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When my Grandad was a kid in the Kruger National Park

Original source: bushboundgirl.com

One of the best things about a holiday in the Kruger is the feeling that I am partaking in a family tradition – my Grandad has been going the Park since he was just a little baby, and my Dad too.

On a recent family trip, while having ‘sundowners’ at Lower Sabie rest camp, looking over the beautiful Sabie River, Grandad began telling me about his memories of the Park in the ‘old days’. I’m sure many of you/ your parents/ grandparents, have similar stories to share…

 Game Viewing…

Kruger, 1953 © Lang family archives

Kruger, 1953 © Lang family archives

“When I was a little baby, my mother and I were sitting on the back seat of the Chevy when we met a big lion in the road. In those days, motor cars didn’t have proper windows, just cellophane covers that you had to clip on at the side . The lion put his feet on the ‘running’ (step on the side of the car) and came right up and sniffed inside the car. My mother had to pick me up and put me on the other side of her. It was getting dark and the lion wouldn’t let us pass. Each time it walked around the car, my mother would have to pick me up again and move me! Eventually, we took a chance and managed to get past it. We arrived late at the camp gate, but because of what had happened to us, we didn’t get into trouble.”

GAME VIEWING IN 1930′s © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING IN 1930′s © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING © SANparks Archives

GAME VIEWING © SANparks Archives

“We hardly ever saw elephants in those days. I remember one time – we on our way to Letaba – there were lots of cars stopped in the road, and a ranger was there who said we should all get out and walk with him. We walked a little way, and there in the river bed, was an elephant. It was very exciting! Even if you saw one from miles away, it was a big event.”

[This is because there was still a lot of hunting going on,  after the hunting stopped, elephants moved back into the Park from Mozambique]

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1950′S by CECIL HOLMES © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1950′S by CECIL HOLMES © SANparks archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1930′s © SANparks Archives

GAME VIEWING IN THE 1930′s © SANparks Archives

Transport…

 

PONTOON OVER CROCODILE RIVER AT MALELANE = CIRCA 1930′s © SANparks archives

PONTOON OVER CROCODILE RIVER AT MALELANE = CIRCA 1930′s © SANparks archives
Before the Park was proclaimed (1926) people rode around on ox wagons, buggy carts, pack donkeys, horses, and used the Selati railway line. In 1927 the first road was built from White River to Pretoriuskop, connecting to the first ranger post. The first motor vehicle in the park (a model-T-Ford) was bought by ranger CR de la Porte in the mid-20′s.
The building of the road between Skukuza to Lower Sabie started in 1928. By the end of 1929, 617km of tourist roads had been built as well as three pontoons. By 1945, causeways replaced the pontoons.

PONTOON AT SKUKUZA 1935,© Lang Family archives

PONTOON AT SKUKUZA 1935,© Lang Family archives

PONTOON AT CROCODILE BRIDGE © SANparks archives

PONTOON AT CROCODILE BRIDGE © SANparks archives

 

Rest-camps…

LETABA, SEPT 1953 © Lang Family archives

LETABA, SEPT 1953 © Lang Family archives

 

© Lang Family archives

© Lang Family archives
In 1928, the first three “rest huts” were built. These ‘rondavels’ were designed according to the “Selby” style – round rondavel huts, with a gap between the wall and the roof and a small hole in the top half of the door (Have a look at the top of the picture) This was supposed to be a peephole to see if there were dangerous animals before walking out of the huts (Camps were still not fenced, and, I presume there were no man-eating-lions about) However, there were complaints that huts were too cold and that there was a lack of privacy, because people could peep in at the door! In 1931 new rondavels were built, that also included mosquito nets.

The huts didn’t have windows, but were open at the top, and there was a hole in the door. As a little kid I used to peer out at the moon, expecting to see a lion jump out at any minute! There were still no fences in those days.” [Camps were fenced for the first time in 1932]

CECIL & TESS HOLMES IN GORGE CAMP CIRCA 1957 by CECIL HOLMES

CECIL & TESS HOLMES IN GORGE CAMP CIRCA 1957 by CECIL HOLMES

LETABA HUTS WHERE CURRENT RESTAURANT IS LOCATED – JULY 1954 © SANparks archives

LETABA HUTS WHERE CURRENT RESTAURANT IS LOCATED – JULY 1954 © SANparks archives

“I remember that we used to hang outside the bathrooms in the evening and watch the ladies walkng out with their paraffin lamps that would shine through their long white nightgowns…it was very naughty!.” [In 1939 it was thought necessary for the Park to provide hot water for overnight guests, but the rule was that only ladies could have hot baths (available daily from 17:00 to 12:00) and men were entitled to showers only!]

“In those days there weren’t a lot of people visiting the Park, so they used to have communal fires. In the middle of the camp there would be a little brick wall with a sheet of corrugated iron that you cooked on, and you would make your fire underneath it. In the evenings, everyone would gather around to cook and tell stories about the animals they had seen that day. There would only be about 20 – 30 people in the camp at a time.”

Breakfast at Rabelais, 1953 – Granny & Gloria ©Lang Family archives

Breakfast at Rabelais, 1953 – Granny & Gloria ©Lang Family archives

LETABA TENTS ERECTED DURING WINTER – JULY 1954 © SANparks archives

LETABA TENTS ERECTED DURING WINTER – JULY 1954 © SANparks archives

“I remember when they put up ‘bell tents’ at Letaba. Your Granny and I stayed in one, overlooking the river. There were metal beds in them and it was so hot in the day that we couldn’t even go into them. But at night – your Granny and I were newly married – it was so cold that we had to sleep in the same single bed!”

CRAIG HOLMES IN GORGE CAMP CIRCA 1957 by CECIL HOLMES

CRAIG HOLMES IN GORGE CAMP CIRCA 1957 by CECIL HOLMES

Here is an official SANParks account of the history of the Kruger National Park 

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Rachel Lang

Hi, I’m Rach . If not adventuring in the African bush, the chances are I’m dreaming about it. My childhood played a big role in this passion as I was privileged to travel much of Southern Africa from an early age. Needless to say, I’m happiest barefoot with a sketchbook in hand – watching elephants at a water hole or listening to lions roaring around a campfire. Wildlife, children and storytelling are a big part of my life. Follow my adventures on my blog www.bushboundgirl.com

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