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 Post subject: Nyakeni: Forest in the Bush - December 2007
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 9:56 am 
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The feeling I had as a child a few days before Christmas has come to settle inside my being.

Months before arriving at this point, the planning started. Lists drawn up late at night, those lists where you number each item, and ponder, dream a bit and then carry on to the next point.

A box was placed in the storeroom, and as the months passed, items were bought and placed in there. It was only re-opened last night when the packing started, and I had to laugh - 12 cans of Peacefull Sleep! :shock: amongst other surprises.

When I woke this morning and walked into the study where the effects of last night's packing is waiting, I am seriously considering to call Stuttafords for a mini-move. :lol: And I still need lettuce....

Needles to say, this day will drag far longer than all the months of planning, dreaming and aching with longing for this moment to arrive. I am off to check what Jubatus is doing, maybe I can slip that lettuce into her cooler box!


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Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:16 pm 
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It is raining, and buckets full at that. I think I will wake to the Timbavati flowing if it continues to fall at this rate through the night. In the background a choir of all kinds of frogs are re-joicing in the darkness. This is bliss, the simplicity and being at the very core of life.

Thank you HP for updating, I think I will "sleep in" tomorrow morning, my thoughts carried away by the sound of raindrops falling on canvas.


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Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 8:20 pm 
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Image

Timbavati river at 12:30 this afternoon.

It has stopped raining, the veld has turned into a wetland with waders feasting in the middle of nowhere on zillions of frogs. Quite a number of bullfrogs on the road this morning, and no, I am not referring to my male neighbours... :twisted:


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Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:21 pm 
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A wonderful atmospheric camp tonight... the moon is half a cheese, frogs are singing gentle songs...the Timbavati is once again the river made up of sandy patches, but with many more pools of water than before.

The roads were opened this morning and all is back to normal. I cannot comment on what is happening in the north, but Jubatus reported an "all quiet"f from Skuks, although the Sabi river is flowing quite strongly.

Indeed, a wonderful time for birding, even for a novice such as myself, I literally had a field day with a variety to dream of - ticked about 50!!!! birds today and certainly did not include any LBJ's - that is WTM's job! :twisted:

Thank you HP for updating me - still wiating for that coffee... :evil:


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Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:38 am 
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Had a very early morning with Jubatus in search of the lions who'd kept us awake 'till late with their roaring. We hoped to find them, but instead had glorious sunrise.

Piet, it is a bit more busy in Central, but not Skukuza mode.

I am writing underneath the shade of a Jackallberry whilst a wildebeest and impala are grazing across the river from my deck. The woodland kingfisher and green spotted dove's calling my background music.

I would like to go to heaven it is like this!


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Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 10:06 pm 
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Ludwig. leopard is missing, but there is so much else that is so amazing, that the "big five" is really not important.

I include a photo that tells the story of Africa in summer time, of abundance and new life...

Image

As I am typing this, the lions are calling from somewhere in darkness...


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Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:50 pm 
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The park is lit by a perfect full moon.

There are many young ones in the park, and I thought that you would all enjoy this young one in particular...

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Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:15 pm 
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Pardus's Christmas gift...

Greetings from Kruger on a balmy, perfect summer's evening - I could not wish for a more perfect day...


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Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 6:38 pm 
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Location: P.E - South Africa
Spoke to Pardus a few minutes ago, back from picking up Felis at Nelspruit,
Yst sightings on the way to Nelspriuit - pride of 10 lions and a rather large breeding herd of eliies.
Stayed over in a conceeion camp last night and went on night drive - another pride of 12 lions with cubs and a lepord.
Today a small breeding herd of sllies.
:mrgreen: at the moment having a drink with the Kruger survivoure, Piter Steyn and SO but that is another adventure to be told

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Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 7:56 pm 
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Greetings from Tamboti, the baboons accross the river are making a racket, seems they are prepping for tomorrow night's old year party....

Thank you all for your comments, it is very appreciated. I am truly in bush-mode at the moment - a notebook is becoming a foreign object.... :lol:

Soon 2007 will make way for 2008, may this year be blessed for all of you. I have to stop writing now, as I am sharing the keypad with numerous flying creatures.... :shock:

Thanks dear HP for updating me!


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 11:29 am 
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Location: P.E - South Africa
OK last of my updates - Pardus and Felis out of the park and sorrowfully on their way home.
Last night a special night ride for Pardus , they were serenaded into the new year by a pride of roaring lions and on their way back to camp another lepord and sable again.

Waiting for all your pix Pardus. have a good year and come on LOET :D but cricket first :wink:
Felis no hard time at the scoring please :)

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 8:24 am 
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Felis and I arrived safely yesterday at about 3:30. The road back was pleasant with scatterings of traffic and we counted three big trucks, I am glad we did not give in to compulsion to stay another day, as I am sure that the roads will be very busy today.

I have been in KNP for 16 days - a half a month! The trip report will be epic drama.... :lol:


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 12:13 pm 
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17-12-07

Forest in the bush

3:00 am. The city is silent.

My neighbours are leaving for Kruger too, and I slip two boxes of stuff into their car for collection at Satara. I look at the rest of my luggage and realize that in true Churchill fashion, there should be a parrot in a cage to complete the full picture…but I feel very brave, since I had a swig of Rescue Remedy to calm my mounting excitement enough to sleep a bit.


By 5:15 the whole convoy to Kruger turns in an easterly direction. Jubatus and I travel together and her family in the other vehicle. By the time I reached her house, I was taught a lesson in packing a vehicle, after thinking that a mouse will break the camel’s back, a watermelon and more stuff is added…The Rescue Remedy is utilized once more…

At Belfast, the temperature drops to 13 degrees and shivering holidaymakers walk briskly into the Wimpy with shorts and jackets to get a steaming cup of coffee. We have acon and beggs and chatter excitedly. Then we hit the country road, Dullstroom, Lydenburg and on to Sabie. The morning drizzle started to clear and the beauty of lush green hills soothe our weary souls. On the horizon, the mountains are covered with indigo clouds. Jubatus looked at me and rolled her eyes – the Long Tom Pass covered in thick mist is not a joke to navigate – but I smiled, knowing that it doesn’t matter what condition we meet, we would be all right. The road to Dullstroom looks like a meadow, truly a wild flower garden with a spectacular variety of species that will delight anyone. The added bonus of this wetland is of course bird sightings, and especially raptors. On our way, we spot Steppe Buzzard, Yellowbilled Kite and Jackal Buzzard.

As we wind our way down the mountain pass into the Lowveld, or rather Slowveld, the temperature starts to climb. We stop at a fruit stall and have a wonderful sighting of a Longcrested Eagle on a telephone pole. Onwards to Hazyview where we would stop for fresh fruit at the vendors and then the road to Kruger Gate. (Yes, there was still space enough for mango’s and litchi’s!)
Image

Why not Phabeni gate some would ask, but for us, it is custom to enter at Kruger Gate. It is something about stopping on the bridge and waiting for the African Fish Eagle’s call to welcome us, the bridge that divides two worlds. And besides, we need to check the statue of Oom Paul, hoping that his solemn face would smile after all this time…but also, we needed to see the latest fashion of carvings along the road, especially the cheetahs and chickens, as these would have us in stitches. This time, it was not the serenely smiling cheetahs, but the kudus, with eland bodies and narrow heads that made us laugh for many kilometers afterward.

Soon enough, we were on the bridge crossing the Sabie River, and the dry sandy beaches I had seen in September, were replaced by a river, gurgling its joy as it rushed through the green reeds and over the rocks. Jubatus and I kneeled on the bridge to kiss the ground. The rest of our family looked skyward in embarrassment – whilst the two of us found out how damn hot tar can get in December! Our sacred moment rather fast forwarded, we stood up with tears of joy as we wiped our burning hands on the seats of our pants.
Image

I left Jubatus and the rest of the family at Skukuza at about 12:30, eager to arrive at my final destination – there were still a few hours of driving ahead of me, and by now the temperature was a sizzling 32 degrees. On my way to the Sabie low-water bridge, a white rhino crossed the road and scampered into the dense Sickle bush. Lesson one for summer trips to Kruger, sometimes, trying to take a picture of a sighting can prove to be very frustrating, so rather enjoy the moment.

I slowly crossed the low-water bridges of the Sabie and Sand rivers – both were flowing strongly and the sound of water on this summer’s day seemed very very inviting, until a lazy crocodile floated to the surface. I sighed, content with the smell of water and knowing that this abundance will provide an oasis for the animals.

The road to Tshokwane yielded a lush landscape filled with impossibly green veld and trees and of course, herds of impala with packed nurseries of tiny lambs. By now, most of them were lying down in the shade, their eyes shut, guarded by three or four ewes and the ever present centuries. Did I imagine a shimmer of intense pride in their eyes as I watched this picture of life? Their coats glossy and bodies plump from the plentiful gifts of mother earth.

At Tshokwane I bought ice-cream, feeling like a child again, the memories of December holidays flooding back as I journeyed on. To my amazement the N’waswitsonso river had large pools of water! It was a first for me, but then, the environs of Tshokwane looked like a new landscape – I looked in amazement at the green grass which almost appeared like a manicured lawn. Leeupan, Silolweni Dam, Mazithi Dam, Nwatinungu water hole and Kumana dam were bursting their banks. Where sad sights had met me in September of winter’s sparing remains, there was a song of utter joy that carried over the land. I have been to Kruger numerous times in December and never have I seen the Park in such splendour. At Kumani Dam, a large herd of waterbuck lie in the tall grass and the hippos frolic in the water.

Close to the Sweni river crossing, a small herd of buffalo graze between the Lala palms – by now the urgency to arrive at my destination keeps me from tarrying, as the heat and long journey started to sap my energy. Yet, crazy as it seems, I refused to close my windows and turn on the air conditioner, not wanting to miss one sound, not wanting to exchange one breath of fresh air for anything less. At this stage, I considered taking a quick dip into Satara’s pool before I carried on with my last stretch, but one quick view to my back seat, made me realize that it would take me an hour to get through all the baggage to get to my kozzie. I need to note here that before I left Skukuza, Jubatus added a few more things to the vacant front seat…

My thoughts wandered, my eyes roamed, and then the two collided as they screamed: LIONS! Wide awake now, I backed up a little and there they were, a mating pair in the shade of a small shrub. A bit far-off for that spine-tingling-photo-moment, but, it was my “own” lions and I felt proud of my emerging “bush eyes”. Spotting cats in this dense grass is kind of good! I sat a while, hoping that the lioness would lift her head for long enough so that I could take a “reference” photo, but after a while, the inevitable happened – she slept on and the cars started to pile up. It was time to move on.
Image

A few meters after the H6 turn off, an ellie bull was browsing in the shade of Knob Thorn. Well, a little impressed, I four-fived, all that was missing was a sighting of my namesake, but leopards have their own time in showing themselves. By now, I felt a little shaky, and pressed on. The heat was oppressing, yet all the while, clouds started to gather on the horizon.

If I had seen amazing transformation previously, the road to Orpen gate held some more surprises. I had vistas of park-like gardens, a veld blessed with the richest of greens, cool, inviting spots where dense leaves cast dark shadows. Passing Bobbejaankrans lookout, I start to anticipate the moment where the road enters the small stretch of riverine trees – fondly known in our family as “tree road”. This small stretch has a resident baboon troupe, it is also home to a small herd of Nyala and often we would find elephants and kudu in the shadows of the trees. The last spoil of this beautiful spot, is to drive very slowly with open windows to have the car filled with the rich herbaceous smell of the Patatobush (Phyllanthus reticulates). This is the “gate” to Orpen and my beloved Tamboti camp, it is when the bush finally embraces me fully and my soul knows that it has come home.

As always, the last reserve of energy is opened, and I feel vitalized again. At Orpen I am met by the friendly staff, and after a chat, booked into my tent. As I turn onto the familiar road, I am met by the gentle “teeyoo-teeyoo” calls of the Senegal lapwings. The moment arrives when I drive over the grid at the gates of Tamboti. I am finally and truly home. The little forest in the bush, the place where the energy of age old trees is tangible.
Image

As I walk down to my tent underneath the canopy of trees, surrounded by thick shrubs and creepers, I notice that the pathway is lined with flowers - Black-eyed Susan’s flowering gaily. I smile to this very welcome touch. My tent entrance has an old Jackalberry tree that spreads its branches over the roof. I sit down on the steps and just breathe, feeling the cool shade on my skin. The dreaming, yearning and longing finally over, I am here and the forest has kept my soul safe.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2008 12:49 pm 
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HP, you are slave-driver! I have angel-stuff to do, like mountains of washing and a dry garden...I can always summarize 16 days on one page... :twisted:


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:07 am 
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18-12-07

A river flows by

Much of the rest of my afternoon and evening after arriving at Tamboti, was spent unpacking and organizing my tent, but it was leisurely. This would be my base for sixteen days, and I tried to make it practical and homely.

It was at sunset that I realized the atmosphere had become very intense, I think the humidity level was 100%, as the air felt like warm fudge. I stopped for a while and remembered that I was entitled to a sunset drink…a glass of ice cold white wine came up. I sat on the deck and watched the tree across the river – the baboons were returning from their foraging and were readying for nightfall.

This tree is known as the “Tree of life” or “Baboon tree” by our family. Later on it will become evident why it’s “Tree of life”, the obvious for now, is that a troupe of baboons have inhabited this tree for many years, well, for as long as I have been coming to Tamboti, I have always found them at the same spot. In the last rays of the setting sun, their pelts glowed amber against the deep green grass, and then, they started to scamper up the tree, which previously stood quietly etched against the darkening sky. The branches started swaying and the racket started as baby baboons squealed, toddlers squabbled and the intermittent deep “BAGHU” barks from the makhulu (Alpha male) baboon echoed down the sandy Timbavati to restore some sense of peace and quiet to sleep.

From far away in the darkness, a jackal called and the call was followed by the roll of thunder. The whole bush was vibrating with expectation, I noticed how the flying insects were attracted to light in greater numbers than normal. Keeping things as dark as possible, I lit my two lanterns filled with citronella oil and unpacked in the dim light, but never the less had to scoot two large dung beetles and a giant kamikaze cicada out of my tent. I was dive-bombed and harassed to the point where I simply gave up on the “living naturally” idea. But alas, everything unpacked and in its place, I sat in the glow of the lanterns and felt the emotions of a great African explorer. A tent, the bush and a dark brooding African night.

It started raining just as I walked up the path to the ablution blocks, and by the time I got to my tent to fetch my car keys, I was soaked. It felt good although the large drops were actually luke warm! Back in my car I started giggling, I might as well have taken soap, undressed on the deck and had a shower in the rain. But then, there are always neighbours to consider…

Finally I slipped into the cool white sheets, all the tent flaps open, listening to the pattering of rain. It had cooled off significantly and I felt the dreamy waves of tiredness overcoming me… Somewhere in the night, I sat straight up – it sounded like ALL the burglar alarms in the neighbourhood had gone off! I listened carefully and realized that it was FROGS calling at a tone that would make a hundred Sarah Brightman’s sound like an angel choir. I am not sure how many different calls there were, but they were going the full Monty, including the distinctive call of the African Bullfrog. Awesome!

I woke to see the silhouette of the Jackalberry tree outside my tent. The light was grey, it was still raining and the frogs were still at it. A few muffled chirps of the francolins reached me through the sound of gurgling water. GURGLING WATER?! I ran out on my deck, and looked at silvery river, where last night there was a sandy yellow riverbed. A little late, I think, I did my own rain dance of joy. It has always been on my wish list to see the Timbavati with water in, and on my first day of waking up in Kruger, it was granted. I suddenly felt very cold, and realized that I was doing “natural living” again, jumped back into the tent and prayed that the neighbours were still sleeping…
Image Image

Jubatus will not believe this, so a quick call was made. The conversation went like this;
“The Timbavati is flowing!!!!” “Hmmmmm” “Hellooo, can you hear me sister?” “Hmmmm…go away, it’s 4:30 am in the morning, I still have jetlag sister, go back to sleep…” Luckily an sms to Hippopat stirred up enough enthusiasm to get a “coffee call” and I shared this “sighting” with much pleasure.

By the time I left camp, it was still raining, and most of the animals were huddling together under trees. Photo opportunities were few, as the wind blew the rain back into the car. I tried the shower-cap trick, but decided that this was for drizzle not fully-blown summer down-pours. I drove to Satara to collect the boxes which my neighbours had with them. I stopped at every lookout onto the Timbavati and my pleasure increased as I saw how the river was filling. Little brooks were gushing and large puddles of water started to form in the veld. On my way, I noticed that the S106, Rabelais road, was closed with a no-entry sign. It was the first time that the thought of flooding crossed my mind, and I must admit that it was a teeny bit scary.
Image Image

At Satara, the precious cargo of wine and other important alcoholic beverages retrieved, I turned back to Orpen. On my way I turn off on the S40, the only gravel road thus far that does not have a no-entry sign, but less than a half kilometer down the road, a serious looking ranger scoots me back to the main road. Ok, by then I had serious concerns, and thankful for the ranger who basically “saved” me from getting stuck somewhere.

A few kilometer further, the rain stopped, and a herd of wildebeest were grazing close to the road, a little calf with an umbilical cord still showing, was testing his legs. I stayed with them for a long time, watching the little calves suckling their mothers. Again I noticed how glossy their coats were and in what good condition they were in. I compared previous December trips, where I had also seen new-borns, but sensed something else this time, a softness, a celebration of life. The presence of the feminine divine, mama Africa is showing her most beautiful gentle face…
Image Image

Close to the turn-off to camp, I scan the area and see how the Blackbacked jackal shakes its soaked fur in the wet grass. It heads off into the direction of the gravel road and I meet up with it a few meters down. The Senegal lapwings with puffed-up drenched feathers do not even give the BBJ a blink as it runs past.
Image

I forgot to tell about the Redbilled hornbill. Earlier, as I returned from my morning shower, I met this wet, bedraggled bird who announced my entry onto the tent’s path very loudly. In true tradition, the bird was named – Timo – at that, and I stood talking to him for a while, but more of Timo later.

The excitement of the past days caught up with me, and after being announced once again, I walked down the path of tent, relishing the thought of curling up with a good book whilst listing to the sounds of the little forest. It had started raining again, perfect weather for resting…


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