In winter, game drives usually start mid-morning at Samara. But, having experienced some spectacular sunrises during our journey through the Karoo, the hubby and I were keen to go out earlier. Much earlier. We suggested 6.30 and our ranger, clearly well-trained in the old ethos “the customer is always right”, nodded savagely. 6.30 it was.
It was a misty morning. In fact, so dense was the mist that we had to don our rain ponchos to protect ourselves from the damp in the air. It felt like being in a parallel universe, the mist swirling between the trees, all sounds muffled and nothing but a white bank of cloud surrounding us. Suddenly we heard an eerie howl up ahead. An owl, said our ranger. As we drew closer, we saw its silhouette at the top of a large tree.
After driving through a greyish ghost landscape for a while, we sensed the sun coming up. Just the slightest bit of difference in the light. Then, without warning, she rose above the mountain ridge and scattered the mist the way you blow dust off an old antique. It was spectacular!
We didn’t see much game on this drive, but the sunrise more than made this up to me. But as we were heading back towards a long-awaited hot breakfast, the mist still lingering in the river valley in front of us, we were treated to the most amazing wildlife experience. Hundreds and hundreds of Blue Cranes; the males performing elaborate dances, prancing and leaping in the air to attract the females. The air was vibrating with their low-pitched, rasping song. As we edged nearer, they suddenly took flight. What a beautiful image; hundreds of Blue Cranes flying towards the mountain with mist swirling below them and the pale morning sky above.
As we returned back, invigorated by the beautiful morning, we were greeted with a bowl of hot water to wash our hands in, and fresh towels. After breakfast, a long and lazy affair of fresh fruit, toast and a fry-up that was washed down with several cups of steaming tea, we retreated back to our spacious room for the most indulgent mid-morning nap.
After lunch, we had time to chill on the large wrap-around porch, delightfully decorated with treasures from the reserve. It is amazing how beautiful old skulls, antlers and twigs can look when arranged by someone with an eye for it.
The afternoon drive was more eventful on the game side, with giraffe, kudu, jackal and red hartebeest to mention a few. But it was still the nature experience that blew me away. Perfectly shaped shepherd’s trees against the arid winter veld, some of them as old as 800 years. A black eagle soaring high over the mountains that faded into blue and grey in the distance. And the Grand Finale; the sun setting in a blaze, and the sky changing from orange to pink before eventually fading into an amazing starlit canopy.
After a few drinks and a good banter with our fellow guests in the bar, dinner was served in front of a large, crackling log fire in the dining room. There is nothing like traditional Karoo fare made with the freshest ingredients and a good dose of love after a day in nature. We retired to our room early, eager to make the most of our beautiful private veranda where we sipped sherry and watched the stars until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer.