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 Post subject: lemonbalm's Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho. May '13
Unread postPosted: Tue May 07, 2013 3:17 pm 
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I hope you will all forgive me while I try my hand at this trip report?

We (the botanist family) will be leaving on Thursday for Golden Gate Highlands NP, then Mokala NP, Karoo NP, Knysna (Garden Route NP) and finally Mountain Zebra NP! :dance: :dance:

This will be a trip of holiday and work as we are all botanists and will be collecting material for pHd's (Mom and daughter-me- are both busy completing PhD's, Dad already has his). Please note that collecting is only done with the required permits! :thumbs_up: So this should be a slightly different take on a TR.

For now the house is in a state of mayhem while all the preparations are underway - I'm sure everyone knows this state, and excitement levels!

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:52 pm 
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So. We are finally back home and getting back to normality. The reason this has taken so long will be revealed later in the TR. So, lets get on with it! :think:

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:41 pm 
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Firstly - Thanks to Cape of Storms and Hilda for your support :D

May 9 - Day 1

We finally left home at about 9am, only an hour after our planned departure time, a good effort for us! Our family don't travel straight to somewhere if we can help it, our motto is 'Take the road less travelled'! So with this in mind, our route to Golden Gate was along the N3 until Nottingham road, then the R103 around the toll, and then back on N3 until Frere. Well, that was the plan, except that we missed an exit somewhere so took another that got us on a dirt road to Colenso. We then went onto Ladysmith and on up De Beers Pass. What a lovely pass, and in good condition (tarred but dirt once at the top.). We then took some back roads to Harrismith where we had a 'tea' stop. Along these roads we saw no less than 3 secretary birds.

Finally we were on the last stretch to Golden Gate and arrive at about 4 pm :D

Image

We checked in at Glen Reenen and then went across the road to pick a campsite and set up tents. Mom and I did the choosing - we went along the river to the right as did another couple, and what followed was a bit like the camping version of walking head on with someone in mall and moving out of the way only to have them choose the same side as you. Well, we decided seeing as they were in this section and the campsite was empty we would ditch the car and walk around the ablution block back to the left, and once we had finally chosen a site, along came the couple in their car for that exact same site! So with that, we went back our original choice on the right hand side. We did think that the stony soil filling in the pot holes was a bit of an odd choice, but no matter, the site had an awesome view! - Sorry somehow I don't have a pic! :naughty: :cry:

After setting up, the sun had set (pitching tents in the dark became a bit of a theme for this trip...), and we decided to sit down to our traditional first night trip meal of home cooked gammon and homemade potato salad (with homemade mayonnaise to boot). Mmmm Yum! Then it was time for a hot shower and warm woolly PJs to snuggle up in bed!

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Last edited by lemonbalm on Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 3:45 pm 
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May 10 - Day 2: Part 1

We are not morning people at the best of times (well, apart from mom) and certainly not on chilly mornings, so this morning started late-ish, with breakfast at around 8:30. We took our time over our muffins, rusks, and coffee, just enjoying the view, sunshine and some feathered friends. I'm pretty sure they were asking very nicely to join in our breakfast, but we ignored the pleading looks :naughty:

Crested Barbet
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A cold Cape Turtle Dove
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An equally cold Cape Weaver
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And last but not least, Fiscal Shrike
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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:15 pm 
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May 10 - Day 2: Part 2

After breakfast we went on a drive of the two loops in Golden Gate, namely the Blesbok Loop and the Oribi Loop. The scenery was spectacular! and there were even a few flowers out :D

A Scenery shot on the Blesbok Loop, just before the Langtoon Dam turn off.
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Langtoon Dam.
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The Scenery from the 2nd turn off look out back towards Langtoon Dam
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Scenery
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Gnidia sp. (Sorry, I can't find a common name for this genus)
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Golden Gate does indeed have some wildlife :) A far away Zebra
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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:28 pm 
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May 10 - Day 2: Part 3

Sorry, there are going to be quite a few parts in the TR - I don't want to exceed the pics per page restrictions!

Just after entering the Oribi Loop one crosses a stream where we found some plants of interest to mom. We didn't collect any as firstly we had no permit for Golden Gate, and secondly they aren't in the group she is researching for her PhD.

A Ranunculus sp. (Buttercup)
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A pretty unknown (to me)
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And a tiny Limosella
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Then some spectacular clouds to complement the scenery.
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We then meandered our way along to the Vulture Restaurant. We spotted this Jackal on the way.
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There were a couple more at the vulture restaurant itself but too far in the distance for a decent pic. From this pic one can see the vultures and jackals have been doing their jobs! (Not for sensitive viewers).
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Yet another spectacular view from the vulture restaurant.
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And finally for this loop a couple of Black Wildebeest greeting each other just before we rejoined the main road.
Image

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:46 pm 
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Yay :dance:

May 10 - Day 2: Part 4

After driving the loops we decided to take a look in at the cultural village. On the way there we saw Sprinbok having a bit of a difference in opinion with each other - I guess girls are involved :tongue:
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and Blesbok exhibiting some more interesting behaviour. At least it makes a change from what animals normally do in front of us...
Image.

The Basotho Cultural village were only conducting the next tour in over an hours time, and at R50/person, we decided to pass. We also decided that the bus loads of school children hanging about didn't make it the ideal quiet lunch stop we were hoping for, so we headed back to our campsite. At odd moments we were accompanied by the pitter patter of raindrops on the windscreen, but that soon passed and everything was going to be alright, right?... So we lunched on left over ham, potato salad and rissoles and discussed what everyone felt like doing a) for now, and b) for supper. With consensus reached, we left for Clarence Brewery in Clarence to stock up on well, beer... :lol: Little did we know that Clarens also had a 2nd had bookshop, so naturally we lost my father for a bit, and our already fully loaded chariot got a bit more full! We then returned back to our camping site for a braai.Thankfully the rain seemed to be a thing of the past. We had these lovely sunset images on the way back (Mods, please remove if they are not allowed as they were taken just outside the park.)

Image

Image

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:21 pm 
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May 11 - Day 3

At some stage after bed time but before midnight the wind picked up, and up, and up, and up! I was waiting for my tent to fold over as another of ours did previously. Thankfully I had pegged it down well (MM :tongue: ), so I wasn't too worried about waking up in a different province or anything. Then the thunder and lightening started. The rain pelted down, the ground shook, the tent was lighting up as though the lightening was hitting us. I did the counting thing, but only ever got to 1 second! Scary stuff!! Eventually the storm died down, and I drifted back to sleep, but the rain continued through the night. Next morning I got up and out of the tent to discover I was surrounded by pool of water. And it was still raining! After some discussion with the kind lady cleaning the ablutions the conclusion was the rain wasn't going to let up today. We were due to pack up tomorrow for Mokala which was going to be long day, so the thought of packing wet tents for this move concerned me slightly and my mom greatly! Then we discovered that all our chairs were wet. So now we had nowhere to sit it out either, and with that the parentals decided enough was enough we were booking into a hut for the night. :D

The reason for the potholes...
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My poor tent
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Off to reception we went to change our booking and after a remarkably short while we were shown our way to number 8. Our strategy then was to pack all the dry stuff into the back of the bakkie and ferrry it to number 8 - we were given permission to move in way before the 14:00 check in time thank goodness :thumbs_up: - only to discover a drip, drip, drip, landing squarely on the double bed... So back to reception and a very very helpful lady came to see our predicament and help us move to number 9. By now our dry stuff wasn't so dry anymore, but anyway. we had a dry place finally to have some breakfast.

With breakfast done we entered the 2nd leg of taking down the tents :evil: As we got into the car, I commented to mom whether she also noted that the 'raindrops' were shattering on the windscreen! :roll: And so it was that we landed up taking tents down in the rain/snow/sleet/hail. And BOY was it COLD!!! and our fingers wouldn't work, knots wouldn't behave and get untied, and Murphy was generally having a whale of a time with us... Being wet, our camping equipment would no longer fit into the canopy of the bakkie so a load got tied to the roof making us look like the Transkeians had come to town, but no matter, we were packed. Sort of. And we could get warm in a nice hot shower back in our hut. Hot being relative, because even cold water made me feel like I was burning! Mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon huddled up to the heater and dad in bed. It must be said that after all hardships comes the good. All thawed out we ventured out to Clarens to get some supper (Needless it had stopped raining/snowing etc.) and we had this view from the back of our hut.

Snow! :dance: Very light, Yes, but for a Durbanite still Snow!
Image

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:12 pm 
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May 12 - Day 4: Part 1

We set the alarms for 6am :shock: to leave at 7 in order to get to Mokala, and do some hunting for plants in some salt pans along the way. I'm pleased to report that our early morning went according to plan! and even left some time to take pictures of the frost - almost as thick as the snow, which by now had melted quite a lot :cry:

Frost
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Melting Snow
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Fun with Frost
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Our car's first Frost (At this stage our car had been with us for just over 2 weeks)
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And so we left Golden Gate Highlands NP, and I have to say it was most enjoyable, despite the weather! We stopped at Bethlehem for some breakfast, and then continued onto Brandfort & Soutpan, which was unsuccessful in terms of plants, but it did give us a chance to retie the tent which had somehow slipped to be more on the side of the canopy than ontop! :naughty:. It was then onto Kimberley via Dealesville and Boshof, and Finally Mokala! :dance:

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:50 pm 
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Hugh wrote:
I am so enjoying this TR .. would like to know if you everfound anyplants to study I can remember going with daughter into the pietermaritzburg bot gardens holding her legs on step ladder while she reached up to cut down plants and stuff them into a black bag !!!! and the looks we got ( we had a permit) but still felt guilty
Cold Brrrrr love the photos


I found one, but I wasn't really expecting much because my plants are mostly annual, they die back to just a tuberous rootstock in winter. We were mostly looking for my mom's aquatics, which no one has ever wanted to really work on, so not much is known about them! We now know they do keep growing through the winter months, but don't fruit or flower, and telling one seagrass from another is not as easy as it seems! So we did get some, but will most probably be back in September to try again. I think you can see why we go the camping route - it all adds up in costs and believe me, botany students don't get very much funding! (I'm sure your daughter had the same, although ethnobotany did have a bit of a 'boom' a few years back) What was she working on in particular. Yes, we also get odd looks, especially splashing around in the water! I just get 'oh, that weed' :sniper: Even though most of mine are quite rare or haven't been collected in over 100 years!

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:50 pm 
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May 12 - Day 4: Part 2

Finally we arrived at those magical gates! :dance:
Image

We radio'd reception and the lady gave us all the speed limits and directions to reception. I think the distance should take 15-20 min if I'm correct but it took us a very good hour!! (if not 1.5 hrs).

First up was a Tsessebe.
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Then some far away Springbok, and then these lovely Gemsbok.
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And one of my favourites (actually all the animals in Mokala are my favourite!) but Warthog hold a special place in my heart because my Gran had a dog who got down exactly the same way to eat!
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When we finally arrived at reception Dad went in to check in while Mom and I made a beeline to the ablutions! Bethlehem to Mokala is a long way for a bladder!! :whistle: Check in was quick, efficient and ever so helpful!! We also decide to treat ourselves and booked for lunch the following day. :D Through the days we spent there, we got a tiny taste of what the poor reception staff had to go through, and my hats really go off to them to remain so cheerful! People really do complain about the silliest things!

With everything sorted out, we made our way to Motswedi Camp site. I was driving :dance: but the sun was beginning to get very low in the sky, and we had wet tents to sort out, so I was told 'No Stopping!' Naturally, we then saw a lovely herd of Eland, but No, I was not allowed to stop (If my mom reads this :tongue: :tongue: ) So no pic sadly. But I did see her point, especially as it was my tent that was in the canopy with no way to dry, whilst theirs was on top and had been happily blow drying all the way! So we arrived at our allocated site (number 1, in my mind, the best!) and set up. My tent had a bit of an identity crises as thankfully we had brought my mom's tent as well, and as it was the same make, but different colour, I could use her dry flysheet for the night. I think site 1 probably got the highest 'rainfall' of the entire park in that evening! We were also very grateful Motswedi Camp provides a mop to each pair of ablutions so we could mop out our tents before sleeping in them :D :thumbs_up: I found the stars and new moon (waxing crescent) absolutely stunning!

Stars
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Old Moon in the arms of the New
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We had a quick and easy supper of tinned chicken soup before going to bed exhausted but filled with anticipation for what Mokala had to offer! That night, whenever I woke I heard the clip clop of antelope walking by, some I thought must have been right next to my tent (I was waiting for them to trip on guy ropes!), and that in itself was really a wonderful experience. I never went out because, a) I was very nice and warm in bed! & b) I didn't want to scare them, the experience was perfect as it was. :D

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:38 am 
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Sorry for the delay - wayward cats and internet are to blame!! My kitty however is currently not wayward and has decided to shred my arm as I type! :twisted: So apologies in advance if she gets her way and types the report for me!

May 13 - Day 5: Part 1

This morning we had a slow morning as we needed to wash all our our still sodden clothes from Golden Gate, dry everything, and restore my tent's psyche by putting its own flysheet on :) Whilst enjoying a relaxed breakfast a Kalahari scrub-robin and a juvenile cardinal woodpecker came to visit. The scrub-robin was way too quick for a photo, but here is the woodpecker :)
Image


While all this was going on, Jared and a very kind lady came to do the rounds cleaning the ablutions and fireplaces. Jared we found out was the guide, but was filling in for someone else as they were all having turns to go on leave during the quiet times. We discussed when would be best to do a night drive and seeing as later in the week he had school tours, we decided that tonight was the night :dance: The very kind lady (sadly I did not get her name) asked my mom why we were washing on holiday when she would do it for us :thumbs_up: and we gladly accepted her offer! So we then set about getting ready for a game drive!! Yippee!

We decided to do the Matopi loop, and then head straight to Mosu for our lunch booking. We packed all the camera batteries that, after careful charging at Golden Gate still decided to promptly go flat on us, in the hopes that we maybe able to get them charged while we had lunch, and finally set off! We saw and discussed loads of interesting plants, and I learned my new plant for the day - Boscia albotruncata - which is used as or with coffee. Stupidly, I never took a pic of said tree, but from the name you will see that it has a white trunk. We saw some springbok, a lonely hartebeest, and this pair of Crowned Lapwings
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Then we spotted what at first I thought was a pair of suricates, but soon decided they were actually mongooses - I'm guessing Yellow Mongoose
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Shortly thereafter we saw the real Suricates (something that was high up on my wish list! :dance: )
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We spent quite a few minutes them, watching their antics before realising that if we were to have any hope of making Mosu vaguely in time for our lunch booking we needed to turn around and go back. We had done about 2 km of the Matopi Loop in about 2 hours!! and that is pretty much how the rest of our game drives went in Mokala! Just too many interesting things to sit and watch!

On the way to Mosu we saw this magnificent Kudu Bull
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and a whole herd of Hartebeests
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At reception we didn't even have to inquire about charging the batteries, we were pointed to the plug as we walked in the door. Thankfully it was the same receptionist that booked us in yesterday and she had already assured the restaurant that we were still coming but were most likely watching animals, so without haste we were ushered down to the restaurant where we were warmly welcomed!! We had all decided to have the venison fillet, and boy was it good!! We also ordered take-away venison pies for our supper after the game drive tonight. Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, I took a quick walk around (mostly because I had seen an interesting rock the I was sure was in a different spot every time I looked in that direction! (I must note that both my dad and I are short sighted, so game spotting is quite an interesting affair with us!)) On closer inspection the rock turned out to be this tent? tortoise :lol:
Image

After lunch we went back to reception to book the night drives, and retrieve the batteries, except that they weren't finished charging... Before even realising this, the receptionist was telling us not to worry, she would send everything with Jared this evening! By now, we really were feeling like royalty - quite undeservedly so seeing as we seemed to be doing our best to be some of the most difficult guests they had had! And so, we finally got to drive the Matopi loop in full! ....To be continued....

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:36 pm 
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May 13 - Day 5: Part 2

After lunch we decided to tackle the Matopi Loop again :D We saw our first Impala :dance: Image

and a herd of Blue Wildebeest (Gnu)
Image

We then got to the area where the Suricates where earlier, but no one was home :( We saw some Tsessebe asses instead :lol: And then... A melanistic Springbok! :dance:
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And then two wonderful sightings that I cannot report on (as requested by Jared the guide) - two different species, and both very rare! :dance: followed by a herd of Buffaloes
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We had now finally reached the Matopi picnic site, where some of us decided to have a quick gender change in order to use a loo with a working door :lol: The lady's faced the entrance road and was missing its door... It was there, but not on its hinges, but I am sure that it probably is by now. We then had a fairly quiet drive back to camp with some Gemsbok and the same herd of Blue Wildebeest as earlier. We arrived back at camp for a quick change into warmer clothes and pit stop before venturing on the night drive. :dance: Whilst getting ready this herd of Buffs came to the waterhole.
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and just to show how close they were in relation to the campsite
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I then stole a few minutes to capture the glorious sunset
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And then onto the nightdrive, where we were delivered all our electronics (and we asked to dispatch some of them immediately - who wants a sms beep in the middle of a magical drive :naughty: ). The drive was wonderful!! We saw 2 large packs of Bat-Eared Foxes, Springhares, Spotted Eagle-Owls, Dikkops, Scrub hares, as well as some diurnal antelope. We went off the tourist roads which was very nice, and then we got a chance to stretch our legs, stargaze and listen to the jackal calling. All the while Jared kept us entertained with all sorts of informative titbits. After the night drive it was time for our pies ordered earlier and bed! No shower as our solar geysers (1 & 2's) where playing up (at least the waterhole got a bit fuller :twisted: ). Again it was a wonderful nights sleep to the clip clop of various antelope around us!

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:00 pm 
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May 14 - Day 6: Part 1

We had decided today to go north and stop for brunch at the picnic site on the Kameeldoring Loop (not shown on the online map). :dance: First up was what I think is a Cape Rock-Thrush (please correct me if I'm wrong!)
Image

And then this Kudu Doe which I couldn't resist because I just adore their ears!
Image

And a slightly odd duo... We landed up taking quite a few photos of Gemsbok from here on because the couple with us on the night drive swore that Gemsbok never face the camera when being photographed so we were testing the theory. This one was with them.
Image


We made an obligatory stop at the Stofdam Hide, and were not disappointeed! There were monkeys playing and having a drink - somehow monkeys become far more entertaining when they are not in your backyard or trying to steal food! and some Egyption Geese, a family of Warthog
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and these push-me-pull-you Impala
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With tummies rumbling we left Stofdam and headed for the picnic site, where we had choice of any of the spots, but landed up at the kitchenette in an attempt to keep our gas cookers going in the wind. We had the full 'kruger fry-up' = Bacon, poached eggs, and wors 8) After brunch we continued northwards to the Lilydale section. On the way we were greeted by Mom and foal Zebra
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and then..... TBC :tongue: .....

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 Post subject: Re: A Wayward Circumnavigation of Lesotho
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:41 pm 
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May 14 - Day 6: Part 2

And then... A Kill! This Pygmy Falcon ? with its brunch (a locust I think)
Image

Image

Next was this tsessebe Streeeching to get that itch!
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and this Red-crested Korhaan ?
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and then a nice surprise - a new loop not indicated on the map :dance:
Image

After that we stopped off at Lilydale for milkshakes :D (Most of my pics from there are Zoomed in shots of odd patches of river in order to try and ID the plants...) and then did Vaalbos Loop :thumbs_up: First up on this loop were these Gemsbok You will notice that all 5 of them are facing the camera :wink:
Image

and then we came across Mokala's own 'Masai Mara' plains...Albeit with different characters (Black Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok, Zebra, & Blesbok)
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Image

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We were then driving back down the straight bit back to Motswedi when my number 1 wish came true!! Ok, we had seen them on a farm on the way in, but its not the same is it?
Sable!
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Image

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And then another of my favourites! Ground Squirrel
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We really were having a GOOD day!! :dance: Who could believe it could get any better than this!?!

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Submitted by BevAnn at 18:14:24 Submitted by Aristocat at 21:34:19 Submitted by kcilliers at 05:33:24 Submitted by kcilliers at 10:19:11