Day 4, 11 March 2013, Part 3
After our quick shopping trip to Phalaborwa we were back in the park and ready for more adventure. Our plan was to visit Sable Dam and the bird hide, then on to theMasorini Picnic Spot for lunch.
The MAD Ellie Story
From the H9 we turned South on the S51 dirt road. It was quite all the way to Sable Dam and we turned off on to the short Cul-de-Sac to where the Mashangani River flows into the dam. Following the narrow Mopani corridor we could not drive all the way since the dam was so full and the water level was so high, the road ended in a dead end about 150m from the S51. The Mopanies were standing in the water and it was a strange sight looking at the water’s edge a couple of meter in front of us where the road should be.
It was quite and then I spotted a Water Thick-knee couple with a chick on my side right next to the Hilux and started taking photos. With the window open and the engine turned off, we heard water splashing a couple of meters away where the Mopanies were standing in the water. My first thought was it’s a Hippo, it was overcast and Hippos do sometimes leave the water during the day when it’s not too hot.
Then it was quite again and I snapped the Thick-knees again, but all of a sudden the Thick-knees disappeared under a bush. All of a sudden we heard Mopanies breaking and decided it would be wise to get out of the Hippo’s way. There were a small clearing on the water’s edge on Skillie’s side and he slowly reversed into the small gap in the Mopanies with Hilux’s back wheels on the water’s edge. Next we heard an Ellie trumpeting, Mopanies breaking, right in front of us and a huge Ellie burst though the Mopanies into the road right there where the Thick-knees disappeared a couple of meters in front of the Hilux still standing on the water’s edge. The Ellie did not expect to see a white bakkie in the bush and got a fright and stopped stepping a few steps back. We were trapped, water left, right and behind us and a mad Ellie in front of us. There we were staring at the Ellie and the Ellie staring at us! I was frozen with fear with this Ellie a couple of meters in front of us and did not even breath, never mind taking photos! I thought today this Ellie is pushing us into the Sable Dam and we will be swimming with the Crocs. I just closed my eyes thinking this is the end of us.
Luckily Skillie did not panic or overthink the situation and hastily pulled away with speed past the Ellie, so close he could touch the Ellie. The Ellie did not flinch, trumpeted and chased us with ears flapping. We made some ground on the Ellie and turned right on the S51. We heard trumpeting but could not see the Ellie while picking up speed to around 40 kmh. All of a sudden about 100m from where we turned on to the S51, the Ellie burst through the Mopanies right next to the Hilux missing us by centimeters! The MAD Ellie took a short cut and made a high way straight through the Mopanies. The Ellie end up chasing us for another 300 or 400 meters down the road, but we were getting away this time and did not stop to look back, we just kept going!
The Water Thick-knee couple and the fluffy chick before they disappeared under the bush where the Ellie burst though the Mopanies.
At the Sable Hide we met and couple of elderly ladies who said they were driving behind us and almost followed us into the Cul-de-Sac but decided against it because they were towing a small trailer. Thank goodness they did not follow us! They said the heard the Ellie trumpeting from the hide, but had no idea that we were in a bit of trouble…….
We saw some Hippo, Impala and White-faced Ducks from the Hide, but it was a bit far for good photos. Right in front of the Hide we spotted a Three-banded Plover. Leaving the Hide we spotted what I think is a juvenile Pin-tailed Whydah.
Mites, please help me with this one......
The Three-banded Plover in front of the Sable Hide.
On the way back to the H9 we spotted a lonely Baboon seemingly the lookout for the troop, but with the Mopanies so dense we could not see the rest of the Baboons.
Before we got to the tar road we turned off on the dirt road south of the Masorini Ruins. Here the Mopanies were not so dense and we saw a beautiful big herd of Impala with a few Zebra trailing along.
Back on to the H9 and before we knew it we were at Masorini Picnic Spot. I was quit windy and cold, but we got a spot out of the wind behind the service hut.
This little Lizard lost his tail along the way, but was running around catching Ants.
It was time to head back to Tsendze and since it was getting late we had to take the Mopani-Phalaborwa tar road back although the plan was to drive all the dirt roads East of the H14, but maybe next time…..
Along the way there were a lot more FRIENDLY Ellies.
We had to travel way faster than what we like at 50km/h and one can really not see much at that speed. At the Letaba Bridge we had to stop and enjoy a troop of Baboons playing on the bridge and the river bank.
On the bridge we met Rodger also returning from Phalaborwa. He was taking pictures and enjoying the view. We left Roger on the bridge since we had to back at camp at 17h30 and still had a long way to go.
Just on the other side of the bridge were a small herd of Ellies with a tiny baby, all relaxed and friendly.
Just before the H1-6 T-junction a Spotted Hyaena came strolling down the road and we had to stop again and take pictures while the clock was ticking. Roger caught up with us and he also took a load of pictures.
We were making good time but luckily Roger was still behind us. Back onto the H1-6 some more FRIENDLY Ellies crossed out path crossing the road in front of us.
We made the gate by one or two minutes! Back in camp we were welcomed back by “our” Squirrel and we took a walk to the Eagle Owl’s tree and found him there.
That night around the camp fire we reminisced about our event full day and could only wonder what tomorrow will bring….