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 Post subject: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger-May/June 2010
Unread postPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 3:23 pm 
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4 SLEEPS

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The sun is well to the north and its rays angle across a landscape rendered sharp and golden; shadowy and misty and very beautiful. A totally different look from the honest, overhead, hot, white light of summer. This is the time I itch to be out there with my camera and yearn to be with wild things.

Well in four sleeps it’s going to happen! :D As always, this week, I am enmeshed in an orgy of cooking and shopping and packing. There are boxes and bags and lists everywhere and Annie keeps smsing me saying ‘is it Friday yet?’ I toy with the idea of phoning her at five tomorrow and saying ‘where are you?’ My better nature triumphs and I think about what we would like to see this year. I can deal with that in two words and I’m sure you can all guess what they are after seeing me turn green on virtually everyone else’s TR . . . . But we’d still like to see honey badgers too, so if anyone knows what time they start in on the dustbins in Satara . . . . Other than that we are content with whatever the park offers us. Absolute peace; moments of heart-stopping beauty; long nights of deep sleep; occasional excitement; endless variety; hours of rest; are all part of the package.

I phoned Satara today to confirm our request for a particular hut, to be told that as from last month they are not confirming requests because of the upgrading that is going on. Well, it will be nice to have upgraded huts next year – I wonder if they will include making space for the fridge . . . . Maybe it will be enclosed in a gorilla-proof cage. :lol:

I must go and make the dough for the Kruger Biscuits. :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 7:09 pm 
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3 SLEEPS

. . . and the countdown continues. Today I lost my shopping list and the list of contents of one of the boxes, so I came back from the shops after playing guessing games amongst the aisles, with only half my shopping. I kept standing stock still in the middle of an aisle thinking “do I want more spaghetti?’ and similar life-changing questions whilst the stream of shoppers parted and flowed round either side of me with glares and ankle-crunching jabs with their trolleys. I still haven’t worked out the answer to the spaghetti and shan't know until I have found the list of contents. ( I never ’lose’ anything, I merely ‘mislay’ it according to Annie) I helped a man find the Bourneville cocoa to make up for all that negative energy.

After that I limped around on one and a half ankles finishing the last of the boxes and packing some of the many bags. The evolution of these P&P and Woollies shopping bags were a great mistake in my opinion – they proliferate every year as I find more and more things to put into them along the principal that it’s just a small bag and it won’t make much difference to the total volume of luggage. A hasn’t noticed yet, but this may be The Year of the Banned Supermarket Bags if I don’t box clever . . . .

I have mixed the citronella cream; added a bit of lemon grass just to give it a zing. There were several bees taking a great interest in what I was doing so I hope this is not an apian attractant; we had enough problems with them at Skukuza last year.
Having thought more about what I’d like to see, I’d really like to see again the very large tuskless elephant we saw at Satara on the S100 last year as there is a possibility that it is Shimatsi and I want to get some pics that might help Aat to be certain one way or the other.

Hmmmnn, it's nearly tomorrow already . . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 8:27 pm 
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2 SLEEPS

Well most things are now packed, even my suitcase, and walking down the passage is dangerous in the extreme as everything swirls around unsuspecting feet used to a clear run and odd shapes stick out at unexpected angles to catch you a clout on the shin. All I have left to do is the fresh shop tomorrow and the biscuits to cook. This is scary; I’m not normally as ready as this . . . .

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I caught Satara waterhole on the cam this evening – no animals, but just looking so serene and I suddenly thought ‘Wow! I shall BE there in a few days’ I think that is the first moment that the reality of me in Kruger hit :shock: . I’ve been so focused on the organizational side that I haven’t left enough time for musing on the actuality.

I printed out Aat’s PDF of the Big Tuskers as a reference earlier, and also a check list of the Kruger birds. With them I put an info sheet about taking photos of Saddle-Bills for a survey and another one about those elusive animals that we have been trying to see for the last six years . . . yes, I’m a bit hesitant to mention them by name in case they pick up the vibes over the ether and run away . . . .

Had an SMS from a friend already in Kruger; ‘KP is lush and animals sleek; good viewing on way down from north including elephant, buffalo, lions and lots of birds.’ Lush? Sleek? What happened to winter, dead grass, big gaps through leafless trees, thin animals (except the zebra of course), hungry birds?

I will find out in two days time . . . . :D 8)


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 9:57 pm 
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Salamanda,
I like to wish you a wonderful wonderful trip and beautiful sightings.

Remember what I said about photographing Big Tuskers: :rtm:
- Total overview of the tusker (minimum 20 pics)
- Good detailed pictures of the left and right ears (minimum 10 pics per ear)
- Good frontal pictures (minimum 10)
- Detailed pictures of the tusks (minimum 10)


If he does not move or pose as you like, then open your window and tell him he will be on the internet forever. Tell him his pics will be available for the cows looking for a "date"

This must help I guess.... :whistle: :whistle: :whistle:

Enjoy and all luck you deserve it !!
:cam:

_________________
Next trip to Kruger NP 2014
Skukuza: april 21-22, Satara: april 22-26, Mopani: april 26-30
Shingwedzi: april 30 - may 4, Satara: may 4-8, Skukuza: may 8-9


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 7:02 pm 
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Thanks MM, Nkulu and fenwickh - unusual birds would be great! MM you need a category for those . . .

1 SLEEP!

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All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go
The rest are in the car below
I’m ready now to give you all goodbye!
I’m leaving when the sky’s still dark,
Leaving for the Kruger Park,
Oh guys I long to go . . . .
(Humble apologies to JD)

Yes I’m finally ready. Did the fresh shop this morning and had to throw out half the contents of the refrigerator to fit it all in (don’t worry, there was a happy beneficiary!) Came back, finished the last minute packing, made the

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Watered all the plants; put my mobile on charge; now I’m going to have an early night as I didn’t sleep much last night; if anyone else is going to Kruger or some other place at this time, have a ball and drive safe.

I’ll be back! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:36 pm 
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I'm back! I'm exhausted. Going to bed.

We had a wonderful time in spite of one high-impact disaster. Thanks for all your good wishes; the Kruger biscuits were yummy - none left I'm afraid Flutterby! Will get organised over next couple of days - yawn - and start TR. G'night.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:40 pm 
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Thank-you kate.

Flutterby - :redface:


29th May 2010

A Long Journey and a New Tick

A moon close to lush pearly fullness sits at windscreen level in the navy sky as we leave; maybe a harbinger of good weather, although the forecast is for rain. The car is loaded and Granny is on the roof. We haven’t said much yet, having been too busy loading, but as we drive out of the gate, we look at each other and grin. We’re really on our way. Our holiday has started.
We stop off at V’s for a visit and have black-currant tea overlooking the granite koppies of Nelspruit. By five, we are standing on the road bridge over the Crocodile River, greeting the Water Thick-knees clustered on little sandbars and the Grey Herons fishing from the reed-lined bank and the noisy Egyptian Geese winging it back and forth across the water. The sky is rippling with grey cloud and there is a lovely light over the water.

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The usual lone Goliath Heron stands in the middle of the river and pure white Little Egrets wander around on the larger sandbanks. A flight of White-faced Duck whistle as they pass overhead, dark cicatrices against the skin of evening clouds.

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We are content; something has been achieved; we are here. Now the unwinding can start and the essence of the natural way of things can seep into our souls and flow though our minds and gently even out our thinking until we once again have our world in proportion so that what is really important becomes real and what is not important becomes negligible. We breathe in the damp muddy smell of the swiftly flowing water and peer over the bridge again for a last look. And there I see a life tick! A tiny brilliant peacock–blue kingfisher sits on a dead piece of wood caught up against the bridge pillar. At first I think it is a Malachite Kingfisher and hastily snap a picture of it before it flies off. Then realization comes – it is a Half-collared Kingfisher.

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A large flock of Guinea-fowl twitter their way down to the edge of the water as we get back into the car and go to book in. The security guard outside hands us a form to fill in which we take inside where the booking clerk screws it up and throws it in the bin saying it’s too late to fill it in. hello? It’s only ten past five! We go to the loo; there is a large soccer ball on a post sitting in the middle of the garden, a reminder of excitement of another kind. As we drive in through the gate and take our brown paper bag we try to guess what we shall see first. Did I say try? No contest really, it will be impala (Friends came in a couple of weeks before us and proved us wrong – their first sighting was of a lion up a tree close to the gate!) And here are the impala, sleek, brown and gorgeous, watching us incuriously as they step daintily across the road and into the bushes on the other side. Then we see one lone elephant and a group of four white rhino before we reach the camp gates.
We decide to get petrol first, helped by a lady attendant whilst the man lounges in a chair listening to music. Anne asks politely if there is someone who could clean our very blotchy windscreen. He will do it, he says, he thought our car looked so clean that he wouldn’t offer . . . . We have just driven 800km, some of it on dirt . . . .
The office staff are absolutely wonderful. They greet us as if they are genuinely pleased to see us, answer our queries with charm and patience, sort out our Wild Cards and give us a cottage they assure us we shall love. And we do. It is right on the corner boundary of the river and has recently been renovated, with a lovely kitchen area, tiled bathroom with a large shower instead of the usual tiny box, new curtains and bedcovers, lovely bright reading lights and the braai area has been half covered so that you can eat outside even if it is raining. Here are some pics:

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After unpacking the car we sit on the patio with drinks and nuts and olives and listen to an elephant feeding in the bushes on the other side of the fence, then eat fresh prawns and avocados with fresh tartare sauce – such an easy and delectable dish for the first night and one that feels just a little special. Even more special is lying in bed later, listening to the night noises which translate into a deep, contented silence, one that we can sleep in, sleep right through till the morning comes with its new and unexpected gifts.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:24 pm 
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This day will come in two (or maybe even three) parts.

30th May 2010


Beginning and Ending with a Roar

We wake to the sound of lions. They are close and we keep dashing outside every time they give voice to try and work out where they are. We decide that they are on the tar road fairly close to the camp, so our plans to have tea at Matjulu are immediately forgotten as we rush to get everything into the car – big camera bags, two pillows, first-aid kit, one large box, tea basket, cold box, binoculars, bird books, dictaphone, warm jackets, scarves, gloves, beanies, bean-bags, rug – I begin to feel like a pack-horse as I load up with more and more essentials. Everything has its place. For the curious, one back seat has been removed and here we place the box, with bags behind to shore it up. Across the box and the other seat go the pillows. On these we rest our cameras, primed and ready to snatch. As we huddle into our coats and scarves, Anne produces another innovation for us – buffs which immediately become neck warmers. The Wuss is already bleating and I have now bought it a Thermolator beanie of its own (for new readers, The Wuss is my camera which is a tad sensitive to cold weather and has a tendency to hijack my beanie to keep warm . . . .) We reach the gate at one minute past six, turn left and get into scanning mode, full of excitement and rigid with anticipation. We don’t need to scan for long. The calls come again, and there, on the side of the road is a large and beautiful male lion walking along and calling softly. There are two other cars at the sighting and a third coming up behind us. This is the last time I notice them because the beauty and power of the scene in front has captured every working part of my brain. The roars increase in intensity. We hear another call from the other side of the road and after a minute a second lion steps out. He could be the brother of the first, they are so alike and I wonder if they are a couple of the nomads that EJ talks about. They rub heads, and then the one on our side draws up next to us and sits down in the grass on the edge of the road where we can have a good look at him.

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His coarse mane starts as a golden ruff around his face and then shades into black, with a ridiculous little tuft on the top of his head; maybe he’s relatively young. There is a serene expression on his face and his muscular body is relaxed, his tail lying limp on the grass. On his right flank is a T shaped scar. It looks as though someone put it there, maybe during the tuberculin testing drive. Does T mean he has been tested, or does it mean he has or does not have TB? In his left eye is a tiny blood spot. Do lions get an eye disease? Is it something to do with TB? Or is it damage from a fight? I ask because a couple of years ago we came across one who was totally blind in one eye which was entirely red and bulging.

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There is something very uplifting about sharing peaceful space with a fully grown, all-wild, lion; he gets into your heart-space and makes it larger; he gets into your mind and makes it wonder; he looks at you with those presently gentle eyes and makes you smile. And whilst you smile, his brother catches up with him and he gets up and starts spraying; ‘this is me. I am here. My space. Enter at your peril. Touch me or mine and you are finished.’ Suddenly he is bigger and more powerful and you want to stay in the car . . . .

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Eventually, half an hour after we started the day with them, the two move off into the grass and we, elated, move on. We are not very far from the gate so we decide to turn round and go and have our tea at Matjulu anyway.

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On the way we see Marabou storks, still perched incongruously at the tips of small bare trees. A Southern Black Flycatcher is hawking from a low branch over the road and an African Hoopoe flies across the landscape in a flash of orange, black and white. There is nothing at the waterhole but sipping fragrant, hot Lapsang in a fresh, crisp morning; with birds flying back and forth and tree squirrels chittering somewhere in the background; after the intensity of our sighting it is enough for now. Eventually we drive on, and continue along the S110 towards the tar. A male giraffe is feeding hungrily and behind him is a pretty, skittish much younger female. There are no others around so maybe these two are hooked up.

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Near the tar there is a small tree full of chattering Green Wood-Hoopoes, their red bills and feet standing out against the grayish bark and we see our first Lilac-breasted roller and a Red-billed Hornbill .

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We see elephant at a distance on the main road and we check out each river bridge without much luck. Back on the dirt, as we travel up the Voortrekker road on our way to Pretoriuskop we come across a troupe of baboons in the road and we stop and watch a while whilst the babies play and tumble in the road and the small bushes and the mothers groom either other mothers or the large Alpha male. Soon he gets up and as if at a signal, they all start walking towards us and turn off into the bush in front of us, tiny dark brown and pink babies clinging like limpets to the undersides of their mothers, older ones taking a ride on a motherly back.

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Whilst we are stopped I notice a pretty shrub on the other side of the road which I can’t identify. Forestgump and Imberbe later tell me on the plant thread that it is Senna petersiana otherwise known as Monkey Pod. (Thanks guys)

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Then further up the road we come across this piece of bone.

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Having lost my notes for this section (I don’t want to bore you with the details) I can’t recall my speculations as to what it is as I looked down on the real thing. Now I am looking at it from a photographic angle and am somewhat at a loss. Any suggestions would be welcome!

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(To be continued)


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:22 pm 
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30th May 2010 (Continuation)

Beginning and Ending with a Roar

Soon after looking at the mysterious bone, we come across a group of impala stepping out into the road and stop to let them cross.

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There are about twenty of them, watched closely by a large ram with muscular withers and strong-looking horns. We have come in on the end of the rutting season and we are seeing mostly groups of females with their attendant male. Not far away there is always a small group of bachelors who spend their days feeding, mock-fighting and keeping a close eye on the nearby group of attractive females and their young. The feeding is very important because when impala fight for territory, (and only when he has achieved territory can he support a herd) their victory is generally dictated by weight coupled with skill. As the reigning male loses weight through the season racing round the herd to defend his status and prevent depredations of his breeding pool, he hasn’t the time to feed as much as he should and often loses condition. Victory occurs when a ram can be wrestled to the ground by a stronger, heavier male and although he may continue to fight, once he has been grounded a few times, he has to return to the pool of bachelor males and the victor takes his place. It’s a neat system really because it dictates that the strongest males will be the ones available for breeding and thus the young will have a good genetic makeup which will contribute to their survival in a competitive world in which the environment is always throwing up changes. Our male positions himself on the side of the road between the females and us and watches his prick-eared charges stepping daintily and with frequent observational pauses across to the far bank of vegetation where they immediately start nibbling. He gives us one last look and saunters off to join them.

We have now passed Ship Mountain and are getting close to Pretoriuskop. On the right is a road leading to a historical site. It appears to go off for about ten kilometers into the distance in a dead straight line although the sign says that the site is only 2km. We discover that the continuation is actually a service road which carries on from the plaque mounting. This is where Jock of the Bushveld, that famous runt of the litter, is purported to have been born. Also at this site is the grave of a young Afrikaans man who was a transport rider. He apparently shot himself accidentally in the leg with his double-barreled shotgun. He was only 23. Grazing all over the thick grassy veld is a large herd of about 300 buffalo, many with knobby-horned young in tow. One big male stares at us for about ten minutes, chewing rhythmically, seemingly relaxed. The air is filled with moos and bellows and the noise of the odd scuffle. I see a medium sized male resting his head on the back of another grazer and close his eyes as though asleep and the two stay like that as though the one in front doesn’t want to disturb its mate. Some of the youngsters are feeding from their mothers, stumbling after them to snatch another mouthful as mom moves forward to another grassy patch. Red-billed Oxpeckers flutter from one broad back to another, from one flicking, tick-filled ear to another, from one irritable nose to another and their excited calls add to the bush symphony. It is very peaceful and we sit here for ages just watching. In fact I am so entranced that I don’t seem to have taken any photos but just sit glued to my binoculars. Eventually we leave them to their Eden and drive back through the tall grasses (taller than me) to the main road and the river of silvery leaves standing out against the dark seamed bark of the Terminalia sericea (Silver cluster-leaf) trees. Banded mongooses run across the road and we see the odd group of kudu as we get closer to the camp.

Soon we are in Pretoriuskop where we have decided to have lunch. It’s very cold and we order toasted sandwiches and hot drinks and proffer a R200 note; this is where the day becomes temporarily a little unstuck. In spite of the fact that this is the new note, and comes straight from an ATM, there is, according to the Pretoriuskop staff, a ban on ALL R200 notes in the park. :shock: There seems to be an inability to understand the difference between the old notes, which are indeed no longer legal tender as from 31st May, and the new notes which have built-in protection from forgery. (Doubtless one of our more skilful entrepreneurs will find a way around this, but for the moment they are legal tender, as stated most emphatically by the government in a press release before we left). I can understand that in the present confusion it may be easier to temporarily ban the notes, but in that case why are all the visitors to the park not warned about this before they arrive? We are further told that Kruger Park (maybe this applies only to the shops?) will never accept R200 notes again. So be warned if you are contemplating a visit and intend to purchase within the park. (The one exception is the shop at Afsaal, which had the facts right and does accept the new notes).

After lunch we leave Pretoriuskop and travel back along the H1-1so that we can stop at the dams. The temperature is only 14C and there is not much about; doubtless everything is sheltering from the rather icy wind. There is a small pod of hippo at Shitlhave dam with a baby, but they are on the far side. Behind them we can just see a Malachite Kingfisher staring at the wind-rippled water and Palm Swifts and Wire-tailed Swallows wheel overhead. On this grey, cold day the dam looks rather bleak and we move on down the road, turning off onto the Napi loop to have a look at the boulder. Back on the main road we meet a bull elephant feeding and we look around for others.

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Far back there is a second, larger elephant with a nice pair of tusks, although not, I think up to Tusker standards. It has a very long, thick trunk which it rests, bent under, on the ground.

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Our askari keeps a close eye on us, but not with any aggression and we spend a relaxed fifteen minutes watching and listening to it feeding. Occasionally it shows that it is aware of our presence but mostly it crunches around amongst the leaves, meandering from one tasty treat to another. We can hear occasional deep rumbles as it keeps in touch with the big bull further into the bush, or maybe with another askari not visible to us.

Further on we find four white rhino and just beyond them we see signs of buffalo crossing the road. It looks to be a big herd and we look out on either side to see if we can find them. Suddenly the hillside on our right is black with buffs! As we drive slowly along we try a count. By counting 100 at a time and dividing them into blocks we eventually estimate that there may be as many as 2000 + in this herd! The swathe of droppings, footprints and dropped vegetation continues for 2km . . . . Amazing sight. We pass groups of zebra much closer to us than the buffalo, and wildebeest huddled into a hollow below the wind. Then another group of elephants, one of which comes up to where we are parked on the side of the road. He comes very close indeed.
:big_eyes:

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He is a great deal larger than we are, so we keep quiet. After eyeing us suspiciously, he crosses the road behind us.

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We find ourselves alone at Transport dam and we settle in and pour tea. There is a Malachite Kingfisher perched on a branch that is lying just under the surface of the water so that it looks as though the Malachite is walking on the water. A Blacksmith Lapwing flies down near the car and, unusually, seems unfazed by our lenses as it paces up and down and pokes at invisible objects on the sand.

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Beyond it, along the edge of the grassy strip that lines the dam are some pretty Wild Foxgloves (Ceratotheca triloba) in amongst the pink flowering grasses.

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There’s a hippo in the water and in the trees around the edge and on the dead tree in front of us perch Magpie Shrikes and Fork-tailed Drongos whistling and calling. One or two Natal Spurfowl scuttle about the car cheeping very gently as we eat Kruger biscuits, probably hoping for crumbs; we steadfastly refuse to give in and try to avert our eyes from their pleading stances beneath the windows. When tea is finished, we move on passing a tree full of Cape and White-backed Vultures, all puffed up against the cold. Just before the T junction of the H1-1 with the H3 there is a tumble of rock and here we see something I am always on the lookout for:

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At Kwagga pan we see Egyptian Geese, Blacksmith Lapwings and a Pied Kingfisher and further on at the Muhlambamadvube River Bridge there is a large, fluffy, tusky, male warthog snouting around in the dry sand. At the Biyamiti River Bridge there are two cars. One looks like this:

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In the other, the occupants seem to be looking out at both sides of the river bed, but in rather agitated fashion, so although we cant see anything we wait and start looking for ourselves. There are lots of waterbuck around and immediately below us is a Giant Eagle Owl sitting quietly on the sand. Whether it came down for a drink and is now holed up because of the attention from above I dont know, but we check it out intermittently as we scan around.

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Then, suddenly lion appear from behind the lala palms on the edge of the reed bed! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight . . . With the exception of the eighth, which we saw as a male going behind the palm from the reed bed, the others all emerge and cross the sandy spit and climb up the far bank. One youngster, number six, emerges slowly and looks round in puzzled fashion – where have all the others gone? He bumbles off down the river and clambers up the bank and stands staring around before walking off and disappearing over a small rise. The seventh is a large female and she looks around for some time before going to join the rest of the pride. The male behind the lala palms still hasn’t come out. All at once there is a snorting and a crashing and a large buffalo bull comes charging out of the vegetation into which the lions had disappeared, kicking out his hind legs, with five of them in hot pursuit. The youngster who had disappeared in that direction stands up from where he had obviously lain down and watches in some bemusement, then he trots after them. The other lions give up and come back and two of them sit on the edge of the river bank staring across the river whilst the remainder once more vanish. We wonder if those two can see the male who has remained hidden in the reeds. Ahead of us on the road a large herd of buffalo come down to the far edge of the river and spread out on both sides of the road grazing. Some time tonight there may be a kill . . . .

Hearts still beating fast, we have a quick word with the people in the car in front of us. They had been there for a while and had actually seen the lions come down to the river from the same direction as the buffalo earlier and vanish into the reeds so they had been sitting watching to see where they would go. Strangely enough there are several cars and a GDV watching the buffalo having no knowledge of what has been taking place a couple of hundred metres ahead of them! Wow! Lion twice in one day; how lucky is that?

Further along the road we pass another herd of buffalo but it is getting late so we don’t stop; we are driving at 50kph in order to get back to camp in time as it is. In the office we enquire about the R200 notes and are told that yes, it is SANParks policy as well as policy in the park shops. We have a very quick look at the dam but it is getting dark and is still pretty cold so we go back to the chalet and abandon our projected braai for hot homemade butternut soup and toast which we heat up whilst we have lemon-stuffed olives (the best!) and drinks and discuss the highlights of the day. Once again, there is rustling and munching in the river bed – buffalo this time and I snuggle contentedly down into my bed with Lady Detective Precious Ramotswe and her latest adventures, only two pages of which gets read before I fall asleep.


Last edited by salamanda on Fri Jun 18, 2010 8:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 5:29 pm 
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Location: KZN
31st May 2010

Delights, Disaster and an Amazing Sunset

It is taking us a while to detox this year; to calm down and get into the rhythm of the bush; to let go of the tiring, stressful; rushed lives we have been living; to feel the importance of other things. Last night we both slept extremely well and today is the day that we begin to fall into the rhythm of a slower life, a more gentle heartbeat, to see with more observant eyes. We shall be sorry to leave this lovely chalet; each year we grow fonder of Berg-en-Dal and the surrounding bush. We have decided that instead of going out for a short drive with our tea, we shall enjoy it here then do part of the rhino trail before we pack up and leave for Satara. All our major packing was done last night, so it won’t take long.


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It is a cool, fresh morning when we set out to walk down to the dam. The sunrise is reflected in the water and everything is still and in the distance we hear the lions calling consistently again. As they call, a little shiver runs over the surface of the dam. The sun comes up above the hill and suddenly the whole place is filled with dancing light reflecting off the water and the leaves of the trees and we see that the cold grey weather has gone and that today will be beautiful.


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As we walk along the trail the calling of the lions mingles with birdsong; Black-backed Puffbacks call from the thick vegetation, an Africana Jacana wades through the shallow waters at the end of the dam amongst Little Grebes, and Grey-headed Sparrows chitter in the trees above us. A flash of orangey-brown and some clear high notes signals a Paradise Flycatcher and we see Purple-crested Turacos, Sombre Bulbuls and a Golden-tailed Woodpecker. There are a lot of small birds flitting through the sedges and the small bushes along the fence and we manage to find Common Waxbills, Lesser Swamp-Warblers, Green-backed Cameropteras and Spectacled Weavers, whilst a flight of Red-faced Mouse-birds flash overhead. It is a lovely, peaceful walk, and we feel much better for having done it and given ourselves some downtime.

Back at the chalet, I take a pic of the outside so that you can see the way that part of the braai area is roofed over – a big improvement I think because you can now choose shade, rain or sun.


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We pack up the car and are out by 08.30 heading down the tar in the faint hope that we might bump into the lions. A greyish brown or brownish grey BMW (we were not entirely in agreement about this!) passed us going towards the camp bearing a yellow ribbon. We saw the ribbon at the last moment and I don’t think they saw ours, although we did exchange waves. So whoever you were, sorry we didn’t get to say ‘hello’! We were in the pale Toyota Rav. (I suppose it wasn’t you going to breakfast Elsa?) We half hoped to see the lions at Matjulu bridge as the sound seemed to be going in that direction, but there were only a Burchell’s Coucal and a Lilac-breasted Roller on the same branch there – rather a pretty combination. Further on there is a Lappet-faced Vulture in a tree and lots of impala standing on both sides of the road and crossing the Mhlambane Bridge. We have tea at Renosterpan with a Groundscraper Thrush and drive on towards Afsaal, passing a hollow just before the Afsaal plains that is full of hundreds of Impala and lots of Zebra and Wildebeest all feeding busily. Maybe the grass is especially good here. It makes for a lovely pastoral scene.


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There are masses more impala, some white rhino and several grey Hornbills on the plains. It is here that there is suddenly a horrible scraping rattling motorised noise and my camera begins to shake. I begin to shake too - I know the sound well. The scale ring in my zoom lens has broken . . . for the third time since I bought the lens three years ago. This is a disaster because I have no more autofocus and in fact should probably not use it anymore, but I decide to struggle along on manual as much as I can. It is very difficult to focus as the ring keeps jamming. From here on, a lot of my photos will be somewhat blurred and I may have to put one or two of Anne’s in instead (I will acknowledge them as such). I have a few intense moments of frustration and anger, but really there is no point – I am in the middle of Kruger and my camera is not the only reason why I came here. So I calm down and decide to sit back and enjoy the ride and take pics when I can. We intend to do a quick in and out at Afsaal, but Anne spots a Pearl-spotted Owlet in a tree at the side of the building so of course we indulge in a little photographic session to give me some practice . . . .

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The Skops Owl, it seems is still on holiday. Just beyond Afsaal is a bull elephant feeding right next to the road. We approach with our usual caution but he seems far more intent on pushing in as much food as he can that wondering what this very common animal is doing so we sit quietly having a hard job not to laugh out loud; every time he opens his mouth for the next mouthful half the preceding one falls out because he is working so fast.


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I become intrigued by the actions of his trunk, so flexible and so busy. It is an astonishing organ with a large number of functions so it’s not surprising to learn that there are over 40 000muscles in this one piece of an elephant alone! (We only have 639!) He stretches it down and feels around in the grass with its flexible tip, presumably breathing in at the same time to help him locate a succulent mouthful. But the inward breath is very gentle and controlled so that he can cover a wide area if necessary.


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Having located what he wants he fastens the two valves around it and curls up the trunk, pulling the piece of vegetation out of the ground. An elephant can lift approximately 4.5% of its own body weight with this appendage so tugging out a few plants from the ground is not at all stressful.


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Then the coils straighten out and one loop brings the trunk up to his mouth and releases the plant material. The mouth just seems to open and he doesn’t appear able to use some teeth or his tongue to keep what is in his mouth there if he hasn’t already dealt with it.


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Two more cars draw up behind us and then someone comes in front; more cars draw up on the other side of the road and we are effectively blocked. I don’t like this because some people behave very stupidly near elephant and in that case I like to have a space around me. Suddenly two cars roar up at high speed and drive in between the two rows with a great deal of noise. The bull takes great exception to this and for a moment I think he is going to do a mock charge but luckily he turns and rapidly disappears into the bush. A little bit further along the road is a lovely warthog. I am just about to take a picture when a SANParks car roars past at high speed and frightens it off. Gone are the days when they would courteously stop if they came across someone enjoying a sighting or taking a pic.

Travelling onwards we pass groups of Impala rams and then females; another bull elephant tearing branches off a bush (no we don’t sit next to this one, he looks a bit sweaty); several kudu, a Chinspot Batis, six waterbuck and a Red-crested Korhaan. Before we came, several people told us how little we would see this winter because everywhere was still thick and green, but I must say, the park and its inhabitants not only look in good shape, but the resident numbers seem, if anything ,to be rising! Suddenly a Secretary Bird is standing in a clearing; as we stop the car it takes off. This one must be a youngster as the yellow facial skin of the juvenile is just beginning to turn red.


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We arrive at Skukuza having sadly decided that we shall not have time to look at Lake Panic and, like others before us, are charged a heavy R5 each for the containers for our takeaway toasted sandwiches. Next year we shall bring our own and order a plate. We leave as quickly as we can, having picked up petrol because we know what a long time the rest of this journey is going to take us as we visit each dam and waterhole . . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 6:56 pm 
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TinyPic and I are not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment, so I am posting what I've managed to download, and will leave the rest for tomorrow when it is in a better mood . . . .

31st May 2010


Delights, Disaster and an Amazing Sunset (Part 2)

One thing that interests me about Skukuza: a large swathe of reeds in front of the walkway along the Sabie River has been cut down :big_eyes: leaving an open sandbank and a view over to the far side. I know that SANParks policy is that of never interfering with the ecology; thus fallen trees - apart from those blocking roads – are left where they fall and firewood is imported; animals with injuries (unless poacher-inflicted)are left to die and so on. So what is the reason for this attack on the reeds? Leaving the camp, we decide to take the road to the High Level Bridge and enjoy driving in to all the viewpoints to watch the swirling waters of the fast-running Sabie river and the hippo sunbathing on the banks or, in one or two cases, still grazing. We stop on the bridge but there is nothing to be seen but a pied kingfisher. The views of the river however are so pretty that we sit there for a while enjoying the sound of the water and the scenery.


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Over the bridge we see kudu and a line of impala coming down to drink. The vegetation, very green in the south, is becoming drier and browner, the leaves on the trees are turning yellow or are dead and grayish; the entire landscape looks washed out after the brilliance we are leaving behind. There is a reason for the changes. Kruger has an interesting geological formation; layers of rock were laid down one on top of the other, starting about 3,500 million years ago, but as a result of land movements, these layers of rock were tilted in such a way they they run in N-S bands through the park. (Imagine placing five books one on top of the other. Now tilt them up at a 45 degree angle onto their spines and you will get five book edges running lengthwise.) Along the western side are the oldest rocks and the youngest are along the eastern border. The thing that fascinates me is that the rock determines the soil type, and the soil type determines the plant type and the plant type determines the herbivores and so on. So if you travel from west to east or vice versa you cross the bands and can look out for these changes. (Of course there are little local pocket changes too, determined by local topography and weather conditions.) There used to be a fantastic series produced jointly by KNP and Jacana – A ‘Find It’ book, a wonderful map with all the geological and vegetation information and a ‘Travel Guide’ I had all three but unfortunately the map and the travel guide have disappeared. (Anne would say ‘Mislaid’). So today we are travelling through the oldest granites around Berg-en-Dal in the west through a band of gabbro, crossing the shale and finishing up on the basalt on which Satara is situated. We crossed the gabbro some way after Afsaal. Gabbro gives rise to good soils and thick grassy thornveld arises as a result. Blue buffalo grass, rooigras, guinea grass and vlei bristle grass are very common here and what was noticeable to me was the way in which the buffalo grass grew over the termite mounds and the others grew everywhere else. In the early light the termite mounds stand out with this crown of buffalo grass, the thick seed-heads back-lit by the sun. Because of the activities of the termites the mounds are like little islands of fertility and the different grasses encourage animals to graze there thus leading to the flattened circles that can be seen around the mounds. Sorry, I’m rattling on a bit here, I just find the environmental jigsaw so fascinating . . . .

Our first dam – Mantimahle – is virtually invisible from the viewpoint. However there is a lovely group of 8 or 9 waterbuck sitting peacefully sideways on to the sun with one large male keeping an eye on them. We sit and admire them until they decide to move, whereupon the senior female gets up and starts nosing the others. I’ve noticed this about lions too. If it is time to move, one of the older lions, usually a female, gets up and walks from one to the other pushing her nose into their faces and rubbing her head against them and they meekly get up and start walking off. The male waterbuck gets up last and reluctantly.


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We also see a male and female Bearded Woodpecker whilst we are watching the waterbuck and a mass of Arrow-marked Babblers who fly in low, one at a time, from bush to bush making a great deal of noise as they call constantly to mark their positions.

Soon after the dam we come to Orpenklippe where there are another three Klipspringers sitting peacefully in the sun. There is a rock here balanced on top of another rock and the klipspringers have arranged themselves theatrically, one reclining on the top rock looking out into the left distance and the other two sitting on the lower rock stage right and stage left, one looking directly at us, one looking away from us. This third one eventually lies down with its chin perched on the edge of the rock looking at something below it.

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Much to our disappointment, bearing in mind how much rain there has been, Leeeuwpan has no water at all and obviously hasn’t had for some time as most of it apart from one dried out mud patch, is grassed over; all we see here is a single Burchell’s Starling and a tree squirrel. There are, however a lot of impala in the region

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and we do sit and watch them for a short while, enjoying the busy Oxpeckers currying their furry coats.

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We watch as the bird perches in one place and combs in quick, parallel sweeping movements with its broad flat bill, for as far as its neck can comfortably reach, and then it hops a bit further along and repeats the action. In this way it dislodges ticks and other parasites which it eats. It will also, incidentally gain moisture from its hosts in the form of mucus, saliva and blood and it uses the animal’s fur to line its nest. This has in the past been classified as a mutualistic relationship but the query now is whether the oxpecker is actually a parasite because of its nasty habit of pecking at and enlarging wounds to get at the blood.

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Now we are in very dry country. Few trees have leaves and there is very little grass and many patches of dry earth criss-crossed with dead grey branches, large and small. The grasses here area a pale, neutral colour, the fashionistas call it ‘stone’, and what greenery there is has more of a grey-green tinge. There is a lot of dust. At Silolweni there is a large group of about 30 hippo on the far bank with lots of babies, a lone bull elephant drinking very close to them; a couple of big crocs on the sandbank closer to us; two African Fish-eagles calling to one another; several noisy Egyptian Geese, lots of Red-billed Buffalo-Weavers; and a couple of water monitors. All at once something spooks the hippos, which explode into the water, running and splashing and grunting and snorting; it could have been the elephant which is looking rather disconcerted.


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As we drive away north east from Silolweni the vegetation generally becomes shorter; mainly thorny bushes and golden grasses and there are anthills here and there. I think it is around now that we move onto the shale band where there are Delagoa thorns and sweet grasses and lots of pans. At Tshokwane we make a quick pit-stop. It is interesting to see how the quality of loo-paper has improved this year. It is still thin and single-ply, but stronger and white instead of the thin sheets of pale grey pulp that we have been treated to before. I wonder if this improvement will be maintained. Just after Tshokwane there is a huge fallen fig. The roots are showing at the base, but some must be dug deeply into the soil because the tree is still alive. I love this characteristic of plants. They will hang on to life using every adaptation they possess until there is no further possibility of survival. And they do this without even moving from the spot in which they are living! It’s a sort of ‘hang in there’ message for us all. Things will usually get better; rains will come; leaves will photosynthesize; despite itself, the plant will grow.

An African Hawk Eagle flies overhead calling loudly. At Mazithi we see Black Storks, Grey Herons, a Great Egret, Little Grebes, Lesser Striped Swallows and several warthogs. We stop here and have tea. Although it is sunny, the air is still cool; the outside temperature is 22C. One of the Grey Herons is apparently in the middle of the dam standing in about 5cm of water – then we see that it is perched on the back of a hippo as the hippo's eyes appear just in front of it. Then the hippo starts to sink and the water rises further and further up the Heron’s legs until the bird realises it’s going to be swimming soon, whereupon it flaps its wings desperately – and falls flat on its bill in the water. I’m afraid we laugh immoderately, it really does look so funny, but it is a relief to see that all the flapping pulls it into the air. I’ve never actually seen a large heron swim . . . .


Last edited by salamanda on Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:11 am 
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31st May 2010

Delights, Disaster and an Amazing Sunset (Part 3)

Now we are moving into a much greener area, green grass, low green bushes and small trees with green leaves. Near Kumana we have to stop as a herd of some 200 buffalo cross the road. They are accompanied by a mass of Wattled Starlings that seem to have taken over the Oxpeckers’ duty. They are all over the animals and all over the road, rising in clouds and landing on the nearby bushes before flying back to the buffalo. There are a lot of babies and some collars amongst them.

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Kumana Dam looks pretty – another very pastoral scene but contains only two Egyptian Geese and there is a Crested Barbet in one of the trees


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We then decide to go and have a look at the Baobab. On the way we see a troupe of baboons; one of the adults is indulging in a bit of child abuse and the infant in question is squealing furiously. The baobab is still in leaf – by now it’s usually lost them all. I take pictures of the bark which has beautiful markings if you can ignore the scribbles on it. It rears massively dark against the sky as we leave.

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As we get closer to Satara we see bigger herds of wildebeest, zebra and giraffe. A magnificent and unusual sunset is developing – lines of long wispy clouds have been drawn outwards through the sky by some high celestial wind and the setting sun is now illuminating these in shades of mauves and pinks interspersed with blues and greys where the light has not caught them.


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They radiate out across the sky as if from some central point


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and far away where the sun has set, it looks almost stormy the colour is so vivid and angry.


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Slowly, slowly the colours change and are withdrawn.


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Because we stop to take photographs everyone shoots past us and we are last in the queue for Satara. The queue, we find, stretches from the last bridge to the gate and is unmoving. Something apparently crossed the road but none of us see what it was. We skid in at 5.30, pick up our keys, unpack quickly and sit down with a drink to toast our arrival. After that we have sweet and sour pork and rice followed by chocolate. (Don’t worry, the pork had lots of veg in to compensate. Very healthy meal really . . . .) As we get ready for bed a large orange moon is rising straight over the fence, dipping in and out of the dark bands of clouds that still remain in the sky,


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and Scops Owls are calling softly to one another across the moonlit veld: ‘Prrrrp . . .prrrp . . .prrrp . . . a lullaby that will send us into a deep and dreamless sleep.


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 26, 2010 2:01 pm 
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1st June 2010

Did You Think There was no Such Thing as a Pink Elephant?

Its warmer this morning – 13C – so we can leave off a layer and The Wuss gets two beanies. We are travelling the Sweni road today and taking a bush breakfast to Muzandzweni. At the Nwanetsi Bridge there are two Saddle-billed Storks feeding. There is a plea for information about these beautiful and endangered birds so I take pictures of them, but it is impossible to get them in focus, the lens is very stiff this morning. I will see if Anne has pics. No, she doesn’t.

It is a quiet run down to the Sweni road. We are now riding on basalt which gives rise to clay soils. The land is flat and the grasses yellow and there is a lot of stunted knobthorn interspersed with a few marulas so generally the vegetation is low and you can see for kilometers. I sometimes indulge myself by imagining what we would see if, all of a sudden, the grass disappeared; was lifted away from the ground perhaps and held up long enough to have a really good look round. What would one see crouching on the bare soil believing itself to be totally hidden? It’s a nice thought.

At the start of the Sweni Road we come across Red-billed Firefinches, Swainson’s Francolins and a couple of feeding rhino so we switch off and watch for a while.

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They really are totally disinterested in us, focusing totally on pushing in as much grass as they can and moving around in the cold to try and orientate as much of their bodies as possible to the small patches of sunlight that are beginning to reach their breakfast spot.

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In consequence, they come fairly close and we are able to sit and marvel at their seeming relaxation and study bits of them in detail.

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What a story this skin could tell. It looks a bit like a piece of slightly corrugated ground, even to a tiny green leaf and a few grains of sand. And the striations – unknown to the rhino its skin carries a kind of scratchy footprint of its path through the bush.

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After the peaceful time with the rhino we come across three giraffe, one with a strange kink which means that when it looks up it can only look up with a curve. Beyond them, a large group of female impala all facing the early sun and then a tree which appears to be covered in large furry blossoms which turn out to be vervet monkeys, again carefully orientated to the warming morning. As we round a corner there is a lone male buffalo sitting in a ditch right on the edge of the road chewing the cud. Its fur is all damp and matted and it looks most unprepossessing and eyes us rather cautiously as we draw to a slow and silent halt.

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Ah well, everyone has a bad hair day at some stage and if they’re like me they get caught with it, so I feel a certain sense of comradeship . . . .

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Two male Kudu are browsing on one side of the road, and a third on the other. As we draw up they hastily move away. Their family is beyond them and whilst we are watching them melt into the bush a big flock of White Helmet-Shrikes flies across the road gleaming in the sunlight. We hear and then see Crowned Plovers stalking up and down one of the strips of sand that you often see in the bush on this road; then a delightful little female steenbok, backlit by the sun, hiding unmoving behind a screen of thorns. I wrestle The Wuss into submission and manage to get a pic of this most camera-shy little antelope.

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“Ooh! Look, Double-banded Sand-grouse!” Anne, who hasn’t seen them before looks at them dispassionately. “They look like little turtles” she proclaims. And they do, and as the car moves slowly up to them, they flatten themselves just like a tortoise would. And strangely enough, each manages to flatten itself behind one strand of grass which gets in the way of my pic. But to move again would be fatal so I take what I can get. Here they are, female first, then male.

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They are monogamous birds and seem to do everything together from feeding on seeds as they scrape around in the dry bush litter to incubating the eggs which are laid in a little scrape in the ground. They are found throughout Kruger, but I don’t often see them so I am delighted with this pair.

An African Hoopoe flies across the road in front of us just before we reach Welverdiend. We stop for tea here, but although there is water in the pond there is very little to watch: a few doves, Swainsons Francolins and an Impala. We realise that it is after 7.30 and we should be on the phone to SANParks booking for next year – but there is no reception! Block. Maybe we shall have to move our booking forward by a week. We pull out of Welverdiend and as we do so, see Brown-headed Parrots flying in to drink. Then as we turn onto the road a brown shape hurls itself at our wheels. Anne, who is driving screeches to a halt. “Was that a Francolin?” I ask.
“Well it was nearly a Flatolin” she says crossly, peering under the wheels to make sure we didn’t touch it. Like most of these kamikaze birds it has escaped unscathed.
“Why do leopards choose the particular trees they select to climb? “ I wonder. “I don’t know. The trees I would choose never have any leopards in them.”
“Yes, and they normally seem to be in some tatty, prickly specimen with uncomfortable-looking branches – and yet they make it look so easy, flowing over each lump and curve as though the branch were custom-made. How do they do that?”
"Out-of-body experience?"
"So why these trees instead of the ones we choose?"
“Maybe it’s something to do with making it more difficult for anything else so get up?”
“Maybe” We think about that for a moment. “Is it instinct, or do they learn from their mother?”
“ I would guess that the climbing and stashing is mainly instinct, but the choice of tree and the stashing expertise is probably from the mother.” The reason why we are having this conversation of course is because we want to see a leopard, and we spend a lot of time picking out trees that they should be in with a noticeable failure rate. This doesn’t seem to stop us however and we continue to pick the wrong trees until we get to Muzandzeni where we are greeted warmly by the person in charge who brings us a Cadac immediately. Soon the enticing smell of mushroom and bacon is scenting the air, mingled with my precious Lapsang and a very special grapefruit marmalade made by a friend and an integral part of our Kruger breakfasts. It is still cool and we put the table into partial sunlight and have a wonderful breakfast. By half past nine we are driving out and by 9.45 we are saying ‘hello’ to Oumie and her SO! Another Yellow Ribbon, how cool is that? They are in Kruger for a two month trip so we carefully don’t mention that we are only in for two weeks, it sounds so little! They’ve see quite a few lion and also cheetah which makes us drool a bit. Now they are off to Muzandzeni for breakfast. It was great to see you and have a chat Oumie and SO!

We come across a fig growing on the remains of what looks like a Leadwood. The fig looks as though it is pouring down the dead tree as a mass of smooth creamy grey; defiantly the dead tree appears to be putting out one tiny shoot . . . .

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But the vigorous growth of the fig will soon overcome this.

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It is amazing to me that even a few days in the park can reveal an endless procession of delights, and time seems to stretch to allow them all to slide in to their allotted places, to allow one to gaze and photograph and enter their world for as long as you need. Nowhere else do I discover this elasticity of time, this seamless drawing out of everything that is good and fascinating and worthy of attention. This lovely morning is far from over. We have lived a day in a few hours; how much more can we cram in?

(To be continued)


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:15 am 
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Well i hope the page has turned, otherwise I'm in trouble . . . :lol: I am going away for five days so this will be that last episode till I come back.

1st June 2010

Did You Think There was no Such Thing as a Pink Elephant?

Well I forgot to cram one great sighting in – we saw a huge Martial Eagle high up in a Marula tree just before we reached Muzandzeni! It isn’t long after the fig tree that we reach Rockvale waterhole. As we arrive, two elephant cross the road and go up to the tank. One of them, we see, has quite large tusks and I try to take some pics for Aat, but it’s not easy as the elephant is not prepared to turn round and let us look at him. This is the best I can do. Aat calls this one ‘a promising tusker’ and says he is not yet named.


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On the tar road back towards Satara we see a Tawny Eagle. This road is an interesting one; it undulates up and down for several kilometers over granite/gneiss. Gneiss is a metamorphic rock formed as a result of great heat acting on the original sediments, and the minerals tend to be arranged in bands, some of which are harder than others; this leads to uneven weathering, hence the rolling hills and the drainage lines. As you go up, over and down into the next valley you will see that the vegetation changes each time as a result of the underlying soils worked on by the amount of water and the amount of sunlight. We have a quick look at Nsemani dam and decide to take the S40 to Girivana. On the way we see this LBR who is kind enough to sit clinging to its twig.


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A wind has got up and every now and then it nearly loses its balance, spreading out its beautiful tail in order to restore its equilibrium.


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At Girivana there is a bull elephant drinking at the tank; a hippo and a crocodile in the dam and a single meandering male impala. There is plenty of water, no reeds and no algae. We sit here alone and have a juice, rejoicing in the peace, then make our way back along the same road to have a last quick look at Nsemani before we go back to camp for a nice long break. We have driven solidly for three days and this is our first opportunity to put our feet up and snooze or read. But when have our decisions ever gone according to plan? At the T-junction there on the short emerald-green grass are masses of impala and waterbuck and we are lured to stop and watch.There is a small group of bachelor males on the fringes of a large group of females and young who are being corralled by one imposing ram. He is constantly protecting his harem from the bachelors, all of whom are intent on stealing a few of his females. Whilst he is wearing himself out chasing, with loud snorts, one bachelor after another, his ladies are enjoying themselves picking out the choicest morsels of grass; alogrooming which means that at any one time there are a dozen of them closing their eyes in ecstasy; and generally engaging in social discourse. Every now and then the male has a fight with one of the other rams and there is a clash of horns and kicking up of clouds of dust and huge, leaping chases which adds to the excitement and has his ladies staring large-eyed at these rude interruptions to their peaceful day. The waterbuck in the meantime move away from this busy area, herding their little ones out of danger’s way. It is an enchanting scene, and we watch for some time.

Further up the road there are giraffe and zebra crossing and as we draw up to them, they are all mingling peacefully and grazing on the rich grass.

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There is one Zebra with very dark stripes and shadow stripes; she looks pregnant. I wonder if this deeper pigmentation is as a result of pregnancy hormones or if she is always like this? You can see her behind the two front animals in this pic. Notice the pretty marks on her hind legs.


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We enjoy the zebras’ gentle interactions as they lean against one another, rest their heads on each others’ backs, graze in concert and nuzzle each other constantly.


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Just before the junction with the H7 there is a group of baboons. We can see an elephant moving towards the dam and others moving away, and there are masses more zebra and impala here. Where did all these animals come from? An hour ago there was practically nothing here! We hurry off to have a quick look at the dam before going back to our delayed chill-out and of course here we are held enthralled once again by another scene played out in front of our eyes. The major part of a breeding herd of elephant are leaving the dam and flowing up into the trees beyond, but a group of eight are left behind and start playing in the water with the most wonderful exuberance, squirting water at each other, climbing up onto each others backs, pushing each other under, entwining their trunks, clashing their tusks with loud ivorian clicks.


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It is the most wonderful scene and we move constantly from being glued to our cameras to being glued to our binoculars. I feel myself, as always, being drawn right into the heart of this bush theatre, I notice nothing but that which is being enacted by these entrancing animals, so like humans in their enjoyment of playing together; so gentle and loving and respectful of one another at the same time.


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Sometimes they look like this


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And then like this


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Anne’s picture:


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In this pic, notice the colour of one of the elephants. We can see that there is something odd about it. It seems to be pink, and it keeps its eyes shut a lot of the time. Looking at the originals I’m sad to say that there is a strong possibility that it could be blind. After a while it moves to the edge of the water and this is when we can see that it is definitely pink . . . . It pauses here for a few hesitant moments, and then walks confidently up the bank.


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I posted this pink ellie on the elephant thread and Jock (Thanks Jock) posted an interesting link for me. It led to a news article about a tiny one month old pink elephant born at the end of 2004. It was seen on the Crocodile River. I wonder if this could be the same elephant. If so, it has exceeded expectations in terms of survival. I notice that a certain amount of pigment has been deposited in the areas that are most affected by the sun. Another totally unrelated thing I noticed is that it has a very weedy-looking tail. Oh, and it’s a bull. Pink elephants are very rare amongst African elephants and we were very lucky to see it, but I do wonder about its chances of survival – do elephants get skin cancer? It may be blind, it is difficult to tell. But it has obviously been well-protected by its mother and its family to have survived this long. The test will come when it is large enough to be evicted by the herd.
Anne has just sent me some pics she took of this elephant. They are much better focused than mine so I am going to put a couple in here.


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Eventually after about half an hour, the last of the elephants leave the water cool, clean, refreshed and content and we, who are hot, sticky, thirsty, stiff and content, finally leave for Satara . . . .

(To be further continued)


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 Post subject: Re: Salamanda and Annie are let loose in Kruger once more . . .
Unread postPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:40 am 
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Location: The planning is on again.....
The Nsemani dam sequence was just a dèja vue to mine which I only posted last week and surprise we also saw the pink ellie there and as it was there meanwhile more than 40 degrees Timon was very concerned about the pink ellie due to the pgementary failure but gladly he is still there and enjoying life and hopefully this will take still a lot lot longer.

Thanks Salamanda for brining back fantastic memories :clap: :clap: :clap:


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