When you are 20 kilometres from Kruger National Park and you wake up to a sunny winters day, it’s fairly obvious where you need to go. We have seen so many inserts about Kruger on programmes like 50/50, that the kids were super excited to visit “the most famous National Park in the world”.
The Park is friggen huge so we chose to do home school in the car that day. The kids equipped themselves with coloured pens and notebooks as they were instructed to draw pictures of any animals they may see and note down anything interesting that they may notice. For example, when they noticed the hippos “yawning” at the watering hole, it was a good time to teach them about how animals assert their dominance in the wild.
By the sounds of things, everyone and their 2nd cousin saw the big cats the day we were there, except us. Then again, since we had to change a tyre in the middle of the Park, we were pretty stoked NOT to see lions.
Who can tell me what the number 1 rule is when you are driving through a national park? NEVER GET OUT OF YOUR CAR! So when you’re on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and your car starts to make a funny noise, the adults look at each other with wide eyes before taking a deep breath and opening the door to see what’s wrong.
By the way, how do you know when you have a puncture on a bumpy gravel road? When you start smelling rubber. That’s how!
So, now you’ve established that you have a shredded tyre on your hands, what do you do next? Well, you unpack all the camping equipment in the boot to get to the spare tire…while keeping an eye out for lions and trying not to think about the sun bleached bones you just drove past.
And when you jack up the car to start changing the tyre and the car shifts off the jack? Well then you finally get to use that tent you just unpacked. No, not to set up camp! To place in front of the front wheel to keep the car in place. Duh!
I don’t think Anton ever changed a tyre that fast in his life. I’m pretty sure he is now qualified to be a valuable member of any Formula 1 pit crew. All he needed was the threat of lions as motivation.
Now I forgot to mention that we are so far into Kruger that we had no cellphone reception, so the GPS was useless, and we hadn’t been given a map. We had absolutely no idea how long it would take us to get back to tarred road. So, as I rounded the next bend, we were surprised to see a guy standing on the side of the road with an automatic rifle. GULP! And he looked surprised to see us too.
And that was the day we met one of the anti poaching unit team. THAT is how lost we were. After gingerly rolling down the window, we asked if we would get back to the tarred road if we continued driving. He said, yes…in about 8 or 9 kilometres. Okay, not ideal but doable. But I think we misheard him. Because it was more like 29 kilometres. I have never been more stressed in my life.
After a lot of praying and tears, we eventually got the GPS back online about 2kms from the tarred road. By that point I was so ready to leave it wasn’t even funny. Of course, we couldn’t find our way out and, after refusing to travel on any more gravel roads, we confused the GPS.
In our final act of desperation, we called the emergency number. Which was absolutely useless. The only thing she informed us was that we would have to pay a fine since the gates had closed 15 minutes earlier. Gee, thanks!
No you can understand why I ugly cried in front of the security team. How much stress is one person supposed to handle?
Long story short, we got out of Kruger just after 6pm, without paying a fine and headed home on a pitch dark road with crazy drivers who tried to wipe us off the road. Mpumalanga, PLEASE invest in street lights. Also, please circle all your potholes in day glo paint so that we can see what we need to avoid.