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 Post subject: Pardus's Dream - Kruger, September 2007
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:35 pm 
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16 September 2007

Joy!

Darkness finds me on the road to the east and when the sun rises, the colours find a familiar path to the avenues of my soul. In silence I feel my heart starts to run free over the undulating hills of Dullstroom. Life slowly awakening in shy shades of green. Life casting bursting buds to the new blue of summer sky,

Soon I am on my way to the mountains of Long Tom Pass, where I will exhale, where I will leave behind the last vestiges of my masks and insignia and become human once more. The scent of pine infused air reach my nose and I hungrily breathe the air as if I had been suffocating.

Descending into the Sabie valley, I am faced with utter devastation. The proud forests stand bereft of life. The ugliest shade of brown and black and vast open spaces of decimation cry wordlessly. I feel tears welling up in my throat, forcing myself to look at the destruction beyond comprehension. As I turn a bend, I see something new, something called hope. Alongside every tree that has been chopped off, a brave new sapling has been planted. My spirit soar, recognizing that which makes us human. Hope. Growth.

In Hazyview, the humid Lowveld air replaces the gentle morning temperature and I smile inwardly. The tangibility of it all, feeling the air touch your skin like a known friend. Sun shining just a little brighter.

The road to Kruger Gate becomes a journey in itself. First I look at the brightly coloured cloths which are neatly pinned to a washing line along the road. Flags of universal humanity, gently swaying in the sub-tropical breeze. Africa… That place of Mother Earth that has a buzz word called Ubuntu which has never gone out of fashion. The old wood carvers with their ever creative inventions. I look with amusement as the chickens they carve grow bigger with startled expressions at the new fashionable colours they are wearing. The leopards have gone from sweet serene to growling cats with rather large fangs. Customer care…I can picture this leopard looking over Central Park, being the conversation piece for many nights to come. The pieces of Africa treasured, coveted and scattered all over the world. Oh how I love the privilege of being a child of this continent.

The road winds on, anticipation similar to meeting a lover, grows into an aching. The villages, confused chicken carvings and vendors with bright red tomatoes become a blur. With longing eyes I watch the river, knowing that soon I will stand on the bridge crossing it. Deliverance will be announced by the call of an African Fish Eagle. My eyes will roam the river, my being will flow with it over the rocks and become free.

And then, with a swoop, a Yellowbilled Kite fills my first glance of the bluest air on earth and quenches its thirst on the sandy banks of the gurgling river. I feel the arms of mama Africa enfolding me as she whispers….welcome home child.
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Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:56 pm 
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That's what I love about sharing on this Forum, the encouragement, positive feedback and that sense of knowing that the happiness I experienced can be shared with such passion.

Johan, you are making me :redface: - :lol:

Thank you! Part two of day one is in the process of being!


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Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 12:42 pm 
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16 September 2007 (Part Two)

Dinalêdi

Reception at Kruger Gate is not too busy and when Kgomotso looks up, I am greeted with, “Not you again”. We smile broadly at each other and exchange greetings. Some things we take for granted, and those are the things we struggle to survive without. I look at the young man I have come to know over years of visits to Kruger, and realize that he has become part of the ritual. It would be a loss not to have him greet me and chat a bit about the city and then a bit about the Park.

If anyone was watching me, they would have thought that I am a bit dilly. Huge smile on my face whilst I was sniffing the air. The smells of Kruger permeated my skin, thatch, dust, earth and sunshine. That incredible awareness of being settled over me as my eyes roamed the small circle at the gate, the familiarity of it all and the newness of anticipation.

Then suddenly, the curtain of a world that no longer exists, closes and finally the veld absorbs me. It is as if loving arms enfold me and the magic of love dances in my heart. Love that sees everything with wise eyes, love that hungers yet waits patiently.

Spring has started her slow dance across the savannah, touching Marula and Acasia trees. Their tender tendrils of green in sharp contrast to the bleached remains of winter. Perhaps ubuntu does not describe human behaviour after all, but was stolen from the earth itself. Where do the trees find the strength to burst forth in life and the birds sing their mating calls as if they know secrets of abundance?

Skukuza comes too soon, but first things first, although my being is protesting against any structure after it was released to run wild with the impala, to see far with a giraffe’s eyes. I am booked in after a few minutes, and then it was time to meet with my hosts, but more of that when the time is right.

I cannot say that I unpacked carefully – driven by the call of the savannah and rivers, I literally chucked everything down and grabbed my camera as I rushed out the door. There was not a lot of time for exploring, as a night drive was planned, which meant a change of clothes, and a girl needs to have just a sprinkling of vanity even in the bush.

The highwater bridge on the H12 yielded Ververts practicing for the new Superman movie…
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Kudu having a chat with me…
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Lake Panic afforded these exciting sightings – please help me to identify the bird in the nest and the one with the funky hairstyle?
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The water level is very high at the moment, but the hide was surrounded by quite a number of waders on the banks. Goliath Heron, Yellowbilled Stork, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, a huge pod of hippo with quite a few youngsters, bushbuck and Cormorants. Then, as I start walking back to my car, the Emeraldspotted Dove breaks into song, the notes carried on the warm breeze of late afternoon. Mesmerized I listen to its melancholy song underwriting the definition of silence.

The first sighting on the night drive was a Marabou Stork. Our guide, January, a well-seasoned man of the bush. Soon he had us spellbound with his incredible knowledge and also in stitches with sharp wit. Darkness descended, changing the face of the bush. That primal feeling of intense awareness surfaced, every sensory dimension in my human body worked overtime. Perhaps the lessening of sight in darkness was compensated for in hearing, smelling and feeling. The spotlights picked up grazing hippos, but they did not like the limelight and scampered off into the darkness. Again our guide filled us in with amazing facts and left me wondering how much of nature do I really know about?

A while later, the game drive ended at a clearing in the bush which was softly lit by lanterns and fires. We arrived at the venue for the bush braai. Laughter mixed with the delicious smells of food. After a welcoming speech, our hunger pangs were stilled by the most delicious braai I have had in a long time.

Dinalêdi – means stars in Northern Sotho. I looked up into the night sky and the stars winked at me. I smiled my gratitude. I have met the incredible people who keep the magic alive in Kruger, and their professionalism makes it look all so easy. What made this whole experience beyond special was the warmth with which they included me into their circle. I deeply thank Wanda, William, Sinna, Lerato and January for affording me their company – you are indeed the stars that winked at me.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:46 pm 
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pardus wrote:
Lake Panic afforded these exciting sightings – please help me to identify the bird in the nest and the one with the funky hairstyle?
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The water level is very high at the moment, but the hide was surrounded by quite a number of waders on the banks. Goliath Heron, Yellowbilled Stork, Black-Crowned Night-Heron, a huge pod of hippo with quite a few youngsters, bushbuck and Cormorants.


You already named the bird hiding behind the leaves/twigs in your post quite correctly as a black-crowned night heron, pardus.

Thanks for the little peephole back to Kruger and Lake Panic specifically. LP is one of my favourite places in KNP.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 11:33 pm 
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Thanks Johan, my Ian Sinclair field guide tossed me a bit, especially the photo, but my Sasol correctly identified it, though I was still a bit apprehensive. Can you please help me to identify the other bird with the black crown perching in the tree?


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Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 1:34 pm 
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17 September 2007

Dream

I wake at 5:30 and dress quickly. I decide to drive in the direction of Renosterkoppies Dam and then circle back on the H3. The cool morning air washes over me as I drive with my windows open to listen to the sounds of awakening. There are no cars on the road and the silence I have been yearning for, comes to nest in my being.

At the dam, a few impala stand inside the dry waterhole with confused expressions. The area surrounding it has been trodden into a soft white powdery dust. The land is dry yet throbbing with expectancy. I turn into the S112 and travel between the large boulders, impalas are walking downwards in the direction of the dry dam. My thoughts take flight in the open savannah, the process whereby my soul releases all the things it held for the time when I will be here – here where it is safe to cry and have my heart mended by the patience of Mother Earth.

Back on the H3, a herd of elephant are grazing on the new shoots of Sickle bush. Summer salad…they must have been longing for this season as much. I watch them for a while and carry on. At the rocky outcrop just after turning into the H1-1, I find the klipspringers where they are sunning themselves. This place has been their home for many years, I have seen the veld burnt to ashes all around it, yet they remained. De Laporte drinking hole is dry too. Glossy starlings and Grey Go-Away birds sit in the trees and excitedly talk about the morning’s business. I close my eyes, immersing myself in the gaiety of their conversation, not wanting this moment to end, hoping to record the sound in my memory, to play back when I need to water my thirsty soul. When I drive into Skukuza, I realize that I had not touched my camera and smile to myself – I am getting lazy, or perhaps the need to just enjoy the moments presented to me, was stronger.

11:00. The voices of Africa rise toward the blue sky. I get goose bumps as I walk toward the white marquee tent next to the clubhouse on the golf course. The opening of SANParks week is heralded by the Kruger choir – their melodious voices capturing the rhythm of the earth itself, and they carry my heart, they make me smile with pride. I peep into the tent and see a bustle of activity – the staff readying for the many visitors who will join them in celebrating our heritage and to create awareness for that which we all are responsible to preserve.

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The Kruger Choir
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Proud Rangers and the Elders watching the display
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Wanda Mkutshulwa
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Dr David Mabunda and Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk

Dr Mabunda, CEO of SANParks opened the proceedings of the SANParks week and in essence reminded us of the challenges that exist in conservation, and how we are affected by global warming. The call to each and every one of us is clear, as we all have the responsibility and power to change. The minister, Mr van Schalkwyk echoed the same message and made an announcement that SANParks received a generous donation for the installation of solar power in the Parks, which will underwrite a truly minimized ecological footprint.

It was later in the afternoon, when the event was over, that I found my breath again, and could reflect in the most perfect place on earth. The Sabie river gliding along as my eyes roamed the bush, drinking in the wonder of it all, feeling humbled by a dream that realized. The words I had written was acknowledged, the story had touched people and that was my dream…In more ways than one, this trip felt like a dream, and I would wake with a smile. Thank you to everyone who helped made this come true.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:27 pm 
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Pardus I would venture a guess that it is a Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis). Might be wrong but it sure looks like it.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 11:23 am 
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18 September 2007

Where Rhinos and leopards sleep

I arrive at the reception building at 5:00 sharp. It is still dark outside and nothing stirs except for the calls of a Fierynecked Nightjar that breaks the silence. It calls ceaselessly until an answer comes from far away. It found its mate. When the sun rises, we are on our way, Bishop and Eric our guides for the morning walk. Since I had read so much of Bishop, I was now in particular excited about this experience.

We stop deep in the heart of the bush and as we disembark from the vehicle, I am faced with quite a number of feelings – cautious anticipation, a bit of adrenalin for good measure and that sense of being very small in the immense savannah. Trust and acute awareness.

Bishop is a remarkable man, he is an extension of nature. I never knew that black rhino’s eat their food at a 45 degree angle, firstly saw it in its straw coloured dung and then the tell-tale nibbles on a budding Acasia tree. The whole time whilst he was explaining the secrets of animal behaviour, I felt this powerful presence of something out there, something inexplicable. As we left the nibbled tree, now well aware of the difference between white and black rhino tracks, Bishop stopped us once more and pointed to the ground where a leopard had slept. The powdery soil had the clear outline of being indented slightly and the paw prints were very visible. I stood breathless, wanting to go on my knees and to sniff the ground, wanting to know its secrets, its thoughts… The next bend took us into a rocky outcrop and here we were privy to the next sleeping place…rhinos. Something primal entered my being as I looked at the overhanging rock, felt the warmth of it in the surrounding enclosure. The smell of morning dew and earth found my nose. I carefully walked to the back of the area and turned around to see what the rhinos would see when they wake in the morning. The window of their home a vast view of an African savannah. It was time to move on and I reluctantly left this magical place, wishing to stay just a little bit longer, to dream just a little bit more… We took a narrow impala path where I recognized the prints of a white rhino and calf - to walk in the footsteps of a rhino! Too soon we arrived back at the vehicle, if anything, my curiosity inflamed by a hunger wanting to know more, not facts from a book, but to be there, to smell, taste and hear, to be part of it.

I left Skukuza with a full heart, as I traveled towards Tambotie – the place where my soul is left underneath the shade of a Marula tree. Each and every experience was folded carefully into my treasure box of memories, the people I had met during the past two days who had made this a highlight in my life, the sheer happiness of it all filled me with contentment.
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By afternoon, the familiar forest of Tambotie camp greeted me. I was very very tired when I walked onto my tent’s deck, that was, until the Francolins below the deck had their own version of screeching me into a wide awake welcome. I took a perimeter walk and soon my senses were lifted. Dwarf mongoose were foraging in the beautiful light of late afternoon, their coppery pelts glowing in the gentle rays.
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Darkness started to seep in. I opened a bottle of champers to celebrate life, the Scops Owl called, a jackal answered. I had a seat to the best symphony concert in the world. The nightjar took up the second movement and a million stars lit the way of night.

As if my happiness was not utterly complete, my last surprises tuned up as I sat quietly on the deck. First, an African Wildcat sauntered into the braai area and lay down in the circle of light for a long time. I was itching to get to my camera that lay on my bed INSIDE the tent. When I finally managed to get it, the flash gave the animal a fright and it disappeared into the bushes. Damn! So I sat down quietly again, waiting for it to return, but twenty minutes later, a new visitor appeared – Civet! This time I did not even bother to take a picture and just enjoyed this rarely seen animal, a few inches away from me. It was shortly after 22:00 that the lions started the fourth movement of the bush concert. I floated away on the deep voices of Africa…
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Thank you Admin and Diannet for starting this dream.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 11:12 pm 
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Thank you to everyone who commented and encouraged me!

This was one of my shortest trips ever to Kruger, and it was packed with amazing things, it renewed so many dreams and made me fall in love with the special magical gifts that only Kruger can give...


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