Lonely Bull trail

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A Free Living Guide
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Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:24 am
Location: Hoedspruit

Re: Lonely Bull trail

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9 April 2015.

Last month I did two Lonely Bull Back Pack Trails… lucky me :D .

The first trail was mid march.
We were dropped off on a management track close to the Tsendze river and we walked SW along the Tsendze then through an ancient sand stone ridge to make camp in the late afternoon. We dug for water in a river bed where a small spring comes up which usually holds good water well into the season, but this year we had to dig quite deep to find water, which had a very earthy taste to it and a lot of sediment in it. This time last year that little river was actually still flowing lovely clean water. Signs of a dry winter to come…?

The next morning brought another hot day and we walked west over a watershed to another spring up the Molopeni river, where we set up camp under some beautiful apple leaves on the banks of the Molopeni. This spring was stronger and although there was no surface water flowing, water was just below the sand and it was clean and lovely.
After digging a nice water hole and patiently scooping out half a cup at a time, I could fill up a 2L water bottle. After 20 minutes I had filled up my 2 liter water bottle 3 times and poured it all into my little “pocket shower” (an ingenious little invention you can find at camping stores). The pocket shower was strung up in an overhanging tree and after a long hot day of back packing through Kruger, I had a wonderful cold shower in the dry Molopeni river bed.
Actually everyone on the trail decided it was just too good to resist and we all took turns showering in the river bed!

The following day was very hot and we walked west, then south, down to the mighty Letaba river. I never get tired of seeing that bright green ribbon of phragmites reeds as you come out of the dry mopanis, and the backs of all the breeding herds of elles that come down to feed in the reeds every afternoon.
A refreshing swim in the letaba was just what was needed to wash the sweat and dust off our hot bodies! We found a safe place to swim and proceeded to wallow in the river for the next hour, escaping from the afternoon heat.

A lovely trail with good sightings of game, a growling, spitting, low flying leopard that came bolting out the reeds, plenty of buffalo bulls and breeding herds of elles (as the Lonley Bull is known for) and a wonderful surprise encounter with a black *** bull very early one morning in our camp.

The second trail of the month was right at the end of the month, and this time we walked mostly on the southern bank of the Letaba.
The river is already quite low, (very low for this time of the year) and we were able to find a safe place to cross, so we spent a day walking on the north bank too, down a dry riverbed called the Kashumba. The Kashumba also has a spring that feeds into it, its quite far up, but if you know where to look, you can find it. In light of the water situation of the previous trail earlier in the month I was very curious to see what the Kashumbas spring was looking like, so we took a walk up to it.

The Kashumba was flowing strongly, a refreshing sight to see!
As we were approaching the spring we heard francolins alarm calling down by the riverbed. Usually a sign that something (a predator of sorts) has upset them. We walked down to the river, ever mindful of Daggaboys that love to hang out in the reeds and mud around springs like this, but we didn’t bump into any.
We then heard kudus barking not far down stream, also a predator alarm call. We knew that there must be some sort of predator (possibly a leopard) walking down the river, not far from us.
Perhaps we had disturbed it and that was why it was now moving in the heat of the day when it should have been resting up…?
We debated weather to follow the alarm calls and see if we could find anything, or, find some shade and settle down for our lunch (thereby giving the predator a chance to settle down and relax too). We chose to have lunch, let things settle down downstream and follow up after we had had lunch. I dug a hole for water slightly upstream of where we were sitting and we all had beautiful cool spring water with our lunch.

After lunch we set off quietly down stream, to see what we could see…
A short way down the trail we found kudu tracks, where they had nervously stood and alarm called, barking at something that was upsetting them before taking off. We told the guests to walk as slowly and quietly as possible, and stay close behind us! I was searching every shadow, checking up every tree ahead of us when we came to a huge old jackal berry. But instead of a leopard lying up in its mighty old branches, a big Verreauxs eagle owl (Giant eagle owl for us old school birders) spread its huge wings, dropped out the tree and swooped off just over our heads… what a lovely sight to see!

30 meters further on we were moving through thick and shady riverine vegetation when all of a sudden, quickly and quietly, a big tomcat leopard stood up right in front of us and dashed off through the undergrowth! We motioned for the guests to follow us as quickly as they could as took off at a run, trying to get another glimpse of the beautiful big cat, but alas, he was gone!
At least the first four guests had seen him as he was departing :big_eyes: .

The bush telegraph had been correct, as it so often is, if you just take the time to listen to what its telling you :wink: .
And the old saying had proven its self true once again…
“He who is closest to the guide, wins!”

Walk quietly, but carry a big stick...
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