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 Post subject: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP-June 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2011 6:06 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
We escaped from the concrete jungle and settled in the Waterberg region of Limpopo in December 2010. This was a move that had been planned for some time and was intended to make it easier for us to reach the northern and western parks and areas, as well as places in Botswana.
Then in January, friends of ours – R and D – mentioned that they would love to go to Mapungubwe, we jumped at the chance. Camping at Mazhou for 6 nights – what a pleasure! Booking was made for early June, payment duly done and we started making preparations. R and D would use their caravan and we would take our off-road trailer. Menus were planned and stews/curries/soups and braai meat filled the freezers in both houses.
Then P had one of his brilliant ideas – let’s go from Mapungubwe to Kruger! No objection from anyone BUT it was only a week before we were due to leave – were there still campsites available and where? “Try Shingwedzi “said P – “Okaaaay” I replied. Shingwedzi was full but before I logged out from the SANParks site I checked Punda and Tsendze – Ah Ha! Both of them could accommodate us for all 5 nights! We quickly phoned R and discussed it with him and settled on Punda as it was closer to Mapungubwe and would be easier to do in one day. The booking was done and D and I revised all our lists of food and clothes required! Eventually, everything was packed and now we are ready to go. R & D have arrived from Johannesburg and, early tomorrow, we’ll be on our way.
When we were last in Mapungubwe, 3 years ago, there was no cell phone signal except at the Main Gate and we don’t think that the situation has changed. So, although the trusty roving laptop will accompany us – it is unlikely that I will be able to continue with this trip report until we get to Punda in a week’s time. In the meantime, P will take some pics and I will write a few paragraphs and post the result when I can.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:42 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
Vlakvarkvrou - your patience is about to be rewarded
Hugh - go and enjoy Mapungubwe.....it's totally different from KNP and KTP, but PLEASE read what happened and make plans to avoid it happening to you :wink:
MM - Punda in winter is great: the days are warm, the nights cool, there's still a lot of birds around - you just have to search for animals (what's strange?)


I should have posted the first part of this TR a week ago but - dear old service provider had other ideas! Eventually they admitted that they had a problem on their server/network which had made transmission of even one line e-mails an almost impossibility. Things lokk as if all is back to normal, so............here goes:

Sunday 5 June
Well before daybreak, the clock alarm woke us up at 4.30 am. It was dark and cool. We hurriedly made and drank tea and coffee; closed the windows; put out the rubbish bags; packed the last few items; turned off the water and the geyser and hitched up the trailer and caravan. By 6.20 we were ready to go. It was not long – about 2km - when we had to stop to sort out a “clanging and clinking” noise in the back of the vehicle which was traced to 2 bottles knocking against each other. That sorted out, we headed onwards; only to stop again a few kilometres later when the cover of the trailer’s electrical connection came loose and was flapping up and down! We managed to reach the motorway with no further problems and headed north to Polokwane (Pietersburg) where we branched off onto the R521 to Alldays. From there it is about 46kms to the R572 Musina road where you turn right to Mapungubwe main gate – 19kms down the road. (The road is in good condition with only a few small potholes in isolated patches. However, first about 50kms from Polokwane is busy with several heavy duty cross-border vehicles – mainly Zambian and Malawian.) Having checked in and received our campsite numbers, we had to retrace our steps back to the R521 and turn towards Pontdrift. About 9kms later, we turned onto the Den Staat road – good, wide gravel that winds through orange groves and tomato fields. At last we came to the turnoff to Mazhou. We threaded our way through the bush into an area of large lush trees and it is in this area that Mazhou is situated. All 10 sites have electrical points; tap; dustbin and a large braai. They are large but are not grassed. The ablution block is centrally situated and consists of 2 showers; 2 toilets and 2 communal wash basins as well as a special shower room with toilet and washbasin for the physically disabled.
Image
The dishwashing facility is situated in the same block and all showers and basins have hot and cold running water. We were fortunate enough to be allocated sites 4 and 5 – under an enormous Nyala tree which gave plenty of shade.
Image
We set up camp and decided to go for a quick drive to the hide at Maloutswa Pan which was only 4kms away. Winding our way through the bush, we spotted plenty of Impala, some Vervet Monkeys and a couple of stray Baboons. We arrived at the hide to find it full of spectators! We squashed into a corner and looked out – the pan was only half full of water compared to our last visit in March 2008. A very noisy flock of Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers were arguing about which nest belonged to whom in the dead trees on the opposite bank. Two Pied Kingfishers were hovering and diving for food – unsuccessfully! Arrow-marked babblers were cackling away to each other on the left hand side of the pan and then frantically flew off for no apparent reason. Two Impala rams were “barking” at each other until, finally, one got fed up with the duet and chased his opponent away. We left and returned to camp but, less than 1km from the hide, came to a sudden stop as an imperious Kori Bustard strutted across the road in front of us. A little further on, we caught sight of 4 giraffe disappearing into the bush.
Back at camp, I made a terrible discovery – I had forgotten to pack the pillows! Oooops! Not popular! I made temporary ones from two small blankets that we kept in the car but, somehow, it wasn’t quite the same................
We ate and went to bed – with much muttering and squirming from P as he tried to shape the “pillow” to suit his head.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:26 am 
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
Vlakvarkvrou Here is another instalment - enjoy!

Monday 6 June.
We were woken early by a dawn chorus of note. It seemed as if every bird in Mapungubwe was telling us to get up out of bed. We made tea and coffee and drank it sitting outside gazing at the bush. A movement caught P’s eye – it was a Bush buck ewe quietly grazing near the tree trunk. Deeper in the bushes we could see glimpses of Impala – however, we could hear that peculiar “barking” noise which indicated a ram sending out a challenge to his rivals. This being the rutting season, we were to hear this noise every day and sometimes, even at night!
We decided to go to the Eastern part of the park and explore an area that we had previously only travelled through. Especially to follow the 4x4 track along the Limpopo to the Picnic Site at the Confluence. At the entrance gate we turned right towards the new Interpretive Centre and continued past it towards the Schroda Gate. We then turned left and continued towards Vhembe Wilderness Camp. Shortly after that turnoff we turned left again and proceeded down the 4x4 track to Zebra Pan. There was not much water in it and the black sticky mud looked as if it had been well churned by many hooves and feet. There were rocks around two sides, bushes on the third and the road formed the last boundary. We stopped, as there, in the middle of the road, stood an elegant Saddle-billed Stork balancing on one leg! We sat and watched him for a while until we noticed, on the left, two klipspringers also coming down slowly towards the water. They were nervously looking from right to left and then, rounding a small bush – walked straight into the stork! Suddenly, stork performed a vertical take-off and klipspringers dashed back into the rocks quicker than you can say “Jack Robinson”! Stork landed on the ground, shook himself and resumed his stance. He did not look amused. The klipspringers plucked up courage and began edging towards the water again.
Image
We then noticed some Impala rams coming down the road towards us. They were also approaching the water nervously. One of them saw a movement on the rocks and charged across sending a Dassie fleeing for cover. The ram shook his head and snorted as if to say “This is our water. You lot keep away. “
Image
He sniffed at the ground and gradually edged closer to the muddy fringes. His companions, meanwhile, stayed where they were – on the road. The stork turned his back and moved slightly away from the pan while the klipspringers had finally made it to the opposite bank from the Impala. Tentatively, the one klipspringer tested the mud with its hoof but was very cautious. The Impala now decided that all was well and that he was going to show his companions that he was no coward – and he stepped firmly into the mud – only to leap out backwards very quickly as his legs began to sink into the gooey mess! In doing so, he almost came down onto another Dassie – who fled for its life – and he displaced a Burchells Coucal who flew off very indignantly. One shame-faced Impala now had four legs with black “socks”! We were laughing so much that P forgot to take a pic! The klipspringers watched these antics silently then they retreated and started nibbling on a couple of bushes well away from the water. The Impala decided collectively that this was also not the place to have a drink and disappeared down the road in the direction from which they had come. Meanwhile, the stork stalked off into the bushes on the opposite side of the road and stood contemplating his nose.
Image
We moved on down towards the Limpopo. The sandstone cliffs had many wild fig trees growing on them. The roots of these were long and white and curled down the cliff sides fastening the tree firmly to any crack or crevice that the roots managed to penetrate. The track turned parallel to the unseen river – large trees curved above us creating a tunnel. It was narrow, only a car’s width. A broken electric fence threaded through the branches on the right hand side and separated the track from the riverine vegetation. We hadn’t driven more than about 500m when a movement about 300m ahead of us caught P’s attention. Elephant standing in the track busy stripping a tree of its leaves and branches. Just what we didn’t want! There was only one way out – in reverse! I was driving, so P gave the ever increasingly “detailed” instructions. We made it out without upsetting the grey giants and headed back the way that we had come. The pan was empty – all the animals had gone, only the stork was still there and still contemplating his nose!
Heading through the Mopane bush on the way to Schroda Gate, there was a movement ahead of us – a twitch of an ear – then an explosive burst of action as, what seemed to be a Gemsbok, dashed across the road. Needless to say, when we got to the place, couldn’t see a thing – it had vanished! We decided not to have our “picnic” at the Confluence and headed back to camp – about 35kms on the tar road. We had no idea of what was awaiting us.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:02 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
Naomi C and PetraJ Thanks, hope that you enjoy the next part!
Val This might persuade you to try Mapungubwe in future!


Monday 6 June contd.
All seemed normal as we drove up to the trailer – until we walked around to the front. CHAOS! We had been visited by a troop of Vervet monkeys who had, somehow, dragged our small electric cooler box out from under the trailer, flipped the handle to open it and carefully removed the lid entirely and placed it on the ground. They then tucked in – milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, energy bars, apples and 2 packs of those vacuum pack salads – all gone! Cool drink cans and cold meat were liberally scattered over our ground sheet. We cleared up and replaced the cooler lid, marvelling at the fact that it had not been damaged and that its motor was still running! Fortunately, we did have some extra milk in the freezer and apples, cheese and energy bars inside the trailer but no cold meat, butter or yoghurt! To say that we were not amused is putting it mildly but we were revelling in the thought that the 2 salads – 1 curry based and 1 Chicken Tikka – would probably be causing the devourer/s some discomfort.
We ate lunch and contemplated revenge. Effectively all that we could do was to lock the cooler in the trailer every time we left camp – not ideal. When we were last here, we saw no monkeys or baboons in our entire stay. How things have changed in 3 years. During that relatively short time, humans must have encouraged the monkeys by feeding them. The result is that they are now a menace. Future visitors should be warned – do NOT leave anything out that contains food. The monkeys don’t even have to see the food, they know the containers! Either close it up in a trailer or caravan or take all your food with you in the car.
“First no pillow, now the monkeys take the butter” muttered P. Oh dear! This was one unhappy chappy – not a good start to a holiday.

Tuesday 7 June
We knew that there was a small garage with a superette about 30kms towards Musina from the Main Gate, so we set off to see if we could replace some of our stolen food. There are some magnificent sandstone hills (too small to be called mountains!) about 10kms from the turn onto the Musina road. Next to a small tree on one of them stood a silhouette of something – could it be a Klipspringer? As we got closer, it became clear that it was a bird – a large bird. We stopped and gazed up – Black Stork. We watched him for some time then he suddenly decided to fly off and P caught him as he flew past the hill.
Image
We continued on to the garage and shop. Their prices are high and the shop has a very limited range of products but, under the circumstances, it was better than nothing. We managed to get some margarine but were delighted when the manageress (Owner?) offered to get some butter for us in Musina on the following day. We accepted her offer and arranged to go back on Thursday to collect. The wind had picked up and had a chilly bite to it so we hurried back into the vehicle and headed back to the Eastern side of Mapungubwe.
We were now going to go to the Confluence in a different direction. This time we turned left at the Main Gate and drove towards Leokwe Rest Camp. The road is much better than the one we travelled yesterday and had sections that had been concreted so that normal sedan cars could also have access. We passed the turn-off to Leokwe and continued passed the Tree-top walkway to the bottom of a steep hill. Accelerating, we sped to the top where the picnic site is situated. There were several shady spots with tables and benches – most of them also had braais (B.B.Q’s). We ate quickly and went to the look-out platforms; there is a pathway which meanders around the hill giving various views of the Limpopo valley and the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. Standing at the main view point, you gaze upon three countries – to the left is Botswana; to the right Zimbabwe and you are in South Africa.
We got back to our vehicle and headed down the hill towards the Treetop Walk. It is an extraordinary feeling walking above small trees and bushes and level with the tops of others. Ana trees and Fever trees tower above all the others and create a shady area for walking. At the end is a hide situated on the banks of the Limpopo. The wind was really blowing hard here and most birds and animals were nowhere to be seen. A pair of White-fronted Bee-eaters periodically hawked for insects over the water whenever the wind died down slightly. Some cattle decided to move from Botswana to South Africa and started wading across but were forced to swim the last 100m. Just like humans some were good swimmers and some barely made it across! We couldn’t help wondering whether the owner was in Botswana or whether this herd was returning home but one thing was for certain – no passport control for them! In the distance could be heard elephant trumpeting but there was no sign of them. The wind continued to blow and made certain, that today at least, Kipling’s “Grey, green, greasy Limpopo” did not exist.
Image
We headed back to camp and were highly relieved to find that, although there was evidence that the monkeys had visited us again, there was no damage this time.
Later that afternoon, we watched with amazement as an extremely large 4x4 motor home attempted to squeeze onto a campsite. The height of this monster meant that there was little or no chance of getting in without damaging trees. Eventually the driver was forced to park in the long grass between two sites even though it meant having to break a branch from a tree to enable him to get in. This vehicle was accompanied by two off-road caravans who were easily able to park on their sites. However, the one driver, for some weird and wonderful reason, decided to park his vehicle slap bang in the middle of the road thus stopping anyone from driving around the ablution block and effectively closing up part of the road to the exit as people were now only able to drive out in one direction. We shook our heads.
Mazhou now had almost every type of camping outfit parked there– normal caravans; off-road caravans; tents; roof-top tents; trailer tents and a motor home - not bad going for a 10 site facility!

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:28 am 
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Vlakvarkvrou; Bert; Elsa and Pumbaa
Thanks for your comments and encouragement :)

MM - Yes you are correct, the wheelchair facilities at Mapungubwe are excellent. There is easy access both at the Confluence view points and the Tree-Top walk. Maloutswa Pan may be a little difficult but not impossible.


Wednesday 8 June
Today, some housekeeping was on the menu. Camping in the shade of a Nyala tree has it downside – the fruit of the Nyala tree! Small greenish fruits looking a little like miniature Avocado Pears but extremely sticky when they burst open. They fell regularly either because the wind shook them loose or when the monkeys dropped the half-eaten ones. The end result was that our shoes and the groundsheet were coated with dirt encrusted, solidified gunge! P got out his trusty penknife and I went in search of the broom. Uh Oh! Yes – I had forgotten to pack it..............Eish! Quickly borrowed a broom and started cleaning up.
Later, in the afternoon, we drove to Maloutswa Pan. The hide was fairly empty and we were able to sit down this time! There was Waterbuck drinking on the one side, some Wildebeest resting under the trees opposite the hide and a pair of Egyptian Geese mating. As we watched, a family of Warthogs came down to drink – 2 Adults and 3 youngsters. They went straight to the water’s edge, quickly slaked their thirst and disappeared back into the bush. One of the adults stayed a little longer than the others
Image
but soon it also vanished.
Not long after, a few Impala appeared and cautiously approached the edge. The ram was particularly nervous and with good cause. Another ram appeared from the side and started barking – ah! We thought, are they going to battle it out for the ladies’ favours? No such luck! The ewes took fright and galloped away, hotly followed by the first ram.
Some baboons ambled down and sat grooming themselves and each other. Here and there, one would take a drink of water but they were not in hurry to go anywhere. A couple of “teenagers” were showing some babies how to forage.
Image
The Alpha male had other things on his mind – two of the females were in season! We watched the antics for some time and then decided to go back to camp. As we started packing up, one of the other watchers asked us if we had seen the owl? He showed us a tree stump on the far side of the pan – and there (only visible through binocs!) was a Pearl-spotted Owlet doing an excellent impression of a piece of dead tree!
On the way back, we had to stop very quickly as a small breeding herd of Elephants materialised out of nowhere! The matriarch was in the lead with 2 small ones hot on her heels, then followed a couple of teenagers and 2 Aunts brought up the rear. The one kept stopping and looking back at us just to make certain that we were not following them.
We arrived at camp to be greeted by R, who was highly indignant. Apparently R and D had been sitting quietly by their caravan when they heard a noise coming from the adjacent site. Knowing that the occupants were out, R went to investigate. There was an off-road caravan and a large tent on the site. The noise was a troop of baboons raiding the tent. They had torn open the back of the tent and were busy pulling out clothing, bedding, toiletries and food. Seeing R approaching, they quickly grabbed food and some medicines which they thought were edible and moved a short distance away. When R went towards them, one of them stood up and bared his fangs – R beat a hasty retreat. We parked and went with R to investigate. The baboons had gone further into the bush and we could hear what sounded like a can being smashed against a rock coming from behind the tent. What a mess! This was much, much worse than our monkey episode. Clothing and toiletries lay scattered metres into the bush. Medicines were mixed up with food items – containers had been torn apart or so badly bitten that they were unusable and a tog bag had been ripped apart. Bedding was half out of the tent and as for the inside of that tent...................well, no-one would sleep in there for some time. The baboons had fouled the inside, the smell was atrocious. D and I fetched some plastic bags and, under R and P’s watchful gaze, we gathered up what we could and put the bags by the entrance of the tent.
We could hear the troop barking as they were not too far away but, fortunately, they did not return to the scene of the crime. Later, the occupants returned and R told them what had happened. It was a pensioner couple with their daughter and it was her tent that had been raided.

Thursday 9 June
I woke very early, it was barely light. Then I heard what must have awoken me – Boom, boom-boom, boom. The call of the Southern Ground Hornbill! A distance away came the reply: bom,bom-bom, bom. We had heard them on our previous visit and it was good to know that they were still around. Then, from the direction of the river, came the sound of an elephant trumpeting followed by those hormone driven Impala rams challenging each other. There was silence for a few minutes before the dawn chorus began. I gave up trying to sleep, made tea and coffee and sat outside watching the bush and wondering where those baboons were.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:04 pm 
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Thank you I am enjoying this report.
I know monkey s so well we have a resident troop who are in our garden daily. Have them well under controll as I keep windows locked and food out of site. Also know what Baboons can do . Was raided at tambotie once . They only ate the cereal and some cake But the mess !! so I have been forwarned thanks . We sleep in our van and all food stuff is on the front seat at night and in the back during the day. Have a small tent that keeps our suitcase and cleaning stuff. So when we arrive there I must just look out for the little darlings. We use water and vinegar in a spray bottle and the primates dont like it as they dont like grooming themselves as the vinegar tastes awful ( will have my bottle with me ) cant wait.
Look forward to more :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:10 pm 
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
Hugh Love your primate "repellant". Gives us a good idea for our next trip in August!
Val The chalets at Leokwe have outside showers - the toilets are inside the small bathroom. Friends of ours, also worried about " things that crawl and slither in the night", went for early morning drives, returned to the chalet at lunch time - showered, ate their lunch - and then went out again in the afternoon.
John n Poppy P took plenty of pics but wasn't happy with some of the results. These are some of the better ones.

Thanks all of you for your comments - here's the next episode:

Thursday 9 June contd.
There was a rustling sound in front of me and the Bushbuck ewe appeared quietly grazing as she went. Behind her followed a young female – most likely her last offspring. They moved across under the Nyala tree and sniffed around looking for some of the fruit. Another movement caught my eye and out from behind a bush emerged a Bushbuck ram. His intentions were quite clear as he wasn’t interested in feeding but by the same token, the ewe wasn’t at all interested in him! The threesome moved off and P reminded me that we had to go and get the butter. We had closed/locked/hidden everything away by the time Aubrey arrived to clean the braai and empty the dustbin. We told him about the baboons and he immediately stopped what he was doing and went straight to the people. The next thing that we saw was that he was running back to his vehicle and calling someone on the radio.
We left and headed out through Den Staat to the tar road. At the place where we had previously seen a solitary Black Stork, there were now 3 of them flying around. We stopped to watch. Suddenly, one veered away and flew in the opposite direction. The other 2 headed for a ledge on one of the cliffs. P had hoped that they would be nearer than before – no such luck! We then noticed that there appeared to be the remains of a nest on this ledge and, sure enough, the storks landed on the nest. After a short while, to our amazement, they began to mate.
Image
What’s up with this area – most of the birds and animals seem to be overloaded with hormones!
We left them to it and headed on to the garage where the butter was waiting for us. As P wanted to try to take more, hopefully closer, pics of the Storks, we parked in the picnic area at the garage until the sun had moved into a more acceptable place. Having cell phone reception, it was logical that we should try to download our e-mails. An hour later (!) all 25 e-mails had finally come through and the sun was right. Back we drove – but they were still on the nest and totally engrossed in each other. They were not going to move and give P a chance for a close-up!
We gave up and headed back but instead of going to the camp, we carried on to Maloutswa Pan. Driving along the track I noticed a large black bird gliding towards us: “P, quickly your camera – it’s one of the Storks coming towards us.” He grabbed his camera and started shooting but it was high overhead and coming into land behind us. By the time that I had turned the vehicle, the bird had vanished. We drove up and down but couldn’t find it anywhere. P checked the shots that he had got and said: “That’s not a Black Stork. This one’s got a reddish sac on its throat” “Marabou Stork” we both said in unison.
Image
Maloutswa Pan was disappointing today – only the Egyptian Geese were in residence. We left after a short while and went back to camp. A movement in the long grass caught P’s attention – this time his camera was ready and he managed to get a shot of the Kori Bustard as it stalked through the grass.
Image
Near the turn off to Limpopo Tented Camp, we spotted a movement in one of the clearings – small, greyish buck. After a couple of minutes it was joined by another but the vegetation in between was making identification difficult. Eventually, after consulting a couple of books, we came to the conclusion that they were Common (or Grey) Duikers. They browsed for a bit and then melted back into the bush.
R once more greeted us on our return but this time with better news. After we had left, an armed ranger had arrived and had stayed around the camp for most of the day but the baboons had not re-appeared. He had left a short while before our return. D then pointed out the young bushbuck to us. It seemed as if the mother had finally succumbed to the attractive male and had gone off with him, leaving her offspring at the camp. Perhaps she knew that this youngster would be safe there – hopefully no “well-meaning” human will be tempted to feed it ,therefore making it dependant on handouts.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2011 2:49 pm 
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Location: In the heart of the Waterberg; Deep in Limpopo
John n Poppy We also heard gunfire but were told that it came from a Hunting Concession on the Botswana side :hmz:
Val Don't know about other humans but those hormones didn't affect these :twisted:
Pumbaa; Forestgump; anne-marie; Sharifa and Duke and MM Thanks everyone for your comments.

Before I continue - apologies to you all - there are no pics in today's episode. Dare I say "Due to circumstances beyond our control" ?

Friday 10 June
Today was our last day in Mapungubwe. Tomorrow we had a journey of about 300kms to Punda Maria. As we had not really spent much time in camp, we decided not to go out but to clean things (like the gas stove!) and pack away what we could. It would take us at least 2 hours tomorrow morning to finish packing up as we had to empty and collapse the trailer tent before even trying to move out. We were not in a hurry and stopped several times to sit and enjoy the bush in front of us and its various occupants. Although P’s camera was close at hand, he could not get any pics. Whatever came close enough to be photographed, vanished as soon as he picked up the camera! The exception being the young Bushbuck who would not leave the dappled shade of the bushes and trees – this was not P’s day! – and to cap it all, his neck was hurting from sleeping on the “pillow”........

Saturday 11 June
We were up before dawn and quickly made some sandwiches and coffee for the road. Having cleared everything out of the tent and packed things away in the trailer, we could collapse and fold the tent on top of the trailer. Fortunately, P had packed his camera away otherwise I would have forced to post a pic of me balancing on top of the tent which was on top of the trailer - not very dignified but, according to P, it was the only way to flatten the tent sufficiently so that the cover would fit over...........was this revenge for the pillows????
By 8 am we had finished, showered and changed and were ready to go. However, R & D had underestimated how long it would take them to get their caravan ready so it was another 30mins before we actually left. As we travelled down the track to the entrance, a large herd of Impala and a herd of Waterbuck were there to bid us farewell. Just before the gate, a flurry of wings drew our attention to 2 Namqua Doves.
The road to Musina is good – very little traffic and no potholes. The shortest route to Punda Maria from Musina is via Tshipise and Pafuri Gate. For those of you who may wish to take this route – fill up with petrol/diesel in Musina’s main road before getting to the turn off onto the R508. The main road itself is still the N1 – it is extremely busy with over border traffic. There are traffic circles and 4 way stop streets which cause continuous traffic snarl-ups. Should you need to replenish food supplies - as you turn left to Tshipise, there is a small shopping centre on the right with a supermarket, bottle store and biltong shop. Opposite, on the left, is another small supermarket and a bank ATM.
From Musina to Tshipise the road is narrow, windy and hilly but in a good condition. At Tshipise, turn left onto the R525 - an excellent road which takes you to Masisi where, unfortunately the road starts to deteriorate so that the last 10kms to Pafuri Gate are full of potholes.
We were welcomed at Pafuri Gate and, very quickly and efficiently, all our details were taken down and permits issued. Since our last visit in May 2010, KNP has now a very comprehensive folder into which the permit is stapled. This gives all the rules and regulations as well as information on how to behave near Elephants; a Code of Good Game viewing; contact telephone numbers of camps and gates and the opening and closing times of camp and entry gates. No-one can now say that they didn’t know that they were transgressing! (Thought – hopefully it is produced in languages other than English....)
After grabbing a quick bite to eat at the gate, we headed south with me having, once again, taken over the driving duty (P does not drive in National Parks!). About 12kms from the gate, I stopped. Ahead the road curved around a bend but there was a movement in the Mopane bush at the side just on the bend. R & D drove cautiously alongside us: “What is it?” “Something moved, not sure what it is” With that, an Elephant appeared and ambled across the road, followed by a baby and another adult. R reversed slowly, we stayed where we were with the engine idling. The Elephants were about 200m ahead and did not seem to have noticed us. Another Elephant crossed, then another – slowly we counted about 20 adults and babies. We waited – where were the teenage bulls and the aunts? R sidled up alongside us again “Don’t move, there’s a tortoise just gone under the trailer’s wheels. We’ll watch it and tell you when you can go” Great! They reversed again and watched the tortoise whilst we watched the Elephants! We had to wait for a few minutes before the first of the rear guard came out of the bush. Eventually we estimated that this was a breeding herd of about 35 animals, all of whom seemed to be totally ignorant of our presence. Meanwhile, unbeknown to us but watched by R & D, the tortoise moved forward from the trailer and came under the vehicle. It stopped for a couple of minutes and then moved over towards the other side of the road. R flashed his lights indicating that we could continue. It was then that they realised that the tortoise had come under our vehicle and had drunk the water droplets that were coming from the air conditioner!
Without any further ado, we carried on to Punda seeing – nothing! On arrival there, we set about finding a campsite but there were very few available; this was the fullest that we had ever seen this camp! Eventually, we found two sites with electricity fairly close to each other and were able to set up camp for the next 5 nights. Unfortunately, our “luck” struck again – we had chosen the ONLY site where the braai had not been cleaned! P quickly phoned Reception, who promised to send someone immediately to clean it. An hour later, it was getting dark and still no clean braai. Another phone call. Within 15 minutes a bakkie drew up and 2 gentlemen got out and proceeded to clean it. Full of apologies, the one explained that there had been people on that site who had made a braai that morning and the coals were still hot when it was time for it to be cleaned. As it was now dark, we decided not to braai that night but put a stew on the stove instead.
It was strange not hear Impala “barking” but we were treated to Hyaena howling and Buffalo snorting. A little later, a strange screeching noise split the air – Punda’s owls were awake but we were not!

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:12 pm 
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Hugh and anne-marie Thanks for staying with us - hope you enjoy the rest
Elzet P is practising flight shots of various birds and hopes, one day, to get an award winning photo!
Chirinda There are 2 entrances to Den Staat. The one that we refer to is the one near Pontdrift which is in a good condition. However, please people, do not take the Den Staat turn off near the Main Gate. Chirinda, that road is worse than anything KTP can dream up - if anyone values their vehicle; their own body and their false teeth - they will stay clear!


Sunday 12 June
The dawn chorus in Punda is definitely quieter than at Mazhou – it did not wake us up, in fact, we slept a little later than normal. Over our tea and coffee, we discussed where we should go. In the end, the Mahonie Loop won as it meant that we did not have to go out so early nor stay out all day. Just to be different, instead of travelling the loop in a clockwise direction, we took the first turnoff which is very close to the camp and went anti-clockwise! There was a lot of Buffalo and Elephant sign everywhere but the herds had gone elsewhere. We took the turnoff to Witsand, a waterhole where we had often seen Lion in the past. This time, however, if there were Lion there, it would have been impossible to see them as the grass was high, thick and hiding the waterhole. We carried on – an imperious Kudu bull gazed at us from behind a bush; a dark Giraffe stayed in convenient shadow so that his picture could not be taken; a small herd of Elephant walked up the hillside away from us; a small buck bounded across the road in front of us, so quick that we could not identify it; a mixed herd of Kudu and Nyala females with youngsters watched us from amongst the bushes; 2 Nyala bulls peered at us after having carefully put the sun right behind them – and so we came to the end of the Mahonie Loop without any pics being taken!
Back at camp, P’s neck was still giving him some trouble, so I went to Reception to see if I could beg, borrow or steal 2 pillows for the next 4 nights. Imagine my amazement when the Duty Manager arrived and......it was one of the gentlemen who had cleaned our braai the night before! There cannot be many Duty Managers who would do that – thank you, Themba Mnisi! He quickly organised 2 pillows for us and had them delivered to our stand.
We sat and watched as new arrivals came and set up their camps; some were quick and some were slow. Although we were not on the fence, we could see some game making its way to and from the waterhole: a group of Kudu cows accompanied by an elderly Buffalo; a small herd of Impala; a solitary Steenbok and an Elephant. Suddenly, I noticed a flash of blue and caught sight of a Kingfisher. It settled in a tree in front of us as P went to fetch his camera. It was a Woodland Kingfisher – but what was it doing here? According to all the books, this bird should have headed North 2 months ago! P settled down, got the camera focused on the bird and – it flew away. P was not impressed. Fortunately, he kept his camera out as, a short while later, we found ourselves surrounded by a “bird party”. There were Red-billed Fire-finches; Southern grey-headed Sparrows, a couple of LBJ’s and several of these
Image

That night we both slept well – it is amazing the difference between rolled up blankets and a proper pillow!

_________________
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2011 4:39 pm 
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Val; Sharifa & Duke; anne-marie; Pumbaa
Thanks for your comments!
Son Godin Elephants and Leopards? You'll just have to read on! We didn't visit Thuamela this time as we had already taken that trip on an earlier visit.

Monday 13 June
Today we were going to head south to Babalala but first ...... we went north! We took the S60 gravel road and had hardly gone 100m before we came to a halt. In front, taking up almost the whole width of the road was a large bull Elephant contentedly pulling a tree to pieces. We sat and watched him for several minutes before he lazily turned around and casually walked off into the bush. As we passed the spot where he had been, only a few leaves and a half chewed branch lay there as proof that we had not been hallucinating. The road was quiet – not an Impala nor a Spurfowl nor a Guineafowl – just Mopane bush! It was getting quite boring. “Take the Klopperfontein Loop” were my instructions. I turned and the vegetation changed to open grassland with the occasional Mopane and other trees and bushes. A herd of Impala crossed the road in front of us. Klopperfontein waterhole was occupied by a pair of Egyptian Geese. We were going to go down to Klopperfontein Dam but noticed a car stopped in the road a short distance ahead. Then we saw them – a herd of Buffalo steadily moving towards the water at Klopperfontein Drift. They were very organised – those going to drink moved down on left hand side whilst those who had finished moved away and back across the road on the right hand side. All around the old bulls and some younger ones stood or grazed in a loose circle. As we stopped, a couple of the bulls raised their heads and gazed at us – one immediately in front of us kept on staring as he chewed the cud.
Image
We sat and watched - there must have been over 300 in total in that herd, and yet, they melted back into the bush as if they had never been there. Suddenly a flock of birds appeared and settled on various beasts – red-billed oxpeckers. Some animals had one bird hitch-hiking whilst others had several. We waited until all the Buffalo had drunk their fill and returned to the bush before we continued to the H-1 tar road. Turning south, we headed under the power lines to Mandadzidzi and Elandskruil Waterholes. Here are wide open plains with low bush. In years gone by, we have seen Eland; Tsessebe and Roan in this area but today, it was empty. We carried on towards Babalala. Just south of Mawawi waterhole, I noticed a mini-bus and a red coach following us. Suddenly the coach overtook the mini-bus but couldn’t overtake me because of a bend ahead; as soon as we had gone around the bend – the min-bus overtook the coach. What was going on? According to the speedometer, we were travelling at between 45 – 50kph; Hmm – one is not supposed to gone any faster. Then came a long straight stretch – and here came the coach, past the mini-bus and past us. Mini-bus, not be outdone, also overtook us. As it passed, I glanced at its windows to see if there were any passengers – 2 young children in school uniform gazed out at me with big eyes. This was a school outing and these drivers were dicing on a road where Elephants or Buffalos could appear at any minute! We were astounded. P took pics but, unfortunately, the registration numbers did not come out clearly and, in any case, how could we prove that these guys were speeding? We can only hope that those children actually got to see some game.
We turned in at Babalala and had a well-earned rest and a bite to eat. “Let’s go down to Boyela water-hole and then take the top part of the Mphongolo Loop and finish up back here” suggested P. Not a problem! We had not gone 2kms when a circling bird caught my attention – P got his camera ready. Ah! It was a Bateleur.....it circled in front of us; above us; behind us and disappeared! We stopped to search for it in the skies – nothing. Just ahead there was a smaller raptor sitting on top of a bush – we crept up to it (that is if a diesel engine can creep!) but again P was thwarted – the best angle was against the sun. The bird was a Black-shouldered Kite which looked at us and then lazily soared upwards. A flash of colour on the other side of the road caught P’s eye. “To the right, forward a couple of metres, STOP.” “Back again a bit......no, you’ll have to do a U-turn, I’m on the wrong side” I am quite sure that many of you recognise the opening steps of the “Photographer’s mobile dance”! Eventually P was rewarded and got this pic of a Lilac Breasted Roller
Image
We drove onto Boyela where some Zebra were having a quick drink at the trough and a couple of Elephants were trying to drain the concrete dam. Just behind the dam were a couple of young Elephant bulls mock charging each other. We sat and watched for a while then carried on to the Mphongolo Loop. Here the trees and grass were thick, an occasional Impala was spotted but nothing else. We arrived back at Babalala and headed up north towards Punda. Just after turning onto the Punda road, we noticed a waterhole on the right hand side. Here was a small breeding herd of Elephants – it was quite strange that they were only drinking and not bathing but then, maybe the weather was too cool!
That night the owls were screeching away, with a chorus of Lions roaring and Hyaena howling – somehow this cacophony lulled us to sleep.

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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 Post subject: Re: PNF in Mapungubwe and KNP
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 3:38 pm 
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Thank you anne-marie;Val; Pumbaa for your comments. Here is the final installment
Phoenix 1 Don't know whether there are problems at LFTC but, if you take precautions e.g: keep food out of sight etc. then we're sure that you will have a very enjoyable stay there. Certainly go and try it - it's magic!

Tuesday 14 June
Today was Pafuri day. We left a little late than normal – it was already full day light. As we intended to use only the H-1 to Punda, we reckoned that the journey would be relatively quick. We also hoped that there would be Elephants at the waterhole near the Dzundzwini loop. Sure enough we were rewarded but most of the herd had already crossed the road and vanished. Only a couple of “aunts” and teenagers remained. Soon, they too ambled up the incline to the road and crossed over. At the main road we turned north and...............stopped. Another herd of Elephants was crossing the road in front of us. The direction in which they were heading would have them meeting up with the first herd – was this an Elephant Conference?
We carried on up towards Pafuri. “Whoa! You’ve just passed it!” said P – “Er, What?” mumbled I. There in the grass near the road walked a Secretarybird, hunting for prey. As we watched, it approached a small bush which suddenly erupted as a flock of small birds decided that they were not interested in being on the menu for today and flew off deep into the bush.
Image
The Secretarybird continued unfazed – here and there it would jump on the ground hoping to disturb something but it was not in luck. We did a U-turn so that more pics could be taken but the bird surprised us by quickly crossing the road behind us! By the time we had turned again – it was too far away and partially hidden by bushes. However, there in a bush close to us was a movement and P took aim.
Image
The Coucal was quietly sitting observing the ground – he was also on the lookout for food. We watched him until he decided to fly to another spot where the chances were better.
We continued our journey. Just before Baobab Hill, we stopped as an old Buffalo Bull shambled out of the Mopane bushes. He was accompanied by a younger bull who was very protective of the old bull. We switched off the engine and watched as the old man slowly walked across the road in front of us. The younger one stood in the middle of the road until his senior had fully crossed over and had re-entered the bush, only then did he move across and follow him.
Arriving at Pafuri Picnic site, we found a table and sat down. The area was quite busy and the monkeys were watching ...... the occasional yell indicated where they had taken advantage and had either taken or tried to take some food. We spoke to Frank who was, as always, willing to tell what birds were around. Unfortunately it was a cool and windy day so there wasn’t much – an invisible Red-capped Robin-chat was singing away and a White-backed Vulture flew overhead with some grass in its beak. According to Frank, the Vultures were repairing their nest ready for the next brood of chicks. We had packed up and were putting our things back into the vehicle when a car drew up close to us. Two elderly couples got out – the ladies hurried to get a table and the two men made a bee-line for the toilets. On the way, one of them, who was carrying a seemingly empty chip (crisp) packet, stopped and shook the packet – a few chips fell out and were immediately pounced upon by a monkey. Before we could say anything, Frank shouted and came over to talk to the man. When last seen, the old man was shaking his head as if he didn’t know what he had done. Was it intentional or unintentional? Who knows, but maybe he should be given the benefit of the doubt.
We got into our vehicle and headed off to Crooks Corner. There was a lot of Impala and Nyala along the way with the occasional Kudu making an appearance. A couple of Elephant were spotted but they were deep in the bush. Crooks Corner has been upgraded since we were last there – it is now “fenced” in by poles and visitors are allowed to get out of their vehicles. The Limpopo was flowing strong and wide at this point but it did not look to be very deep. On the sandbank at the mouth of the Luvuvhu river, lay several crocodiles ranging from 1 to about 4m in length. Further out in the main river were a couple of exceptionally large gentlemen – certainly 5m or more in length! A Fish Eagle cried and we sat and watched for a while hoping that it would come into view. Eventually we gave up and started back. Driving through the trees, we heard a strange noise – the cry of a baby. Ah ha! Trumpeter Hornbill! But it did not show itself despite our frantic searching.
We headed back along the S63 (Pafuri Border Gate road) to the H1 and then south towards Punda. At the Kremetart waterhole, there was a small herd of Zebra and about 11 Giraffes walking together away from us into the bushes. We turned off at Klopperfontein in the hope of seeing something. It was only when we reached the waterhole that we sighted ..................Elephant! A large bull was drinking his fill from the concrete dam whilst a couple of younger ones wandered about behind him.
Image
The rest of the journey back to camp was uneventful. It seemed as if the cool wind had blown all the animals and birds into hiding.

Wednesday 15 June
Our final day – tomorrow we head home. We spent most of the day cleaning and packing away whatever we could. In the afternoon, we went out to the waterhole near the Dzundzwini Loop. Sure enough, there was that herd of Elephants again – at least it looked like the same herd! We watched for a while then returned to camp. We went to collect our exit permit at Reception and popped into the shop at the same time. Whilst there, we overheard a couple of tourists complaining – apparently they wanted a route map of Kruger and were told where to look for it. They returned to the cashier and said “Don’t you have it in English? There’s only German and Afrikaans on the shelf” She shrugged her shoulders and replied “If it’s not there then we have no stock”. Oh Dear! What an impression that must have left.
That night was the night of the total lunar eclipse. The sky was clear and the moon was shining bright but no photos......the tripod was at home! Still, the magic of that eclipse will stay with us. Long past our normal bedtime, we collapsed into bed.

Thursday 16 June
Farewell Punda, we’ll be back in August! We headed home through Punda Gate and found that we were now only 5 hrs from this magic camp. So, our move had been worthwhile – our nerves were no longer on edge when we reached our front gate!

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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Benjamin Franklin


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