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 Post subject: vlakvarksegat Malalane to Mapungubwe via Bal and Sat Apr 11
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:03 pm 
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Location: Malelane
This trip started taking shape way back in November 2009. Some mites, particularly, Bunnyhugger, suggested a forum camp-out at Balule. I was immediately interested and declared myself available. The camp was soon booked out and big was my disappointment when I realized that I waited too long. I kept reading the threat with interest and it wasn’t long before TerryC announced that she booked two spots, just in case. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and soon one booking was transferred to my name. I was so looking forward to meeting Terry but she sadly passed away before we had the opportunity to.
The initial booking was for the Friday and Saturday but I added Thursday and Sunday to make a long week-end of it. I tried desperately to book more nights up north but with no success, it was Easter week-end and paradise was overflowing with visitors. Again a mite, Josh of the Bushveld, came to my rescue. He offered me 4 nights in Satara from the 28th to the 1st, needless to say that I wasted no time in paying my dues; I desperately wanted to be in Kruger. That left me with a gap from the 25th to the 27th of April. I eventually got the Monday night in Letaba, and try as I may I could find no other openings for the 26th and 7th.
One night I desperately thought of other alternatives and suddenly Mapungubwe popped into my mind. I quickly went to my online maps to map out a route and realized that we could drive their in one day, with an early start in Letaba. Without consulting with SO, I checked availability and hit the jackpot, camping was available for Tuesday and Wednesday at Mazhou Camp, SO will be so thrilled, we just love exploring new places.
That’s how we ended up with an itinerary like this:
21-24 April Balule camp-out and clean up
25 April Letaba
26-27 Mapungubwe
28 April – 1 May Satara

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:48 pm 
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Thanks for the encouragement Nkumbe, hope you enjoy :D

We have approximately 200km to travel today so we rise early to pack the last essentials. Getting ready takes us longer than expected and we arrive at Malelane gate at around 7 o’ clock. Their only 2 other cars around and check-in is mercifully quick, I hate to spend time in queues while I could rather spend it in the park. It is good to see that day visitors are still searched for alcohol. I chat to the gate guard while he checks my permit and he tells me that the resident leopard has not been seen for a while. Determined to find him we enter paradise. The bush is dense and sightings are scarce. It is even difficult to spot impala in the tall grass.
We will follow the tar road to Skukuza with a stopover at Afsaal. We linger on the Matjulu bridge, we have often seen leopard from this bridge, it is the same bridge where a tour guide was killed by a leopard several years ago, and the little wooden cross is still visible against the railing of the bridge.
SO forgot her notebook at home and asked me to stop at Afsaal to buy one. The resident scops owl was high in its tree and so well camouflaged that my puny camera lens couldn’t even find it where it was sitting tight up against the trunk of the tree. We browsed around the shop for a note book and eventually found a KNP holiday diary to make notes in. The absence of any alcohol evident, KNP is really serious about the alcohol ban, KEEP IT UP.

We continue our journey towards Skukuza at speed limit as Balule is still some distance away. We encounter only the regulars and soon reach Skukuza. We turn left on the H1-2 and onto Marula loop. We visit Kruger at least once a month but only discovered this loop recently, most probably because we mostly visit the area east of the H3. We only traveled about 2 km on the loop when we find a car parked on the verge of the road. They are looking out for lions that they have been told about. There are presumably two black mane lions resting at the side of the road. Bright orange fruits catches SO’s eye. She photographs them, which ends up being the only photos we take the whole day.
Is this wild cumber?

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Soon the lion seekers become bored and leave. We crawl along at a snail’s pace peering into the bush examining every dark shade and under every bush. Cars come and go but nobody finds the lions. Eventually only two safari vehicles and us remain to find the lions. I see a darker than usual shape in the grass and get my binocs out to give it a closer examination. Slowly the features of a male lion come into focus. Only now can I recognize the lions with my naked eye. They are about 50 meters from the road in thick tall grass. We point them out to the safari vehicles and leave the seen contented.
Just before Tshokwane we see our first YR of many on this trip. We stop next to them and they point out a group of sable in the distance, it seems they have adopted this area as their territory as we have encountered them here twice before. They are too far for a photo but it is still a very special sighting. The owner of the YR introduces himself as Peregrine Falcon. We agree to meet at Tshokwane for a chat and a leg stretch. They were on their way to Letaba on their way to the north for another 12 nights in Kruger. It was nice chatting to you and SO, hope you had an exceptional trip.
We left soon after for the stretch to Satara where we will be booking in for Balule. It is midday and we don’t expect to see much. Kudu and Impala gather under the big shady trees on the river bank. The occasional herd of zebra can be seen in the distance with a few giraffe browsing the tree tops. At Kumana dam we catch a glimpse of a few elephant buttocks sauntering into the bush, undoubtedly after a thirst quenching drink.
At Satara SO goes to the shop while I book in. Checking in is friendly and efficient. I join SO in the shop where we buy a pot for cooking and a level to set up the fridge, we have a 12V, 220V LP gas fridge which must be level for optimum performance.
We wanted to take the S90 dirt road but decided to stick to the tarred H1-4. We wanted to get our camp set up as soon as possible. After a long days drive we arrive at Balule’s gate. What a pleasure to be back, I haven’t camped here for more than 10 years. We are met at the gate by Titus, baring a wide welcoming smile. We enquire about other yellow ribbons in the camp and he points toward a tent in the corner. The occupants have gone for a drive so will have to wait for their return to find out who they were.
We find a perfect spot under a acacia tree and set up camp…we are now seasoned campers and we are soon done. We flop down in our camp chairs to enjoy an ice cold refreshment……..

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:41 pm 
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This is life!! Relaxing, listening to the birdlife above, fish eagle cries in the sky and the rush of the river not far beyond the bushes where impalas nibble at the last green sprigs of grass in the dry autumn veld.
A lone figure comes strolling towards our campsite, t-shirt and shorts with a well-worn cap on his head, his long hair tied in a ponytail. Lowveldboy, he introduces himself. So this is our organizer of the week-end. Pleased to have met you and well done on an excellent weekend. While they were out on a drive, monkeys gained access to their tent and needless to say, there was a lot of cleaning up to do. I felt sorry for him, the stench the monkeys leave behind lingers long, even after a thorough clean-up.
After LVB left, I started a fire for our evening braai. I brought “hardekool “, the wood from a leadwood tree and the fire took for ages to reduce to coals. SO and I didn’t mind, time does not exist in Kruger. After a rather late braai, we were off to bed for an early morning start….we wanted to visit the hyena den LVB told us about.

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:45 pm 
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We rose early only to be met by a windy, overcast, chilly morning. Our plan is to drive down to Satara and return via Timbavati, Olifants camp and back on the S92
I love my shower and normally finish last in the morning, but today I find SO standing outside the ablution block shivering with cold. The shower suddenly went cold on her and lost all pressure. She was not impressed at all and I had to think on my feet to rescue the day.
I quickly found Titus who mercifully rescued the situation with a little trick he has to restore water pressure. This episode made us late and we only left camp at ¼ to 8. With a smart salute, Titus opened the gate and we were off.
The hyena den was 4km from camp just past the S89 junction. On our way there, we met with LVB who told us that the hyenas den was deserted. Very disappointed we drove there just in case the hyenas returned…..they were not there.
We backtracked to the S89 and drove up to the H1-4. We turned left towards Satara.
The stretch of road was devoid of animal life, even the impalas were far and few between. Without fail we always find elephants in the lush grasses at the Nyamarhi waterhole just before Ngotso dam. They are so dependable that SO and I named that section of road “Ellie-ally” It is ghostly quiet when we drive under the huge canopies of trees. A lone Waterbuck is silhouetted on the opposite slope of Ngotso dam.
We eventually find something worthwhile to photograph, a Kori-bustard strides determined through the tall grass, intent on finding breakfast.

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We watch him for a while until our hunger pangs drives us on towards Satara. We get ourselves toasted sarmies which we will enjoy at Nsemani dam……

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:07 pm 
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Some blue wildebeest grazes in the vicinity of the webcam while impala rams chase each other at breakneck speed. On the opposite side of the road, just before the H7 junction, the remains of an impala draped over a thick branch of a marula tree, swings gently in the breeze. It must be an old catch, all that remains is the head anchored to the branch by the twisted hide.
Nsemani dam is still very full; some buffs lie hidden amongst the bushes on the opposite bank. It is still overcast and the poor light affords me no photo opportunities. We sit back and enjoy our toasted egg, bacon and cheese sandwiches while tiny waders darts up and down the water’s edge looking for morsels to eat. A pair of Egyptian geese blares out their arrival before they skid to a water splashing landing on the dam. They stretch their necks skywards and flap their wings vigorously before settling down. There boisterous behavior awakens me from my daydream and I realise we better push on as a long trip lies ahead.

We turn left on the S12 and drive to Girivana dam. I can clearly hear the sound of garden sprinklers…at first I think I’m going mad….but fortunately also notice the water cascading through the trees…so it is garden sprinklers…phew. Upon closer inspection we find a notice that explains that students are conducting scientific studies and the sprinklers simulate the rainfall of the area.

We take a leg stretch at Timbavati. There are hardly any visitors due to the chilly weather conditions. While waiting for SO, I ask the attendant to show me where the lioness came to halt a few months ago. She was chasing after the resident bushbuck and suddenly found herself in the midst of screeching people. He took me to a spot roughly in the middle of the picnic area. I can just imagine the surprise of both lion and people. Fortunately the lion turned back from where she came and jogged off into the hill. The bushbuck survived and is still begging food at the picnic site.
We briefly stopped at Ratelpan hide where this croc was trying to regain body temperature in the wintry weather.

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The rest of the way impala herds with snorting rams kept us company. Close to Goedgegun two jackals tried keeping warm by curling into tight balls hiding their noses under their tails. They gave me a brief opportunity for a pic before tucking their noses under their tails again.

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We realized that the animals were also hiding from the cold and sightings were really scarce. We popped in at Olifants camp to top up with ice and some necessities before returning to Balule via the S92.
We met with Josh of the Bushveld and Jodi who also arrived and set up camp not far from us. Another perfect day, weather and all came to an end. Hippos grunting in the river were the last sounds I heard as I drifted off……..tomorrow is clean-up day!!

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 8:43 pm 
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It is another overcast day but the temperature is tolerable. Perfect weather for a stroll on the banks of the Olifants River. SO and I tidy the camp area before we go for our morning ablutions….why do woman have to queue while men walk in and find an open shower? Again I am done before her, she mumbles something about inconsiderate kids who hogs the shower for more than ½ an hour and is deaf to hints to hurry up. I suggested that a bucket of cold water over the wall might do the trick. The young lady left just in time to avoid a cold shower…she must have overheard my rather loudly spoken suggestion. Just in case you wonder…no, she was not part of the clean-up squad.

We slowly head off to the gate where mites are gathering in small groups awaiting our escorts. As I approach the group I recognize some familiar faces from last year’s cricket and mites I met on my wonderings through Kruger. From the previous cricket I recognize Tshukudu and girls and TheunsH but no Elzet. She left earlier to take the LO’s on a drive. Geocor and SO is also there, we met on the bank of Kumana Dam in October last year. Another familiar face pops up but I can’t place him until we greet…what a small world…I’ve known Sprocky from his Nelspruit days, what a pleasant surprise! Josh and Jodi arrived while Lowveldboy was making final arrangements in the background.

I get introduced to RobertT and Scipio. By now we are all milling around the gate wondering what had happened to our transport, seems some crossed wires during communications with Olifants camp. They were frantically trying to get hold of the Section Ranger but he was occupied elsewhere. Olifants eventually found two other rangers who came to our rescue. At last we were off. First off we traveled the S90 towards the S89, stopping every so often to pick up discarded cool drink and beer tins, tissues and cigarette packets. We made a brief detour to the hyena den before we returned to the S89. This time the hyenas were in attendance.

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Back to the S89 where we come across some vultures perched in a dead tree. The cool morning air does not have strong enough up-drafts for takeoff yet.

Hooded Vulture

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White-Headed Vulture

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We turn onto the H1-5 towards Olifants. A traffic jam slows our progress; they are watching lions lying hidden in the tall grass. With a good imagination one can recognize the shapes of lions. The frustration of Safari vehicles is that when the people in the back can see the lions, somebody in the front has an obstructed view and vice versa. After the excitement of the lions, we stop on the Olifants River Bridge for a smoke break and leg stretch.

After stopping to watch a beautiful Martial Eagle, we turn onto the S91. Now we are very close to our destination, one can feel the excitement building….What awaits us on the banks of the Olifants?

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:21 pm 
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The truck grinds to a halt where the bush recedes from the verge of the road; the familiar smell of a territorial impala dung heap mixed with the herbal smell of crushed leaves under our feet permeates the air that we breathe. I inhale deeply; this is the true fragrance of nature.

Some of the group must answer the call of nature and while we wait I explore the sandy road surface for spoor. I recognize impala, wildebeest, kudu and giraffe, and to my great relief, no cat spoor.

We all gather next to the road to be briefed by the rangers. I scan the edge of the bush towards where I can hear the rush of the river. The unknown yonder beckons, what will we find on the other side of the bush? A male lion resting under a shady tree….a bull ellie browsing in the reeds….dagga boys lying in the shallows or an irritated hippo defending his territory??

The rangers tell us to stay in a tight bunch not wider than ten meters apart. They will lead the way, looking out for any impending danger. Briefing over, we step into the unknown. The excitement ripple through the group. We eventually started the big Balule clean-up.

Everybody is issued with a plastic refuge bag and immediately rubbish begins to fill the bags. A strange array of items is found, mostly amongst the drift wood on the flood line. Plastic screw on bottle tops dominates, follow by polystyrene pieces of broken up cooler boxes. Several slip-slops, mostly child size and even sealed unused condoms. Light bulbs, broken bottles, pieces of electric wire and plastic sheets completed the mixture.

None of my imagined threats realizes except for a hippo who watches our progress suspiciously. With a threatening yawn he shows his annoyance at our presence. He slams his massive head into the water with a huge splash. At one stage he stands up out of the water and mock charges for about 5 meters, forming a wave with his broad chest. He sinks back into the water and retreats to deeper water.
Too quickly we reach the end of the walk of about 2 km. Our truck is waiting on the low water bridge. We quickly load all the rubbish bags and return to camp.

Photos by SO, I left my camera at camp

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You can see the irrate hippo in the background

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After expressing our gratitude to the rangers, we return to our camp-site. It is now around 11 o’ clock and SO and I decide to stay in camp for breakfast. Breakfast is our traditional bacon, egg, fried tomatoes and toasted bread. We really needed that; we were famished after the walk. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in camp. In the later afternoon we took a drive to Bangu Waterhole on the S90

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:36 pm 
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Ants have become quite a problem at our campsite, they are everywhere and seem to be more active in the early evening and nothing repels them. They have chosen my legs as a short cut to our food table. Sometimes it looks like I’m busy with a rain dance in an attempt to shake them off. They are tiny and hide and keep dead still when I start my antics, just to tickle up my legs as soon as I sit down again. Just there and then we decide to go to Phalaborwa tomorrow to buy relief from the ants.

Next morning we pop in at Olifants where we hand in some washing to a kindly old lady who was prepared to do it for a small fee. We run into Sharifa and Duke where they are awaiting there escorts for the morning walk. We chat briefly, wish them well on their walk and depart for Phalaborwa.

It is early enough to travel along the river via the S44, S93 and S46. A beautiful scenic route to be recommended if you don’t mind a few rattles and dust. The veld at the foot of the koppies is dry and barren. Stunted Mopani shrubs dot the veld with the occasional scattered buffalo ribcages where lion and hyena ones feasted.
Then the banks of the Olifants River come into view, wide spread sandbanks display huge crocs basking in the sun. Pods of hippo, submerged with only eyes and nostrils protruding, cool of in the mid-morning heat. In contrast with two days ago when it was cold and miserable, today is sunny and hot. The road dips and rises with the contours of the landscape. Impala and zebra scampers up the rocky ridges as we approach. I notice a shape huddled in the shade next to the road. We approach carefully to find a klipspringertjie an arm’s length from the roads edge. This is the closest I’ve ever been to one of them and he doesn’t seem to mind our presence. It is only at the sound of another vehicle’s approach that he scurries away through the low undergrowth.

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Not far from there this sisterhood makes use of every available piece of shade, protecting the youngest between there sturdy front legs

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A dark old man tries to reach the most succulent leaves of a tree on the floodplains of the Olifants.

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The rest of the way is peaceful and quiet with not much sightings. Close to Letaba, we were reminded how well elephants blend into their surroundings. Without us even noticing them this mother and child pair stormed out of the bush behind us and squealed loudly as they crossed the road behind us in hot pursuit of the rest of the herd on their way to the river.

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After a leg stretch in Letaba, we took the tar road to Phalaborwa on which we encountered a lot of speeding vehicles going to or coming from Phalaborwa after Sunday morning shopping. In Phalaborwa we quickly did our shopping, a cat litter box to replace our dish tub which we left at home (it was the only thing vaguely resembling a dish tub) and ended up being very practical being square. It packs much easier than the oval shape of the traditional tub. Also the powdered ant poison which we actually came for, only a small bottle as it wasn’t our intention to eradicate the total ant population, only those tickling up my legs.

While filling up with diesel we devoured some garage meat pies which were surprisingly fresh and tasty. Back to Olifants on the tar road as it was getting late in the afternoon now and we still had to collect our washing and top up with ice and wood.

From Olifants we took the S92 back to Balule and it was getting rather dark. That funny time of day when all shapes disappear and everything is the same greyish colour. Just before the lower water bridge we passed by an elephant browsing next to the road. He had his head in the bush and his backside in the road. We only noticed him when we were right next to him. We passed by so close; if he lifted his tail SO could have wiped his bum……

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 9:08 pm 
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Monday 25 April arrived too soon, but new horizons beckon invitingly, waiting to be explored. A most enjoyable week-end came to an end. Most mites have moved on or are in the process of…Theuns and Elzet..thanks for the brief chat Saturday evening, we must make plans to kuier sometime…. are going to spend some time at Tsendze, another attempt by Theuns to convince Elzet that camping can be fun, no matter how primitive. Josh and Jodi are moving on to the more luxurious facilities of Letaba. The Phalaborians and friends are quietly packing up camp, spirits dampened by the thought of leaving paradise.
We are also breaking up camp; we are leaving for Letaba, our overnight stop before Mapungubwe. By the time we are done we are very dusty and sweaty and we drive up to the ablutions for a final Balule shower. Sprocky, Michel367 and Tshukudu stroll over. We have a brief chat, wish each other well and leave for Letaba.
It is a short and uneventful drive to Letaba. The accident site of the previous evening is clearly visible. The skid marks on the road a silent witness to the obvious. The incident can undoubtedly be attributed to excessive speed. Litter from the accident is strewn all over the place, empty bottles, broken glass and pieces of fender. Is SANPARKS involved during the investigation and recovery of the accident scene? Shouldn’t they make sure that the scene is properly cleaned?
We arrive too early for check in but chance our luck in any case. A friendly lady behind the counter tells us that the systems are down and we are welcome to find a camping spot. We can return after making camp to do the necessary admin. Finding a decent spot proofs to be harder than setting up camp. The camping area is chock and block and looks typically like a holiday resort. Stands are overcrowded with what looks like family groups of tents. Three to four tents are pitched in a circle surrounded by a shade net enclosure which makes it near impossible to share the area with them. Young children are all over the place with bicycles while others play cricket amongst the tents. I am very grateful that I am only an overnighter. We find a spot tucked away in a corner and quickly pitch the tent and get the fridge onto power. The campsite is kept to the bare minimum ready for a quick getaway in the morning.

After resting in the cool shade of the trees we decide to complete the formalities of checking in before we take a drive to Mingerhout dam. The last time I traveled on the S47, the road was washed away and we had to turn around. This time round it is hot and dusty. The Mopani trees hang limp in the hot midday sun. Groups of impala huddle in the meager shade, zebra walk in single file with heads nodding. Dust puffs up beneath their hoofs. A warthog, on his knees, dig for roots with his spade like snout.
We reach the Letaba River and the scenery changes dramatically. Mopani shrubbery gives way to huge trees hugging the riverbed. The river still holds plenty of water. Through a gap in the tree we see this tawny eagle.

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The scenery from the Letaba river bridge holds me in awe every time I experience it. I drink in the serenity of the wide expanse. The familiar scent of baboon hang in the air, a hippo ripples the surface of the water as it briefly breaks through for a breath. The back of an elephant floats through the dense reed islands. SO reminds me that we still must go to the Matambeni hide, a first for us. The hide overlooks the Engelhard dam. It is rather late and we cannot stay long. I make a mental note to come back here in the near future. A lone elephant feeds on the lush green grass on the banks of the river.


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After a quiet but satisfactory day, we return to camp for a quick braai. It is early to bed as a long drive lie ahead tomorrow. We are slap-bang in the middle of the camp, so no animal sounds, only the murmur of people around their camp fires.

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:33 pm 
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My alarm has just gone off; my eye lids feel like they are glued together…it’s just after 4 in the morning. Nothing stirs outside. The soft prrup…prrrup of a scops owl lets me know that I am not alone in this pitch black morning. The call has a lonely tone to it. I lie in for a few minutes before I brave the chill air outside. I get the kettle going for an early morning wake me up cup of coffee. The breeze is crisp and I tuck my hands deep into my pockets as I take a stroll to the ablution, knowing that soon the sun will permeate into our cold bones. The first sip of coffee inches slowly down my throat spreading its warmth through my tired body. Invigorated by the coffee I wake SO so we can start breaking down our camp. Getting our double bed size inflatable matrass deflated used to take up most of our time, but I’ve got that sorted now. I found myself a reversible air pump which plugs into the lighter socket of the bakkie. I stuff the matrass into the cab, set the pump to deflate and Bob’s your uncle, the matrass deflates while we break up the rest of the camp. As an added advantage, I close the bakkie doors and windows and the whole procedure is silent. By the time we packed everything, the matrass is as flat as a pan-cake and can be easily folded and stowed in its protective bag. We are packed and showered by 06:30 and ready to hit the long road north.
We exit via the Phalaborwa gate and travel to Tzaneen, from Tzaneen we travel up the R36 road through the scenic area of Modjadjiskloof to join the N1 highway north. Although the R36 is very scenic, the condition of the road is treacherous; I would hate to travel here in a sedan. Some stretches are very narrow and littered with pot holes. Huge trucks carrying timber and guavas can keep you up for kilometers at a time. Fortunately the road was relatively quiet this morning and we navigate the area with relative ease. Once on the N1 north, we picked up speed. At Louis Trichardt, previously Makhado, we fill the bakkie with diesel, check oil and water and set off to find the nearest P+P. While checking our stocks this morning we realized that we were short on one packet of meat for the trip, a miscalculation somehow. We decided that a nice mature rump steak will be perfect for dinner tonight and promptly bought the ripest packet of tender steak. We also lost or left our camp broom somewhere and replaced it promptly. It is an essential tool when setting up camp for smoothing out your tent site; it is the pits to step on a tiny stone under the ground cover on tender early morning feet.
Lunch is yesterday’s fresh pies washed down with half a pint of ice cold milk. Mapungubwe calls and we hit the road north towards Musina. At Musina we take a left on the R572, now we are nearly there. The litter and overloaded taxis are swiftly exchange for scenic bushveld dotted by huge Baobab trees. What is prevalent is the amount of hunting lodges in the area; every few kilometers huge sign boards advertise hunting safaris from the big five to the challenges of bow hunting. Not my cup of tea, I prefer to shoot with my camera.

We reach the entrance gate at around half past 2 in the afternoon, all goes very smoothly but I realise that I have another +- 40 km to go. Without asking, I decide to take the Den Staat gravel road…BIG mistake. It feels like forever on this teeth rattling corrugated road, I can just imagine the rattling and shaking going on inside the canopy. We eventually make it in one piece and are immediately impressed. The campsite is situated under huge shady trees encircling a perfectly kept ablution block. We travel full circle in the camp but every site is taken except the one closest to the gate, not really a gate like in Kruger, but an electrified boom which you open yourself to enter or exit.
It is still early enough and we quickly pitch our camp before we go and explore our surrounds. Maloutswa Hide is very close and we decide to spend the remainder of the day there, we must make use of every available minute to explore as we only have two nights booked, that calculates to one full day to explore the whole area, so much to do, so little time.
The hide is perfectly situated amongst tall trees with the waterhole in front, the water’s edge not further than 20 meters away. Except for hoards of doves coming for an early evening drink not many animals around, a lone vervet monkey has a quick drink before it scampers away.
Suddenly a movement in the shrubs on the opposite banks attracts our attention, the shadowy shapes weave in and out of the grass and shrubs. It has a pig like silhouette, a little different to warthog. Excitement builds, they are moving towards a clearing with bright sunlight. I hope it is what I am thinking; it would be a first for me and SO. They eventually reach the clearing….our first bush pigs in the wild and in broad daylight…what a fantastic sighting. Farmers, especially potato farmers see them as a pest and hunt them relentlessly, hopefully not into extinction. My favourite hog also visited briefly. Too soon it was time to return to camp, to a very noisy and annoying camp but I said enough about that in the Mapungubwe thread.

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While we were preparing dinner this little fellow arrived with a blur of speed and settled in the tree opposite our tent. The light was bad but I managed to get a few shots using the flash. These are my best attempts. I am not a very knowledgeable birder and the best I could do with the id is a toss-up between a shikra or the little sparrow hawk. What confuses me is the very white throat which looks very different in my SASOL Bird book…please help

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The steak was perfect as was the visit by the bush babies in the tree above our tent….every now and then a very irritable elephant vented his frustration with loud screaming trumpeting…SO and I wondered if it could be the electric fence protecting the adjacent farms that could be the cause of his outbursts

Soon I drifted away helped along by exhaustion of a long day on the road…500km in total from Letaba to Mapungubwe

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


Last edited by vlakvarksegat on Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:02 am, edited 5 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:04 pm 
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We wake with anticipation; a whole new world waits to be explored…..and we only have one day. Birdcalls echo through the tall trees, guinea fowl announce the arrival of the day with a flurry of wings, tumbling to the ground from where they were roosting in the branches. They chase each other boisterously, stopping suddenly in a spurt of dust, stretching upwards standing on tip-toes flapping their wings vigorously. Others scuttle sideways, spreading their wings towards the ground using their clawed toes to make a rattling sound as they display their dominance over the younger fowl. In the early morning sun, they kick up little dust storms as they scratch the ground to unearth insects and seeds.

Around the corner of this commotion, who shall we find loafing under a thorn tree?? RP of course, can’t go any ware without him lurking around. He rebuffed our invitation to join us for the day and instead sauntered after females who were disappearing in the distance.

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This morning we exit through the ZZ2 farmlands and join the tar road just south of Pontdrif border post to Botswana. We follow the tar road to the main gate. The available maps are poor quality photo copy, nothing like the KNP maps. Fortunately there are not many roads and the chances of getting lost is slim.

The receptionist warns us against traveling 4x4 roads without a proper vehicle but another lady in reception advises that if I know what I’m doing and have high clearance and a diff lock, I will have no problem. This advice though is only applicable to 4x4 routes in the main area and not pre-booked routes. With a “we’ll be careful” we enter the unknown. We have a picnic basket packed for brunch at the confluence and head of in the general direction of the picnic area. The first 100 meters reminds of typical Mopani veld but soon changes dramatically. Huge baobabs stand watch over ancient red rocky outcrops. Around every bend, a whole new vista reveals itself; the horizons stretch as far as the eye can see. The Limpopo river slithers silently eastward among a green belt of fever tree forest.
The roads angles steeply down and winds its way onto the flood plains of the Limpopo River where one is invited to stroll through the forest at tree top level. This place is a must visit. Squirrels abound and birds flit through the trees like flashes in the sunlight. The tock tock of woodpeckers on dry stumps echo loud through the leafy canopy, if one keeps still long enough, you can see them dart up and down the tree trunks searching for hidden larvae. Suddenly an unfamiliar face peeps from behind a branch in a fever tree; it’s a parrot but not brown headed. It bobs up and down and I can’t get a clear view of it and flies away just before I can take its photo. I get a clear view of it in flight and I realise I have just seen my first Meyer’s parrot.
I don’t have enough words to describe this magical place; I hope the photos will do it justice!

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:37 pm 
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Hunger pangs wake us from our mesmerized state. We stroll back to our bakkie knowing it was not the last time we will visit this magic forest, it deserves much more time than what we had available. The confluence picnic site is just up ahead. We rumble up a steep hill which leads up to a beautiful oasis at the top. One other car shares the area with us but the occupants are nowhere in sight, we have the whole place to ourselves. At the entrance are the ablutions, spotlessly clean and a small tuck shop that stocks mostly cool drinks, sweets and ice. A notice board displays some information and maps of the area. As per our routine, we normally rent a gas braai to cook brunch, but I do not see any gas equipment around. What to do now, we only brought uncooked bacon and eggs. I fortunately have my gas bottles in the bakkie and only need the pipe and skottel. Given, the caretaker is very helpful and tells me he has some equipment I can use but I must please excuse the condition, they are well overdue for repairs, or better still replacement. Given arrives with a reasonable skottel and an array of pipes of different sizes with mostly blocked jets. Hats off to Given for not giving up and we eventually put together a reasonably workable skottel braai. When I enquired about the rental price, he declined, as he felt that I am using my own gas and therefor shouldn’t pay. I insisted even if it was only to show my gratitude toward his willingness. Well done Given, I really hope management will heed your pleas for better equipment.
After a scrumptious brunch, a combined effort of SO and I, I set of to the confluence trail. The paved path leads to 4 different viewpoints, each with a unique view over the confluence and our neighboring countries, Botswana and Zimbabwe. SO didn’t join me on the walk, must have something to do with a big brunch and heavy eye lids.
An interesting object next to the pathway was a stone, engraved with the names of soldiers of a past era. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a “we were here stone” or “a remembrance inscription” of casualties of a skirmish. It was inspirational to see that that our young democracy is tolerant of all aspects of our freedom struggle.

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2011 6:14 pm 
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After brunch we leave via the eastern exit of the confluence, it is a recommended 4x4 route but if you are careful, have a high clearance SUV with diff lock, the road is accessible. It is the dry season though and it might be a completely different kettle of fish during the rainy season. The road descends steeply to the valley floor; the road surface is mostly loose gravel and can be negotiated with ease. A troop of baboons watches our progress while perched on the boulders soaking up the warm afternoon sun. Around some huge boulders, a small waterhole is tucked away against the cliffs. We wish we had more time available to linger, it looks a very productive waterhole.

The road leads us into a thick forest close to the riverbank. The trees are huge and the road becomes a two wheel track. The bush is dense and visibility is restricted to the tracks edge. Wonder what will happen if one meets an elephant head-on on this track, there is no escaping the situation and surely the outcome will be subject to the elephant’s mood.
We reach the end of the forest without any encounters and drive up the winding road to the top of the plateau. Somewhere during our ascent I realise that I am missing my glasses. We look everywhere in the bakkie but can find them nowhere. In my mind’s eye, I trace back my movements and remember that I last used them on my confluence walk. It must be up there somewhere and I can only hope that Given finds them.

As soon as I have phone signal, I phone reception who will phone Given. Fortunately I am not lost without glasses and as SO’s eyesight is similar to mine, we can exchange glasses. She digs out an old spare pair she used to wear. I vow to only wear these glasses in private, pink frames have never and will never suite me.

We reach the reception area and I get the good news that Given has found them, bad news is that he will only come to reception the next morning. We agree that he will leave it at reception where I will pick them up on our way back to Kruger.
We make our way back to Mazhou via the tar road. As it is late in the afternoon we go straight to the waterhole to wait for sunset. There is a whole bunch of people at the hide, including our noisy neighbours. We were not very long when somebody spotted a snake in the roof of the hide. Funny how people end up seeing things they believe to be there. I tried my best but could not see a snake, only some thatch moving in the subtle breeze. I did however elaborate on the dangers of snakes and us being far away from medical help..yada yada yada. That did the trick, the boisterous crowd left hurriedly discussing the size of the snake and how poisonous it was and peace reigned again at the hide.

We were only two couples left at the hide and it was dead still. Suddenly we heard something that sounded like a huge leather bag, filled with water, sloshing around. We were still trying to determine the origin of the sound when an elephant appeared from around the corner, so close that an outstretched arm could have reach him. It was the contents of his stomach that sloshed with every hurried step he gave. The lady next to us was looking through her binocs when he arrived and she got the fright of her life. The ellie didn’t even bat an eyelid but hurried by without stopping for a drink. When peace returned the sun was setting behind the trees and it was time to return to camp. Tomorrow we return to Satara, knowing that we owe Mapungubwe much more of our time….

The following photos were all taken by SO, therefor I include some of her Tree top walk photos

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:54 pm 
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Last night the most irritating sound in camp were the sizzling, popping sounds of insects being fried by high voltage; it wasn’t constant but happened every 15 minutes for short burst. Upon investigation I found the source….the new campers under the Nyala tree had an electric gadget, much the shape of a tennis racket, only this one was battery powered, pushing out incredible voltage. The guy would get up every view minutes, switch on his weapon of mass destruction and sweep it through the insects congregating around the lamp in the center of his lapa. I suppose that with time, he will learn that moving the light source to the side and exchanging bright for insect repellant, not only will he avoid being invaded by insects, but he will have uninterrupted relaxation time, staring into the campfire.

We were up again at first light as we had to trek all the way back to Satara. We were nearly done when our attention was drawn away by explosive popping sounds. I’ve heard the sound before but won’t belief I’m hearing it in Mapungubwe, it just can’t be true. IT IS TRUE, the tennis player of last night was out, clad in shorts, boeppens (big overhanging beer belly) protruding like dough rising from a kneading bowl, stalking monkeys and having pot shots with a paintball gun. He noticed me and must have interpreted the expression on my face as he unsuccessfully tried to hide the gun while sneaking back to his caravan, monkeys making big eyes at him until he disappears into the caravan.

The amenities in camp are faultless and KNP can use Mazhou camp as bench mark how to maintain a camp. Thank you Dan for your diligence. Even the portable braais is a pleasure to use, very sturdy, not like the ones we had in Satara that wanted to fall over every time you swing the grid away from the coals. It even incorporates a solid steel plate for preparing breakfast. KNP take note!!

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Everything packed and we set off at a slow pace, it is difficult to leave such a beautiful place. Huge trees line the way out until it is replaces by thorny bush.

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Amongst the thorny bush a flash of pale catches my eye. The bush is dense and I can’t be sure if I’ve seen anything. I decide to stop and reverse a bit; some impala appear from behind a bush. I’m intrigued and want to find out what I saw and we wait a while. Slowly more impala appear and then I see it…my very first white impala ever…and an adult nogal. It is known that the white strains of animals don’t normally survive due to the lack of camouflage; obviously the sparse predatory population of Mapungubwe saved this one’s life.

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We hit the tar road and soon reach the main entrance, just a quick stop to pick up my glasses before we tackle the long road back. What disappointment, Given forgot to bring my glasses and we don’t have the time to go to the picnic spot. After much deliberation I left my postal address with them and they promised that the duty manager will call me as soon as she comes to the office, to discuss the cost of the parcel and the recovery of the cost. Sadly, it is now July and I’m still waiting for that call and my glasses are still in Mapungubwe. Don’t be concerned, I have a spare pair at home which explains my slackness to follow up.
As a last goodbye, I take a photo of the still incomplete visitor’s center.

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The road is long, busy and frustrating. Instead of turning left at Tzaneen for Phalaborwa, we carry on straight to enter at Orpen gate. What a huge mistake, the road takes me through the center of town at the busiest hour. It feels forever before we reach the opposite of town only to be confronted with the worst potholed taxi laden road I ever traveled. The first 10 km of the R526 after Tzaneen is a nightmare.

With much relief, we reach Orpen gate where check in is friendly and efficient. At Orpen SO pops into the shop to get some very overdue ice, there must be something cold for a thirsty traveler. At Satara, camping spots are scares but we eventually find a smallish tree where we can make our camp. Sipping a cold one while relaxing in my camp chair, I feel the spirit of Kruger return.

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


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 Post subject: Re: Malalane to Mapungubwe and back Balule and Satara inbetw
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 25, 2011 6:59 pm 
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We are up at first light, one can hear the chirping of birds waking up, a hesitant chirp followed by a few seconds of silence, then another with an answering chirp in the opposite tree. One by one the chorus develops reaching a crescendo of jubilant chirps, thankful for another night spared. Doves chase after each other on the ground, cooing, with heads close to the ground and inflated crops. Glossy starlings chatter away while preening themselves, readying their flight feathers for take-off. Hornbills crash through the shrubs looking for left overs of last night.

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After preening ourselves we are off to Nsemani dam. We kick start our day with an early visit to the dam before venturing onto the dirt roads. Our plan is to watch the activities around the dam, drive to Girivana before we head off to N’wanetsi for breakfast. It is overcast with a bit off a chill in the air, I know it’s early but nothing beats a swig of OBS to get the blood flowing. A Black Shouldered Kite surveys its surroundings, hoping for breakfast to arrive. Go away birds clambers through the dense acacia branches at the edge of the dam, marabou wades in the shallows while a Fish Eagle circle high above, a spec against the clouds. His territorial call echoes through the still of the morning. A few elephants arrive to complete the picture. We relax awhile longer while they drink their fill. The sun is starting to break through the clouds as we leave for Girivana.

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A Black Bellied Bustard welcomes us onto the S12, her partner nowhere in sight. A steenbokkie looks up from feeding, considers the situation and disappears in the tall grass. Mongoose uses an anthill to sun themselves. The short but interesting road also yields the normal impala and some zebra. Girivana is nothing more than a mud puddle, but we decide to spend some time.

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We can hear the lowing of a buffalo off in the distance, if we‘re lucky, the herd might be on their way to the water hole. Some cars come by and ask: “Have you seen the leopard?” “No” we reply and they speed off, chasing the big five no doubt. No leopard and the lowing of the buffalo still coming from the same direction and not getting any nearer. We decide to investigate and find them around the corner on the S40. They are all over the place and some are still covered in thick glistening mud, they must have left the waterhole as we arrived. We share the sighting with one other car, which soon leaves. We switch off and open the windows to let the sounds and smell float through the cab.

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They lumber on through the bush, grunting and shoving, showing off their strength with a hefty blow of a horn to the midriff. Cows crowd protectively around the youngest calves as protection against the jostling bulls. Then the green branches close behind them like the final curtain.

Rattling along the last section of the S40, we decide to take the H6 to N’wanetsi. The tar road yield a lonely bull elephant and not much more

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At Sonop dam a warthog watches suspiciously before he hurries away.

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After a hearty breakfast, we take the S41 to Gudzani dam, the road is dry and dusty and sightings are very scares. Even the hippos that normally congregate at the low water crossing are absent. SO tries her hand at close up photography, she will get the hang of it, practice makes perfect.

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At Gudzani, hippos drift, lazily in the water. Some baboons mingle with waterbuck at the water’s edge. Far off in the distance crocs bask in the meager sun. The scene is tranquil; our eyelids become heavy and before long, SO snooze. I survey the opposite bush for any sign of life and find impala quietly browsing alongside giraffe reaching into the tops of the trees.

The sun is starting its downward journey to the horizon; we better get going if we want to make it back in time. SO is woken by the engine starting and we leave for the S100. The sightings are even slower than the S41. A tortoise pushes his way through the hindering grass. Near the end of the S100 a secretary bird dances in a tree top, hoping to lure a mate.

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A perfect sunset brings an end to our day. Although we did not see any of the Satara cats, our day was perfect.

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You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow.
-Anonymous


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