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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2011 8:09 am 
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Billy, its amazing how noisy the blighters can be at night. :wink: hope you still managed some sleep.

Sparrow, the walk will soon bring the most life changing moment, not today though.

Hugh, 30, promise :whistle: 30 plus a bit of experience.

Wildflowergirl, keep following and see what a mess :big_eyes:

Joao, thank you very much. I hope that I can keep grabbing your attention.

Val, it only gets more interesting, stick around.

Wendy, I have had many experiences with primates now. This was first really bad one. This was a very green MM.

Delene, 30 forever :thumbs_up: its a sister thing :wink: A doctor recently asked me how old I was. I had a gut reaction and said, "I'm not telling you". I then realised that this might not be appropriate.. and thought.. :hmz:
I had to admit at that point that I could not remember :redface: :redface: :redface:
Fortunately she just laughed.

Pumbaa, the experience was life changing.. in a couple of days you will see why.

Melph, keep tuned, lots more to come :thumbs_up:

We all rushed into Noname, super tidy Noname’s tent. It was certainly no longer super tidy. There had been a systematic search of all her possessions. It had been a much focused search and it did not take long to realise that they had been after her sugar coated malaria tablets.

A pensive Noname on the trip. I think that is MM's green photography hand.

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Sakkie had warned us about their super sensitive sense of smell. I was now seeing the results.

Explorer and I cannot take malaria medication, so I was feeling a sense of relief that we had nothing to steal.
Never, ever, ever think that you have nothing to steal when it comes to primates.

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When I walked into our tent I was hit by chaos, a chaos far worse than a toddler’s exploration of the grocery cupboard. I had not only been ransacked, robbed and violated, but there was sticky orange congealed syrup over every walking space.

I then realised how in my greenness I had made the worst possible primate bush blunder. I had decided to try to save a bit of money by buying concentrated Energade for our bush walks. Every day the twins and I would carefully mix our drinks and store the bottle away in the bush kitchen. I did not want to lose track of how much we had left, so I kept the sealed, unopened bottle in my suitcase, in a packet, in my tent.

This was child’s play for hungry little monkeys. Unfortunately, the bottle was too difficult to open and they simply chewed thought the bottom of the bottle and licked whatever came out. It must have come out in a flood, because there was evidence everywhere of “showers of blessings”.

I think that there must also been a fight, as the orange splatter told me that at some point there had been a struggle for possession of this weapon of mass destruction.

My bags were covered, the floor was covered, my clothes were covered and the mattress on the floor was soaked in a sticky congealed puddle. This was beyond salvage.

Oh dear, how was I going to break the news to the authorities that I had not heeded their advice properly and had broken their camp? All my neurotic boarding school induced Woody Allen angst came into play at this point. I fully expected to be expelled from camp, or at least thoroughly chastised.

MM in a slightly more chilled moment.

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Maybe I would have to wash the dishes.

My daughter Explorer surveyed the scene. Never having been to boarding school, she was a lot more sanguine and pragmatic. Once she had checked her study material, she looked down at the ground. My notes were covered in bright orange and sand.

Explorer.

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My daughter’s eyes lit up, and she immediately grasped the implications. She pointed at the beautifully patterns left on out tent floor and smiled.

“Look ma”, she said, “spoor”

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MM's lost catnap :cry: :cry: :cry:

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2011 8:08 am 
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Joao, I am sure that Balule must be a constant thrill for them. All those vulnerable tents and an open kitchen area :wink:

Anne Marie, indeed :lol: :lol:

Tawny, I was pretty close to sense of humour melt down. I had also so been looking forward to my catnap.

Sparrow, fortunately my boots were saved, or at least my "running shoes". I did not have walking shoes at that point, only old, worn out running shoes. More about the "running" later.

Elsa, one thing we cannot complain about when it comes to primates is "boredom". They do provide challenge.

Wendy, Wildflowergirl, monkeys still get the better of me. They are just so quick and clever.

Me Skarabee.. and all my fellow monkey sufferers: I posted this on another thread. Phycho monkeys.

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I have learnt over the years that trying to control monkeys is like trying to control a hungry toddler in a supermarket “check-out”. You know those check outs with the rows and rows of sweeties. Prevention is the only method, when possible.

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My sacred, much looked forward to nap was not going to happen.

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The next while was spent frantically trying to clean up as much as possible. Cleaning up concentrated sugar liquid is like trying to wipe honey away with toilet paper. For the rest of our stay our tent floor attracted every crawling and flying insect attracted to sweetness. Our feet stuck to the floor at every step and our shoes made that unmistakable crunchy sound.

After many trips to the ablutions to wet towels, the ablutions far away from our tent, I was beginning to get some feeling that our living quarters were “liveable”.

I had also bumped into Vanessa and “confessed”. She was very understanding and laughed a little. “Don’t worry”, she said, “the tents are thoroughly cleaned by a team of workers after every group”.

A year later when I went on a similar course I stayed in a different tent. I sneaked a little look in my old tent and saw that it had a much newer mattress. Some things cannot be salvaged. They never sent me a bill.

Sakkie and Bruce had been sitting deep in conversation while we rushed back and forth. If they wondered about our strange activities, they never asked.

On my final trip, Bruce stopped me.

“Sakkie and I have just been talking about your daughters”, he said. “We want to compliment you on raising such natural, unspoilt young women.”

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I felt very proud.

“We are just sorry that they have seen so little game”.

I was a bit perplexed about this statement. These are MM’s children, and whether they see this,

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Or this,

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They are just delighted.

“Don’t worry”, said Bruce, “on our next drive I can guarantee three elephants”.

Little did I know in that moment how those three elephants would change my whole concept of life and death and still have me wondering about what really happened?

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 7:24 am 
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Joao, I hope that I don't disappoint you today.

Tawny, thank you :thumbs_up:

Ah yes Hugh, we all grow wise with monkeys :lol: :lol:

Pumbaa.. lets see about hangovers :whistle:

May is generally a lovely month in Kruger. The weather is mild, the autumn colours are pleasing and there is a balmy sense of mellowness. It is, however, not always the best time for sightings, as the bush is still lush and thick. Bruce’s prediction of three elephants was intriguing.

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We travelled through dense bushveld on roads that said, “no entry”. It gave a sense of adventure to be going down roads that were so little used. I was very pleased that I did not drink too much liquid before we left, as this was definitely not a bladder friendly road.

This is a more bladder friendly road.

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Once we had arrived at our destination there was a definite air of excitement. We were parked close to a rocky outcrop over-looking a small valley like grove.

We started walking, the three rangers leading, and the rest of us behind. My daughter, Explorer, and I were towards the back of the group.

It was not long before we arrived at what seemed to be the edge of a dry river bank. We had to walk through some reeds. They grew thick, still healthy and strong from the summer rains.

That is when I felt it.

I felt eyes watching. These were not eyes that I understood. They were probing, silent, knowing.

I felt my heart start to beat faster. Was this my imagination? Was this too much Leopard talk?

The eyes seemed to follow. My throat started to close. Were these eyes malevolent? I did not know. They seemed to uncover my thoughts, my heart.

I tried to shake myself out of my rising anxiety. Maybe I was just worried because Explorer was one of the most vulnerable of the group. Maybe I was just concerned about her safety. Could these rangers save her if she was attacked?

Explorer

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My thoughts tried to stem my fears, but the eyes remained. They never left me, were the eyes seeking the most vulnerable, the weakest?
I remembered that a Leopard could kill in an instant.

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“This is ridiculous”, I thought. I looked around me, trying to focus on the concrete, anything to bring back reality.

I heard Explorers voice behind me. She was whispering. I caught her words.
“Mommy, I’m frightened”.

I felt the hair on my neck stand up in terror.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:54 am 
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Me Skarabee, the bladder behaved, just :wink:

Hugh, next episode on its way. :thumbs_up:

Gemma, more coming. :D

Val :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: I do hope that you are not expecting me to feel sorry for you, electricy out in Punda. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

Wildflowergirl, the waiting is over.. for a little while.

Melph, you will be learning a lot about monkeys and their habits, starting with the Punda dawn patrol. :whistle:

Tent Dweller, stick around for the next installment.

Sparrow, the moment has come :wink:

Fortunately we cleared the reeds shortly after my daughter’s whisper.

It was a very short walk to our destination, a rocky koppie with a small cavern. Here Bruce stopped.

“Those who feel fit enough to climb to the cavern can get a good view of the elephants.”

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He then explained that this was a recent cave painting discovery, viewed by very few people. Kruger wanted to keep it as pristine as possible, so it was going to be assessable only to those with special interest.

I usually feel fit and willing for anything, but I was still feeling shaken. I was also not completely at ease. My children climbed up to have a look. I remained at the bottom. I was still being watched.

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Sakkie then explained that this was considered to be a sacred site. It was where the ancient shamans would call on God. There is a strong mystical tradition in the San people and we were standing on the holy ground of the ancestors.

I do not know what happened next. Maybe my attention deficit kicked in, but I lost what Bruce was telling us, I was completely consumed by my own thoughts.

I only came back to the moment when I looked up and saw Bruce holding back tears. It seems that he was reminded of a friend and fellow ranger who had been trampled to death by elephants. The atmosphere was sombre, touched by something intangible.

Death was with us, it seemed to be watching us.

We returned to the vehicle. I could not wait to get back. I wanted something concrete, solid, something I hold touch, hold, see. The smell of iron and petrol seemed so sweet.

To me it seemed that we all rushed to our sundowners a little too fast, opened them with too much haste. We seemed to all sit and talk too loud, too pressured.

Suddenly Vanessa spoke.
“Shhhh”, she said, “listen to the silence”.

We were not looking at a sunset, but the reflection of a sunset. It was silent, as silent as death. There were no birds, no insects. We watched the light fade, melt into the approaching night.

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That is when I felt them. They were there; they came and sat among us, the ancients, the ancestors, the elders of Africa. They sat silently and we all looked in the same direction, there was awe, a wonder.

I felt the presence of Bruce’s friend, those who had loved and worked to make this miracle called Kruger happen. I felt many people, intangible, yet present.

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I thought of the universal prayer for the dead, “remember those who have died, whose faith is known to you alone”.

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As the darkness took over the night and the crickets started their songs of creation, I realised how death, like the darkness is only another reality. The elders, the giants of Kruger remain, always respectful, always in awe.

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I never forgot this moment; I remembered the silent shadows, the giants of Kruger. I remembered how they took their place all serving the same purpose.

I was writing my Mapungubwe trip report when I heard of Bruce’s death. When I thought of the date, the same chills went down my spine. This happened 6 years, almost to the day, before Bruce’s death. His funeral was on the day, the day he took his place among the giants of Kruger.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:59 am 
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Gemma, I do believe that those of us who connect so deeply to the Park, do so because of a spiritual energy.

Hugh, pleasure :wink:

Sparrow, thank you, I appreciate your response. Now strap up those boots. The journey continues.

Pumbaa, it was a deep moment. Just wait, more is on its way.

Wendy, that was not yet the scary goosbumps bit. That is still on its way.

Matthys, it is always such a pleasure to have you on board. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Bushmom, it influenced us all. More of that later.

Carol, I would be delighted to meet you :D I will be sending a pm with my cell number so that we can set up details. Well done on your report. :thumbs_up:

SuzieB, I look forward to the day when our paths will cross again, in the meanwhile, welcome to my world" :wink:

Elsa, indeed, one of the gaints, a man of great energy and determination.

Joao, great to have you speechless :wink:

Thanks Melph :thumbs_up:

Val. there is more on the way, this is one of many moments.

Tawny, what a joy to have you following so closely. Thank you.

OWN, indeed, there is nothing that does not form part of a greater whole.

I had to plan and facilitate a workshop on Monday. I knew that many people participating had experienced great loss in the past year and wanted them to get some comfort.

I chose Steve Jobs’s address to Stanford University; it is worth googling. This was the skeleton on which I built the flesh. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was another giant who made great contributions to something he loved. He finished his address with the words:

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Foolishness for its own sake is pure stupidity, foolishness for the sake of something greater than your own ego is what defines a giant. We have to thank these foolish people, these mad misunderstood people for our beloved Kruger.

I think my mission in life is to be foolish. It’s easy to be stupid.

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I see many foolish people on the forum. They always touch me with their madness. It is why I keep coming back.

One of my first posts.

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We travelled back to the camp in silence. Words seemed superfluous. I knew that something deep had happened, something that was felt by each person present.

As ever, supper was delicious. We were warned that we would be woken at 3:30 am, because we had a long distance to travel the following morning. It was a good reason to try to get at least one reasonable night’s sleep. The twins and I made our weary way to bed, for me a bright orange, sticky bed.

In the distance I heard the lust of those sweet creatures, no wonder they are so prolific. Somewhere, a saw cut through the night, sowing panic.

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It seemed that my head had barely touched the pillow when Sakkie came to wake us up. Another day in paradise, another day filled with the unexpected.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2011 7:49 am 
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Sparrow, get those foolish boots strapped again 8)

Melph, after a few frustrating internet days, more is on its way :thumbs_up:

I enjoy the early morning. I am fortunate that my eyes usually open before the birds start singing. Despite this love of the morning, 3:30am was rather stretching it, even for me. When I heard Sakkie making his way through the darkness to herald the day, my thoughts towards him were not very kind.

It was a subdued crowd that climbed into the chariot to leave for our next adventure.

What I did not realise that not only was it an hour earlier than our usual departure time, but also a good many degrees lower. Winter was taking a bite. I felt my daughter shivering next to me as we cuddled up like 2 little monkeys, trying to preserve warmth.

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Explorer has travelled extensively since that night, and even spent a year as a poor student in a much colder northern climate. She still counts that as the coldest moment of her life.

We were relieved to reach our destination. I thought that I would never thaw out, but it did not take long for the mellow autumn sun to welcome us to the day.

Bruce is second from left, next to Sakkie. Vanessa has her back to the camera. MM is second from right.

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I had a good feeling about the area. There were extensive areas of savannah and I loved the sense of openness. The Lebombo mountains formed a distant backdrop. There was also a meandering stream, giving sustenance to lush riverine trees.

Breakfast was welcome. We ate while watching a group of Zebra making their way through open veld. Paradise was complete.

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It was over all too soon, but we were into our next adventure within minutes. We were meant to cross a stream to start returning to our vehicle. Bruce stopped, seemed to pick up on a scent and we made our way slowly and silently as possible to where he was pointing.

In a grove a small group of elephants were enjoying the pool of water. They played and communicated with each other, oblivious to our watching eyes. What intelligent and sensitive beasts. How awesome to be so close, what a moment of joy.

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After a while we moved off, the elephants never knew of these admiring eyes.

We needed to get back earlier than usual for another much anticipated trip. As the bush often dictates, it is often in the moments of greatest haste that the gut wrenching, heart stopping moments occur.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2011 8:20 am 
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Icurrie, I am amazed at how much detail I remember. It was such an overwhelming experience from start to finish. As you will soon see, the excitement is far from over.

Anne Marie, thank you so much for following what you can. I really appreciate it. 8)

SuzieB, by the time I left I was completely exhausted. In a later incedent you will understand why, but I was also completely hooked.

Pumbaa, keep an eye on the HR's courses. If ever one falls in one of your trips, jump for it. It is well worth the experience. There is something about the Sand River bush camp that makes it unforgetable.

Hugh, thank you, dear cuz :wink:

Val, more on the way and thanks for following.

This was our last full day on the course and one of the “highlights” was happening that afternoon. We were going to visit the bomas in Skukuza to see what was being done by the veterinary and research teams. I was so looking forward to it. For this reason there was a bit of haste to get back to camp and leave in good time for Skukuza.

As we crossed an open piece of savannah, moving towards our final stream crossing, the rangers stopped dead. They pointed to our left, in the not so far distance a lone Rhino was grazing. It was a picture of pure African peace.

Bruce explained that it was a white Rhino, which was usually less aggressive. Had this been a black Rhino we would have had to find another way home. The wind was also in our favour, so the Rhino had no idea about our presence.

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We were by now pretty much the walking wounded; the thought of taking a longer route back was as exciting as root canal without anaesthetic. I was a month away from Comrades, extremely fit, yet even my legs felt tired. Some of the party had severe blisters and the heat of the day was affecting us all. I think that the rangers were aware that they were leading a tired, tired group.

“If we are detected, run behind the nearest tree”, Bruce explained. The nearest tree did not look very near to me, nor did it look very robust. It was also covered with a lot of thorns.

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“I might take my chance with the Rhino”, I thought.

As is the case, the bush is predictable only in its unpredictability. As we were nearing the stream and welcome cover, the wind changed. The Rhino froze.

We froze.

I could feel my heart beating in my ears. I looked to see where the twins were, anxious about their safety.

I heard the metallic click of the rifles safety clips and Sakkie and Vanessa readied their rifles for defensive action. My mouth tasted of metal..

The Rhino, confused, ran towards the smell for the briefest moment, I thought that I was going to witness death. I could feel the tension mount in the ranger’s posture. The energy was electric, fierce. They were motioning for us to freeze. I was frozen, more frozen than in the cold of the early morning. I was as frozen as though facing the fangs of a snake.

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Then, as if drawn by some ancient intelligence, the Rhino turned away from sudden death and thundered into the opposite direction. I watched transfixed by its surprisingly light gait and speed.

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We stumbled more than walked to the safety of the nearby stream. I felt a giggle rise like an irrepressible song of joy. Suddenly, I really needed the ladies. My legs felt outside of my control and life seemed so very, very sweet.

MM's feeling of relief.

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Ah, our chariot never looked greater, safer, more welcome when we saw it waiting on the horizon.

Sakkie is on the extreme left. Bruce is next to him. Noname is in the foreground with the black hat.

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I thought back on this incident a few years later on another walk, again from the Sand River bush camp. Sakkie was leading the walk and we came across the skeleton of a Black Rhino. Sakkie was extremely sad as he showed us the bullet hole in its forehead. This time the group had not been so fortunate and nor had the Rhino. I remembered how Bruce had explained that one never takes chances with a Black Rhino. Unfortunately they are so much more secretive and not as easily seen.

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This creature had paid with its life.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:53 am 
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Ecojunkie, I am pleased that you have extra megabites 8) I know how frustrating it can be when it runs out. There are more pics coming.

Bushmom, I do feel blessed to have had this opportunity. I hope that you will enjoy the rest of our virtual journey. :thumbs_up:

ME Skarabee, I now understand the extreme caution with Black Rhinos. Sakkie explained that the Rhino that had been shot had not been detected until too late. He also told us that every killing is reported and thoroughly investigated. It was a group from one of the wilderness camps, not a group from the Sand River camp.

Melph, there is more on its way. The most spine chilling moment is still to come :wink:

Ray :D great to see you around. I am going to go meandering off in search of your report. I still think your ellie pictures in Mapungubwe are some of the most delightful that I have ever seen.

Rusky :dance: :dance: what a joy to see you around. I miss your positive energy.

Sparrow, I do note from other threads that there is more than an adventurer there :whistle:

Icurrie, you will know the feeling so well, the jelly legs and feeling of almost exhileration to realise that you are still alive. :big_eyes:

Elsa, thanks for following. I agree about the feeling of vulnerability. I was so grateful to have rangers who I could trust completely.

I had a chat over the weekend to Noname, now living in Cape Town. "Did she have any photos of the walk?", I asked her.

Yes, she did. This is super tidy, well organised, Nomane 8) . She had scanned her pictures into a folder and labeled them perfectly. This was before digital took over and the photography techno boom opened up such great potential for playing.

I am going to share some of Noname's pictures that cover some of the moments mentioned in my tale.

The biggest traffic fine I have ever received. I hope it remains that way. Take note of the surroundings. It is close to the Belfast turn off and easy to get caught, due to missing the reduced speed limit. I was more worried about the wasted time than the amount on the ticket. Anyone who knows me will concurr that I am fanatical about being on time for appointments. This was an utter MM nightmare.

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The tent shared by Explorer and MM. As you can see, we look chuffed by the anticipation of being close to the fence. At this point being far from the ablutions did not enter my awareness. That is a story yet to come.

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Noname's tent. She had a tent closest to the monkey tree. Due to her tidyness, the monkeys were rather disappointed in her tent.

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The inside of Noname's tents. We all had very basic accommodation. A mattress on the floor, a lantern and that was it. The inside of Noname's tent was a lot tidier that the rest. It also escaped being saturated with bright orange, consentrated Energade.

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I think this is the "monkey tree" next to Noname's tent.

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The elephant skull found on one of our walks. I still can't tell if its male or female :roll:

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The rock paintings in the sacred cave. This is seldom seen and I feel a sense of awe to have been able to view them.

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This was where we stopped for breakfast on one of our walks. Just lovely. I always loved these stops. Not because I was tired, but because I was so content and happy with the choice.

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MM and daughters and the accountants. The accountant on the extreme right was also into endurance sports, so we always had a lot to talk about. As you can see, MM is enjoying tucking in.

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A moz spitting cobra in the early morning.

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A vulture. The awareness of death was always there.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 8:26 am 
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Before taking you to the bomas, let me take you through some of the people mentioned in my report.

This was taken after lunch, before packing up for the bomas. There was really no time for a rest, as it was going to be a couple of hours of touring before a sundowner drive.... and what a memorable moment that would be.

This is Johanna, wonderful Johanna and her husband. Bruce's wife is on the extreme left.
Johanna spoilt us with food. I think she took one look at my children and decided that my cooking was probably not my best point. She was a mother hen, always seeing to our needs, being a great example of what it means to be an HR. I did not get to know her husband as he arrived on our last day. If I had to sum him up though, I would say, "salt of the earth".

Bruce's wife was a lady, through and through. Unfortunately there was not much chance to get to listen more to her experiences. Our time was just too brief.

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My fellow trippers. The ladies of the group were into preparing for their FEGASA exams and very focused on learning as much as possible. The men, like MM, were more taking in the experience.

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More of our group. MM on the extreme right, Sakkie and Vanessa and the rest of our group. Some folk who have been to the cricket might recognise Vanessa.

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MM drinking her last beer. Thanks to the monkeys, MM's beer ran out a day too soon. Well thats the excuse. More about those consequences later. :wink:

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I am not sure why Noname decided to pose next to the bin. Just to let you know that this is the bin. It was meant to be a primate proof bin, I tended to find it a MM proof bin. :redface: :redface: :redface:

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2011 9:20 am 
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I never thought that I would run two Skukuza half marathons past the bomas a few years later. I never realised that this trip would so change my life and focus.

Bruce decided to give his place in “the chariot” to Johanna. He stayed in the camp, no doubt to charge his batteries. As he left he called out to Sakkie, “remember to get my beers”. I felt a wave of relief at those words. Beerless, I had nothing left for my last sundowners and braai. We had used our alcoholic supplies to replace the wasted Energade.

I really had no idea what to expect at the bomas. I was extremely excited though, as this was an area not open to the public. It was more in the hands of the scientist and veterinarians, another hidden aspect of the Park.

On arrival we were introduced to one of the scientists, who proceeded to show us around. They were preparing one of the bomas for a Rhino capture, but we were extremely fortunate to be able to meet a settled Black Rhino that was nearly ready to be released into another part of the Park.

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A young student from Canada was busy with the Black Rhino. He was eating peacefully from a bale of fodder, his head protruding through the fence. This gave the staff access to his head should they need blood or need to give special attention.

The student described how he had arrived filled with fear filled rage and charged everything in sight. He was now calm, content, feeding from her hand.

It breaks my heart when I think of these magnificent beasts so cruelly slaughtered. At that moment, Kruger was a place of victory, a place where Rhinos could once more breed unhindered by the dark underbelly of greed.

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We were then shown a buffalo breeding program. These were TB free buffalos, kept apart to reintroduce into the wild. TB deaths were decimating the Lion population that were feeding off infected Buffalo. Trying to control the spread of TB was proving to be a major challenge.

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Sakkie then showed us a few cows looking very incongruous in the Kruger.

“Guess what these are for”, he had a twinkle in his eye.

MMMmmmmmmmmmmm came our answer.

“If the buffalo reject their calves, they are given to the cows to be raised by surrogate mothers”.

By now I had grown wary of the twinkle in Sakkie and Bruce’s eyes. I had been caught out too often with my gullibility, so I am still not sure if this is the case. They were very motherly looking cows though.

Something started to make me uneasy at this point. The sun was starting to say, “sundowner time”. We had no watches or cell phones, so I asked Johanna what the time might be.

She looked at her watch and her eyes went into panic mode... “Bruce’s beer”, she said, “we are going to be too late to buy Bruce’s beer”

My heart sank.. MM’s beer too.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2011 8:25 am 
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Sparrow :lol: :lol: :lol: completely run out.

We all piled into the chariot knowing that this was a race against time. By the look on some faces, I realised that I was not the only one who had run out of amber liquid. We arrived at the Skukuza shop with 5 minutes to spare.

Johanna had told me that we were going to have a special braai with fillet steak. This was our final night around the bushfire and it needed to be a celebration of friendship.

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Fillet steak, that is something seldom on my menu, but I love it. I love each tender, expensive, morsel. I remember Explorer once as a child looking at cows saying, “They seem so happy, it’s as if I can hear them say, “Eat me”.

Dear Explorer, she does sometimes ease my animal loving conscience. Noname at that time was vegetarian; she had no idea about the importance of just the right accompaniment. Noname does not ease my conscience.

Now, I seldom drink red wine. This is not due to not enjoying the deep red colour; it is because anything high in tannins talks to my head. It sends a penetrating vice like grip that squeezes for a long, long time. A good red, taken slowly with lots of water, does enhance the evening though.

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I found a good red... and lots of water. My daughters were also allowed to indulge a little with something a bit naughty.

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Oh dear, that choice would come back to haunt me in the most chilling fashion. I get goose bumps as I write.

We left for our sunset drive.

“We are going to Mathekenyane”, said Sakkie.

Mathekenyana: that name now fills me with the deepest joy; but also with sadness. The sadness is because I am not there for the sunset.

I remember one of my favourite books, “The Little Price” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery”

“ But on your tiny planet, my little prince, all you need to do is move your chair a few steps. You can see the day end and the twilight falling whenever you like…
“One day,” you said to me, “I saw the sunset forty-four times!”
And a little later you added:
“You know--one loves the sunset, when one is so sad…”
“Were you so sad, then?” I asked, “on the day of the forty-four sunsets?”
But the little prince made no reply.”

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On Mathekenyane, I could watch forty four sunsets.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:38 am 
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Our chariot made its way to Skukuza shops in both haste and speed. I don't think that anyone relished the thought of telling Bruce that they had forgotten his beer. :wink:

I did not have much time to choose my own sundowner and supper drink, so I made a choice that would lead to one of my most frightening and chilling moments that I have ever spent in the Park. More about that later.

I walked to the checkout with my red wine and lots of water. I had been told that we were have fillet steak, plus boerrie, plus chops for supper. 8) Now for most wine lovers, that means a good red.. only problem is.. my head does not do some reds. I had to choose a good red, a very good red.... and lots and lots of water.. but more about that later.

We drove to Mathekenyane.

Mathekenyane, that word fills me with joy. At that moment, I had no idea of the magic that would follow.

We filled our glasses, replenished out empty tummies with snacks and went to find a quiet seat. For those who do not know, Mathekenyane is a lookout point giving vast views of pure Kruger bush.

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As the sun set an eagle flew to her nest.

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There was a growing feeling of awe, of Presence. I was in a cathedral, a cathedral with no boudraries, a cathedral so free, so wild. The dusk shed a gentle light, a fading light.

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I remembered reading of a Yugaslavian Bishop who was imprisoned because of his stand against communism. He stood in his small, cold prison cell and as the sun set, sang the ancient prayer of worship and praise, the "Te Deum".

I thought of his prison cell, but his absolute freedom. Like the eagle, the spirit
always seeks to be free.

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As the sun set, I stood with the Bishop, with all those who seek freedom, with all those of goodwill, with all life.. both great and small.. and the ancient words of the "Te deum" lifted my soul.

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We paise Thee..
we acknowledge Thee..
All the earth does worship Thee

Holy, holy, holy
heaven and earth are filled with the Majesty
of your glory.

My thoughts were with freedom, my thought were with spirit. In this vast Cathedral, all life seemed to unite in a song so eternal, a song so mysterious. There were no walls, there was no prison, no creed, denomination or colour. All was free.. and I stood thinking of the walls of fear that so often imprison our own longing.

As the last of the fading light cast its rays..
I heard the last words of the ancient mass

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words as sweet and profound as the song of the bird.

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go in peace
to love and to serve.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:47 am 
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I have been procrastinating. I am not sure if it is due to completing the report, or because the thought of what is to follow still send chills down my spine.

Hugh, more on its way :thumbs_up:

Pumbaa, Mathekenyane is now one of my favourite places.

Val, prepare for more goose bumps :wink:

Mel, I do hope that you can experience Kruger in a profound way.

Anri, enjoy the book. It is a good read and gives a lot of insight into the challenges Kruger experiences.

Wendy, so pleased to see you back on board. I thought it was really cool that you met up with another like minded mite.

Bennievis, at the time I had no idea as to how profoundly this would impact on my life. Sakkie and Vanessa are still around and I can say that I was very fortunate to have had such an excellent introduction to the wild.

Elsa, thanks, it remains with me, always.

Twigga, how lovely to have you join. :thumbs_up:

After our drive back to camp, we were met by a very refreshed Bruce.

The fires were burning and I could see that we were in for an evening of splendid story telling.

Noname's tent, right next to the communal bushfire area.

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While the meat for our final braai permeated the air, we filled our glasses and prepared to listen..

I must tell you at this point that this was a very fit, blonde, thirty MM who had been preparing for Comrades marathon. My preparation included little red meat and certainly very little alcohol. The red wine was a bit of a risk, so I sipped slowly with lots of water.

While the mellow red wine glow started, Bruce got ready to tell us of his work in forensics. One of his tasks had been to analyse human animal kills. It sounds rather gory, but it is to help Kruger prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

Bruce chose to talk of a man killed by a Leopard in Skukuza village. The drama did not only include a single, clean kill, but it told of a sad and horrifying end to a life. We listened and watched in macarbe fascination of this poor man's sudden end and how his body became the centre of another battle.

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Bruce sketched out the details, the spoor, the where abouts of animals. He told of how, in the heart of human habitation, a primal scene played out.

Suddenly the red wine stoped mellowing. The images but started sending shivers down my spine.

We were all transfixed, scenes of death, scenes of rank suvival. The bush knows no sentimentality.

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Braaid meat arrived, a feast to celebrate this short life we are all called to lead. A carnivores delight. MM tucked in, when I fast I fast.. and when I feast, I feast.

Eventualy, my wine was finished, my water was finished and my food was finished. I wanted to sit through the night, just listening, but I knew that it was our final morning and a last walk through the bush.

I bade goodnight to the others. My daughters were already tucked up and fast asleep.

A though suddenly came to me.

"Bruce", I said, "if a Leopard wanted to, could he enter the camp?"

Bruce laughed at the question. "This camp would never keep out a determined Leopard", he replied.

"What keeps us safe then?", was MM's response.

"They don't like humans" Bruce replied..

I was not convinced. Had we not just heard a chilling account of death, not deep in the bush, but in the heart of Kruger's most populous area?

I made sure that the tent was well zipped up and drifted off into a dream filled sleep.

Little did I know that my night was far from over.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:09 am 
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OWN, CB, Anti and Val.. thank you for following :thumbs_up: time to move. Tomorrow, all going well, I leave for Kruger and I need to get the night over.

I do not know how long I had slept. It was pitch dark and the reassuring rumble of deep male voices had long ceased.

I did know though, that I needed to get to the ablutions... the ablutions on the other side of the camp. :big_eyes: I cursed my shortsighted decisions. :wall: :wall: :wall: Why had I not just had a beer or two and gone easy on the meat. :slap: this is a MM thing.. there is no inbetween, sane, reasoned, thoughtful decision making part in her brain.

I still had clear images of Bruce's leopard, the brutal images of torn flesh :big_eyes: the rememberance of sheer terror. :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes:

"I'll wait until Sakkie wakes us", I thought. It can't be too long.
Then I remembered that we had been told that we could sleep a little longer and would be allowed to sleep a little longer.
What seemed good news then, was not good news now. :(

"Let me look at the time?" I thought.
Oh dear, our watches and cell phones had been taken away at the start of our trip. :big_eyes:

It could be one hour to daybreak, but it could also be 5 hours until daybreak. :cry: :cry:

Nothing to it, I had to face the dark and make my way across the camp.

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I fumbled for my torch.. oh dear, I forgot, my torch was a congealed mess of bright yellow energade :shock:

I opened the tent, as quietly as possible. The lanterns were all out. I had to make it in the pitch dark.
I looked up at the tress, so cool and shady in the day, now sinister and filled with the potential of death.

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I stumbled through the dark. If I died, would I feel it?
I felt my neck hairs rise.
Please don't let my children find me :pray:

I finally made it past the gate to the ablutions :D

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I could have danced in relief :dance: :dance: :dance:

I closed the door, and then I heard it :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes:
the unmistakable saw of the Leopard.

I heard him walk past Bruce's tent at the far corner.. making his way towards the gate end of the camp.
The ablutions were a mere metre from the fence.

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I heard the rustle of the grass.. the night ws still in the presence of a beast so cunning and deadly.

I waited :big_eyes: :big_eyes: was he gone?

It was cold, but not as cold as the blood frozen in my veins.
I decided to wait in the ablutions until morning. Rather cold than dead.

Then I had another thought, a thought more chilling than the touch of death.

Had I closed the tent properly?
Explorer was lying innocent and young in a deep sleep.. as only the young can sleep. We had struggled with the tent zipp for the duration of our stay, what if it found our tent and in an instant extinguished Explorer's young life. It would be so easy.

Nothing to it, I had to get back to the tent.

The bushfire area, previously so warm and friendly, now seemed to hold sinister terror.

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I reached the tent, trembling. How frightening, thinking of the watcher in the night.

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I eventually drifted off to sleep, a sleep filled with images of struggle and death.

It seemd not too long before I heard a tap on the tent door.
Sakkie's voice called out:
Come lazybones, you've slept long enough, time to meet the day.

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 Post subject: Re: Meandering down a road less travelled
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 4:17 pm 
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Heksie, thank you :k We met yesterday, and indeed I lived to tell the tale.

Pumbaa, thrilling and awesome :thumbs_up:

Melp, you have been to Kruger now and you have tasted the thrill of the bush. 8)

Wendy :thumbs_up: one bush addict to another.

Val, its all about love in the end. :wink:

Oddesey :thumbs_up:

Kallis, more coming., with :cam:

Ray, so do you, my friend. :think:

Elsa, nearly finished :whistle:

Ollie, more to come.

Jazil has given me a window in which to finish my report.

Certainly more forgiving than the Leopard.

Thats enough cat and mouse for one day.

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