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 Post subject: Macho Mouse goes a walking
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:38 pm 
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Legendary Virtual Ranger
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I saw that Salva managed a Part one and Part two.
I paid dearly for my trip in terms of free moments, so bear with me and allow for a part one ... and part two.

Background to my visit.A few years ago I applied to do a wildlife course. This was going to be mainly for my own interest, but once I saw the prospectus I realised that I did not have the time to give it the input it needed. I do still intend doing the course once my current project is up and running.
I did however get onto this particular organisation's mailing list and was fortunate to receive invitations to “bush experiences" every so often. This is usually once the current course participants have made all their bookings. So when I received a letter to say there was space available from the 12th to the 16th October, I grabbed the opportunity to join the participants on their bush adventure. (This is my third trip)
As the focus of the few days was educational, a lot of time was spent looking at spoor and animal “pooh".

Wednesday 12th October
I had originally planned to come via the Phabeni gate to meet my fellow campers at Skukuza. My plans however changed when I was approached by a couple of course members wanting to share transport.
The first sight of Kruger was a shock. I had never seen it this dry. The day was a steaming 41 plus.
Our first sighting was a large elephant on the river bank just before we entered via Kruger gate. We watched from the bridge before driving through. We saw a male warthog wondering around the vicinity of the gate and then almost nothing until we arrived at Skukuza.
The heat was unbelievable, so we spent the next hour under the trees looking down at an elephant on the banks of the Sabie River until it was time to meet our fellow campers.
At 2:15 we all met at the Hamilton Library and left for the camp. (About 15 minutes away driving north)
The camp consists of two bedded raised tents. There is no electricity, only limited gas. The central kitchen is gas powered and the freezers are kept cold with ice brought in from Skakuza.
Once we had been allocated our tents, given a briefing and had something wet to quench our thirst, we left for a game drive and sundowners.
On the way to our dam we spotted a young Ground Hornbill and a Tawny Eagle. There were also a few Giraffe and Zebra to lift our spirits.
We arrived at our "sundowner dam" at about 5:30. It was somewhere in the vicinity of the Rhino trails. The dam was much emptier than I remembered from previous years. It was however filled with a very large family group of hippos. There were also a few crocs on the opposite bank having a snooze.
The first thing the rangers noticed was a flat tyre, so while we slaked our thirst, waited for the sunset and gave advice, the rangers changed the vehicle's tyre.
On our way back we had the sighting of all sightings. In a clearing, away from any bushes, a Serval was lying, taking in the evening coolness. We watched for a while before moving on.
About 15 minutes from camp a horrible “slap, slap" sound started. It was another flat tyre. The rest of the trip was focused on getting back to camp with minimum damage.

Thursday 17th
We were woken up at about 4:30 am, much later than originally planned. With no vehicle until someone could get to Skukuza, we were confined to the area around our camp. After a cup of coffee and rusks we started out. Breakfast was later in a dried river bank.
The first interesting stop was at a civetry (a civit's toilet). These little guys must have the most flexible digestive systems on the planet. They always return to the same toilet and have “poohs" big enough for a lion.
We saw Bushbuck, Impies, Duiker, two of the most magnificent Fish Eagles, nearly walked into an ellie, a Goliath Heron, and looked at lots of spoor.
We eventually arrived at a hippo pool where we could enjoy looking at crocs and a number of very sleepy hippo taking a siesta.
Fortunately the morning was cool so walking was not a problem.
After lunch we had a bit of alone time before we left at about 4 for a short drive and another short walk.
This walk was fairly uneventful. I had been in this area before where we had seen lots of game and Rhino. Now, due to the drought, all the animals had moved away.
Sundowners were on a small koppie where we could scramble over rocks. Be carefull of the Mamba, the ranger warned.
On our way back we spotted a White tailed Mongoose and Steenbuck.
After supper we went to bed fairly early as we had to get up at about 4:15.
I realised this was not going to be a peaceful night as a troop of baboons had moved into the trees above our tents. Baboons are not toilet trained. :shock:
At about 1:30 all hell broke loose. There was a screaming and a rumpus from the trees as though a murder was taking place. I also heard the unmistakable “sawing" of a Leopard passing by. I suddenly thought of the Black Label I had finished at supper and the ablutions some meters away. :shock: :shock: :shock:
My dilemma, had there been an actual primate killing and the Leopard was taking it up a nearby tree, or might I be the targeted primate on my way to the ablutions. :cry: :roll:
T
Next episode.... on its way..
As you see, one for the mouse, nill for the feline :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Last edited by Meandering Mouse on Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 6:43 pm 
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We were told by our ranger that we were extremely fortunate. What I forgot to mention was that once we were on the dirt road we had the most beautiful puff adder make its way slowly across the road.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2007 4:52 pm 
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I cannot believe that this thread is still open 8)

Let me just talk about the iron age koppies.

Our best walking day was in the south of the park.
I will be honest in saying that my worst experience of this expedition was the very noisy companions. :evil:

MM might shoot her mouth off at times, but usually she is considerate. :wink: I cannot say that of my companions. I might indeed fill a psychopathology manual on some of the behaviour..
in their favour, "they did not protrude".

We stopped about 15km SW of Skukuza. Possibly south of Renosterkoppies.

Renoster it was indeed. 8) During our walk, my best sighting was a group of 13 white rhinos. 8)
We stood within sneezing distance and just marvelled at these creatures.
I will be honest in saying that my feet were so tired that I thought, "bugger the rhinos" :evil:

At the pinnacle of our walk, we made our way towards a "dog looking" koppie.
Most of my trek mates, although noisy, were knowledgeable. We saw eagle owls, Cinnamon doves, spotted pigeons, martial eagles and..

this dog like looking koppie which was our brunch destination.

once we climbed to the top of the koppies, we did the next best thing, we prepared brunch.
The view was superb.
Our most mind blowing experience was finding ellie dung.
I wondered about this. I struggled to reach this point. Here I was, at the top of an very difficult climb, eating biltong, Vienna's and chips.. looking at real, dinkum, ellie pooh
:?

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Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2007 6:21 am 
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One of our most amazing experiences on this walk was the presence of ellie dung among the rocks.
We could honestly not imagine how an ellie had managed to clamber up the rocks to this point. Even we, with our primate flexibility struggled.

The other remarkable feature was the many artifacts from previous inhabitants of the koppie.
There were numerous chiseled stones which had been used as tools and perhaps hunting weapons.
I sat silently wondering about these ancient inhabitants. I could see vast plains in front of me and understood how this place had offered protection from both animal and human predator.

How easy it was to munch our easily accessible snacks. Theirs must have been a difficult life, filled with potential danger and a raw struggle for survival.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:13 am 
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I must mention Mathekenyane.

The first time I experienced Mathekenyane at sunset was with a similar walking group. We had sat in silence as the sky deepened in colour, looking over the vast plains.
The bush noises changed in quality as the air grew cooler and the night became king.
It was one of those moments when the spirit might touch eternity. Some would say a moment of grace.

Since then I have always held this place in reverence.

When we discussed our sun downer spots, my special request was Mathekenyane.
Much to my delight the ranger agreed and off we went.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a particularly noisy group. We arrived, the snacks and drinks were unloaded and I made my way to my favourite piece of rock. In the background I could hear the harsh sound of high pitched laughter and incessant chatter. (I do love laughter, but there are different kinds and appropriate times)

Then the spirit of Mathekenyane took over. Slowly the group broke up. One by one they meandered towards the rocks and watched the deepening sky. There was silence. The rock had become a Cathedral, a place of splendour and awe.

Our way back to camp was a lot more thoughtful. The hysterical edge had gone.
Indeed it is a special place

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Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 6:49 am 
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I was woken at 3:30 on our 3rd morning.

We were given enough time for a quick, "let's get myself decent", and a cup of coffee or three, before we piled into the "magnificent moving Millie".

Our first sighting was as we hit tar.
A small family group of 4 Lion we strolling towards us in the middle of the road. They look nonchalant and bored. They had obviously not heard the thud thudding of my heart that was drowning out all other sound.

After a quick sniff, they moved on, leaving us all breathless.

Our next major sighing was when we turned back onto gravel.
"Buffalo", said the ranger.
There they were, a group of buffalo grazing in the early morning dew. As we went over the rise the group turned into a sea of buffalo. Black and beautiful, they dominated the veld.
It was awesome.

"Magnificent moving Millie" was eventually parked in an area of mixed bush land.
Little did I know that I would soon be having one of the most terrifying bush experiences of my life :shock:

We must have been walking for about an hour, stopping every so often to look at Rhino middens, or examine some or other mysterious piece of dung or spoor.

Suddenly the ranger froze :shock:
He motioned for us to stay very quiet and move behind him.
With as much stealth as possible, we crept in behind a sparse bushlet and followed his gaze.

There they were, three magnificent male White Rhino having an early morning meal. They must have been about 20 metres away from us.
We stood mesmerised, barely daring to breath.

and then it started to happen :big_eyes:

Let me take you back a couple of days.

The day before I was due to leave, I had rushed off to do some last minute shopping. I had been struggling to throw of a chest infection and I decided that since I would be in the middle of the bush, maybe I should just quickly have it checked out by a doctor.

I rushed into the nearest clinic, and to my relief there was a doctor available.
She took my temperature.
She raised her eyebrows, "do you know that you are running a very high temperature?"
She looked in my throat, her nose wrinkled, "eew :shock: germs".

She was rather concerned about my impending trip, so she did the best thing possible under the circumstances, she subjected my body to intensive chemical warfare.

The chemicals certainly helped. The light headed, mild achy feeling was gone, but it was replaced by the most amazing coughing fits imaginable.
Fortunately they only happened once the night air started to settle, but they were impressive and uncontrollable.
It would herald itself with an ominous tickle that would build up to to an irresistible urge to cough.
It refused to stay silent, and once started, it would not disappear until I was blue and breathless and everyone around me had fainted with terror.
Fortunately, I was now used to them and had learnt to disappear in good time in order to prevent frightening those around me.

So here I was standing in awe, watching 3 imposing creatures behind a flimsy bush..
and then it started.. the dreaded tickle :big_eyes:

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Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 5:27 am 
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Its a lovely morning outside. Let me continue. :wink:

The tickle starts in the lungs, this is not an scratchy throat tickle. Its a, "get me out of here, I'm going to choke tickle :shock: "

I looked desperately at my walking companions. They were transfixed by these prehistoric looking monsters. A couple were trying to manage big lenses in silence :shock:

I looked at the little bush :shock: it was not a very big bush at all and I did not think three Rhino would find much problem demolishing the bush, let alone 8 walkers and 2 rangers.

I looked at the 2 ranger's rifles, what if my coughing resulted in the demise of one of these magnificent creatures :cry: .

Meanwhile the tickle was developing into an urgent need to cough. My lungs were telling me that if I did not remove this foreign something seated in my air passages, I was going to choke to death. My legs went weak.

"Breathe slowly", I told myself.
A fellow walker looked back at me, his eyes ablaze with excitement.
I had by then broken out into a sweat of pure terror. I felt the wetness dripping down my back as I stifled the heaving diaphragm. My body and mind were screaming two different things.
In the meantime, the Rhinos had become a watery, impressionist picture as even my eyes begged me to allow this force out.

I breathed slowly, telling myself that I just needed a reflex to settle.
Then, after what seemed an eternity, the urgency settled. As I relaxed, the wind changed. The Rhino's getting scent of strange creatures took off in a panic.

I had this urge to just sit and cry in relief and disappointment.

We then headed off for breakfast.
We sat at the edge on an escarpment, eating our finger foods looking over an unblemished picture of Africa.
Two eagles played in the wind high, high above us, a discarded snake skin told us of another creature bound to the earth. I found myself a comfortable rock and drank in the sounds and sights of something too awesome to hold.

My reverie was broken by the ranger. He came to sit next to me. He smiled.

"You looked petrified at the Rhino," he said, "don't worry, as long as you kept absolutely silent, you would have been completely safe"

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