Gus Adendorff Part 14
Gus knew the Letaba area quite well as it was included into his area during his tenure at Punda Maria as District Ranger of the northern area. It was huge area which had now been divided into Letaba, Klipkoppies and Mahlangene.
Klipkoppies bordered Mozambique; it was in a very arid part of the Park. The Rangers quarters were not very comfortable; the bit of water available was not fit for human consumption, the garden on the rocky surface consisted of aloes and a few succulents.
Klipkoppies was completely cut of from the rest of the Park while the Letaba River was in flood; fortunately this Rangers Post was abandoned after a few years and moved to the Shipandane Area where some old ruins are still visible indicating much earlier habitation.
The view from Shipandane was wonderful, it covers a vast area, today it is called Mooiplaas, the name given the spot by old hunters who must have enjoyed camping there – now all will know where it is.
Two of the hunters who visited the area were Bowker – after who Bowkers Kop is named and Barber after who Barberton is named.
The Mahlangene Section was later made known by Kobie Kruger, wife of Kobus, it was very isolated, the nearest civilised area is Phalaborwa some twenty two kilometres away. Anyone visiting this Post had to ferry across the river. The Hippos soon became used to the passing rowing boats, Crocodiles were plentiful and dogs had to be watched very carefully.
The Adendorffs were now in the Elephant area. Vast breeding herds operated here.
One morning Gus noticed the Lionesses alongside a pool in the Letaba, below where the Engelhard Dam is now situated. The two woke up hen Gus arrived and they swam through the pool untouched by the many Crocodiles, Gus was quite surprised at the speed with which they crossed the pool, he then realised what strong swimmers Lions really are.
The Rangers quarters at Letaba were quite comfortable unlike that which was occupied by Henry Ledeboer, his home was now used as the storage shed . . . . It was also here that I met Oom Gus the first time – August 1967, on our very first visit to this wonderful place.
While at Letaba, Gus was invited by Andries Cornelius of the SABC to join their group on their trip to Mozambique to where the van Rensburg trek had been massacred in 1836. Unfortunately they got as far as Pafuri – the Great Limpopo was flowing too strongly and they had to return home – vey disappointed.
Oom Gus recalls a trip with Fanie Botha mentioned in my first post, who was the Klipkoppies Ranger, the called Mala Mala, the two of them set off to Massingiri the Portuguese outpost with a few shops, on the banks of the Olifants some 48 kilometres further downstream from the Park boundary, where they discussed poaching with the Chef de Poste, they were very well entertained and parted in a jovial manner and arrived at Klipkoppies in the best of spirits.
Oom Gus mentioned that they had excellent neighbours in the Phalaborwa Mining Company, who assisted in any way possible, the Manager Mr. Cowy was dedicated to wildlife and very often help was made available while putting out veld fires, all surplus water was supplied to the Park, they assisted with the diverting of the Tsutsi Stream, which was originally dry for most of the year and is now regarded as perennial, offering water to the game.
Two Game Guards were patrolling and noticed vultures hovering nearby; they went to investigate and came across two Lions eating a Sable Bull it only had one horn, the other appeared to have broken off long ago, maybe in combat with another bull. The area was badly trampled, Mopani branches were all broken, a dead Lion was found with a hole behind the shoulder - where the horn of the bull had penetrated the heart.
Gus visited the area where the proud bull had put up such a gallant fight. He left the area quite nostalgic as he again realised that these magnificent Black and White specimens with their beautifully backwards swept horns are formidable, proud animals who are so famous for their courage, certainly demand respect.
One day Gus and Game Guard Piet Hlongo cam across a live Elephant which was stuck in the mud at the confluence of the Nghotsha Stream and the Olifants River quite close to Balule, on investigation Gus found that the poor beast had sunk so far into the mud that only the top part of the shoulder and head were free. Gus considered digging it out with the aid of the D7 Bulldozer which was working close by building the road. He contacted the Nature Conservator and explained the situation and the rescue plan. He was told to rather not as the likelihood of the animal being injured by the Bulldozer and the hauling out of the mud, with all the stress induced by its ordeal it and dying after all this was a great possibility, it was suggested that Gus ends its suffering. Gus was extremely sad when he pulled the trigger . . . . and even more saddened when it died with a sigh . . . . .
One evening Gus was awakened by a rumpus outside, he went outside and shining his torch saw eight Lions, A Black maned male, four Lionesses and three half grown cubs, all feeding on a Waterbuck which they had chased into diamond mesh fence around the Rangers quarters making a huge dent into it.
Game Guards Piet Hlongo and Carlos Chauke once cam back from patrol quite grey in the face. They reported that while on patrol, they heard an Elephant trumpeting, the bush was breaking in their direction and two large Lions appeared closely followed by what seemed to be an angry trumpeting Elephant. The two guards just had time to escape behind a thick tree and watch the three animals disappear into the bush.
An injured Elephant was reported to Gus by some tourists coming from Olifants to Letaba. The Ranger went to investigate, the animal was walking on three legs, the fourth was badly swollen, with puss suppurating from a huge wound, it seemed to be in great agony. After a while Gus realized that the animal would not recover and decided to end the suffering. Gus then found that the Bull must have been in a fight as there was a huge hole in the leg; gangrene had already set into the reeking wound. The carcass was fed on by the local Lion pride for three days and thereafter by Hyaenas and other scavengers, the on looking tourists also did not seem to mind the awkward stench.
Some local inhabitants living on the outskirts of the Park at Malopene informed the Phalaborwa Police that one of their little boys aged three, went missing. They were afraid that he may have entered the Park . . . .
The Police contacted Gus; instructions were immediately given to all available to start a search. The spoor was found, he had entered the Park. With the assistance of the Police and their dog, Gus, fellow Ranger Dawid Roux and four Game Guards they followed the small hardly visible tracks, it was extremely hot and the dog was of little use. It kept on looking for shade and time was running out, fortunately the Game Guards were excellent trackers.
The area had a large Elephant and Buffalo population as well as Lions and Leopards and Hyaena who were well represented.
The search had to be abandoned when night fell.
At the crack of dawn the following day, the party set out, accompanied by the anxious father. They came across Elephant spoor with some dirty water in, with signs that the little boy must have drunk from. Encouraged they continued. That afternoon the trail was lost completely . . . . The fresh Lion spoor on top of the little tracks causing some horrible thoughts. The father said that he had great faith in the Lord and the child would be safe. Darkness fell and they could not continue. The Third day was spent searching all over - all was fruitless, however the father still kept his faith.
On the forth day Blackie Zwarts the Rondalia representative at Letaba was on his way to Phalaborwa, in the distance he noticed a small little figure alongside the road underneath a Marula tree. Miraculously it was the little boy, eating ripe Marula fruit.
Blackie picked him up and took him to the Phalaborwa Police Station. A doctor was summoned to do a check up. He was in excellent condition. The doctor prescribed a mixture of Coca Cola and milk for two days after which he could return to his normal diet.
The faith of the father had been justified; the rejoicing was great and the tears uncontrollable.
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.