Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:11 pm
Location: Back on earth.....
Hiya, I made it back!
No words needs to be split here, enjoy the last moments of the trip with us, and awe a little longer Day 5 (part 1): 4 April
After a deep rest, we woke up the next morning. This whole trip, we woke up VERY early, however the last morning everyone was a bit late. Was it because of the eventful day before, the short night we had, or because we all realised this would be the last morning we would wake up in a tent next to the Olifants…..?
Anyway, everyone took his/her time and I quickly made use of this opportunity and made some ‘hot choc’ before we hit the animals paths again. I wasn’t the only one with this brilliant idea, as Chris, Sawubona and Jan did the same thing. My tent, backpack, sleeping bag etc was full of sand, because of the previous days’ wind! I simply pack up, and decided to clean everything later. All stones and wood were back where they came from, so that once again all human signs would be wiped out. Julie and Donavan were finished long before any of us, and I could see them enjoying the beautiful colours of this early Saturday morning. Orange, yellow, blue, white and all the colours in-between. Stunning!
We left this extraordinary spot when it was already light. By now, we were so used to the heavy backpack. It felt like it was supposed to be there all the time.. (Well I was used to it!) I didn’t even struggle with the weight of the backpack, unlike I did the first 2 days. We walked through a nice and scenic area, and luckily the irritating shrubs of the previous day were gone. Quite a few impala herds were spotted enroute to a very SPECIAL and LIFETIME sighting. But be patient, we’re not there YET!
Donavan abruptly stopped, and picked up a large insect. Again, it’s name has escaped me, it is an impossible task to remember everything… We were told that it was one of the bigger insects around, and that this insect kills other insects by crushing them with it’s front ‘claws’. Donavan then showed us that, after it would be disturbed, it will run around a it’s gone mad, totally confused as where to go! It looked like me, when I’m heading home to Kruger VERY INTERESTING!
So, after this ‘lesson’ we continued the hike. From time to time, we would see fleeing impalas, spotting a few glimpses. In the distance not far away, we heard a group of baboons calling. BaHA! BaaHAA! Definitely something wrong there!! At this stage, the river appeared to become fuller and deeper. We saw less hippos and less rockies.
The river was flowing strongly, and it was quite an amazing sight, certainly when considering that it was a few days in April already. Hopefully, plenty water left for the harsh dry months to come!
Then suddenly, unexpectedly my lifetime dream became true!!!! We walked between a low ‘earth wall on our left, and the river to our right. As we ‘came around the corner’ of the river, the warning calls of the baboons got louder and louder! AND THERE HE WAS!!!! A beautiful and big male leopard!! Donavan saw him first, and when Julie saw it her face was one smile & in pure excitement she pointed it out to us: “There, a leopard!’ Obviously, I could not believe my eyes… PURE luck! Numerous elephant and buffalo sightings, , close buffaloes and a lion encounter, and finally a clear leopard sighting, all ON FOOT. The leopard initially wasn’t aware of our presence, as he was smelling the scent on the fig tree. We walked a bit closer, probably around 50m from it.
As we stopped, the leopard looked at us. This gave me the opportunity to take another 2 pictures. Then, he went from a ‘ready’ to ‘steady’ mode. As with athletics, the ‘steady’ phase did not last long, and with a few big leaps, he greeted us by a flury of spots. Gone.
All in all, it lasted maybe for 30 seconds, but it was long enough to be imprinted in our memories for ever. Now, we became members of the LOF (LeopardOnFoot) group! Sorry for all the bragging , but I think we have reason to! I have now encountered all of the big 5 on foot, all in close range and although it is pure luck, I see it as a personal goal achieved!
But lets leave the bragging for a second, and walk on. A bit further we came across yet another Black rhino midden, which was recently used!! And boy, was it smelling bad…. I saw Donavan smiling, although he did not stop to tell us about it. But I noticed it…. So we walked on very cautiously for the next km or so. At one stag, he whispered to Julie :if we find this bloody thing [meaning black rhino], you’re coming with me on every trail!” I just shook my head and smiled. They were all laughing at me the previous day, when I said I wanted to see “wild-dog pups on foot” So too, I now laughed at ‘black rhino on foot’ It was pushing luck too far.
As full as the river was the early morning, it became narrower as we walked on. The amount of dry side streams also increased, and made the hike a bit more challenging, as we had to ‘conqueror’ numerous dips.
Donavan increased the pace, and some struggled to keep up. Sometimes, the ‘gaps’ between us got bigger and bigger. Chris pack too much food, and his pack was heavy…Nevertheless, overall he did really well considering the weight. So too, the 2 girls had to stay strong…. The blisters too were taking their toll. Luckily, I had none!! We passed quite a few anthills, something we did not see the 1st two days. We left the riverside, and walked through the veldt, surrounded by almost exclusive Mopane scrubs.
We walked into an open spot, and here Donavan announced the official “Bokdrol Spoeg Competition”. For non-South Africans, bokdrol spoeg is a competition where each person takes a ‘bokdrol’ [kudu or impala dropping ], puts it in their mouths, and spits it out as far as possible. The person who spat the furthest, is the winner. Simple as that!
Chris, he made quite an effort for it!
Riverrat, AKA 'The RAT'
Donavan, who saw him beaten this time
It was quite fun, and we had a lekker laugh!! Frank won… I guess I didn’t win, as my first attempt went down my throat.. Just kidding A tip: first suck it a bit, so that it can get heavy and will go further Just make sure your fake teeth don’t come with as well!
After this fun event, we had to walk on, as we we supposed to be collected around 11 that morning. The river became very wide again, with large patches of ‘beach’ all along it. The walking over the sand, rocks and flushed wood made it somewhat different than the days before. It was VERY scenic, and absolute thrilling to see! As we passed by, a family of Egyptian geese were not too happy about our experiences, and left the scene.
Closer to a rocky area, we all knew Donavan and Julie would be looking for a spot to have our last, wonderful breakfast. We walked close to the edge of the river, when suddenly two hippos emerged! Mom with offspring.. Julie didn’t even see it, and when I stopped her, she tried so hard to stop she almost fell in the sand! I had a good chuckle, and we detoured a bit, to get some distance between the surprising mom and ourselves.
Not far from there, we had our breakfast. I didn’t have much food left, 2,5 pieces of weetbix, that’s all! Luckily Jan and Chris overstocked, and shared me some of their food. Salami , dry wors sticks, the lot We took our time, and enjoyed the view of undisturbed nature for a little longer. The sounds of the flowing water, the rustic surroundings, the WILD impression..
After a delightful 45min, we had to continue. So we walked the last km or so of this hike. Came along a few impies, distant fish eagles and a lone springhare, who sped off at first sight. Couldn’t even get a picture of it! The clouds were joining forces, and it looked like it was about to rain! Then, as a very light drizzle covered up, the last buffy of the trip came by to say Hi. He looked at us for a while, not moving an inch. As we got closer, he must have got the smell of dangerous humans, and choose an easier route. After this encounter, it stopped drizzling. It was as if everything became sad, sad because we had to return to reality, sad because we had to leave the side of the river, the place we have learned to like so much!!
After a rocky patch, we walked on another earth wall, giving us the opportunity to look onto the river from a nice, high angle. Suddenly, Donavan STOPPED…. Guess what? It was the end of the walk!!!! He congratulated everyone, and after we realized this was IT, we did the same. It was unbelievable, time had gone so quick and I really did not want to stop! I then asked whether is was a joke, as I have not seen the BIG TREE the groups usually ended the walk under. Donavan told me the tree collapsed or something, so now they stop under an apple leaf tree…, 200m before the initial stop point.
We all offloaded our gear, and enjoyed the short rest. Donavan took out the satellite phone, and quickly phoned Olifants camp, to enquire where the truck was that was supposed to be collecting us. They were on their way. This delay gave me the opportunity to take a few pictures, while the rest of us discussed the highlights of this remarkable and extraordinary trip. We still could not believe our luck as to the cat sightings.
Then, SAWUBONA could not hold it anymore, and for the first time walked off with ‘Orge’. Another soldier lost ‘The Battle’….. When he came back, we joked about this ‘scoreboard’ and all that! Good times!! After 20 mins or so, the truck came. Erik, the driver had a big smile on his face. They loaded our packs on the truck, while we could feast on a cooler box filled with cold drinks, beer, coke, the lot! It was nice, and strange at the same time to have such luxury at our disposal. Just shows you how quick we adapt to our circumstances.
We had a pleasant drive back, where we talked ‘n hond uit ‘n bos uit’ (a lot!). We were all happy, happy to have successfully completed the trip, & that it was such a tremendous success!! We saw quite a few impala’s on our way back, as well as distant elephants and giraffes. The dustroad towards the H9 became quite a mission, with numerous potholes. We shook quite badly from time to time! Then, after a bumpy ride, we saw the first car, and then the tar… back to civilization!!
Closer to camp, we saw a person walking outside his car, down by the river. Donavan all asked us to shout with him… Well we did our best, and the guy was back in his car in seconds I could clearly see that these things upset Donavan quickly… Just around the corner, a bakkie stood next to the road, it’s bonnet open. The guys was fiddling with the pipes. Upon enquiry, he said he’s OK and the car started, so we moved on. Quite strange to be back, and encounter the flaws of society and technology as soon as we hit the tar….
All too soon, the gates of Olifants camp appeared, and our trip was officially OVER.
Although this wasn’t a very good thought, it was nice to see that we had a whole reception waiting for us! All family members eager to meet us again. We climbed out, and it was as if everyone was excited, chatting, laughing and smiles everywhere. I’m sure a few other visitors to the camp would have lifted an eyebrow…. Anyway, Donavan and Julie thought it was quite funny when I presented them with a ‘certificate’, which I made and printed before. Although Donavan completed his 31st Backpack hike, and Julie her 10th, their both took it with a big smile. I wonder if they hanged them up somewhere….
ALL IN ALL, this Backpack Trail was an unforgettable experience, TRULY AMAZING and beyond expectation!!! I have really enjoyed it tremendously, and it definitely was the highlights of my close to 22 years so far! I would really, really recommend it to ANY person who is moderately fit, and who loves the outdoors & wildlife. Don’t expect big things, but you might just stumble across them.
Once again, thanks for everyone who came along, and contributed towards the unbeatable success of this trip. A special thanks to both Donavan and Julie, for your professionalism and company. We enjoyed and appreciated it beyond description!
Then, after all the meeting and greeting was done, I had to make a dive for the toilets, as I ‘won the battle, but lost the war’......
To be continued SOON…….
_________________Letaba 8 July, Shipandane 9 July, Shingwedzi 10 - 14 July
Last edited by G@mespotter on Tue May 19, 2009 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.