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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:49 pm 
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Katamboega wrote:
Wilderness, that is where i just spent another wonderful 4 days, lots of walking no talking just nature at its best.


I wish for the same - there is usually too much talking in the wilderness .

Please share your experiences , I for one will not be bored .

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KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:02 pm 
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Wow! Such a thrilling experience.

Wish to do this trail someday ;-)


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:30 pm 
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Light had started menacing darkness as I lay awake in my tent, backpack as a pillow. The incessant dispute slowly spilled over to the birds as the deep vibrations of Southern Ground-Hornbill pilfered the silence and encouraged the day. A discontent Square-tailed Nightjar interrupted their chant as if to gesture his support of the dark.

The last time I had used the shaded Tamboti-leaf carpet near Matiovila as a camp was five months previous. No group had been to the area since, despite the high trail occupancy this season. Access to the 150 000 ha Wilderness Area is restricted by the absence of a road network and exploration can only be done on foot over an extended period of time. This sense of wildness and remoteness unquestionably defines the Mphongolo Backpack Trail in northern Kruger National Park.

Our eight guests lay silent, listening from their tents as the increased radiance restores the confidence that may have evaporated in the darkness. The principles are contradictory of air conditioned rooms, comfortable beds and the multitude of additional reassurances the conventional safari intends. Merely fundamentals hold substance at this juncture, all else counts for naught.

Wilderness is the highest category of conservation an area can ever achieve, yet it should not be restricted by a definition or physical boundary. Wilderness is a philosophy and consequently infinite.

We are familiar with the situation where we have forgotten the name of a place and cannot produce it in spite of the utmost concentration. We have it 'on the tip of our tongue' but it just won’t come out, until we give up and shift our attention to something else when suddenly, in a flash, we remember the forgotten name. No thinking is involved in this process, it is a sudden insight.
Another well known example of spontaneous intuitive insight is jokes. In the split second where you understand a joke you experience a moment of 'enlightenment'. It is well known that this moment must come spontaneously. Only with a sudden intuitive insight into the nature of the joke do we experience the laughter the joke is meant to produce. It cannot be achieved by 'explaining' the joke using intellectual analysis.

Our guest’s connectedness with nature lies on the periphery of their modern being. On the ‘tip of their tongue’ so to speak, and it takes moments of spontaneous intuitive insight to generate reconnection. Creating moments of enlightenment on trail is the challenge of Wilderness guiding. It is the challenge of not being confronted by the limitation of language.

I am by no means suggesting that Wilderness guides are capable of choreographing life changing metaphoric dances and individual theatrical performances around a small trail fire. However, Wilderness guides have access to a unique set of tools with which to create moments of spontaneous intuitive insight. These tools can also be defined as the attributes of Wilderness and include remoteness, serenity, peace, wildness, solitude, harmony, inspiration and reflection opportunities.

With packs on our back and the rehabilitated camp a remembrance, we meander along a non perennial stream in search of its confluence with the Phugwane River. We explore the Mphongolo Wilderness according to our personal requisites. Apart from water availability and heat from the midday sun, we are laden with no restriction. Guiding with such independence and space is exhilarating, but the concept should momentarily rouse a sobering intimidation. “To be abandoned is to grow". Clear water filters into our excavated pit in the dry riverbed. In this moment we take nothing for granted.

The realisation, discovery and understanding of Wilderness is a succession of spontaneous intuitive insights for the impending Wilderness guide. It is not something that can be absorbed from literature, but develops with experience and time in Wilderness Areas. Each individual may develop a personal definition of Wilderness over an undefined period of time. This definition may be expandable and will, in all probability, undergo multiple metamorphoses in due course.
Wilderness may eventually become a ‘state of mind’ an understanding that not only the bright stars in the sky are significant.

Wilderness guiding is the ability to provide guests with what they need and not necessarily what they want. It is far removed from competition, even though the mere realisation could nourish exponential personal development. As much as Wilderness is our message to share, it is our sustenance as guides. In a private capacity it may be described as a recipe for happiness with all the chemicals gone.

Regrettably we live in an era where southern Africa’s affluent biodiversity and Wilderness have been reduced to five mammals and five stars. It is therefore fantastic to have a revival in primitive experiences such as the three backpack trails currently hosted by Kruger National Park. There seems to be an urgent longing by the human psyche, conscious or subconscious as it may be, to experience the Wilderness qualities we have been deprived of since we have become ‘civilised’.

"There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect's wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whip-poor-will (nightjar species) or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand".


- Chief Seattle (Si'ahl), Native American Indian.

The fire is modest and serves its hypnotic purpose as the darkness consumes our new camp. Our guests have strayed from their modern being, yet the Wilderness knows exactly where they are, it will find them. The Square-tailed Nightjar calls with restored confidence, perhaps an appropriate reminder from a savage chief that we are celebrating life in its purest form.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:20 pm 
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:thumbs_up: I do not regularly place a comment in agreement. :thumbs_up:

I have spent many an hour in the wilderness hoping fellow trailists would shut up and listen to the wilderness , then I wonder what their motivation was for embarking on a trail , and if they will ever return ...

I thus prefer to walk with introverted types who often are (at least initially) reserved and not talkative.

_________________
KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:15 pm 
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Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals derive a benefit. These symbiotic associations generally provide workable solutions to many of the basic problems of survival. Providing adequate nourishment is one of the problem-solving advantages of symbiosis.

I suppose symbiosis, in the natural world, could quite easily be compared to a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ or long term ‘Contract’ between two businesses in the corporate world.

Symbiotic relationships such as mutualism are furthermore recognized as an important selective force behind evolution, with many species having a long history of interdependent co-evolution.
The species Homo sapiens is the highest evolved organism on this planet to date thanks to symbiosis and myriad other forces such as natural selection. We therefore owe our success to strategic ‘Contracts’ and partnerships our ancient relatives negotiated for us with nature.

The Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator is the only bird in the world known to regularly lead humans to bee hives. They are not physically capable of opening the hives themselves to get to their preferred source of nourishment; bees, larvae and wax. By guiding man to the hive and letting them open it to harvest, they have overcome this problem.

Their guiding habits are inherited and well developed (interesting that this only takes place in sub sahara Africa - evidence of a very long standing ‘Memorandum of Understanding’). The Greater Honeyguide knows the locality of hives and wait for potential symbionts (humans) to pass by. The bird initiates the guiding by calling from a nearby perch. Upon an approach the Honeyguide flies off with its typical, fast undulating flight, their white retrices stand out like a camera flash.
Flight takes them to a nearby tree; constantly chattering to keep the adherents attention. Arrival at a bee hive sees the Honeyguide change its behaviour. It will perch silently, waiting for the honeycomb to be extracted.

Due to the rapid trend of ‘civilisation’ in humans the Greater Honeyguide is losing its symbiotic capacity and is being replaced by the highly abundant coexisting secondary symbiont – the supermarket.

There are now areas where the frequency of guiding has decreased or even ceased. Another one of the many human-nature ‘contracts’, that have brought us so much success as a species, may no longer be renewed. I fear for the day that the Honeyguide swoops past and disappears into the woodland without uttering a call for us to follow. The day our ancient partners no longer see us as a part of nature.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:26 pm 
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Fallen mud

If the best way to learn is to listen, then why do we speak?

We came across a mud pool after following buffalo spoor from the night before.
Looking down into the mud we see it parted from where a White Rhino came in to
wallow. The tracks as fresh as drying mud we start to read. The tracking begins we read it
like the rhino has written his book and we reading a chapter. Out of the mud pool it
leads, having covered itself with mud, mud clots fall off splattering on the ground.
The leaves on the Mopani tree where he has pushed through are coated with a fine
layer of mud turning the bright green to dark grey. With his trail before us we take an
undecided path chosen only to find him and walk in this giant’s footprints for but a
moment of its untamed life. We set off at first following the mud until he reaches past
the Mopani belt and into the bush willow flooded veld. With fewer trees to brush up
against and mud drying in the heat of the day, we tilt our heads to the ground
deciphering the code he has left in the grass. The occasional softening of dropped
mud under our shoes we are assured that we have chosen the right path. Criss-
crossing already laid game paths not wanting to follow them he sends us searching.
Heftily he flattens grass, carelessly turning settled stone, upsetting monotony he
leaves his pattern in the grass. We lose track only to find where he had laid down for
the early morning before setting off from our scent. We did not seeing him but his
hurried scuffled leaves marks readable. The freshly churned earth gives away his
sleeping position and a startled rise scuffed the earth to tell of his flight. Weaving
between bush willow dodging dead Leadwood trees we give up our search knowing
that the wind had spoilt it for us favouring the rhino for the day. We move on not in
disappointment but rather with insight to the life of a rhino as short as it may have
been. We had read its chapter in vivid detail from exiting the mud wallow to where
his sleep was startled. He had written his story with patterns in the grass, a story to be
read not on paper but merely by walking behind the author of the book.

-An extract from my diary whilst on trail (21st-24th March 2012).


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:59 pm 
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There are two things you should probably know about Mphongolo Backpack Trail guides. Number one; we are more excited than our guests to be leaving on trail . Number two; we are not big on paperwork, hence the lack of trail reports posted on the Forum this season.

Nevertheless, trail season is in full swing and I have managed to put together a few memorable moments from completed trails which you may enjoy.

Trail One, 15 – 18 February
There is nothing quite like the first trail of the season. We are finally set free in the Wilderness after having had to wait for more than two months while the Mphongolo is closed. Apart from being the first month of a new trail season, February is another exceptional month for bird watching. We were happy to receive a group of ‘citizen scientists’ which participate in the Southern African Bird Atlas Project.

The drop-off point was on the Bububu River near Phonda Hills. It has been an exceptionally dry summer and water has proved to be a rather restricting factor to date. We established camp near a rather large pan, which at the time still held some water. The well developed tree layer surrounding the pan and established aquatic plants created a modest oasis amidst the Mopane scrub.

Climbing Phonda Hills is always a rewarding experience, the panoramic views of undisturbed Bushveld gives a real ‘sense of place’, a true combination of the physical characteristics and the ambience.

A White Rhino bull had surrendered to the building mid-morning heat. The thick shade provided by a large Mopane tree beside a small mud-filled pan proved too inviting. We approached as he snoozed, moving silently to within a comfortable distance and observed. It was remarkable to find ourselves in that moment with such a colossal beast, completely undisturbed in his natural environment. We retreated and allowed him to slumber further.

We managed to push our bird list to 135 species over the trail. A fantastic result and valuable contribution to the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:09 pm 
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Trail Two, 22 – 25 February

We got dropped off on the Phugwane River east of Dili Windmill. It was the safest option as Dili is still functional and holds water. As this was only the second trail of the season, we were uncertain of a water source further west.

We set up the first night’s camp under an impressive Nyala Berry Tree, not too far from a small pool of surface water in the Phugwane. I prefer to wake up at the same time as the birds rather than set an alarm; it breaks the routine of being back at home and provides a rewarding sense of freedom. This particular morning a Broad-billed Roller rallied the dawn chorus from a nearby Leadwood Tree. A rather welcome announcement given our location.

Our second night’s camp site was situated in the centre of a large open grassy plane. Scattered Leadwood Trees our only company. It was a new moon and the stars proved spectacular. We all lay on our backs admiring the spectacle through our binoculars. We could see Jupiter’s four moons, the Great Orion Nebula, various open and globular star clusters. The peak of the evening arrived with a great big flash, a meteor lit up the camp as it travelled three quarters the way across the night sky.

Priceless.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Trail Three, 29 Feb – 03 March

We found ourselves on the far western stretch of the Phugwane River. A steep bend, assisted by a geological hurdle, forces water to the surface of an otherwise sandy river. Camp was located a comfortable distance from the water point.

We had hardly settled before three White Rhino made their entrance. They had no suspicion of our presence and quenched their thirst before disappearing back into the Mopaneveld.

We could hear the snorts and grunts of a large Buffalo herd just beyond the tree line. If you close your eyes, their movement through the brush resembled a crackling bush fire. Our decision to approach was supported by a favourable wind direction and the late afternoon sun on our backs. We hid behind a large termite mound as the Buffalo herd passed on the opposite side. As I crouched to better my position a familiar pattern in the dirt caught my eye. I could tell no time difference between my boot track and that of the print which lay to the left of it. We must have chased the lions off this perfect little vantage point during our approach. Time to retreat, two hundred buffalo, six humans and five lions in a very small space does not sound like a good idea. We need to get back to camp.

As the fire burnt out that night, we scanned the river bed with a torch. There they were, five lions watching us as we were about to end off our evening. Their confidence amplified by the dark, they approached to a nerve wrecking distance. It was time to call it a day and hit the tents. Our imagination played games with us as we lay silently in our flimsy shelters. No matter your social status or bank balance, in that moment we are all equal. Sweet dreams.

Although it is not the focus of trails, we always appreciate getting the big hairy and scary on foot. Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Elephant and Leopard within twenty four hours.

We spent our last afternoon watching more than two hundred and fifty elephant come past our camp to drink water. Each breeding herd waiting patiently in line for their turn to quench a thirst .

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:51 pm 
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Trail Four, 21 - 24 March

Matiovila, ‘the water that boils’ is one of my favourite camping sites in the Mphongolo Wilderness. The hot sulphur spring is a remnant of ancient volcanic activity and the approach to this little oasis, especially from the north, is breathtaking.

Making fire by friction is a skill nearly lost. Try to think back to a time before matches and lighters, how did humans control this powerful tool? Fire contributed greatly to early culture and humans shaped landscapes ,with fire, according to their prerequisites.
We managed to get fire from rubbing sticks together on the first night, but the group wanted to take it one step further. They wanted to collect their own material and start their own fire without the guides’ assistance. Our only words of advice – Fig Tree. They identified the correct tree, carved their wooden tools and after a few blistering hours produced a brilliant flame. Well Done!

Patience and silence at a water point one late afternoon produced an exceptional sighting of a White Rhino Bull.

Just before leaving camp on the final day, a breeding herd of Buffalo, approximately two hundred strong, passed our camp as we sat in silence.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:57 pm 
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Trail Five, 25 - 28 March

Our bird watching friends were back. To follow the trail in detail, click on this link
http://www.sanparks.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=59097&start=150

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:51 pm 
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Brenden wrote:
Trail Three, 29 Feb – 03 March

We must have chased the lions off this perfect little vantage point during our approach. Time to retreat, two hundred buffalo, six humans and five lions in a very small space does not sound like a good idea. We need to get back to camp.

As the fire burnt out that night, we scanned the river bed with a torch. There they were, five lions watching us as we were about to end off our evening. Their confidence amplified by the dark, they approached to a nerve wrecking distance. It was time to call it a day and hit the tents.

We spent our last afternoon watching more than two hundred and fifty elephant come past our camp to drink water. Each breeding herd waiting patiently in line for their turn to quench a thirst .


:shock: 8)
:hmz:

What am I doing in this concrete jungle, :hmz:

My heart is tied with nature, this must have been a lifetime experience.....

:mrgreen:

_________________
Done:
Elephants Back Pack Trail - 2009
Mphongolo Back Pack Trail - 2011


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 9:48 pm 
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Dragged along

“I found myself with what lay ahead and left what lay behind to find myself in pure wilderness”

…We had walked the entire morning only coming across lone buffalo bulls and impala. Half expecting a buffalo bull around every mopane bush I found every open sodic site in which to walk. Approaching zari waterhole I crossed the large sodic site to get to the zari spruit and walk down the spruit to the waterhole. Looking down to catch any fresh signs of buffalo my eye caught sight of a long line that stretched across the sodic site. It was as if someone had drawn it in as a demarcation boundary. This was out of place and so seeing in which direction it went we followed. At first, easy a straight line for the drainage line secondly, challenged as it went into bushes and through grass. Having found leopard spoor next to the drag mark we had some idea what to lookout for. The track took us through a mopane bush and through a donga a sharp turn left and then gone at the edge of a second donga leaving two possibilities… With fresh buffalo tracks and elephants tracks we lost the track assuming its direction we moved along the small donga tributary of the zari 20 meters in. not finding anything more and the group hot and tired we found a large tree. Contemplating the tracks and wanting a results it dawned on me that the leopard would not drag its prize in the direction of the herd of elephant and buffalo in fear of being chase off it by them and so leaving the group with my back-up I went in pursuit of the drag mark. As I thought, the track after the sharp turn left moved through grass and went away to the right over the rise and into a thick capperbush. Considering the leopard had tried to fool us or the risk of losing it to buffalo and elephants I stood near the caperbush looking through it to see any remains or cat. Not wanting to follow in I cautiously circled the bush and found the tracks leading out of the bush and into the drainage line below. Reluctant to go ahead without support and a ways away from the group I hurried back to fetch them, leaving our packs behind we took to the track. I showed them the path I had found and picked up the track where I last found it only to be rewarded 10 meters later by a half eaten African Rock Python. It lay looking alive, yet with only half a body it wasn’t going anywhere. The carcass was fresh meaning we had caused the leopard to run-off with its prize until she thought she couldn’t escape with it and dropped it leaving us behind. We left the half eaten python for her to return and went to fetch our packs and head down to the waterhole. Only to find, not far off two buffalo bulls starring at us from the opposite bank of the zari spruit. With this avoidance we dragged our feet on to our siesta spot...

An extract from diary while on trail (18th-21st March 2012)


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 11:05 am 
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Thank you!
These reports and musings are appreciated by those of us who have been touched by the wilderness...

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KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 12:21 pm 
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Brilliant stories!
For a while I was not in Joburg. But walking alongside in the Mphongolo wilderness :clap:

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Kruger 2014!!!

16-23 August - Lower Sabi!!!!


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