As we lay there fast asleep I was awoken by an unmistakable call…Could it be?
I lay there for a few seconds and yes, this time I was certain…It was the call of nature!
I thought to myself “What now?” “Do I get out of my tent to ahemm relieve myself?”
It felt like I had slept for ages, so I was sure some of the guys would be getting up soon, I decide to just wait a bit until the rest of the crew woke up. As I lay there for what felt like an eternity, a thousands thoughts raced through my mind. I kept hearing these 2 voices in my head “Go! and Don’t go!” I switched on my headlamp to check what time it was. 12:15AM.
I guess my fear of getting out of my tent alone in the middle of the night, whilst the rest of the group were soundly asleep got the better of me and decided to try and stick this one out. I eventually fell asleep and was awoken by the sounds of tents unzipping and some excited laughter. I glanced at my watch. 5:00AM.
YAY!!! I made it!! My first night in the bush… it was time to answer that call!!
We packed up our camp site with the intention of walking at first light, to try and cover as much distance while it was still cooler. After a quick cereal bar, we were ready to start Day 2.
We continued along the river enjoying the fresh, crisp morning air. Something we never get to experience in the city.
As we were walking along, Jannie stopped and motioned us closer. He pointed to the ground and whispered “leopard”.
He indicated that the leopard wasn’t too far ahead and was walking in the same direction we were. Luckily the wind was in our favour and he hadn’t picked us up as yet. Everyone was now excited as we were hoping to catch a glimpse of this beauty.
Further ahead Jannie stopped again and showed us a shrub that was wet, still dripping with urine. The leopard had stopped to mark its territory. It wasn’t too far ahead…We were all now buzzing with excitement.
As we continued silently, we could hear the squirrels and birds giving warning calls about 500m ahead. We spotted some Egyptian Geese in the river who started sounding alarm calls at the sight of us. We followed the tracks for another 5 minutes before it made off into the bush. Jannie had explained that the leopard had probably heard the geese’s warning calls and made off.
We didn’t get to see the leopard, but the thrill of tracking this leopard on foot was such an experience that it will probably stay etched in my memory forever.
We continued along for about 30min, as I was walking I glanced to the left and standing there staring at us from between the Mopani trees about 50m in were 2 inquisitive dagga boys. I quickly hit my hands against my thigh repeatedly to get the attention of the guides and within split seconds the guides were between us and the buffalo. The buffalo stared at us for another 5 seconds before hastily retreating back in the direction they came.
It was almost 8:00AM and time for breakfast as we headed down the embankment to a rocky outcrop next to the river.
Breakfast on the rocks
The views from our breakfast stop.
As we continued after some coffee and cereal, it was time for some more hippos.
The rest of the morning we encountered some rocky terrain, most of the sand was washed away from this portion of the river during the floods in January 2012 and progress was slow and tiring.
We came across a hippo on his way to the river. The guides kept a watchful eye on him making sure he got back into the water before proceeding.
It was time for a midday break, a refreshing swim which brought some relief to those aching bodies, some food and the most amazing siesta in the shade of a large Mahogany tree. A cool breeze, accompanied by the leaves gently rustling above, the sounds of hippos grunting and snorting in the distance…Words cannot describe this, but it’s definitely one of my most memorable experiences on the trail.
After lunch it was time to push on. We saw plenty more hippos along the way until we found a spot to camp for the night.
After a bath and some supper it was time to sit around the fire and talk about the events of the day.
End of another fantastic day
As we sat there and looked up into the sky, it was the most amazing sight you could ever imagine.
Definitely the most stars I have EVER seen in my life! The Milky Way was clearly visible and as we sat there staring into what looked like a painted canvas, we could clearly see with the naked eye…2 satellites orbiting the earth.
Just when I thought that lying under a large Mahogany tree having a siesta was my most memorable experience, the Olifants Backpack Trail conjures this up. Breathtaking!
As the wind picked up slightly, Jannie informed us that there was going to be some dew tonight and that it was probably going to get quite chilly. It was amazing to see his wealth of knowledge along the trail, from animal behaviour to weather predictions
and naturally, he was spot on! That night was really cold and when we got up the next morning our tents were indeed wet from the dew.