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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:17 am 
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Monday 23 May 2011

The morning broke and I got up to the most beautiful sunrise over the Lowveld. I went to make myself some coffee and then returned to my tent deck to soak up a bit of the early morning air. After coffee I decided to do a bit more birding in camp and after breakfast I finished up my paper work for the birding qualification.

Camp needed to be prepared for the new course which was to start that afternoon so we quickly got everything in tip top shape and condition. We barely had the Landies washed and we had to set off to the gate to pick up some of the students.

On the way back to camp we had a large herd of Eland just before Mangeba windmill and a few Daggaboys across the floodplain making their way into the Fevertree forest.

As everyone was settling in the bush bus arrived with more students from Nelspruit. The meet and greet went well and I also got to meet one of the new back-ups that joined us.
While we were going over the camp rules and regulations we all enjoyed some muffins and juice and then we had some time off.

It was a wonderful evening getting to know all the other students and after quite a late night around the camp fire we eventually got to bed, if only we knew what was awaiting us in the morning. . .


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:17 am 
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Tuesday 24 May 2011 Part 1

The morning started way to early but the prospect of a "surprise" awaiting us got everyone up and running in time. We had a quick coffee on the deck and then assembled at the parking area.

What a nice surprise awaited us in the form of a fitness walk! We would be walking from camp to Mangeba windmill and back to camp. Total distance 10km and the time to do it in 2hrs. Now it was made clear that no one was allowed to jog or run as this would make you a target seeing as we were walking in a big 5 area. While we were walking we also had to make a list of all the plants and birds we could identify en route.

About half way to Mangeba we all came to a sudden stop as we bumped into a herd of Buffalo. None of the parties were aware of one another. Who got the biggest fright is also not certain to this day. The trails students where up on the road while the Buffs where down a slight embankment in between some Wild Date Palms. The started milling around and then sat off in the opposite direction but they stayed parallel to the road. We kept on bumping into them for about 800 meters because they would move just out of sight and then wait to see if we were still "following" them. Eventually they crossed the road and disappeared into the ridges to our right.

The encounter with the Buffs provided a good bit of adrenalin which proved good for the rest of the walk. Also by now the endorphins were flowing and I was (probably for the first time in my life) happy with getting some exercise done.

The first group of six made it back to camp with a time of 1h43. I was also within this group and after standing around waiting for the rest and trying to decipher my writing at top walking speed I could feel the stiffness setting in. I can't remember the exact totals any more but plant were close to 25 and birds just over 40.

By the time we were done with breakfast I had muscle cramps in areas I didn't even know you had muscles. :slap:
After a short break we started our lectures with "How to handle rifles safely". Then they showed us some of the basics in getting started with Advanced Rifle Handling and we all got turns to start handling the "dry" rifles.

We had a great lunch afterwards and then got ready for the afternoon walk. . . :big_eyes:


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:39 am 
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Tuesday 24 May 2011 Part 2

The afternoon walk started off with all of us in agony but after about 20 minutes of walking and being warmed up the pain started subsiding. The plan was to walk from camp to Mangeba windmill via the Fevertree Forest and back but we turned around just before Nhlangaluwe hill after watching some Eland having a relaxing afternoon jog, our thoughts were all probably the same, rather them than us.

The way back was quiet animal wise but we learnt a lot from Jeff and it was sad that we only got to spend two walks with him. Gave us a good couple of tricks to remember for the final practical walk. :thumbs_up:

The evening was quite quiet and all had an early night.


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:40 pm 
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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Morning broke and as usual we all gathered for a nice cup of coffee to kick-start the day. We also had a new stand-in lead in Jeff's place. Sarah took the other group to Makwadzi while our group walked from camp to Mangeba Windmill with instructor Bruce.

It was a wonderful and fresh walk. Half-way through the Fevertree forest we had a break at Two-tree pan.

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Pic is from a later date when the students were already doing their assessment walks.

It would soon come to be one of my top ten favourite places. Not necessarily because of the view but more the solitude and something a little magical that has the ability to restore and rejuvenate you.

The break over and our energy levels restored we made our way to Roller clearing. Here we bumped into the resident African Fish-Eagles which put on one spectacular show. It is one of the most amazing sounds to hear when in an semi enclosed space. In fact thinking back I still get goosebumps. :dance:

Some Zebra and Impala were busy grazing in the distance and as we passed them by they all just stood there staring almost as if they knew we weren't going to harm them. The call of a Scaly-throated Honeyguide made us temporarily change direction and we caught a quick glimpse of it before disappearing deeper into the forest.

Over at Palm Vlei the resident herd of Eland was once again busy with their antics but a bit more nervous and as soon as the spotted us they took off in a cloud of dust and thunder. Nhlangaluwe was pretty quiet so we made our way over the floodplain to Mangeba Windmill, crossed the road and wound our way back to camp via the ridges. Close to Lalapalm Windmill a group of Kudu made their way to the trough while the Warthog mother ran off squealing piglets in tow.

After breakfast we had more rifle lectures and after lunch we practised with the rifles. The evening after dinner we were introduced to "lodge feedback" which is basically where the current days lead gives feedback of his activity and thereafter the following days lead has to do his pre-trail briefing informing the "guests" of requirements and the route to be followed etc. (I will cover one of each of these with you on the days which I was lead)


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:33 am 
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Thursday 26 May 2011 Part 1

The previous day the other group had some wonderful sightings over at Makwadzi so Sarah decided to go back there. It was still dark when we sat off, we took our coffee and rusks along to enjoy after the walk.

As we arrived the morning chorus was in full swing and the drive there had us so cold we could not wait to start walking just to start warming up. The resident Impala herd was also running around all over the show, but unlike us using it to warm up they were being chased by the crazy and paranoid male. We made our way around them without even noticing us.

As we moved out onto the Makwadzi floodplain we could hear some Ground-Hornbills calling in the distance, we scanned the area to try and spot them but to no avail. Even though we heard them quite a lot over the course of the time I was there I can only remember seeing them once.

We made our way past the pan and then through the Lalapalm field to the west of Makwadzi pan. At the foot of the hill we turned north towards the Limpopo. We went through a bit of a thick patch of undergrowth but on the other side awaited a beautiful picture.

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There is a small patch of Jackalberry forest where the canopy is so dense that nothing is able to grow beneath the trees. The forest extends to the bank of the Limpopo river and it is amazing to be able to sit under these huge trees and stare out over the river flowing past 5 meters below you.

On our way back to the floodplain an Elephant breeding herd moved in and was grassing on the lush grass on the opposite side of the pan. We moved into the shade of a small Baobab on a small rise. Unfortunately the sun and wind was not in our favour. We weren't there even for 2 minutes when you saw the trunks going up like snorkels.

Even though they became a little uneasy about our smell they could not quite pinpoint our position and they took their time moving back to the ridge to the south. We stood watching them until all twenty or so of them disappeared and then continued on to the Landy.

We had a great coffee break while discussing the sighting and then made our way back to camp.


Last edited by pantera leo on Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:31 pm 
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Thursday 26 May 2011 Part 2

As from this afternoon we (the students) would start to take turns walking as the lead and back-up, also along with this would be that we would be carrying rifles . But because we still haven't attained our ARH (Advanced Rifle Handling) we would only have dummy ammunition.

Our group went to the parking lot past the airstrip because we would be walking at Hutwini Gorge. It was a great walk and a fantastic new area we got to explore. We walked in a Southwesterly direction but because the sun was already quite low down it did not cause too much difficulty with seeing what was in front of us.

Something we noticed quite early on was the large amount of large Ana Trees, Faidherbia albida. They formed some beautiful canopies above the dry pan at the foot of the hill. Underneath them a herd of Kudu where nibbling on the last few remaining pods, while the resident Impala male was chasing around his females in the distance.

As we followed the sides of the hill they started to become steeper and steeper until we had some marvellous rocky walls on our right. Due to the fact that we where on the southern side it was an area which received limited sun and this caused quite thick stands of Large Feverberries, Croton megalobotrys. These stands actually resembled an orchard as they were trying to reach the light and so most of the growth was concentrated in the crown leaving bare stems up to about one and a half meters.

The sun was now starting to get very low and we had to make our way back to the vehicle. En route we encountered a pair of Yellow-spotted Dassies which was a first for me. Close to the vehicle a troop of Baboons made their way to their roosting tree, while a harem of Zebra where herded away from us by their stallion.

On our way back to the vehicle.
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Upon reaching the vehicle we decided to do a short detour in search of the Pel's Fishing-Owl, but as always it avoided us.

Luckily the views of the Luvuvhu river made up for the general lack of Owls.
Image

We did not see too much on our way back to camp but hearing the Lions roar far of in the distance was greatly appreciated.


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:20 pm 
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Friday 27 May 2011 Part 1

Dawn broke along with another wonderful chorus, making getting up just so much more worthwhile. A quick coffee was followed by a walk from camp to Mangeba Windmill via the floodplain and Fevertree Forest.

Birding was a blast on this nice and crisp morning starting off with a Black-chested Snake-Eagle perched on a Baobab on the ridge just behind camp. He/she was soon followed by an African Harrier-Hawk inspecting the palms around Lalapalm Windmill for a pre-breakfast snack.

We decided to enter the forest from a slightly different angle by moving around the floodplain to the left of the windmill instead of the right. This proved worthwhile just as we moved through the second patch of palms a Hyena called close by making everyone jump a bit. The extra boost of energy set us in motion trying to find the possible den site. Unfortunately we returned empty-handed, the Little Sparrowhawk luckily made up with a brief appearance. We then proceeded to enter the forest.

Close to Two-Tree-Pan we encountered a troop of Baboons foraging at a brisk pace while en route to the Limpopo river. The regular Fish-Eagle put in an appearance at Roller clearance while we met up with a few Zebra and Kudu at Palm Vlei.

Our break was short lived at Nhlangaluwe pan because of some Elephant calling from the ridges. We tried to connect with them but to no avail. We then returned to Mangeba Windmill for our pick-up.


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Friday 27 May 2011 Part 2

For our afternoon walk we decided to go to Reedbuckvlei. This is always a special afternoon walk as even when there is no animals the birdlife and scenery definitely makes up for it. This afternoon was no different and the play of golden light in between the Fever trees made it magical.

We parked a little farther west in order to hear if there was any activity at the nearby Nwampi pan as we made our way to Reedbuckvlei.

This the view before we started.

Image

Nwambi appeared quiet so we maintained our course toward Reedbuckvlei. There was the odd one or to groups of Impala and Nyala that enjoyed the greenery under the Fever tree canopy. A herd of Ellies also called and we made our way to the other side of the pan to see if we could find them. Upon reaching the opposite side it was determined that they where further on towards the east. We made our way up the steep hill but unfortunately we could not see them. We spent a while up on the hill enjoying the play of light over the canopy beneath us. On our way back we moved around the northern side of the pan, here we spooked a croc and till this day I'm not sure who got the biggest fright the lead guide, students or the croc itself.

After gaining our composure again we really had to start moving with the light fading fast and vehicle being quite some distance away. Luckily we made it back with the last slither of light left.

The play of light over this beautiful Lily covered pan.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:47 pm 
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Saturday 28 May 2011 Part 1

Crickets and Nightjars where still calling as I got up and ready for another beautiful day in paradise. I had to get up extra early because not only was this mornings walk my first where I would be walking back-up but my tent was also on duty.

There was still much to be done and time just went by in such a blur and rush but in the end all worked out just fine. Our group sat of from camp heading into the ridges behind camp.

Barely into the walk and the excitement started, we came across some pretty fresh Leopard tracks! Now this in itself is exciting enough but there was more to get the adrenalin pumping. . .
Along with the Leopard track there where some very fresh Hyena tracks following on top of the Leopards' spoor. And I'll give you all one big guess as to why a Hyena would be following a Leopard?

A kill? Oh yes, indeed there where some drag marks. At first we did did not know, we followed the spoor and it led us straight back to camp, here it passed a mere 7 meters in front of my tent. All this excitement while I was blissfully unaware and dreaming of beautiful animals etc. Wouldn't it have been great to sit on the deck and watch a Leopardess drag her kill past at such close quarters?

We followed the spoor further, it eventually crossed the road and then continued on deep into the mopane veld. Eventually it got extremely dense and we where so close that you could smell the fresh blood in the cool of the morning air. This was more than enough safe excitement and we decided to turn back.

We took a quick break back at camp and then followed the spoor back to the kill site. It was made against the ridge right to the back of the camp. According to the evidence around including this discarded stomach, our instructor predicted that it was probably a Kudu cow.

Image

Not only is the fact that the prey is quite sizeable for a female Leopard an achievement enough but according to the GPS she dragged the kill just under two kilometres to the point where we turned around earlier the morning. There was minimal disturbance around and this also indicated to us that she's a very confident cat probably a good few years into her life.

From here we continued on over the top of the ridge and into the adjacent valley. We followed one of the numerous Elephant paths. Up in front of us we could hear some movement and as we rounded some thick bushes we startled a sounder of Warthog. They sat off deeper into the valley and caused a bit of secondary disturbance, basically meaning they spooked some other animals. Usually this is regarded as a bad practise but if this did not happen we probably would have walked smack into a breeding herd of Buffalo. A couple of Buffs got a fright from the Warthogs and gave a bellow.

We considered our options and decided to move up the north-eastern ridge so they would have difficulty seeing us into the sun. There was still no wind which made the decision quite straight forward. We had some really great views of them and to make it even more special was the surprise visitor. We kept so quiet that an African Civet passed by us without even knowing we where only 20 meters from him.

Apart from a dazzle of Zebra the rest of the walk was pretty quiet animal wise. The views though was something else though and every now and again we would stop to admire the scenery.

Image

Unfortunately the walk ended far too soon and we ended it off with a lovely cup of coffee under a massive Baobab tree!


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 9:25 pm 
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Saturday 28 May 2011 Part 2

After breakfast we had another round of rifle training which was followed by lunch and an afternoon drive. We all quickly sorted the coolers and snacks and then sat off towards a magical view better known as Lanner Gorge!

The road there delivered all the regulars and the drive back added a few Buffalo and then one of the Pafuri Lion pride males. But let's get back to Lanner Gorge and I'll let the amazing views speak for themselves.

Image

Image

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What a wonderful way to end another magical day in Kruger!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May - June 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 7:25 pm 
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Sunday 29 May 2011 Part 1

Another day broke and I was up again a bit earlier than the rest of camp seeing as today would be my first lead walk. I made sure that everything was packed and ready to go, all the vehicle checks done and all my "guests" ready we sat off towards Reedbuckvlei.

The morning air had an extra bit of chill this morning and half of us were frozen stiff by the time we got to the vlei. The road there was pretty quiet except for the odd Impala and Nyala as well as this Ellie that gave us a bit of a fright when he miraculously appeared out of nowhere.

Image

By the time we got to a standstill and the cameras ready he was already quite far into the bush, trumpeting because he probably also got a bit of a fright.

Locked and loaded and in charge of the group felt great knowing it was my choice where we would be going and doing. A couple of minutes in I found out it wasn't as easy as it looked, you choose a heading but seeing as you follow the animal highways they don't like going in the same direction and for the first half and hour this can cause quite a lot of criss crossing until you get the hang of it. By now you also realise that you've been concentrating so hard on which path to take to maintain your heading that you've been paying far too little attention to any signs of danger nevermind what your group is up to or what you've already passed which might have been interesting to share.

I eventually started paying more attention to the aforementioned and slowly the nerves started to ease out and I was starting to enjoy the walk. Not too long after ward our "lead" guide stopped me to interpret some Ellie signs. From these we deduced that it was a single Elephant so most probably a bull, the direction he was moving suggested that he was returning from the water so he might be off feeding now since he wouldn't be too thirsty. Great, I thought so maybe we might get to see some Ellie action on the walk (how right/wrong would I be).

Then everything just happened so fast I did not even give to paces and most of the group was still looking at the tracks. . .

My eye caught movement up ahead, I froze, trying to focus and suss out what it is that I'm looking at. The head turned slightly and the memory kicked in it was horns, not those found on fluffy graceful Impala or Nyala, oh no these were BUFFALO!!! Then another head popped up and then another before long I could make out at least five. Normally not a problem seeing as they weren't too thick and lacking a prominent boss suggesting that these were females probably just waking up from where they lay concealed in the hip high bushes. The problem was that at about 20 meters we would definitely be in their comfort zone which if spooked suddenly, could turn disastrous!

Our lead quickly looked at me as if to say what now!? I then signalled to the rest of the group to get down and keep quiet. Luckily they all remembered all the pre-briefings we practised, one of the cardinal rules being "Obey all commands immediately whether you agree or not, later on you can question the decision as soon as you are out of immediate danger"

I quickly explained to my back-up and got him to start leading the group out the way we came. As soon as we were far away enough we contemplated moving around toward the east and then reapproach to try and get a better view of them without being seen. A mere 30 meters into this plan we were halted by the rest of the herd, still unaware of our presence, so we decided to do an even bigger circle.

Plan B also soon failed as this only caused us to bump into the bulls making up the rear of the group. They saw us and made an immediate retreat only to come back very cautiously to investigate what gave them the fright. This was enough and I decided to leave them be so we sat off in a westerly direction.

Just before we reached Nwambi pan and all still on an adrenalin rush a Lion roared, so we made another course change and started heading south towards the Luvuvhu river. But then bad luck struck again in the form of a roaring engine from one of the safari lodges landies. We tried to get out of sight as quick as possible but I'm sure at least the guide saw us and if the guests were paying attention then they might have seen a fleeing glimpse of a group of clothed creatures.

I then turned back towards Reedbuckvlei due to a mix of time, nerves, a herd of screaming Elephant cows (who most probably came across the Lions) and some more nerves. Eventually we made it to the vlei, we had a quick break there and then returned to the vehicle.

En route back we came across two magnificent Eland Bulls about 60 meters away we stopped for a few minutes before continuing.

As we reached the glorious sight of the landrover I was completely wasted now that all the adrenalin wore off and after being on hyper alert for the rest of the walk. We had a coffee break and some rusks before returning to camp.

Even though this is nothing compared to some of the experiences to come I was quite shook up after my first big day walking in the Kruger wilderness!


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 Post subject: Re: pantera leo Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May -June
Unread postPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 8:47 pm 
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Sunday 29 May 2011 Part 2

After a hectic but equally wonderful morning the rest of the day was filled with the pleasure of the great memories from earlier in the day, the nostalgia of the realisation of where I was and the wonderful songs and antics of the birds at Jack's Spring (this is basically a semi-natural birdbath within camp). In between all this I had completely lost track of time and before long it was lunch and then I had to rush to get ready for the afternoon walk.

We would be heading towards Hulukulu, one of the numerous pans found all along the extensive Fevertree Forest. This was a new destination for the trip and I was extra excited with this prospect in mind. We sat off from the parking lot outside camp and headed in a north-westerly direction.

We soon crossed over the Leopard tracks from the previous day and then continued to cross Middle Road. We had a short break at one of the numerous fantastic Baobab specimens around to receive a bit of a history lesson from our new "lead" who had just returned to camp after a bout of malaria. He told us that this was one of the trees which was used to store the local Makuleke tribe's grain back in the day. Some actually climbed higher to peek into the bee invested hollow tree trunk.

After the delightful break with the fascinating stories we continued towards our destination. A couple of hundred meters before we reached the pan the decision was made to turn around, not only was the light starting to fade but there was an eerie silence about the area which made us all feel a bit uneasy. Till this day we still could not figure out the reason.

There was not too much time to worry about the silence though because as we made our way back we went through a stretch of swamp grass. Suddenly there was an awkward noise and rustle in the grass not five meters in front of us. Everyone jumped backwards from the fright and both our "lead" as well as both back-ups cocked their rifles and shouldered them.

The next moment a large Warthog broke cover with a helluva noise running off, tail raised. As soon as it disappeared and we all settled down we had a proper laugh. We had such a wonderful back-up student he cocked and shouldered his weapon ready on the front-line with a dummy round in his chamber. It just goes to show how intense our training would eventually kick in for all of us, his just maybe a tad bit early! :lol: :lol: :lol:

The rest of the trail back to camp delivered nothing else of similar excitement and we all enjoyed the rest of the lovely walk.

The aforementioned Baobab used for grain storage etc. photographed on our way back to camp.

Image

Some of the surrounding scenery en route back to camp.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: pantera leo Magical Meanderings, Kruger Style May -June
Unread postPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 7:41 am 
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Monday 30 May 2011 Part 1

It was good to have a bit of a lie in if you could call it that and to only get up when the drums were played. I hurried to get ready and somehow in all the laziness could not quite get everything done so I had to skip coffee and meet everyone just as we were ready to depart.

Our route for the morning walk would once again as with the previous afternoon take us to a new area. We would be walking from camp to Lalapalm windmill and then turn south into the ridges where we would follow the valleys, cross the main tar road and then continue over a ridge and down a valley to some natural springs known as Mashishiti.

Just before reaching the windmill we had the pleasure of watching a spectacular colour show unfold as day started to wrestle night to take control of the sky.

Image

The walk would be the longest yet and so we made several stops along the way. Our next was just after we ascended the first ridge line. The Mopane was rather dense here and a couple of times we had to pull some crazy stunts to get up, over, under and around all the obstacles. Up till now it was very quiet with not an animal in sight but as we sat to catch our breath we could make out movement on the opposite ridge, it was a small herd of Zebra strolling along one of the paths leading downhill to the water.

Down in the next valley we follow a dry riverbed for a while and that's when we came across a huge discarded snake skin which we estimated was about five and a half meters in length. Not too long thereafter and we started to climb again and before long we reached the highest point along the ridge line. From here you could see far and wide and what a spectacular view it proved to be. Far down below us you could see the dense dark green foliage snake through the land which would be where the Limpopo cut its course to the ocean. And beyond that as far as the eye could see lay the land of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Even though this photo can't do any justice to the view I decided to include it and maybe you can see it all as well with a bit of imagination and Makuleke Magic.

Image

After the amazing view we walked not even ten minutes and then we could hear a vehicle approaching, only after another ten to fifteen minutes did we come across the main tar road which is unfortunately the only access normal tourists have to this spectacular stretch of land. We quickly crossed it to ensure we spoiled no ones wilderness experience and after another small hill we descended into the Mashishiti valley.

In no time we reached the springs, our final destination. We decided to sit up away from the springs on a slight incline to observe what might come for a drink. Even though not one animal came to the water in the 30 minutes we sat there the birdlife definitely made up for it.

There was a whole cacophony of calls coming from almost every bush. These included Common and Blue Waxbills, Village Indigobirds and their host Red-billed Firefinches, Grey Go-away-birds, Yellow-throated Petronia, African Green-Pigeon etc. Overhead we had several groups of Grey-headed Parrots squaking on their flight between their roosts and foraging grounds.

We eventually had to leave this patch of heaven as our pick-up was already on its way. We crossed back over the hill and just before we reached the tar road we turned west and waited for our pick-up in one of the quarries.


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