Back in the Day
Babbler matters, find these flowers, when it rains on Verneukpan, letter from Khartoum.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, ABOUT 60 YEARS LATER
MYRTLE MANS from Vaalpark writes: My grandmother – also Myrtle – sparked my love for the Kruger. She worked in the park from 1962 to 1968, mainly at Skukuza, Letaba and Shingwedzi. In the 1960s, staff had to multitask: Myrtle worked in the laundry, did camp inventory, manned the counter in the shop and inspected the rondavels. I was born in 1966 so I was too young to remember our visits to the park while she still worked there. But my brother Arends, who is four years older than me, says he clearly remembers being chased by a baboon at Letaba. Myrtle always told stories of how there were so many more animals in the camps in those days. Once, a pride of lions caught an antelope in front of the guests and ate it right there! My parents, Pietie and Myrna, regularly took Arends and me to the Kruger – even after Myrtle had stopped working there. (She went on to work at Mountain Zebra National Park.) Some of my earliest memories are of waiting at the gate, and the smell inside a cool rondavel. The amazing dinners at the restaurants in the park are a thing of the past. Our favourite place to eat was the Selati Train Restaurant at Skukuza. Buffalo steak was their speciality, and the train had a wonderful atmosphere. Us kids always felt grown-up eating cheese and biscuits. (The restaurant closed down in 1995 after a fire, but you can still see the locomotive next to the platform at Selati Station Grillhouse.) In the past, until about 1990, there was always a small fire at the main gates heating a kettle filled with water for tea and coffee. This was also the custom at the picnic sites. That kettle on the fire was like a welcome sign. My husband Andries and I are SANParks honorary rangers. We regularly do duty at the various camps and we take my parents there whenever possible – in 2016 we celebrated my father’s 80th birthday in the park. Our two daughters Lizette Potgieter and Cecile Mans are just as fond of the Kruger as we are. We all enjoy Letaba’s big trees and tranquillity, and we enjoy staying at Tsendze and Balule, which are smaller, rustic camps with no electricity. A lot has changed in the Kruger over the years, but I still get the same feeling every time I arrive: a feeling of anticipation about another special holiday in a truly remarkable place.
KRUGER MEMORIES. Myrtle in her uniform at Letaba, 1967. Myrtle’s daughter Myrna was 15 years old in 1955 when she camped at Lower Sabie with her uncle and aunt. This is what the main gate looked like at the time. A brochure about the train restaurant, which had things like warthog stroganoff and buffalo fillet on the menu.