Mike English Part 4.
As everyone knows there is no bridge at Crook’s Corner where the Pafuri Ranger’s house was and there was also no road from the Pafuri Bridge. Getting to the Rangers post was by means of crossing the Levhuvu River in a little rowing boat.
Mike tells of a now amusing incident when he and Number One his assistant went to fetch rations and other supplies from Shingwedzi. About a tonne of supplies were fetched at time. Arriving at the crossing area Mike realised that they would have to get a move on as it was getting late in the afternoon, soon the Hippo would start leaving the river on their feeding excursion and they were not out of the way – beeeg beeeg trouble. Taking over a 210 litre drum of fuel was quite eventful.
The supplies had to be loaded onto the little boat and then rowed across and then offloaded on the far side. This process had to be repeated a few times as the capacity was not very much, when a bag of maize or a gas cylinder the draft was deep and the clearance not very much, maybe 10 to 15 cm.
The little boat was loaded and they set off across the Levhuvu, they went a little way maybe a metre or so and then Mike noticed that despite all his efforts in rowing, they were not moving – they had got stuck on a hidden sandbank, what now, the river being infested with many hungry Crocodiles and also some Hippo of whom it did not take much to get very irritated.
Mike made a plan and asked Number One to get up and put his one leg on dry land and try and push the boat slowly to release it from the sandbank. Number One obliged and suddenly the little boat moved with Number One doing a split with one leg on dry land and the other in the moving boat. The boat started capsizing and both gas cylinders fell off drifting off in the strong flowing Levhuvu.
The Gas cylinders could not be lost so Mike had to chase them and catch them rowing and heaving and foreing like someone taking part in a regatta. The second cylinder was eventually caught a few hundred metres into Mozambique.
On return Mike noticed that Number One was still bone dry, he must have also walked on water.
When the Great Limpopo was in flood, the Levhuvu was blocked off and pushed back upstream causing overflowing into the swamps sometimes even up the Fever tree forest.
The children often very much enjoyed crossing the river in the above mentioned circumstances; evading tree stumps being washed down in the flood did not cause much alarm to them.
Mike mentioned that the original road to the Pafuri Gate was originally planned to be made through the Baobab forest near the Nyalaland Trails area, many arguments were raised about soil quality and economics and a few other far fetched ones, Willem v/d Riet was quite involved in this planning, splitting an area in excess of 500 km sq in two, fortunately Mike had an ally in Tertius Minnie the Parks Engineer and eventually the decision was made that the road would be made where it currently is. The bridge crossing the Levhuvu River has not yet collapsed as predicted by those pro towards the road through the Baobabs.
Mike mentioned that one of his treasured moments was when he discovered the nest of a pair of Woolly – necked Storks in the swamps of the Pafuri area, they were not known to be nesting this far south until then. He also tells that Kenneth Newman very often stayed with them while doing research for his books on birdlife; very many interesting days were spent together out in the Pafuri bush studying the prolific birdlife.
Mike mentions that Harold Mockford, who had spent more than forty years at Pafuri in the WNLA Employment, had many “tamed” wild animals, many of them were bought from Mozambicans in order to save them from anguish, and one of these was Badgie a very appropriate name for a Honey Badger. Badgie was a good pet, he kept intruders of all kinds away from the Mockford abode Mike mentioned that once he took a liking in somebody all was OK, he also seemed to have a great sense of humour as he would often creep up on his selected victim and then rattle his teeth and his claws causing quite a fright.
Harold was the first appointed Life Long Honorary Ranger in the KRUGER PARK.
After many years at Pafuri, the English Ranger family was transferred to Stolsnek in the south-western part of the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK. A Rangers post that was structured specifically to combat poaching which rife in that area.
Mike and his Ranger corps soon realised that the poachers do not just come and do their thing, they hid in sheltered areas until they guessed that they could reap their harvest of snared animals. They would then set out and visit the snares and take what had been killed or was still dying their agonising death.
Mike devised a grid system on maps and aerial photos using stereoscopes searching for likely hide outs in caves and overhangs.
During the ten years spent Stolsnek, while searching for these hideouts, Mashangane and his Field Rangers came across the rock art – aged hundreds of years – done by the Bushman or as I prefer to call them – the Little People, he discovered 120 sites with rock art, to Mike this was the absolute highlight of his career. Mike often used to go and camp in the bush once the bug had bitten him; he was very often accompanied by André and their two sons Don and Ross. Many happy times were shared during these explorations. Mike was so enthusiastic about his new interest that he had it registered as an official National Parks Board project.
Mike and his sons found Hyraxes on one of their excursions – they were supposed to be the first Whites to set eyes on this species, south of the Olifants River.
Leo Braack approached Mike during 2005 and asked whether he would be interested in assembling and leading a group of people in the Park in a search for further sites with these treasures.
Mike agreed. Sponsorship was obtained from Anglo American and the R250 000 was well spent as a further 240 sites were found by the group which included Conrad de Ross who is very knowledgeable on this subject, the finds were carefully mapped and recorded with very accurate geographic referencing during 2006.
On his own Mike since found a further fifty sites bringing his total up to one hundred and seventy.
Mike showed me a photograph of artwork not unlike that of the White Woman of the Brandberg in Namibia.
Many others were later involved in the interpretation of the artwork.
Natural destruction has taken place at many of the sights by dripping water and smoke and just old age causing of the salts and other minerals being washed out or fading. . . . .
Mike and I share our admiration for these little people. He has quite collection of tools used be thee interesting little group who did no one any harm, who only took what they needed and never wasted anything.
We spent quite a while going through his albums of photographs of these treasures.
Persons interested in these rock art sites should go the Wilderness trail named “the Bushman’s Trail” make a specific request to the Ranger in charge and you will return to base tired but satisfied – you will return home spiritually enriched.
Mike is now compiling a Dictionary of the Shangane Language – few whites are as fluent in this language as Mashangane. His intention is to at a later stage publish his dictionary. The only available Dictionary of the Shangane language was published by a Swiss Missionary in 1967. What amazed me is that the Shangane people have a name for a Springbok, a species now extinct in the area habituated by the Shangane People.
Mike loves the Shanganes; he says that they are a peaceful people who are very proud without being arrogant.
Mike states that most of his knowledge was acquired from his fellow Black Rangers of whom very few were not Shanganes they grew up in the bush and therefore had an unsurpassed knowledge that could never be acquired in a lecture room or in a book of any kind. They have a name for every plant, insect, bird, herbivore, carnivore, fish, reptile or whatever.
The Shanganes also have extensive knowledge about the medicinal and other uses of plants and minerals.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
Convenor of the AIKONA Group.
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
Done 141 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.