Skip to content

SANParks.org Forums

View unanswered posts | View active topics






Post new topic Reply to topic  Page 1 of 4
 [ 60 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 10, 2008 7:26 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Please remember to read the updated reports of Ndoto as she visits the different Parks on the SANParks Blog.

I am an intern writer for SANParks and going around the country to the different Parks. Since I am in the bush most of the time, it's difficult to update in "real time" as things like 3G or even a mobile signal is not available.

As soon as there is a signal, I update the blog with my impressions about each Park.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think. If you have any questions, please feel welcome to let me hear them.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:10 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
I will updating the Forum as well as the SANParks Blog with my visits to the different Parks over the next weeks. If you did not read the topic, I am an intern for SANParks, traveling to all the different Parks - also see the "Recommended Reading" thread where you can read Admin's introduction.

I hope you enjoy!

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:15 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
It is day two of my journey and about time to write something.

Well….firstly, I need to introduce myself….

Ndoto is the Swahili word for dream, in case anyone was wondering about my name. It was given to me as a “blessing” name to accompany me on the journey I have undertaken until the end of the year. In short, my passion…SANParks…and one I will be sharing with you during my visits to the various Parks.

I hope you will enjoy my updates and adventures.

Ndoto

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 9:57 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Thank you for making me feel so welcome!

1 July 2008 (Continued)

I am sorry that the diaries are taking a bit of time to get to the Blog – in the bush things have their own way of developing, and Internet…well…it’s not always available. Please be patient with the updates, they are typed daily, and will be posted as the wind blows a good 3G signal…

Driving to Tlopi tented camp takes one closer into the mountains. The Waterberg massif is incredible and as the road twisted and turned, I saw a new face to the undulating mountain range. It was late afternoon when we arrived in the valley where the tented camp overlooks a dam. There are ten tents in the camp, each represented by a bird. We stayed in the first tent – Plover. The tents are really well planned. A kitchen area with a dining table, a well-sized fridge, basin, kettle, hotplate and everything else a person might need to whip up a fabulous bush dinner. Nice touches were the kitchen towels and dishwashing liquid.

The kitchen area and the en-suite sleeping area is connected with a deck and an ample braai. Another thoughtful feature of the tents is the lighting – a strong spotlight for the braai area and a small neon light at the working surface in the kitchen. Once dinner is made, there are electrified lanterns to cast a soft glow in the darkness. The bedroom has two single beds and one can fit two stretchers in with ease. I loved the bathroom, a separate shower and toilet and a built in bench complete with a rustic washbasin made of galvanized sink.

Since it was the first day of my new-found freedom, we celebrated with a chilled bottle of champagne whilst the setting sun turned the mountains and water into hues of gold. That familiar feeling of peace that I experience in the bush started to settle inside me. My senses started to open up – the sound of birds, the intermittent splashing of fish when they break surface…the rustling of reeds in the evening breeze…

2-3 July 2008

Now; the story of the tent mouse…

While we prepared dinner, we noticed little things amiss…like the kettle plug and plastic handles of the can opener that were badly battle-scared. Being a woman of the bush, I realized that this was the workings of a rodent, and since we humans enter a domain of nature and all her creatures, it’s not a problem for me to accept their presence. But nothing could prepare me for tent mouse… Cutest little mouse with large black eyes and a penchant for plastic and aluminum foil. Yes, you read correctly. Thus, my advice, keep your food securely stowed away, especially your plastic containers and foil! (This includes chocolate wrappers…)

Much of our second day was spent in town due to a computer problem we had to sort out. We could luckily salvage all the data, but it took quite a while to restore and update all the software, of which some is internet based. There is mobile reception at Tlopi camp, but the 3G signal fluctuates like mad, thus, we also hung around town where the signal is strong enough to download updates. We returned at gate-closing time, relieved that at least the notebook was in some working shape again but a little peeved about loosing a whole day in the bush.

Day three saw us eager to get into the bush once more. We took the Mbidi Loop that links to a 4X4 trail. A gentle winter’s morning greeted us as we traveled high up on the foot of the mountain where we overlooked the tented camp below. Zebra, wildebeest and baboons were warming themselves in the sun. The 4X4 trail started out mildly but as soon as we crossed the river, I was really happy to have my experienced partner on my side. The most serious 4×4-ing Ndoto ever did personally was to drive through a shallow river in Kruger. The route is beautiful though, and all around, the trees and shrubs were dressed in the last rich warm reds and russets of their autumn foliage. As we traveled onwards, other 4×4 enthusiasts passed us as they were returning on the loop road. And they were grinning broadly…boys and their toys….although I thought that this was just as exiting, especially as I did not have to negotiate some of the dongas and rocks… (I would have turned around in my Sandton pavement special long ago already…) And all this while my partner was munching calmly on some dried wors and still had time to point out a couple of birds.

By the time we finished the trail – it is approximately 10 kilometers in total – it was afternoon again. We returned to camp for some sustenance and took a leisurely walk up the road to look at the different tent locations. The best tents in my opinion are the last three – Cormorant, Barbet and Loerie.

Back at our tent, we started to prepare dinner – we were BUSHED! It was getting very cold and we decided to turn in early as we were heading for Bontle camp the next day. I would suggest to anyone visiting Tlopi camp to bring warm clothing in winter, as the dam in front of the tents makes the temperature drop quite fast once the sun starts to set. It was our last night at this unique tented camp, and as I prepared potatoes, I noticed that tent mouse had a healthy nibble at some of them. I felt much better, knowing that at least it got some fibre in its diet…

Ndoto

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 8:52 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
@ salamanda: The tents are situated on the edge of the water. There are trees surrounding the tents and they are relatively close to each other. I think I mentioned that I quite liked Loerie (the last tent on eastern side of the camp) because it had a big tree incorporated into the deck. The tents are built in such a way that you are quite private yet not isolated.

@ anne-marie: An intern is someone that renders voluntary services to an organization. I do not live in a specific Park but traveling from one Park to another in order to learn about the full spectrum of SANPark's offering. Up to now I have been absolutely bowled over by the magnitude and diversity of what SANParks has to offer.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:04 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Marakele : 4 July 2008

So much for being a bush woman… I sort of felt anxious at today’s prospect. It was my initiation to camping. Now, before you all think I am fully fledged Kugel – I have camped before, in a tent on a permanent deck, which should count for something. Ok, I was seriously nervous to do the “real” thing.

Most of our day was spent traveling on the roads in Kwaggasvlakte. We had a magnificent sighting of seven white rhino, tsessebe, ostrich, zebra, impala and even a new tick for our bird list. If you are a keen birder, I am sure that Marakele will delight you. Even in a “quiet” season like winter, there was a good variety of birds.

We were really struggling to get a strong signal for our 3G, and had to travel back to Thabazimbi. A yummy late breakfast later and all our computer work done, we decided to pop in at the little shop opposite Marakele’s entrance. The basic necessities like bread, tinned food, milk and a small selection of liquor is available there and reasonably priced. Instead of returning to the Park, we carried on with the road that runs parallel with the borders of Marakele. After a few kilometers it becomes a gravel road which takes you into the mountains. We spotted our first Cape Vultures circling the blue sky. A few more twists and turns and we were at the back of the mountain where the vulture nests were visible through binoculars. We watched for a while as these magnificent birds soared above us and turned back – it was getting late and there was a camp to be made.

Bontle camp site was quite full but we found a suitable spot with a nice view over the plains and drinking hole. By the time we arrived, a white rhino and her calf were having a sundowner drink. The sun was setting and my partner started to unpack the camping stuff with haste. A few minutes later, the roof-top tent unfolded and I watched with amazement at the deftness of it all. My mesmerized state was shortcut when my partner asked what we were going to have for dinner… Dinner!? Simba chips with a G&T?

There is nothing like a starry night with a warm fire whilst your potjie is bubbling away. The aromas of everybody’s dinner filled the camp – the smells were delicious. I sipped my drink and grinned. It was my first night of camping and I felt proud. A meal was cooking over the coals and our bed was made in the tent. The jackals started to call from somewhere in the darkness. A White faced owl hooted.

Something stirred inside of me, nature seeped into my being. Why have I never considered camping before? It felt as if all the windows to the bush opened and I was included in a dark African night filled with calls of the wild …

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:11 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
5 & 6 July

Ndoto survived her first night of camping. The roof-top tent is really comfortable and cozy! Getting cheekier by the minute, I cooked bacon and eggs in the cool morning air and we had breakfast while watching the kudu and impala having their morning drink at the water hole. The Redbilled Hornbills who excitedly told us about the new day accompanied us during our meal, all the while keeping a sharp lookout for any morsel that might land on the ground. After we broke camp, we travelled to the Sentec Towers.

What an awesome drive! The road winds slowly up the mountain giving breathless views of the valley below. Another dimension of this route is the flora. African Beechwood trees form canopies over the road, clumps of common Sugar Bush, Erica bushes and ferns hiding in the shade of the trees. Higher up on the mountain road, there is a mountain stream that filters through the stone. The drive left me exhilarated – although the road is quite narrow, there are landings where one can turn into to pass oncoming traffic – but it was quite an adrenalin rush to look down from such heights. The top of the mountain has views forever, but our mission for today was not to explore the short trails – we were eager to see the Cape Vultures. It was close to mid-day and if there enough warm currents, we would be fortunate to see these incredible birds in flight and perhaps take a few photographs. We were in luck! The vultures were circling lazily in the clear blue sky and they were close enough for good photographs. Marekele hosts one of the largest colonies of Cape Vultures and quite a unique experience to see them in flight. It was like watching an air show of well-rehearsed airplanes. We spent almost three hours on the mountain watching the vultures. By late afternoon we realized that we were starving and started to return to Bontle.

On our way we had a wonderful sighting of three Klipspringer and Mountain Reedbuck. As we passed underneath Hoopdal road into Kwaggasvlakte, we were met by Blue Wildebeest, Impala and baboons lazing in the last rays of the sun. A quick stop at the gate to get ice and firewood and then we were ready for our second night of camping. The camp was much more quiet than the previous night, thus we really had a good spot much closer to the edge of the camp that overlooks the water hole. There was quite a lot of activity going on at the water’s edge. Four rhinos were drinking, kudu, tsessebe and impala were sauntering in from the bushes. A family of quirky warthogs ran ahead to reserve the best place for drinking.

We tore ourselves away from this idyllic scene to make ready for the night, as the sun was setting fast. Tonight went much faster, perhaps because we wanted to keep on watching the activity at the waterhole, or perhaps it was that I had a much better idea of what to do. By the time we were settled, we had a huge surprise… The four rhinos casually walked into the camping site and grazed leisurely on the grass. What amazed me was the respect that everyone at the site had shown towards the animals, not wanting to disturb this closeness. There was a hush over the camp and everyone spoke in an almost whisper. I have never been so close to rhinos in my life, and this will be a memory I will treasure. The last light of day flowed through the wintry veld, turning the rhinos into coppery enigmas as they moved through the camp and past the boundaries where our human eyes could no longer see. I sighed at the sheer pleasure of the encounter.

It was almost as if the rhinos carried a message to us. Our next stop was Mapungubwe – the place of the golden rhino, but alas, I am getting ahead of myself again…

My overall impression of Marakele is that of diversity. It offers quite a number of interesting options for nature and outdoor lovers. It is a comfortable drive of approximate three hours from Johannesburg or Pretoria for a long weekend break-away. The roads in the Kwaggasvlakte camp are accessible to normal sedan vehicles and the route up to the Sentec towers is tarred. The road to Tlopi tented camp is gravel, but accessible with a sedan vehicle. A map of the park will be provided to you at reception and the routes for 4×4 vehicles will be indicated.

There is also Ikhutseng Picnic Site with shady trees for a nice lunch stop-over. There are facilities for braaing with tables and benches. If you are a keen bird-watcher, Marakele will certainly provide you with a number of new ticks, especially the Cape Vultures, which are quite a sighting. Mountain reedbuck as well as rhebuck abound, tsessebe and a good number of white rhino provide that extra pleasure for game watching, although there are plentiful plains game as well.

So, pack your tent and hiking boots and head for the Waterberg.

Marakele is waiting for you!

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 22, 2008 12:29 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Thank you for all your feedback! :) Next up: Mapungubwe! :P


Mapungubwe (Where Rocks Whisper Secrets...)

July 7

Our frosty awakening at Marakele is soon forgotten as we travel further north. Layers of jackets are shed as the journey progressed towards Ellisras where we got supplies for the next leg of our expedition. By the time we arrived, we were down to short sleeves, laughing at the scarves and beanies on the back seat of the car. Due to a Telkom problem in Ellisras, our anticipated better signal for downloading mail and uploading my diary on the blog was blown away in the wind once again. :wall: No card facilities were available and the banks came to a halt – resulting in quite a chaotic little town. There is one phrase that really helps me to look at things like this with a sense of humour. The Swiss might have invented watches, but time was made in Africa… :whistle:

Two hours later, we were on our way once more, traveling on the back roads roughly along the Botswana border. A scenic and very interesting route, but not advisable if you are in a hurry, as there are more potholes than tar at some places. A pocket of sticky sweet oranges later and All Days loomed. This is the last town where supplies are available if you are traveling via Polokwane. Two filling stations with general supply shops and liquor stores as well as butcheries can supply basic requirements. There is currently no wood or ice available at Mapungubwe, so remember to stock up on these items – especially ice – if you like cold G&T’s.

As soon as we turned into the R572, I became aware of the presence of the rocky hills. It seemed as if winter was slow to find its way up here – the Mopani shrubs had sprinklings of yellow leaves in between green foliage. The baobab trees were bare, their root-like branches etched against the blue sky.

By late afternoon we were checked in and traveling towards Leokwe camp. The western sun cast shadows on the rocks, changing their faces and all the while, I felt the powerful surge of their secrets, an ancient presence of life that truly knew the valleys of the Limpopo…

Leokwe camp is awesome! The site nestles in a rocky kloof with sprinklings of baobab trees. Each unit has a unique view of the terrain. By late afternoon the ambience becomes magical when the sun turns everything into a coppery hue. The architecture and elements used for the units mould into the landscape. Spacious and very well planned. After camping for a few days, everything felt quite luxurious and it was! In my opinion, Leokwe’s facilities are good value for money. Our unit had a spacious bedroom, a bathroom with a view over the hills and an outdoor shower which is very well shielded to provide privacy…well…that is if you don’t count the birds ogling you from the trees, but then, who could say they were birding whilst having a shower?

There is a living area with dining room table that leads into the well-equipped kitchen. Microwave! (A real bonus!) A very cozy patio with a great braai that also has a frying plate similar to a skottel for juicy steaks or an outdoor breakfast. I loved the neutral finishes and the good quality furniture of the unit. Lastly, Leokwe has an incredible rock pool that affords a wonderful view of the valley with an entertainment area that will certainly comfort a weary hot body on a summer’s day. Did I mention already that I love this camp?

We enjoyed the last beautiful light of the sun on our patio, still in short sleeves. Night announced itself as the evening star started to glimmer in the indigo sky. Stillness settled over the land.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 8:43 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Mapungubwe (Continued)

8 July

When we arrived the day before, we had met Tshimangadzo Nemahenl, the park manager of Mapungubwe, who also introduced us to Paballo Mohafa, the heritage manager. We set up a meeting to get more background information on the Park. Both are passionate about what they do and it shows.

Mapungubwe is a world heritage site with an incredible historical significance. At Mapungubwe hill, there is a covered digging where public can view the different layers of archeological finds. The other sites, 98 in total, are not accessible by public at this point in time, although the guided tour to Mapungubwe hill was enough to make me realize just how significant this Park is in the conservation of ancient heritage.

Our meeting with Tshimangadzo and Paballo held an incredible surprise and a great honour – we were taken to a site where we could view rock art. This set the tone for understanding the magical current that is ever present in this Park. Perhaps it is an awareness of threading on sacred ground of people who had lived here and left messages that still exist today. There was a breathless moment when I looked at the delicately painted figures on the rock and realized that I was standing in the place of ancient forebears. My heart sang a song of Africa it had found in the recess of the whispering rocks, it mingled with my blood and I knew that my soul belonged to this continent. I was made of sun and African dust.

The morning left me mesmerized. My thoughts had become one with the land, I felt it pulsing through me. There were so many questions inside me. Paballo patiently answered some of them as we drove back, but nothing could prepare me for what I had felt inside. Mapungubwe is not just another destination to see, it is a place that compels you to ponder, to think deeper… I had listened to the pride in Tshimangadzo’s voice as he explained his thoughts on this Park, and my heart listened to his words. It was time for us to explore on our own and we greeted our generous hosts.

We headed in the direction of Schroda dam where a 4X4 route starts. It was hot by now and the light had become very bright. The mid-morning haze hung over the horizon and coloured the rocks in a stark yellow-brown. We passed the building site for the Interpretive Centre where there was a flurry of activity. From what I could see, the architecture resembles the Zimbabwe ruins – I am looking forward to this addition to the Park where visitors will be able to learn more about Mapungubwe and its rich legacy.

Not far from the Kanniedood Loop, a small plain presented us with quite a number of animals – eland, zebra, oryx, wildebeest, giraffe and black-baked jackal! It looked as if the animals gathered for a meeting. Indeed, the morning was full of surprises. The 4X4 route was not so challenging, but took us deeper and deeper into hills and then suddenly cleared into the Khongoni plain where we looked at the silvery pools in the Limpopo river from a distance. A pair of Verreaux’s eagles soared past and disappeared into the infinity of sky.

We looped back and ended up on a narrow road that runs along the border fence. The riverine trees and dense shrubs allowed short glimpses of the Limpopo river but it was on this road where my childhood heart started to look for forest fairies that would hide in the massive Nyala trees. No photograph would be able to tell about the beauty and uniqueness of each of these elders as we passed slowly, almost respectful, not wanting to disturb the dappled sun that gently shimmered through their leaves.

Too soon the road turned and took us to Zebra pan where we found a troupe of baboons quenching their afternoon thirst. A Burchell’s Cougal scampered in the reeds long enough for us to identify it, a pair of Egyptian geese and a solitary Grey heron hardly moved in the heat. We travelled to the confluence lookout but decided that would we would attempt this when it was a little bit cooler.

Armed with a G&T and snacks, we set out a bit later in the afternoon to watch the sun set from the decks. The confluence lookout is spectacular, from different decks one can see almost forever. The Shashe and Limpop rivers flow together at this point, dissecting three countries; South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Looking westward, I stood in awe of the picture that kept on transforming in front of my eyes; pinks changed to soft violet purples, shimmering gold turned into ochre and deep orange, the rocks became burnished bronze and trees became dark silhouettes against the flaming orb that sunk on the horizon whilst the pools of water in the Limpopo mirrored the steel grey of oncoming dusk. As the shadows became denser, we turned back on the path and I wished that I could stay to see the stars come out, to see them reflect on the mirrors of the river, but it was time to go for the leopard needed to leave fresh imprints of its presence on the sandy path…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:36 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Mapungubwe (Continued)

9 July

The sun rose over the grass domes of Leokwe camp as I took my outside shower. There was a little nip in the air just to remind me that it was actually winter. I felt the luxurious hot water trickle down my back and looked at the orange tinted sky. My heart was soaring with joy. What an incredible privilege to be in these magical places of Africa.

Since I was so impressed with the steel plate at the braai, we decided to give it a breakfast bash. Everything can be cooked on one surface whilst watching and listening to the awakening bush. A ground squirrel peeked over the wall and a francolin jumped on a rock nearby to give us a glassy eye, a baobab tree stood motionless in the morning air, its trunk shiny in the soft light, bearing witness to the things that humans do for a hundred years perhaps?

We were heading for the Kanniedood Loop today but decided to go to the tree top walk while it was still cool. Greeted by the words of Rudyard Kipling, “At last he came to the banks of the great grey-green greasy Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees”, we entered the walk amidst the singing of birds. There high above the ground, we were carried in the arms of the trees, looking down at life below with their eyes. I stopped and touched the silky yellow trunk of the Fever tree and rubbed the powder like residue between my hands. Oh, to be a tree, to feel the wind play in your branches, to kiss the first rays of sun in early morning… Below a shy bushbuck ambled past and hid in the shrubs, a family of baboons sat quietly in the sunny spots before starting their foraging for the day. The birdhide was damaged by flooding and only a small portion is still intact, but that did not hinder our sighting of bee-eaters and kingfishers.

On our way to Kanniedood, we spotted a number of Red Hartebeest and a family of Klipspringer. Once again at the little plain, we saw giraffe, oryx and black-backed jackal. Kanniedood trail was a little tougher than the previous day’s 4X4 trail, but then I must comment that if you have an experienced driver, everything looks pretty negotiable from the passenger seat. At one stage the road disappeared on a solid rock mass and I wondered how we were going to get through it, but in true unfazed fashion, my partner pointed out a little brown bird and asked what it might be… Ok, watching LBJ’s and navigating rocks that look like widely spaced steps must be the ultimate…whilst I’m chewing my nails on the side…

We finished the trail by mid-afternoon and headed for Vhembe Trails camp where we would overnight. This camp was originally used for trails but is also available for exclusive use with a maximum of eight persons. There are four A-frame huts that sleep two persons each. Vhembe camp is set against a hill and overlooks a valley. Each unit has a shower, separate toilet and washbasin and a small deck that affords magnificent views of the valley, especially when the sun sets. The units form a semi-circle around a lapa where the kitchen and dining room is situated. This area is unique as the eastern wall is formed by natural rock. The dining room deck overlooks the lapa with stairs leading down to it. I loved the dining room and kitchen area. The long solid wood table with safari chairs creates a feeling reminiscent of colonial Africa. The kitchen is compact with good-sized fridge and stove with oven. The camp operates on solar power and gas which added to the ambience of being somewhere remote in the bush. (And yes, it is remote and very private)

To the north-western side of the camp, there is a small rock-pool to provide refreshment after a long hot day. An ideal place to sip on a sundowner, but beware, it’s a bit of climb to get there and not recommended for an after-dark venture or too many sundowners before you head back to camp… The water was icy cold although it was rather hot, so we opted to sit on the edge with our feet dangling in the coolness for a while.

After lunch we drove to Zebra pan, hoping that we will find elephants drinking there. We did find one elephant, but he had other plans and was soon out of our sight. We did not see much activity at the waterhole and decided to return to camp. At Vhembe you park your vehicle at the bottom of the hill where canopies are provided, so bear in mind that you will work up quite a thirst to carry your stuff up the hill…

I left my partner at the parking place and started to walk uphill to the camp, heading for the kitchen to look for something cold to drink. Noise and pattering feet met me as I opened the gate to the kitchen enclosure. Baboons scattered all over the place! When we arrived at the camp earlier, the caretaker warned us about them, but thinking that we secured the interleading door from the dining room to the kitchen well enough, we were in for a surprise at just how clever these primates are. I knew we were raided, we were in the bush after all…but it was really not nice of them to eat all our lemons as well… A G&T is just not the same without a slice of lemon.

After a few powerful words of wisdom spoken loudly to the now silent hillside, I cleaned up the remains of the baboon party whilst my partner poured me a G&T to calm me down and we went to our unit’s deck to watch the sun set. Needless to say that we secured everything now a little too late.

Below us in the valley, a herd of impala rams were giving chase to each other, warthogs were going about their business and the elephant bull of earlier browsed some distance away from us. A few minutes later, a white rhino appeared and grazed peacefully a few meters away from the elephant. Serenity enfolded us as day prepared to make way for night. A little while after darkness settled in, we returned to the lapa from our deck and made fire. I watched the reflection of the flames on the stonewall and the song of ancients returned to my being. It was only the stars overhead and the light of the fire and two people somewhere on a hill in Africa. I sighed and lit a candle to place on the long dining room table. A nightjar called from somewhere and accentuated the complete and utter silence.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2008 8:55 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Thank you for your positive feedback! I hope that you are all itching to visit these Parks.

Mapungubwe (Continued)

10 July

I woke early and scampered over the rocks to the little pool to see the sun come up over the hills. I also noticed that the baboons were awake, sunning themselves before they scheme up new ways to raid camp. I smiled to myself, this was how it was to live in the bush, the different synergies that brings us back to the basics of life. Food and survival, not only for animals, but a reminder to my humanity of vulnerable we really are when we are exposed to life beyond concrete walls.

I made coffee and woke my partner. We opened the door to the deck and watched the valley below. The impalas grazed peacefully but there were no signs of the elephant or rhino we had seen the previous afternoon. After breakfast, we reluctantly left Vhembe, the little camp had stolen our hearts, a place of solitude and serenity where I could stay for a long time just to soak up all that nature was willing to give, including baboons that steal your wors, break your last bottle of red wine and eat your precious lemons with peel and all.

We were off to the western side of Mapungubwe and our itinerary included the Tshughulu Eco route. We stopped over at Tshughulu Lodge which was being upgraded at the time, but still did not fail to impress me. The lodge can accommodate twelve people, the lodge has three large bedrooms which are en-suite and two cottages, one with two bedrooms and a one bedroomed unit close to a large sparkling pool. The site is surrounded by large boulders which gives a dramatic feel to the place. The garden is very well maintained with an abundance of birds. The kitchen is well equipped with walk-in fridges, a laundry and an entertainment area that is very impressive. The second level of the lodge houses a boardroom or alternatively another entertainment area. I am really curious to see the finished product, thus have a good reason to return soon…

Back to the eco-route; perhaps my partner was building my tolerance levels with each day’s 4X4 routes, as the eco-route was somewhat more difficult than both we did previously. The Tshughulu route is marked with small boards with a rhino emblem, and at times I got a little panicky, not seeing any of them for a while. We crossed sandy terrain, a bit of mud, up hill, down hill, rocks and then, when finally thought that the trail disappeared at a windpump, we were surrounded by a breeding herd of elephants with two very tiny calves. There were those curious rock steps again and no sign of comforting rhino boards or tracks. We eased forward and then saw the upside-down sign on a rock, whilst the elephants were slowly passing us by within a few meters.

Ndoto is in general fearless, but elephants are my nemesis. I become very quiet and my partner takes my hand (he is also negotiating the rocky steps…) and soothes me with gentle phrases such as, “they are so peaceful, don’t be scared…” I am calculating how it will be possible to reverse on the rocky steps…

In what seemed way too easy, we are on solid ground again and another rhino marker is in clear sight, but the elephants are between us and the way forward. So partner switches off the engine and settles in for what I know as the long wait. Casually changes camera lenses and starts clicking away. Hmmm, I might as well enjoy the last minutes on earth while we wait for an angry matriarch to turn the car into a UFO…

Two hours later we switch on the engine and drive away from one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had with elephants in my life. A small well of water between two rocks quenched the thirst of a herd of elephants. We watched two calves fumble with their uncoordinated trunks only to spill a whole drink of water and opting for a suckle of milk whilst their mom’s were sucking water through a cracked stone. My partner smiled at me and patted my leg – how fortunate was I that he did not share my fear of these gentle giants.

By late afternoon, we had reached the game hide – one of the best hides I have ever seen. The construction with natural materials already impressive, but the level it was built at, was really the best I had seen in a long time. I also liked the fact that there were toilets, although the bats seemed to have exclusive rights to it. It was a pity that our time was busy running out, as I would have loved to stay a bit longer to witness animals drinking at that level.

We reached Mazou camping site just after five and set-up camp underneath a huge Nyala tree. This camp is small with only ten sites with ablutions that provide for handicapped persons. A recent addition to the western side was electrified fencing to keep elephants away from the camps as they caused quite a lot of damage to the waterpipes and tanks.

We strolled to the fence and watched a small herd make their way in the direction of the river. It was time for our evening drink too, and we returned to camp, dusty but pleased with our incredible day.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 8:19 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
:D It is a priviledge to share my stories with the Forum! Thank you for reading and your feedback!

Mapungubwe (Continued)
11 & 12 July

We woke to a cool, overcast day and decided to stay at camp to tend to our administrative tasks. We would return to “civilization” in a few days and we had to do some planning for upcoming trips and their requirements. Our day started uneventful until we started to notice that the soles of our shoes were getting thicker with muck the more we moved. We did not realize that the Nyala tree was shedding fruits, a greenish walnut sized fruit with the consistency of ripe dates that stuck like superglue. We tried to clean our shoes with sosatie sticks but gave up after while, thus walking with a clump of goo stuck all day long. The actual seeds of the Nyala berries look very much like polished coffee beans, that is, once the vervet monkeys had eaten the flesh off and dumped the remainders on the roof of our tent.

Our bird sightings updated, photos downloaded, lists made for our upcoming trips and diary on track, it was close to dinner time. We walked down to the fence again as we heard the elephants browsing close-by. By the look of it, we thought it was the same herd as the previous night – heading for the river once more.

Since our wors was stolen at Vhembe, we were short on our meat supply and decided to make do with a canned meal. With no fire-making ritual and all the things that go with it, we found ourselves bathed and in PJ’s at 19:50 in our rooftop tent. We looked at the time and burst out laughing.

Needless to say that after turning in so early, we both woke long before the sun came up. We packed up our camp and left for Maloutswa bird hide to take advantage of the good morning light. After a cool day, we were happy to see the sun again – by now completely spoiled by the warm days of the Limpopo valley.

Maloutswa is an amazing bird hide. We spent five hours there with not more than five minute intervals of seeing activity. When we arrived, a juvenile Fish eagle was watching a flock of about 150 guinea fowl from a tree. Baboons started to arrive and then warthogs with some of the biggest tusks I had seen in a while. Impala sauntered in and scattered as the Fish eagle took flight, much to the predicament of hysterical guinea fowl. Once everything settled down again, a family of banded mongoose turned up. Much to our delight, four Redbilled Teals flew over and splash-landed in the water where they stayed for the rest of day.

Our highlight however was the two herds of elephant who came to drink. If I had thought that our previous encounter with elephants were up close and personal, the bird hide encounter finally broke my anguished fear of these animals. The matriarch of the last herd turned to walk on after she had long drink of water and then suddenly turned around and looked in the direction of the bird hide where we were sitting. I have never had eye contact with an elephant on this scale and when she continued to walk closer to us, I felt a stillness enter my being I had never experienced in the presence of elephants. The matriarch stopped right in front of the hide, I could smell her strongly. I realized that she could put out her trunk and touch me with it, but she just stood there and looked at us with her amber-brown eyes. She looked and then from deep within her body came a gentle rumble as if she spoke to us in a soothing tone. Wow! It was so intense that once she turned away to join the rest of the herd, I felt tears running down my face. Mama Africa had blessed me, for she had known about my fear of elephants…

We left the hide grudgingly to book into the Limpopo Forest Tent camp. Once there, I dawdled a bit, again amazed by the units. The tents really give the impression of being secluded in the forest, and spaced well. There is a small swimming pool on the left hand side of tent number two that overlooks a mud pool where the signs of wallowing is quite visible. The tented camp is also fenced off with electrical fencing although the pool has a separate fence after taking quite a beating from the elephants. Between tent 5 and 6, you can look at one of the biggest Nyala trees in Africa – it is majestic.

The tents have a boma which encloses the braai area with steps up the deck where the dining area is located. The kitchen area and sleeping area flanks the dining area as two separate rooms. Again, a very well equipped kitchen with a microwave and large fridge. The bedroom area is spacious – the tent has a high roof that creates a luxurious safari tent feeling. Two easy chairs and coffee table complete the bedroom area with a bathroom at the back of the bedroom. I loved the combination of wood and canvass finishes in the tents. The kitchen and bathroom surfaces are made of solid tree trunks that have been cut in half and smoothed. Another added bonus was the comprehensive information book on Mapungubwe that provided a wide range of interesting facts.

After a fresh flask of coffee was made, luggage unpacked and set down in haste, we headed back to Maloutsa where we found zebra and wildebeest on their way to the water hole…

The day started to cast long shadows when we returned to our tent. The forest started to fill with the sounds of animals preparing for nighttime. We sat on the deck, sipping our sundowners, listening to the ode for night. A mouse peaked through a whole in the trunk of a Nyala tree. We both smiled – “I think we need to hide our tinfoil dear…”

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 7:41 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Here is my last posting on Mapungubwe - next up the Richtersveld. Thank you all once again for your feedback! :D

Mapungubwe (Finale)
13 July

After a sumptuous meal of juicy steak (our last meat saved for our last evening), baked patato and a small salad (there was one tomato and lots of olives), we took our chairs down to the braai area and roasted marshmallows over the last glowing embers. The old Nyala trees looked down upon us, their leaves glistening in the light of the growing moon. The forest had its own kind of stillness, a peaceful hooting of owls, crickets strumming their African jazz. The presence of elephants announced by the intermittent creaking of branches. A baboon barking from somewhere far off and a jackal calling its mate. Serenity.

Morning was announced by a group of francolins, or rather, “Avius Hystericus” as my partner calls them. It was freezing inside the tent, but the sounds of the awakening bush came through each and every open tent flap crystal clear. I closed most of them and curled up beneath the fluffy blankets again, just listening to each sound of the forest, knowing that soon it was time to go back to the city. As we were leaving the tented camp, a group of Kudu came to greet, shyly peeking from the back of a Nyala tree.

What makes Mapungubwe special? There are so many dimensions to this park that it is difficult to single out one. For starters, I loved the incredible well maintained accommodation and the little touches of comfort we found at each camp. Vhembe camp is one of the most special places I had been to in long long time – it was an experience of complete and utter Africa. The trails we did were amazing, and of course, the elephants…gentle giants of the Limpopo Valley.

There are still so much to experience that I will return to this Park, even if only to feel the mystical presence of ancient forebears that roamed the hills…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:14 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
:D Thank you for your feedback - I hope you will enjoy the Richtersveld!

Richtersveld (The Great Frontier)
22 July

In the desert, you can smell water…

Richtersveld…

It was late afternoon when we entered Sendelingsdrift and after many kilometers of gravel road, the wetness of the Gariep (Orange) River shimmered invitingly. I sat down on the patio of our quaint cottage and looked at a landscape that captivated me. Everything that we had researched and read up on this area could not prepare me for what I felt when we entered the embrace of this mountain desert. Ancient yet vibrant with life.

Our journey started in the east where the Gariep River finds its origins in the highlands of Lesotho and we roughly followed its meander through the country. It almost seemed impossible that after the almost 1,800 kilometers we had travelled, the river was gurgling peacefully past our patio towards its destination at the Atlantic Ocean.

A few kilometers after Steinkopf, we turned away from the R382 and took a gravel road that would take us into the Richtersveld Community Conservancy en-route to the Park. There are four main villages in the Conservancy and we were heading for Eksteenfontein.

The typical red sand of the Northern Cape landscape extended to meet the bluest of blue skies. A small hill dotted the horizon – there was little else until we neared a sheep station with a lonely windpump. Such a beautiful picture in this desolation, but we were in for a surprise! The red sand yielded an abundance of life. Tiny green leaves covered the dunes as far as what we explored.

Extremely exited about the “secret” of the red landscape, we carried on in the direction of the hill that dotted the horizon. Skimmeberg reaching a height of 690 meters was merely the “gateway” to the start of endless mountains, unfolding as we travelled deeper into the embrace of the Richtersveld. A few kilometers onward, we noticed intense purple flowers and another stop was called for – one that lasted almost an hour as we explored some more secrets of this seemingly barren land. Within a square meter, we found almost seven different types of plants. Shapes and sizes, colours and textures soon had us with our faces to the ground. The conversation was reduced to; “Wow…! Oh wow! Here’s a new one! Wow…!”

We reached Eksteenfontein by mid-afternoon. The Rooiberg range which loomed blue from a distance earlier on, towered at 931 meters with the little village at its base. Our first mountain pass lay ahead. By now my mouth felt a little dry. Since we have been on a quite a number of 4×4 excursions the past weeks, it shouldn’t have affected me, but there was this very high mountain, a hot wind and the dust from the gravel road…So I opted for a beer (and I rarely drink beer) at Eksteenfontein’s bottle store. By the time we saw our first Botterbome (Butter bush – Tylecodon paniculatus), my beer was finished and I defiantly got out on a steep slope to photograph the gorgeous plants. When I returned to the vehicle, I glanced at the horizon and gasped. Unending ranges of mountains etched in different blues filled my view. They called my soul… Stinkfonteinberg, Wildeperdrant, Cornellsberg, the Black Hills and Ploegberg spat us out onto a plateau with the village of Kuboes visible on the foothills of Vandersterrberg that peaks at 1,363 meters.

The thing with the Richtersveld is that I expected to travel through the mountains that we initially saw in the distance and then reach a point where the mountains will “open” to a flat landscape, but I was mistaken. Each descent opens a new layer of mountains on the horizon. An awareness came to settle in me…my human smallness and the majesty of this ancient mass of land.

A friendly security guard signed us in at the Helskloof gate – another 15 kilometers before we would get to Sendelingsdrift. By now we were a tad tired, having traveled since the dark hours of early morning from Augrabies National Park. I craved a warm shower and a cool G&T.

Then finally, we reached Sendlingsdrift where we were received with caring smiles of the reception personnel and directed to our cottage. Ten units resembling old mining houses are situated on the bank of the river with a view of the Namibian side of the Park.
Image

The cottages are charming and very comfortable. As usual, I inspected the kitchen and found nothing amiss. Good sized fridge/freezer, microwave, hotplate and well equipped with utensils, crockery and cutlery. Our unit had two bedrooms with two single beds each. The kitchen area is large and doubles up as dining room.. The patio houses a table and chairs and a braai with an interchangeable steel plate and grill.

Cold G&T in hand with a freshly showered body, I watched the sun set behind the mountains. I felt a bit like a pioneer, a great explorer and excited like a child, I also felt the absolute power of the mountains and the landscape with its many secrets…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 11:09 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:58 am
Posts: 196
Location: Slowveld
Richtersveld (Continued)

23 July

I have never struggled to define colour, but the mountains of the Richtersveld are like human faces, changing colour as if they have emotion – and soon I learned that these mountains were nothing else but giants with emotion, but alas, as always, I am getting ahead of myself again.

We woke late, as the first light of day only broke past seven. The cottages have an abundance of trees – mostly Acacia Karoo, which attracts quite a number of birds. Coffee in hand, we greeted the day to see that the mountains had exchanged their deep indigo and purple hues of the past evening for grey-blue and yellow. On the Namibian side of the river, a troupe of baboons were sunning themselves on the branches of Black Ebony trees. Our first surprise for the day turned up – all feathery 12 centimeters of it – the Orange River White-eye, endemic to the region.

Since we did not take the conventional route via the R382 to Sendelingsdrift, we still had to follow the Gariep to its end destination, thus we traveled to Alexander Bay where the river finally reaches the sea. Another place of interest we wanted to see was the wetland rehabilitation in Alexander Bay implemented by SANParks.

Our next birding surprise awaited us as we rounded the dune road to the river-mouth. Flamingoes! Greater and Lesser were wading a mere two hundred meters away from the road. By now we were well on our way with Richtersveld “speak” which sounded like this; “Wow! Oh wow!” Kelp Gull, Hartlaub’s Gull, Blackwinged Stilt, African Spoonbill and Cape Teal also added to an exiting day of birding. We were now at the most western point of South Africa, almost unthinkable that less than three weeks ago, we were at the most northern point! I walked along the sand on the river side of the beach and followed its final path to the Atlantic ocean where it is set free in rolling waves.

By mid-afternoon we turn back, but have one more stop before going to Sendlingsdrift. We visit the second village of the Richtersveld, namely Kuboes and then, in the soft glow of the late afternoon, we stop at the Quiver Trees we passed the previous day. Quiver Trees are aloes and there are three different kinds, of which all three are found in the Richtersveld. As we walked closer to a beautiful specimen, I identified it as Aloe pillansii or “Basterkokerboom” as it is called by its common name. Needless to say that our walk to the Quiver Tree turned into a fully fledged flora exploration once more…

Back at camp, we tick our bird sightings and still our thirsty throats. We charge camera batteries, check our water supplies and get everything ready for the “real wilderness”. The bare mountains change from yellow-gold into purply mauve as the stars start to twinkle in a vast dusky sky.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 60 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group

Webcams Highlights

Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Addo Nossob Orpen Satara
Submitted by Jurie van Vuuren at 12:26:03 Submitted by grannyb at 13:36:11 Submitted by Anonymous at 12:10:12 Submitted by bushwackedblonde at 17:27:19