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 Post subject: Canon's MZNP - the big yawn.....or was it? July '13
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 9:06 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
So and I had a 5 day break from work during the first week of July and decided that we would brave the cold and booked a campsite at MZNP - one of our favourite getaways. Right at the outset let me say that Megan Taplin and her team are doing an amazing job at turning this park into something really special. This place is in mint condition, the attention to detail superb, the staff are helpful and friendly and the roads are in tip top condition. It has it all - scenery, herbivores, birds and cats. Well done and keep it up. We are really fortunate that we are only a two hour drive away and are able to make yse of this park for short impromptu visits.

DAY 1

We arrived later than expected and took time mulling over which campsite to select - amazing how human nature is because when there is a cornicopia of sites to chose from it takes plenty of debate (and squabbling with SO) before a decision can be reached! We eventually plugged for a site on the perimeter which was most likely the wise choice. Shade was certainly not a pre-requisite because during the 1st week of July it is sun that you're after in this part of the world. The Whire-browed Sparrow Weavers kept us entertained with their frenetic nest building while we were setting up our camp. It was interesting to note that this fellow had a ring on its leg. Apparently this is the southern most place where you find these birds that, to me, are synonymous with the Kalahari

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There was not much time for an evening drive so we decided to take a short drive out towards the main gate. Well this proved to be a wise decision because, would you believe it, about 1km from the gate we bumped into the newly intrduced lions!

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Was it one big yawn - certainly not for us

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 4:27 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
Day 1 continued.....

Apparently the tree lions had taken down a buffallo in the vicinity so we hoped to see more of them. We had time so nipped up to Rooiplaat where we saw Black Wildebeest and Mountain Zebra.

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We had heard that the weather was going to be a trifle miserable and on the way home we saw ominous signs creeping up to Salpetersberg, Spekboomberg and Speelmanskop. Nevertheless veru beautiful.....

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 4:40 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 2

The night had been bitterly cold but fortunately we awoke to a stunning Karoo winter's morning. SO rigged up a steaming cuppa before we set off up to Rooiplaat where a Cheetah had been seen regularly over the last couple of days. Surprisingly Rooiplaat was very quiet - I suspect that the game moves into the thorn thickets at night to escape the bitterly cold winter weather. We saw Grey-winged Francolins

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These birds are really well camouflaged in the dry "rooigras" that is so plentiful on Rooiplaat. We then took the link road down to our favourite drive - Ubejane Loop. At the turn-off we saw this Mountain Zebra having a dustbath whilst being watched by mother and child

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There is a lovely little dam on the link road where one can sit for hours on end. Amazingly we have seen very few animals drinking at this dam. This Black-winged Stilt had certainly made this spot home

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We drove the section of Ubejane that leads back towards camp because our tummies were rumbling informing us that lunch time was near.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2013 5:01 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 2 continued.....

Well what a surprise lay in store for us. The Lions were lying in the road right at the entrance to the camp! The nice thing about these smaller parks is that there are no traffic jams at sightings like this. This fellow was lying in the middle of the road until some fool tried to drive to within one metre of him! He does not look happy.....

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He moved off and lay down with the other young male. These two guys are really going to grow into really big lions.

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The Lioness then appeared on the other side of the road. She seemed to be keeping her distance from the males - we heard that she spends a lot of time on her own. These collars look so uncomfortable but I do realize why they are necessary

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Having all the inquisitive Homo Sapiens staring at her seemed to be one big YAWN

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What a beautiful young lady and the boys lying across the road cast a few admiring glances in her direction

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One of the boys decided to move a bit closer to her so came and lay on the road right in front of us

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He then moved a bit closer

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They then both decided that this was simply one big YAWN and flopped down as only Lions can do

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Was it one big YAWN for us - certainly not. We had indeed been blessed to spend such quality time with these new inhabitants of the MZNP. We arrived back at our little pad feeling very pleased with ourselves and SO had clean forgotten about the fact that we should have pitched our tent on the site next door!

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:15 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 2 continued

We spent the middle part of the day in camp - it was so peaceful because there were only about 6 campers present. We went up to reception to enquire about the cheetah tracking. Unfortunately R500 each seemed a bit steep for us but nevertheless this must be an unbelievable experience and well done to management for introducing this service.

We set off on our evening drive first driving up to Rooiplaat and then heading home via the link and Ubejane roads. Sightings were limited but once again the evening scenery was stunning. Well we were once again in for a surprise - about 3km from camp we once again bumped into the Lions - could not believe our luck

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Well we had seen them so much that maybe it was becoming a bit of a YAWN

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 4:44 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 3

We decided to tackle the scenic Sonnensrust 4 x 4 route today. We missed the Lions en-route - in fact we never saw them again! The weather seemed to be playing up a bit so we hastened up and headed to the trail seeing Black Wildebeest, Mountain Zebra, Grey-winged Francolin and a very skittish Ostrich en-route

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The skies had clouded over but every now and again the sun peeped out creating great scenery shots

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.....to be continued.....

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 5:23 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 3 continued.....

The first section of this 14km route takes you through a flood plain which appears to have been farm lands at some stage. It was amazing to see how many trees in this section had died over the years. This is perfect Cheetah territory so we took a very slow drive. Unfortunately no Cheetah but we did see these suspects

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The road gets quite interesting when you reach the foothills of Salpetersberg but nothing that the Landy could not handle. This area was over-run with what appeared to be a job-creation initiative. The place was alive with workers who seemed to be doing erosion work which is good to see. Unforunately it does take the remote feel out of the drive and obviously there were no game in the area.
As we climbed up onto the plateau we had a few nice sightings which to me epitomize the MZNP - animals and a mountainous backdrop

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There were plenty of Spike-heeled Larks around

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Soon after we turned onto the link road we met the BOSS who was having a doze in the patchy sunshine

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On our way down the "pass" from Rooiplaat we saw these beautiful flowers next to the road. Strange for winter I thought!

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.....to be continued.....

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 15, 2013 9:20 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 3 continued.....

When we arrived back at camp we were welcomed by a Brown-hooded Kingfisher and an Ant-eating Chat

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These pics of the camping ground will give an indication of how empty it was

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We decided to do one of the short hikes in the afternoon. On the way we passed the restuarant

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When we reached the start of the Black Eagle Hike the heavens opened and it poured with rain which meant that we had to bid a hasty retreat back to the shelter of our Oztent

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This was the start of the bad weather which we had been expecting. It cleared a bit in the afternoon so we took a drive up the valley but never saw much except a few cold and miserable Kudu hiding in the thickets. This reflection on the Doornhoek Dam was really stunning

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There are two picnic spots south of the main camp, one of which has a swimming pool. The Weltevrede picnic site has a natural waterhole to swim in and is absolutely beautiful. This spot could make for a really nice camping site. This is the view up the kloof

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:12 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 4

It rained for most of the night but fortunately the morning dawned with clear skies and a watery sunshine. We decided to drive the Umngeni 4x4 trail - this is probably the most challenging of the 4x4 routes. At the turn-off we saw this handsome fellow

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As we climbed further up towards the plateau the ever-present Red Haartebeest made an appearance

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Unfortunately, as we reached Rooiplaat the skies got gloomy and a steady rain started falling. Well, it was better to sit in the Landy than a cold tent, so we decided to continue with our drive- after all the animals could not disappear! Here are a few shots of some very cold and wet inhabitants of MZNP

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Well who would have thought that we were in the Karoo in the middle of winter. This Spotted Dikkop also looked a trifle miserable

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I suppose this one could not get any wetter!

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 8:43 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 4 continued.....

We eventually headed home which was fortunate because we had to do a bit of dam building at our site but luckily nothing serious. The weather seemed as though it wanted to clear so we held thumbs whilst sipping on a nice warm cup of coffee. The evening cleared and we headed out to drive the Ubejane Loop. The Karoo has a lovely fresh smell after a rain like this - what a pleasure to drive with the windows open. At Juriesdam we saw this African Hoopoe who posed nicely for its photo

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Later it was up the link road again to Rooiplaat. The water birds were out in full force at our favourite little dam

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The Black Wildebeest were in an energetic mood - most likely doing a rain dance!

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The Red Haartebeest also joined in the fun

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....whilst the rather bemused Zebras looked on

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Nearer to camp we bumped into these Ground Squirrels who popped out of their cosy burrows to catch a bit of fresh air - they certainly had not got wet

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We headed back to our burrow and really had to sit close to our braai fire because it was COLD

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:24 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 5

We kicked off the day with a drive up the Juriesdam 4x4 trail hoping to find the elusive Cheetah. There were plenty of plains game but unfortunately no luck with the Cheetah. The view as you descend from the plateau is really stunning. Being our last day we decided to spend the whole morning out so once again did the Ubejane loop. We saw the Cheetah tracking vehicle patroling this area which clearly indicated that there were Cheetah nearby but alas off they went on a no entry road!
We drove up to Rooiplaat again because we were keen to do the scenic route. Along the way we saw the boss again

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A Rock Kestrel (or is is a Lessor kestrel?)

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Blesbuck and more Mountain Zebra (one looked distinctly pregnant)

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The scenery on this route is stunning. The decent down to the foothills of Krantzkop and Bankberg where you cross the upper reaches of the Wilge River is really beautiful.

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On the way down the Wilge valley we saw this rock next to the road - it really looks like a side view of a Baboons head!

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We stopped for a while at the Doornhoek Dam to watch this Brown-hooded Kingfisher trying to catch a locust. Unfortunately it was too quick for me so no photographs

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Unfortunately our time was coming to an end so we went back to camp to start packing up. We had plenty of spectators

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This guy had nearly finished building its nest and was busy with the finishing touches

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It was a stunning afternoon so off we went for a last drive up to Ubejane. The animals were out enjoying the sunshine

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The best was saved for last - need I say more....

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: Mountain Zebra NP - the big yawn.....or was it?
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:14 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 6

It was with heavy hearts that we packed up and headed out. We did the Ubejane loop but still no Cheetah! We did see a very grumpy looking Spotted Dikkop though

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Check out went smoothly - sad to leave but comforted by the thought that we would be back at the end of the year.

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Thanks to all who shared the journey with us.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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