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 Post subject: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 1:27 pm 
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Part 1.

The idea and introduction of the Wilderness trails in the Kruger National Park were the brainchild of the Gentleman christened Mike English, former Regional Ranger in the Kruger National Park.

Mike started his career in the KNP at the Shangoni Rangers Post.

After the Makuleke people moved out of the Pafuri Game Reserve area, Mike frequently visited the area in the company of Mr. Johan Kloppers the District Ranger who was then temporarily in charge they both supervised and helped with the building of the new Field Ranger pickets, they camped and did patrols in this wonderful part of the KRUGER.

He then for many years dreamed about Wilderness Trails and dendrological / botanical Day trails in the riverine Levhuvu and Limpopo bush and adjacent areas. Maybe it was this dream that caused him to apply for a transfer.

Mike was transferred as Section Ranger to Pafuri on 26th April 1973. He envisaged the trails when he heard that the Pafuri area was going to become part of the KNP. The scope for different kinds walking trails was wide open for the Pafuri area, along both the Limpopo and the Levhuvu Rivers.

Mike often visited the series pans in the flood plains and also seen and experienced the lush riverine bush along the Great Limpopo and parts of the Levhuvu he realised that the bird life is extraordinary and in season visits to the flooded pans would be exceptional.

A Wilderness Experience here would be most enlightening due to the different species of wild animals roaming this botanical wonderland on the flood plains and in the riverine and surroundings of the Great Limpopo.

Mike envisaged the potential of a three night trail along the southern banks of the Levhuvu, upstream and westwards from the Mbombene drift. The old anthrax camp at Mbombene could be the base for the first and last nights out in the AFRICAN bush.

Mike realised that he had to convince his superiors about his plans.

On 9 June 1974 he took Dr. Rocco Knobel the then Chief Director of Ntional Parks Board to Lanner Gorge and showed him the gorge as well as the area south of the Levhuvu River.

Mike mentioned his idea of starting walking trails in this 200 square km area south of the river as seen from Lanner Gorge, now a large part of the Nyalaland Trails area. Mention was also made of day trails along the Limpopo. While the iron was hot he also mentioned the possibility of a trail from Mbombene Drift westwards along the Levhuvu and back.

9 June 1974 was indeed a historic day as it was the first time that walking trails in the KNP were discussed in earnest.

Dr. Knobel was indeed impressed by the beauty of the area, but also expressed his concern with the danger factor with walking trails and sleeping in the open. He promised to give the idea some serious consideration and would also discuss it with some other appropriate people. A specific concern was the high number of breeding herds of Elephant in the area.

Mike replied that Tommy Orford the Ranger in charge of the Mabalauta section of the Ghona-Re-Zhou National Park just over the border in Rhodesia North-east of Pafuri had been doing trails for the past 5 years without any serious incidents with Elephant or any of the other dangerous species.

Mike took leave during April 1975, the English family consisting of Father Mike, Wife Andre and Sons Don and Ross set off on a holiday in Rhodesia and visited the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and the Mabalauta in Ghona-re-Zhou National Park.

At that stage there was a mutual agreement between the Rhodesian National parks and Wildlife Management and the South African National parks for free entry and accommodation in each other’s Parks.

Here below is a copy of the letter of introduction written by Mr. Dolf Brynard requesting free entry and accommodation for the English family.

ImageLarge

Ranger Tommy Orford and his wife Dawn hosted the English family at the Mabalauta Ranger’s Post; they stayed at the Shimuweni rest camp at Buffalo Bend on the Nuanetsi River. The English family was the only occupants as the tourist season only opened on 1st May.

Each of the five huts was placed under a large Baobab tree, giving the Camp its Shangaan name. There were still two more Baobabs without huts, two more huts were designated for the future – seven huts would be the limit.

The matter of trails were frequently discussed and the experienced Tommy extended an open invitation to the English family to join him for a few days on one of these.

Mike could have no better introduction to trails as Tommy already had a few years experience of this wonderful experience.

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


Last edited by gmlsmit on Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:04 pm 
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Location: The other end of the country
Good to see this being posted here to give it more exposure. There is a nice historical and pictorial display of this interesting aspect of KNP history just near the Reception office at Berg-en-Dal camp.

Mike was nicknamed "Shangaan" by his staff in those early years because he spoke Shangaan so fluently.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:06 pm 
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Part 2.

The morning of 22nd April 1975 the English family set out with Tommy, they spent the night under the stars of the Rhodesian skies and returning the next day full of enthusiasm.

Tommy told them everything he knew about trails and how he operated his.

Donkeys were used to carry the bulky and heavy equipment; all the trailists carried were their water bottles, binoculars and camera. The donkeys and their drivers took the direct route to their overnight place.

After a slow and interesting walk following the Nuanetsi River they met the donkeys at a beautiful spot about five or six kilometres upstream from Tommy’s quarters. Here was a lovely rock pool for their overnight stop where they could wash and swim.

Young Don and Ross did some fishing in the river and were rewarded with a couple of nice sized fish which were much appreciated by the accompanying Field Rangers.

After a basic meal much time was spent talking before turning in. The evening was spent in sleeping bags on a tarpaulin, listening to the night sounds of AFRICA including that of the donkeys who were tied up a little distant, the stars so clear and so close one could almost touch them.

The distant roar of the King of the AFRICAN plains reminded them where they were. The fire was kept going and Tommy kept an eye out for anything unforeseen. Eventually the quiet of the AFRICAN night settled on the group.

During the early hours the donkeys became restless, a crash in the nearby bush caused the donkeys to break loose and scatter, after all the confusion had settled – close scrutiny found Waterbuck spoor. After a while the donkeys were found and again tied up.

Everyone was now wide awake with sleep in no ones mind.

After an early breakfast they set off to Mabalauta and Shimuweni.

Back at Mabalauta Tommy showed Mike how the Administration was run, he also proudly showed them of the most beautiful parts of his area – the English family today still regard this as a very memorable time spent with Tommy and Dawn Orford . . . . .

Farewells were said on 26 April after which Tommy again made an invite for a further visit at the same time the following year and to spend a bit more time with him. The invite was accepted without hesitation. Unfortunately later Tommy advised them that due to the increased intensity of the bush war he was restricted to two km from his quarters, they were not able to go again.
Back at Pafuri Mike again gave his idea much thought and then decided to contact Dr. Ian Player one of the Directors of the International Leadership Foundation as well as the founder of the Wilderness Leadership School who also started the trails in the Natal Parks in 1958.

Mike wrote to Dr. Player on the 24th May 1975 asking for advice on starting trails in the KNP.

A copy of Dr. Players reply dated 12 July 1975, is here below. As well as a copy of the response by Barry Clements of the Wilderness Leadership School, dated 19th August 1975.

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:40 pm 
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Part 3.

ImageLarge

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:45 pm 
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Part 4.

ImageLarge

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:49 pm 
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gmlsmit, as with all your other post, this is also a great story and piece of our history worth noting, Thanks for your effort and research. Please continue with this (and other posts) - its great reading and worth every effort


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 4:55 pm 
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Part 5.

ImageLarge

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:49 pm 
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Part 6.

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_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:53 pm 
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Part 7.

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_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:55 pm 
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Part 8.

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_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:03 pm 
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What is very evident in all these pages is the committment and cooperation as well as the thoroughness in which this special kind of breed handle their tasks.
What I also respect is their common decency which they have for one another and their duties. :clap:

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Part 9.

Interestingly enough Tommy Orford ran his trails more or less on the same basis as Dr. Ian Player suggested KNP run theirs. Mike is of opinion that he must have also approached the wise Doctor.

Trevor Dearlove who had previously been employed by the Natal Parks Board and had done trails, was now employed by the National Parks Board in the Research Section stationed at SKUKUZA came to PAFURI and went out with Mike on 5 March 1975 – this was prior to the visit to Rhodesia and the correspondence with Dr. Player.

Mike showed Trevor around amongst other – Lanner Gorge and the Levhuvu and Limpopo River areas. Whilst sitting viewing the area south of the Levhuvu River, Trevor was told about the visit of Dr. Knobel as well as his pending visit to Ghona-Re-Zhou and his intention to contact Dr. Player after his return.

Trevor immediately expressed his keenness and interest in trails as well as his willingness to get the trails going in the KNP.

Mike decided that Trevor’s keenness and his previous experience with trails made him the ideal person to be in charge of the KNP Trails.

Mike suggested that they must diplomatically start pushing for the start of the Wilderness Trails. Trevor was to start working on the hierarchy and influential people at SKUKUZA and get them interested. Mike would do the same at and from PAFURI whenever the opportunity arose.

The proposal to start Wilderness Trails in the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK was put to the Board meeting held in March 1977. It was finally approved in June 1977, after a split vote four for and four against; rumour has it that the Administrator of the Transvaal had the casting vote which saw the birth of the WILDERNESS TRAILS in the KRUGER NATIONAL PARK.

The gestation period of the WILDERNESS TRAILS was nine years, the seeds were sown in the mind of the Section Ranger of SHANGONI in 1968, and five years after Dr. Tol Pienaar proposed “educational walking tours” during November 1972, when overnight camps were suggested along the Levhuvu and Phugwane Rivers. Very few people were aware of this proposal, not even the Section Ranger at PAFURI.

A condition for the Wilderness Trails was that they be started in the Stolsnek Section, it was considered safer from the dangerous animal point of view and also closer to SKUKUZA from an administrative point of view.

The hopes of having Wilderness Trails in the PAFURI area disappeared for the English family, when the intensity of the bush war in Mozambique and Rhodesia increased, the NATIONAL PARKS BOARD decided that it would be better for a single person to be the Ranger at the PAFURI outpost and offered Mike English the new Ranger Post at Stolsnek.

Mike objected but the decision had been made, the carrot held out was that he would be involved in establishing the WILDERNESS TRAILS in the southern part of KRUGER. After lengthy discussions with his family Mike eventually agreed to accept the offer.

The English family moved down to civilization on 28th March 1977.

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:48 pm 
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Hi gmlsmit,

again, your stories are wonderful :clap: It is a highlight to read about the history.

And you are right, the style of the letters is also wonderful.

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:hmz: Thinking about the next trip :hmz:
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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:25 am 
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Part 10.

It later became known that the Wilderness Leadership School investigated the possibility of starting the trails in the Stolsnek area towards the end of 1977. These did not materialise as the Board decision was that these trails should be conducted as an integral part of the Board’s own Tourist Plan.

Mike English was asked to find a suitable site for a Trails Camp during March 1978 – the first physical move towards establishing Wilderness Trails in the KNP. Mike indicated two suitable sites near the Trollope windmill.

Trevor Dearlove who had in the meantime been appointed Trails Ranger, visited Mike on 1st March 1978 and the two set out looking for suitable sites in the area south-east and east of the Stolsnek Ranger’s house and westwards of Mangake kop.

Trevor had received specific instructions to look for elevated positions on some of the hills. No suitable places were found due to various practical and aesthetical reasons.

Mike was not in favour of an elevated Trails camp site as it would be visible from the veldt and may defeat the aura of a “wilderness” experience. Access roads would be costly and difficult. The road would also be visible from the surrounding walking areas; he preferred a camp hidden in the bush, out of view until you are at the gate.

After a helicopter flight by Dr. Pienaar, Johan Kloppers, Trevor and Mike on 6th March 1978 it was agreed that the two sites proposed by Mike would be the most suitable. The Trollope windmill was close by for the water supply, at was readily accessible. That afternoon Mike went out and marked off the perimeter of the Wolhuter Trails Camp.

Now the building of the camp had to commence.

The KNP building Department was not involved, several Section Rangers from the southern areas and of their Field Rangers assisted when available. Mike and his staff together with Trevor did most of the work.

Soon the Wolhuter Trails Camp was completed, although very basic with tents on a concrete slab, each with two beds with bedding, a bedside stool and a bedside mat, a washbasin and a hurricane lamp. The stores hut and staff accommodation was simple rondavels type with a door and two windows, designed and built by Johan van Graan from Malelane. Ben Pretorius from SKUKUZA also assisted a lot.

The kitchen was a long open structure with reed walls and a corrugated iron roof covered with reeds.

The toilet was a thatched roof, reed walled long drop, with a lovely view of the area from the throne. It was named the “loo with a view”. A trailist once observed an Impala being caught by a pack of Wild Dogs, five meters away wile enjoying his view.

The shower was a thatched roof reed walled structure; the shower itself was a large galvanised rubbish bin with the plumbing brazed into it. The shower container was filled from the outside up a ladder with warmed water.

The Lapa had a large circular thatched roof structure.

Funding was not readily available so improvising and re-appropriation was in the order of the day in order to get the first Trails camp completed.

The evening of the roof wetting several of the senior KNP officials were present. While Dr. Pienaar was taken on a guided tour through the camp he enquired about the origin of some of the material used. Mike enquired whether he was satisfied with the work and whether he thought the camp was OK. The reply was that it was to his liking; Mike closed the discussion by very diplomatically offering the Head of KNP a drink.

The creosote poles for the Lapa and the huts were donated by Eddie Haig a farmer friend of Mike from White River. This was one of the items enquired about by Dr. Pienaar; Mike could truthfully answer about the origin of some of the material.

Wolhuter Trails Camp became operational on 4th July 1978. It was such a success that a second Trails Ranger was appointed during 1979.

_________________
I participate because I care - CUSTOS NATURAE
No to Hotels in and commercialization of our National Parks.
No to Legalized Rhino and Lion trade.
Done 144 visits to National Parks.
What a wonderful privilege.


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 Post subject: Re: The History of the Wilderness Trails in KRUGER
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:55 am 
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I have fond memories of the camp from 1985 - I think at that time it had not changed much from the original .

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KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.


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