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 Post subject: Ezio Fan and Brummie go wild (card) in Africa - July 2007
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 1:55 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 3:32 pm
Posts: 483
Location: Birmingham - UK (the original and still the best!)
The prologue

June 16th 2007 EF and Brummie set out to travel to Paris.

The plan

leave Brummieland on the 09.00 train to London (due to arrive at 11.50) connect to a train leaving for Paris at 14.30. Early arrival in Paris, early meal and a relaxing early night :lol: .

Actual

Leave Brummieland on the 09.00 train to London (due at 11.50) arrive in London at 14:30 :cry: , race across London beg for seats on a (much) later train, arrive late in Paris, have a snatched meal and a stressed out late night arrival at our hotel :( .

And now………….

Our visit to South Africa

The plan

Thursday 19th July

Check in on-line at 21.15

Friday 20th July

Leave Brummieland by car at 15.00 on and arrive at Heathrow Airport at about 18:00, park car in long-stay car park then check in bags and have a couple of hours to explore the duty free. Leave London on the 21:15 flight to Johannesburg.

Saturday 21st July

Arrive at Jo’burg – collect car and drive to Lydenburg

Sunday 22nd July

Drive from Lydenburg to Phalaborwa and Letaba


Actual

Thursday 19th July

Check in on-line at 21.15

Friday 20th July

Leave Brummieland by car at 15.00. Hit floods and wall to wall traffic jams on the road to London :cry: . Travel a whopping 40 km in the first 5 hours and eventally arrive at Heathrow Airport at about 22:15 :cry: , park car in short-stay car park then try to find some help. Told to come back at 05.30 the next day. Go to Long-stay car park and sleep in the car. Manage about half an hour sleep (maximum) :evil:

Saturday 21st July

Get to ticket desk and 05.30 and join a queue. Get seen at 09.00 and after being told that the best we could hope for was a flight out about Thursday – eventually get seats on the 20.15 flight that night :) . Sit about the airport all day and eventally get bags checked and finally get to the ‘plane. Departure delayed by 1 hour while some unaccompanied bags are taken off.

Sunday 22nd July

I managed about an hour sleep on the ‘plane (too stressed I guess). Arrive late(ish), collect hire car at 08.20 and drive straight to Phalaborwa (with pit stops on the way). Get to Letaba at about 17.00.

Now were back on track. Tired – dead tired, but back on track. :dance:

Now the worst is over - even the fact that we were both too tired to get the cameras out of the luggage for the drive to Letaba doesn't matter.

_________________
"Birmingham people, you guys take care of us. We have to give you all the respect Birmingham."

(Usain Bolt August 2012)


Last edited by Brummie on Wed Aug 15, 2007 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:25 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 3:32 pm
Posts: 483
Location: Birmingham - UK (the original and still the best!)
Kruger Park – July 23rd – 27th

The sun dawned bright on the morning of the 23rd July. Well, I assume it did, it was bright and sunny when we managed to stagger into the world. It took many days before we were in any way recovered from our nightmare start.

Any road up, once we were out and about and breakfasted the first job was to send a text to MM to arrange a mini-meet. Mobile was u/s – the battery needed recharging. So plan B – put ‘phone on charge and drive down to the Oliphants region and see if I could spot a YR. Well, that was a failure, but we did spend some quality time with a lovely friendly herd of ellies!

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Nothing much else to comment on – late lunched at Oliphants then slowly made our way back to the H1-5 and then back to Letaba.

The ‘phone had charged – so far so good – but a red-winged starling had somehow invaded or hutlet and, well, it had pooed everywhere. Allocate the next hour or more to ejecting trespasser and cleaning up bird sh*t. We then opted for a rest as were booked to take a night drive. It yielded 2 Steenbok, 1 Ellie, 2 owls and 1 AWC. Oh yes, and a Coke can lying gleaming on the roadside in the spotlights.

Now if we had known what sort of a start we were going to have we wouldn’t have pre-booked a morning walk for the next day. But we didn’t, so we did (if you see what I mean!). So bleary eyed we trooped off into the bush. We saw a hippo (about 400 metres away – disappearing behind a rock) and a small group of zebra (again a distance away). Being driven back to camp we met this rather splendid gent, however.

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Once back at Letaba we set off up north, lunched at Mopani, stopped on the tropic (no dance or weird ritual, just a photo) and then headed back towards Letaba via the Capricorn loop and the S50. Usual suspects, ellies, zebra, giraffe, kudu, impies, ostrich, one single blue wildebeeste. Then, cruising down the S50 at about 30kph, I spotted a bum sticking out from behind the bushes, fawny grey – it didn’t look like an kudu so I braked and backed up. Briefly I saw it’s head and realised I was looking at – a roan! We waited around for a good 20 minutes for a photo opportunity, but it gradually moved away, and then so did we. Back to Letaba chuffed to bits – no photo but we had seen a roan!

Next day (the 25th) we set out as soon as the gate opened and headed off towards Olifants for breakfast. Then we trundled down the H1-5 and on to the H1-4 heading towards Skukuza – again nothing exciting, just the usual stuff. About 11.00 we saw a YR coming in the other direction – we waved, I stopped and then watched in my rear-view mirror as it disappeared into the distance!

A detour to Orpen dam produced some crocs and herons then a quartet of buffs popped down for a mud bath. Checked in at Skukuza then had another drive round before an evening meal at the Selati (shame that class 24 won’t move again – but that’s a different conservation as opposed to preservation - issue!)

The 26th was cloudy and almost looked like it might rain (it didn’t). For our last full day in Kruger we opted to drive to Lower Sabie and then cut across to Pretoriuskop. That was the plan until we got to LS and saw a german couple sticking pins at the same spot on the sightings board (lion,leopard and hyaena) near Skukuza. So we decided to back track “just in case” and then head off to P’kop – wrong – should have kept to the plan – a few monkeys a bushbuck and a couple of ground hornbills (plus impies of course!) no kitties or hyaena. Rather dejectedly we checked in at Pretoriuskop.

For the final day, we opted to leave early(ish), so after a drive round a couple of the loops we headed for Numbi gate. Nearly there when we spotted two cars on the roadside that pulled away as we approached. Just in time we saw 3 white rhino slowly lawn-mowering their way away into the distance. KNP wishing us ‘bon voyage’ I guess.

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Sorry, but you aren’t invited to our 30th Wedding Anniversay celebration (can’t afford THAT much champagne) so you will have to wait until July 30th for the next part of this report! TTFN.

_________________
"Birmingham people, you guys take care of us. We have to give you all the respect Birmingham."

(Usain Bolt August 2012)


Last edited by Brummie on Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 1:46 pm 
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Senior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2004 12:06 am
Posts: 1756
Location: the Netherlands
The ellie is Hlanganini, named after the spruit south of Letaba camp. For more info on the big tuskers of past, present and future visit the pages under Letaba Elephant Hall.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 30, 2007 5:38 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 3:32 pm
Posts: 483
Location: Birmingham - UK (the original and still the best!)
Onward and eventually homeward

Blimey, have I left it this long? Oh well.

You guys missed a treat at our anniversary bash – fine food, fine wine and a private table in a private room to enjoy it all.

Any road up, we left our secret location somewhere south of Bloemfontein early on the morning of the 30th and headed south to Cradock. Needing a few bits ‘n’ bobs we popped into Cradock, shopped, had lunch (Biiiiiig mistake!) then back-tracked to the Mountain Zebra NP.

The drive into the park yielded ostrich, red hartebeest, springbok, kudu, gemsbok and eland.

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These eland seem a tad wary of itinerant Brummies

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This is more the welcome we expected!

We were booked in at the guesthouse (it was all that was available when we booked). For those who haven’t stayed there – do! It’s magic – well worth the few extra Rand. Those of you who have stayed there will know what we mean.
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We had a choice of three bedrooms – we chose this one.

An afternoon drive presented us with a few springbok, some black wildebeest, kudu, red hartebeest and a very nosey ostrich that seemed to want to climb in with us!

Then it was back to the restcamp for a rather splendid evening meal. They arranged for the camp gate to be left open for us, so that we could drive back to the cottage. Great – our own freebie night-drive! All we saw was a couple of kudu, but the experience of driving back to the cottage at night was a real thrill.

Next morning we breakfasted at the cottage and then drove both of the two loops. The Rooiplaat loop seemed fairly quiet, some black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok and kudu (all at a distance from the road)
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and a solitary buff with a snooty look on his face.

Then we tackled the Kranskop loop. As others have said, this loop is, in places, tricky when using an ordinary car. Water levels were low so crossing the streams was quite easy; however, some of the steep climbs were a tad daunting. We were the first of the day to travel the loop (we know because we were breaking ice at each crossing!). Mountain zebra (of course!), mountain reedbuck, springbok, kudu and a more interesting group of buffs were our tally – then back to the restcamp for lunch and then we set off for Addo. Sadly no rhino (baby or otherwise)

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So that was the Mountain Zebra finished with.

Well not quite. We left the restcamp and had travelled about 1 km when an animal trotted across the road in front of us. It was unmistakable, it was a cheetah – sadly by the time we reached where it had crossed it was well on its way up the hillside – too far away to photograph (just like that pesky roan in KNP!). We sat and watched its leisurely progress up the hillside until we could no longer see it (about 15 minutes in all when we didn’t see another vehicle) and then said a sad farewell to MZNP.

Addo was reached late-afternoon and by the time we had found our rondawel and settled in there was only time for a short foray which yielded very little, then we had an evening meal and settled down for the night.

Next morning we set out to cover most of Addo’s roads. As with Kruger, it seemed as though most of the game had decided to take a winter break. We came across a BBJ busily trying to unearth something,
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but apart from ellies, warthog, kudu, ostrich and red hartebeest, not a lot popped up. A bushbuck gave us a wary look and then scuttled away, a hoopoe led us a merry dance as it posed on one branch, waited for us to frame a photo (missed!) and then flapped off to another branch to pose again.
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We returned to the main camp for a light lunch and then a lesson in not trusting anyone. The guy on the gate recognising us from the morning let us into the game area without a pass. Coming back ready for our planned meet with HP the chap was a different one – and it took a bit of explaining as to why we hadn’t got a permit! Eventually he let us go and after a quick dash to reception our second meet did actually happen.

Having grilled HP for any info on the likeliest places to find lion, we set out the next morning with a plan (and we know all know what happens to Brummie’s plans!). Sadly Addo didn’t have any farewell gift and all we saw on our way to Colchester was a few kudu and some ostriches (at a distance).

So we set off towards Swellendam. We stopped overnight at George and then after a diversion via Oudtshoorn arrived at the Bontebok NP mid-afternoon.

The weather from Brummieland was catching us up now and we were greeted by grey skies that threatened rain. Our best sighting was the small herd of bontebok that we passed on our way to reception.
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I guess you can see how grey it and damp it was splashing round the park.
We found that the area around Lang Elsie’s Kraal was shut off completely (judging from the work going on there, the announcement in June about new accommodation was a tad premature!), as was part of both of the loops. We spotted a few bontebok and zebra – all a long way from the road – and a solitary secretary bird, again a long way away. That was it! Given the poor weather and the road closures, we decided to call it a day and headed off into Swellendam to find our overnight accommodation.

The next morning we decided that, rather than revisit the Bontebok NP, we would press on to Simon’s Town. We now had two nights booked in the Boulders Beach Lodge – so we now enjoyed what was a virtual three-day pengfest.

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This was the first family we met so we visited them every morning and night!
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And this little guy asked to be remembered to Gwennie.

OK, we did quick forays to Cape Point (three baboons) and Kirstenbosch, but the penguins took centre stage.

After a couple of days in Cape Town (with typical Brummieland rain) we headed north on the N1 – for an overnight stay and a mooch around the Karoo NP. Game-wise this wasn’t very rewarding. There was a few black wildebeest, a couple of red hartebeest and some ostrich, oh yes, and a pair of black eagles doing practice bombing runs over our chalet. However, the real winner was the scenery.
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Part of the route up Klipspringer pass was closed (where did you read that before?), but what we did see was well worth the visit. We left mid-morning for the drive to Kimberley.

Now, Kimberley proved very frustrating. Our ‘quiet’ evening meal was spoiled somewhat by having a foghorn leghorn of a woman sitting at a table near us telling the entire dining room how splendid it was to shoot everything that moves. She was still advocating slaughtering everything in the neighbourhood after we had finished our meal – so we left her to her carnage and retired for the night! After three weeks of enjoying the fruits of wild-life conservation this was a real downer.

Next day, after the obligatory visit to the Big Hole (It was EF’s first visit to SA) we tried to find Mokala. We should have read some of the later posts on the forum! Another Brummie plan went down the pan – we got hopelessly lost and gave up. So we opted for an early night, ready for the drive to Jo’burg and the flight home. Shame, we were looking forward to visiting the new park.

Strange as it may seem, we actually got back to Jo’burg, caught our flight and got back to UK. OK, the plane arrived 15 minutes early and we then had to wait nearly an hour before we could get off – but compared to the outward flight………

But there is a final twist. When we got home and started downloading our photos onto our PC Brummie discovered that all the photos taken with a newly bought 70 - 300mm zoom lens were blurred. I went back to the supplier and discovered that the lens was, how can I put it – er – knackered, it was stuck at f22 so all my photos had been exposed at about 1/30th of a second – or slower- with attendant shake and blurring. Yep, Brummie’s bad luck just keeps coming back to bite him on the bum. Good job EF went bananas with her camera. Lesson – don’t buy a new lens 1 week before you leave – and if you do test it carefully!

So that’s it. We covered over 6,300Km and visited 6 National Parks. There were highs and lows, plans that went wrong and a few that went right.

The highlights for Brummie? – The roan antelope and rhino in Kruger and the Cheetah in Mountain Zebra.

The highlights for Ezio Fan? Got to be the penguins (about 130 photos prove it!) and the guest cottage at MZNP. Also those fabulous Kruger sunsets and sunrises.

The lows? Two nights without any sleep worth calling that, followed by the drive from the Airport to Letaba with EF feeding Brummie ‘stay awake’ pills. Driving past half a dozen dead goats lying on the R71, obviously killed by a speeding driver, leaving rivulets of blood all over the road. Not being able to locate Mokala, Fog-horn Leghorn at Kimberley and; oh yes, the discovery that Brummie’s zoom lens was kaput.

Should we have spent longer? – well, yes and no. We felt that we could have happily spent longer in MZNP (provided we could have the guest cottage!) Kruger, likewise could have done with more time – we missed the real north and there were places we would have liked to see that we didn’t have time for. But that applies to South Africa in general. We didn’t have time to visit Kgalagadi or Augrabies and we missed out KwaZulu-Natal in its entirety. Having said all that 3 weeks of near constant travelling with only one driver is probably enough!

Finally, some thoughts about cleanliness and catering within the parks and camps. Because it was a celebration of 30 years of wholly deadlock we had opted against self-catering so we were at the mercy of the camp restaurants and cafeterias. Now, some weeks after our return, we can look back and pretend to be food critics.

Looking at all the parks, the worst food we received (no contest) was at Addo. It was luke warm, greasy and totally unappetising. (The bacon Brummie received at breakfast the first morning was so overcooked he couldn’t chew it, let alone eat it! An experience only endured once!)

The KNP cafeterias all offered cheap meals and seemed fairly consistently offering reasonable quality food. The idea of a wholemeal cheese and tomato toastie for breakfast may seem odd to some , but if you wanted it, you could get it!

The best? Well, we could say the Selati Train at Skukuza which offered good food in themed surroundings, but we think that it was edged out into second place by the restaurant at Mountain Zebra – the food was excellent, cooked perfectly and reasonably priced (the brandy pudding was to die for).

_________________
"Birmingham people, you guys take care of us. We have to give you all the respect Birmingham."

(Usain Bolt August 2012)


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