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 Post subject: Dunquixoting Mapungubwe-the rewards of waterhole squatting
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 10:06 am 
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Mapungubwe - May 2012

After an enjoyable three night stay at Marakele we set off for Mapungubwe at 0630 for the slow seven hour drive in the ponderous “Pig”, a Landrover Overlander motorhome of uncertain provenance. I never push the geriatric porker above 90. A speeding fine will be framed with pride. We took the Bakkers Pass route skirting Marakele towards Vaalwater, a delightful gravel road drive with great views of the Marakele mountains and the vulture nests on the protruding crags. The gravel is generally good with occasional rocky transverse sections, corrugations, steep ascents and descents. Nevertheless entirely do-able in a conventional sedan. We were amused to be raced along a game farm fence by an emu at 40kph. Once on the tar we made good time until we turned onto the Marken - Baltimore road. Is there a plan to rename Limpopo province “Potpopo”? On sections of this road, traffic has abandoned the road entirely and created gravel tracks alongside the remnants of the tar. At least swerving all over the road to avoid potholes keeps one awake at the wheel. Overwhelming evidence of rampant tenderitis.

We arrived at Mapungubwe reception at about 1430 to check in for Mazhou camp site. A somewhat sullen receptionist hurried us through the available attractions and told us we would have to drive 40 kms back towards Pontdrif to find the access to Mazhou. We queried the internal route through the game viewing area but apparently the road condition is so poor as to be unusable. We further queried the camp control, were we allocated a site? No she said, take whatever is available. According to her records, of the ten sites, four were still unoccupied. People can come and go, there is no access control, rangers may choose to ask visitors to show their permits. We never saw a ranger during the four days of our stay. Our misgivings were confirmed when we arrived at Mazhou to find all camp sites occupied. Three sites were taken by fully settled caravans, part of a group “claiming” they had extended their bookings by a day though looking somewhat shamefaced. With no access control, squatting on sites by people heading to or from Botswana via Pontdrif could become a problem. Being in a fully self-contained motorhome we slotted into an open space, sharing an electrical plug point with one of the “squatters”. The three caravans left the next morning, enabling us to choose a genuine site.

Early the following day we set off along the route skirting the Limpopo. The abandoned high voltage military fencing erected to keep out insurgents is still much in evidence, most of it trampled flat. With our wide vehicle we had to be careful to avoid snagging razor wire and fence posts. The Limpopo was very dry with only occasional patches of open water to be seen. We came across a few impala and some birds but none of the elephant we expected though sign of their presence was everywhere.

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The afternoon we spent at the Maloutswa waterhole. In this placid environment we watched a variety of game visiting and moving on. As the sun settled westward and we were about to head back to camp one last look had us almost touching a herd of elephant moving silently between the hide and the water, perhaps as many as fifty with a full gamut of ages indicating a breeding herd. Not stopping to drink, they moved past, eerily silent but for the occasional deep stomach rumble. A spectacular end to a quiet day.

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Mapungubwe Hill, Treetops in the next episode


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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe in May - the rewards of waterhole squatting
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:14 pm 
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For our second Mapungubwe day we booked the historical tour, which included a guided trip to Mapungubwe hill and the cultural center. Though we saw no game, the drive to the hill was pleasant, the display at the bottom of the hill interesting, the climb to the top somewhat challenging, the guides explanation of the history of the hill and the discovery of the wood carved gold encased rhino most informative. In the picture below, the path to the top is clearly visible. We had the benefit of a stairway. The original inhabitants had to clamber up using natural handholds and slats supported on holes gouged out of the rock face. Some of these holes are still visible

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After spending some time wandering around the plateau on top of the hill, photographing and admiring the expansive views, we headed back down, pondering on the history of a vanished people with an advanced civilization. Beware, the steep steps going down are hell on the knees! One has to admire the people who carried water and supplies from the valley below to the king and his nobles living on the mountain top. No democracy for those living in the shadow of their rulers. Has anything changed?

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Views from the top:

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A geological formation forming a natural wall

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Rock Chess

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Holes carved in the rock used for grain storage and a water reservoir, all carried to the top by the subjects below.

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Distant baobab

This was followed with a tour of the magnificent cultural center. The Mapungubwe history is beautifully displayed and explained with many artifacts, including a replica of the gold sheathed rhino.

We then set off to the tree-top and confluence viewpoints. The tree top trail is an innovative idea, a trail constructed through the trees, meandering along to a hide overlooking the Limpopo. There was little to see by way of game or birds and the river itself desperately dry, no more than a trickle. This is an unhappy situation after a particularly dry summer.

We did however see this bee-eater.

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The viewpoint at confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers overlooks both Zimbabwe and Botswana. Again little to see except a sea of sand being the Shashe with no water at all and the Limpopo with a few fishermen desperately hanging their lines in the Limpopo pools.

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Then it was the long drive back to Mazhou. While maneuvering into position at our campsite disaster struck. The left side steering arm of the ageing Landrover broke. A crack had propagated until no more than 30% solid material was left. Parking maneuver stresses did the rest. We had visions of low bed trailers and vast expense. Fortunately in a box of spares that came with the vehicle was – hallelujah – a right and a left steering arm. The necessary tools were in my tool box and two hours later we were mobile. Supper was enjoyed with a deep sense of relief.


Squatting at the hide in the next episode


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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe in May - the rewards of waterhole squatting
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:32 am 
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Hi PetraJ. The Pig is indeed a Forward Control Landrover Series II. The original 6 cylinder Rover engine and drive train has been replaced with a 4.2 Nissan Patrol straight 6 diesel with an after-market turbo and Nissan drive train. The only remaining LR components in the drive train are the axles and their ever-fragile side shafts. Very nice conversion.

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Cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe in May - the rewards of waterhole squatting
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:55 am 
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Location: Roodepoort
We are driving the same, but everything is still original, except for a bigger (215L) petrol tank and a 200L watertank added, and a spray job.

We call it "Varkie" and all it still needs is a picture of a Warthog :D

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The best vehicle so far!! :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Mapungubwe in May - the rewards of waterhole squatting
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:54 pm 
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Squatting at Maloutswa waterhole

We decided that the next day would be spent at the Maloutswa waterhole. Until almost mid-day we had the place entirely to ourselves and experienced one of the most magnificent spectacles of our entire holiday. All morning a diverse variety of game wandered down to the water, drank and left: Eland, zebra, kudu, wildebeest, impala, warthog, waterbuck, giraffe, a variety of birds, a pair of jackal.

Stepping out for water
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Reflections
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More reflections
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Only friends?
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Then, from stage right, appeared an enormous herd of elephant. At least sixty, this time to drink and frolic, roll in the mud, squirt water over themselves. Tiny calves struggling to control their trunks, kneeling on the banks to reach the water. It simply went on and on, with squealing and trumpeting, stomach rumbling. Each time we thought it was tapering off, more would appear from the bushes. We had it all to ourselves.

Okay folks, lets see if we can empty this dam -- SHLURP together, NOW !
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Mommy's boy
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Then as the herd moved off towards the car parking we set off to watch them sand bathing.

Dust Hose
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As they finally disappeared, we headed back to the hide to collect our things for the return to camp. But it was only the intermission. Again, from stage right, another herd of perhaps forty elephant appeared. The entire performance was repeated, frolicking, mud-rolling, trumpeting, rumbling, spraying. The most comical was a tiny calf pushed off the bank by a slightly older calf, tumbling into the water. With a quick heave of its trunk under the baby’s bum, the mother pushed it back to safety.

Bum's Up
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As the last of this herd disappeared into the bushes and tranquility returned to the waterhole, the first human visitors arrived to share the hide with us. On the principle that anyone at a game park telling you that you have just missed a spectacular sighting (or anyone telling you that you could have saved 20% on the new set of tyres you bought if only you had spoken to them) should be executed without benefit of trial, we were silent on what we had just seen but suggested that if they wait a herd of elephant may wander past in the late afternoon. We then left for a leisurely drive back to camp along the banks of the Limpopo. Throughout the shrubbery along this trail we found dispersed the herds we had seen.

Amply rewarded for our patience at the waterhole, we settled down to supper, recharging camera batteries and transferring overflowing memory cards onto computer. We prepared to make an early start for the next leg of our holiday, six days in Kruger, based in the north, an area unfamiliar to both of us. The plan was to enter at Pafuri and make our way to Punda Maria for our first two nights in Kruger.

The Kruger report will have to wait a couple of weeks as we are off to Swaziland - Hlani and Mlilwane.


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