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BACK IN THE DAY Kruger National Park, 55 years ago
READER FRANCOIS DU TOIT from Windhoek writes: Every time I hear a tune by the American country musician Don Gibson, I’m transported back to 1962 and my first holiday in the Kruger Park.
THE DU TOITS IN SKUKUZA. From left to right: Francois, his youngest brother Louis, his father Tooi, his mother Anna and his brother Pietie.
I was in matric that year and I’d met my first love in the park, a farm girl from the town of Koppies in the Free State. My family lived in Bloemfontein at the time. On our way home from the park, we stayed with my aunt Issie Pretorius in Vanderbijlpark. She had a few Gibson records and the song “I can’t stop loving you” spoke deeply to my teenage heart!
My family, my father’s two brothers and all my cousins had spent the July school holidays at Skukuza. My father’s eldest brother, Hennie du Toit, was a prankster and he’d brought a rubber snake along to scare baboons away when they climbed on cars.
Every evening we played on the lawn in front of the restaurant and shop. At 9pm a siren sounded and all the lights were turned off. We had to make our way back to the rondavels in the dark, scattering small antelope in our path.
One night, Hennie tried to “catch” a hyena. He tied one end of a piece of twine to his big toe and the other to a mutton rib, which he put outside near the rondavel. He went to bed and almost lost his toe when a hyena did indeed show up!
Planning a visit to the Kruger? Our new, updated 2017 Kruger guide (R55) is on shelf now. Or visit winkel.weg.co.za to order a copy.