A new month and a new mindset too - Nothing beats spending time in nature enjoying what the universe has provided for our appreciation. I am starting this month refreshed and energised and knowing that spring is on the horizon has put a spring in my step!
We have just enjoyed a few days in the Kruger Park and this time of year is the best for game viewing as the trees have shed their leaves and the animals are easier to see. The colours of nature are beautiful too at this time of year and I love the soft greens and russet colours of the vegetation. The Kruger is extremely dry though - I have never seen it so dry - and the rivers and waterhole levels dangerously low so lets hope that spring brings much needed rain to quench the earth and ensure the animals have enough water. I was very sad not to see rhino but consoled myself that the park management must have ensured their safety in another part of the park - far away and inaccessible to poachers. What also saddens me is the behaviour of visitors to the park who lust after sightings of the predators and if lion is spotted ignore all rules of both polite and safe behaviour to make sure they get there and then hog the spectacle, We were gridlocked several times both on this visit and the previous one by bad mannered drivers who just don't care who they block in where as long as they get photo. Lions, although majestic and beautiful creatures are not particularly interesting as they are either eating, sleeping or mating. I think the human craving is more for danger that anything else and I admit that hearing that unmistakable roar through the night when you are in the camp is thrilling.
Elephants are my favourite - far more character and I love watching their antics. I came away from the Kruger feeling refreshed and content.
We then drove on to Lydenburg - reached by driving over Long Tom Pass. I had heard of neither a month ago but I was impressed by both, stunning views, long windy roads, good weather and a destination to die for. Stone Cutters Cottage - a cluster of wooden and stone cabins set in indigenous forest with a river and three dams stocked with trout. A little bit of luxury does no harm after a stay in a national park and underfloor heating, hot chocolate. a ginormous bed ticked all the boxes. A roaring fire in the dining room, great food followed by a very glamorous breakfast served al fresco in the crisp morning sun. Oupa, Our Gilly collected us and it was a morning of fly fishing.
Observe an experienced fly fisherman for five minutes and you may think."Ok, I got this!" But casting, the most crucial aspect of fly fishing, is a deceptively complex move to master. Your goal is to lift the line from the water and have it arc out completely behind you - this is what is called the back cast - then send it forward where it spreads out in a neat line before you in the water - if you are lucky a fish will be enticed to nibble your fly. My lines were wiggly and squiggly and not attractive for fish to nibble at all!
This movement, performed hundreds of times by a fly fisher on a days outing, required just the right set of subtle arm and wrist movement and timing. Oupa told me to imagine a clock - hold your rod at nine 'o clock, lift it to one 'o clock on your back cast and the back to nine 'o clock and so I went nine 'o clock, one 'o clock, nine 'o clock one 'o clock and so the time ticked away! The concentration both meditative and relaxing in turn made time stand still and I did catch a lot - the branches above me, the reeds in front of me and the dried grass all around me When Oupa cast, his line made the most wonderful whispery whistle through the air - that combined with the burble of the nearby river and the harmony of birdsong may have been my favourite part of the experience. My cast sounded a like the snap of a belt - a perfect indicator that my moves were that of a novice - a good fly cast is a world away form a whip crack!
It was over too soon and we had to leave Stone Cutters and make our way to Dullstroom - just 20ks away and 20 degrees cooler! Jeepers it was cold but the little hamlet is delightful. We were met on the high street by the local cows who walked us into town a little like a piper would pipe you into a function, We found our accommodation, Buttercup Barn in Peace Corner - how quaint - then set off to explore the shops -The Tipsy Trout, The Dusty Owl and the Village Angler. The latter was home to resident fishing character John - a pure bred Scott and trout fishing champ. By now I was fluent in the language of trout but sadly not it the language of Scotland so much of what he said went unheard - I bought some colouful flies to add to my wardrobe of bright, feathered, pretty fishing supplies and we bid him good day. "AyeBrrrGweerry Hooondsham Whackersomsilkard" came the reply!
Dinner for three was served at the delightful Mrs Simpson's - the best restaurant in town! Our guest was Wallis the restaurant cat who decided that we were the best company in the joint. This decision may have been made based on the attractive prawns on my plate,
Its always sad when a good time comes to an end but I can say that this break was just what I needed and proves the point that time spent in nature is restorative and great therapy for the soul. July was a memorable month - Vic Falls, Chobe, Kruger, Lydenberg and Dullstroom, Pretoria, Natal Midlands and now PE - I feel brand new! Where next I wonder??