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My South African adventure October 4, 2010

Posted by Jenny in Boer War, nature, travel, wildlife.
Tags: , ,

I look at the grave of a fighter from the Harrismith commando while Arnold gives historical background. Photo by Sonja Myburgh.

It’s difficult to summarize my recent trip to South Africa in a sentence or two. Let’s try this: I visited battlefields of the Boer War, but more importantly, I became friends with a group of smart, interesting, talented, experienced people who bring unparalleled knowledge and dedication to the subject. I visited Kruger National Park, but more importantly, I glimpsed a world teeming with forms of life that seemed exotic and lovely, inventively formed and beautifully designed.

Residents of Kruger

I plan to write about my experiences in a series of posts. In this first one—an introduction—I want above all to thank Arnold Van Dyk and his fiancee Sonja Myburgh for their incredible hospitality and generosity. They took me into their home in Bloemfontein, treated me like family, and at the conclusion of the battlefield tour drove me all the way over to their vacation place on the border of Kruger. There, we joined forces with their friends Klaas and Carol van der Westhuizen to drive over large sections of the southern part of the park. These are all “old hands” at the Kruger experience who gave me all kinds of information about wildlife.

Arnold and Sonja at the Skukuza restcamp in Kruger

In their “real lives,” Arnold is a radiologist with a thriving practice in Bloemfontein. Sonja has a background in radiography and information technology, and travels to places inside and outside South Africa to provide training and consulting. She is also president of the Bloemfontein Camera Club and a very talented photographer. I will be borrowing some of her photos in my posts.

Sonja has the camera lenses you need for high-quality wildlife photography

We viewed the terrain of the battles…

Route of ascent for commandos at Spionkop

…and learned about the sequences of events.

Map of battle at Elandslaagte

At many cemeteries and memorials, we placed flowers to honor the fallen.

At the Ladysmith cemetery

We saw graves both simple…

Graves at Rietfontein

…and elegant.

Grave at Platrand

Over on the border of Kruger, our party of five relaxed on the stoep, from where we saw elephant and buffalo, hyena and kudu.

Arnold's place looks from the Sabiepark Private Nature Reserve into Kruger

Inside Kruger, we saw everything from monkeys…

Vervet monkey

…to zebra and blue wildebeest.

Near the Mlondozi dam

I’ll be sharing more details over the next weeks.


1. MIKE D - October 4, 2010

Hi Jenny,
Sounds like the trip was everything you expected!

Jenny - October 4, 2010

Yes, and even more so. For example, I knew I’d see elephants at Kruger, but to actually go on a night drive and suddenly spot a giant, unearthly elephant just a few yards away, quietly pulling off the vegetation with its trunk, is something hard to describe.

2. Thomas Stazyk - October 5, 2010

Looks like a fantastic trip. I look forward to hearing more about it.

3. brian - October 6, 2010

What a an amazing trip! It’s hard to imagine a better experience than that. To stay in Kruger and rove around with veteran wildlife photographers…wow. Did your hosts have family connections to the Boer War or were they just history buffs?

One thing though. Are you sure that was an elephant you saw? I mean, they are known to inhabit the Kruger region but just glimpsing an animal while driving in the dark you might have been mistaken. A good way to identify them is the elongated upper incisors and enlarged ears, assuming you got a clear enough view.

Jenny - October 6, 2010

I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that every Afrikaner has family connections to the Boer War, and anyone of English descent whose family has been in the country for three or more generations probably does too. The conflict was “total war” in the sense that every single individual living in the former Boer republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State) was affected, whether male or female, young or old, white or black, and whether actually in combat or not, as well as most people living in the former English colonies (Cape Colony and Natal).

You’re right—I may have been mistaken about the elephant. It was probably some other very large gray-colored animal that has a long trunk and tusks. By the way, I believe my credibility about the “panther incident” will be enhanced when I supply photos of the lions and leopards that I saw!

4. Roon - October 6, 2010

Welcome back to virtual space and well done, Jenny, you lucky, clever thing you. Sounds as if you saw quite a few things I never got to in over 28 years of living down there! I’ll be looking forward eagerly to further postings on the many aspects of South Africa – past and present – you encountered.

Hamba gathle!

Jenny - October 6, 2010

Thank you, Roon. I owe it all to you.

5. Roon - October 7, 2010

By the way, Jenny, what’s this “panther incident” you refer to? Sounds intriguing…

Jenny - October 7, 2010

Go here and you’ll find a whole account of my experience of seeing what I believe to have been a panther in the Smoky Mountains. Thing is, there haven’t been any officially confirmed sightings of panthers there in modern times, though they certainly existed there up to the early 20th century. Brian is very knowledgeable about the Smokies (he has been present on a couple of my best recent off-trail adventures), and he was politely skeptical about my sighting, which occurred when I was hiking by myself at dawn. I believe I did see one, simply because the animal I saw did not resemble anything else, including a bobcat. Other people claim to have seen them in recent times as well.

6. Rick S - October 8, 2010

Excellent – sounds and looks awesome . . . I look forward to the future posts!

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