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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:14 am 
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Location: PRETORIA
We are doing the Mphongolo departing on the 4th of July (God willing) and have the following questions -
1 - How cold does it get - should we bring thermal underwear / thermal sleeping bag liners?
2 - What are the chances of rain? (should I pack a pair of waterproof pants/ rain cover etc.)
3 - How much weight are we allowed exactly as my backpack is getting full already without adding food and water (I weigh 65kg). I know that the rangers weigh your backpack before the trail and ask you to remove stuff if you are overweight.
4 - Is a hiking pole recommended?
5 - How do toilet breaks work?
6 - Have their been any good sightings lately to whet my appetite?

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:25 pm 
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Hi Zeedoc,

So glad to hear your taking up the challenge to do the Mphongolo Back-pack trail!!

To answere your questions briefly, as your guide will also phone you nearer the time to help with these sort of questions but for the aid of others also intending to do trail I shall answere them here.

1-Evenings and early mornings can get cold so I do suggest an thermal liner for your sleeping bag and lite warm clothes for the evening. The days are very pleasant tho and may not need a jersey at all depending on the positioning of the Cold fronts which do tend to sweep over the lowveld during the winters.

2-Rain is very slight in winter although there seems to be the odd shower in the hieght of the dry season from time to time but it isn't torrential and you'd be unlucky for it to falll on your trail.

3-Weight per packs, try work within 10-16kg the limit is 25kg but that will break your back, carry lite. Very often people pack too many clothes and too much food so try take what you need and can't do without and leave the rest. Also the liter your pack the more enjoyable the trail is.

4-The hiking isn't strenious like the drakensburg or otter trail, very often its the heat and packs that become the annoyance. However if you feel you need it, you may bring one along, it does sometimes just add that extra comfort when one takes strain because of the pack.

5-Toilet- bring toilet paper and matches, will leave the rest of that up to your trails ranger

6-Thought you would never ask... Read our reports, not often an avergae trail but very often close to the norm. It has been a very dry season and so sightings are expected to get better for that area. Advice go expecting nothing and open to learning lots and you'll be surprised by what you see and learn. after all its a wilderness experience...

Hope this has helped you and that you have a really great trail. read our post from experiences on trail by myself and Brenden Pienaar and others that have had the great honour of doing one of these trails.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:34 pm 
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From dusk to dawn

"If time is a moment, an experience is a memory”

… It had been a miserable walk to the campsite, the excitement had worn off as the packs got damper in the soft drizzle we had been walking in for the last two hours. The group was relieved to have reached the campsite, it was to lay under two large Jackalberry trees providing some form of shelter from the falling droplets. With the campsite up the group mustered up so motivation at the excitement of seeing the hot water (sulphur) springs for a late afternoon walk. With the ground tracks covered in droplet spoor I could see there was no fresh animal tracks around, maybe the spring would prove otherwise. Yet still at the springs the overcast weather and mist rain had cause animals to disperse from the springs. After a while we decided to head back to camp and start to prepare for the night, find some fire wood and organise camp.
As we arrived in camp the sounds of cracking sticks to make the fire and murmuring of day’s events filled the air until it was silenced by a soft “pre-roar”. Not far off we could hear a lion calling, not yet its full roar but we were close enough to hear its “pre-roar” call. With attentive ears we listen to hear its direction and whether it was moving. Realizing it wasn’t far-off and it was stationary we assessed the daylight left and considered there was enough light to head out and possibly catch a glimpse of this sort after beast. Stopping in progression to listen as it roared we edged closer and closer to its location, as we got nearer the roar got louder. Reaching the end of a opened stretch we crouched to see if he was lying in the under growth and there he was, lying non-phased looking attentively to our left. With all eyes fixed on him he eventually gave out a full roar from beginning to end and with it ending, his focus shifted in our direction and he saw us. Without a hurried scatter he gentle stood up and unhurriedly walked away up towards the spring. Knowing we were ever so fortunate to have had such a sighting and with light dwindling rapidly we made haste back to camp. While around the lowly fire we chattered about our fortune and wondered if the beast would hang around only to be answered by his serenade until the early hours of the next morning…

Diary extract from the trail 24th-27th of April 2012


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 10:33 pm 
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"The Mphongolo Back-pack Trail is not an activity, it’s an experience", our guide assured us, as we hoisted up our backpacks and prepared to walk deep into what is one of the last untouched areas in the Kruger National Park. But we had no idea just what kind of experience we were about to discover…

We had driven for 2 hours down a fire-break to access the remote Mphongolo Wilderness Area, 150 000 hectares to the west of Shingwedzi Camp. It's as far from tourist roads and camp amenities as it’s possible to be in the Kruger. For 3 nights and 4 days it was ours to explore. The sense of excitement amongst us was tangible as we followed our guides through the mopane in search of a suitable campsite, where we pitched our tents, dug for water and made fire using just corkwood, elephant dung and an old waxbill nest.

That night, the sky was so full of stars that I could feel the weight of them as the roar of distant lions sent ripples through the darkness. I began to get a sense of just how special this trail was going to be.

We had many memorable experiences over the next 3 days as we explored the area on daily excursions from the base camp we’d established in the dry Phugwane River bed. There was a visit from a curious hyena, an encounter with a young elephant bull, the cautious tracking of a herd of buffalo, stolen minutes with a solitary white rhino bull and a very special sighting of a three-banded courser. But the beauty of the trail doesn’t only lie in how you experience the environment; it’s about how the environment begins to act on you.

Waking with the dawn chorus on your first morning in the bush, you begin to tune into the sounds, sights, smells, colours and textures around you and begin to realise that the real reward of being immersed in nature in this way is how it speaks its magic to you.

The hot midday rest periods provide time for drowsy contemplation under a giant jackalberry, listening to the life around you slow down, alert to sounds you’d never have otherwise noticed; the puff-back, the rattling cisticola, the mourning dove, the liquid call of a magpie shrike and the tap-tapping of a bearded woodpecker, that looking very carefully, you might be able to see. You are hypnotised by monarch butterflies doing intricate dances around a milkweed bush and wonder at their creation. You examine a column of industrious ants building a secret universe. You admire strangely-shaped stones in a river bed, shimmering with mica and quartz. You notice blades of grass that are rendered extraordinary through colour, form and detail that you’ve previously missed. The anatomy of trees is astounding, the blueness of the sky irreplicable and the hook-thorn is perfect and profound, with one thorn bent to the past and the other one pointing straight into the future.

Increasingly immersed in my environment, I was humbled by evenings replete with the fragrance of wild aniseed and the beating of the wings of dozens of sandgrouse catching the last rays of the setting sun. I was moved by the music of the moon-rise; a pair of pearl-spotted owlets calling deep into the night as I slept on the ground, cradled by roots that run deep. I was roused by a symphony of sounds that rose with the sun’s soft morning rays and I felt incredibly alive as a breeding herd of elephant paused to smell messages carried on the crisp, clean air, before melting into the trees.

I also spent many hours marvelling at the autumn hues of the mopane, the rich palette of the Mphongolo. Its colours infused every element of the world around me with ochre, burnt umber and raw sienna, to create a masterpiece of tone and texture, a harmonious whole and me, a part of it too.

The trail involved all my senses, reconnecting me with nature in an intimate, immediate and visceral way. I found the experience hugely inspiring and it got me thinking (not unusually) about the relationship between art and nature. I wonder what a group of artists would produce if they were to experience the trail and use it as inspiration for their next poem, painting or piece of music? I'd love to get a group together and see what happens.

- Dianne Tipping-Woods.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:09 pm 
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I LOVE this topic :clap: Inspiring. :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:26 am 
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Location: PRETORIA
We have just returned from an amazing Mphongolo Trail (4th July departure). I will post a full trip report later but would like to share some highlights below -

7 elephant encounters including a Tusker with tusks that touched the ground
3 buffalo encounters
2 ivory finds
Side striped jackal, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, nyala, warthog, zebra, impala all at close range
15 minute Sable Bull encounter (1st time our guides have seen Sable on the trail)
Tracked lion on 4 occasions but blocked by elephants twice! Growled at by angry lioness protecting her cubs
Lions, hyenas, elephants and buffalos keeping us awake at night
Serious water shortages - had to dig many holes in riverbeds without success - we were VERY DIRTY at the end of the trail
The Sanparks pickup arrived 2 hours late but made up for it by producing a cooler full of ice cold cooldrinks

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 10:33 am 
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Forgot to mention - we had full cellphone reception even though we were dropped of about a half hours drive west of Sirheni - any explanations? We often fail to pick up a cellphone signal close to some of the main camps and found the signal availability on the Mphongolo to be very strange. Cellphones were brought along for use as alarm clocks as we are early risers - proved to be handy when our pick-up arrived 2 hours later then expected

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 11:31 am 
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It seems that many find great comfort in routine and mobile phones out on the Mphongolo.

May I suggest that all future trailists leave mobile phones and watches in camp.

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Last edited by Brenden on Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 3:42 pm 
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zeedoc wrote:
Forgot to mention - we had full cellphone reception even though we were dropped of about a half hours drive west of Sirheni - any explanations?


Adjacent populated areas to the west.
Brenden wrote:
It seems that many find great comfort in routine and mobile phones out on the Mphongolo.

Brenden wrote:
It seems that many find great comfort in routine and mobile phones out on the Mphongolo.
May I suggest that all future trailists leave mobile phones and watches in camp next time.


Agree on that - I feel it is best to be far removed from outside influences.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:47 am 
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Location: Constantia Kloof, JHB
Thanks for these reports Brendon and Matthew.

My 15 year old son and I will be joining you on the 30th of September for his first hike and we cannot wait.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:33 pm 
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Ah, how I wish I could go on one of these trips. Unfortunately my knees are buggered and cannot walk for more than 200 m before I have to take a break. But it is food for the soul to read your reports here.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 6:35 pm 
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I would love to do this trail, but I am too stupid to find all the info regarding the trail on the site.

Please help


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:29 pm 
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Been there, done that!!!! I survived Mphongolo with a backpack that was far too heavy, and an aging body... Will post more in my 'needed a fix' thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Hi Shrew hope this helps: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/to ... _trail.php


Keep Trailing!

"Have we become so conscience of Network(signal), time and distances that we have enslaved ourselves to look to the skies for signal by holding a phone higher than our eyes, to look to our arm at a watch tying our hands and to look at the ground to find a GPS strapping our feet. when we should be looking to the skies to see the sun, looking past our arms at the trees and past our feet to see spoor." - Just a thought...


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 6:41 am 
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Location: Constantia Kloof, JHB
I finished the Mphongola Backpack trail last week with my 15 year old son and can highly recommend it. In fact it is a must if you can manage. Together with the gorillas in Rwanda and the thrills of Jinja in Uganda, this rates as one of the top things I have ever done. I will definately be back for more Mphongola Trails in the very near future.

Well worth mentioning are the two guides Hans Enslin and Francois van der Merwe. Their knowledge of the bush and the manner in which they constructed the trail was world class and they made all the difference. During the first night a huge mail lion strolled passed our camp site and we never fealt threatened in any way. Well done guys and keep it up!


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