Leopards and Crooks

Punda Maria, Crooks Corner, Pafuri…somehow before yesterday they conjured up thoughts of being places somewhere on a Kruger Park map too far to get to and just “somewhere up there”…

And then it all happened.

Reality finally dawned and we are here camping blissfully under a tree in “Punda” as they call it. With its famous waterhole that keeps delivering wave after wave of buffalo and elephants. Herds of massive proportions. Imagine over 120 scary-looking and cantankerous beasts with curled horns and beady eyes drinking together at their local pub. Nobody moves. Except the lonely resident duck that seems unphased and sees it every day.

Our drive up to Crooks corner was possibly the best we have had in our time of watching, seeing and experiencing wildlife in many places. The Kloppersfontein dam area delivered elephants swimming in the cool water. The temperature outside was 36 deg. And that in August. Imagine what December must be like. It’s definately not for us who hail from the South Coast and who treasure the ocean-style life in the festive season.

Alas, let me not digress for too long…the trip to Crooks corner needs more.

A stop in at the Pafuri picnic area is such a treat. Meeting Mandla there, who by the way is a bird fundi, and who also knows his sport. A few minutes into our chat he couldn’t hide his excitement of having met Nick Mallet last week who also passed by his workplace. A wonderful guy who embraces visitors and knows the value of being surrounded by trees that often host the holy grail of many birding fanatics, the elusive Pels Fishing owl. To have seen one is akin to having recorded a hole-in-one. Thank goodness I have both. My dearest Lady is always at hand to remind me of her Pels sighting on a Kruger walk she undertook some time back. Just imagine for a moment the anguish if I had never seen one.

Damn, I digress again…

And now for the special sighting…

A Leopard and her cub. Quietly perched halfway up a small knoll just fifteen metres from our vehicle as we rounded a corner close to the picnic site. The kill, an adult impala, was hanging in the tree just a few metres away from them. How it was hoisted is beyond belief really. The power in her to do it is something special. We sat and watched them in awe. They are simply the most spectacular cats. Perfectly made in every way. Their balance, poise and grace takes ones breath away really. Those who have seen it first-hand will comprehend.

Up here at the top of Kruger it isn’t crowded. There aren’t hordes of vehicles at every sighting and the dreaded Game-drive vehicles are

more rare than a Lion sighting. If only the whole Park was like that.

On we drove to Crooks Corner. Along the river filled with crocodile, a few Hippo and with giant trees that teemed with birds of all kinds. A memorable meander if ever there was one. Not to mention the Elephants crossing back and forth along the winding road and causing us to constantly be aware of getting too close. Especially those with little ones.

Crooks Corner is what it is. The corner of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It is so named because in past times people of bad repute could hasten there and jump from country to country to escape justice. Mind you, crossing that river with the many crocs in wait, I would have to be pretty desperate. And stupid too.

The vista at Crooks Corner is amazing. It overlooks the wide river and we did the right thing by legally getting out of our vehicle and taking the customary pictures. No doubt the crooks in their time would not have done that.

The drive back “home” to Punda was filled with much chatter between us over what magnificent memories we had made. We resolved to return one day as soon as time would allow.

The day ended with Estelle making a special treat for dinner in the Kruger. Prawns for supper and washed down with a fine Red in front of a little fire.

As the flames danced and the night once again was filled with hyena calls, we dragged ourselves to bed. Exhausted…


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