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 Post subject: mel123 Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti Jan 11
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:25 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: North West
19 days to go until my heart can rest, my soul can breathe and my spirit can soar.
We missed our Kruger trip in 2010 but we'll soon be making up for this very serious omission! :D
We'll be staying for four nights at Biyamiti bushveld camp in the South at the end of January.
I can't wait. :| We've never been to a bushveld camp and this is one of my To Do things in life.

Very high on my wishlist would be my favourite animal, the leopard. I just love their grace and beauty and quiet ferocity.
Another fervent wish would be to see wild dog. The last time I saw wild dog I was a little girl, oh say about 25 odd years ago... :tongue:
We were in Kruger with family and passed a pack lying up beside the road. And I've been searching for them ever since without luck.
So, wild dog and leopard.

SO loves elephant, and on all accounts Biyamiti should deliver that, although it seems there are quite a few unruly ones about camp.

I also love being able to sit on my stoep and drink a nice glass of something cool and watch wild animals in their habitat.

I came upon this poem the other day which sums it up for me:
It's called "Africa" by Jeanette Mackenzie;

The silhouette of Acacia trees
Seen on the warm horizon
The sound of nature waking up
As the African sun is rising

The uniqueness of the people
Cultures so diverse
Lives played out on nature's stage
With no need to rehearse

The sight of the fish eagle
Soaring overhead
The ongoing sounds of nature
Once the sun has gone to bed

The gold colour of savannah land
It's vastness will astound
In Africa - Land of hope
Where true beauty can be found.


Last edited by mel123 on Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:31 pm 
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Thank you PetraJ, Wildflowergirl, lowveldboy, Kamadejo and flying cheetah for your well wishes.
Only 16 days to go! I was so excited the other day that I told some friends about going to Biyamiti and they thought I was crazy to go there this time of year, due to the heat.
And there are no aircons in camp. :(
I am a bit worried, but nothing can dampen the excitement!

To do list for this week : - organise Malaria tablets
- sort out camera batteries (not re-charging satisfactorily)
- read another trip report.


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:24 am 
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Thanks anne marie - Kruger is filled with beauty so I'm sure it won't be hard.
Only ten days to go!
I am reading the forums with great anticipation and I am a bit worried by the road and bridge closures around Crocodile bridge. I'll have to keep monitoring the situation! :shock:

Obviously I am not in the mood to do any work at all. :lol:
Next week Friday I'll be in the park and I'd rather sit and daydream about that than work...
Sometimes I feel like screaming with anticipation - it wants to burst out of me and the closer we get to that time the more it builds and builds.


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:15 pm 
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We are home safely following a wonderful trip - with some exciting sightings and a few good tales to tell. Sorting through the photos but will try to get the first chapter done as soon as possible. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 11:14 am 
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Day 1 – Arrival
I believe in lists. Lots and lots of lists. The main reason for this is that I find it relaxes me if I don’t have to try and remember everything I must remember, in my brain.

Packing for a KNP-trip involves among others lists of equipment, lists of food (once the menu has been sorted), lists of stuff that must be done before we leave and lists of everything that must go into the car.

As I stood surveying the mound of luggage to be packed into the Terios I had a moment of doubt.
Three crates of food (no shop in Biyamiti), the braai tongs in their silver case (a gift that has come in handy many times), the 25 litre plastic container with water (we prefer not to drink tap water at home and it is quite easy to take it with), two suitcases with clothes, the equipment-crate (with binoculars, double plugs, lead, batteries, chargers, torches etc), my camera bag, the day-bag (which I use to put in stuff for the day drives) which is at this stage filled with various books, maps and our reservation papers (more about this later), a water bottle and a roll of toilet paper for in the car, a flat-bottom potjie (to be used for “potbrood”, a delicious bread baked on the coals), two bags of charcoal, the cool bag with all of the meat, dairy stuff etc, a plastic bag with cold drinks and another plastic bag with alcoholic refreshments. Oh, and the first aid kit.

How on earth am I going to fit all of this in? SO takes one look and tells me he’ll leave it to me to sort this little lot out... Oh dear.

I start with the biggest stuff first and work my way down to the smallest and everything fits. I proudly call SO over to show him my masterpiece of holiday packing. :thumbs_up:

We debate whether to take the two folding chairs we take every time (and then don’t use), and decide that there isn’t enough space for them as well.

After locking everything, saying goodbye to the two cats (who are not impressed with all the packing and goings on) we leave.

I’ll not say much about the drive there, except to say that we ate breakfast near Middelburg, where I also broke out the first aid kit, with us not even halfway there.

Shortly before we stop for breakfast, a truck kicks up a stone which chips the windscreen quite badly and left to its own devices the windscreen will start to crack in various directions.
After a brainwave light bulb moment, I get a plaster from the first aid kit, because the plaster supports the weakened glass and will stop the cracking. Now, all we have to do is explain to all the petrol attendants in KNP what the plaster is doing there when they want to wash the windscreen. The lady in the car next to us at the petrol stop, watch in fascination while I perform this piece of unusual first aid.

Just after 13:00 we arrive at the Malelane-gate where there is a long queue of vehicles parked. There is only one person on duty and a queue of people filling up the limited space inside and my heart sinks. :roll:

However, after a short wait it is my turn and with few formalities our entry permit is issued.
Our petrol tank is just under half and because there is no petrol station at Biyamiti we decide to head to Berg-en-Dal for lunch and some petrol.

I take in deep breaths of pure park-air. I am so glad to be back – it always feels like coming home.
The heat is lying over the park like a woolen blanket and not much is stirring game-wise.

The chairperson of this year’s welcoming committee says his/her piece and then flies off:

Image
Hornbill by mel123, on Flickr

At Berg-en-Dal we get a toasted sandwich and a chicken salad which are quite tasty. The petrol attendant tells us it’s rained a lot here (really? :tongue: ) and then we hit the road again, taking the S110 and then the S114/S25.

The park is green and lush and I can see that game viewing is going to be a challenge. There is a lot of water flowing over dips in the road and the rivers are in full spate.

We see a herd of impala next to the road and one young impala’s knee is swollen as big as a tennis ball, limping. Poor thing. SO muses that the park should have a reporting line where one can call and they can then send a vet to help the animal. I share the sympathies but feel that this would be impractical. :cry:

On one bridge we see two hamerkops staring meditatively at the flowing waters at their feet. There is also a green backed heron that poses beautifully for us but starts sidling away as soon as I point the camera at him. SO jokes that the bird is on the run from the mob, in the witness protection program, and that the little heron is afraid that a published photograph of him will let the bad guys know where he is hiding out.

We respect his appeal for anonymity, but the hamerkop has no such problem.

Image
Hamerkop by mel123, on Flickr

Three elephants are browsing next to the road, but they keep hiding their heads in the vegetation and I can’t get a nice photo.

A bit further on this giraffe is munching away at leaves and keeping an eye on us at the same time.

Image
Giraffe by mel123, on Flickr

I read that the Biyamiti river is mostly dry but it is definitely flowing now!

Image
Flowing Biyamiti river by mel123, on Flickr

A warthog trots away from the road. We reach the turnoff to the camp (S139) and SO is a bit alarmed at the fact that the road consists of two tracks winding through very lush vegetation to say the least. The road is also a bit rough. It is nothing that the Terios can’t handle, but he throws me a look as if to ask: “Where did you bring me?”. :|

After a short shaking drive we get to the beautiful little camp. Booking in is simple (no keys, they only check off your name on a list) and we make our way to chalet number 4. Here it is:

Image
Our chalet by mel123, on Flickr

To our disgust we see that the two comfy folding chairs would have come in quite handy – to sit and look out over the river. :doh:
Although the trees are hiding some of the view, it is beautiful to look out towards the river and the fence.

Image
The view from the porch by mel123, on Flickr

After carrying all of the stuff from the vehicle and making ourselves at home I walk down to the river to see if I can spot any animals. Nothing much except for a saddle-billed stork, but the view is beautiful.

Image
Tree on the riverside by mel123, on Flickr

Since we’ve been in the car almost the whole day now, we decide not to go for an afternoon drive but to relax and have some (alcoholic) refreshments on the porch while watching the day wind up. We go for a walk through camp to see our surroundings and a little scops owl makes a few noises at me from a tree, but before I can point him out to SO he flies off.

There are vervet monkeys in camp as well as squirrels.

After dark falls I fry some chicken in Nando’s spices I brought especially, and together with some savoury mushroom rice and green beans from a tin, it is a meal fit for a king. Maybe it is the fresh air or hunger, but it did taste good!

SO is tired and soon after dinner he falls asleep on his bed. I write in my journal and as I step out into the kitchen for something to drink I see a big brown spider scurrying under the table, probably hunting the myriad of insects, moths etc attracted by the lights.

I am deathly afraid of spiders and it takes all of my nerve to ignore him (this is his habitat after all and I am just visiting). I go back into the house making sure the screen is closed tightly behind me.

A while later I look up from my musings and see the exact same spider (or his identical twin) walking about on the floor, inside the house close to the screen door. :shock:

I freak out a little, but try to be brave. I don’t want him in the house with me and so open the screen door with one hand, and use my diary to scoot him outside, hyperventilating all the while.

As I get tired I make ready for bed (part of which preparations involve ripping the blanket and duvet off the bed so that only the sheets are left). It is really too hot. SO is asleep on top of his.
I throw them down next to the bed and after turning off all the other lights I read a bit. I glance up from my book a while later and to my utter shock and horror I see the exact same spider (or his other triplet twin) on top of the discarded duvet. Looking at me. :shock: :shock:

I leap out of bed, heart beating a mile a minute, and decide to try to herd him out again. If I had Doom with me I would have been sorely tempted at this time to use it, but because I didn’t, the question remains academic.

I try to scoot the big spider out towards the door, which will not stay open dammit, and to my utter consternation the spider Runs. Under. My. Bed. :big_eyes:

Oh sh..

I’ll admit to swearing, but I feel it was totally justified.

I try to peer under there, but I see nothing and feeling utterly hysterical by this time, I have visions of the spider leaping from under there and attacking me as I lie sleeping and vulnerable.

I swear again fearfully, but there is nothing to be done. I do however, take half a sleeping tablet in order to get to sleep because I keep twitching, feeling something move on my skin, straining to hear every sound (as if you could hear a spider walking – totally ridiculous I know :D ).

I fitfully fall asleep, fully expecting to not wake up again and be killed during the night.


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 5:46 pm 
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Day 2 – An awesome sight

I am woken up by SO. It is early, far too early for civilized people even to contemplate, but I am so glad to have survived without being horribly maimed or killed by the spider that I jump out of bed with a lot of energy!

I am normally a true-bred night owl and I don’t like getting up in the morning. When I am in KNP however, the rule is that we have to leave camp when the gate opens. It doesn’t matter what time this is, that’s when we leave.

Since the gate opens at 04:30, SO is waking me up at 03:45. See what I mean with too early?
Outside the stars are shining brightly, and a frog chorus is practicing their symphony.

I make coffee and we have some rusks. I, of course, have buttermilk rusks (the only real rusk in my opinion), while SO has some healthy fibre ones (he’s very health conscious with what he eats).

At 4:30 we get to the gate and I have to get out to open it. I peer through the bars to see that a leopard isn’t staring at me from the other side and then get back into the car a bit hurriedly. As a primate in the dark in the wild, you get sort of a nervous feeling, I must admit. :wink:

We drive in the direction of Afsaal on the S139, and are surprised by shrub hares on three occasions. They sit petrified in the path of the vehicle and then keep running out in front of the car. When we slow down or stop they slow down or stop. Turning the lights off doesn’t help – they just sit there. Every time in the next few days we drive this road we’ll have this same encounter and as a result I don’t have a lot of faith in the intelligence of a shrub hare. A dove flying up from the road, landing in the road again and flying up again soon realises the problem and swings out to the side. A shrub hare does not. And I don’t think doves are the Einsteins of the animal world at all. Which goes to show how stupid the hares are... :whistle:

We also encounter loads and loads of francolins, single, in pairs, in groups, in families, taking sand baths, pecking at stuff in the road, screeching insults when they fly up because of the approach of the vehicle, running madly in front of it and in general being quite a road hazard.

I however, don’t mind at all, because somehow a dirt road with francolins scratching beside it and buffalo dung and broken tree branches lying across it is so symbolic of the Kruger National park that it gives me goosebumps.

It is of course still very dark – the sun only starts to come up about 30 minutes into the drive.
I see a dark shape, rhino shaped, to the left but it is almost too dark to see it.

At the end of the road we turn right towards Biyamiti weir. Although we’ve been over a few bridges and dips where there were water flowing over the road, this is more serious.

The water is spilling over the weir and flowing quite strongly. SO asks me whether I think it is safe to drive over it, and I say I think so. If it was too dangerous they would have closed the weir, I argue cleverly.

We drive towards the water slowly, not being able to see if the road is intact under the water flow. SO shoots me a glance and asks if I really think we should go through, and I say yes – it should be fine. He drives in very cautiously.

The water flows up to the car doors, but the road is fine – it just takes some fine driving from SO to stay on a straight course.

Then, we’re through and as we drive up to the other side there is a very disturbing sight. The road is closed with a chain. :shock:

I am shocked that the road isn’t closed off at both sides, because the chain is not visible from the side where we entered! Well, we’ve made it through unscathed and now we just have to find a way around the chain. This I think is preferable than driving across the flooded weir a second time!
There is a very rough path on the side around the chain and we tackle that cautiously (thanking our lucky stars that we have a 4x4), and finally our adventure is over.

Breathing a sigh of relief and still being puzzled that the weir isn’t closed off at both sides, we turn left at the S26.

As we’re driving along, we behold an awesome sight.
Three male lions lying in the road. We later see a fourth male lying just off it in the grass.

Image
Lion1 by mel123, on Flickr

Magnificent.

Image
Lion2 by mel123, on Flickr

One gets up to have a drink of water in a puddle next to the road.

Image
Lion3 by mel123, on Flickr

He does a yoga stretch. I think it’s called Upward or Downward facing Dog? I do think that Mr Lion would not be impressed with this name, so maybe call it “Stretching King” to be politically correct?

Image
Lions4 by mel123, on Flickr

He walks back across the road. He’s got a sore place on one leg, I note.

Image
Lions5 by mel123, on Flickr

His presumed brother watches him. “Where are you going? “

Image
Lions6 by mel123, on Flickr

The first lion thuds down beside a thorn tree like a sack of potatoes.

Image
Lions7 by mel123, on Flickr

His brother gets up and has a yawn, before also going for a drink of water.

Image
Lions8 by mel123, on Flickr

It really is one of the best lion sightings I’ve ever had, and there wasn’t another car in sight! As the lions go back to sleep we drive off, marveling at our luck.

Image
Lions9 by mel123, on Flickr

The lions got up and moved around, so unlike other lion sightings where they might lift their head if you are lucky.

I apologize for the profusion of lion photos, but I do think they’re worth it?
Other animals coming up in the next installment, I promise. Also - a dangerous encounter... :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:35 pm 
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Day 2 continued - Where did he go?

Ecstatic with our wonderful lion sighting we drive on towards Afsaal on the S26.
A few turns of the road later, we are confronted by three young elephants coming determinedly in our direction. We stop and then reverse. They show some intimidating behaviour before turning off the road into the bush.

Image
Three elephant by mel123, on Flickr

Aren’t you too young to be a bully?

Image
Elephant by mel123, on Flickr

On the tar road, we turn towards Afsaal. A beautiful giraffe is having breakfast close to the road. I am also suddenly very hungry.

Image
Giraffe by mel123, on Flickr

This little black snake crosses the road and we watch interestedly, little knowing the drama this little snake’s bigger brother will cause later in the day!

Image
Snake by mel123, on Flickr

At Afsaal we get a Full breakfast and some coffee to revive us (it is early in the morning, I believe I have mentioned this?). I locate the little scops owl in the tree and have a look at the sightings board. It seems that some wild dog was spotted on the H5. We then head towards Pretoriuskop on the Voortrekkerroad.

A baboon is running full tilt along the road and suddenly he stops and jumps into a tree. His troop is nowhere visible and we wonder what his agenda is.

Later, we meet these fine fellows on the road.

Image
Two hyena by mel123, on Flickr

There’s three of them and another one in the grass beside the road.

Image
Three hyena by mel123, on Flickr

They sniff this bush with particular fascination.

Image
Hyena sniffing by mel123, on Flickr

“Sometimes you have to stop to smell the flowers.”

Image
Hyena sniffing1 by mel123, on Flickr

As they head off towards their den, we head towards Pretoriuskop. There are some giraffe in the grass deeper in.

As we take the H1-1 Napi road towards Skukuza we come upon a feeding rhino.

Image
Rhino by mel123, on Flickr

A bit further on we complete number 4 of the big five ticks – a herd of buffalo is grazing next to the road.

Image
Buffalo by mel123, on Flickr

A kudu bull heads deeper into the bush, only his horns remain visible.

Driving onwards, we are surprised by a big black snake shooting accross the road suddenly. SO hits the brakes in order not to hit it with the tyres, but we come to a stop with the snake underneath the car. :shock:
We peer worriedly out of the windows, but it doesn’t come out on the other side!

I remember hearing stories of snakes getting into car’s engines and one story in particular comes to mind.

When I was a journalist I once covered a story about a guy who had bought a bakkie and one day was driving it on a busy road when he suddenly hit the brakes and jumped out. The cause of the alarm was a snake that suddenly sailed between his legs as he was driving.

When they found the snake, still in the car, they also found some skin (it had moulted and had been in the bakkie for at least six months!).

I told SO this story and calmly informed him that even though I am not afraid of snakes, he should never, ever stop on top of a snake. I also informed him that I suspected the snake could be a black mamba, although I had left my snake and reptile identification book at camp and couldn’t be sure. :)

There was a very worried atmosphere in the car with much debate as to the correct course of action. We even contemplated driving back across the flooded Biyamiti weir in order to get rid of the dangerous reptile if it was in fact clinging to the underside of the vehicle in some way.

What a predicament!


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:01 pm 
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Day 2 continued –Looking for wild dog

From Napi Road we head towards the H3, turn left on the S112 and then drive down the S114 towards the H5.

I rather felt like the wild dog sighting indicated at the board at Afsaal earlier in the morning was a sign that we should go that way. Maybe the dogs were still around? :pray:

The day is heating up and we do not see a lot of animals. An elephant feeds deep in the bushes.
Even without a lot of game around, there is always something of interest. Like this brown eagle. That is not it’s name, but being a beginner birder there are three categories of birds I do not try to identify. LBJ’s, brown eagles and nightjars. They all look alike (to me)! (It's a Tawny Eagle, as I'm reliably informed - thanks Micetta).

Image
Brown eagle by mel123, on Flickr

A bit further on we find these two vultures, definitely looking as if they’re having a nice gossip. “Did you hear what Patricia did the other day?”

Image
Gossiping vultures by mel123, on Flickr

Even though I keep my eyes peeled on the H5 I do not see the wild dogs. :? Two warthogs feed enthusiastically on grass, and we turn onto the S108 to go back to camp. We find these three buffalo overcome with heat, sleeping in a pool of water. At this stage I wish I could join them!

Image
Sleeping buffalo by mel123, on Flickr

We stop for a while at a troop of vervet monkeys. The young ones are playing a rough and tumble game, jumping into a tree branch, pulling each other down from the tree branch, dropping from the tree branch, running away, running back, jumping up again... etc with tireless energy.

They make me tired just looking at them. I tell SO that I think these monkeys would make parents with children with ADD feel a bit better about their situation, because the monkeys don’t sit still for a minute. Imagine having children like that! They move so quickly that I have trouble taking a nice photograph, this is the best action shot I could manage.

Image
Monkey action by mel123, on Flickr

As we get to the bridge across the Biyamiti rivier, this pied kingfisher poses for a photograph.
Image
Pied kinfisher by mel123, on Flickr

I also find this little egret (thanks for the correct identification Micetta and Elsa) strolling through the water. EDITED: His yellow feet looks to me like some goo from the bottom. Imagine if you had feet looking like that! :P

Image
Egret by mel123, on Flickr

When we get back to camp the moment of truth arrives. What to do about the possible snake underneath the car? :evil:

We hatch a plan. Once the car stops at our chalet, we open our doors wide and jump out as fast and as far as possible. This accomplished safely, we then approach cautiously and try to inspect underneath the car. We don’t see anything.

We open the bonnet (SO has a few scary moments putting his hand in to release the catch), but also cannot see anything out of order. Of course a lot of pipes and stuff on a car engine is black, and it is difficult to see a black snake... :whistle:

Thankful not to have found anything, we eat lunch – mince on some bread rolls and have a rest from the heat.

I keep an eye out on the resident troop of monkeys, who are looking around for food with shifty eyes. You can’t leave anything out. Luckily they haven’t figured out how to open cupboard doors as in some other camps.

Image
Naughty monkey by mel123, on Flickr

Two hours before gate closing time we leave, turning right onto the S139. We find a rhino family (mom, dad and baby). This is dad. I do believe it was one of them we saw this morning in the dark, as they are in almost the same spot.

Image
Dad rhino by mel123, on Flickr

Some dwarf mongoose jump into the vegetation at our approach but when we stop and turn off the engine it comes and investigates. Too cute, now I miss my two cats even more!

Image
Dwarf mongoose by mel123, on Flickr

Some waterbuck are grazing far away, a giraffe is sitting down and a kudu disappears into the bush.

Some more shrub hares block our way with their hazardous running and one stops for me to take his photograph.

Image
Shrub hare by mel123, on Flickr

As night falls we head back to camp. Just to be safe, we again jump out quickly and far out of the car doors. (We also got in very fast and wide, and unloaded stuff standing as far away as possible from the body of the car). If anybody is watching us, they must think us mad as hatters. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Since we’ve got a lot of food left over, I am not cooking tonight. Luckily the spider is nowhere to be found.

A little owl flies onto the stoep and tries to get into the thatch above our heads but I do believe he has got the wrong address – there is no hole there for him and he flies off disappointedly.

We go to bed early. It’s been a long day with loads of nice sightings and a few adrenalin inducing adventures to top it off. :wink:

Tomorrow - the march of the minifrogs...


Last edited by mel123 on Fri Feb 04, 2011 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 6:39 pm 
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@ Flutterby - Welcome back - glad you're still enjoying it!

Day 3 – Many many Mini-frogs and a road block

I have difficulty getting awake, this early morning rising is getting to me.
But, I have a rule and it cannot be broken. So I get up sleepily.

At 4:30 we are once again ready at the gate, and after my usual “leopard check” I open the gate and hop back into the car - staying as far away from it as possible now that there might be a snake under there of course. Really, the dangers that lurk in these parts are mounting up and up! :D

SO and I have a discussion on what happened with the snake yesterday and the consensus is that if it attached itself to the vehicle, it dropped off somewhere unseen or it exited at the back where we couldn’t see it. We fervently hope that this is the case. :pray:

Nevertheless we decide to be cautious and not linger around the car too much and keep our eyes open.

The drive towards Lower-Sabie on the S25, S108 and H5 before joining the H4-2 isn’t very productive. Except for nightjars, a couple of shrub hares, impala and a warthog, we don’t see much.

On the H4-2 we see a hippo grazing, right next to the road. I am excited to be able to photograph one up close but he wheels around and heads into the reeds as we approach. We also see a bushbuck which quickly heads into the vegetation.

This tortoise however comes to meet us.

Image
Tortoise by mel123, on Flickr

A troop of baboons are sitting in and next to the road, eating whatever they can scrounge up. I am taking a few photographs

Image
Baboon by mel123, on Flickr

and we are discussing the baboons’ facial expressions when a white BMW with a Mpumalanga registration number comes hurtling down the road from the front. Although there are numbers of baboons sitting in the road, this vehicle doesn’t lower its speed (which should be close to 50 km/h I would guess). As we watch horrified, the car declines to brake for the baboons and nearly kills a mother and her baby.

Luckily they jump out of the way in time. I can’t believe my eyes! Unfortunately, the car is past so quickly that we cannot take down the registration number before it is gone down the road.

If I could have, I would definitely have reported this person! SO and I wonder about their motives for coming to the park in the first place. What are they doing here if they have no interest or love of wildlife?

They were definitely overnight guests as well.They were heading from inside the park for a gate and it was too early for them to be from anywhere else than a camp. Whoever he was, I don’t wish that guy well. :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:

At Nkhulu we stop for a muesli and joghurt breakfast. I am amazed at how full the river is – the water is almost up to the railings.

Image
Nkulu river by mel123, on Flickr

There are monkeys terrorising the only other visitors at Nkhulu, on the other side of the picnic spot. The surroundings seem neat, the caretakers friendly and I am relieved. After recent reports, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

While I go and do the dishes, SO talks to the attendant who tells him about a leopard that sleeps in a tree near his house “day and night”. He also mentions some buffalo who hide close by, afraid of lions. I am not convinced by the “day and night” part, because surely leopards must eat as well, but before we head off we scan the trees surrounding the caretaker’s house.

Unfortunately we can’t see the leopard. We head north for a while and come across an amazing sight. Hundreds of little frogs as big as my thumbnail are hopping across the road. Naturally there are some birds having a nice breakfast due to this phenomena.

I am amazed to discover that the woolly necked storks are uncommon visitors to South Africa, usually found near lagoons or rivers.

Image
Woolly-necked stork by mel123, on Flickr

Breakfast
Image
Stork eating a frog by mel123, on Flickr

We turn back towards Lower-Sabie after a while. Sunset Dam is filled to the brim.

Image
Sunset dam 2 by mel123, on Flickr

These hunters keep an eye out for food from the dead tree:

Image
Sunset dam 1 by mel123, on Flickr

At the deck of the restaurant we have some coffee and watch the birds staging a raid on a couple’s toast after they leave. We study the breakfast menu (in preparation for the next day) and then head to Crocodile bridge.

Close to the riverside camp we see this warthog trotting down the road importantly. There are also zebra and blue wildebeest around, as well as the ever present impala.

Image
Warthog by mel123, on Flickr

At the Biyamiti river crossing I finally get a nice photograph of the shy greenbacked heron. The pied kingfisher catches a fish while we watch, but flies away when I try to take his photograph again. Apparently he feels that the paparazzi is now becoming a bother and he’s not going to stand for it. :tongue:

Image
Greenbacked heron by mel123, on Flickr

Back at camp I make a huge fire. I need a lot of coals because I have something special planned for our Sunday lunch.

I found a recipe in a magazine which seemed perfect and I am dying to try it out. I stuff a fillet with feta cheese and spinach, bind it closed and then slow roast it on the fire in a piece of foil to catch the juices and the red wine and garlic sauce. I put some potatoes to parboil on the two plate stove and start making the dough for a “potbrood”, a fresh bread baked on the fire. The recipe is so simple, 500g self raising flour, 1 beer and some salt. In this case I substitute the salt for half a packet of garlic and herb potato bake – and the results are spectacular.
I’m always admiring of people who make potjiekos or intricate camp food with only a fire and a pot and this is my attempt to see how I do with these rudimentary tools. Here’s the setup:

Image
Lunch by mel123, on Flickr

The fillet turns out to be amazingly tender and flavourful, the potatoes (dressed with the same sauce) are very nice and the potbrood is heavenly. We eat slice after slice with butter and jam, butter melting on top of the fresh bread and dripping down our fingers.
Having eaten ourselves into a stupor, we have to go rest up a bit, as I’m sure you can imagine. :wink:

Two hours before gate closing time we head off on the S139 again. We see a few black tailed mongoose running across the road, various squirrels, some elephant deeper in the bush and about six or seven rhinos.

As we are heading back to camp we encounter a rhino roadblock – these two and an elephant beyond them, causing us to be concerned about making it in time.

Image
Rhino roadblock by mel123, on Flickr

Luckily the rhino move off after a few minutes and we are back at camp in time.

At dinner we finish off the rest of the fillet, potatoes and bread and then go to bed early, with no sign of the spider or the snake today, luckily. :redface:


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:19 pm 
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Day 4 – A misty morning
This morning it is a bit easier to get up at 3:45, although I must be honest and tell you that I can’t see me doing this on a permanent basis.

We get ready (our morning routine is now like a well-oiled machine) and we leave just after 4:30.

By now I’m even getting used to opening the gate by myself (we’ve never met another car there at opening time).

We turn left towards Crocodile bridge and somehow, this morning, there is a bit of magic in the air that was missing yesterday.

The usual assortment of shrub hares run along with the car and we surprise some animal (my guess is a genet or serval) but he disappears into the bushes and because it is very, very dark still once he’s out of the vehicle lights, he’s gone.

An owl is sitting in a tree overlooking the road. I try my best for a photograph but there is just not enough light. However, this sort of sums up the mood, so I like it.

Image
Owl by mel123, on Flickr

The sunrise is beautiful.

Image
Sunrise by mel123, on Flickr

We turn towards Crocodile bridge on the S25 and just before the Hippo Pools turnoff on the left there are two sleeping male lions, just a short ways from the road. No other car is in sight.

Image
Lion by mel123, on Flickr

They are definitely sleepy and not moving around at all, so we watch them for a while and then move on.

We find some elephant a bit further on.

Image
Elephant by mel123, on Flickr

Then, this lovely zebra feeding on grass on the verge of the road, his beautiful mane moving in the wind. He's got a lot of personality!

Image
Zebra by mel123, on Flickr

The sun is up and a lovely mist hangs over the area. This blue wildebeest makes a beautiful picture against this backdrop.

Image
Wildebeest in the mist by mel123, on Flickr

I photograph the mist some more. It is so hauntingly beautiful here.

Image
Misty morning by mel123, on Flickr

Everywhere there are huge flocks of birds feeding on the grass seeds. These are sitting on a nicely shaped branch.

Image
Birds by mel123, on Flickr

I wonder how the birds in my garden at home are getting on without me being there to feed them every day? :(

Near the H4-1 turn there are some rhino shapes in the mist and as we turn onto the H4-1: a traffic jam. Some lions are lying in the grass to the right, but you can only see their heads. I have a look, but all of the vehicles and jostling is disconcerting and we move on rather quickly. We’ve seen more spectacular lions after all, not to be blasé or anything! :wink:

This guinea fowl has a massive brood of chicks – but it doesn’t seem to bother her.

Image
Guinea fowl mother by mel123, on Flickr

I love this photo, just because the zebra and giraffe in the background symbolise Kruger perfectly for me.

Image
Zebra and giraffe by mel123, on Flickr

As we get to Lower-Sabie this elephant is wading across the Sabie river. It is one of those images that stays with you a long, long time. It just talks to my soul, you know?

Image
Elephant in the Sabie river by mel123, on Flickr

At Onder-Sabie we try out the restaurant breakfast, nice but not that spectacular, although there is only so much you can do with breakfast – eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomato, toast.
I can’t figure out how to get a croissant from the plastic container, and asks for help. Turns out they turn the opening to the wall because the opportunistic birds fly deep into the restaurant to grab some food.
I actually see some birds eating my neighbour’s toast while they are up to get some food! :D


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 12:31 pm 
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Since quite a few people liked the elephant in the river, here is another photo that I took, which is a bit different (more of an action shot), but that I also quite liked. A bonus picture, since we're starting to wrap things up here... :D

Image
Elephant in river2 by mel123, on Flickr

Next installment coming up... :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2011 12:38 pm 
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Day 4 continued – “Mom told us to stay here”

We drive up to the Nwatimhiri-loop from Lower-Sabie and then turn back south again. At Sunset dam there are some Egyptian geese, but not much else.

We drive on, trying the S28, a road that I’ve heard a lot about but never have had much success with.

It is reasonably successful, although we do not see the cheeatahs I was hoping for.
We do see elephant, zebra, blue wildebeest and some rhino at Crocodile bridge, as well as warthog and giraffe.

Close to the lion sighting (the traffic jam of the morning) we are stopped by a kind man who wants to tell us about the lions, flashing his lights, motioning all over the place. He’s a bit surprised when we thank him and tell him that we’ve seen them this morning. It is now almost four hours later and the lions have not moved. Still only their heads are visible.

On the S25 we find three rhino sleeping in a pool – these animals sure have got things figured out!

Image
Rhino wallowing by mel123, on Flickr

In the middle, the younger one blows bubbles every time he breathes out.

Image
Rhino blowing bubbles by mel123, on Flickr

The hamerkop is posed photogenically on a large boulder in the riverbed. There are also two saddlebilled storks.

Image
Hamerkop rock by mel123, on Flickr

We get to camp around 12 o’clock and the cleaner is there trying to scrub the paving around the chalet clean without much result. For lunch we have some salad.

After lunch SO takes a nap and I walk to the river where I sit and watch a troop of baboons on the opposite side of the river. I heard them squabbling earlier. They are too far to be able to see properly, but I enjoy sitting in the comfort of camp and seeing wild things around me. :thumbs_up:

I walk along the fence for a bit and when I turn back I meet my neighbour who come down to tell me that she hopes I didn’t leave food out because the vervets are making themselves at home in my kitchen.

She also tells me that the monkeys are a real problem – she left open the back of her bakkie for two minutes and the vervets were in there like a flash!

As I hurry towards the commotion I see the leader has ripped the top of the rubbish bin off and has dived into it, only his tail and behind being visible, his head and front body inside the rubbish bin rooting for something to eat. :lol: It's a funny sight!

One is sitting on SO’s chair, one is sitting on the table and another is leaning against the step, encouraging the daring rubbishraider.

As I approach they run off. The raider has found the avocado skins (used in the salad) and at a safe distance he proceeds to lick them clean. The others really want a go at the goodies, but he’s not sharing with anyone. :naughty:

He throws down the avo skins after he’s finished with them, to be later disposed of by squirrels.

This woodland kingfisher comes to see what’s going on.

Image
Woodland kingfisher by mel123, on Flickr

Two hours before gate closing time we go for our last afternoon gamedrive. First though, we stop at the office to get an exit permit. Their computer is down and the lady stamps our entry permit and makes a note that everything is fully paid. I hope this will be accepted at the gate tomorrow!

We turn left and head towards the S25. Yesterday as we were driving back to camp I saw an animal in the road walking away from us. We didn’t have time to investigate as the gate was closing, but I have a feeling about this road. :pray:

I try my hand at photographing one of the many rollers we have encountered over the last few days.

Image
Lilacbreasted roller by mel123, on Flickr

There are large herds of impala. I really like watching impala, seeing how big the herds are and what they are doing. I keep trying to spot their behaviour to alert me if there is a predator nearby. I’ve seen such behaviour a few times, but have never been able to spot the source.

As we turn right we meet a large herd who are now exhibiting some signs of nervousness, but I can’t spot a predator and we drive on.

Some hippo are hanging out in a pool in the river.

Image
Hippo by mel123, on Flickr

We also find some baboon and three ground hornbill.

Image
Ground hornbill by mel123, on Flickr

Some rhino are grazing close to the road. I try to count how many rhino we’ve seen over the past few days and lose count at 15.

Image
Rhino by mel123, on Flickr

As we head back to camp we get to the nervous impala herd once again and this time it’s obvious that something is up. They are snorting and staring and from the hill in front of us one impala is running like crazy towards us. As it gets to us, it swerves off the road and jumps high into the air, kicking out its back legs in a classic move they make when being chased by a predator. We drive forward for a bit and this is what we see.

“Mom told us to stay here, while she goes and gets impala take-away for dinner”.

Image
Lion cubs 1 by mel123, on Flickr

Three cute cubs, right in the road. And, once again, no other car in sight. :dance: :dance:

Image
Lion cubs 2 by mel123, on Flickr

However, we unfortunately do not have time to spend watching the unfolding drama as the gate at camp is closing and we have to drive on in order to be there in time.

As we drive quickly towards camp I see a shape of a cat across the river, too far away to be sure without binoculars, but in my heart of hearts I am convinced that it is a leopard. However, we really don’t have time to stop and investigate. The gate is closing NOW and we are still a kilometre or two away.

Why does it always happen like that? The most special sighting and no time to enjoy it?
As we finally make it back to camp (2/3 minutes late but luckily there is no angry gameranger to yell at us). :|

I stop to ask the lady in the office about the gate opening time – according to the books it is an hour later tomorrow (being the 1st of February). She confirms that it is in fact changing to later.
I also update the sightings board. Three red dots (lions) on the board, and they are all mine. How’s that for game viewing luck? :clap:

At our chalet two buffalo are grazing in the riverbed, but the light is fading fast, making it impossible to get a nice photo. I start supper (some pasta) and packing up.

Tomorrow we are leaving. :cry:


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:34 pm 
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Day 5 – A bittersweet goodbye
SO and I debate the right course of action. Last night when we got back the owl at the gate still indicated the gate opening time at 4:30. The books and permit says it is now 5:30. Do we abide the rules and leave at 5:30? :hmz:

Reluctantly we decide yes. It’s funny, but now the sun is up and its light all around as we head out. The hour makes a huge difference.

We heard our neighbours going for a game drive at 4:30 and when we get to the gate the opening time is still indicated as 4:30. We feel a bit hard done by... :|

There is one thing bothering me. This morning I can’t find my vitamins. It was in a clear plastic container close to the rusks in the kitchen cupboard (because I drink it with my coffee) and it’s just not there anymore. I can’t think what use anyone would have for it and losing them is not the end of the world, but it is irritating. :evil:

SO thinks I left it out in the open and the monkeys came and stole it, but I am quite sure I didn’t. SO is always saying things like that and it simply isn't true... :tongue:

It’s a niggling little mystery that has some unexpected consequences. One of the vitamins I take is Magnesium because otherwise I get muscle cramps.
I didn’t think much of it, but for a few days after this when I fail to take my Magnesium tablets just this once I get severe cramps in my legs. A not so nice reminder of the park. :? Every time I am woken up by cramps I wonder what happened to my vitamins? :?

Anyway, driving along the S25 we see herds of impala (no indication of a kill, so maybe mum wasn’t as successful as predicted last night?) as well as the baboon troop. They are very active, some dragging others around by the tails!

Image
Baboon troop by mel123, on Flickr

This elephant is guarding the road and we wait a while for him to move off, which he does quite quickly when a taxi comes from the other side.

Image
Elephant by mel123, on Flickr

I take a last photograph of the beautiful surroundings.

Image
Beautiful nature by mel123, on Flickr

We start encountering some cars from the front. One of them was parked at a spot in front and then comes driving towards us motioning that he wants to talk to us. He proudly informs us that we’ve just missed a leopard in a tree. Just as we came into view it jumped down and disappeared into the vegetation. :wall: :wall:

I am not happy, but then again, this is the third leopard we’ve missed this trip and it’s beginning to make sense. We have after all seen lions four times and maybe one shouldn’t complain about being unlucky with one thing when luck was clearly with you in terms of another? :roll:

Driving towards the gate we spot a civet, an animal I’ve never really been able to see properly. It heads into the grass as we approach and I can only take this picture. It is however a nice sighting and I feel a bit better about missing the spotted one a kilometre back.

Image
African civet by mel123, on Flickr

As we approach the tar road, and the gate, I spot this lioness on the left. Lions, five times? It seems unreal. :clap: :clap: :cam:

Image
Lioness by mel123, on Flickr

The park might take with the one hand, but it does give with the other, doesn’t it?

Suddenly we are at the gate, where our stamp permit is luckily accepted and soon we are driving into the real world again. Or is the real world the one I just left behind?

The speed, people, cars and everything is a huge culture shock and somehow I can’t help feeling disconnected from it. My soul is still in the bush.
I have a feeling some part of me stays there after each visit, which is why I only feel whole when I go to Kruger.

And so, a fantastic trip draws to a close. We’ve had some adventures, some terrific sightings and even though I didn’t see leopard (three times!), and we didn’t find wild dog, somehow that wasn’t the point. The point was that I found what I was looking for. Myself. :wink:

THE END


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 Post subject: Re: Where true beauty can be found - Biyamiti trip report
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:47 pm 
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Here's the message from EOS_User, together with the two edited photographs of the Woodland Kingfisher.

Quote:
Apologies for the delayed reply; got snowed under with work last night! Plays havoc with my social life !

I did say that I hoped I wouldn't embarras myself didn't I

There was a lot of colour-fringing (chromatic aberration) in the original file, which didn't help, and I wasn't able to pull as much out as I had hoped, but take a look at the two files attached; at least you can see the bird now... WKF_V1 is simply your original re-worked, and WKF_V2 is a crop with a little more lightening. Unfortunately, in trying to bring out the bird, it's resulted in blown highlights...

WKF_V2 is not really good enough for printing, but you might just get away with a 6x4 if required!


I know the photo wasn't that great to begin with, the lighting was very tricky - I was in a dark room with sunshine outside into the shadows where the bird was sitting, into sunlight beyond the tree. But look how marvelous!!! :clap:

Image
WKF_V1 by mel123, on Flickr

Image
WKF_V2 by mel123, on Flickr

Just to remind you how my cropped photo that I uploaded looked:

Image
Woodland kingfisher by mel123, on Flickr

Fantastic! Thank you EOS_User! Well done! :clap:


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