The Hans Merensky

Sitting at the outside table near the braai, reflecting on an already amazing day, I can’t imagine it getting much better… and then in the distance, over a hill, I see a sandy brown coloured shape moving.  I watch closely as it moves along the horizon, the crest of a hill about three hundred meters away.  I figured it was another impala, but then the shape started to rise… higher… exposing a longer neck… a GIRAFFE?!  I reached over in silence and grabbed Gill’s arm gently… sure enough, it was a giraffe!  We grabbed our cameras and started walked large, non threatening zig zags, to get a better look.  “Ahhh, there’s another one!” Gilli said, pointing away from the one I was looking at.  Now there were two, and as we walked further, another appeared, then another, and then we finally spotted the legs of the fifth one from under a tree it had it’s head amongst, eating the highest leafy branches!  FIVE GIRAFFES… What a way to wrap up an incredible day!

I’m spending three nights in my own huge room in a country club house on the Hans Merensky Country Club Estate, in Phalaborwa (Palla-bora).  We’re about 600km away from the suburb of Buccleuch (Buhkloo), and drove though extreme amounts of rain!

We arrived yesterday, Friday, March 11, mid afternoon, and were greeted by vervet monkeys in the driveway of house #314. The Estate is huge, and shares a fence with Kruger National Park, where we’re headed after our stay here. We’re staying in a beautiful house, one of many private homes on the Estate, which borders the huge golf course.   After unpacking, Gilli and I sat outside and talked, sipping on our cold drinks.  We enjoyed a quiet night, a delicious chopped veggie and biltong salad, and headed to bed relatively early.  I was relaxed and at peace, so full of gratitude.

I didn’t sleep as well as I hoped, probably a combination of excitement and baboons and monkey’s making a racket on the roof and in the trees outside.  The impala and hyenas also make quite remarkable noises, and aren’t what I’m used to hearing!  Having said that, the bed is extremely comfortable, and I know I’ll sleep much better tonight.

Gilli woke me up shortly after 6:30am, as we’d agreed on an early start to head out for a long walk around the Estate.  The area around here is incredibly dry, and soaked up the rain that poured all night long.  The rain hasn’t stopped when we got up, but seemed as if it was trying to clear.  Outside of one of the bedroom windows, about a dozen impala were hiding from the rain, munching on the wet grass.  They’re so cute!!  We made a pot of tea and sat outside under the veranda’s thatch roof to watch for animals and to wait for the rain to give up.

The rain eventually came to a halt, and we changed into appropriate clothing for a brisk walk around some of the perimeter of the Estate, and around some of the fairways.  We started by just following the driveway to the road, and hung a left, then another left.  We followed a rather intense barbed wire fence that ran parallel with a series of electric fences for the boundary and border of Kruger Park.  The fences aren’t so much for the animals as they are for poachers.

Our eyes were peeled for animals the entire time, as they could be anywhere.  Elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, impala, buck, kudus, snakes, vervet monkeys, wildebeest, baboons, crocodiles and hippos… Around 2.5km into our walk, we finally spotted a lone giraffe, snacking on a tall tree.  I was thrilled to finally see something so authentically African!  We turned around and walked back, and adventured in and our of a few rental properties that hadn’t been filled yet.  One in particular has an access to a gorgeous dam!  Across the way, there was a little tiki style deck over the water.

We finally made our way to the course, and walked along the fairway.  There were a few carts driving around during our walk, but they were all staff, and the golfers seemed to be elsewhere.  We wandered some paths, and really took in the scenery, snapping photos along the way. Walking down a pathway beside one dam, we heard what sounded like water being blown out of a blowhole… A HIPPO?! Not this close, we thought, those things can be really dangerous!  Sure enough, within another few steps, to our left, we were within two meters of two MASSIVE hippos that were in the water!  We didn’t give ourselves enough time to snap a photo, instead we just picked up our pace and got ourselves to a safer vantage point!  Wow did our heartbeats speed up! We got to a place we could snap some photos, and continued on.  We saw multiple crocodiles, legavaans (like huge lizards), and even a grotesquely large black python that seemed to be drowning something in the water.

What a morning!  By the time we got back, it was around 10am, and Gill had received a message from her husband John that said he would be there shortly.  John arrived around 11am, and we sat outside for a while enjoying the cool breeze.  John had just spent a week working in the Congo, and was definitely in need of some down time.  Sitting outside visiting, John spotted a mother warthog and her four babies coming down the fairway.  They made their way right down in front of our house, for optimal viewing!

Before lunch, Gilli and I wanted to take the golf carts out for a spin with John to show him around where we’d been and what we’d seen!  This was so much fun, Gill and John in their own cart, and me to my own.  Golf carts are never ballsy enough, are they…?  – But still a helluva good time!  Especially driving down large fairways in a golf course in AFRICA, with the chance of seeing any of their native animals in the wild.  Basically heaven.

We saw the hippos again, only were far more prepared this time.  We got really close to some of the vervet monkeys that lined one of the narrow bridges we had to cross in the carts, which made to squeal out of a combination of fear and anticipation, hoping that they’d leave me and my cart alone!  They’re so cute, but can also be quite a nuisance!

Parking the carts, we all agreed that hunger was starting to get to us, and we decided to go out for lunch at a place just down the road.  We ate lunch at a Portuguese restaurant, with exceptionally good prices for everything.  We made a trip to the grocery store, then came back for the afternoon. That’s when the giraffes appeared, and I went from a 10/10 to over the top happy.

Dinner was traditional South African sausage, chicken thighs, and another version of the delicious biltong salad that Gill made.  We talked about a variety of different things, and then we all called it a night.

After a day like that, seeing giraffes, warthogs, hippos, legavaans, vervet monkeys, baboons, crocodiles, impala, and hearing various others … I wonder what tomorrow has in store?

A xo

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