Dave Bristow (author of our African Icons Book), Pat and I headed up to Kruger National Park in the north-eastern part of South Africa for the next leg of our book shoot. One of the “obvious” icons of Africa, Kruger National Park, with an area of just under 2 000 000 Ha or about 4 800 000 acres is vast by any standards. When you look at the so called Greater Kruger, which includes the private game reserves to the west of the National Park and well as the adjacent conservation areas in Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north, it turns into the world’s greatest animal kingdom.
Stories of the Kruger National Park abound and much has been written about it. TV Bulpin’s books are always a great read and cover many aspects of the park and early explorers in the region. Some are funny, others are about heroes and villains. Some though, are “spooky” like the tale about an Englishman who went hunting in the valleys of the northern Lebombo Hills and shot seven elephants for their ivory. It was customary in those times to leave the tusks in the elephant for a few days after the animal had died so that they could be easily removed. After this period had elapsed the hunter went to collect his ivory and never returned. His horse did, riderless, but it died shortly after the incident. The local boers feared entering the forest where the Englishman went missing, thinking that his ghost on a white horse was still there, protecting his ivory.
There are also stories of tragedy and sadness but there is one that Pat and I picked up when we were researching our book called Tuli – Land of Giants. And it’s a tragedy in the same way that it’s a tragedy to discover, when you are very young, that there is no Father Christmas, no fairies in the bottom of the garden, no gnomes, no easter bunny and that it’s your mom and dad that bring the money and not the tooth fairy. Sad but true…
This one involves Jock of the Bushveld, that great hero of the lowveld that had so many adventures with his owner Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick who, was not only a writer but also worked as a store-man, prospector’s assistant, journalist and ox-wagon transport rider. While doing our research for our Tuli Book we cam across a book called Veld Express by Harry Zeederberg, published by Howard Timmins in 1971. The author, a descendant of the famous family of stage coach owners, tells of many stories and adventures experienced by the intrepid transport riders and it’s in a caption to one of the photographs that we came across this rather sad piece of information. I quote the caption in full: “This photograph, taken outside the firm’s offices in Pretoria, is likely to cause a controversy. It shows Percy Fitzpatrick with his dog, and, behind him, Rider Haggard. In the early days, every transport rider had at least two dogs, and none of Fitzpartick’s contemporaries could specifically remember “Jock”, or his unusual qualities. These were certainly never discussed among the transport riders of the period.”
Could it be true? Was Jock perhaps a fictional dog that was created by Fitzpatrick to encompass all the adventures he had with a number of his dogs? What do you think?
This in no way spoilt our visit to Kruger or to the delightful Jock Safari Lodge in the southern part of Kruger National Park. The idea for Jock Safari Lodge was realised by the descendants of the Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Niven Families. Funds from the trust of Sir Fitzpatrick were used to build the lodge in the area close to where the history of Fitzpatrick & his dog Jock, took place. The southern boundary is the old Voortrekker road, the transport route for supplies from the Delagoa Bay (now Maputo) to the gold fields at Pilgrims Rust. The Jock concession in the park is the same as the side profile of Jock the dog.
We were delighted about spending 5 nights at Jock Safari Lodge and even more so when, soon after Pat and I arrived (Dave was a little late) Ari, the chef and F&B manager approached us to discuss our dinner requirements. He mentioned aubergines. Dave hates aubergines. He hates aubergines in capitals with neon lights and so we briefed Ari. Dinner then became:
- Starter: Braised aubergine with capers and aubergine pate’, or, aubergine soup
- Main: Chicken, camembert and bacon stack with aubergine and brandy sauce
- Sweet: Crispy crystallized aubergines with cinnamon spice.
Dave arrived a little later, full of joie de vivre and looking quite chuffed with himself. Ari presented the dinner menu with a flourish to a now quite green looking David. I must admit that Dave has quite a, er, quaint turn of phrase when he puts his mind to it.
We loved our stay at Jocks. Our guide and ranger, Estiaan Houy was extremely knowledgeable and committed to getting us the finest opportunities for photography, Ari ensured that we gained weight (not good) and the GM, Louis Strauss, made our stay more comfortable than we would have thought possible. Well done to you and your teams and a big thanks.