Saying goodbye to Punda Maria

Early Monday morning  (Nov, 21) we said goodbye to Punda Maria.  We had been there 2 nights but really only one (very) full day.  We dropped our room key in the box by the gate and departed saying goodbye to this small but intimate camp.  It was a little after 5 AM.

Punda Maria, lodging to the right, camp reception, store and restaurant straight ahead

The day before, after walking the Flycatcher Trail, we had done a load of laundry in the coin operated washing machine.  They did not have a dryer so we strung a rope across some beams in our room and made a clothesline.  Because the air conditioner was so good by night time some of the lighter weight items were dry and by the next morning everything else was dry enough to fold up and put in the back of the car to finish drying as we drove along.  Our little room looked ridiculous with all that laundry hanging everywhere but it was good to have some clean clothes.

We checked our park map and decided to take a loop dirt road up to the top of a mountain to see a view of the park.  Of all the roads we took this one was the roughest and it wasn’t that bad.

A rainy/hazy morning view from Dzundzwini (600 meters)

Then we drove on to an authorized “get out at your own risk” picnic spot with the wonderful name of Babalala, it had the most amazing Sycomore Fig tree growing up in the middle of the picnic hut.  By this time it was breakfast so we enjoyed viewing this magnificent tree as we ate.

Sycomore Fig tree at Babalala

Next on our drive was to head for Shingwedzi Camp for lunch.  Remember we are also having to plan out our bathroom breaks because you can’t just stop anywhere you want.  It was amazing to see the wide variety of vegetative ecosystems as we drove along. A vast area we passed through had been burned and was fairly barren.  We saw plenty of elephants, buffalo, and some beautiful birds.  An especially fun sighting along the road was 2 adult ostriches with 5 babies.

Adult ostriches with 5 babies

Shingwedzi camp was a very nice spot with a river view but instead of being extremely high above the river you were just on a nice rise.  We didn’t see anything spectacular there but it was nice to see what another camp looked like and they had a nice display of how river potholes are made by rocks getting caught in a river current and going around in a circular fashion creating the hole while making some beautiful round river rocks at the same time.

After our lunch we drove on to the camp where we planned to stay the next two nights, Letaba, stopping to take pictures of animals, detours to watering holes off the side of the road, crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and stopping at one other picnic spot (bathroom break).  Right before we arrived we got to a bridge where you could actually get out of your vehicle so long as you stayed between two yellow lines.  Presumably, you would see any wild animal approach you on the bridge with enough time to get back into your car.  I left the car door ajar, just in case!

Sign posted on the Letaba bridge

The entire drive was 176 km but it took us essentially almost all the daylight hours of the day.

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