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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:57 am 
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Location: Back on earth.....
Just a week to go and I cannot wait anymore! Our whole group is geared up to go!! Backpacks are lying all over the place, final gear check will be done tomorrow morning...

Just getting my gaiters, and I'm ready to roll. Dear time. Please fly!! :thumbs_up:

Tnx Brenden, just what I wanted to hear 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 12:06 pm 
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Jealousy... envy... jealousy... envy... :mrgreen:


I suppose one would have to book this a year in advance ?


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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Wed May 04, 2011 9:45 am 
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Just an appetiser... I have wonderful pics but did not have time to share them yet.

On the Pondo hills, with the Bubu river in the backgroud, Pondo watermill in the far distance... 8)

Image

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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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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 11:45 am 
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Location: Back home in the caravan at Malelane camp, KNP
Matthew - welcome to the forums and beware of addiction! (and welcome back to the south of the park too!!!!!)

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Completed over 5 years in Kruger in my caravan.

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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.

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 Post subject: Re: Mphongolo Back Pack Trail
Unread postPosted: Mon May 30, 2011 10:50 am 
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:thumbs_up:

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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 30, 2011 11:14 am 
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Location: Johannesburg - too far from the closest Sanpark
I really have to do this trail soon!

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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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