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Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Discuss activities available in the Kruger National Park, and follow all the sighting reports.
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Strider
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Location: Phalaborwa

Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Strider » Thu Jun 03, 2010 3:48 pm

Hi All,

Good to see this thread has a decent following! The trail is filling up nicely and I highly suggest booking soon if haven't already!

I just got back from a MBPT (30/05 - 02/06) which I led with 6 guides from Londolozi (on a training exercise) and a couple from the USA.

We got dropped off on the Middle Firebreak, and walked along the Zari River to its confluence to the Phugwane where we camped for 2 nights. On the way we picked a breeding Herd of Elies (+- 30), a relaxed young bull who came down to drink, a bull Hippo in one of the last big pools in the river and a fantastic herd of buffalo (100 - 200 strong) drinking in one of the pans along the river bank.

The next day we headed north taking in some fantastic scenery before coming down the Nkomoyahlaba River and back to the Phugwane, heading back to Camp via Boomplaas (some fantastic Jackelberry and Njala Trees here - which just had to be climbed) and Big Bend. We came accross 2 Elephant Breeding Herds, a young Bull Elephant, and another older relaxed Bull Elephant who we watched drinking water for sometime from about 15m (safely on some rocks). We also came across a fresh Black Rhino midden which means these fella's are also moving into the area which is great. All in all the morning walk was approximately 10km.

In afternoon, we took a leisurely afternoon stroll south to a large Baobab which had 2 very beautiful Leopard Orchids (Anselia africana) in its branches, before returning to Camp via our Hippo pool from Day 1.

At night we listened to Hyeana's calling and Lions roaring in the distance.

The next morning we broke up Camp while still listening to the male lion who was approaching our location (fast), we decided to first go look for him before heading on our way. We tracked him for about 1km, and must have been within a 100m of him before the ever changing breeze gave us away. We returned to our packs, and headed up the river on the northern bank to Wik & Weeg Dam, stopping along the way for breakfast. Just before the Camp we got suprised by Bull Elie (visa-versa) and he ultimately had to be chased off before he got too grumpy. We setup camp at the confluence of Shishanyene River, and enjoyed a "lekka" siesta in the shade of a Large Feverberry. Morning walk about (including the looking for the Lion) 8km.

In the afternoon we explored up the Phugwane before going inland and returning on the Shishanyene River. Found a crocodile in a large pool and a pair of Ground Hornbills as well as fresh signs of a White Rhino in the area.

The final morning we had a lie in, before taking the short walk back to the pickup point (+- 2km).

We had a fantastic time, with great sightings of general game (Impala, Giraffe, Grysbok, Warthog and Njala) as well as a few heart stopping moments with the bigger stuff. General bird sightings were good, with the highlight (for me at least) being a pair of very relaxed African Hawk Eagles watching us from Jackelberry.

This is truly special area, and coming from a guide who has walked most of the Wilderness Trails, you can't beat this experience for that remote feeling. Hope to see you soon on this trail.

okkieb
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Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby okkieb » Mon Jun 07, 2010 12:34 pm

Morning Guys

We will be doing the Mphongolo Back Pack Trail from 16-19 June 2010, CAN NOT WAIT!!

I have a few questions for this trip.

1) Are we allowed to carry fresh meat, having a braai the first night will be nice. There after "dry" foods.

2) How much water must we be able to carry on a daily basis?

3) What is the quality of the drinking water we will collect as we walk. Is water purification tablets enough?

4) Any additional information (not in the information provided during booking process) will be welcomed.

Regards,
Okkie

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Katamboega
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Katamboega » Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:03 am

Did a trail from the 6-9th of June in the Bububu area from ponda hills to Nyamnyulo pan.

It was once again a awesome area to walk in with wonderful game sighting and the best wilderness experience, not a single outside noise not even aeroplane. This is rare and i think there is almost now were left on earth were such an experience is possible unfortunately it is not possible on all the the trails.
i think for those who are able to join us on these trails will be the people that will appreciating wilderness and understand the concept of wilderness conservation and the value of our last wilderness areas.

Other than numerous big game sighting we were rewarded with a breading herd of about 45 elephants drinking water out of the pan that we camp next to no more than 15m from were we were huddled against termite mound

Natgeo
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Natgeo » Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:12 pm

What a great community and a great thread on this new backpacking adventure. My wife and I will be coming to Africa next year in June (2011), and our original plan had been to split the time between South Africa, Botswana and the Serengeti. The more we read about Kruger and it's wilderness trails (and especially this new trail), we are thinking of spending close to a month in this amazing park. We are avid wilderness hikers and paddlers from Vancouver, Canada, and so we prefer this kind of self-propelled adventure.

Just a few questions for those more familiar with the Mphongolo and other wilderness trails. We are hoping to do at least six of them while in Kruger.

1) Is it possible to do the Mphongolo Backpacking Trail twice? Preferably back to back?

2) What are the other best wilderness trails in the park? We are hoping to see a nice cross-section of Kruger (landscapes and wildlife), so currently we are thinking of doing the Wolhuter, Metsi-Metsi, Sweni, Nyalaland, Mphongolo, and possibly the Olifants (or the Mphongolo twice).

3) Is it possible to make connections between some of these trails on a Wednesday? For example, we may want to group the Metsi-Metsi and Sweni together from a Sunday to a Saturday, and thus having to travel between Skukuza and Satara on a Wednesday. Is this possible? We assume the Saturday to Sunday changeover wouldn't be as difficult because of the extra buffer day.

Thanks for any insights you can offer.

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Katamboega
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Katamboega » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:06 am

Natgeo,

It sounds wonderful, yes you can book back to back Mphongolo trails and you wont regret spending the extra time in the wilderness,if you are planing to do the other wilderness trails there wont be a problem in getting from Sweni to Metsi on time on a Wednesday and from Sweni to any other wilderness trail, time only becomes an issue if you want to get up or down to Nyalaland. If you really enjoy the wilderness i will highly recommend the Nyalaland and Olifants wilderness trails.

Don't forget the Olifants river back pack trail.

Natgeo
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Natgeo » Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:57 pm

Thanks for the quick reply Katamboega. Since it might be possible to book back-to-back trips on the Mphongolo trail, I think what we might try to schedule something like this:

Wolhuter -- Wednesday to Saturday

Metsi-Metsi -- Sunday to Wednesday
Sweni -- Wednesday to Saturday

Mphongolo -- Sunday to Saturday (two trips)

Nyalaland -- Sunday to Wednesday

Question: If we had time to do the Olifants right after the Nyalaland, is it possible to travel from Punta Maria to Letaba on a Wednesday afternoon?

Thanks,
Natgeo

Zappel
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Zappel » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:51 pm

Hi Natego,

your plan to do so many trails sounds fantastic to me. :-)

But I think you would have difficulties to travel from Punda Maria to Olifants in time. Usually the wilderness trails end quite early and you would be back at Punda Maria maybe at 9:30 already. But it is still 176 km to go - with strict speedlimits applying. And imagine you would come across some great sighting and you wouldn't have the time to stop? - And believe me: there is always something to stop for ....

Here you can find the distances and travel times as given by Sanparks:
[url=null]http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/get_there/KNP_distances_beween_camps.pdf[/url]

They calculate 7 hours. I have travelled once from Parfura Gate to Phalaborwa. I had a few nice sightings and did a lot of scenic shots and it really took me more than 9 hours although it did feel a lot shorter.

Btw: at Sanparks you can book 11 months in advance - which I strongly recommend if you want to put together a schedule as tight as yours...
Here is the overview:
http://www.sanparks.org/assets/docs/par ... bility.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;?
For June only space at two dates are left. But of course from time to time pleople drop their reservations but I am not sure whether there is an official waiting list.

I recommend to place some reservations very soon. You can place a reservation for four weeks and only need to pay at the end of the four weeks. And I think if you cancel 3 months or more before the starting date you can get your full money back.

Greetings,
Zappel

Natgeo
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Natgeo » Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:36 pm

Hi Zappel,

Yes, we are very excited about our visit! :dance:

Thanks for the insights on driving between Punta Maria and Olifants. I thought it might be a little too far, but I just wanted to check with somebody who knows. The link you gave us for drive times will be very useful.

Regarding reservations, our plan was to make them ASAP. However, the form you sent regarding availability only goes up to the end of April 2011. I believe that on July 1st reservations for the month of May 2011 will open, and then on August 1st reservations for the month of June 2011. We were told by Bridget Bagley that we could make requests up to fourteen months in advance, but that they would only be entered into a database and then randomly assigned when reservations officially open.

Not sure exactly what to expect. It sounds like there is no guarantee, even booking this far in advance. Does anybody else have experience with making requests between eleven and fourteen months in advance? How often are the requests granted? Or can you end up with a completely different schedule?

Thanks in advance for any insights.

Best regards,
Natgeo

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ndloti
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby ndloti » Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:22 am

Natgeo , best of luck with your request , you will beat my tally of 5 back to back trails .
It may be difficult to book such an itinerary up front , as Zappel mentions there are often cancellations once initially hasty applicants realise that their requested dates do not coincide or that they cannot fill the places they requested .
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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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby ndloti » Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:17 pm

There is an article on this trail in the July issue of Getaway magazine
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.

carson
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Water availability Sept 1 Mpongolo trail departure?

Unread postby carson » Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:26 am

My husband and I are booked on the Sept 1 departure. Somewhere we read it is necessary to carry 5-6 litres of water per person. We plan to bring our "First Need" water filter and supplement with iodine tablets in case it gets clogged. Since we are travelling from the US with all of our camping and backpacking gear, we hate to bring extra water vessels if it isn't necessary.

Questions:
Will there be limited to no water this time of year?
Is the water muddy or somewhat clear?
If there is water, would iodine tablets do the trick or should we pack our filter anyway?
If we need to carry all of our water from Shingdwezi, how much total water should we plan on bringing?

On another topic-fuel for our backpack stove....
We own a jet boil stove and hoped to buy fuel in Nelspruit on the way to the Kruger. Does anyone know of a store that would sell fuel that works with this brand of stove?

Also, we would love to hear from the other 6 people booked on this trip if they happen to be forumites. We are avid backpackers and are quite excited about this trail experience.

Thank You
Carson

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Katamboega
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Re: Water availability Sept 1 Mpongolo trail departure?

Unread postby Katamboega » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:11 am

The iodine tablets will be more than adequate, you don't need to bring lots of water containers from the states. if you bring your normal containers for 2l you can always just by a normal 2l bottle of water at Shingwedzi.
I would recommend always having 4 l of water with you but there will always be places were you could replenish your supply,the water can vary from crystal clear to muddy depending on where you collect. On average people drink about 4-5l per day and you would stop of at places were you can replenish at least twice a day.

Unfortunately i cant help with were you will be able to get fuel.

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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Katamboega » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:51 am

Just completed another superb Mphongolo Trail 23-26 June.

We walked the area between Zari and Dili along the Phugeane river.
The first afternoon we camped 300m from the waterhole and found tracks of an elephant breading herd that had just visited the water before we got there, we tracked them about 400m threw the mopani before catching up to them and viewed them very close from a couple of rocks.

During the evening we heard a pride of lions approaching all the time roaring as they came closer, at sunrise one of the group members went to collect some water and was frightened by the roar of the lions now really close. After packing up camp we walked in the direction from were we heard the lions last and tracked them back to above our camp were they were obviously observing us packing, shortly afterwards we caught up with them but could not get to see them before they made of. This was one of the cases were beast waches man who is trying to watched beast.
During lunch we had a must bull elephant provide some entertainment at our siesta spot.
At camp that evening before sunset we had an elephant breading herd and a buffalo bull come to inspect our camping arrangements.

During the walk the next day we found elephant and buffalo and some general game but the climax was at our next camp were we had elephant interaction and fighting down the riverbed from us and a young elephant calve take a nap and playing with a peace of vegetation wile lying on his side in clear view from our camp.

The general consensus of the group was that it had been an exceptional wilderness experience with no noise or light pollution and not even a human track or any other sign of humans.

Asanja
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:10 pm

Trails area: Mphongolo back Packing trail.
Date: 9-12 June 2010
On the afternoon of the 9 the trail was dropped of on the klein Maswatikali and Larine Firebreak, from there we walked down to Mooigesigt dam. On route we viewed zebra, waterbuck and impala. The dam level is still high, we camped in the drainage line behind an Acacia Robusta. It was a quite night, with the francolin neglecting their duties, in waking everyone up in the morning. There was cloud cover during the evening and a slight smattering on rain in the early morning. We collected water from the dam for camp use.
The first full day we followed the Maswatikali drainage linedown to the Phukwane. Investigated the sound of White rhino grunts and squeals, and came across a cow and sub adult calf with a very amours bull attempting to court the cow, During the sighting an elephant bull came in to investigate the noise, once his curiosity was satisfied he moved of. For the entire duration of the day the air was filled with the shrill trumpet of elephant breeding herd, Obviously a cow in oestrus. We had various encounters with bulls, of Different ages and stages of Must. A 2.5m Rock python crossed our path. Breakfast was taken at Swartpiek. The Camping site selected in the dry river bed of the Phukanwe was far removed from any surface water in the river, and an old elephant digging was used to access water. During the evening 4 Different bulls passed by the camp on route ( one getting an eyeful of the ladies taking a bucket bath) to the breeding herd which had moved further down the Phukwane
The next full day was spent meandering inland up a few drainage lines, and then back onto the Phukwane back passed Swartpiek. There was plenty of sign of a breeding herd of buffalo moving through the area. Vegetation clearly starting to dry up, However we still found a secluded little oasis in one of the smaller drainage lines were a rocky intrusion had forced water to the surface, which had been visited by white rhino the night before. During the brunch break a leopard let us know he was in the area, not to far away, and after a short tracking session and a bit of luck, he burst through the bush about 30m ahead of us and was gone just as quickly. There was still a lot of sign of breeding herds and elephant bulls in the area and along the river. We camped a few km east of Phukwane oos windmill, again in the river bed. Surface water was rather smelly so we used the old elephant drinking scrapes to collect water and some indulged in a splash to clean of the days sweat.
On route back to the vehicle on the last morning, there were fresh rhino tracks, which were followed back up to Mooigesigt dam, they picked us up and moved out of the area before we could sight them.

Asanja
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Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail

Unread postby Asanja » Mon Jun 28, 2010 7:25 pm

Trails area: Mphongolo Back Packing trail.
Date: 16-19 June 2010
We were dropped of at the confluence of the Pukwane and Mphogolo, And took a slow meandering walk down the Phukwane until we found a suitable camping site, in the dry river bed. For the entire duration of the trail we never encountered any surface water in the river. There was plenty of general game at sandpiper windmill. We were forced to dig fairly deep, in order to access water in the river bed, Fortunately the elephants had done most of the “heavy Lifting” . It was a very, very cold night, and quite wrt the night sounds.
The next morning we made our way up to the hot water spring, Matiovila. On route we passed Tomlinson wind mill. Reaching Mafayeni, a little after 12 we had a long lunch at the spring in the hope that we could view “something” coming down to drink, But we were only obliged a few Pigeons. Tranquilty was the order of the day. We made our way up to Matiovila latter in the afternoon, setting up camp in the Tambuti forest. In the early evening we took a short walk around the area, and encountered one of the resident buffalo bulls who after a long stare took exception to our presence and bolted of into the undergrowth. The drainage lines leading out of Matiovila are truly exceptional, and there was a fantastic opportunity to look at track and sign. The ladies enjoyed the warmth of the spring for a bath until one of the aquatic residence crawled a little to close to home, and they all leapt nimbly from the water. Water from the spring was used, although the sulphor smell and salty taste not being appreciated as it flavored the evening meal. The night was quite except for the a lone hyena, a little warmer because of the tree canopy, the track of a buffalo bull passing close to the camp the only evidence of nocturnal visitors.
The next morning we headed back down to the Phukwane, we took breakfast under a Large baobab, with its host of inhabitants. A chameleon had a brush with death as my size 6 boot narrowly missed flattening him. And we had lunch in the river bed, were for the duration we sat in anxious anticipation to see if a Natal francolin would have enough sense to return to claim a single chick who had been left behind when we arrived and disturbed their peaceful existence. ( Ultimately we left to allow nature to take its course, so we will never know the outcome) On route to the final camp site, we encountered a small breeding herd of Ele, Basically an Old cow, and her two successive calves. From the opposite river bank we could watch them feeding comfortably and with out disturbing their evening. The last evening was the warmest of the three as mother nature provided a fleeting blanket of cloud that trapped a little of the days heat. During the night two lions indulged us with a guttural symphony, which was strongly competed with by some of the guttural exhalations of the sleeping guests.

On the last morning we headed out in the direction of the roaring lions but they had disappeared, and latter in the morning we heard what we can only assume to be them calling in the far of distance to the south. We encountered some very interesting signs were what appeared to have been to very large snakes had engaged in either foreplay or an aggressive display. There was also fresh Rhino track and sign of were a breeding herd of Buffalo had moved across the river bead in the early hours of the morning. This was the same area three days previous which had been extremely quite and without any fresh sign of large mammal activity. It just goes to show that the bush is in a constant state of flux, and you can never walk the same area twice with the same outcome.
Although the large game sightings on this trail were by most accounts “slow” the actual objective of wilderness was attained. No watches, No cell phones, and no place in particular to be, resting the senses from the constant battering they receive in the cities, reacquainting your self with the sounds, smells and feeling of our mother nature. This is what wilderness is about.


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