It’s amazing how a small thing can get under your skin: the thong of one of my brand-new Croc sandals had come adrift. I was in the Kruger, so I had boots; but it was so darn hot that I badly needed those flip-flops. Brain working overtime, I wandered into Kruger’s hilltop Olifant’s camp shop, where I found a spool of dental floss. All I now needed for my bush shoe-repair job was a large needle.
‘Why do you need such a big needle?’ asked the kindly shop assistant − a sharp lady. Having taken one look at the flapping thing in my hand, she said, ‘Don’t worry, Elkan can fix it for you.’ (Elkan Tivne, the baker at the adjoining Mugg and Bean, was the local cobbler.) And, true to her promise, he fixed that plakkie … in five minutes. That’s what I love about travel: those happy surprises waiting around every corner.
Out in the car park was my bushveld home, a Nissan Fun camper I’d picked up from Bobo Campers in Gauteng. A smile on my face, and my feet well-ventilated, I was ready for whatever the bush could throw at me. The idea for this trip came after I’d overheard someone in our dorp say, ‘You battle to get bookings in the Kruger… the smaller camps are booked out all the time.’ That got me thinking − why not stay at caravan parks just outside Kruger? You see, even if you stay in the park’s campsites, their gates open and close at the same time as the main entrance gates do … so you don’t have much to lose by driving in from outside.
The main gates, starting in the south, are Crocodile Bridge, Malelane, Numbi, Phabeni, Paul Kruger, Orpen, Phalaborwa, Punda Maria… and, finally, right up north, next to the greasy grey Limpopo River, Parfuri gate. I had flown up to Joburg to begin this trip, and (even though I’d arrived on a Sunday) Claudia Holtzhausen, from Bobo Campers, was waiting to pick me up. This is a service they offer to all their clients. They also offer overnight accommodation at their premises, which is wonderful when you’ve just come off a long plane trip and aren’t ready to begin your travels immediately. Their premises are a tenminute drive from OR Tambo airport.