When we left the Kosi Bay Lake system we drove to Mabibi Beach Camp: a very nice drive through the iSimangaliso coastal reserve. The first part took us through great expanses of forest plantations but the last part was coastal forest again, which implies shorter trees and bushes encroaching on the narrow, sandy road. With a swerve left and right, we negotiated this thick growth closing in on the campsite and of course collected a few more scratches. When we booked a camp site at reception and asked the lady if the truck, size-wise, would be able to get to the site, she said: ” No problem.” And in we went.
Obviously she had not really looked at the truck or she hasn’t been down the paths for a while. Although we have learned to negotiate bush (getting some scratches here and there) by now… when the branches get really thick and will not yield like young and wily twigs, we come to a standstill. Especially when the bush on both sides is so thick we cannot even try to work our way around the thick branch. As you can guess… we came to a standstill in front of such an impossible situation. As we couldn’t make a 180 turn to go back to reception, Stefaan decided to reverse, which went well for the first 10 meters. Then we got stuck in the deep and soft beach sand. Not really stuck, but every time he wanted to take the bend, the truck slid sideways and hit some other thick branches. (which in the end punched through the fibreglass body at some places and caused damage).
Seeing we couldn’t go forward or backward, Stefaan got out and went looking for help. After a while he came back with two guys with panga and saw who took on the tree that stood in our way. It became a collaboration between the manual labour of hacking the branches and Trokkies mechanical labour pulling the branches to the side. After an hour or two we could pass! But we never made it to our assigned camp site, because there were more low hanging branches in the way. We decided to just park in the first available spot and tackle the branch issue later.
The next day we spent at the beach, where Stefaan enjoyed the most fantastic snorkeling while I roamed the beach for interesting shapes, forms and creatures. At a certain moment, while balancing myself on two fingers while trying to keep the camera still, I suddenly realised that some little fish became very curious about this new habitat (my fingers and later my foot) rising from the sand and there was a jostling for ownership of this new real estate, swimming over and under, chasing other fish away and nibbling at my foot! Very entertaining!
When Stefaan emerged from the ocean however, he was so enthusiastic about his snorkeling session, that he convinced me to come along the following day. Which I hesitantly agreed to. (Have I mentioned that I’m not the bravest of all in the sea and prefer staying on the beach?).
We also saw for the first time hoards of small crabs scurrying between beach and ocean. We would see thousands of them on other beaches in the following days.
Unfortunately the weather decided differently and, after a rainy night, morning broke cloudy and miserably. Next day it was pretty much the same, which completely put paid to our snorkeling plans.
Besides that, we started to have another problem. As Trokkie runs on solar power, no sun means no charging of batteries. Even when we discipline ourselves to skip the coffee or the toasted sarmie, the fridge and freezer run 24/7 and demand their share of power. Unfortunately this camp site was one of those that had no electricity where we could plug in while standing still. We knew that when we had booked in, but hadn’t anticipated to have three days of cloudy weather in a row. So… our battery situation became critical and we knew we had to leave and look for another camp site with electricity facilities.
That afternoon we took a last walk to the beach under a treacherous sky and were rewarded by a splendid rainbow over the ocean.
In the morning, Stefaan engaged the work guys again to cut off some more branches so we could actually get out of Mabibi Camp. We drove back through the forest plantations and had to stop a few times to allow herds of cattle to take their sweet time to free up some space on the road so we could pass.
Driving through this rural part of Kwazulu Natal, we passed again through heaps of settlements and villages with typical kraal-like family homesteads, comprising multiple abodes whereof at least one or more are rondawels. The kraals varied from the more humble habitats with wooden huts or even iron clad outhouses and shacks to more elaborate villa’s that wouldn’t be misplaced in the best suburbs in the country. And again we were struck with the sheer creativity and variety of designs for gates and fences.
We eventually arrived at Sodwana Bay National Park and found ourselves a camping spot with electricity connection, water, five steps away from the ablution block and got comfy for the next 10 days. The first week, which was before the start of the school holiday, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Not a soul around. Later, when the holiday started, there seemed only about 40 sites booked of the approx. 400 available, which resulted in us having only a few neighbours for the holiday days.
Our first afternoon we went for a walk to figure out how to get to the beach. When we flagged down an SUV to ask for directions, we got a lift from Carla and Betty, and it turned out that Carla was born and raised here and was full of practical tips. She mentioned how we could walk to the beach from the camp site, via the Mnseni Lodge instead of the road to the boat launch or day visitor’s area.
Vehicles are allowed to drive on the Sodwana beach on weekends, but the security regarding alcohol on the beach is very strict. The girls parked their SUV near the water and while they went for a swim, we ambled around on the beach, avoiding the taped off areas indicating where the leatherback turtle nests were and seeing warning signs that we would never see in Belgium! When we hitched a ride back to the campsite, they took us around to the lodge to show where we could get to the beach, dropped us off at ‘home’ and collected us again the following morning.
When we arrived at the beach again, we said our thanks and goodbyes to the girls and spent most of that day at the reef where Stefaan went to check out the snorkeling. We had lunch at the beach shack and later on decided to walk on the beach in the direction of where we guessed the campsite was. After walking up and down a few dunes looking for a path to the lodge, we eventually found the easy-peasy wooden steps leading up to the lodge and camp site, right there in plain sight. That path took us all of 15 minutes to get back home and that’s the way we went to the beach from then on. Stefaan had decided that the reef at the boat area where the girls had dropped us off in the morning, could not compare to Mabibi as a snorkeling experience and said that we could stick to “our” part of the beach with the quick walk down and up via the lodge.
And- between computer, cleaning and maintenance work at the campsite- that is pretty much what we did in the following week.
When we go for walks we usually leave our roof vent open to get a bit of an airflow inside Trokkie. The following day, when we walked to the beach via the Lodge, we did the same as always but came home to a not-so-pleasant surprise: we had had a break-in… of the monkey-kind.
We had already figured out that the vervet monkeys were curious and cheeky, even when we were at home. They’re very tuned in to human habits and know that where there are campers, there is food. Some had been quite cheeky jumping on the roof, hanging on the side window or even giving it a try to jump inside when we forgot to close the bottom door. When we chased them away they retreated to the tree and just sat there… abiding their time. So… guess what? Their time had come and while we had gone down to the beach they had gained entry via the roof vent, ripped aside the fly screen and got a party going in our home: bread, a dozen queenie cupcakes, two kg of apples, marie biscuits and more. That was actually the least of our problem: the worst was their number one’s and number two’s all over the house. This was a clean-up with a difference! We got the impression they might have had a go at the wine bottles, but hadn’t succeeded. Imagine coming home to a handful of drunken monkeys on our bed!
This was luckily the most nasty experience ever (so far). The monkeys are usually curious and cheeky, but scared enough to run away when you yell at them. Unless you’re not there, of course! Then they take the chance and get away with it! We’ve had other visitors too around the camp site: the banded mongoose. Obviously they feel more secure of not being chased and they come and scrounge around with a family of 20. Although we’ve seen them jump one meter high onto the trash cans, they don’t seem to have the same inclination to cause havoc inside caravans or tents like the monkeys. So the monkeys get chased, the mongoose not!
The following day we decided on a stay-at-home-day wo we could do some laundry where the monkeys had soiled.
Seeing that those first few days were still pre-holiday season, we had only seen some maintenance and staff vehicles, with just a mere glance of curiosity in our direction. Although we are aware that sometimes vehicles stop to have a look at Trokkie, there were no other campers on site, as far as we knew.
So, when a car stopped, our interest was piqued. However… when Stefaan said:” It’s a Jimney”, we clicked immediately: it was Marie and Marius. Seeing we had not been able to meet them at Black Rock (impossible coastal bush), we had sms’d them the moment we had set up at Sodwana. (Mabibi had no cellphone reception to speak off)
They in turn had decided to come and have supper at Mseni Lodge and when leaving, they had seen Trokkie parked all on her own on the big grass field. We had a good catch-up session with a bottle of wine until they had to hit the road again to go back to Casitas where they still lodged.
At Casitas, Stefaan had told them the Punda Maria story and how a Landcruiser had pulled us out. Seeing the Jimney is half size of a Landcruiser, they had joked about how the Jimney would pull the truck if need be. So when they left they wouldn’t leave without a mock-up rescue operation with the Jimney pulling the truck! Good fun!
On our first walk at Mabibi a few days earlier, we had seen hundreds of crabs scurrying to and from the ocean, but by the time we had come back the following morning- Stefaans snorkeling day- they were nowhere to be seen. When we now walked on the Sodwana Beach, there they were again: in their hundreds or possibly thousands, depending how far you would walk.
Seeing that Stefaan was a bit disappointed with the snorkeling in Sodwana, we took the time to get up and personal with the crabs.
When we walked along the shoreline and they could see (or feel?) us coming there was this wild dash into the surf. The odd one that we could corner on the beach for a closer look was either handicapped or eventually escaped in a wide arch around us. The beach was covered with crab-hieroglyphics in the sand and their little volcano-mound-homes popped up all over the beach like the pockmarked landscape of the Coober Pedy opal diggers in the Australian outback.
Our last afternoon we left the crabs to their own devices and walked further on the beach towards a distant rocky reef. Some rock pools looked like the circular eroded rocks we had seen at Bourke’s Luck and others showed- what looked to us- fossilized shells trapped in the rock.
We walked back to Trokkie when the sun was almost down and enjoyed our last sunset in the Sodwana Bush.
The following day we would leave for Lake St Lucia. (our next story)
(video will follow soon)
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