The Wilderness Family
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When Kobie Krüger, her game-ranger husband and their three young daughters moved to one of the most isolated corners of the world - a remote ranger station in the Mahlangeni region of South Africa's vast Kruger National Park - she might have worried that she would become engulfed with loneliness and boredom. Yet, for Kobie and her family, the seventeen years spent in this spectacularly beautiful park proved to be the most magical - and occasionally the most hair-raising - of their lives.
Kobie recounts their enchanting adventures and extraordinary experiences in this vast reserve - a place where, bathed in golden sunlight, hippos basked in the glittering waters of the Letaba River, storks and herons perched along the shoreline, and fruit bats hung in the sausage trees.
But as the Krugers settled in, they discovered that not all was peace and harmony. They soon became accustomed to living with the unexpected: the sneaky hyenas who stole blankets and cooking pots, the sinister-looking pythons that slithered into the house, and the usually placid elephants who grew foul-tempered in the violent heat of the summer. And one terrible day, a lion attacked Kobus in the bush and nearly killed him.
Yet nothing prepared the Krugers for their greatest adventure of all, the raising of an orphaned prince, a lion cub who, when they found him, was only a few days old and on the verge of death. Reared on a cocktail of love and bottles of fat-enriched milk, Leo soon became an affectionate, rambunctious and adored member of the fmaily. It is the rearing of this young king, and the hilarious endeavours to teach him to become a 'real' lion who could survive with his own kind in the wild, that lie at the heart of this endearing memoir. It is a memoir of a magical place and time that can never be recaptured.
they did another about-turn, and as they bore down on us, Kobus had to make another quick swerve to avoid a collision. They charged right past and lost sight of us altogether. I was very relieved that they didn’t come back again. But the rest of my idiotic family thought it had been a lot of fun and hoped that we would encounter more black rhinos along the way. Fortunately we didn’t. But unfortunately we had a most terrifying experience a short while later that scared not only me almost to
you can get horribly lost. I grew up on a bushveld farm, and for as long as I can remember it has been important to me to have a sure sense of north, south, east and west. So when south suddenly became east at Crocodile Bridge, and north became west, it seemed to me that the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth itself and even the shadows on the ground had made a ninety-degree turn. I couldn’t rest until I got it right. But I just couldn’t get it right. Often, as I stood in the garden, map in
worry about the trio and set out to look for them. As soon as I walked out the gate, I saw them. They were on their way home. Wolfie was trotting towards me, followed closely by Leo who was trying to trip him up. Karin approached with stiff-legged strides, swinging her arms in the way she does when she’s irritated. Her face, clothes and arms were covered with dust. I went to meet her. ‘So, how did it go?’ I asked. ‘He’s so stupid,’ she replied. ‘I organized a perfect hunting situation for him.
never grew. The more I travelled on that lonely track, the more I became aware of all the disasters that could occur. During our fourth autumn at Mahlangeni, on a Friday afternoon as we were returning from the hostel, the jeep’s engine suddenly died on us and no amount of trying would get it going again. I peered under the bonnet and tried to remember the things Kobus had taught me about a car’s engine. But nothing came to mind. Then I remembered my sister’s philosophy: ‘If all else fails, read
kilometres from Lower Sabie. We wouldn’t be able to meet very often. We moved in January 1994, about four weeks after Sandra’s wedding. All in all, saying goodbye to Crocodile Bridge wasn’t too hard. There had been plenty of good times and exuberant moments but, in the greater scheme of things, my heart still belonged to Mahlangeni. On the day that the furniture truck arrived, I again fed Leo into a horizontal state to prevent him from bothering the furniture movers. The game guards all came