A letter of apology to Kruger National Park s Orpen Camp MzansiBride

Winona Griggs

A Note of Regret to Kruger National Park’s Orpen Camp

If you’re wondering what this is all about, don’t worry, I’ll fill you in. You see, there’s something I need to get off my chest, even though technically, no apology is necessary. But there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here, and I believe in sharing those lessons whenever possible.

Alright, listen up. I gotta tell you something: just because you’ve been places doesn’t mean you’re automatically a great traveler. It should, but trust me, sometimes it doesn’t work that way. The real seasoned travelers, the ones who know what they’re doing, have something special called “foresight”. Now, let me tell you a story about my last trip to Orpen Camp in the Kruger National Park. I was there with photojournalist Dylan Kotze to write a story about the camp for MzansiBride… and guess what? Neither of us had any of that “foresight” stuff.

So, we arrived at Orpen pretty late on a Friday. We managed to get in before the gate closed, but it was way too dark to set up our caravan properly. We just kind of threw ourselves inside for the night. I had to get creative and make this makeshift sleeping bag out of a canvas roll and used a ski jacket as a foot blanket. Yeah, it was a pretty rough night.

The next day, I had the pleasure of going on an amazing walk with two of your rangers, Thomas and Mishak. They showed me all sorts of fascinating things that you can find in the bush. We learned about plants that you can use to clean your teeth, trees that have edible parts, and even how to make tools from natural materials. It was such an interesting experience that made me appreciate the wilderness even more.

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After our walk, we set up our trailer in no time, thanks to the daylight. Then, we decided to take a drive around the Talamati Loop, just to explore the area. On our way back, we stopped by your Parks Shop and got two of the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen. We were planning to cook them until they were perfectly rare and enjoy some cold beers while watching the sunset. It sounded like a great plan until I realized we had a problem:

I didn’t pack any of the essentials. No table, no dishes, no silverware (just a teaspoon). I even forgot to bring a caravan adapter, torches, tongs, or warm clothes. It’s not a huge disaster, and we can find alternatives. Our cellphones doubled as torches, we used sticks as tongs, and our fingers served as forks. I even managed to slice open a roll with my thumbs. We were making do with what we had, like we were being tested on our resourcefulness. But soon enough, I realized that we forgot one important thing: chairs.

So, you’re at a braai, enjoying the company, but eventually, your legs get tired and you need to take a seat. Sure, you could try to MacGyver a pair of tongs out of a stick and some meat, but when it comes to making chairs out of a tree with a teaspoon, that’s a whole new level of resourcefulness.

That’s why we thought it would be easier to find an all-in-one solution, something that has been keeping campers and caravanners cozy on chilly nights for ages: Sedgwick’s Old Brown Sherry. With a R50 note in hand, I hopped into the Land Rover and headed back to your main camp to find the solution. I parked the car and walked toward the campsite, determined.

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And that’s when I spotted them: two chairs with iron frames and wooden slats. They sat there, all alone, leaning against the shop wall. It was as if they were pleading for someone to sit on them. I may not speak chair language, but I swear I heard one of them whisper, “We’re freezing. We’d love to feel the warmth of someone’s bum.” Without thinking, I loaded both chairs into the back of my Land Rover, almost like I was kidnapping them.

I drove back to our caravan at Maroela Camp, obeying the park’s speed limit. As soon as I took the chairs out of the car, we gathered around the fire and enjoyed delicious fillets on our well-rested rear ends. At one point, Dylan turned to me and asked, “But where’s the sherry?”

So, here’s the thing: I went ahead and returned your chairs the next day. You didn’t have a clue, but that’s not really the point. The real point is that because we weren’t properly prepared, I resorted to a life of crime. I’m sorry for snatching your chairs. Now, if we can just brush aside the whole “chair-borrowing” incident, there’s a valuable lesson here that I want to share with all the camping enthusiasts out there, whether you’ve already experienced it or you’re planning to go camping in the future: Be ready, think ahead, bring chairs … or at the very least, make sure you have a bottle of Old Brown Sherry.

By the way, did you know that you can read the full article on Orpen Camp in the December edition of MzansiBride? It’s worth checking out!

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