Christmas in The Vaal & The Kruger, South Africa.

After we made our way back from Durban, we headed back to The Vaal where we would stay for Christmas. In the days leading up to it we went shopping, in the evenings we went for dinner and drinks.

We had started to decorate the house, wrapping the tree with tinsel and baubles and fairy lights with a fan blowing behind us as it was pretty hot. We arranged the table with Christmas crackers galore. It’s a strange sensation when you’re used to an English Christmas where it would be raining or snowing and chilly.

Unfortunately, on the day I seemed to have brought the weather from home. I had waited in anticipation for my first sunny, hot Christmas day but it was overcast and spitting with rain.

On boxing day, friends and family came over and we sat in the garden in the sun, with drinks and a buffet of food courtesy of C’s mother. A beer pong tournament ensued in the evening.

After the remnants of Christmas were tidied away, we started to pack our things once again, ready to head off to the Kruger national park safari. We were staying at Hazy view lodge, in a log cabin with a jacuzzi and a fire pit area.

Closer to the park they had these lovely unique huts to stay in that I was a tad jealous of:

Some of us were still in the Christmas spirit

Our first day in Hazy view was spent sunbathing and relaxing, in the evening we lit up a fire and filled up a potjie pot (think witches cauldron full of a stew) to cook. We lounged in the jacuzzi with a few drinks and played cards after dinner.

The next morning we were up before the sunrise to get to the park early. We spent the day in the 4×4 driving through the Kruger. Springbok stood elegantly and watched us pass. Elephants and giraffes roamed freely in the distance, a black rhino walked out of the bushes and plodded across the road in front of the car and disappeared again.

As the morning went on and the weather grew warmer, you could smell the scent of the Kruger. It smelt like baked earth, straw, and animal pelt. Birds flicked through the sky, too quick to photograph, that were the most magnificent hues. Against the backdrop of blue sky and straw like grass, their bright red and orange feathers amazed me. Monkeys lounged in trees and hyena cubs were seen darting in and out of bushes.

Against the backdrop of blue sky and straw like grass, their bright red and orange feathers amazed me. Monkeys lounged in trees and hyena cubs were seen darting in and out of bushes.

We stopped off for lunch and to look around the souvenir shops. It rained for a little in the afternoon, and I was growing disappointed at not having seen a lion. As we ate our lunch by the river we saw a hippo break the surface of the water and

As we ate our lunch by the river where we saw a hippo break the surface of the water and swim along downstream before making it’s way up the bank.

We drove past grazing zebras and buffalo and more springbok as my hopes for seeing a lion began to dwindle. As we made our way towards the exit, there seemed to be a lot of cars up ahead not moving. As we gradually approached and they began to move we realised why. Sleeping in the middle of the road were a lion and lioness. As I rolled down my window the male lifted his head and looked straight into my eyes, we sat there for a few seconds locked in this gaze that utterly

Sleeping in the middle of the road were a lion and lioness. As I rolled down my window, the male lifted his head and looked straight into my eyes, we sat there for a few seconds locked in this gaze that utterly flabbergasted me.

Now absolutely satisfied that I had finaly seen a lion, we drove back to Hazy view.

The following day, C’s mother had arranged an activity day that involved paintballing, zipwires, quad biking and geckoing.

I discovered that I am absolutely terrible at driving quadbikes.

At least I was good at paintballing! Which was no easy feat under the African sun in overalls and a mask!

We stopped for lunch and got given our kit ready for the geckoing which is basically white water rafting but in a single dinghy.

We started where the water was calm and got in the dinghies, paddling along to the rapids.

At one point my dinghy capsized and went over my head so that I couldn’t see, trying to swim against a current, with the guide shouting at me to grab the rope (rope?I couldn’t see the sodding rope because there was a rubber raft over my face?!) before I went down the waterfall.

This part of the activity day was not my finest moment. I was pretty miserable and unimpressed and insisted I wanted to walk the rest of the way but there wasn’t a path. When people started telling me not to be so miserable, my mood only darkened further.

There were several opportunities to jump off high rocks and into fast moving water with more jagged rocks. I only did one of the small jumps and decided to forego the rest.

The last day, we headed to Sudwala caves. Getting up the stairs after our activity day proved interesting! The caves are full of amazing natural formations and have a long history.

Due to the natural airflow from a unknown source deeper in the caves, they have been used many times throughout history for shelter. They are steeped in legends of bloody battles and lost gold.

We arrived back in the The Vaal on New Years eve, so we got dressed up and headed to Manhattan’s to meet up with friends and celebrate the new year. We were joined by S’s brother and his other half who tried teaching some Afrikaans.

After recovering from new years we spent the last week of our time in South Africa shopping, sun bathing on the boat and mucking around on the jet ski and tube.

Before we knew it, the month was up, and we were on the plane flying over the Serengeti heading back to England.

 

Due to the fact that the majority of my own photographs from South Africa were deleted, I’ve had to rely heavily on other people for the images used in these posts. I would like to say a massive thank you to the following people for kindly letting me use their images from our trip:

Carre King – You can follow him on instagram @ mrking777

Dion king – You can follow him on instagram @ dionfking

Sue King

Christopher Smillie – You can see more photographs on his flikr page  https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismillie/

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

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