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 Post subject: Cape of Storms-Home is where Kruger is-Aug 2010
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:02 am 
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Home is where the heart is, is something that you say which means that your true home is with the person or in the place that you love most. My home is in Kruger with my family.

We have just returned from the most awesome trip. It was perfect. 13 nights under the African Stars, including 3 on the Olifants Backpack River Trail. What an experience!

I think that it is going to be best to do a separate trip report for our incredible time on the hike. I must warn you that there are way to many photos and I don't know how I am going to choose which to put in the report :doh: Please bare with me!

Our trip is basically divided into 3 parts:

Part one: 2 nights in the Park with my folks and kids (later joined by the rest of our hiking pose)
Part two: THE HIKE - while we are on the hike my folks are taking the kids through Kruger
Part Thee : We get back, my folks head home and my brother-in-law and his wife join us for the rest of this awesome trip

Here goes!

30 August 2010

It begins. The kids are jumping up and down with excitement as we pick up our H1 Bus at JNB Airport and head towards Kruger. We stopped over at Badplaas and this morning is the day we enter Kruger!!

Phabeni Gate it is once more. Even-though we are up at Tamboti we would much prefer an extra day of exploring in the park as we go up. Our first sightings are nice big animals for a 4 year old and 6 year old to appreciate!
Jerry
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Phabeni to Skukuza S1 Giraffe

and Ellie with a tag collar

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Phabeni to Skukuza S1 Elephant with collar

For the second year we found a vulture nest in the same place

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Phabeni to Skukuza S1 Vultures in Nest by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Heading up on the main road towards Tshwokane we took a detour to Olifantsdrinkgat and had some hippos give us a display of open mouths!

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Hippo at Olifantdrinkgat by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

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Last edited by Cape of Storms on Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:30 am 
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After a toilet break at Tshokwane we head on up to Tamboti. Suddenly the tell tale sign of cars. Edging forward we see some lions right near our car, ready to cross the road!

What a treat on our very first day!!

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:21 pm 
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Taking the Orpen road on our way to Tamboti is always a highlight. This Gem of a road hardly ever disappoints, even if it is just a stunning sunset over N'semani dam or a usual sighting of African Fish Eagle.
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Taking the little loop road took us to one of the biggest giraffes I have ever seen. It had about 15 Ox-peckers on it’s neck and dwarfed our bus. The photo really doesn’t do it justice.
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What do you think could top a lion sighting on day one? :big_eyes: You guessed it LIT!!!!! Probably one of my best ever since she didn’t runaway and posed quite nicely for us (but she had some more tricks up her sleeve as you will see later....)
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Leopard on th H7 Beauty by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

I am assuming that the leopard is a she because it is soooooo pretty!!!!! My favorite animal and such a good spotting too. Like I said H7 road YOU ROCK!!!

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Last edited by Cape of Storms on Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 12:08 pm 
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Next was a Big 5 Bird: Ground-Horn Bill
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After checking in at Orpen we get to our tents with plenty of time to make a fire with our friends and to enjoy that first Kruger Braai!! :D
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I can still taste that Fillet steak!

Fortunately I am a woman and did not have to participate in male-ego games :) The 4 male hikers had a competition like only men can do. They had bought a “test tube” filled with Mampoer and a Mopani worm. The rules : Down the Mampoer and chew (yes chew) the worm...... :huh:

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I think Martin’s face says it all....

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Good Times! :tongue:

The night then gave us a Small-Spotted Genet just above our fire place - probably coming to grab a Mopani Worm for himself!!!
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Most fantastically a Honey Badger up close and personal. He ran past our tent with something in his mouth.... we had no idea what it was until our neighbor said that he stole their packet of Peri Peri marinade from under their noses!!

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Just to add that said "honey badger" came for a personal investigation of our dishes at about midnight. He literally threw the lids off our pots giving Ray and I a heart attack! When we peeped out our door (Ray holding his privates - as legend has it this is where Mr HB will attack :D ) he was sucking on our 5 l water bottle with the same ferocity as baby on a bottle! Must have been the Peri-peri that gave him a giant thirst!!!! :) :tongue:

Plus he tried a bite out of my camera’s battery charger which put it (the charger) out of action :( At least I have a few spare batteries that did last for the rest of the trip. Gotta love Canon and lithium batteries.

This is the mess he left for us the next morning.

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Day and Night One was a HUGE success!

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:52 pm 
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I wonder if tomorrow will bring as much our way?

31 August 2010

Off to Olifants today and all of the hikers in the group are starting to really buzz. :big_eyes: Tomorrow we do the Olifants River Backpack Trail and we cannot wait. But first another day of sight seeing in the KNP! The H 7 has yet to disappoint and today was no exception.  Once again we hit the road.

Not much further we see our first Rhino’s.
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Would you believe our leopard was still there? :) This time she had a kill with her! :P
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It was truly amazing! Apparently some of the other watchers saw another leopard at the bottom of the tree, presumably the mother! WOW! We were not fortunate enough to see the mom but the youngster was amazing enough. The luck was with us because minutes after we arrived she dropped the kill and was out of sight. :slap:

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I love LIT’s!!!! :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:51 pm 
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Heading up to Olifants along the main road had the usual sightings of antelope and birds. I liked this one of a spotted thick-knee.
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Because we can only check in later we take the Ngotso Weir Road. These were a few of our sightings:
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Not sure the kind of eagle here but it was very beautiful.

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After checking in at Olifants we settle into the Lebombo Guest House.Wonderful place to stay if you are a group of 8 or so. An afternoon of final checking and packing of backpacks for the big hike before a little sundowners drive to the Olifants lookout point. What views!
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The car we hired:
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The night is abuzz with excitement for the adventure that lies ahead over the next few days!!

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 2:49 pm 
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1 September 2010

Barely able to sleep I am up at the crack of dawn. The Sunrise was so beautiful and while everyone was asleep I had one of those “sigh” moments where you wish you could just let time stand still.
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What more could you ask for? I make coffee for all of us and spend a last hour with my girls before we head up to reception and wait to depart on the hike. Butterflies are racing in my tummy. Bags in the trailer and ready to go. This is when we meet our “first” Rifle, Piet. He is the real deal. No doubt with over 40 Olifants trails behind him - this is the guy you want! We head toward Phalaborwa, pick up Andre(Rifle number 2) and hit the dirt road to the great unknown. Together these 2 will be looking after our gang! It is a 30 min drive to our drop off point. I feel a bit like a soldier in Vietnam. Dropped off and now given all the advise and rules to survive in the Kruger.

Rule one: Listen to “Buck” as we fondly call Piet by the end of the journey. Anyone who has children and has watched ICE AGE 3 Will appreciate the name. Buck is the leader and he makes the rules!
Rule two: If you feel like you want to run - DON’T EVER RUN!
Rule three: no talking while walking, the guides need full concentration and noises form a large part of their ability to read what is happening.
Rule four: “Buck” hates toilet paper. To many hikes where he has had to clear up others paper! Ladies “drip-dry” or light the tissue (this option is time consuming and never used for pee pees!)
Rule five: Ogre is your best friend : if you need to go : Dig first!! Also Ogre must be carried by the group in rotation but my darling hubby offered to carry this +/- 2 kg hunk of metal the whole way! He is my hero. :lol:

The “Mother-Theresa” medical bag also gets rotated in the group but luckily for Tracey and I (we were the only gals on the trip) the men carried that too. So the 6 PLUS 2 guides begin our walk along the Olifants river. Ok at this stage I should introduce the group:

Piet aka BUCK rifle 1
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Andre Rifle 2 - The first thing you notice about Andre is he only where’s “Rocky” sandals. We breed “MANNE” here in SA
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3 and 4) Martin and Tracey
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Close friends who are proving to be our “African Explorer” companions. We always have a brilliant time together and Tracey and I have known each other for over 20 years now, so we have no secrets and plenty of laughs in the memory banks.
5)Johan : Tracey and Martin’s Son and very near to our hearts.
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6)Marius: Best friend of Johan and part of DIE MANNE that I spoke of earlier. Yip these 4 guys do most things together.
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7) Ray: my better half. Together we have done 10 trips to Kruger (starting back when we were at school and dating!)
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We love being out in the bush and Kruger is especially close to our hearts. It is the one place we can always find each other and now that we have the girls we are determined to make sure they come as much as possible to pass on the legacy.

8)Me: Nicole aka Pink Lady.
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This is the most ironic nickname you could find. I have always been a tomboy and pink was never my colour but on this trip I realized that my very girly girls have turned me!! Without realizing it I had bought just about every accessory in PINK!!! but that is not the only reason I got this nick name. On our first morning I was so worried about the guys seeing me get dressed that I carefully chose a bush to get changed behind with Tracey standing guard.Only problem is that my back was to the guides!!!! :slap: They had a view of note and this is when Piet branded me PINK LADY because even my panties were pink!!!!

Sorry about the detour of introducing everyone but I find that when I read TR’s I like to put faces to the names. This was our group and we had the most incredible time together.

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:33 pm 
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Day 1’s walk is about 7 or 8 km and in the heat it felt like double that. Your first break comes after you cross the river.
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It was pretty awesome to watch some Ellies come and drink. Amazingly they smelt us from quite far away and fled!

Our first campsite was gorgeous.
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Right by the waterside in the most picturesque setting you could imagine. It was awesome. Dinner was fillet steak and Savory Rice. Not braaied! You may not do that on the hike so we cooked it on our gas stoves. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. It felt so right sitting around the campfire while the fireflies gave us a show worthy of an Oscar.
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I am not gonna lie to you that first night in a tiny tent hearing all the sounds in the wild was a little frightening but the tiredness of the day soon hit and we were fast asleep. We were finally here......

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:24 am 
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2 September 2010
Waking up this morning with the sound of the flowing river and the rip of a tent zip is indescribable. Sunrise over the quite heavenly spot left me a bit speechless.  

ImageOlifants Hike first campsite by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

What did scare me was that even at 5 am I was boiling hot. What would this mean for the rest of our hike filled day?  

Anyway after packing up, taking our turns to try out Ogre and a cup of coffee we were off. 
ImagePink Lady and the gang by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Barely going we come across fresh lion spoor! And black rhino. Both must have been heading straight towards our camp before giving us a wide berth on their way down for a drink. (What I would do for a COLD drink on this day!)

After about 2 hours we break for breakfast.
ImageBreakfast by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr
Poor Tracey has the beginnings of blisters. And the rest if us hear the ominous sounds of screaming beetles. Piet tells us to be prepared for EXTREME heat...... Something we all suspected but now it was becoming a reality.

Backpacks back on and we start another grueling 2 hours of walking. Now we are all suffering and every 20 minutes or so Piet forces us to stop and drink water. At the time I think we are all wondering why we are here but looking back it made everything else so much better. We know that when lunch time comes we get to cool off in the water and that is what keeps us going, that and warm sips of Game!  Finally we head down to the river and the sound of the rushing rapids is like music to deaf ears. A quick look around for any danger and splash we are all in the welcoming rapids. Heaven! 
ImageJohan Cooling off in the Olifants River by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

I think Johan’s face says it all!!

ImageThis is what it is all about by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Now this is more like it!

ImageThis is what it is all about by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Tracey showing us her blisters!

I am telling you that I have never had a better “swim” in all my life. I could have stayed there the whole day. It was only about 11:30 and we still had the heat of the day to deal with. But for now we were in our own bit of heaven. Even Piet took a time out!
ImageEven the leader needs a rest by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:42 am 
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Micetta that is it! I have photos of the kids so I have made it a Private account. If you can see the photos I think I prefer to leave that setting :?

It was pretty hectic but what you learn is amazing. Piet and Andre know everything about the bush. There is not a question that they can't answer. We learnt about tracking, dung (who makes what, where and why!) what the animals eat and why. Territorial behavior and how most animals can sense us humans a mile off.

All in all over the entire trip we learn unforgettable things about Kruger and it's animals. I really enjoyed learning about the non-big 5. Most of us are obsessed with seeing the big 5 but the others are just as interesting. Rhinos are one of Piet's favorites and I learnt allot about them from Piet. And of course Ellies are just amazing. Piet can tell you from the dung of an elephant more or less how old it is! These are things you just don't get from the inside of your vehicle.

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:03 pm 
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After lunch we get our packs on and begin the next stage of our walk. I think we were all expecting it to be tough 2 hours and there was pretty much no talking for the next hour. We went up a bit of an incline and Piet promised a special spot for our next break. A secret Ranger’s Trail. He took us to a old cabin, actually a ruin built into a massive rock. It is called Hell’s Eden. You almost go past it before you see that it is actually there! To get there you had to go through hell. Today that was pretty literal .
ImageHell's Eden by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr


The scenery from the top is indescribable you peer down this high ledge and look upon the faces of hippos below.
ImageA view and protection by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr


Whoever discovered this place knew what they were doing. Along the river this is one of the most beautiful spots.  Maybe because we were exhausted and spent half an hour just sitting looking down we will remember it forever. This is where young boys were made into men when their fathers took them to hunt for the first time bringing back their kills and hanging them on the hooks above us.
ImageJohan on the old Fire place by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Making memories just like we were on this special day. Sorry for waxing lyrical but it seemed just like steel is strengthened in fire our friendship "pink lady and the gang " was stronger than ever because we were put through this scorching heat.  Piet told us how things were done years ago and how the original family who found this place, descendants were fighting to keep it here in the Park.

A short 20 minute trek down the hill and we were at our campsite. It was perfect. Tents on a patch of grass and a beach ahead of us before you get the water and some rapids to cool down and clean up in! After pitching our tents we all head for a bath and a chat. Johnny Blacks in hand and smiles on our faces we “chill out” in our natural spa!

Ray peered over his shoulder and smiled at us encouraging us to look at some hippos that were pretty close. Suddenly one popped up meters away! Piet and Andre tell us to slowly get up and get out! All your body wants to do is run but they keep telling us to move quickly but without running. It was quite an adrenalin rush. Piet later explained hippos can be inquisitive but very dangerous!
ImageHippos that chased us away from our evening bath! by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Here are a few photos of our sunset that evening. Pretty breathtaking.
ImageSunset at Campsite 2 on the hike by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr
ImageSecond Camp Spot - best sunsets ever by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

ImageSecond Camp Spot by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Dinner tonight was gammon on couscous.
ImageGammon for supper by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Actually on a hike EVERYTHING tastes great and means less to carry the next day.
ImageGammon for supper by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

A contented bunch of “happy campers”
ImageCampsite 2 on the hike by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

Sleep was deep and brilliant.

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:57 am 
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Location: Cape Town
3 September 2010
We decide that we don’t want to risk walking so far in the heat again so this morning we will leave a half hour earlier. It sounds early but no one has a problem getting out of their tent at 5 and leaving by 6h15. You feel so alive at that time of the morning! So everything gets loaded into the packs and we are ready to hit the road.

Today is the only day I trade my traditional pink for blue!
ImageMeirings by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

The cooler conditions allow for more stops to talk about what we are seeing around us. Vultures, and other tiny birds catch my attention but not always my camera lens!
ImageVultures by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr

But there is time for shots of the view along the way.
ImageOlifants Hike by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr
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One of the interesting things we saw was an Ant lion killing something in its trap.
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Piet’s attention to detail is amazing. I learn that a female baboon spider will die if you destroy her nest. Apparently the appendages she uses to dig her hole in the ground fall off once the nest is complete and if the nest is destroyed she cannot build another.

This natural grinding stone was left behind by the natives who once lived here. Forming small settlements along the river many years ago!
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More breathtaking scenery as we make our way down for a lunch stop.
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I have four blisters to match Tracey but despite the blisters this is probably are best day. We see so many little things because we have the energy to pay attention to what Piet is telling us.
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Our lunch break is under a beautiful section of trees. We don't actually have a swim because fortunately the weather is allot cooler but we listen and watch our surroundings. After eating dishes need to be done, today was my turn.
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Before we leave from any break we now need to calculate in about an extra 10 min to fix up our feet, putting on the plasters and strapping up our blisters so that they don't get any bigger.

We come across some old elephant bones, Piet that tells us that last year a guide was forced to shoot a charging elephant cow to protect the group.
ImageElephant jaw-bone by Nicole Meiring, on Flickr
It is a scary thought to think that our lives lie in the hands of these two men and their rifles.

Our faith in them is justified within the next few minutes. Piet beacons us all to stop. Slowly he shows us in a bush about 30 meters away (completely hidden from normal eyes!) a huge hippo lying under a tree. This is a very dangerous situation because he could easily feel trapped and with the embankment behind him his “flight” path is blocked and all that is left would be “fight”. So carefully we have to back track and circle around him in silence. It was eery and exhilarating a the same time!

With our early start we are able to have a longer afternoon pitstop on a patch of grass next to the river. Listening to the sounds of the bush is all part of the experience. When you are in you car you cannot appreciate it.
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After our break we see some Waterbuck.
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When they picked up on our sent they ran like the wind! It was a beautiful scene as they ran in the water.

Our campsite as usual is stunning! Tonight is our final night and we make a huge fire in the sand to sit around later.
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It is an amazing evening as Andre educates us on various stars with his laser pointer. We reflect on everything we have been through and seen. No one wants to go to bed because we know it is our last night but eventually one by one we fade to our tents. As usual the hike is the winner!

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:29 pm 
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4 September
At 4 AM I wake to a low rumbling noise after peaking my ears and really listening very carefully I realize that it is a chorus of snoring from all the surrounding tents. This is confirmed when I hear Tracy say to Martin "Stamp hom!" (refering to Marius!)
That is what happens when you share a tent with your husband, your son and your sons best friend.  

Lying in the tent that morning I was so sad that this was our last morning and the last day of our hike. This hike had began almost a year ago with all our planning and now we were in the final hours of our trip. No one wanted to pack up but we had to get moving to reach the pickup point in time. I was pretty shocked to see the Lion footprints all around our tents.

No one heard them but the evidence was pretty clear..... It left me with a thrill!

First things first after packing up we need to cross the river! It is a bit nerver recking because you need to be aware of crocs and hippos all the time. You must stick together and walk in a tight line. Two by two!
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Just before we climb out of the river we get to see a Terrapin. Piet takes us a bit closer.
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After getting our shoes back on (blisters strapped up!) we walk for about another hour before we come across a Buffalo Bull.
Once again we have to be very careful that at no stage he feels cornered and threatened. Another hour before we break for a quick breakfast.
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We must be at the pick up point by 10am so we are walking pretty quickly now. As we near the clearing where the truck will collect us we are all smiling. That peaceful feeling of having accomplished something wonderful yet sad that it is ending too. Thoughts of a hot bath and a cold drink is definitely on everyone’s mind.

The truck arrived and with it a cooler box of ICE COLD BEERS! YEAH BABY!!! That was the best beer I have ever tasted.

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Heading back on the truck Piet gave us his best “Buck” impression.
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The gang at The old fig tree. You cannot say that you have done the Olifants until you touch the tree!

We had made it and it was the most amazing feeling in the world. We will definitely be back to conquer more Kruger Hikes!

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 Post subject: Re: Home is where Kruger is
Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 11:00 am 
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Thanks for all the encouragement. To all who have considered the hike but have not done it yet GO FOR IT!!!

If you are prepared you will never be sorry. We didn't see anything animal spectacular it was just the all round experiences. Definitely will be one of the best things I have ever done.

To those that didn't notice I did pick up the rest of our trip in

Trip Report: Animals on the hunt : one of our best Kruger trips ever!

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