Trails area: Mphongolo Back Packing trail.
Date: 16-19 June 2010
We were dropped of at the confluence of the Pukwane and Mphogolo, And took a slow meandering walk down the Phukwane until we found a suitable camping site, in the dry river bed. For the entire duration of the trail we never encountered any surface water in the river. There was plenty of general game at sandpiper windmill. We were forced to dig fairly deep, in order to access water in the river bed, Fortunately the elephants had done most of the “heavy Lifting” . It was a very, very cold night, and quite wrt the night sounds.
The next morning we made our way up to the hot water spring, Matiovila. On route we passed Tomlinson wind mill. Reaching Mafayeni, a little after 12 we had a long lunch at the spring in the hope that we could view “something” coming down to drink, But we were only obliged a few Pigeons. Tranquilty was the order of the day. We made our way up to Matiovila latter in the afternoon, setting up camp in the Tambuti forest. In the early evening we took a short walk around the area, and encountered one of the resident buffalo bulls who after a long stare took exception to our presence and bolted of into the undergrowth. The drainage lines leading out of Matiovila are truly exceptional, and there was a fantastic opportunity to look at track and sign. The ladies enjoyed the warmth of the spring for a bath until one of the aquatic residence crawled a little to close to home, and they all leapt nimbly from the water. Water from the spring was used, although the sulphor smell and salty taste not being appreciated as it flavored the evening meal. The night was quite except for the a lone hyena, a little warmer because of the tree canopy, the track of a buffalo bull passing close to the camp the only evidence of nocturnal visitors.
The next morning we headed back down to the Phukwane, we took breakfast under a Large baobab, with its host of inhabitants. A chameleon had a brush with death as my size 6 boot narrowly missed flattening him. And we had lunch in the river bed, were for the duration we sat in anxious anticipation to see if a Natal francolin would have enough sense to return to claim a single chick who had been left behind when we arrived and disturbed their peaceful existence. ( Ultimately we left to allow nature to take its course, so we will never know the outcome) On route to the final camp site, we encountered a small breeding herd of Ele, Basically an Old cow, and her two successive calves. From the opposite river bank we could watch them feeding comfortably and with out disturbing their evening. The last evening was the warmest of the three as mother nature provided a fleeting blanket of cloud that trapped a little of the days heat. During the night two lions indulged us with a guttural symphony, which was strongly competed with by some of the guttural exhalations of the sleeping guests.
On the last morning we headed out in the direction of the roaring lions but they had disappeared, and latter in the morning we heard what we can only assume to be them calling in the far of distance to the south. We encountered some very interesting signs were what appeared to have been to very large snakes had engaged in either foreplay or an aggressive display. There was also fresh Rhino track and sign of were a breeding herd of Buffalo had moved across the river bead in the early hours of the morning. This was the same area three days previous which had been extremely quite and without any fresh sign of large mammal activity. It just goes to show that the bush is in a constant state of flux, and you can never walk the same area twice with the same outcome.
Although the large game sightings on this trail were by most accounts “slow” the actual objective of wilderness was attained. No watches, No cell phones, and no place in particular to be, resting the senses from the constant battering they receive in the cities, reacquainting your self with the sounds, smells and feeling of our mother nature. This is what wilderness is about.