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 Post subject: pnm July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report Jul '12
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 6:31 pm 
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Location: Paarl
Hello all

I've often read and enjoyed the trip reports on the forum. This is my first try so if anyone has (constructive) criticism I would appreciate it. The trip report will also explain why I bought four new tyres on the trip, as well as answer that old old Kruger question: what does one do when one's car has a flat tyre in the KNP - especially when at a lion sighting? I have a photo as well.

I booked 11 months before our departure date of 22 June 2012. My SO and I got away at 11:00 that Friday and easily made our overnight stop near Three Sisters. It was clean, safe, good value for money and I had a lovely plate of leg of lamb. I will definitely go back there (pm if you want to know more).

We set out at 05:00 the next morning in cold misty weather - we had gone quite a way when - phut - one of the headlamps gave in. The shoulder was too narrow to pull off safely so with fog lights on we carried very carefully on. Then at a stop and go just outside Bloemfontein I did my usual inspection of car tyres. Here is what I found - two big tears (caused by glass cuts) and six smaller cuts. (We worked out where the damaged was done - but that is a long story for telling elsewhere. The original tyres were excellent tyres.)

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The tyre dealer at Bloem helped us, gave us coffee, had three men work fit two new tyres on the car, and we were on our way- three hours delayed. We overnighted in Secunda with one of my sons, had the headlight fixed, then headed for Malelane and stayed at a lovely guest house that gave us packed breakfasts so that we could enter the gate bright and early which we did. Breakfast was at a deserted Afsaal. I was feeling grotty - I was stuffed with medicine for bronchitis after a visit to a doctor in Secunda. Why does one get sick immediately one takes leave? Here is Afsaal.

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Shortly after this our first raptor. Note: I make my KNP trips LAST by taking lots of bird pictures then every night after my return home spend time IDing them - so my references to species will be vague.

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A stop at Leeuwpan is always good.The zebras were thirsty.

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And Tshokwane did not disappoint with my Kudu wors, pap and sheba. It filled me for the rest of the day.

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Shortly before Satara we spotted something in the road. My SO cruised slowly to a halt for us to see the second only Serval I have seen on all my visits. It posed pleasantly in the road (we were the only car), then slipped into the bushes, and soon was gone.

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Then on to Satara collected our key and went to bed early.

The next day brought a traffic jam and mating lions. My last photo of the dayy was of this Green Wood-Hoepoe.

Keep well
Peter

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Pete


Last edited by pnm on Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:05 pm 
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Location: Paarl
I start work tomorrow and myhours are sometimes unpredictable so let me give Day Two before I discover I have to wait a week before adding to the report.

Up after a good sleep. I had earlier asked the people in the hut 4 away from us to please keep the noise down the previous night. These were the only really noisy people we met in our whole trip - all our other neighbours close and far were nature-sound lovers. Our immediate neighbours were perfect Kruger neigbours.

Just outside Satara - traffic jam. I am allergic to these so I tried to weave my way through and suddenly there was a two car length opening - I still cannot work out why as it gave the prime viewing place of mating lions about 20m away. I got the camera primed. Noticeable was that if the lion lay down in the grass it just vanished, close as it was. (Remember later I (with help) will be changing a tyre among lions that I cannot see but can hear). With much snarling the male stood up to initiate mating, the lioness got up, seemed to indicate the same but then suddenly developed a massive headache and there was a nasty little spat so all I got was this photo of a miffed lion (look carefully and you can see the outline of the female in the grass).

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Next up was a visit to Sweni bird hide, one of my favourites. The first thing were the hippos. Look at the one with the fresh cuts on its back, a veritable scarred veteran.

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Then the Black-crowned Night heron (on our second visit there were two there).

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On our way to the hide we found two Senegal Lapwing. This is a new tick for me. They were very obliging and posed quite happily next to the car.

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We took a leisurely late afternoon drive to Girivana dam. As we arrived we saw this:

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They took their time, with bellies absolutley full. I counted ten lion in all. After drinking they all lazily crossed the road and obligingly lay where we could take photogrpahs. There were very few cars. A sub-adult male and a cub stood in the sunlight:

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On the way home this little chap perched proudly - I'll ID as soon as I can - unless a forumite can say it without reference?:

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After which we went back to camp to find the noisy neighbours gone and replaced with lovely ones who understand the Kruger ethos of a good chat with one's neighbours, compare notes, share photos, etc. We braaied wors and discovered something that may well upset the purists: truly instant phutu (or krummel or slap depending on water added) pap. It is so simple: Take one cup of pap, add one cup of boiling water, stir and serve. That's it. So quick. And let the purists howl, but I am sold on it. While braaing I noticed unhappily that in contrast to my previous visit I did not hear one single Scops owl.

To round off a wonderful day we had a visit from an African Wildcat after which early to bed again.

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I saw Rhino in the Kruger Park in my fifteen days there, but I won't be showing any photos of them. I'm sure all will understand.

Keep well
Peter

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:01 pm 
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Thanks to everyone for the encouragement. It was a gnarly first day back at work, so I'm going to relax by adding to the report:

With both me and my SO snuffling and sneezing we got up a bit later than usual, then set off to Ratelpan Hide via the S127. On the way there we saw this little chap. My SO has a particular fondness for all sorts of small buck so this one got some serious photos taken. He was quite peaceful and turned this way and that for us - but reality is that he was probbably looking out for predators. And rightly so.

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Ratelpan had little but we did see on the way a huge herd of buffalo - the biggest I have ever seen. Here are two very peaceful buffalo of what could easily have been 1000? My SO stopped counting at 300. We noted one very old bull with what looked like a huge abcess on the right foreleg knee, but no photo unfortunately:

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Stopped at Timbavati Picnic site for loo break. As we arrived an elderly man had fallen at the toilets and cut his head quite badly. We did not go closer as there were so many people helping and we would have been a hindrance. Within a minute a picnicker who happened to be a doctor was on hand to help. The way people reacted confirmed my basic faith in the goodness of all. The concern of all was so genuine and the reaction so quick. We left him in capable hands. I wonder if any readers out there know how he is? He was with his family. Went to Sweni Hide hoping for better.

At the hide and found lots and lots of Yellow-billed storks -landed, coming into land or circling. There was a lot of argy-bargy which was quite unecessary as there place for all - until the monitor lizard walked about and they all got a bit jittery. They stood around sunning themselves showing off lots of pink feathers which were really beautiful, but one went out to fish, often less than 50cm from a floating croc (see the photo) and annoying two Egyptian geese that felt they had right of way. The Black-headed Heron was still there skulking for all he was worth. Green-winger Pytillia and Blue Waxbills hopped around feasting on seed.

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After this we had a leisurely trip back to camp for a fruit lunch with cough mixture for pudding, lie down followed by a decision to drive the S100 on the grounds that we usually avoid it. Being on holiday means one does not have to be logical. Right at the end we came across this vulture sitting in a tree:

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While my SO was taking the photo I whispered "Lion". Here was the reason the vulture was wating: this lioness had killed a Waterbuck and was having a good chomp. She was all on her own, and after a while made a half-hearted attempt to bury the buck. Only one other car saw all this.

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Very pleased with this sighting we completed the round trip by heading back on the tarrred road, only to be stopped half way back by a hyena road block. One chap took a great interest in my tyres (perhaps he realised they were new). The one in the photo just couldn't be bothered with anything and was having a lovely late afternoon sunny nap:

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Thus ended a really pleasant day. People all over were thoughtful in general and in camp we were able to chat to people. But as we were both feeling very out of sorts we were in bed shortly after 18:30 and fast asleep by 19:00. Man, I love Kruger!

The next instalment will tell of our trip to Punda Maria for a three night stay, Crooks' Corner and the rambo antics of the Greenbuls.

Keep well
Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:48 pm 
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Location: Paarl
Thansk for all the comments, everyone. I really appreciate them.

Time to drive from Satara to Punda maria to stay in one of the tents.I love these tents - it is camping with an L for Luxury. Bit of a cheap to say tent, when they are really palatial.

The first thing we saw after setting out early was that icon of African rivers:

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Not much further my SO gave a very firm "Stop!". Here was why. Not far from the road was this Pearl-spotted Owlet showing us his false eyes.

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He became aware of us and showed restlessness, then flkew off to another perch not far away. We followed him (in the car, of course!) and he ignored us to eyeball a raptor flying above.

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The trip north was further peaceful - few cars, lovely weather - and lots and lots of mopane and very very few animals. The scenery was fine. The silence was great. We took a break at Shipandani bird hide but saw little except for a few hippo, and very lazy hippo at that.

We took the turnoff to Punda Maria and at the dam/waterhole/wallow (name? - I am afraid I don't know if it has one) about 16km from Punda I told my SO to stop - I was sure I had seen a muddy crocodile. This I amended to "Isn't that a dead crocodile?", then I took a very long look and realised it was the mystery corpse in the dam - either Buffalo or Wildebeest but my money is on buffalo. Note that it is covered in a thick layer of mud, it has been partially eaten at the hindquarters and that there appears to be blood leaking from its nostrils. There were no predators around and no vultures at all. Does anyone know anything about this mystery?

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On to Punda to move into tent number 2. I am a fan of the north and here is my idea of a slice of heaven - the view from our verandah at tent 2.

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But our slice of heaven came with a price - the Greenbuls let us know very clearly that we were intruders and that they expected rent to be paid. As we do not feed animals (in the park at any rate - pets are different) they became aggro and decided if we would not pay rent they would take it. During our whole stay any fruit, slice of bread, peanut left unattended for two seconds was eyes and appropriated. We locked up everything in the end, and eating peanuts with one's hand covering the bowl except to grab a nut for oneslef is not restful. The rotters managed to steal quite a bit before we wised up and became security conscious - very good preparation indeed for the later brushes with monkeys especially at Crocodile Bridge where they are really aggressive.

Here is one of the opportunistic - but exquisitely beautiful - thieves:

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To end the day, my SO and I took a leisurely walk to the bird hide. As we arrived there we met a colleague and friend who lives two streets away from us - neither of us had any idea the other was going to Kruger. Coincidence. At the hide we saw an elephant taking a mud bath - taking a very lavish mud bath with much noise and verve. I was grateful that animals are not self-conscious or this chap would have been most embarrasssed to know that about 70 people were watching him in the bath, most were taking photos AND that a photo of him would appear on the www.

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And so off to bed for a good sleep with us having firmly planned a rest day for the next day- maximum drive agreed: the 25km loop around Punda.

Keep well all
Peter

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:55 pm 
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Sorry all - I got the two owlet pictures in the wrong order: so the claimed false eyes are real and the real eyes false according to the text if you see what I mean. And I wrote the word "cheap" when I meant "cheat" regarding the tents at Punda - I meant it is a "cheat" to say it is a tent when it is so palatial, not "cheap" - it made me sound sarcastic but this is the last thing I meant. I love those tents.

BTW: The shower at my tent delivered a dribble of hot water. I went to Reception and the person picked up phone while I was talking and got things moving. Not ten minutes later Thomas arrived at our tent to have a look. He promised to get the job done first thing the next day (it was well after 16:00) and I was quite happy as both SO and I had managed with a warm rather than hot shower. The next day the shower gushed like a, well, gusher. I was impressed with how the Punda team got the problem sorted out. It was good service. I got even greater service when the tyre went pfffffft in the middle of lions. That bit comes when I was on my way to Crocodile Bride - my stop after Olifants which will feature soon.

Keep well
Peter

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:32 pm 
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I forgot to put that in the trip up to Punda from Satara we saw Tsessebe. We saw them on two occasions during this visit, once at the waterhole near Mopane. Only the third time ever for me. Here is one:

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Back to Punda Maria. Up latish after a good health restoring sleep, followed by Jungle oats, that standby of the over fifties. Again, let the purists howl (as for the instant pap) but this is instant porridge. In Kruger everything can be instant except for the animals. Imagine what it must be like to have no real concept of time.

Last time we did Mahonie we were harrasssed by elephants, large, small and medium. Both SO and I are very cautious of elephant (and buffalo, and lion and tourists) and believe in giving them their space, and even so we have great sightings. But this time - not a single elephant. Not one. Fortunately other things made up for it. The scenery is great and the traffic fairly low impact. What we did like was that our first sighting was of this small buck. I am no good at buck - is it a duiker? All I know is that it was beautiful.

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Then after a fairly long brought we stopped to look at this mongoose foraging. He didn't like us. I enjoyed watching how this animal forages boldy yet every second has what American fighter pilots call "situational awareness" - this chap knew to keep his wits about him and feeding was about even with watch-keeping.

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This must the second shyest bird in Kruger. The only one that was more camera shy was the Grey headed shrike at Crocodile Bridge. Not for nothing is it called a Spookvoël in Afrikaans (Ghost Bird). We did manage to get a photo of this Orange-breasted Bush Shrike despite his best efforts to get behind every tree available - and those of you who know Mahonie know that there are plenty trees.

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We headed slowly back to camp where I did the birding trail. I didn't see any birds until the end when whole bunch of crested Guineau fowl came along. They always remind me of a startled Elvis. What I did meet on the trail was this bushbuck. (I also met a monkey that was very very rude to me, so I ignored him.)

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Back at the tent I was having a leisurely cup of coffee when I grabbed my camera after I saw movement in the bushes. The light was low and I had to up the ISO a bit too much for my camera, but I got quite a few good shots of this Bearded Scrub Robin:

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At sunset I headed for the nearly deserted bird hide and ended a day of tranquility (except for the rude monkey who really had no need to behave the way he did) with these two bushbuck coming very nervously to drink. And if you remember my last post what they were about to drink was an elephant's bath water. Sies.


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Keep well all. The next instalment takes me to one of my favourite places in the country- Pafuri of the two bridges, Crooks' Corner and a monkey that stole my rusks despite my vigilance - that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I am not too old to outthink a monkey but I defy anyone to be quicker than one in spotting a moment of human inattention.


Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Thanks for all the positive comments everyone. I really appreciate the interest. That Sharpe's Grysbok was one of the most beutiful animals I have seen. Thanks for making me aware of what I had seen - I appreciate the sighting even more now.

But on to Pafuri. I have a beard, wear a hat at all times and still believe in stopping others cars to tell them where sightings are. In other words, a bit old fashioned in some ways. But I still view myself as a youngish 20 something even though that was well over 30 years ago. But that morning my SO said I was carrying on like a teenager who has been promised a smart phone. Reason: I was on my way to my favourite spot and drive in the park, a place I visted for the first time nearly 26 years ago, when the picnic sites still had permanent fires going: Pafuri picnic site and the road to Crooks' Corner. On this road I have been rained on, nearly got stuck in mud, felt like a Cape Lobster being cooked when I visited one late December - but I have always had my best and most varied birding here. The trick is to arrive very early before the masses arrive, and few people seem to drive to Crooks' Corner. I have been there four times over the years and every time it has been completely different.

Our first stop was on the second bridge at Pafuri where this Giant Kingfisher couldn't be bothered with tourists like me. There were fish to be caught and I was clearly something that could be ignored on this perfect winter's morning.

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I walked to the other side of the bridge and notices that tell-tale white spot on the bank. On full zoom I got the Fish Eagle and also that lovely misty morning feel:

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While we were there we heard a sudden rumble and this herd of Buffalo came storming down to drink. They raised a huge cloud of dust. Note the very small calf:

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At the picnic site we stopped for coffee. I opened a packet of rusks, turned my back for a second and wham, the monkey struck and liberated from next to my elbow the whole packet of rusks imported all the way from the Cape. I stood up and immediately the monkey stood and bared his teeth. I quickly sank back and in this non-threatenting closed-mouth posture watched him eat two rusks, all the time eyeing me. I had to remember not to anthropomorphise and see his continual looking at me as insolence. The theft was simple learned animal behaviour and the looks were simply animal awareness of danger, but I don't care - I swear he planned the robbery and the looks he gave me WERE insolent, and the chattering I am sure was taunting and clearly contained some very very rude words in all the muttering. By the end of my fifteen nights in Kruger the score was monkeys 4, Pete 0 and a very humiliating zero at that. At least I didn't walk around shooting them with a catty as I saw a child do to the approval of his parents at Tshokwane. There are some tourists who just do not read the rules. If outsmarted by a monkey, live with it and lock things up more securely. (Says me who lost 4-0 to Monkeys of Kruger).

Birds were scarce. I did get this shot of what I think is a Tropical Boubou (or is it a Southern Boubou?).

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Crooks' Corner was the driest I have ever seen it. The drive there yielded quite a few sightings but nothing really noteworthy. We headed back to Punda Maria, viewed the mystery corpse in the dam (still a mystery), and went to the tent for coffee. The Bulbul bandits immediately turned up to menace us with much calling, flapping and very unsubtle hinting. Here is one fluffed up with rage at our refusal to part with our tea-time biscuits.

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Then it was time to visit the bird hide. It was occupied by me and someone who just so happened to have exactly the same camera as me and a copy of Robert's Kruger. We spent a pleasant half hour in companionable silence. Interesting thing about this bird hide: people are very quiet in it but do not realise that the walk way up is where the noise occurs. They stomp up it, then tip-toe into the hide. They were all clearly so well intentioned that all one could do was laugh and give a welcoming smile. No animal ever seemed even to notice any nosie anyway. Particularly the Crested Barbets swaggering along the viewing platform.

The elephant that had had such a lovely bath the day before came and drank his bath water:

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Then two old Buffalo bulls arrived to drink and wallow. They were beautiful in the fading evening light. This one had a good scratch at the tree stump:

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Here is a wide angle shot of the scratching that shows the beauty of the evening. Sometimes life is good, really good. As I said to my SO when she arrived: "You know, right now I am really happy." Not laugh happy, just happy.

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But my great love is for birds so it is fitting that I end this day with one of nature's jewels, a member of the Sunbird family, feeding frantically before nightfall at the flowers near the filling station.

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This White-bellied Sunbird was my last photo of the day. It was back to the tent to braai some sausage and have a plate of fruit salad, with Kiwi fruit from the lowveld and oranges and clementines grown by myself from my garden (home grown always tastes better). It looked so good I took photos of my bowl. Is there anyone else out there who takes photos of plates of food that look really good? I often do. My SO thinks I am mad, and quite possibly so, but it makes me happy.

Out time as Punda was now over. Time to leave for Shingwedzi, my all-time favourite camp. As always it did not disappoint. We had lovely neighbours, good weather and my first sighting of a Verreaux's Owl in many years. Watch this space.

Keep well all
Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:05 pm 
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Thansk for the interest everyone. Chirinda and Crested Val want pictures of food.

I think I may just have to put a special food report at the end of this TR! I have quite a few photos (e.g. crime scene of the great monkey rusk roberry at Pafuri) that just don't fit in anywhere. But to go on with here is a photo of one of our meals. My SO likes to add Ultramel. Here is the plain version. I think I had been eating which explains why so little orange and clementine in the bowl. The bowl- one of a set we have used in our caravanning days in the early 80s. All our Kruger crockery (plastic and melamine) comes from those days - when we needed unbreakable stuff because there were two small children. Unbreakable indeed as we are still using them and those babies are now 26 and 28 years old.

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Vlakvarkvrou - I see you were the first reaction to this TR.

Keep well
Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 2:57 pm 
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Today is a real Cape winter day - cold, wet, blustery. This report enables me to escape in my mind to the warmth of the Lowveld three weeks ago.

We left Punda and headed for Shingwedzi stopping on the way at Babala picnic site for breakfast/tea. The weather was cool. Toasted sandwiches left over from the previous night were a grand breakfast. While there this Bateleur flew overhead.

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On the main road we found this group of Red-billed Buffalo weavers. It seems a lot are juveniles or moulting. Perhaps a birder could confirm?

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It is a short hop to Shingwedzi so we went straight to Kanniedood Hide to discover it was absolutely dry and consequently very few birds.

We sat at Lamont waterhole, one of my favourite sit-and-wait places. It has never produced lions or leopard or other such things, but always excitement in some form, often elephant. It did not disappoint ever during our three days at Shingwedzi. These two old men appeared as silently as elephants do. One minute there was nothing and the next minute my rearview mirror was filled with elephant.

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Back to camp to get our key. The chalet was lovely - those showers are the biggest in Kruger I reckon.
The Impala lilies were all in bloom. I love this bush - it looks so strange yet is so beautiful.

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The causeway is a magnet for me. There is always something there if you look. Once some years ago we were there and a leopard appeared out of nowhere, posed at the entrance of the causeway for a few seconds then was gone. No leopards this trip, but I followed my practice of looking carefully. There seemed to be no water but if one drove to the far end of the causeway, there was a very very muddy pool of water - an extremely small pool - about 15cm deep and in it I counted eight large barbel, fins protruding from the water. Ahhhhh, I thought, something will soon regard this as a takeaway. I was right, but I wasn't there when the customer called for the takeaway. I found him shortly thereafter having his fish without chips in a tree not far away.

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On the way back to camp the moon rose while we were on the tar entrance road to the camp.

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I lit the fire for a braai. We had forgotten to buy matches but in Beaufort West I had picked up a box lying on the ground at the petrol station. It contained five matches. I tried to be a good Boy Scout but failed miserably and used three matches to get the blaze going. While I was doing this the camp came alive with twinkling lights and fires, and the moon rose even higher.

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Here is an essentail part of a braai - ready to be toasted cheese, onion (lots of) and tomato sandwiches. I love onion whether cooked or raw. It is very efficacious in curing all ills and as both SO and I still had the sniffles a double layer of onions was put on:

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The tree outside our hut was checked for night birds, but nothing. I lit it with a torch for this photo:

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Then the meal. We had braaied wors, made tomato and onion mix and put it over the instant phutu. What a great meal. I don't envy people who eat at fancy restaurants. My idea of a good meal is a simple one eaten outdoors in good company.

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Both SO and I were still a bit sniffly so we decided to forgo our usual nocturnal stroll around whatever camp we were in for an early night. The next day would be a quiet day keeping trips close to Shingwedzi and strolling around camp.

Keep well from a very cold and now even wetter Cape.

Peter

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:56 pm 
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Hello all - the Boland is rainier than this morning if that is possible.

John, you are lucky to be going to that glorious Lowveld winter weather soon.

Back to Shingwedzi.

We had a quiet day as planned. At Lamont a herd of 17 elephant came to drink but the crib was dry. There was much trumpeting, some of it very bad tempered and I noticed that all the cars at the waterhole switched on engines to be ready to get out the way if ncessary. There were calves so the nervousness was understandable. I was certainly nervous. There are those two game tracks that cross the dirt road from the reservoir and they go right through the parking area. It is a place where it is wise to be careful. Here is the disappointed herd that found happy hour was all but happy:

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I took a trip to the causeway to see how the takeaway Barbel were doing. Here are what they looked like:

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There was enough water for this wasp at the causeway:

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And when all else fails there are always some warthog about. I love these ugly creatures who are "mooi van lelikheid" (beautiful through ugliness). I call this shot "Tickle-tummy time":

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That evening a slow cruise over the causeway brought us this old single tusker doing his best to bathe in what was very little water. The light was bad. I wound down the window and just listened to him bathing - I love listening to elephants. This trip I picked up that deep rumble they make. On previous trips I had heard it but never so often and so loud.

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To end the day we drove to Kanniedood Hide. On the way me met his Bushbuck with the strange nose. The lip was also deformed (or swollen). I have no idea what the problem was but it seemed to be eating well.

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And so ended another quiet day in Kruger. At supper we sat listening to the night sounds, had a chat to neighbours, read a bit. Neighbours were from Cape Town, Germany, Namibia and a Scandinavian country to judge by the accent. No one had seen lion. The Scandavian and Namibian were on their way out the park the next day without having seen lion much to their disappointment. In true Kruger style everyone in earshot came over to offer advice on how to ensure a lion sighting on the way out. I love the place and I love the people one meets.

We went to sleep with a jackal calling from far away.

Keep well all
Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 22, 2012 9:10 pm 
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Location: Paarl
Hello all. Thanks for all the encouragement.

Me Skarabee, I like looking for new birds - I need the ticks as my lifelist is slowing down after hitting the 300 mark. I find that sitting in one spot in a camp and keeping dead quiet works; soon birds come to you. Doing this I got a new tick at Crocodile Bridge - a Common Scimitarbill, albeit a lousy photograph, but still a new tick. I also learnt on the SANParks birding forum the importance of listening. If I hear a strange call I follow it until I find the bird. That's how I got my first ever Orange-breasted Bush Shrike.

But on to my third and last day at a dry dry dry Shingwedzi. Never is Kruger the same - that its its attraction.

To start with I love the panorama that one sees from the causeway at Shingwedzi -particularly as here there are some elephant:

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We headed for Kanniedood Dam and it was anything but Kanniedood - it was dead (Kanniedood means "Cannot die"). Look at how little water there is as seen in these two photos:

First wide angle:

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Then on zoom:

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One thing which worried me all over Kruger was the lack of Woodpeckers. Usually I see lots, especially in Shingwedzi. I saw a total of three in our whole trip. This Golden tailed Woodpecker was very active but rather shy. He hopped around manically tap-tap-tapping and seemed to find quite a few grubs to eat.

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As stated earlier I love Lamont waterhole. There was not much to see and cars roared in and roared out when they realised the touristy animals were not there. We sat and saw plenty of anmals but not the tourists favourites. People who feel "Oh not another Impala" missed the Impala ram rofstoei (all-in-wrestling) bout and the sight of a whole heard of Impala scattering after one gave an alarm call. A false alarm but the reactions were a wonder to watch. Also look out for birds. Plenty parrots came to drink. This one sat in that lovely tree just in front of Lamont.

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I strongly believe there is an annual general meeting of all Kruger birds where they work out fiendish ways to annoy bird photographers. On the agenda is stuff like: How to move at JUST the wrong moment, how to sit so that the light is ALMOST right but still bad enough to ruin a photo, how to sit so that you JUST cannot be identified, and many other similar items.

This Martial eagle was probably chairman of the last meeting. During our trip we saw about seven Martial eagles. All were camera shy and I only got to photograph two. This one sat for half an hour on the Shingwedzi entrance road and my SO got the giggles and said: "You seemed destined to get nothing but pictures of its bottom." She was almost right until it turned its head at just the right moment so here is a photo of its bottom AND its head:

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At camp evening set in. I had lit the fire and was sitting quietly reading when I saw a large bird fly towards me and over the hut. I grabbed my camera and ran, while setting the ISO on 1600, something my camera cannot really handle having a CCD card. At the camp road I stopped as the Verreaux's Owl had stopped and perched in the tree. I had enough time for one quick shot, made allowable by a chap in a bakkie who stopped in the road as he saw me running. I spoke to him afterwards and he said he had stopped because he realised that I must be after an important shot. He also said it enabled him to see the owl and he was equally excited. He was a real Kruger ethos person.

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That made a very good end to a good day. One does not have to see big cats to be happy (although I love the bigs cats. I will never say I have seen enough lion or leopard. I always want more - until the flat tyre when I wanted fewer but that comes later in this report). Note the supper. Sausages and toasted sandwiches. My SO and I may not be imaginative camper-cookers but at least we are traditional.

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We had a slow stroll around the camp listening for those beautiful nightsounds then went to bed after packing the car to be ready for a start to Olifants the next day. I had now pretty much recovered from my bronchitis but my SO was not really well so I was to do all driving. I am not the normal South African male - I LIKE my wife to drive and what is more (here is a dreadful revelation) she does all the braaing. International readers may wonder at the scandal of this, but 99,99999% of South African males believe that they, and only they, know how to braai. Everyone else is wrong. It is a South African thing. I love this country.

Keep well
Pete

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2012 8:23 pm 
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Posts: 204
Location: Paarl
Hello again - time to move to Olifants, this time with me driving and SO snuffling and sneezing.

The very first thing we saw was this Lappet Faced Vulture. They are so graceful in the air but on the ground they seem to lose that grace and their threatening demeanour is most forbidding. This doesn't stop me from loving them, however:

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Next up were six Southern Ground Hornbills. As usual they were doing their stately walk, picking up items and tossing the food back like topers eating peanuts at a bar. None came to the car which shows they had not been habituated to getting food from cars. Very pleasing. We had about eight different sitings of this bird during our stay.

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We arrived at Olifants well before clocking in time of 14:00 so we sat down to lunch. Both SO and I love boiled egss, love avocado pears, but do realise that something reasonably healthy has to be eaten was well. Unfortunately fresh supplies were running out so we made do with these prepacked salads, one of which contained lentils. Lots and lots of lentils. The other contained barley (or so I thought). My SO loves these salads. I tolerate them but I must admit they are useful as a stop-gap between supplies and if I have to choose between them and tins, they win out, I having consumed enough tinned food in army service. Those avos from the Lowveld (Fuerte cultivar I think) were perfect with some vinegar and salt eaten directly out of the skin with a spoon.

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After lunch and beating off various competing starlings that wanted our food, we fetched our hut key. SO and I never prebook a specific hut. We always take pot luck on the basis of a change is as good as a feast. This trip delivered us delight after delight of accommodation. Here is the view from our hut - it is not a perimeter hut but it may as well be. The view from the hut was so brilliant it certainly influenced our much longer than usual spells in camp. From here we saw in the river Goliath heron, Green backed heron, a mystery heron, hippo, crocodile, elephants, kudu, indeed a passing parade, morning noon and night except at night it was not visual but aural. What better way to go to sleep hearing the grunt of a hippo, call of a jackal and maybe, just maybe was that a lion? I never tire of it. Look at this view - magnificent:

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And here is the view without the big guest house. Lots of birds came to us at the hut. It was a feast of viewing.

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We decided on a leisurely afternoon drive and stopped to look at a family of Giraffe. I took a lot of photos of which this is one. I cannot possibly place the next in the series because this is a family forum. One of the bulls decided that the Giraffe population was one short and tried to convince the female ahead of him of this. She was MOST unconvinced of his reasoning. He tried over and over (it was pretty spectacular) but all he got was a cold shoulder and very nearly a kick. There is nothing romantic about the animal world.

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Then it was camp time. The chalet did have the disadvantage that lots of people walked past the hut, but this had the advantage that I could talk to everyone - and DID talk to everyone, tourists, workers, whoever, and why not. I LIKE people. Off to make supper at the communal kitchen where we met a young German couple who were in Africa for the first time. They had only been in-country three days and were overawed by the place. They said they were astonished by how close one gets to the animals in Kruger. They made plain they will be back. Ohhhhh, when the Kruger bug bites, it bites deep.

SO made the supper while I shone the torch all around looking unsuccessfully for owls. Our supper was one of my favourites: leftovers made into something that looks and tastes good. I love leftovers when at home and when camping. One gets up to five different meals in one. It may sound revolting but three of four different meats, some fresh (not left over) pasta, ,whatever veggies are around, cover with a sauce and add some extra strong cheddar cheese, bung it on a thick slice of bread and there you are. Not to everyone's taste but definitely to mine. One of the advantages of being over fifty is that one worries less and less about impressing other people and more and more about getting on with enjoying life.

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Note on the table are other items essential to a good holiday:

binoculars, map book, magazines to read (Car and Country Life), two types of cough mixture, chutney, salt, pepper (in sachets in the bakkie).

Please excuse the cellphones. If it is of any interest my average cell call at work is 11 seconds long i.e. a cell phone is not a toy for me. But were those cell phones useful when getting help when were were attacked by the wood screw, flat tyre and lion pride that were roaring. Oh dear oh dear, was I grateful for those cellphones then. But that comes later in this trip report. First, another day at Olifants after a good sleep.

Keep well
Pete

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Pete


Last edited by pnm on Mon Jul 23, 2012 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:10 pm 
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Joined: Fri May 30, 2008 2:33 pm
Posts: 204
Location: Paarl
Hello all

Time for a quick flashback a la reality TV shows. Remember the Great Monkey Rusk Robbery of Pafuri that I described? Just in is the Scene of Crime picture where X marks the spot of where the rusks were.

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The unidentified person in the red top is the aggrieved ex-owner of the rusks who went hungry. No arrests have been made and as all the possible perpetrators look exactly the same it is not expected any arrests WILL be made. The ex-owner must be an utter nana as this was the first round he had with monkeys in his trip where he eventually lost 4-0 to the monkeys after 15 days. The next photos of criminal monkeys will show the group attempting windscreen wiper theft from a parked car (mine) in Crocodile Bridge. The owner tried to chase them off but got a very chilly reception and backed off FAST. Really fast. But more of that when I get to Crocodile Bridge. First there is my second day at Olifants before the trek to CB.

Driving on the area twoards Satara we came acroos this huge flock of vultures in the distance. What they were doing I do not know but I have never seen so many together.

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I do so love a Malachite Kingfisher, but not when they deliberately sit awkwardly in the light. My SO took this one:

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There also was a Goliath heron, one of five I saw this trip, the most I have ever seen in one trip. Look at those absolutely huge feet. I never realised they were so big.


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And this Kingfisher at least had the decency to pose for me:

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This White-browed Robin chat posed alongside the road for me but was skittish and never really left the bush. I saw my first ever when it was still a Heuglin's Robin:

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Then it was back to camp for a slow stroll around to speak to whoever was walking around (plenty of people), look for birds, (none) and generally behave in a slothful manner, all part of a great Kruger holiday. As I headed back to the hut I took this shot to show where home for the night was:

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In this TR I have referrred often to food. Here is what we ate that night as both of us were really fluey/coldy/sinussy etc. This is a foolproof meal but not gourmet.

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It had the advantage of enabling both of us to retire to bed to shake off the miseries to be ready for the great trip south - so you know the next report has lions in it. 14 lions and not ONE photo of them. I will explain why in the next instalment which will contain a photo of the actual flat tyre and the team who changed it Formula One Style for this poor old idiot who splashed rubberised foam all over the road - honest. I'll explain all.

Keep well
Pete

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Pete


Last edited by pnm on Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:49 pm 
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Posts: 204
Location: Paarl
As Meandering Mouse says, time to visit the zoo. On the way there we came across this vulture in the dawn who clearly sized me up and when I looked through my binoculars at him, he was not only sizing me up but also clearly licking his chops at the anticipation at eating what was left of me. How did he know I was soon to get out the car surrounded by roaring lions? Look at him - the epitome af a hungry, ever-patient vulture:

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Please allow a proud father to digress slightly. It seems absurd for us to travel from Olifants to Crocodile Bridge, but awaiting me there was a first in my life. Both my sons were introduced to Kruger caravanning at a very young age. Both fell in love with it. My younger son loved it and a woman so much, that he took her all the way to Shingwedzi to propose to her. He was accepted, married her and now two years later for the first time in my life my SO and I were to be joined by my married son and daughter-in-law in Kruger. I am unashamedly sentimental and was all misty-eyed. I reckon all fathers (and mothers) will know what I mean. This was a very important milestone visit to CB for me and my SO of 32 years (not age - years married).

On the road we saw the usual suspects and enjoyed the animals. Just after Skukuza I saw a traffic jam 150m up ahead. Zoo time, Meandering Mouse. Zoo-time, big time. Hooting time, flaring temper time, grumpy time.

I said to my SO, "No way. I am stopping here and letting them disperse." I stopped at the side of the road, switched off and waited. Now I decided (and I would love to know if anyone else does this) that I had enough lion photos and instead of taking photos I would just drink in the memories. I took NO photos of the 10 lion that left the traffic jam and sauntered up to OUR car, so close that one sniffed the back tyre. Their eyes were glued to Impala down the road. What a sighting, what a memory. This was the closest we have ever been to lion and we had the best seats by far, (or close if one prefers), and NO traffic jam who all followed the lions past us jostling, red-faced, grim and plain silly. Let me not be a hypoctie. I love lion sightings and will never never have enough of them, but not at the cost of being unhappy at the sighting. But while the traffic jam saw them, we got the best interaction. SO and I were on an absolute high. The cubs were beautiful and the lionesses huge and lithe and dangerous and hunting. I have no photos, but indelible memories.

Off we went. We decided to forgo a loo break at Lower Sabie - both of us wanted to get to our new family offshoot. We were exactly two kilometres past Lower Sabie when we found anohter traffic jam. More lions. I counted four, including a big male who was walking up and down, roaring. They were about 75m from the road, but I am acutely aware of how fast a lion can cover 100m. We were happily watching when I decided to take a photo anyway but was disturbed by a chap who pulled up alongside and said: "Do you know your left back tyre is flat?"

Right - this I have read about often in the forum and read all the advice about what to do. Now let me give you the real skinny on what happens. Your mind goes blank and you wonder: What now?

By now the lions were not to be seen but could be heard roaring. We waited a while in the hope that they would go away, but when you want lions to stay they go, and when you want them to go, they stay. And they stayed. I had a can of the instant tyre fix inflation and sealant in the boot of the car. I asked someone to pull up close behind me. I jumped out, got it out of the boot, and screwed the attachment onto the tyre. I think Iam a fairly calm person, known for not panicking totally at any crisis, but I was so nervous I put the thing on cross thread. When I pressed the plunger white rubberised foam shot all over the Lower Sabie road, the car and me. Failure was total and humiliating as there was quite an interested audience. Then my SO got out the emergency help number but no one answered. She then phoned reception at Lower Sabie.

And now hats off to SANParks staff. The lady at reception said, "I'll send someone". Within 15 minutes 5 men arrived on a bakkie. They first asked where the lions were, then got out, appraised the situation and started giving orders. Open all doors, they said. Open the boot, said Enos, the chief. They emptied everything in the boot onto the back seat, got out the spare, jacked up the car, fitted the tyre, replaced all tools and said: "All fixed. You can go." Now here's what is amazing. It took six minutes for them to do that. Formula One can take lessons from them. WELL DONE TO ALL INVOLVED.

Here is the team at work. Note that no one is recognisable as this would break forum policy. Look for the white foam. That chap in the checked shirt is me sweating bricks.

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I tipped them well, as rescuing people like us is not really their job - they work for housekeeping. I returned three days later to Lower Sabie and was able to thank the receptionist personally, get her name and that of the rescue team led by Enos, and soon I will be writing a letter to SANParks management to say all the doomsayers talk rubbish - service delivery is alive and well in Lower Sabie.

Here is a photo of the tyre and the screw that caused the problem.

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Where on earth did I pick it up? It must have been between Tshokwane (tea-break) and Lower Sabie (Lion traffic jam), but if you look at the excessive wear on the shoulder of the tyre I reckon it was closer to Tshokwane. Accidents like this keep life interesting, just not at the time. But now when macho men speak of What To Do when Surrounded by Lions I know the answer - ask your SO to phone Lower Sabie reception.

Also lots and lots of people offered to help. Many were really really keen to help and I was really touched by the concern of so many. Whole families were prepared to take on the lions.

I must add that the five chaps who arrived to change the tyre were very careful to observe safety procedures when dealing with the whole matter. One had a sense of humour and imitated a lion roaring sotto voce. We all jumped much to his amusement, and ours.

Now you see why earlier I said the cell phones were life-savers. On to Crocodile Bridge where my son and daughter-in-law met us. The first thing I heard was a haunting call, so I followed it. This was the result. A bad photo but a good sighting of a Grey headed shrike:

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Reception made sure we were in huts side by side - well done, CB. Waiting for us at our huts was this fellow:

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We took a trip to Hippo Pools to find this Bee-eater posing pleasantly:

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We returned to camp to find monkey business on the go in the late evening. These chaps thought that my windscreen wiper blades would provide a tasty meal. I tried to shoo them off but lost as they became very aggressive. I noted that the monkeys in CB are by far the most aggressive I have ever met in my life anywhere.

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I did not lose the blades but my car was covered in muddy monkey paw prints. Score: Monkey 4, Pete 0.

But the evening went perfectly. While braaing wtht my son a ghost appreared at the fence feeding happily. By torch light I got this elephant feeding:

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If anyone wonders I deliberately only lit his bum, I had no wish to spook him. Watching him made up for that flat tyre.

This instalment is already long so this time I will not include food, but watch this space. The next day brought two firsts for me: a raptor chase and bushbabies. But more of that tomorrow. Let's end with a shot of a kingfisher taken in the quiet of the evening light:

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A big thank you to all. A big thank you to those who have been writing comments. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate them. Actually I can tell you how much I appreciate them - an enormous amount: they keep me writing.

Keep well
Pete

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Pete


Last edited by pnm on Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: July 2012 trip report KNP - my first trip report
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 9:06 pm 
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Joined: Fri May 30, 2008 2:33 pm
Posts: 204
Location: Paarl
Many thanks for all the replies.

Meandering Mouse, Crested Val, Me Skarabee, Pumbaa, Sharifa, NaomiC, Hilda, Rookie2009, Saraf, WendyA (hope bronchitis is better), Pikkie, Jillinflorida, Vlakvarkvrou (How was Shingwedzi and Pafuri?).

On to my second day at Crocodile Bridge.

We left having packed wors (braaied the previous evening) on rolls for Ntandanyathi waterhole. On the way there I had a first. I asked my son to stop so I could take a picture of a raptor sitting in a bush. I had not even switched my camera on when it took off and I witnessed my first ever bird chase. I could not believe that a bird could fly so fast and make so many twists ands turns while airborne. It missed the kill and settled in a nearby bush so I could take a photo.

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This fellow also put in an appearance. He was on the hunt for something but found nothing while I was looking:

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We headed for Lower Sabie for lunch and at the bridge found this swallow who posed gracefully for us. Most people ignored the swallows sitting metres away from them and looked for big stuff. As I said earlier I love lions, leopards, cheetahs, etc but as they are sporadic, happiness can be found in the smaller things. Pay attention to all creation and enjoy, is what I say. Even ants, as I will show later, can lead to excitement.

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After a day of interesting viewing we headed back for camp to find one of my favourite little birds hunting from tree to tree. I love their call and instantly get up to follow it when I hear it in camp. Long live the Chinspot Batis:

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On the same stroll I found what I think was the same Kingfisher as the day before perched patiently:

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It was time to braai and the fire was going merrily when I saw movement in the trees. I knew they were the Bushbabies of the previous night and was determined to get photos of them. I used torchlight rather than flash and got some shots. Sorry for so many, but these little animals crept into my heart. They seemed rubberised the way they jump fro tree to ground and bounce metres up into the next tree. I was fascinated.

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And as lions were so scarce I think it is fit to show another one that I took at Girivana just to show I also like lions. Look at that fat stomach.

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Right - bit of a cheat to put in a Girivana lion but I hadn't seen a lion for a while.

Then it was off to bed. For me another essential of Kruger holiday is an early night to read a book that doesn't require too much thought - sort of chewing gum for the mind reading. I had a great book to read. I was in bed, comfortable, warm, recovered from my earlier bronchitis, feeling remarkably well, feeling at peace with the world and enjoying the book of the reminiscences of a soldier of the British army in Afghanistan, when I suddenly felt something touch my leg. It was moving. I lay still, dead still, then with a maidenly shriek threw off the covers and sprang out of bed. My SO looked up from her book and asked, "What on earth...". I explained the moving thing on my leg. I searched the bed and found - an ant. But not any ant. A really macho ant. It looked like the Arnie of ants but on steroids, and strong steroids at that. I looked it squarely in the eye, said, "This bed is not big enough for the two of us." I leant forward and using a finger flicked it onto the floor, got back into bed and slept the sleep of the just. My SO was still laughing at the shriek I had given.

Here is a picture of me just before the Great Crocodile Bridge Battle of the Ant. All the essentials are there for peace: a warm bed, warm bedclothes and a good book. At this stage the ant was underneath the covers planning his dastardly sneak attack on my leg. First lions, then ants. What next?

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Keep well all - the morrow brought flapjacks for breakfast (photo will be supplied) and two new tyres to take the total for tyres on the trip to four.

Sleep well all
Pete

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