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 Post subject: spargish's Slumming it at Balule - KNP June '13
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:11 pm 
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SO this past June I had the great privileged of enjoying a short trip to KNP with my Uncle who was visiting form overseas and my Dad. Sadly it could only be a short one and it was over one of KNP's busiest week ends of the year the June 16th long week end :hmz: We were heading up to Balule with no power, small fences and huts with no windows! Lets be honest in no way is Balule slumming it, Balule has to be the most special experience you can have in KNP, well at least in my opinion.

Day 1
We set off early on Friday the 14th of June, hoping their was no mist as a week before there was a big accident on the N4 thanks to the mist. Luckily it was an easy Journey via Lydenburg and Orighstad. In no time we were checking in at Orpen gate which is always a pleasure.
Our first sighting was this beautiful Wartie
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The usual gang of Impis and Wildebeest were hanging around the Tamboti turn off, we carried on and Sadly had to turn onto the now infamous s106. Last time I drove the road it was being graded, and guess what it was being graded AGAIN!!!! If you haven't driven on a road that is being graded it isnt very pleasent, the road is smooth, but there is a huge mound of sand that is left in the middle of the road and it really makes the road a lot more narrow, plus there may be a few large stones in the road that you have to avoid.... I have no inkling to drive that road in the near future.

The H7 was rather quiet after that but we enjoyed a leg stretch at Bobejaanskrans and enjoyed the road along the river. When we arrived at Nsemani we spotted a strange sighting....
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Had the Loch Ness monster moved to Nsemani dam???? No it was actually two of these guys having some fun
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We enjoyed watching them play in the water for close to half an hour, we decided to move on to Satara to check in and get some supplies as we did not want to get to Balule to late. After a friendly check in at Satara we were given Hut number 6, we got some ice and wood and headed towards Balule....

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Slumming it at Balule TR now on.....

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 1:34 pm 
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Day 1 cont

We turned onto the s90 happy with the fact that this was going to be one of those drives where you wont see another car for ages(especially once you pass the s41) 8)
It wasn't long till we came across a common s90 scene, Best of friends Zebbies and Wildebeest!
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A very pregnant looking Zebra in this one, at least she is blessed with slimming stripes :mrgreen:
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The top half of the of the s90 is sadly rather quiet these days after the water hole at Bangu has been closed. never the less we were really enjoying the peacefulness and the smell of the bush and the feeling you get of being absolutely alone when you don't encounter any other cars.

We were lucky enough to spot this beauty
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He eventually turned and faced us, and he had the most magnificent set of horns, safe to say they are the biggest I have seen on a Kudu in Kruger
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After we passed Bangu there were a couple natural bush fires smoldering that seemed to have come from the Mozambique side. We passed the s89 with the Knowledge that because the bridge was still out this part of the road was basically private. We arrived at camp just after 1pm and Titus gave us his usual friendly greeting at the gate, after unpacking we unfolded our chairs and enjoyed our first KNP cold ones :tongue:

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:02 pm 
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Day 1 cont

Here is a fresh batch of Snacks :mrgreen:

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

So after enjoying the complete peacefulness of the camp and a good shower we decided to take a short drive to the Olifants high level bridge and watch the sunset.

Our first Hippo of the trip had his own little pool all to himself just before the Ngotso weir.
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The Weir itself was peaceful and quit except for the occasional grunt of the Happy Hippos
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We got to the Bridge and we were more than happy to get out and see what we could spot from the bridge.
The Olifants river flowing towards Balule and Olifants (you can see some of the smoke in the distance)
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We spotted a fish eagle enjoying some golden light
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It was great to see a large croc in the Olifants, he was enjoying the last bit of light for today
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Our last picture before we left, a great sunset over the Olifants
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We took a slow drive back to camp and encountered a few groups of Impalas along the way. We stopped to take a picture of the Beautiful Baobab that greats you at the Balule gate
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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:19 pm 
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Evening and Some camp pics

So we arrived back at camp ready to start a beautiful fire and listen to the awesome night sounds.

Another great touch at Balule is the personal service, out Parafin lamp had already been lit thanks to Titus and his team.
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Those are the 2 beds, you can see a bit of the 3rd on in the bottom right corner, a cupboard containing some extra blankets, as well as the old school basin. If you didnt know there are no Windows. There a gap between the walls and the thatch! Dont worry there is mesh to keep the creepy crawlies out :big_eyes:

We started our fire, look how close your braai is to the fence at number 6, absolute paradise!
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We were frequently visited by this chap
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Here is our hut from the Braai
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We enjoyed our cold amber liquid as we listened to the flowing river and the Hippo's calling! We had a dinner of rather big t-bones, boerewors and baked beans with some whiskies. After the dishes were washed we enjoyed some Amarula Coffee's. We then realised that we were the only people still awake and it was only 20:30 :big_eyes: The whole camp was silent and asleep by 9PM! This is truly what makes Balule special!

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:03 pm 
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Day 2
So after we were last to bed and a bit of a chilly night (nothing the extra blankets couldn't handle) I was first up in the camp. I love the feeling you get when you are first up, its almost as if you are the only person in the world and that this beautiful scene is just for you.

It was time to boil some water for some Amarula Coffee, you have to do it old school at Balule. I filled up the kettle and lit the gas stove and boiled the kettle. I made the first round of Amarula coffees and then gave every one the first wake up call. I then sat and enjoyed the sounds of the Bush waking up. One hippo would call and then you would hear all the other bull hippos call all they way down the river.

Given that we could see no one else was up we didn't have to go and sit at the gate to long so we enjoyed our coffee and then went to the gate, Titus opened the gate and we were the only people to leave the camp. We headed for the s39.

This was probably the 2nd coldest morning I have experience in Kruger, the temperature didn't move from 1 degree until eight o clock, every body gutted it out though and kept their windows open. The top half of the s39 is one of the most diverse drives in all if Kruger and is a favorite of mine.

It seemed that the cold was keeping the animals in bed as well as we didnt have to many sightings to compliment the beautiful surrounds. We stopped at Rattle pan and as we got out of the we heard that Mighty african sound a Lion Roaring :big_eyes: :big_eyes:

We realized it wasn't to far off so we went into the hid and snapped a few pics.
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A Heron looking for some breakfast in the golden light!
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We got back in the car and decided we had to find those Lions, just after Piet Grobler dam in a perfect clearing where you could see into the river bed this is what we saw
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Mission Accomplished, but I don't :hmz: think these were the ones doing the roaring. The Suddenly again from the other direction you could hear the roar of a male lion, once he stopped this girl who seemed to be in charge lying all by herself replied with roars of her own.
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What a special moment to be able to listen to members of a pride communicate with each other
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They also seemed to be trying to keep warm as they were all huddled together in the Sun
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We sat with these beautiful golden Kittes for at least an hour hoping that we would get to witness members of the same pride greeting each other, sadly the Males never showed up, but we enjoyed a great sighting, and we only had to share it with one other car. Our Coffee stop and an empty Timbivati picnic spot was enjoyed thoroughly after such a great sighting :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:47 pm 
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Day 2 cont

So after leaving the Lions we stopped off at Timbivati. I love the picnic site but generally avoid it during "rush Hour" as it gets very busy, I love to use as a place to stop for morning coffee if I am in the central part of the Park! We were the only ones at the picnic site and we could take in the sights, sounds and smells all alone in this beautiful part of the Park.

We shared our lion info with 2 other families that arrived, it was now back into the car to take a slow drive back up to Balule.
We came across this beautiful secretary bird, but since we were feeling politically correct we decided to rename it the "Executive Assistant Bird"
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We found another feathered friend at the Ngotso weir
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We arrived back at camp during the late morning, it was time to have a small breakfast and freshen up. My Uncles favourite part in the Park is the look out at Olifants, so his only request was that we had lunch at Olifants one day. Once again we were completely alone in camp, after our breakfast snacks and a shower I sat on a bench under the shade in the middle of the hut section watching squirrels and birds going about their daily activities.

We left on our detour trip up to Olifants, we decided to make a stop at the look out point just before the Olifants turn off, we looked around and the look out was empty no monkeys or people, my Uncle and I got out the car first.
We snapped this picture of the Hippos in the Sun.
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The one poor chap seems to have been in a really big fight :x

My Dad then decided he would get out the car, suddenly we saw a group of Monkeys running towards us, we thought they were going to try get in the car, when we turned around there was already a monkey INSIDE the Car :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes:
Luckily all our snack were secure and we scared him off with out losing anything. So anybody stopping their beware of these Monkey's crafty tricks.
Here is the Ring Leader
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We arrived at Olifants which I was a little apprehensive about because of the bad reputation the restaurant has.... We sat outside on the deck and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised we had a friendly waitress and the cheese burger was rather tasty, my only gripe was that when I asked for a Castle draught i got a can and not the advertised draught on tap.

One day I will have saved enough money up to stay here for a week
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We decided to take the river road back the the H1-4 so we could see camp from the other side of the river.
You can see the roof of our hut sticking out and the green bench next to the braai area
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Our Braai area
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The Sunset on the last stretch of the s90 towards Balule
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We had enjoyed another beautiful day in paradise and returned to camp just before gate closing, lit the fire and enjoyed another beautiful night next to the braai

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:59 pm 
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Day 3

I woke up rather early as usual , fresh and ready to go. It was not as cold as the previous morning but my heart was a little heavier as it was time to leave Balule and head south, but we would still be in Kruger 8)

I managed to snap one of my All time favourite Kruger pics. Its not the best photo but if definitely shows the feeling you get when you get up before sunrise and feel like you are all alone in paradise.
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I made the coffee as usual, got every one up and ready. We went to the gate a bit earlier today as we could hear some other people rustling around in the darkness, as Ricky Bobby said "If you aint first, you're last" I was going to be at the gate first :lol: :lol: :lol:

The plan for the morning was to take a short drive to bangu, watch the sun rise over the lebombo mountains, return to camp and the start our journey down to P'skop.
All though we didnt find anything on the way to Bangu, the Sunrise did not dissapoint.
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After a few warming cups of coffee and some Oumas we started to return to camp.
We found this really old chap going for a morning stroll
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We bumped into this fellow, who definitely had some where else to be as he was moving with purpose.
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Just before camp I spotted my NEMISIS, i stopped slowly would this finally be the day I get an actual picture of it, I lined everything up :cam: .......... What would the result be ???
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Not the Best picture but I finally got a snap of a Burchell's Coucal :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 2:28 pm 
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Day 3 cont

We enjoyed one last Amarula coffee at Balule and packed the car for the trip down to P'skop. The plan was to take a slow drive down and arrive just before gate closing. We headed off toward the H1-4.
We bumped into another one of our laughing friends
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He seemed to have his breakfast with him as he had a good few vultures trailing him
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On the h1-4 we came across these fine fellows
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Their group of gals were sitting on some eggs
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About 10kms before Satara we found a car stopped looking something, I just had a feeling it was a spotty in a tree, So I grabbed the Binocs and had a look and there he was :thumbs_up:
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It was far off but its always special when you get to see one of these majestic cats in a tree :clap: :clap: :clap:

We stopped at Satara for a leg stretch and a toilet break then headed off towards Tshokwane where we would cook lunch/brunch.....

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:41 pm 
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Day 3 cont
We started the 2nd quarter of our Journey down south rather happy with our sightings so far.
Just as we left Satara we came across this lone Daga Boy
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We decided to check in at Nkaya pan, Where we found these two "Manne" in charge
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The rest of the drive was rather quiet but as we got further south, we could feel it getting busier and busier....
Tshokwane was the busiest I have ever seen it, but we still enjoyed a good brunch of Grapefruit, only in Mpumalanga have I found such sweet grapefruit, followed by a fry up.

We started our third quarter of our trip with the next stop being Skukuza.
We decided to stop in at Leeupan, where we found a daga boy cooling off in the pan
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Further along the H1-2 I keep an eye out for any Sable as its my dream to see one in KNP again but alas they were not present on this trip. We stopped at Skukuza for a toilet break and an Ice cream and decided to head to P'skop via the s65. I have never been on a dirt road so busy in my life as the s65 was that day, The calm of Balule felt a life time away. :whistle:

I did manage to find another lifer for me a Groundscraper Thrush
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We carried on towards P'skop on the H1-1 and also took a detour via the Napi boulders, we didnt see much but it was nice to get onto a quieter road. We arrived at P'skop just before gate closing and checked in, even though we were in Kruger it felt like a whole other world.......

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2013 2:57 pm 
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Last Evening and Departure

So I previously mentioned how I have never had a positive stay at P'skop but there are circumstances for that, let me explain. P'skop is not the one of our prioritized camps when going to KNP, but sometimes when we get the Kruger fever and need to book a short notice trip it always seems to have accommodation available.

So we tend to go there when the park is full over its busier times.... For instance we camped there over the Easter break a few years back. The camping area there is tiny and being the easter break it was super full and we struggled to find a nice site and it just wasn't pleasant.

So fast forward to this trip, we again had to book short notice when my Uncle let us know that he would have time to visit KNP when he was here. We managed to get a family Bungalow at P'skop which looked really nice, so we gave it another shot.

So back to the trip.....
After getting our keys and buying some wood at the shop we settled in at our Bungalow ready to taken in our last night around the fire in Heaven on earth. There was only one problem this bungalow was directly across from the staff village and they were making quite a lot of noise, the kind that comes from a cars sub woofer. After giving it 5 minutes to stop we were fed up and went to give reception a visit, after a while we it turned off and we were given the Rangers contact number if it started again.
After all of that Balule felt light years away :|

Thank fully it never started again and we forgot about it, and enjoyed our last braai on a rather cold evening.

We woke up before gate opening time the next morning to do a short early drive and then come back to camp pack the car and head out early in order to try beat the long week end traffic. We were first at the gate which was a relief as a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong queue grew behind us.

The gate opened and we headed out towards Shitlhave dam, after a kilometer or two on the H1-1 we saw eyes on the side for the road and found these majestic guys.
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We decided to move off and let the guys behind us get a look at the Lions, we stopped off at Shitlhave dam where we enjoyed our cup of coffee and an ouma in a perfectly serene setting. We drove back to camp and left out of Numbi gate win out any other lucky sightings.....The End

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 Post subject: Re: Slumming it at Balule
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2013 2:55 pm 
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I would like to thank all of you for reading :thumbs_up: :thumbs_up:

This was not only a special trip for me personally but it is also the most fun I have had writing a TR :tongue: :tongue:

I know that I give P'skop a hard time quite a bit but sitting on a bench early in the morning while the camp was quiet waiting for the other members of the family to finish freshening up, watching the mist slowly rise and listening to a flock of Guinea Fowl squabbling over their breakfast I realised that I should give the camp another chance when in a quiter time.

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