Cillers and I recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a trip to the Kruger National Park (KNP). Instead of flying there, we decided to drive. Brave, I know. Especially with our roads riddled with holes, making it look like Swiss cheese. And, well, taking on all those kilometres by ourselves. But, in our youthful stubbornness (or is it energy?), we stuck to our plan.

For months we did our research; choosing the camps we will be staying at with much anticipation and excitement, and planning which routes to take to and from the KNP. Both Cilliers and I have been to the KNP before, but not as a couple. Cilliers has also done a lot of road tripping through South Africa with his family and he was excited to show me the abundant beauty our country has to offer.

The open road …

It was finally time to pack the car and hit the road. We decided to stick with the obvious route – the N1. We stayed over at Beaufort-West, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. In Pretoria we stayed with my grandmother and we spent some time with my dad’s family, which was pretty special. The next day we arrived at the KNP and spent the first two nights at Crocodile Bridge camp. During our time in the KNP we stayed in SANPark accommodation, which cannot be accused of being glamorous, but rather extremely rustic. However, that is all part of the fun and full KNP-experience. What wasn’t fun, was the size of the geckos … As big as a lizard, one waited for me in the shower and gave me such a fright that I started crying (I know, such a girl).

At one of the lookout points in the KNP.

Each morning we left as soon as the gates opened at 04:30. With us we had our travel mugs (filled with strong wake-up! coffee), binoculars and animal- and bird books. We also had a flask with extra coffee (obviously) and enough snacks to keep us going.

Usually, around 12:00, when the sun was high and hot we would head back to the camp. By then the animals were laying low and resting, so we did the same. We would then have lunch, take a long nap and read our books. Then around 16:00 we would drive a short route and watch the sunset. The camp gates close at 18:00 and by then we were back at our little bungalow and Cilliers would start the fire to braai, which we did every night, of course. With our gin and tonics in hand, we just sat back and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Out on a sunset drive at Lower Sabie camp.

In the bushveld it seems as if time stands still … Our days blended together and it felt like we were in our own little sun-filled bubble. And every time we saw an animal, whether it was another Impala, a grazing giraffe or the bonus of a majestic lion, I felt so amazed and filled with wonderment. It was just so such a privilege to see all these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. It felt like we were intruders, as if we were only peeking through a small window and seeing a glimpse of what is really going on. I especially felt this way whenever we saw elephants. Whether it was just a lone bull munching away, or a big herd entertaining themselves on a river bank, they took my breath away every time.

A small herd of elephants walking towards us.

A rhino grazing right alongside the road.

The African sunsets …

After a week in the KNP it was time to start our journey back to Cape Town. We decided to take a different route to try and see more of South Africa, because let’s be honest, you don’t see much driving along the N1. We drove through Golden Gate National Park and spent the night on a beautiful farm outside Clarens. Our next stop was the mystical Graaff-Reinet with the beautiful and rather famous church, cute and soulful shopfronts, and streets lined with big, watchful trees. I fell madly in love with this part of our country and Cilliers and I decided that our next big local holiday will be in and around the Karoo and Golden Gate Park.

Somewhere in the Golden Gate Park.

Graaff-Reinet’s church.

All smiles at the Gariep Dam.

For our last night on the road, I wanted to spend some time at the ocean. After all that time in the bushveld, we needed some ocean air. We are Capetonians, after all! So we spent the night in Mossel Bay, with our room overlooking the ocean. The moment we stopped there, and I breathed in that salty air, my heart swelled with happiness. For all my life I have associated the beach/ocean with “holiday”, and that nostalgia and feeling of summer holidays filled my heart. It is the same with smelling sunscreen – it immediately puts a smile on my face and brings back flashes of tanned skin, camping, and our whole family sharing an umbrella on the beach.

We’ve been truly blessed to have gone on this holiday, to have gotten home safely without any incidents, to have celebrated another wonderful year of marriage, and to start the next one with our love tanks filled and our souls well rested.

As this was our first long road trip together, I have made a list of all the essentials we depended on daily.

  • Good music. We packed our portable speaker (JBL Charge) and listened to all our favourite playlists, singing along loudly. This made the time and long stretches of road fly by!
  • Snacks. Lots of it. We tried to keep the snacks on the healthy side, so we nibbled on rice cakes or Provitas, almonds, dried fruit, and healthy rusks. And lots of water of course.
  • Travel mugs. This was a life-saver! We filled our mugs with coffee every morning and we had another big flask as a reserve.
  • A cellphone charger for the car. This came in handy, because playing all that music drained our phones’ batteries.
  • A camera. To capture all those Instagram-worthy moments.
  • Sunblock/sunscreen. Do not underestimate the sting of the sun through the car window!
  • Toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand-santitiser. Because, well, public bathrooms are never fun.
  • Good company. For obvious reasons.

Lastly, I just want to thank my sweet, funny, adoring husband. Thanks for being the best partner, in every sense of the word – road trip, travel, and life. Here’s to all the years and road trips to come!

Hearts full and souls rested! (Featuring my no-makeup face I sported all holiday long.)

Love and light,

Katryn