goodness it wasn’t one day too late. For details, please click here.

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