At 6.30 I walked down to the lake, having been thwarted the night before by the post 6pm hippo curfew.
I worked out that ctric ence was a truncated sign for electric fence and gingerly stepped over the wires.
I could see the pelicans drifting across the lake like avian sailing vessels powered by the breeze.
No sign of any hippos, just as well. Two young local dogs spotted me from the nearby resort owners house and care out to play. A little too lively as it happened so I beat a hasty retreat back to the resort followed by the hounds who were joined by their mother.
Back at the resort I ordered wheetabix, tea and an omelette for us both. The tea was milky and hot milk was served with the cereal. My choice didn’t agree with Heathers tum unfortunately.
We set off after paying $210 for the excursions meeting Chris our guide for the day, with Gerald doing the driving. Chris is a gentle academic soul and we soon warmed to him.
We drove to the Crater Lake Game Sanctuary which we reached despite a deep puddle section which had already taken a victim of the local bakery delivery van, abandoned as stuck.
We got out of the vehicle and went by foot once a fair way inside the park. A brilliant experience walking in the bush, seeing tracks of a variety of animals, hearing the birds and identifying the vegetation.
Thinking how spoiled we were we spotted our first giraffe – mother and child. Then a host of impala, as well as warthogs – Heather’s favourite. We saw and heard the African booboo bird and then saw our first Fish Eagles- a beautiful sight and we saw them land in trees near their nests and call each other loudly.
We turned back at the abandoned aardvark burrow and soon came across a herd of healthy looking zebra.
What a morning! More impala including a herd where the lead male normally alone was being targeted by two other males joining the group. A fight was predicted by Chris although we didn’t see it.
We got back in the vehicle and were driven up towards the crater rim viewpoint where we walked the last 800-900 meters uphill to enjoy the stunning views over the salt water lake that the reserve was named after.
Rain had threatened all morning but not arrived and as we looked down in to the crater we could see the resort and restaurant which we were booked in for lunch ($5 each included as an option on our excursion).
We drove down to the gate and walked down the long set of steps to arrive at around 11.45, being greeted enthusiastically with details of our four course meal. Tusker time although Heather settles for Diet Coke to help settle her stomach.
This resort was everything that Crayfish Camp wasn’t. Although we did hear that it would be $180 for the two of us a night, full board. The food was delicious, with an avocado salad to start followed by leek and potato soup and then grilled tilapia with roast potatoes and vegetables. A fruit salad was available but we passed on that and just had tea as we had already enjoyed a plentiful feast.
Spotting that there was a geocache on site placed by Sawa Sawa, we found it easily despite our lack of practice while making our way back to the van.
We drove the short distance to the entrance of the Hells Gate National Park where we left the vehicle and walked along the road through the baboon lined entrance. We had been offered the chance to hire bikes but opted for the safer shanks’ pony instead.
We walked to the site of the two volcanic plugs, one of which was rigged with climbing lines. Helmets and carabiners etc were all available although it looked tricky. The attendant hyrax (dassies to us) were showing us by example the preferred option of staying on terra firma.
We took the van further into the park to the centre just at the start of the Hells Gate canyon. Closed briefly 3 years ago when flash floods killed 6 schoolchildren out of a group of 30 who were caught in the gorge after a few days of solid rain. Chris assured us that we were at no risk although it has been raining, not enough for floods.
A small black faced vervet monkey harassed me, I think planning on stealing my phone, unless it was offering to take my photo with it. I escaped unharmed but with a lot of arm waving and shooing noises.
We hiked downhill to the riverbed and floor of the canyon walking along it in single file and occasionally on very narrow stretches which challenged both our balance and our footwear. (Our boots were still wet from the gorilla trek).
Near the end of our exploration we were overtaken by a bunch of schoolchildren all smartly dressed in red or blue uniforms. The terrain had no challenge for them even in sandals.
We turned back and went with the flow of the human stampede, resolving to watch the various movies filmed here or inspired by it, like the Lion King, Tomb Raider Two, etc.
Once out of the canyon we purchased a small soapstone elephant and hippo to celebrate at the princely sum of $5 for the two. I added a small drum Christmas decoration for a further dollar.
Our adventure over we thanked and tipped Chris and Gerald back at camp, where I showered and changed before drinks and dinner. Spaghetti bolognaise and macaroni carbonara and we treated ourselves to a bottle of wine after dinner before an early night. The nine miles walked helping to reduce the daily deficit on my target average that has been growing steadily all trip with the amount of driving involved.
The Boot man appeared with much drier boots that we exchanged for $4 in shillings.
A wonderful day that I shall remember for a long time.