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 Post subject: Albert's What was, what is and what .... KNP, May 2013
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:45 am 
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Joined: Tue May 02, 2006 11:07 am
Posts: 215
Location: Western Cape
I meant to do a trip report after our visit in September of 2012, but never got around to it. So now another visit has taken place (May 2013), so maybe it is time to reflect a little.

Let me say that I have no preconceived idea of what a trip report should be; I guess what follows is less of a trip report and more of a reflection on things past, present and hopefully future. I actually started the thought process that has now led to the ramble that follows during the first day or two of our September trip in 2012. I thought about what we expect from each Kruger trip, and what we actually experience. I was in Shimuwini and we were experiencing some Cape-like winter weather, unlike anything I had experienced in Kruger before. This was cold, windy and wet, with soft, driving rain falling almost non-stop. So I started thinking that this was not what I expected in Kruger in September….so what did I expect?

Well, warmer weather for a start. Then I started musing about expectations and selective memories. How much of what we fondly remember about Kruger are selective memories? How much of what we expect becomes reality? I came to the conclusion that every visit that I have had to Kruger turned out to be completely different to what I expected. Not that this is a bad thing; I just did not expect to have the first animal sighting after checking in at Orpen two days before to be a large Hyena that bounded out of the wet bush like a Warg from Middle Earth.

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But it was a good experience, and the memory became a keeper.

My SO and I always maintain that every trip (and the past was our 17th as a couple) to the park gives us something special; a special memory that becomes part of the selected few. But back to the September trip.

The end of the beginning.

In September of 2012 the trip was for one night at Orpen, three nights at Shimuwini, one at Balule (in a hut) and two nights at Lower Sabie in Safari Tents. On arrival at Orpen it started raining (and we saw the Warg and it’s mate); when we moved to Shimuwini it continued to rain (for two days). The second evening in Shimuwini the rain cleared, and we had a marvelous sunset view over the river. On the third evening we saw an enormous herd of elephant make their way along the riverbed, on that second, wonderfully sunlit evening an advance party made their appearance (these have become my Shimuwini memories, along with the Red-crested Korhaan, the White-fronted Bee-eater, the Red-headed Weaver and the odd-marked zebra).

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Check out the personalised decals on my back...

We had consciously made an effort to take more notice of the abundant bird-life around us. Whilst not officially “twitchers” we were on our way (stopped by Bush Baptist prior to the trip and got the Stiffnecks beanie and cap). What struck me immediately (another unexpected experience) was how hard it was to identify even large birds, never mind the LBJs! Takes some getting used to, this birding lark (geddit?). I was SO proud when I managed to identify an Arrowmarked Babbler (damn things kept waking me up in the morning).

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Camouflage...(Yes I know this is not the Babbler)

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Spot the birdie..

After Shimuwini it was another journey into the (un)expected…our first trip to Balule. Yes, not what we expected. Much, much more. Wow. This now has to be my favourite place in the park, and I was back there a few short weeks ago, on the other side of the fence (but more about that later). Oh, I forgot, from Shimuwini, on day 3, we did a round trip that encompassed Mooiplaas and the Capricorn loop, where we found the (expected!) Tsessebe. Another selective memory. Unexpected was the dead kudu and buffalo around the Mooiplaas/Tsendze area (Anthrax) and the large numbers of vultures…and the smell of putrefaction… all now part of the memories, yet maybe not the selected ones? But back to Balule, and the number of raptors we saw around there; I posted this picture in another thread:
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and
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As I did with the Balule sunset-through-the-Baobab….

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From there it was on to Lower Sabie (and fond memories of a previous stay in the Safari Tents to accompany us on the trip). Notable was the large grouping of horned grey ones (eight together!) that we saw en route to LS from Balule. At LS I must say that the evidence of the January 2012 floods were still, well, quite evident. The safari tents were in a state of partial repair, and a sudden rain shower the second evening revealed quite a few leaks! But these were not the memories that will last. We met a wonderful couple of American (dare I say old?) ladies in the tent next to us; they came over after dinner on the first evening to enquire about the intricacies of getting a braai fire to burn (a single large log and a stick of fire lighter did not quite do the trick for them). The two ladies (long-time friends in the USA, but now living continents apart) had been travelling by themselves for the past 10 days, and had another week to go. A definite keeper in the memory stakes.
And sadly, this brought us to the end of the trip, and what we could call the end of the beginning: After a short trip in May of 2012 (just 2 days in Satara and a few day trips from Hazyview, but don’t worry, I won’t be going back any further) and with the final winding up of my late dad’s estate, the SO and I decided it was time for something else. We decided to investigate the possibility of getting a caravan. In July of 2012 we decided to start studying the 2nd hand market, and to maybe look at the possibility of borrowing or renting a van, just to see if we liked it. The idea was to maybe buy a caravan in the latter part of 2013. So in August of 2012 I bought a caravan. This meant all change for the May 2013 trip, and….

(The next installment follows!)

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 Post subject: Re: What was, what is and what we thought it would be...
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 02, 2006 11:07 am
Posts: 215
Location: Western Cape
The beginning of something new (May 2013).

Towing a caravan from the Cape to the Lowveld is not something that you expect to be easy. Expectations met. Nevertheless, at dusk on the 3rd day we arrived in Hazyview, where we would spend the next week relaxing, with just one sneak preview day trip that encompassed a little part of the south of the park, and took in a visit to the nursery at Skukuza, lunch at the golf club and a marvelous hour at Lake Panic (added a Black Crake to my bird list).

On the assigned day, the caravan was packed, hooked up and off we went; we travelled from Hazyview to Phalaborwa on the R40. This was OK, except for the last 30 or so km to Phala, where the road is a little suspect. In at Phala gate, and then on with the H14 towards Tsendze. After check-in at Mopani we made our way to the camp, and our assigned spot (number 18). Ok; here is where reality and expectations separated. Let me say at the outset that the map of Tsendse camp (and the layout of the campsites) on the website and the actual layout bears a only a passing resemblance to each other. I selected site 18 because it appeared quite large (on the map) and I was also quite nervous about getting our caravan into our space with a limited loss of face (we were new to this, remember). I actually drove right past site 18 before I realized that it actually was the square piece squeezed in between squares 17 and 19….I got funny looks from all the folks in sites 20 – 33 as I circled past them on my way back to 18…sorry about the dust, folks…After expertly parking our caravan (by unhooking it and pushing it into place by hand), we had the groundsheet and canopy in place, the chairs and table unpacked and a beer in hand (not necessarily in that order) in next to no time.
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Just had to include a pic of the caravan...

What a place. The map issues aside, Tsendze is a wonderful place, and we were, as countless others before us, looked after so well by the inimitable Roger and Elinah. The first evening quiet was shattered by the calls of a Giant Eagle owl (Roger photographed it and posted it on facebook). During our three day stay at Tsendze Roger also pointed out (one late morning) one of the local resident owlets:

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Game-wise, the trip was rather quiet; the park is very green, and the grass and Mopani around that area quite dense. Still, we saw the usual, and trips on all the loops were fairly productive (but if you are waiting for a description of the lion/leopard/cheetah, you are bound to be disappointed). For me the memories that will last from Tsendze would be the owls, the absolute peace and quiet, and chats with Roger and Elinah on their rounds each evening. We’ll be back.

Punda...No fires on the ground (and 7de Laan at the Bird Hide)

The trip from Tsendze to Punda Maria (for a further three nights) was quite interesting, with the evidence of the destruction around the Shingwedzi area a lasting memory of the day’s drive. We arrived at Punda around midday; after the orderly quiet of Tsendze the Punda campsite was quite an eye-opener. We eventually figured out that you could (kind of) tell where the campsites were by looking for the braai stands.
We could also kind of tell that I should have brought a very long extension cord. Which I did not. But, we found a spot under some trees, close enough to an unoccupied power socket for my measly 25 m cable to reach, and proceeded to park the caravan. I wish I could tell you that I expertly and faultlessly reversed the caravan in between some trees and into the required spot, but that would be factually incorrect (a lie, in fact). I am sure that the number of embarrassing moments will decrease in practice as well as in the retelling of these stories: talk about selective memories. The van was parked.

No fires on the ground….

..or 7de Laan at the bird hide. There are large signs at the camp kitchens and elsewhere saying: No Fires on the Ground. Amazing how some people just cannot read.
But first: After we had parked the caravan we did the Mahonie loop and saw some great stuff, some of which we photographed:

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And some of which we drove away from at slightly higher than normal speed, the latter being an elephant that took exception to us in no uncertain fashion. This was the full Monty, no mock charge, he kept coming. Got the adrenalin going, I can tell you.

So back to the fires. A couple of couples (two different campsites) had a braai together, and proceeded to make a (large) fire, on the ground, virtually against the fence. I once saw a veld fire start inside Olifants camp when a gust of wind blew coals from a nearly deceased braai fire onto grass next to some bungalows, so this fire in the fence kind of freaked me out, just a little. And let me tell you that old(er) folks can be just as rude as some youngsters when you want to discuss (for example) their stupidity with them. The reason I am telling you this is that it became clear to me that you have a far greater interaction with your fellow tourists when you camp…so many interesting people, and so many different types!

Then there was the 7de Laan at the bird hide episode. For those of you that know the Punda bird hide; I was quite amused, on the second evening there to observe that a gentleman had parked his (quite frankly enormous) caravan quite close to the bird hide, and had (a) an air conditioner in the caravan nose cone going, (b) an extensive canopy/verandah set up with (c) a huge fan going full blast and (d) a friggin great flat screen TV (and dish) set up in one corner. So that evening you could sit in the bird hide and listen to the favourite Afrikaans soapie blaring from the TV just 30 yards away. Not a keeper in the memory stakes.

I would rather remember the Bearded Woodpecker, or this battle-scarred dagga boy..

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But all of this fades into insignificance when compared to the wonderful day trip we had to Pafuri. I had not been to Pafuri in many a year. I actually found some photographs my late dad took of me and a family friend at Pafuri in 1970 or 1971. So maybe I was chasing some of those long-held memories when we took this trip. Pafuri definitely lived up to the expected (selected?).
En route my birding experiences also took a few giant leaps forward: for example our first African Hawk Eagle..

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And there was the side-striped jackal…
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And the quite beautiful Nyala loop…
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Balule revisited

The next day it was back to Balule, this time on the other side of the fence. Added Hamerkop to our bird list (I work on the principle that if I haven’t photographed I haven’t seen it)
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and the evening sunset was followed by the braai and the Hyenas either side of the fence. What a magic place.
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Sadly, all good things come to an end, and the last day in the park was spent traveling to Malelane (had a shocking experience there with a power socket), but at least we saw the compulsory cats at Tshokwane.
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So having now embarked on a new phase of our Krugerparking, what about the future? To paraphrase Arnie; we’ll be back. Maybe not with the caravan on every trip, but definitely more camping than otherwise. Let the good memories stack up.

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