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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Wed May 04, 2011 9:54 am 
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Great photo Gamespotter. Seems you enjoyed yourself. :thumbs_up:


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 12:25 pm 
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Hi all, thought I’d share a Mphongolo trail that myself (as lead) and Hans Ensiling (back-up) conducted from the 17th-20th of April 2011. not to make you all envious but to let you know how great they are. :)

We (Hans and I) were excited, the Snyman group of four were equally so and to end it we had a great trail with brilliant game sightings but what was really enjoyable was the beauty of the Phugwane River and surrounding streams.

Day 1: We took the long drive to the Mooigesig drop-off point and walked to the dam where we set-up our first camp. Having a slight drizzle on the way to the drop-off and a little on the walk this didn’t dampen our mood and made walking enjoyable as opposed to hot and exhausted. On arrival at the dam there were many vultures within the vicinity especially on the opposite bank. We decided to set up camp before we went to investigate, since we just arrived at our camp site and still had time for a short afternoon walk. Once every one had settled and was ready for another short walk we walked up the Maswitakali stream walking away from the heightened activity of vultures. A ways up the stream we heard impala barking, we went to investigate but they soon stopped barking. after a while we gave up the search, only later to find coming back down the stream fresh lion spoor of at least two lions heading towards our camp. Following them they lead us straight past out camp and an past old buffalo carcass of which was the reason for the vultures in the vicinity. One could see the tail drag marks from crocodiles where they had moved out of the dam to scavenge off the carcass. Being a couple of days old there were no fresh signs of any other scavenges other than vultures and the lions had moved down past the dam. Getting dark we went back to camp and settled in for the night.

Day 2: The weather again overcast this time without drizzle, made walking an ease. We started off early down the Maswitakali heading off to the great Phugwane River. Not too long walking under the tall riverine trees, both Hans and I were alerted by the sound of a barking predator that had seen us and ran-off. We stopped to listen and followed to where we had heard it run-off. We found the tracks of a lioness that had suddenly started to run, knowing what we were following we followed with precaution and heightened senses, finding tracks of at least four lioness. When suddenly Hans found the spoor of a cub, knowing what this meant and within split seconds the mother let us know she didn’t want us around by a soft growl becoming intense as we readied our rifles. Hans slowly back everyone out of the area with myself not far behind. we back out on to a spot where we were elevated on top of a donga looking across at where the lioness was. Watching for her in the long grass we couldn’t see her but still hearing her soft growl, when from the opposite side of the donga another lioness came out with her tail twirling and broad stance towards us. Knowing we were safe we watched her stop and then ran back and away. Getting the message they wanted us away, we backed out of the area and continued down the stream stopping to brief everyone on the occurrence and settle the nerves of those that hadn’t been charged by a lioness with cubs before. In continuing a ways down the stream, we came across a lone white rhino bull sleeping in the sandy bed of the stream, we watched him attentively listening to our movement in the grass as we positioned ourselves to see him; the ox-peckers had also alerted him to our presence. Eventually he got up, looked around, saw us and then ran-off. We commenced and after a long walk down the Maswitakali stream we come out onto the great Phugwane River. Looking down the river we saw two young elephant bulls drinking below a cliff, so both Hans and I had the same thought as to climb to the top of the ridge and look down on the elephants drinking. The plan came together and we watched the elephants drinking and pushing each other around below us. After they had moved off we went down and took over the waterhole to get water and have our lunch break. While we were sitting there a huge African Rock Python come slithering past, alerted by our presence slowly made his way into the safety of a rock crevice. The afternoon walk was rather uneventful in light of our morning sightings. We made way to the Mashadya-Phugwane confluence. Finding a nice spot under an enormous fig tree over hanging the sandy river bed we decided to camp under it. We set-up camp and after a short walk up the Mashadya stream we were all very tired from the days preceding and had a relaxed evening around the fire.

Day 3: Having covered a large distance the day before, the distance to cover wasn’t great and so we had a relaxed morning cleaned up camp and headed off to our next campsite. Walking under and past huge trees to the likes of Mopane, Nyalaberry, Jackalberry, Leadwood, Sycomorous fig the area dwarfed us. The odd impala herd and a small herd of blue wildebeest were spotted but what stood out was a group of warthogs. Watching them going about what warthogs do from the opposite bank. We firstly saw the male whom had some of the largest tusk in the district, later his harem of three ladies and a group of 6 piglets followed moving about in the river bed. We then shortly arrived at our campsite and set up camp under a massive Nyalaberry tree, we settled in and had our lunch, with water nearby; we filled the bottles and waited or the afternoon. Our afternoon walk lead us up the Hlanganini stream, with a fair amount of giraffe tracks we eventually found one when looping back onto the Phugwane River. Stopping to overlook the river we watched an impala herd come down to drink and move away hurriedly when realizing we were watching them. We got back to camp early and headed down to the watering hole to clean ourselves up a little and collect water. after this heading back to the camp, both Hans and I were alerted to Impala barking, we figured there most be some predator in the area and so we quickly got our group together and followed, again the impala stopped barking as we drew closer, but scanning the area, we saw a huge male leopard come up out of the Hlanganini stream stop look at us and then dart behind a mopane, he waited there for a while and then ran-off into the mopanes. The night was quiet with the odd sound of hyeana in the distance breaking the silence.

Day 4: We headed off early, with the intention of walking to Dili’s seepline before our pick-up. Walking along the Phugwane past the magnificent trees we disturbed a buffalo at Dili waterhole, we watched him from the opposite bank as he saw us and caught wind of us he ran-off. Just further on we came across a dead elephant that had been in his permanent slumber for more or less a week and 5 days. The cause of death uncertain, but having a nice set of tusk he looked like an elderly bull. We arrived at Dili seepline and looked over the river from the cliff above enjoying our last few moments before the pick-up vehicle came to take us away from what we had borrowed for a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 2:33 pm 
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Matthew , thank you , your report takes me there ...

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KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 3:20 pm 
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Wonderful trail and report! :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 11:08 am 
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Matthew :clap: Glad to see you are writing about this wonderful trail as well! :clap: Welcome to the forums :D

Indeed brilliant sightings you had! can't wait to return

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Letaba 8 July, Shipandane 9 July, Shingwedzi 10 - 14 July :D


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 4:13 pm 
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If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

Once upon a time, in a Wilderness area far, far away, Brenden and Hans were about to leave on another exciting adventure. They had with them four visitors, whose industrious souls were subconsciously seeking a meaningful connection with nature.

Day 1. Our point of departure would be deep in the heart of the Mphongolo Wilderness. We were dropped off south of the Phugwane River near Shamangombe water point and immediately headed north to the soft, white sand of the river. We located a suitable camping area near a water source without much difficulty and set out to collect some wood. We just needed a fire and I had previously collected the appropriate material to make fire by friction. The guests were slightly sceptical at first, but their confidence grew as the smoke started rising from the point of friction. From there on it only took a couple of minutes to nurture the hot carbon to flames.

Day 2. Some lions and a single leopard vocalised nearby for the bulk of the early morning. It created a fantastic atmosphere in which to wake up and start the day. We continued south along a dry riverbed towards an area Hans had explored on a previous trail. The game paths grew wider and busier as we approached the large Fig Tree, in the distance we could already see large groups of Zebra and Impala gathering at the water point. We decided to set up camp here for the following two nights.

The mid afternoon heat forced three elephant bulls to the water; they were accompanied by a young cow and her calf. It seemed a rather strange grouping, but then again, do we really know enough about elephants to classify this as normal or not. It didn’t seem important at that point anyway. We were about to explore our surroundings. We had hardly ventured 100 meters before disturbing a lioness and two cubs. We decided to return to camp, as I would rather have them in the area than disturb them any further and have them leave.
The afternoon turned into a game viewing feast as an estimated 1000 buffalo and a single rhino bull visited the water point, near our camp before sunset.

Day 3. We were all awake from about 3 a.m. as two male lions roared at regular intervals approximately 200 meters away from our camp. As dawn broke I visited the other tents to inform them of my plan. Get out of the tents, put on some shoes, keep quiet and don’t stand up to create a silhouette in and around the camp. Once the light was good enough we got into single file and started heading in the lions direction. It didn’t take us long to locate these two large males. They had entered a large open area near camp and we were now viewing them as they walked across the plain. They eventually identified us, but we were all sitting down, which created some confusion. We shared a couple of moments with the lions before they turned around and ran away. Another excellent start to the day!

As we arrived at Mooigesig Dam, large crocodile tracks moving away from the water grabbed my attention. The croc would only leave the permanent water body for one reason and we followed the tracks across grassy terrain towards a large stand of trees to try confirm my suspicion. Right ahead of us a large male leopard leaped from the branches of a trees, a beautiful sight that we all managed to see. With a closer investigation we located a young impala carcass wedged in between two large branches. What an inconceivable sense of smell crocodiles must have, the carcass was approximately 300 meters from the dam.

Day 4. It was time to head back to the pickup point. It was a rather quiet walk compared to the rest of the trail, but we nevertheless encountered some Nyala, Impala and fantastic bird activity on the way back. We were collected at 10 and started our journey back to civilisation.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue May 31, 2011 7:21 pm 
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Well, it's two weeks today and counting to my first ever walk in the park!!! Can't wait. Reading Matthew's post was so cool and has really got me very excited!!!!

This weekend is time for final checks and getting anything still needed!
:dance: :dance:


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 6:22 pm 
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Well, trail has come and gone! :D :(

What an amazing time. We (SO and I) met up with our guides at lunch on Wednesday. The others who joined us on the trail were doing back to back trails, so we just waited for them to get cleaned up and real food. Then it was off into the wilderness.

Julie (guide), suggested we take our watches off and forget about time. This was a real stretch for me, but I thought I'd give it a try. It was so freeing...

Off the tar road, onto a dirt road, down a no entry road, and onto a jeep track, further and further from everything that is known to me...

Eventually we stopped off-loaded and the vehicle left. We were alone in the bush... What a feeling.

After going over the "rules" and checking nothing could fall out of packs etc, we started off into the unknown. A short hike later and we came upon Mooi-gesig dam. Here we set up camp for the evening, and started to learn about camp routine. Went to collect water from the croc-infested dam... :?

That afternoon/evening we had a lone bull elephant and a breeding heard of elephants come right past our camp. Quite a different experience to viewing from a car.

We saw a side-striped jackal that night. Had a leopard grunting not far from camp and heard lions most of the night.

Early next morning packed up camp and set off in search (hopefully) in the direction of the lions. After a decent stretch of walking found a peaceful setting in a riverbed for breakfast. Rob (guide) went of at one point, and heard franklin calling. After breakfast we headed in that direction and found marks of where the lion had lay and listened to us ~60m from where we'd sat blissfully unaware. Unfortunately they had run off...

The afternoon stretch of walking was a tough one, especially for us Joburgers and our soft feet... Eventually we stopped to get some water, digging into a previously dug elephant hole. Filled up the buckets and waterbottles and headed for the promised nearby stop.

The next day we only took day supplies with us and went walking. Had amazing experiences with buffaloes, a big heard of ~200 strong... What a feeling when you hear them thundering over the ground.... Tracked rhino too. Never quite caught up.

Our last evening we headed down to the dry riverbed where the guides kindly dug the elephant holes a bit deeper and we got to experience bathing in elephant watering holes! :dance:

That night the camaraderie that had developed could really be sensed as we joked around the camp fire.

With much sadness we packed up the following morning and gingerly hoisted the now much lighter packs. By now we had finally toughened up and felt like we could finally walk for miles, but sadly knowing we weren't going to as we had to head out. :cry:

Heading back was a really tough experience. As we heard the truck approaching that realization that we had to actually leave this place was a tough pill to swallow.

Then the road widens and widens again and eventually we reached tar...

I would just like to thank Rob and Julie for making the experience what it was. We learnt so much and realized just how much we don't know. We look forward to the next one....


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 2:21 pm 
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Wilderness, that is where i just spent another wonderful 4 days, lots of walking no talking just nature at its best.
It is getting more exciting every day as the velt turns to spring and the waterholes become hives of activity. Game is concentrated around the remaining water and there is never a moment where there isn't some big thing in close proximity to the group. The night sound even though it was full moon where constant and i am sure some times scary to the foreign visitors.

There was nothing that they could do to prepare for such an experience, as it is unique, even if you come from the wilderness in Alaska. Africa and especially the Mphongolo area with its unique charm, got them to appreciate wilderness in a different lite.

If i had to give you a blow by blow list of encounters it would become monotonous with the repetition of the names of the big 5. All i can say they had lots to view and incredible displays of behaviour and the most wonderful wilderness experience.

It was very good to walk with people that understand wilderness and appreciate its wanders.


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:30 pm 
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Light had started menacing darkness as I lay awake in my tent, backpack as a pillow. The incessant dispute slowly spilled over to the birds as the deep vibrations of Southern Ground-Hornbill pilfered the silence and encouraged the day. A discontent Square-tailed Nightjar interrupted their chant as if to gesture his support of the dark.

The last time I had used the shaded Tamboti-leaf carpet near Matiovila as a camp was five months previous. No group had been to the area since, despite the high trail occupancy this season. Access to the 150 000 ha Wilderness Area is restricted by the absence of a road network and exploration can only be done on foot over an extended period of time. This sense of wildness and remoteness unquestionably defines the Mphongolo Backpack Trail in northern Kruger National Park.

Our eight guests lay silent, listening from their tents as the increased radiance restores the confidence that may have evaporated in the darkness. The principles are contradictory of air conditioned rooms, comfortable beds and the multitude of additional reassurances the conventional safari intends. Merely fundamentals hold substance at this juncture, all else counts for naught.

Wilderness is the highest category of conservation an area can ever achieve, yet it should not be restricted by a definition or physical boundary. Wilderness is a philosophy and consequently infinite.

We are familiar with the situation where we have forgotten the name of a place and cannot produce it in spite of the utmost concentration. We have it 'on the tip of our tongue' but it just won’t come out, until we give up and shift our attention to something else when suddenly, in a flash, we remember the forgotten name. No thinking is involved in this process, it is a sudden insight.
Another well known example of spontaneous intuitive insight is jokes. In the split second where you understand a joke you experience a moment of 'enlightenment'. It is well known that this moment must come spontaneously. Only with a sudden intuitive insight into the nature of the joke do we experience the laughter the joke is meant to produce. It cannot be achieved by 'explaining' the joke using intellectual analysis.

Our guest’s connectedness with nature lies on the periphery of their modern being. On the ‘tip of their tongue’ so to speak, and it takes moments of spontaneous intuitive insight to generate reconnection. Creating moments of enlightenment on trail is the challenge of Wilderness guiding. It is the challenge of not being confronted by the limitation of language.

I am by no means suggesting that Wilderness guides are capable of choreographing life changing metaphoric dances and individual theatrical performances around a small trail fire. However, Wilderness guides have access to a unique set of tools with which to create moments of spontaneous intuitive insight. These tools can also be defined as the attributes of Wilderness and include remoteness, serenity, peace, wildness, solitude, harmony, inspiration and reflection opportunities.

With packs on our back and the rehabilitated camp a remembrance, we meander along a non perennial stream in search of its confluence with the Phugwane River. We explore the Mphongolo Wilderness according to our personal requisites. Apart from water availability and heat from the midday sun, we are laden with no restriction. Guiding with such independence and space is exhilarating, but the concept should momentarily rouse a sobering intimidation. “To be abandoned is to grow". Clear water filters into our excavated pit in the dry riverbed. In this moment we take nothing for granted.

The realisation, discovery and understanding of Wilderness is a succession of spontaneous intuitive insights for the impending Wilderness guide. It is not something that can be absorbed from literature, but develops with experience and time in Wilderness Areas. Each individual may develop a personal definition of Wilderness over an undefined period of time. This definition may be expandable and will, in all probability, undergo multiple metamorphoses in due course.
Wilderness may eventually become a ‘state of mind’ an understanding that not only the bright stars in the sky are significant.

Wilderness guiding is the ability to provide guests with what they need and not necessarily what they want. It is far removed from competition, even though the mere realisation could nourish exponential personal development. As much as Wilderness is our message to share, it is our sustenance as guides. In a private capacity it may be described as a recipe for happiness with all the chemicals gone.

Regrettably we live in an era where southern Africa’s affluent biodiversity and Wilderness have been reduced to five mammals and five stars. It is therefore fantastic to have a revival in primitive experiences such as the three backpack trails currently hosted by Kruger National Park. There seems to be an urgent longing by the human psyche, conscious or subconscious as it may be, to experience the Wilderness qualities we have been deprived of since we have become ‘civilised’.

"There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect's wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whip-poor-will (nightjar species) or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night?

But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand".


- Chief Seattle (Si'ahl), Native American Indian.

The fire is modest and serves its hypnotic purpose as the darkness consumes our new camp. Our guests have strayed from their modern being, yet the Wilderness knows exactly where they are, it will find them. The Square-tailed Nightjar calls with restored confidence, perhaps an appropriate reminder from a savage chief that we are celebrating life in its purest form.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:15 pm 
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Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals derive a benefit. These symbiotic associations generally provide workable solutions to many of the basic problems of survival. Providing adequate nourishment is one of the problem-solving advantages of symbiosis.

I suppose symbiosis, in the natural world, could quite easily be compared to a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ or long term ‘Contract’ between two businesses in the corporate world.

Symbiotic relationships such as mutualism are furthermore recognized as an important selective force behind evolution, with many species having a long history of interdependent co-evolution.
The species Homo sapiens is the highest evolved organism on this planet to date thanks to symbiosis and myriad other forces such as natural selection. We therefore owe our success to strategic ‘Contracts’ and partnerships our ancient relatives negotiated for us with nature.

The Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator is the only bird in the world known to regularly lead humans to bee hives. They are not physically capable of opening the hives themselves to get to their preferred source of nourishment; bees, larvae and wax. By guiding man to the hive and letting them open it to harvest, they have overcome this problem.

Their guiding habits are inherited and well developed (interesting that this only takes place in sub sahara Africa - evidence of a very long standing ‘Memorandum of Understanding’). The Greater Honeyguide knows the locality of hives and wait for potential symbionts (humans) to pass by. The bird initiates the guiding by calling from a nearby perch. Upon an approach the Honeyguide flies off with its typical, fast undulating flight, their white retrices stand out like a camera flash.
Flight takes them to a nearby tree; constantly chattering to keep the adherents attention. Arrival at a bee hive sees the Honeyguide change its behaviour. It will perch silently, waiting for the honeycomb to be extracted.

Due to the rapid trend of ‘civilisation’ in humans the Greater Honeyguide is losing its symbiotic capacity and is being replaced by the highly abundant coexisting secondary symbiont – the supermarket.

There are now areas where the frequency of guiding has decreased or even ceased. Another one of the many human-nature ‘contracts’, that have brought us so much success as a species, may no longer be renewed. I fear for the day that the Honeyguide swoops past and disappears into the woodland without uttering a call for us to follow. The day our ancient partners no longer see us as a part of nature.

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"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:26 pm 
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Fallen mud

If the best way to learn is to listen, then why do we speak?

We came across a mud pool after following buffalo spoor from the night before.
Looking down into the mud we see it parted from where a White Rhino came in to
wallow. The tracks as fresh as drying mud we start to read. The tracking begins we read it
like the rhino has written his book and we reading a chapter. Out of the mud pool it
leads, having covered itself with mud, mud clots fall off splattering on the ground.
The leaves on the Mopani tree where he has pushed through are coated with a fine
layer of mud turning the bright green to dark grey. With his trail before us we take an
undecided path chosen only to find him and walk in this giant’s footprints for but a
moment of its untamed life. We set off at first following the mud until he reaches past
the Mopani belt and into the bush willow flooded veld. With fewer trees to brush up
against and mud drying in the heat of the day, we tilt our heads to the ground
deciphering the code he has left in the grass. The occasional softening of dropped
mud under our shoes we are assured that we have chosen the right path. Criss-
crossing already laid game paths not wanting to follow them he sends us searching.
Heftily he flattens grass, carelessly turning settled stone, upsetting monotony he
leaves his pattern in the grass. We lose track only to find where he had laid down for
the early morning before setting off from our scent. We did not seeing him but his
hurried scuffled leaves marks readable. The freshly churned earth gives away his
sleeping position and a startled rise scuffed the earth to tell of his flight. Weaving
between bush willow dodging dead Leadwood trees we give up our search knowing
that the wind had spoilt it for us favouring the rhino for the day. We move on not in
disappointment but rather with insight to the life of a rhino as short as it may have
been. We had read its chapter in vivid detail from exiting the mud wallow to where
his sleep was startled. He had written his story with patterns in the grass, a story to be
read not on paper but merely by walking behind the author of the book.

-An extract from my diary whilst on trail (21st-24th March 2012).


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:59 pm 
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There are two things you should probably know about Mphongolo Backpack Trail guides. Number one; we are more excited than our guests to be leaving on trail . Number two; we are not big on paperwork, hence the lack of trail reports posted on the Forum this season.

Nevertheless, trail season is in full swing and I have managed to put together a few memorable moments from completed trails which you may enjoy.

Trail One, 15 – 18 February
There is nothing quite like the first trail of the season. We are finally set free in the Wilderness after having had to wait for more than two months while the Mphongolo is closed. Apart from being the first month of a new trail season, February is another exceptional month for bird watching. We were happy to receive a group of ‘citizen scientists’ which participate in the Southern African Bird Atlas Project.

The drop-off point was on the Bububu River near Phonda Hills. It has been an exceptionally dry summer and water has proved to be a rather restricting factor to date. We established camp near a rather large pan, which at the time still held some water. The well developed tree layer surrounding the pan and established aquatic plants created a modest oasis amidst the Mopane scrub.

Climbing Phonda Hills is always a rewarding experience, the panoramic views of undisturbed Bushveld gives a real ‘sense of place’, a true combination of the physical characteristics and the ambience.

A White Rhino bull had surrendered to the building mid-morning heat. The thick shade provided by a large Mopane tree beside a small mud-filled pan proved too inviting. We approached as he snoozed, moving silently to within a comfortable distance and observed. It was remarkable to find ourselves in that moment with such a colossal beast, completely undisturbed in his natural environment. We retreated and allowed him to slumber further.

We managed to push our bird list to 135 species over the trail. A fantastic result and valuable contribution to the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:09 pm 
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Trail Two, 22 – 25 February

We got dropped off on the Phugwane River east of Dili Windmill. It was the safest option as Dili is still functional and holds water. As this was only the second trail of the season, we were uncertain of a water source further west.

We set up the first night’s camp under an impressive Nyala Berry Tree, not too far from a small pool of surface water in the Phugwane. I prefer to wake up at the same time as the birds rather than set an alarm; it breaks the routine of being back at home and provides a rewarding sense of freedom. This particular morning a Broad-billed Roller rallied the dawn chorus from a nearby Leadwood Tree. A rather welcome announcement given our location.

Our second night’s camp site was situated in the centre of a large open grassy plane. Scattered Leadwood Trees our only company. It was a new moon and the stars proved spectacular. We all lay on our backs admiring the spectacle through our binoculars. We could see Jupiter’s four moons, the Great Orion Nebula, various open and globular star clusters. The peak of the evening arrived with a great big flash, a meteor lit up the camp as it travelled three quarters the way across the night sky.

Priceless.

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 2:54 pm 
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Trail Three, 29 Feb – 03 March

We found ourselves on the far western stretch of the Phugwane River. A steep bend, assisted by a geological hurdle, forces water to the surface of an otherwise sandy river. Camp was located a comfortable distance from the water point.

We had hardly settled before three White Rhino made their entrance. They had no suspicion of our presence and quenched their thirst before disappearing back into the Mopaneveld.

We could hear the snorts and grunts of a large Buffalo herd just beyond the tree line. If you close your eyes, their movement through the brush resembled a crackling bush fire. Our decision to approach was supported by a favourable wind direction and the late afternoon sun on our backs. We hid behind a large termite mound as the Buffalo herd passed on the opposite side. As I crouched to better my position a familiar pattern in the dirt caught my eye. I could tell no time difference between my boot track and that of the print which lay to the left of it. We must have chased the lions off this perfect little vantage point during our approach. Time to retreat, two hundred buffalo, six humans and five lions in a very small space does not sound like a good idea. We need to get back to camp.

As the fire burnt out that night, we scanned the river bed with a torch. There they were, five lions watching us as we were about to end off our evening. Their confidence amplified by the dark, they approached to a nerve wrecking distance. It was time to call it a day and hit the tents. Our imagination played games with us as we lay silently in our flimsy shelters. No matter your social status or bank balance, in that moment we are all equal. Sweet dreams.

Although it is not the focus of trails, we always appreciate getting the big hairy and scary on foot. Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Elephant and Leopard within twenty four hours.

We spent our last afternoon watching more than two hundred and fifty elephant come past our camp to drink water. Each breeding herd waiting patiently in line for their turn to quench a thirst .

_________________
"Keep the Wind in your face, the Sun on your back and the Wilderness deep in your heart".


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