Sunday 15 May 2011 Part 1
To be awoken by the drums of Africa and taking a breath of fresh Kruger air would be more than enough reason to wake up, yet I had a new experience waiting on me!
Not twenty minutes later I was showered, dressed and backpack ready and packed sipping coffee and enjoying the morning chorus of Kruger. A sense of belonging taking hold of me and sending chills down my spine contemplating the thought of being on foot in the wilds of Kruger. . .
As soon as everyone was done with coffee we made our way to the outer perimeter of camp. Here we took a couple of minutes tuning our ears to the songs and contact calls of the feathered folk. Just before we started walking our guides/instructors loaded their weapons and gave a brief outline of the rules (remember all the other student have already done their trails and are more than in tune with their environment). The only lady in the group quickly turned around as soon as we sat off and made sure I understand everything. YES mam!!!
Quickly following in front of her as she wants to keep an eye on me, I later understood why.
The pace was slow and with numerous stops in between to do birding (thank goodness as I wasn't used to this much "off-roading"). I was dumb-founded with all the noises in the bush and the new surroundings, there wasn't enough time to process everything. I hardly knew that by the end of the six weeks I would be able to do this very same route with my eyes closed. Come to think of it I can even tell you on Google Earth which trees are which, what's their botanical names and what is their ecological/medicinal value!
By the time we reached Lala Palm windmill it was already an hour later with 3 new birds on my list. Just out of general info the windmill is actually about 5 minutes walk from camp, so I guess you can all get an idea of how "fast" we where travelling.
The drinking trough at Lala Palm windmill.
Lots of birds came down to drink as it was heating up quite nicely, unfortunately we had to move on and get to our destination for the day, the Fevertree Forest.
I was amazed by the majesty and beauty of the forest as this was my first time seeing one let alone experiencing it on foot. In the background of the above picture you can have a glimpse of the forest as I'll leave the photo's till later in some of the numerous other trips through there.
We barely entered the forest when the call of an Eastern Nicator caught our attention. We moved in its direction to try and find it but in the end we weren't able to locate it due to a big hairy reason. A herd of Buffalo was in our way, unaware of our presence they passed about 80 meters in front of us. It was a pretty amazing experience observing these wonderful animals in their natural environment.
The Buffalo barely passed when the sound of an Elephant breeding herds screaming reverberated through the forest. We had to start moving as we knew they where making their way to the windmill to drink and that they would be cutting off our route to camp.
It was hot and the pace was fast and as we caught sight of the windmill they beat us to it. There was no time to sit around and admire them as they where in a pretty foul mood. We made our way into the ridges now forced to take the long way back to camp. I was spent and no longer in amood to be out there. The back-up/other instructor was happily babbling along about the vultures, I tried to keep to the shade I've seen vultures before.
You'll see that this first week took it's toll on me as I'm not good with handling heat, tiredness and blood sweat.
Our head instructor went ahead to see if we would be able to cross the ridge behind camp as there was another herd of Elephants somewhere in the ridges towards camp. When he finally arrived back he told us to hurry as we only had a small window to get over the ridge to the other-side. It towered above me like a mountain but eventually made it over and then it was rather straightforward to get to camp. The trail of that morning was but a mere 5km spread over 4hours.
Arriving at camp I had to get to a shower, all the rest where still fine and ready for fun and games. I couldn't understand this I was spent! I barely got out of the shower when the drums went and it was time for brunch, only now did I realize how hungry I was as it was already 11am.
This brunch was better than any I had before and it's amazing how you learn to appreciate even something like food which most of us don't even consider to be something major in our lives.
A quick break and then it was time for the afternoon lectures, this got me focused again and by then I've already forgotten the ordeal of the morning. . .