24 Jun 175 Leopard Street | Episode 1
Stories of living in the beautiful Kruger National Park.
Many people have asked and I am sure as many people, if not more, are curious. How’s lockdown life in the Kruger Park?
I can only really speak for myself and my family’s experience and how life has been at our residence in the Skukuza staff village.
All over social media, I have noticed people sharing pictures of wildlife claiming back towns and residential areas. How much of it is true or false, I don’t know. However, one thing is for certain, it is definitely the case here in the village!
After day 4 of lockdown, a pride of lions moved in on the golf course. Now, this is usually the territory of our staff village hyena clan which is about 21 hyenas strong. The vocalisation between the clan every night has been insane. The hairs on your neck stand up straight. The turf war is on.
One night my husband forgot to lock the main gate to our property. Firstly, it was 23h30, husband fast asleep. Secondly, the rules state that your gate has to be locked by sunset, or else you are slapped with a hefty fine (we are grateful for these rules because being eaten by an animal does not really appeal to us). Thirdly, we have had many hyena experiences in our garden where they chew the girl's toys and Scootootoo bikes. (It’s not fun telling the girls in the morning that their toys have been used as chew toys).
On this particular night, the bikes were outside in a very dark corner and the blow-up pool was up. I had to weigh up my options of what would be more dangerous and life-threatening to me. Go out into the darkness and lock the gate… or collect their toys and hope for the best. After a bit of thinking I decided the best solution was to lock the gate. I was going to do it. I was about to venture out into the dark and hopefully not bump into any unwanted garden visitors on the way.
As I opened the door the whole neighbourhood was asleep, not a single light on. I was all alone on this mission. Of course, I was having an argument in my mind with my beloved husband and if I was to survive this, he most definitely was not going to. So mumble mumble stumble stumble in the dark armed with my walking stick, pink slippers and a figure-hugging nightie (thank goodness the neighbours were actually asleep) I stepped out of the safety of the doorway and into the eerie night and took brave steps towards the gate at the bottom of our yard. One step at a time, cautiously listening and remaining very very quiet I got there unscathed. Success!
Now, due to some previous incidents where wild animals had managed to push and nudge the gate open, we have had to reinforce the locking mechanism of the gate with a metal chain and carabiner. Picture the scene… I’ve been quiet as a mouse the whole way here and now I am faced with a metal chain and the task of safely securing it. There I was, walking stick under one arm, metal chains in both hands trying to line up the gate, quietly unplait the twisted chain, then plait it through the two gates and lock with the carabiner. It took a bit of effort and I had quietly completed my task. Success! I’m now pretty chuffed with myself for getting it right and I let go of the gate and whooooosh – it just flings open… SIGH… I had obviously outsmarted myself with my chain plaiting skills…
Right, let’s do this properly I tell myself. I look around, the night is quiet, the lights are out, the neighbours are still asleep thank goodness! Quietly I begin unplaiting the chain from the one gate it was attached to. At this very moment, all hell breaks loose about 100m down the road. It is hyena cackling and yelping and lions growling and snarling! OH NO! Two hyenas ran right past the gate. Now the pressure is on! I was fearing that the lions would chase after the hyenas and hands shaking, chains clanging, I just could just not get the flippen carabiner to lock!! So much for quiet, there was now a symphony of metal coming directly from my gate. Yanking the chain, pulling the gates together, and fighting the carabiner while waiting for the lions to come past… this was not my finest moment. After about 2 minutes of struggling, which felt more like 10 minutes, I managed to get it hooked in and locked up. I don’t remember getting back to the safety of my abode, I might have run, I might have casually sauntered back, I might have even flown, we will never know but the task was complete. The gate was locked, the toys and scootootoos were safe and most importantly my family was safe. I did well, my husband would be proud, I’m sure of it.
I put the kettle on for a cup of tea whilst listening to the noisy dispute reverberating across the village. Picturing the scene as it unfolded, two archrivals battling it out over territory in the streets of the staff village – but not in my yard!
What an adrenaline filled end to my day. How lucky I am to have experienced this, but more so how lucky to be alive to share the experience.
Marli Muller is the General Manager of Rhino Post Safari Lodge and Plains Camp @ Rhino Walking Safaris and spends her days raising 2 beautiful girls in the Kruger National Park with her husband Brian, who happens to be our Executive Chef.
Keep an eye out on our blog for episode 2 of life at 175 Leopard Street.