The most direct route from Numbi to Skukuza is along the Napi Road (H1-1). A slightly longer route is via the Albasini Road (S3)and Doispane Road (S1). If one has a whole day at one’s disposal, an interesting choice is to take the (H2-2) to Afsaal and then north along the Malelane Skukuza Road (H3).
The Napi Road to Skukuza (H1-1)
The main road from Numbi to Skukuza is the Napi Road (H1-1) which cuts past Pretoriuskop and descends from the granite foothills into the rolling hills of mixed bushwillow woodlands south of Skukuza. Although the bush is initially quite thick and game is difficult to see, there are often rarer antelope here such as sable and eland.
Shitlhave Water Hole is a good place to stop on this road. Named after Sgt Jafuta Shitlhave, the first ranger appointed by Stevenson-Hamilton, it is the source of the Mbiyamiti River, and situated on the same belt of gabbro from which Ship Mountain protrudes. Look out for southern reedbuck and waterbuck in the tall grass around the water hole. The Napi Road takes one along the crest of the watershed that divides the two major catchment areas of southern Kruger – the Sabie and the Crocodile.
By the time one reaches the Napi Boulders (505m), the bush starts thinning out and game viewing becomes easier. The Napi Road winds past Mlaleni Hill (492m). Stop at Transport (Vervoer) Dam which marks the start of the sweetveld. There are inevitably grazers like zebra and buffalo around Transport Dam and it is also a favourite drinking spot for elephants.
Large herds of waterbuck gather here, too. Early in the day, there are often lion in the vicinity of the dam, which got its name from the Department of Transport which donated funds for its construction. The small granite koppies in the area around Transport Dam usually have klipspringer.
They like to be on the sunny side of the rocks in the morning and in the shade in the afternoon. If they are disturbed they leap away from boulder to boulder (klipspringer is Afrikaans for rock jumper) with incredible agility, and have been seen bounding up steep slopes that humans would find difficult to clamber up. Their main predators are leopards and caracals.
Jock of the Bushveld
One of South Africa’s classic books is Sir Percy Fitzpatrick’s biography of his dog, Jock, told in Jock of the Bushveld, published in 1907. Fitzpatrick, an Irish transport rider who used to take supplies between Lydenburg, Barberton and Delagoa Bay, knew the lowveld intimately.
Jock, his terrier, was his hunting companion during his trips in the bush. The plucky dog developed his own hunting style, which was to try and trip the animals he was chasing, pull them down and then grab them by the snout while Fitzpatrick took aim and shot.
Jock’s adventures included encounters with crocodiles and baboons, buffalo and kudu. There is a turn-off from Voortrekker Road before Ship Mountain which leads to the site where Jock is believed to have been born.
There are two main routes to Skukuza from Transport Dam – either the shorter route, eastward along the tarred Napi Road (H1-1), or northwards along the N’waswitshaka dirt road (S65).
The Napi Road joins the main Malelane-Skukuza road near a group of granite koppies. There is a good lookout spot at Mathekenyane (Grano Hill) as the road descends into the thorn thickets of the upper Sabie valley.
The N’waswitshaka Road (S65) dips gently through woodlands of varying intensity. There are always impala along this road, which is a good place to look out for cheetah.
Kudu have the same nine-month gestation period as humans.
Kudu ewes will give birth to their calves – which weigh 15kg on average – in dense bush and will keep them hidden for up to 30 days.
Weaning takes place at about six months, but calves will remain with the mother for up to two years.
The Sorry Story of Adolf Soltke
In the late 19th century, transport riders on the Voortrekker Road came across a young German carrying an umbrella and wearing a suit and a bowler hat in the blazing lowveld sun. Adolf Soltke was on his way to the goldfields on the escarpment to seek his fortune. The transport riders felt sorry for him and gave him a lift.
While they were encamped in the vicinity of Ship Mountain, Soltke apparently saw a lilac-breasted roller that he wanted to collect. Unfortunately, as he jumped off the wagon his shotgun went off, shattering his right leg. One of the transport riders rode 100km to try to get help and returned two days later with a drunken chemist named Doc Munroe who was unable to do much.
Two days later, a doctor arrived from Mac Mac and amputated Soltke’s leg. However, Soltke succumbed to gangrene and died the next day. He was buried under a tree at the same place where Jock of the Bushveld is believed to have been born several months later.