Time for some intrepid adventure and tracks less travelled. This next part of the Rise of the Matriarch expedition saw our all-female crew testing their 4×4 skills on the Mafunyane 4×4 Eco-Trail in Kruger National Park.

This is a 3 night 4 day adventure activity that leaves from Phalaborwa Gate and heads you north using management tracks from the Olifants River to the Luvuvhu River. It is wild camping. You have to take everything with you including water and wood. The camp sites just have a basic eco toilet.

There’s a magic to Kruger, especially in the northern part of the Park. A lot of it is Mopane bushveld which was green and thick from late rains. Only a few Mopane trees turning golden with autumn colour. The air prickles here with wildness even if you aren’t seeing too much megafauna while driving. As we often stayed along water courses there were also beautiful riparian areas with tall Jackal Berry trees filled with the Brown Headed Parrot squawks and Green Pigeon coos. Then that last night as we went north of Punda Maria we came across Fever Trees, majestic Mahogany and Nyala Berries. Brown Hooded Kingfisher and the African Fish Eagle our soundscape.

Helping us unlock the natural wisdom of this iconic place was the legendary Vanessa Strydom. Carla had specifically requested Vanessa guide us which seemed so fitting for this particular expedition. I heard about Vanessa years ago when she became the first female ranger in Kruger. I have fangirled from afar and so to finally meet her in person and spend some bush time with her in my favourite part of Kruger was just a little awe inspiring!

She had me from hello as she started our journey by explaining the geology of this area. I like to think we bonded over the rocks 😊 On Day 3 she presented me with a little piece of black stone with a stunning pink vein of feldspar running through it as a souvenir of our adventure. I was so touched. The memories of this particular part of the Rise of the Matriarch expedition I will keep close always.

Besides all the wonderful lessons about geology, botany and zoology, we were there to test those 4×4 skills of ours. The late rains made for some interesting river crossings, crazy dongas to manoeuvre through and a couple of times the winch needed to come out. But us girls kicked ass if I do say so myself! I was very green going into this only having some off-road experience quite a long time ago and Diego the Disco 2 had some quirks to discover. But we worked it out on the first day and with Vanessa’s guidance and encouragement had a wild time. Dora, Carla’s little pink Landy, tackled this off-road adventure like a champ. Car of the trip, though, goes to Lauren’s Suzuki Jimny. The world’s cutest 4×4 sailed over each obstacle as we looked on in absolute awe.

Sunsets of note. Spectacular night skies. Vanessa singing at the campfire accompanied on guitar and harmonica by her lovely cousin, Ruth. Singalongs. Carefree laughter after a day of fun and adventure under African skies in the company of like-minded humans. That we could be so fortunate as to share the road and this experience. My cup runneth over 🖤