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 Post subject: Canon's MZNP - a stormy start to 2014. Jan. '14
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:45 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
We arrived at MZNP on 31 December knowing that the next five days would be hot, we expected the campsite to be full but as usual we could not wait to get to this beautiful little park. The park was looking absolutely magnificent after the abundant summer rains that had fallen, the animals were in good condition and there we plenty of young antelope around.

Once again the staff were friendly, everything was neat and tidy despite the fact that the park was virtually fully booked and once again we immediately got the feeling that we were in a really first class SAN Park. Well done to all the staff that worked so hard over the festive season to ensure that the MZNP lived up to its reputation. It is no wonder that MZNP won top awards last year.

31 December 2013

We arrived at the park gates at about 14h00 having taken a slow amble from Grahamstown. We are indeed fortunate that this park is reasonably close. The check in at the gate went smoothly and as always the guy at the gate was full of smiles!

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It was already hot and the prospect of having to set up camp was indeed a daunting one. The camp was full as expected and of course the sites with the most shade were already taken. As we circled around the campsite there were a number of sympathetic glances coming our way! Anyway we settled for site number 24 which is the second one from the top on the perimeter (next to the Hon Ranger site). Not much shade but we could make provision for this. We took it slow and eventually had ourselves comfortable by mid afternoon which gave us enough time to go for a short game drive. We decided to do the Ubejane route, up the link road to Rooiplaat and down the mountain back to camp. It was no small surprise that the first guys to pose for us were the Mountain Zebras. They was certainly a cornucopia of Zebra around this year so I hope all the Zebra pics don't bore you to death! They are just so photogenic.

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Soon we encountered these handsome Kudu bulls

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Kudu are without a doubt my favourite antelope. Just before turning up the Link Road we saw more Mountain Zebra - this scene is just so typical of MZNP

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By now the thunder weather was beginning to look ominous in the west which added to a wonderful atmosphere as we drove up onto Rooiplaat. The was even a hint of a rainbow

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The sun peeped out from behind the thunder clouds providing exquisite lighting for this photograph

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There was not much more to report on as we headed down the mountain back to camp. Being Old Years Eve we expected a bit of a racket in the camp but it was not to be which was great. Everybody kept to themselves and there was an eerie quiet around the camp - the only noise being the constant rumble of thunder in the distance and some thunderous snoring from a tent nearby - clearly he had miscalculated the evening. We decided to do a nice slow mutton pot and had no intention of seeing the new year in. Well my ego took a serious dent because I (the chef and self acclaimed potjie guru) somehow contrived to let the fire go out which meant that SO and I eventually were sitting enjoying our potjie at midnight! The delay with the pot also forced me to push my capacity for the good Merlot to the limit. So what do you know - us old farts saw the new year in!

_________________
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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 9:35 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
01 January 2014

When SO's alarm went off bright and early on New Years Day I awoke to a little knock in my head telling me that the late night potjie was possibly not a good idea. When she told me that I was looking a bit rough I immediately bounced out of bed and put on a very brave face. I, however, soon realized that some remedial action was absolutely necessary but my pride got the better of me and I gutsed it out over a cup of strong coffee. A cursory glance into the tent revealed the much needed medicine box but my self pride held firm - could not show any sign of weakness because then "I told you so!" would be inevitable. Inside that medicine box were the Panados!! I was paying the price for a somewhat inflated male ego. (I am sure many of our forumites have found themselves in this situation before.....) Eventually SO decided that it was time to get to the ablutions which meant that I would be able to sneak into that medicine box. Well two Panados and a big glass of water soon made New Years Day a whole lot more enjoyable and soon I was ready to hit the road.

We decided to drive up the mountain to Rooiplaat, having been told that the Lions had been seen up there. The view back to the restcamp is stunning and it is amazing how the chalets blend into the landscape - very well thought out.

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The plains were teeming with Black Wildebeest, Mountain Zebra and Blesbuck. This is perfect Cheetah country too. We stopped at a pool next to the road to watch this Orange-throated Longclaw

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Thios photograph clearly illustrated why this bird is called a Longclaw

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Another Longclaw arrived to have a drink which immediately caused No 1 to start showing off by waltzing all over the place with its wings out-stretched.

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We continued along the Rooiplaat Loop spotting this young MZ having a drink. It certainly seemed to be a bit old to still be suckling.

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We then turned left onto the Link Road which was a good decision because at the first little dam on the left we saw the Lioness lying in the shade. What did amaze us was the fact that there were a number of Zebra drinking at the dam and they were not at all perturbed by the fact that the Lioness was watching them very carefully. It was getting very hot so I imagine that she was a bit lazy. I was getting a bit worried because the heat was beginning to take its toll on me and how I wished that I had slipped a few of those magic little white pills into my pocket before we left!

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The Link Road is a lovely drive taking you through a number of drifts and passed a few little dams. There were plenty of Kudu in the thorn thickets. This pic illustrates how lush the veld was

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Graham's Corner was very quiet but still a beautiful area. This Ant-eating Chat was on guard duty here

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We often wonder who Graham was - maybe Megan would be able to help here.

The drive down into the valley is spectacular. We joined the Ubejane Loop and drove down to the dam where we saw a troop of Baboons and few other critters

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By now the temp had reached 37 degrees so we headed back to camp. We took a swim up at the pool - such a lovely setting. On the way back we found a Pufadder lying in the path that runs from receptiion down to the camping site which was a bit worrying. We did report it and it was duly moved away from the path. There were plenty of young children around so hopefully parents were being vigilant. We put the fans on, wrapped ourselves in wet towels and had a midday siesta. I felt like a million dollars having managed to sneak another two Panados!

_________________
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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:14 am 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
01 Jan 2014 continued....

It was so hot in the tent that we decided to rather sit inder the little tree to get some shade. The weather was rumbling and before long we were treated to a typical Karoo thunderstorm. This certainly helped to cool things off. The weather cleared but soon the most amazing thing happened. The clouds formed in the west again and as they moved over the restcamp they took on this strange formation - I had never seen this in all my 56 years. It looked like huge wads of cotton wool suspended in the sky.

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As these clouds moved east so the few clouds in the west developed this beautiful orange glow

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At this stage everything went deathly quiet - the wind died down, the thunder stopped and it felt as though we were on another planet. All of a sudden the sky above us was filled by thousands upon thousands of Swallows that were moving in an easterly direction. I suddenly that they knew something that I did'nt! Was this NewYears Day going to be our last. This is all very difficult to describe - there was this amazing feeling when I looked across the camp site. Everybody was staring up into the sky not saying a word. There were no animal sounds, nothing. Then as the sun set in the west the cotton wool clouds were transformed into this absolutely amazing orange glow. We were certainly in Neverland!

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I am sure that all our fellow campers would agree that this was a very special half hour that we had witnessed. If there are any weather boffs out there I would love to hear what this was all about.

_________________
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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 9:40 pm 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
02 Jan 2014

Today we took it easy - we had a late breakfast before heading up to Rooiplaat. This was certainly a day for Zebras so please excuse all the MZ pics. This young MZ welcomed us to Rooiplaat

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We drove the loop seeing plenty of plains game grazing on the plentiful rooigras that was available. We then took the Link Road and saw these Blesbuck grazing near the dam

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A little way beyond the dam there is a windmill next to the road and here we witnessed this interesting habit involving the MZ. They were literally eating the earth which is known as geophagia, a phenomenon which is usually displayed in dry seasons. It is a way of getting trace elements from the soil. In areas such as this where the soil is rich in these elements and salts, large barren open patches or "salt licks" develop where animals congregate during times of nutritional stress. There was no reason for these MZ to be suffering from such stress so this all leaves me a bit baffled!

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This lady thought her mates were mad eating the ground and had a good chuckle.....

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This little fellow meanwhile had a good scratch....

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WE continued down the Link Road to Ubejane taking a really slow drive and simply enjoying being out in the bush - nothing beats that smell of the Karoo after the rains. Down the the floodplains of the Wilgeboom river we saw this Kudu bull and another baby MZ enjoying the sweet grass and flowers

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The remainder of the day was spent in camp. The late afternoon thunderstorms were once again prevalent and this time the mutton pot was ready on time!

_________________
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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:02 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
03 Jan 2014

Yesterday was dominated by MZ sightings and today was without a doubt a day for cat sightings :D . Our son and his girlfriend, who were spending two days with us, went off Cheetah Tracking so we decided to once again head up to Rooiplaat. We left relatively early but it soon got hot. The nice thing about the smaller parks such as MZNP is that there is never this mad rush to get into the exit que in the mornings which can be extremely stressful. I actually find it quite amuzing, especially at Satara, when the early birds start jockeying for position and you can see the adrenaline rush as the count down starts to gate opening time. Little do they know that the animals out there don't necessarily head for the road side at opening time!
Well we were indeed very fortunate because we encountered the two male Lions on the far western side of Rooiplaat where they were lying in the shade of a small tree next to the road. Clearly they were going nowhere but did get irritated from time to time when one or two really stupid people thought it prudent to drive to within 1 metre of them. One particular bloke in a silver Jimny first decided to drive past the only two vehicles at this sighting and stop slap bang in front of us. There was plenty of space for everybody to see without trying to hog the sighting. He then drove so close to the lions that they had to get up and move out of the way - IDIOT!
Anyway it was a great sighting and there is no doubt that these boys have become men since we last saw them in June. Here are quite a few pics of these photogenic fellows

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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 Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:08 am 
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.....continued

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:15 am 
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Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

This is when Mr "Jimny" started butting in - you can see the look if irritation in the Lion's eyes after he had to make a hasty retreat from the road!

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:59 pm 
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Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

We left the Lions in in peace because they were getting so hot and were going nowhere. We took our standard route down the Link Road and once bagain the first dam along this road was a hive of activity. I kept thinking that the Lion and Cheetah in this park will certainly never battle to find a meal! The Springbick and Blesbuck kept us entertained for quite a while.

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 3:18 pm 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

We headed back to camp for a swim because it had got so hot. B and J arrived back from their Cheetah Tracking experience hot and exhausted but according bto them it was an awesome experience. The tracker had been superb and had really gone the extra mile for them. They started on the Juriesdan 4x4 route where signals were picked up but after much searching the cheetah seemed to elude them. They then headed to the plains below Salpetersberg where they hiked a couple of kilometres on foot before finding this lass lying peacefully in the shade. They said that the feeling of standing about 10m from a Cheetah in the wild was an experience that they would never forget. She was absolutely calm and was not nervous about having homo sapiens so close to her. Apparently there are only 5 Cheetah in the park - many have been re-located. I would imagine they will now be allowed to breed without interference because the Lions will surely be a threat to the Cheetah cubs. This photo was taken with a cell phone so quality not of the best. It will give you an idea of how close they were to her.

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They spent about 10 minutes in the Cheetahs company before leaving - an experience that is well worth it.

That evening the thunder weather once again rose in the west and we were treated to a spectacular display of thunder and lightening during the night. I kept reminding myself that the storm straps served no purpose lying in our trailer!

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:52 pm 
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Location: Grahamstown
04 January 2014

Today we decided to the Sonnensrust 4x4 trail so we were up early in an effort to beat the worst of the heat. As we exited the camp gate we were greeted by this cute little fellow - so sweet despite the fact that they are a curse in the camp!

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To be honest the Vervet Monkeys were not that much of a nuisance in the camping site this year. Clearly the park authorities had made a plan. When we there on a previous occassion I went into the bush that runs up on the side of the camp to retieve a tupperware full of rusks that the rascals had swiped I found an amazing array of treasures lying in the bush - toothbrushes, batteries, slip slops, flash stick to name but a few. I think they grab and run without first finding out if what they are stealing is edible or not!

As we turned off onto the Ubejane Loop this typical MZNP scene unfolded in front of us

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This Kudu cow was on the dam wall - nice seeing this dam full of water

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We then saw our first Eland. It was nice to see them in such good condition especially since our visit to Karoo NP in August when the animals were all so thin due to the drought conditions prevalent at the time

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The antelope were plentiful on these reclaimed lands

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 8:43 pm 
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Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

The Gemsbok bull decided to take his frustrations out on this bush. Not sure about this habit - scent marking maybe?

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Certainly a handsome chap...

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A few more Eland made an appearance - amazing that we had not seen any up until today!

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Right at the turn-off to the Sonnensrust 4x4 trail we saw this Ground Squirrel. They are such busy bodies and are certainly good entertainment value if you take the trouble to spend time with them.

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It is always a nice feeling getting onto the 4x4 trails knowing that there will not be other vehicles approaching because they are one way drives. The sense of solitude is also really great. The first section of this trail takes you through a wooded floodplain. There were plenty of Kudu around.

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Then, as we rounded the next bend along came our man in his silver Jimny - driving in the wrong direction! Well I never..... We later found this Red Hartebeest with a new-born foal. You can actually still see the umbilical cord on the youngster. Apparently the reason for the babies taking on a light colour is to enable them to blend in with the grass until they are old enough to follow their mothers. Most antelope keep their foals hidden for a period after birth. Dark colours tend to stand out a lot more in these conditions than light colours - the latter tending to match soil conditions as well. The mother will return once or twice a day to suckle the youngster whereapon it will find a new hiding place for the foal. As it becomes older it is able to follow its mother and this is when its coat will start getting darker. Nature at its best!!

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 9:48 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

As we reached the plaind in the foothills of Salpetersberg were kept our eyes peeled hoping to spot the Cheetah that lived in this area but unfortunately we had no luck. There were plenty of Springbuck around and we were certain they were being closely watched

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This is when the drive becomes really pretty. You travel all along the foothills of the mountain before having to engage low range as you head up onto the plateau. We alighted from our vehicle at the lookout point that overlooks the eastern boundary of the park. I have often wished that there was road running down from this point to the dams below and then back up to Rooiplaat loop. There is already a track that goes in that direction so it could be possible ....hint hint!

The thunder weather which we had become accustomed to was already building and it was properly hot. When we reached Rooiplaat we bumped into these MZ, once again posing nicely for their photograph to be taken

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We thought it would be a good idea to quickly complete the loop before heading home because we were expecting a thunderstorm and needed to batten down the hatches at the campsite. Well we had not driven far when our plane had to change - here were the Lions and we had them all to ourselves. They were clearly distressed from the heat because they would walk a little way and then collapse and roll over, get up walk another 5m and do the same again. It actually became quite comical. At one stage this guy rolled over his mate got up and then walked over him!

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It looked as though they had taken a course in synchronised dancing..

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After a while they moved off across Rooiplaat to find some shade no doubt

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We encountered a few energetic Black Wildebeest on the way home - possibly doing a rain dance!

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:46 pm 
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Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

We got back to camp just in time because a strong wind started gusting accompanied by a few drops of rain which certainly freshened things up somewhat. We pottered around in camp and yours truly soon got bored. SO felt like chilling in camp so I hit the road again - thought that I was mad because it was in the middle of the day and hot again. Nevertheless off I went up to Rooiplaat again. The animals were all hiding in what ever shade they could find but I did find these MZ cooling off with a drink mif nice fresh rainwater.

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Once again I took the Link Road and cruised down the road. As I passed the first windmill I thought I saw a movement in the long grass on the opposite side of the road. I reversed and what do you know - here the boys were. They had certainly covered a lot of ground to get to the water since we saw them earlier on. All of a sudden one of them got up and climbed up the rocks, surveyed the countryside as only a king would and moved off out of sight

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His mate was not interested in moving but after about 15 minutes he got up, had a good stretch and moved off in the same direction. I thought it odd that they would be on the move at 14h00. There was a large herd of Eland behind the hill which could possibly have got them interested.

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That was the last we saw of these guys - it had indeed been a privilege to be in their company on three occassions. The are certainly going to grow into magnificent specimans.

I ambled back to camp, had a welcome cuppa before we decided to do an evening drive. This was our last day so we had to make the most of it.

_________________
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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:24 pm 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

Thanks to all the forumites for you recent comments and input.

WE did not waste time before getting going again. We headed up the Juriesdam 4x4 trail which was a lovely drive but very quiet from the sightings point of view. We knew that there was a Cheetah that frequented this area but no luck. We saw this Red Hartebeest with a little one. Sadly she was very cripple and was struggling to walk which made her very vulnerable indeed.

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We were fortunate to see a few pairs of Blue Cranes but only in the distance. These two were the closest to us

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Just before heading down from the plateau a number of very frisky Ostriches darted across the road. We saw a herd of Springbuck in the distance that suddenly took of at breakneck speed. Maybe the Cheetah but we never saw it.

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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: MZNP - a stormy start to 2014
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:46 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
.....continued

We soon found ourselves on our way up to Rooiplaat . We stopped at the viewpont that looks up the Wilgeboom valley and were saddened to see the state of the Doornhoek Guesthouse

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We stayed there once and thoroughly enjoyed the treat. Lets hope they are able to restore it to its former glory.

Once again plenty of antelope were to be seen. The Blesbuck were showing off their young and a lazy Springbuck was not interested in looking in our direction. There was certainly a population explosion taking place in this park - predators were no doubt smiling!

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Once again the MZ entertained us - one taking a serious dust bath

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Many animals like to roll around in the dust to have a good scratch and to relieve themselves of the irritation of parasites such as ticks, fleas and mites which tend to fall off when choked with dust. Certain areas near waterholes and along game paths become favourite spots. The soil, loosened to fine powder through constant use, provides a perfect medium for penetration into the fur.

_________________
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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