Driving in the Kruger Park is an experience unlike any other motoring holiday. The thrill is due to the unexpectedness of what is around the next bend. Anticipation hangs in the air. Absolutely anything is possible.
Over the years we have seen a vast variety of sightings from giraffes with their long eyelashes, a leopard with its kill on the branch of a tree and elephants frolicking in mud pools to a bloody fight between hyena males and even lions ripping the carcase of a springbuck. No day is the same as we hunt for the big 5 and more.
And throughout it all, the Kruger officials tell us not to get out of our vehicles or even to hang out the car windows. To do so could result in a fine, or worse still, we could be attacked by a predator. So we remain in our cars at all costs; that is of course until we arrive at a rest camp. The rest camps along the roads are areas marked off for picnics, and they have toilet facilities. Many of them have little shops and one of our favourite ones, Afsaal, has a restaurant. Suddenly it is not only okay to get out our vehicle, but it is encouraged!
The restaurant is called Tindlovu and has an open area with thatched roofs and basic wooden tables and benches. Half the area has bush and trees growing right up to the edges of the camp. It offers, among other things, real South African bush fare, served in metal plates and on wooden boards. It is authentic food and the menu (written up on a big chalk board), offers things like Bobotie Rosterkoeke (sandwiches), venison pie and pork chops with ‘pap en sous’. Pap is a thick mielie meal porridge, and the sous is a tomato and onion gravy.
Something has to be said about sitting in the open in the middle of the Kruger, no fences, eating a chicken salad while glancing over and seeing an elephant pulling bark off a tree. It is deliciously dangerous to be possibly close to wild animals, not knowing what is looking through the leaves at us. We laugh at the tourists who are angling themselves so they can take selfies with the elephant in the background when suddenly out of nowhere a small grey arm shoots out and grabs the sugar sachets off the table. The small vervet monkey runs away sucking to get the sweetness of the sugar, and we realise he has done this before! He probably does it every day. At regular intervals, the waiters have to chase the monkeys away. There are signs everywhere asking patrons not to feed the wildlife, but we see a man in his khaki safari clothes, with matching hat, giving the monkey an apple. This is when we realise controlling the people is probably more difficult than controlling the wildlife.