Trip Start Jun 14, 2011
70Trip End Sep 21, 2011
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> We got up with the sun again..that is one of the things I love about this place, the air in the morning and the smell of the bush, the sound of the birds and the heat of the sun as it wakes up to greet another day. At 6 A.M Andrew came to the house and got us and a land rover pulled up to get us. Olof was driving, he is another lodge owner in the Guernesey reserve and he was the one to take us on this mornings drive. Olof was great, he was very talkative and shared so much with us that we had not learned on the other drives. This drive was at the Jackelberry private game reserve and it is adjacent to Thornybush. He knew we had seen the big 5 so there was no rush in trying to find them all but instead with slowly trekked through the bush and he taught us about the bird life and the smaller animals and plants. Before you knew it we had ended up in a whole herd of water buffalo's, one of the big five and there were many young buffalos as well. This was by far the largest herd we had encountered and we were right in the midst of it. It was very humbling and we had just talked about how aggressive and unpredictable buffalo are. This whole experience has just been so amazing. Sitting there in the middle of the bush, my arm around my Maija and looking out over these animals protecting their young, glaring at us.
> We stayed there for a long while and just admired and after a while the animals seem to get used to your presence and go about their day. We drove to a watering whole where there was a hippo and a crocodile reaching their necks toward the sunrise. After about 2 hours or so Olof had to stop to go to the bathroom and we stopped the vehicle and he walked away and as he walked away a giant Elephant mother came through the bush walking right towards us, we can not believe our luck on these drives. Following the big Mama came the hole herd of elephants, the matriarch was not happy about us being there as her family was coming through so she stopped in front of our truck and flapped her ears and made a very loud trumpeting sound. She was so close to us she was touching our tracker and the whole vehicle was moving. Absolutely fantastic. She stood there while her young "boys" passed by followed by the rest of her family. When she realized we were calm and no threat she decided to move on and push down a tree. The Elephant population in Africa has boomed and there is not enough room for them to roam. THey eat their way though bush and have a health reproductive system. Kruger national Park actually shoots over 400 elephants per year. It is so sad, there must be a better way?
> We waited here until the herd had moved on and we had some coffee and cookies. We were about to leave the game reserve when they spotted something and we turned back into the bush, we crept slowly up the road and came upon a head and half a body of a wilderbeast, there we several lionesses guarding their recount kill and vultures were starting to circle. This was a fresh kill and the lioness's had eaten until they were stuffed, but they now had to protect their kill from the vultures. THey were on high alert and I am not sure how we got so close as they did not look very friendly. I felt so bad for Maija and she Hated being so close to the lions and I totally get i, but it was really something being part of nature in such a way and see the circle of life in full.
> We thoroughly enjoyed our last game drive of this trip and we returned to the lodge completely satisfied and fulfilled. We were greeted by another wonderful Pezulu breakfast, a huge home made omelet and freshly brewed coffee. Awesome.
> We spent some time just baking in the sun and the kids were swimming and jumping on the trampoline and playing with the resident dogs.
> In the afternoon Andrew picked us up and took us to Maholoholo rehabilitation centre.
> Maholoholo was better than what I had expected. Just like Jessica and just like the rest of Africa it exceeded expectation. We went here mostly for the kids and way to spend the afternoon. It is a rehabilitation centre that takes in wild animals that has been caught in traps, poisoned, captured and abused or suffer other "man made" afflictions. Birds while have broken their wings on power lines or hit by cars and more. Their main intention is to put these animals back into the wild if this is impossible then they will keep them there as ambassadors for their species and teach other about them and what happened to them and how it can be prevented in the future. It was a very educational experience, and we got to see some things that we had not yet seen. We saw the almost extinct African serval cal, the centre had breed and released over 200 of these cats back into the wild. We also met with wild dogs and hyenas, honey badgers and more. There was one cheetah that had been found as a small small cub and someone had brought him in and raised him by hand, but when he was big they could no longer take care of him and called the centre for help instead of shooting him. They would never be able to release him back as he was too tame and would never make it. We got to pet him and meet with him and it was pretty amazing. We also finally got to see the black rhino and feed some vultures and pet an eagle.
> It was a great afternoon and once back at the lodge we went up to our watering hole for a drink and the kids visited with the bush babies and Jonas and I watched the sun set.
> We had our last dinner in the Boma and jonas had requested the Boutie (advices national dish) that was one of our favorite things served. The ladies in the kitchen actually changed the menu and made the Boutie for him, they are amazing. This dish is delicious it is similar to our sheppards pie but with very different spices. We enjoyed wonderful conversations by the fire and we really did not want to leave.
> I had promised Mikael that him and I would sleep outside under the stars. It is the most amazing experience, and the linens and blankets here are the most comfortable I have ever had and the warm air and the stars it is all so dreamy. We cuddled and chatted for a long while counting stars and he fell a sleep while I was still talking to him. It reminded me so of when he was little and how I miss my little baby boy, he is getting so big so fast and I want to slow him down, but he is running into his future with such a speed it is making me dizzy. I awoke several time through out the night but I still had such a restful sleep. I would lay there for a moment looking and savoring the moments before drifting off again. I am sure that if someone would have seen me sleeping that night they would think I was nuts, as I know I had a permanent smile on my face.
> I awoke again before sunrise and laid there still for about an hour as the morning broke and shortly after that Maija joined me.
> I could not believe that this was our last morning here.
> We headed for breakfast and the staff made the children a special breakfast and we spoke at length with Mariska and Andrew and the wonderful owners Lydia and Claud. THis day was actually the day 10 years ago that they first came to to this place for a visit, then 4 years later they bought it and moved here. They are all such beautiful people, inside and out and we have come to care for them all deeply as this place. It has profoundly touched me. It is truly the first time in years that I have felt at piece. My nightmares have vanished here. My insomnia is cured. My mind usually racing 100 miles per hours has slowed. I am still in quite a bit of pain and I have been most of this trip, but it somehow seems more bearable here.
> I really did not feel ready to leave. There were tears and long hugs and promises made to keep in touch before we piled in to the jeep and Andrew whisked us away towards Nelspruit airport. Nelspruit is about a 2 hour drive (we landed at the closer airport) but this one had direct flights to cape town. We got to see a lot on the way to the airport. One of my favorite things here is the road side barbers, they are everywhere and set up in little shacks and young and old sit on a little stool and get shaved or a haircut. The other thing is, how on earth can these women have such a strong neck? they carry anything and everything on their heads. It's amazing.
> I truly love this Africa.