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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 06, 2010 5:00 pm 
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Hi - sorry about the late posting of this trail - we took out some journalists and one client from New Zealand (our fist international) from the 15th to the 18th of April 2010 we walked from the Mphongolo / Phugwane confluence and walked as far as the zari river mouth camping two nights in the Phugwane river (about 4km from the start and then close to Zari mouth) and one night at the Matiovila thermal spring. We had an awsome time! with great animal sightings and lots of nice clear water to drink from pools in the river. The bush was green and the pans were full. We heard nightjars, giant eagle & scops owl, jackal, hyaena, lion and leopard at night - plus many more. Had some wonderful bird sightings, including - saddle billed storks, ground hornbills and giant eagle owls. We came acrross some beautiful trees - huge Nyala Mopane and leadwood trees - the grass was long and wet from the dew. We visited the Zari boer graves and had a hot bath in the thermal springs. We bumped into elephant herds and bulls, had sundowners with a herd of buffalo that came down to drink at the Zari mouth waterhole and then bumped into a hyeana in the twilight on our way back to camp. We had an incredible sighting of a leopard that was behaving very nonchalantly towards us when some members of the group were having their bath in the river in the late afternoon of the 2nd night. He was marking his territory and proceeded to walk very close to us, within 15m, ignoring us completely and eventually we had to shout at him to prevent him getting too close after which he walked a little up the bank and then turned around and watched us. We also had an interesting sighting of an impala ewe who could not easily see us becuase of the length of the tall guinea grass growing on the bank of the river and then hopped up on its back legs not unlike a gerenuk to see where we were! the animals in these parts are not use to seeing people! A great trail was had by all!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 1:16 pm 
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ndloti wrote:
Such an exceptional leopard interaction ... !


Indeed a rare experience !! Thanks for sharing Porcupine (nice first post :mrgreen: ) I've BOOKED the trail for 27 - 30 May 2011, and chuffed I am :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 1:56 pm 
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Porcupine wrote:
We also had an interesting sighting of an impala ewe who could not easily see us becuase of the length of the tall guinea grass growing on the bank of the river and then hopped up on its back legs not unlike a gerenuk to see where we were! the animals in these parts are not use to seeing people!


As well as the impala sighting - animals not used to seeing people - I have to get there .

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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 May 07, 2010 2:25 pm 
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Please find our report below on the 5th Mphongolo Back Pack Trail. We took out eight guests (only men - a full group) from the 2nd to the 5th of May 2010. We were dropped off on the Lange management road on the Klein Maswitakali tributary from where we walked to Mooigesig dam where we spent our first night. There still seems to be a fair amount of activity around the dam despite lots of water being available all over the surrounding bush due to the very good late rains. We had two very great sightings that afternoon, one of a large white rhino bull which we observed marking territory (spray urinating and using one of his middens to scatter his dung) and eventually settling in a nice mud pool next to the dam from which we actually disturbed him when he picked up our scent and initially ran towards us, increasing everyones heart rates but luckily we persuaded him to change his course and all ended well and we had a awesome sighting (which we observed again the next day) of about 100 White Pelicans who flew past us and circled above us – the noise from their wing beats was quite spectacular. We had good bird sighting including saddle billed storks, white faced duck, kittlitz’s plover, red billed teal and mosque swallow. The impala rutting season is now truly underway with the rams making lots of noise throughout the evening. The next day we moved to a spot about 6,5 km away in the Phugwane river close to the mouth of the Mashadya where we camped for the next two nights. We had a long siesta and then had a nice afternoon walk during which we found a large warthog boar who was having a nice mud bath in one of the numerous mud pans on the bank of the river, he was very surprised to see as and did not initially recognize us. We also came across many elephant herds which were well hidden in the thick vegetation, impala and zebra. That night, our sleep was rudely interrupted, sometime about 02h00 in the morning, by a male baboon who started alarm calling/ barking furiously for about 30min, he had obviously spotted something in the dark that he was not very happy with. We did see him the following day and he was very relaxed and we never found out what got him so upset. The following day we packed light, with only breakfast, lunch & water and went on a full day hike walking up along the watershed north of the Phugwane and then down along the Shishanyani tributary down to Dhili water hole (where we had our siesta) and back along the Phugwane river to camp. The area was magnificent and we saw elephant, warthogs, waterbuck, giraffe, buffalo, impala, grysbok, banded mongoose, zebra we also had good sightings of martial eagle, greater honeyguide (constantly tried to coax us into following him/her) & bennets woodpecker. On the last day we got up nice and early and bumped into some more elephants on our way back to the pick-up/ drop-off point, another great trail!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:02 pm 
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Just completed another Mphongolo Trail 5-8 of May

6 guests, 4 white male Africans and 2 black male Africans, lekker group very heave packs (good food).

Walked the upper reaches of the Zari and the Phugwane Between Dili and Wik en weeg dam and along the Shishanjana spruit.

Area scenic as usual heard lions the first evening and went to find their tracks on route we had a good sighting of a breading herd of elephants and were unable to reach the spot from where the lions were roaring as we were getting to far from the camp. ( we left the camp at the same place for two nights) found a big buffalo bull sleeping in one of the waterholes in the river and had lunch on a small cliff overlooking the waterhole, found good representation of general game. found 3 sleeping rhino in the riverbed and had a good time in general.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 13, 2010 9:16 am 
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We completed the trail as noted in the report by Porcupine above. It was a special time and very different to the Olifants trail. We had two very accomplished rangers and we enjoyed their company and knowledge. Our first night at the Mooigesig Dam was magical. We enjoyed the Rhino from very close and were startled when he made a short charge at us only to veer off into the surrounding bush.
The area we covered was home to plenty of animals especially Elephants. Although I expected them to be more skittish towards us, they were actually quite approachable. We visited many places very seldom visited and seen by other people and the Phugwane is actually quite a large river although not perennial. There was a lot of water around for us to collect, but beware when going in drier periods; you will have to carry at least 5-6 litres with you.
Although touted as an easier trail than the Olifants, it is no walk in the park. We did a LOT of bundu bashing and walked long distances though thick bush. We covered about 38 km which is only slightly less than the Olifants although part was with light packs.
Highlights were the “charging” Rhino, Mooigesig Dam, the tranquility and clear skies seen from the Phugwane river at night, the barking baboon very close to us and of course the camaraderie and closeness to nature.
Will I do it again? For sure. I think that in 12-18 months’ time the rangers will have a very good idea of this vast wilderness area and I am sure a casual tourist will never explore the whole region in his lifetime, it is just too big. But therein lies the challenge. You can go on this trail and see places neither you nor other hikers have seen before.


Rhino:

Image

Rhino:

Image

Camp next to Mooigesig dam:

Image

Pelicans:

Image

Siesta in Phugwane river:

Image

Phugwane River:

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Overnight in Phugwane Riverbed

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Map:

Image

Another surprise was seeing the Limpopo in full flow after witnessing a completely dry river in Sept last year. Pel’s Fishing Owl was spotted at Crooks Corner that day although I hadn’t known about the sighting, I did not see it despite scanning everything diligently!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 13, 2010 9:36 am 
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Thanks for the report and super pics of the trail Eugene, really does sound like an amazing experience. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 13, 2010 9:49 am 
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To me it looks - and I don't easily use this word - awesome !
An area not yet molested by human development ...

I once had the good fortune to be in the wilderness on a lake in a canoe when pelicans flew over us , another time under a tree on a koppie when vultures circled above us - the sound of their passage through the air cannot be forgotten .

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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: Thu May 13, 2010 1:01 pm 
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Even though Pelicans may look slightly ungainly on ground, in the air it is pure poetry in motion. They glide as effortlessly as any other bird and the sound emanating from this is unforgetful.
The one thing I experienced is the certainty that no human being or presence would surprise us for the duration of this trail. It is so far from any form of civilization that one truly forgets about all else. All that matters is nature and I sometimes felt out of place, as if I did not really belong there. Even those huge trees talk to your soul. Want to recharge? this is it!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu May 13, 2010 2:29 pm 
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Agreed on the pelicans being gracefull - when I saw them from a canoe , there about 30 flying about 10 metres above the water 50 metres from us - even more impressive was the way they were flying in single file and equally spaced in front of the next one - and each followed the leaders small changes in altitude precisely , just the soft rustle of the wind over their bodies as they glided past with the occasional flap of a wing .

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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.


Last edited by ndloti on Mon May 17, 2010 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Mphongolo Backpacking trail-water & food storage
Unread postPosted: Thu May 13, 2010 7:02 pm 
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Hello

New to the forum and mistakenly sent this question to the wrong region.

My husband and I are excited to have reservations on the Mphongolo backpacking trail September 1 departure. When speaking with the reservationist, she was not clear on the few questions I have. Hopefully, someone on the forum can assist with answers.

Can we get away with water purifying tablets or should we bring our filter pump?

At home in the USA, we are required to have a wildlife proof canister for food storage, then hang it in a tree. What is the procedure for food storage on this trail? I assume it is not a good idea to leave it in the tent.

We have a flight out to Zambia the following morning after returning to Shingdwezi Camp. I understand it's about a 9 hour drive through the Punda Maria gate back to Johannesberg. Do the trips usually end on time and return to the camp around 11am? We are a little concerned about driving after dark in and around the Johannesberg area. Perhaps someone can suggest a city north of the airport about 1 hour away for overnight accommodations.

If there is other information we would find useful that is not printed in the info sheet, I would love to know. This is my 6th trip back to So Africa and I am quite excited.

Thank you


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Backpacking trail-water & food storage
Unread postPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 8:56 am 
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Hi carson, I too have not yet done the Mphongolo, but I did the Olifants River Backpack trail last year. We didn't need to use a pump on the trail, the water was clear enough to use chemicals, and we used cloths to cover the mouths of our bottles as basic filters. However, we were able to get water from the running river, I'm not sure what the situation is on the Mphongolo, and if you'll need to filter.

I suggest that you use a liquid purifier instead of chlorine tablets, due to the taste (which I couldn't handle). There's a product available in SA called Aqua Salveo which works very well. You do sound like relatively experienced trailists though, so maybe you're used to the chlorine.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Backpacking trail-water & food storage
Unread postPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 9:12 am 
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Hi carson. You are going nearer the end of the dry season. Taking a pump and water purification tablets is preferred. Remember, you are probably going to need 5-6 litres of water at that time because of a lack of water in the veld. Regarding food; we usually take "dry" food along and store it in our back-packs (2 Min noodles, tuna, Pro-Vitas, Snacks, Oats which only require hot water to prepare; remember a gas stove). When we went out for the third day we left some food in the tents without problems, but no guarantees (We overnighted at the same spot for 2 consecutive nights). Any animal can get hold of it in one of those small tents. However as the rangers point out, these animals are not at all habituated to man and do not associate us with food, so your food should be safe.

Very few wildlife-proof canisters will be baboon proof in any case!
We had a 2 hour drive from drop-off to Shingwedzi and arrived there at 12 noon.. Punda Maria gate is definately the best option to exit and if you want to stay over before reaching Johannesburg, why not in Pretoria? The second part of your journey is on a highway and is perfectly safe but you would probably do better pushing on to the airport and staying in one of the hotels there.

Enjoy!!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 4:00 pm 
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We took out eight guests (5 ladies and three men – South African group from Cape Town) from the 9th to the 12th of May 2010.

We were dropped off at the intersection of the middle firebreak and Bububu river from where we walked to Phonda Hills where we spent our first night. We walked through some stunning areas consisting of large sodic open areas with beautiful pans, most of the pans were still full of water. One of these pans was quite large and had a huge Nyala tree growing at its edge and we watched a large troop of baboons busy feeding off the Nyala tree berries and Mopani tree pods. We saw a fair amount of general game on the first day including a small herd of wildebeest and our trek was accompanied by the constant chirping of armoured ground crickets. The reservoir at Phonda Hills windmill was almost empty and there was not much water coming out of the tap at the windmill itself. We managed to get water and have a wash at one of the large pools in the river. That evening we heard lion, hyaena, mozambique & fiery necked nightjars, giant eagle/ scops/ pearlspotted owls and were woken up by the various francolins as dawn broke.

That morning we climbed one of the hills and had a look at the stone walls/ ruins, found some pot chards & bone fragments from an old ash heap and reflected on how people use to live here whilst having breakfast atop this koppie and overlooking this magnificent area. We continued heading east following the Bububu river and came across some dagga boys lying in a pan at one of the many large sodic areas and saw lots of general game (impala, warthog, zebra, giraffe). We had a siesta in the shade of a large Jackel-Berry in the sandy river bed after collecting water from a very muddy little pan (Incidentally, we did not find anymore pools in the actual river bed of the Bububu east of Phonda hills until its mouth but found plenty of pans that had water in them). That afternoon we continued for another 2km before setting up camp on the edge of a large sodic area with a couple of large fever trees as company, again we had to collect water from a muddy pan which had recently been visited by a large herd of elephants – lovely chocolate coloured water that our friends from Cape Town/ Stormers supporters were not that use to drinking after always drinking out of crystal clear mountain springs but the water despites its looks turned out fine and no one had any ill effects – we did use chlorine tablets (we had two water purification pumps with us but these did not work well in the muddy water as they clogged up very quickly and therefore were not practical to use- perhaps if we added a flocculent to the water first they would have worked better). That night was a little quieter than the previous night except for a couple of hyeana that were whooping close to camp – we had clear & dark night sky which was excellent for star gazing.

The following morning, we heard some grunting noise from the west and soon confirmed that there was a large heard of buffalo in that direction, we got the group together and quickly set off to investigate and found the tail end of the herd busy enjoying themselves at one of the pans – we watched them for a while and bumped into a few more stragglers before returning to camp to continue our packing. We continued following the Bububu as it winded its way eastward and again found a fair amount of general game (including an ostrich, a small herd of wildebeest, one vervet monkey and a troop of baboons) and a few buffalo bulls there were also plenty of signs of white rhino in this area but we did not come across any. We visited Shipandi windmill and found the reservoir dry and also noted how the vegetation was changing as we entered the basalts. We had siesta in the river bed under the shade of a large Sycamore Fig and close to a large pan, surrounded by big trees including a beautiful Nyala Tree, which had relatively “clean” water in it, had a good sleep, managed to use the pumps to good effect to get crystal clear water and most of us had a bath close to the pan out of the buckets (at least we turned out cleaner than the previous evening where our guests would have argued that this point was debatable). We continued for another 3-4km that afternoon heading east along the Bububu and walked along some very big sodic open areas with pans. We came across a large dagga boy resting in the middle of one of the pans but who could not easily see us because of the setting sun which was directly behind our backs and therefore we got a good look at him. We decided to continue a little further before setting up camp and had hit some thick Mopani woodland with tall grass which we were planning to walk through with the idea of camping at the next open area that we came across, we had walked for about 20 minutes into this relatively thick bush when rather unexpectedly we spotted an elephant calf who was totally oblivious to us and feeding about 15m away from us with his mom not far from his side. We slowly backed off and soon realized that we had walked into the midsts of an elephant breeding herd. There were some tense moments but we managed to get out of there without the elephants ever realizing how close we were and then backtracked through this thick bush back to an open area close to where we saw the buffalo bull. On the way back we sighted a nyala ewe and I almost stood on a puff adder again (same as on the last trail|) who hissed at me in the tall grass. It was basically dark by the time we got to this site but everyone was in good spirits. That night we heard the usual night sounds! - lion & hyaena,

On the final morning the weather had changed slightly as it had been very hot on the first few days but now it was cool, there was a breeze and it was a little overcast. The last five kilometers to the pick-up point at the Bububu mouth (its confluence with the Shingwedzi) was quiet in terms of animal sightings (except for a chameleon which we almost stood on and impala) although stunningly beautiful. We had another fantastic trail!

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri May 14, 2010 4:47 pm 
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Thanks for the report Porcupine and please keep it up.

Still trying to figure why that is your forum tag!

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