Daily Archives: April 27, 2010

26-27 April 2010

26 – 27 April 2010 – Monday and Tuesday

Our good friends and fellow missionaries the Mickelsens go home on the 17th of May. For the last four months we have tried to come up with a time when both couples could take off one or two extra days and so something special together. Due to many things coming up, including Mary getting ill and the Mickelsens trying hard to make sure that no PEF loan is left behind, it just did not happen until now.

We had two wonderful days together enjoying the beauty of South Africa – especially its wild animals. On Monday we were up before the sun and off to Umfolozi Game Reserve. Sister Mickelsen’s wish list of animals to see included cheetahs, lions, elephants and of course leopards, but she would be happy to see almost any animals.

At one of our first stops – a look-out at the top of a hill – we stopped the car and got out to see if there were any animals on the hills before us. As we were walking around we all of a sudden saw two wild dogs on the road we just came up. They were no more than 10 yards away from where we were standing.  This was the first wild dogs any of us had seen. The two, soon became three and then a pack of 10-15 appeared. What an exciting start for the day.

Throughout the morning we saw the usual collection of impalas, warthogs, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, cape buffalo, rhinos, and even some nyalas which are not always seen in Umfolozi. These animals with the special sighting of the wild dog pack made it a good day. Then as we headed back to where we came into the park, we saw some cars parked looking at something under a tree. We asked one car that was leaving what they saw and they said there was a cheetah lying in the grass. So we were able to add the elusive cheetah to our list of animals seen on the drive. Of course this was the first one we had seen and in talking to a guide later that day he said that he had spent thousands of hours in Umfolozi and had never seen one. What a great morning.

After a quick lunch we then drove through the Hluhluwe Game Reserve on our way to Leopard Mountain Resort where we were to spend the night. We did not stop to look for animals but just as we were almost to the Memorial gate, we came across a boggy area that had buffalo, rhinos, zebras, warthogs, and giraffes all mixed in together. We had never seen anything like it. We had just passed this menagerie of animals when we came across a family of baboons sitting in and on the side of the road. Dad was getting his fleas picked by what looked like a grandson and really did not want to move so we got some great pictures. What a wonderful way to end our morning.

Leopard Mountain turned out to be a wonderful resort with excellent accommodations, food and staff. The only weakness is the game drives but we were already aware that this might be so before we came. The evening drive was pretty much anti-climatic after what we saw in Umfolozi  but once the sun set, it seemed animals came out of the bush and we got to see some interesting animals in their night time mode. The best thing we saw was a very old, very big rhino that was no longer strong enough to have a place in a herd so he will spend the rest of his life wandering around alone.

Dinner was served outside and we found that Nyala was a very tasty meat. By the time dinner was finished all we could thing about was getting to our room and beds – it had been a long and wonderful day.

Tuesday again started just after 5:00 a.m. as we got up to get ready for the morning drive. Once again there were few animals to see. Johan, our fine guide, tried his best to make things interesting by talking about birds, spiders and plants, but after wild dogs and a cheetah it was not very exciting.

We had a nice late breakfast while looking out over the beautiful landscape. Then we packed up, checked out and headed back for Hluhluwe. Yesterday we saw a lone elephant high on the hillside that looked more like a dot with large ears than a might elephant so I was determined to find an elephant for Sister Mickelsen before we left the park and headed home.

The first animals we saw were three Cape buffalo rolling around in a big mud hole. Behind the buffalo were two giraffes eating their breakfast. This setting made for some great pictures. We went another kilometer or so and found ourselves literally in the middle of a herd of 40 – 50 cape buffalos that wandered across the road in front of us. Once again we were able to get some great close up pictures of mature and immature animals. As we drove around the loop, we came across more groups of buffalo – there must have been at least 100 in the area.

By the time we were finished with that loop our time was getting short so we decided to do one more loop and then go home. As we were driving along we saw some cars stopped with people pointing down the mountain to a valley. When we looked through the binoculars what at first we thought were rhinos turned out to be a very large herd of elephants. We quickly made our way down to the area and for 30 minutes or so we were able to watch and take pictures of over 50 of these remarkable animals. There were everything from the smallest baby we had every seen – about the size of very large dog I would say – to full grown males and everything in between. They drank, ate, tossed dirt on their backs, rolled in the dirt, sucked, and two ‘teen-agers’ played tag. It was a wonderful experience and sister Mickelsen certainly got to see her elephant.

As we were driving out to the main road to head for home, a lioness and her cub came down the road and walked into the bush. It happened so fast that the only picture elder Mickelsen and I could get was a poor shot I got of the cub. So no good pictures but sister Mickelsen did get to see a lion. We had just started up again when what do we see walking down the middle of the road towards us but daddy! He was just strolling along checking out the ground in front of him.

This time we were able to get pictures of him coming at us, then walking pass the car on the berm on the side of the road and finally heading into the bush. I have to say that seeing a free ranging lion that close gets my heart pounding.  

By the time the lion had disappeared it was getting close to the time we needed to leave if the Mickelsens were not going to have to drive home really late at night, so I hurried out with only a stop to take a picture of a very large white rhino that was not far from the road. We did not even slow down for the young giraffe that watched us drive by 50 feet or less away.

We left the park and drove to Richards Bay where we had dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, down-loaded the 150 plus pictures that elder Mickelsen took on our trip, and said goodbye until we see them just before they head home in May. We were so glad that the two days turned out so well and we saw so many beautiful and exotic animals.

We got calls from a couple of our elders. We found out that one of the elders had been very ill for the last 18 hours. His companion told us his symptoms and so as soon as we said goodbye to the Mickelsens we drove to Empangeni and dropped off some medicine and counsel. We were happy to hear he seems to have stopped loosing liquids. However his head ached and his stomach was churning. We will check with him again tomorrow morning.

Later in the evening, Elder Dimene and elder Zondi stopped by so I could solve a problem for them. While they were here elder Dimene mentioned that he was getting a headache. In the past this was the prelude for a full on attack. I told him that he knew exactly how he felt when an attack came and if he felt the symptoms coming on that he must call me immediately so we could get him checked out at the hospital.

It is good to be needed – but I always feel bad when an elder gets sick – especially since they try to work through the illness until they can not possibly go out. We worry about each of them while they serve here. They become like our own children and we try to take care of them as we would hope other would take care of our children and grandchildren if we were not there.