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MrMacBullough's MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER - Back for two weeks. KNP, June 2016

Tell us about your breathtaking experiences in the parks
MrMacBullough
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Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

MrMacBullough's MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER - Back for two weeks. KNP, June 2016

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Mon Jun 13, 2016 7:35 pm

June 4th 2016
Yes, here I am back in Beloved Kruger; it is a whole year since I have been gone from it and seeing those posts by all of my African Facebook Friends has just gotten all the way through to me. I couldn’t take it any more; I had to make a return journey.
This time I flew straight into what the Memsahib calls “The cutest international airport in the world”, Skukuza. That five hour drive down from Jo’burg, which in many ways I have loved all those times before, cherishing the routine stops and vistas, were reduced to little more than half an hour in the plane! Stepping into a smart, tiny set of buildings which reflect the best of the Kruger Park architectural style is a delight, but my keen instincts didn’t make me linger. I was into my avanza and pootling gently off pretty sharpish.
Certainly my first drive reintroduced me to the great regulars of the place; it was a special moment as always, to watch an elephant family drink their fill from the remnant trickle of a mighty river, and to let a party of five elegant giraffe sweep onto the road ahead of me, pause, then magically disappear, despite their dinosaur size, in the bleached green bush. I was also able to have a self-satisfied chuckle at re-encountering the lazy kneel-grazing of the warthogs who shuffle in the few little damp patches where grass still lances bright and luscious despite the general lack of rain. But, of course, my heart was truly lifted by the most ubiquitous of all Africa’s creatures; my darling impalas; perhaps I should just refer to them in future as “The Ubiquitees”?
And so it is, I proudly post my first snap of the fortnight, a lady tending to her grooming toilet routine. What joy to watch.

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Last edited by MrMacBullough on Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:43 am

June 5th 2016
So, just why is it that baboons are infinitely fascinating? Judging by the other visitors I see in the park, it is not that they are rare, nor that they are fleeting in their passage. Quite on the contrary I expect. Often the appearance of a single baboon, or a pair of them, on or by a road signals an encounter worth stopping for. You see that single or couple tumbling into view presages the massy turbulence of a troupe coming on over.

Now that, it seems to me, is their unique selling feature to wildlife enthusiasts; individuality in a crowd; more usual to the casual anthropologist which most of us are (at coffee shops, pubs and snack bars) as the attraction of "people-watching". And believe me, these are people, all the more intriguing because they are animally distant from us and evolutionarily close to us. So it is we can see so knowingly their constant obsessions with food and each other.

Nothing is more absorbing than the apparently casual, but deadly serious manner in which they, seemingly without really looking, turn over potential titbits from the floor and efficiently and effectively strip the inedible, casings and the like, from the tasty kernel or seed inside. They display so often in this moment the cool and sophisticated personality we would all like to exhibit, giving the appearance of our attention on the more important while scooping up edible treasures with ease and certainty. Their perfectly coifed hairdos, hairs separately pulled and even around their brows and curled DA-like at the back have the easy appearance which belies the attention and effort they actually invest in such matters too. The smooth shaven snouts neatly set off those elongated faces both doggish and human at the same time, and those amber eyes; how they catch the gold of African light and hint at intelligence unshared and unshown.
More than that, of course, while we are drawn to watch our simian cousins as soloists, we are also tuned to take pleasure in their social interaction. Who cannot bring to mind the happy memories of our own childhood when we see the younger baboons rough and topple each other in innocent games of play? Do we not sympathise with both sides when an exuberant little one plunges at a world weary adult, understanding the younger one’s call to just have fun and the older one’s responsibilities to put such immaturities aside?

The fact that so many troupes are so large in number gives lots of time to see the other adult behaviours that are familiar to us too, in purpose, intent and outcome at least if not in specific conduct. All that intense grooming, that demonstration of dominance, that casual sex, that currying favour or bullying, that murmuring and barking, that calling and howling, that chasing and hiding, that deference and branch thrashing; it is all strangely familiar. Are we remembering our ancestral performances or are we just recognising the interplays that sit beneath the surface of our sophisticated and civilised manners?

Howsoever it is; I love watching these guys. Thank you Kruger, again.

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Last edited by MrMacBullough on Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:37 pm

June 6th 2016
I must remember the paradoxical certainty about watching animals in the wild; they are likely to behave as untypically as they are to act in accordance with the expectations you’ve built up over the many hours and years you’ve spent observing them. So it was at a watering point this morning.

This was at one of the artificial pans that the Kruger National Park authorities created during an earlier time of serious long term drought which threatened many of the animals to a substantial degree. Typically, it had the frame of its old wind pump that lifted the cool water out from the aquifers below, held up on a pylon of standard Spartan frame, but as is often the case now, the power comes from a couple of solar panels that have been perched up there alongside the storks and such that festoon these things with gigantic stack nests of twigs and grasses. This pan is of the classic design, a long concrete basin in the shape of a massive rectangular trough, many metres long and at least a couple wide. In depth it must be heading for about 1.8 metres in the centre but it is built like an inverted ziggurat with about eight or so steps so the edges are always shallow, however the level recedes, so as to accommodate the shorter legged drinkers as well as the smaller birds at its edge. Today, because of the very dry autumn, the level had dropped severely to the basin’s bottom; I certainly couldn’t see into its wet recess from where I was parked up. Never the less, pigeons were flying in, dropping out of site and lifting later, presumably quenched and certainly with beads of water dripping from their chest feathers as they took off.

I thought it unusual that there was no mammal activity at the place until I noticed a young male lion lying, sphinx posture, a way from the bright grey white of the man-made shelf. Well, I reasoned, no prey species is going to be daft enough to come in to drink while this big cat is spread out so masterly and near. A male impala wandered next to me on a track towards a drink when he looked directly at the predator. I assumed he would simply sneak off relatively discretely but no. He took a long circular route around the golden eyes of that clearly alert killer. His judgement must have been accurate on this occasion, for while the lion clocked him all the way round he never put in chase. Now while the impala was not behaving according to type, sometimes even stopping and stamping a hoof to puff up the dust a bit (!), I am familiar with the knowledge that predators are loath to waste energy and effort and will not spurt into hunt mode unless they are both in need of a meal and also relatively sure of success regarding their high speed over short distance. As the impala scribed his circle on the dry ground it became clear that his cautious arc was not going to intersect with the water; he veered off at an appropriate point.

The lion, lay down to snooze.

A big male elephant wandered out from where the antelope had made its exit and I thought “Well here’s a creature too big to be frit of the feline!” As I could have predicted, he walked straight to the pan while the lion resumed its Egyptian pose and sniffed down over the edge of the lip with his great trunk. He did so at the first point of arrival but the water was clearly still out of reach. He then proceeded to side step, or shuffle a few steps and face over again, until he’d gone all round the thing and he was back where he’d started. He gave a massy shake of his shoulders and flap of his ears letting the dust fly up into a cloud around his head. Was that at the frustration of the situation, or the proximity of the reclining king? He gingerly put a huge foot over the top edge of the shallow step but thought better of it. He moved along the side of the trough and repeated the manoeuvre.
Something was making him anxious. He clearly made a decision. That bloody lion was going to have to move along before he was going over the top and into the vulnerability of the pool’s bottom to slake whatever thirst he had.

He moved round slowly and solidly, clearly with purpose to walk the big cat on. He did not utter sound of challenge or show any aggressive behaviour he just walked over in that direction. He knew what he was doing. That lion knew what he was doing, and I knew what he was doing. So it was, with some semblance of assumed ennui, the beast at the top of the food chain stood, paused and ambled ahead of the heavyweight.

Job done, the big fellow could take his drink in peace.

It was some time later, by the way, I saw the second male lion whose position, while I watched all of this, had been masked by a bush

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Last edited by MrMacBullough on Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:41 pm

June 7th 2016
Today was the first time this trip, and that is day four remember, that a slender mongoose has woven its magic spurt across the road ahead of me. Now that seems a bit odd because these are the creature that i have a very frequent and frustrating memory of encountering. First of all, let me admit that it was probably the first mongoose species of this glorious continent that i was able to identify; that is not a tribute to my powers of study or discrimination merely testament to the fact that they have very distinctive silhouettes. Like all the mongoose kind, notice I avoided the stumbling block of attempting the plural there, it moves in a liquid fashion, broiling over the ground like a point on the surface of a flash flood. Indeed when I have seen the big family groups of them shifting over grassy ground, usually banded or dwarf subspecies, they move up and down and at speed like the tumble of a brook new bursting over meadow. However, the slender stands out for so frequently making a solo run and it is utterly distinguishable because it hauls after itself a long knocked over question mark of a tail with a good inch and a half of black tip.

I wonder if my lack of coming upon them to date has something to do with the area I am in, near Skukuza, or the time of year; I seem to remember them road-racing every month in the past; or perhaps some sinister decline in their numbers at the moment. My mind had little time to ponder these things however because, most unusually, this individual and he was a hefty soul so clearly mature had decided not to disappear as they normally do in the wayside turf but to target a tumble of thorn debris, left by the side of this main road by the common destructive feeding manners of an elephant. My luck was in; I had a snatch of a chance of seeing him hunt!

To be honest, once he was in this tumbled thicket of dried and bleached basketwork of acacia, I relied more on following him by sound than sight. There were terrific sounds of speed and scrabble at the bottom level and some of the higher layers twitched and heaved a bit. I heard a few chittering squeeks and squeals but whether these were him or the things he was pursuing, I couldn’t tell. At one point there was a greater lift in the detritus and his head appeared in a window-like gap in the crossed tangles and I saw, dangling inert from his mouth the back end of some gecko or other small reptile he had nipped dead fast. He relished its chomping down, jaws smacking as it descended in pieces, the tail ever shortening over his little fierce mouth.

He looked directly at me, or that’s certainly how it seemed. Perhaps he sensed my admiration for his hunting prowess or understood my fellow feeling of how much he was enjoying his food. Maybe he just wanted to acknowledge my interest but to make sure that I was in no doubt about his tiny armoury, he opened wide his mouth a couple of times to flash the brightness of his canines and the healthy pinkness of his tongue. Or was he just cleaning his mouth with a few draws on his teeth, as any carnivore might having just eviscerated and consumed his latest guest to dinner?

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MrMacBullough
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:48 pm

June 8th 2016
A lion kill near a road is bound to cause some bunching up of cars; it always has, in my experience, and always will. I wondered though, as I slowed down on seeing the line of pulled up vehicles way ahead, if some of the old courtesies were being as observed as when I first came here, twenty years ago. Or is that just “old fart” syndrome kicking in, thinking things were always better, brighter, kinder, classier in the good old days that probably never were. Certainly the newer arrivals were not holding back to wait for a turn, as I thought we were old-schooled to do, and they were not making sure a passage was always kept free for the flow of traffic needing to pass on by or through. Actually, from the way drivers had pulled in, with their bonnets focussed on every gap and chink in the line, leaving some of them broadside to the carriageway, it looked more like the movement arrows on the wall of a war cabinet.

I decided on this occasion I would not try to join them for the duration (and didn’t the guidance used to be about twenty minutes maximum before yielding your spot to the next in line?) but to gently move through the melee and pause to see what I could make of things and maybe get a snap or two. After all, I’d been lucky enough in the past to encounter such things with few others and enjoyed lengthier studies.

Well, this was quite a big pride and they were wearing away at a buffalo that I took to have been brought down the previous night. Quite a lot had gone and a group of five or six adult females with large cubs, at least late adolescents, I’d say, were taking their early siesta in the shade of a nearby bush. What remained of the carcass was in two distinct parts, a greater and a lesser. I passed the smaller section first and could see a younger, although definitely adult, female was gnawing down the cartilaginous ends of some ribs. Moving on to get a decent view of the larger part I could see that there were two older lionesses worrying away at it. One was more in view because she was along the body of the dead cow, her left front paw towards me was spread and her claws bit hard down as she levered flesh from near the bone by backing up her neck and upper body. It was a tremendous display of strength and determination. Then I was gradually aware of a much smaller head, with Disney ears, rising tinily over the bulk of the meal. It was a small cub, the only one I could see in the pride so young. As befits the pecking order, I suppose, this little feller had been brought in at the end to play around in the belly cavity and rescue some left over softer easier bits. Even this wet with blood, he or she still looks cute to me!

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:50 pm

June 9th 2016
Do you ever find yourself making unintended associations when you come across something? I think I do. Perhaps I’ve been overly influenced by the media and so I remember, for example, seeing a shaven headed, be-booted and all-denimed guy with tattoos and assuming he had a certain outlook on life that did not resonate with my own. He wasn’t a skinhead though as it turned out; he was a quiet spoken, deeply philosophical young man who was about to be confirmed as an Anglican. I know where my misconception came from though, how it was born and nurtured, and I should have learned my lesson. However . . . . .

I had a lucky day and saw a whole load of rhinos and began to realise that the media perspective on their plight had similarly patterned and coloured me into a different, but still effective knee-jerk! I saw one standing in the middle of the road, its companion standing from a prone position just nearby, and the feeling that came to mind was very mixed; my sense of wonder and excitement had shifted down a lot of gears and I was feeling sad and anxious. Instead of enjoying the creature encounter, I was not seeing these magnificent specimens but thinking of the horrible trade in poached horn. Rather than drinking in the privilege of being near these two great lumbering beasts in the wild, I was mourning the damage that is done in this part of Africa by the illegal trade that slaughters innocent animals and devastates the lives of those at grassroots level exploited by the Mr Bigs in the world, the poor sods who on the promise of money of life changing proportions for a few nights tracking, shooting and butchering, enter the criminal world and put their lives on the line, perhaps even shot dead when cornered by the better equipped and trained authorities.

Believe me, I do not excuse the market; I do not excuse the rhino killers; I do not condone vile hacking off of those beautiful horns. I want us to do all we can to punish the guilty, protect the animals and prevent the business continuing. But as I watched these two heavy, leadened battleships of the veldt, I also thought about freeing them in my mind from only having victim status too. I watched them as they manoeuvred in tandem their stance towards me, shifting the line of their spines like heavy gunnery, stiff and like clockwork automatons, both stern faced; the flat line mouth of these whites no doubt add to that! I wondered at the weight of those dinosaur skulls slung long forward from quite narrow shoulders, considering and imagining the stress and strain that must engender. They are indeed fabulous, more from the pages of a bestiary than an evolution design manual surely. I thought much more about the lives they lead, grazing and browsing, mostly drawn to the quieter spots of the Kruger, keen to move purposefully when they wish, into the anonymity of the bush, happy to thunder about when they want as well, but for this moment, staring me out or at least giving a belligerent evil eye to my car for having disturbed their mid morning rest on the warm road surface.

I won’t forget that these rarities are endangered for the stupidest of man’s appetites but I am going to set that aside enough when I see one in the wild, free and healthy as it should be, to take full pleasure in the gift I have been granted.

So it was that this little feller spoke to me of the hope and promise we invest in all babies, thank God

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:52 pm

June 10th 2016
How amazing is the serendipity of this? When I came back to my hut at Oliphants, the ladies in the unit next door had departed and who was sitting out there on the verandah but Willie, the great bird portraitist I met in the Kruger last year through the magic of Facebook! Incredible; able to meet his missus too. So good to see him looking so hale and well and still charting his photographic way through the entire canon of South Africa’s birds. Absolutely Bloody Marvellous!

Earlier today I was lucky enough, following a great photo session with a huge but patient bull elephant (apologies Willie –he’s just not fond of getting close to them folks), to notice above the general surface level of the bush, eight long necks and camelious heads of whatever the collective noun of giraffe is. (Is it a tower?)

They seemed to be, more or less in a long line as if queuing and I was able to study their expressions as I slowly drew nearer to them. They were facing mostly towards the same direction, which was odd, I thought, and their general expressions had a similar look! Top lips were drawn down long and haughty over their teeth; if you’ve ever seen or can imagine an afternoon club of the more veteran, probably grandmother exclusive, WI watching a youngster trying to teach third age egg sucking, you’ll have some idea of how they were staring. Their rather wild eyes were focussed towards an area hidden behind shrubs so I couldn’t make out what was so collectively absorbing to them. Inching forward a little further, I saw not a prey animal that I might have expected, but a burly ellie striding around a water pan that he was clearly not going to allow anything to share.
Unexpectedly, however, with a long forward swing of his trunk and a heavy emptying of it in an arc over the ground,he huffed and walked purposefully off.

Then the fun began. In twos and threes these gentlemanly giants swung along with their dancers’ gait to the inviting pool. The first was straight into the torturously slow hunkering down, spreading front legs wider and wider, lowering its head like a snake diving in slow motion, eventually bending the knees in a most uncomfortable and vulnerable seeming manner. The extended mouth siphoned up a long continuous slurp while the rest of its companions looked about as if embarrassed.

Once they were all present they took it in turns, again in twos and threes to dip or stand sentinel. They reminded me of those old-school nodding donkey oil drills we saw as children on documentaries about Texas and the black liquid gold rush. I was mesmerised as they spent a good twenty minutes taking their fill before dispersing their different ways.

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MrMacBullough
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:55 pm

June 11th 2016
With the rainfall having been low throughout the recent Autumn in much of the Kruger, and no sign of it letting up since I’ve been here, things are looking very blanched and arid around where I’m staying at the moment. Many of the places I would expect to see significant waterholes and wallows are not even damp but baked hard and solid; in such depressions where I might have seen the cracked crust over at least a darker damper earth between the splits and fissures when rain just hadn’t fallen for a little while, the effect is far more profound; the old churned mud is either ossified into a frozen memory cast or driven down to the smooth surface of dust. On a blustering day like today, the worst barren patches run like sores with skeins of powdered soil skimming downwind, carrying a remnant warning of drought to cloud the surface of the plants that linger vainly on in leaf, shaking as each gust passes by.

Lots of the streams are gone, and little dams are empty and pools that could always be relied upon to house at least one pod of hippo have just vanished. I have heard rumours that this dry spell may have diminished animal numbers significantly or at least instigated a fair bit of movement to the more verdant areas that do remain. The Kruger is no desert, the big rivers, while diminished still flow, though they are narrow and shallow in a way I’ve not seen on previous visits before. There are real bands of green to be found but the size of some of the drier patches is uncomfortable to drive around.

Of all the creatures that seem to be most absent, it is the afore mentioned hippos that is cause for concern in my mind. It is not that I have seen piles of carcasses and bones, and I know they can travel many miles when they habitually walk to grazing in their nightly rambles. On the other hand I am seeing so few compared to normal, simply because their pools have been drained and abandoned. I am also seeing more of them out and about during the day. This morning one was grazing the mean pickings high up on the escarpment above the road and well away from the ankle deep waters that trickled in the river bed way below. Another I came across sleeping in the middle of an artificial water pan, although to be fair, because of his bulk, more was out of the water than was in it and it meant only birds were drinking there. It looked really bizarre!

I am also seeing many more groups of them completely out on the sand banks sleeping like spilled sausages from a butcher’s tray. Are they going to get burned in the sunlight? I think their skin, like that of pigs, can be really damaged by over exposure to UV radiation and while I know they produce a kind of natural sunscreen oil, surely that is for normal exposure only, tips of ears and eyes and noses floating above the waterline. Certainly it is interesting to get these different views, watching them doze up the side of steeper slopes, for example, but I hope their life can return to normal as soon as possible. Otherwise, I imagine, some of the bigger waterways left are going to get increasingly crowded and territorial disputes, if not set temporarily aside for the emergency situation, may only bode ill for weaker individuals.

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MrMacBullough
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 1:58 pm

June 12th 2016
Today I saw a rhino fly. Not an insect named for a long proboscis; an actual rhinoscerous lift off the ground and move fast airborne. It’s not what I expected, but it was the most amazing thing of my day!

To be honest, I had expected to be writing about one of those “corner of my eye” moments. It happened when I was driving along at a steady 30 travelling to my next stopover camp and my brain sent that message; “Hang on a minute; back up. That was something worth looking at again, I reckon.” And sure enough having halted and reversed fifty yards I saw the shape that had caught my unconscious attention; a cat of some sort sunning out on a little red earth hillock in the middle distance. It was a cheetah! My first this trip, and quite rare in my accumulated sightings overf the years anyway. I lined up a photo and saw it had a cub with it too. Actually as I went on looking, I saw her second cub creep up from behind the mound. As she walked off into the grassland behind, there was a third one joining in! As you can imagine I was pretty excited and thought nothing could top this.

However, less than a kilometre further on, I saw a bunch of cars stopped, facing forwards on both sides of the road. Really strange. As I pulled up a uniformed ranger came down the line speaking to everyone. He told me that a little up ahead was a dead rhino by the side of the road and that they had darted her calf that had been hanging round. If I was to follow the helicopter that was hovering not too far away, we’d get a chance to see them lift the calf.

We drove on down. Passing the dead mother I could see no injury on her and her horn had not been touched so this was not the work of poachers. As the helicopter was landing by a road junction, the same guy came down the line and invited us to park up, leave our cars and watch from the side. So it was, without forty other park visitors I had a ringside seat to the proceedings.

The manner in which they were caring for this sedated youngster was mightily impressive. They secured its feet with green webbing hoists ready to move it up. They were in the process of wrapping its eyes in Adhesive bandages and wrapping more tape around that to keep it secure.They had fitted a tube into its mouth and held that under the wrap safely too. They put a big roll of fresh bandage in each ear and wrapped them closed too.

When it came to lift off, we were ushered off to a safe distance and the helicopter went up, took the slack of the rope then gently hoisted the cargo up and away, hovering briefly to let the spin of the webbing unwind.

The whole thing was a marvellous testimony to the people who work here, the men and women who with enormous sensitivity and efficiency were addressing a tragedy. That young animal was in great hands, tenderly prepared for an alien experience then whisked off to a new life in one of Sanparks sanctuaries. Bravo all the men and women involved!

Getting back in my car I thought I’d had my allotted fill for the day but not two hundred yards on and two more cheetahs crossed the road and walked a while and not a mile down the road five adult rhinos seemed to be having a gossip about recent goings on.

AMAZING

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:00 pm

June 13th 2016
When I came upon a host of cape buffalo settled down on the ground, tucked up close and chewing the cud, I was expecting rain; after all that is the folk tradition in Northern England where I come from.

They looked very docile and I noticed that while my engine was making as much noise as it does and I heaved to just as close as I normally do, they were not responding in their habitual fashion. Most significantly, they were looking all over the place, continuing to gaze where-ever and at what-ever they were focused on before I arrived. Now this is in sharp contrast to their normal response.

I am always taken aback a touch when approaching these big chocolate dark kine; they cease whatever they are doing, eating for the most part, swing their heads purposefully my way and fix a very baleful rigid stare in my direction. Now what is particularly intimidating is the fact that they are really staring not just in my general direction but picking me out and spotlighting me alone. Every where you look at this moment is a big beefy beast gimleting you with purpose and intent. If you have ever walked into a room where everyone has stopped and turned and silently looked you straight in the eye, you’ll appreciate what I mean. The fact that they each do it when you break their comfort distance, the oddness of their complete attention, the disconcerting way they don’t move, except perhaps to chew what might still be in their mouth is clearly a successful strategy for the herd. I wonder if this is instinctual, lack of movement won’t invite chase from the on-looking predator perhaps? Turning to look while presenting side on I suppose also communicates “I know you are there” and “I am big” which together says “Don’t mess with me!” Mind you, the combined effect of the many alongside must also add to the safety of the tactic.
When an individual gives up on looking me over, it usually mouths a snort and turns heavily to stomp some way away, often turning to check me out a second time though at a little more distance. Is this part of the defence mechanism too, do you think? Certainly the temptation when a lion gets to close is to run, panic and stampede. That is a strategy too of course, but lion have a knack I suspect to make fast choices at such moments and have a talent for picking out the vulnerable.

Today, however, was homely and calm.

And, by the way, it didn’t.

(Rain that is.)

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MrMacBullough
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Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 2:05 pm

And finally to bring this up to date, I thought I'd share the cover changes I've been posting on Facebook from the Kruger too. These have no text; I hope you just enjoy them, as my Facebook friends have done.

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:14 pm

Thanks Hilda. The name change was because I could not register on my old name and password, whatever I tried. So I decided to join up again and that's my dad's name to be honest!

June 14th 2016
They’re a bit of a contradiction aren’t they, hyenas? Somehow I think of them as being relatively attractive and yet their image in my recollection comes also with overtones of repulsion. I mean, on the one hand I see them as kind of charming ungainly teenagers and on the other, they can present as butchering gluttons; even the Disney corporation can’t make up its mind how to portray them; in one animation they’re shown as hysterical jack-ass idiots and in another the serried ranks of high-stepping Nazis!

They so often bring to mind for me the older teenage years for boys and girls in the way they have a serious addiction to crashing out. Coming across them when they are asleep speaks volumes for their utter determination to really rest, flat out, undisturbable. Also, they so often give a show of walking about stiffly with all that stringy and knotty physique which older lads exhibit. They frequently look like they have a bit more muscle than they know what to do with or they are carrying a belly load of “puppy fat” in excess of what they ought to. I have often come across them with their babies and like young people in their late adolescence, and they may not admit thius, but you know it’s true, they have a fondness for their family’s children. Babies in particular, I have found, are apt to bring out the maternal in young women and the protective, if not affectionate streak in young men. Hyenas round their dens show this in spades.

However, quite contrarily, we come across these voracious eaters chomping down gobbets off a carcass, manipulating the harder body parts to the back of the jaw where their unbelievably powerful bite can break through the toughest hide, the horniest hoof or the strongest bone. Between their molars, it seems the pound per square inch force is one of the direst pressures in the mammal world. Their table manners are not to be admired while they are at this; stench, putridity and rot seem to halt them not a jot and the smear of blood and other fluids about their head is immaterial to their eagerness to shove flesh down their gullet.

With the two sides to their natures, i have had break my rule again and post two pictures this time!

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:31 pm

And today's new header:

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Wed Jun 15, 2016 5:13 pm

June 15 2016


Many animals are unpredictable and probably none more so than elephants. However, in one certain context I find them to be highly predictable and that is about their direction of travel over more open ground. In contrast to much of their behaviour when they are among the trees where, quite frankly, they often exhibit the mental attention of a child in a sweet shop, I have been able to exploit their predictability to my advantage. I accept that within woodland they get carried away with the eclectic availability of all sorts of treats, honeyed bark on this side, peppery leaves on another, sappy branches on yet another, even squishy alcoholic overtones fruits on the ground as well; no wonder they can turn and shift the way they push a passage in a general direction so that it is anybody’s guess where they will, for example, hit the road.

Out in the wider grassier spaces where bushes and trees can still be found but longer distance vision comes in to play I find them remarkably consistent in their bearing. Quite often if I see them at some distance, I can watch how they are tracking along and estimate their course, so identifying a good place to drive along to and wait up; this has given me so many hours of pleasure, watching them follow their path towards me and sensing their mood i can stay or take appropriate evasive action. I had two encounters today that followed the pattern; I was right in thinking where they’d step onto the dirt road I was using although one I gave wide berth to and the other I did not.

That first ellie judgement concerned a bunch of six, a family nearly all grown up with one teenager among them being the smallest although he was not an infant in any way shape or form. To be honest they were quite huddled and were shifting at quite a pace, from their bumping into one another and the fast shoe shuffle they were engaged on they looked rather like a gaggle of schoolboys hastening away from a bully; there was an urgency in their pace and their shuffling back feet were in severe danger of catching up with their front ones! They didn’t pause as they hit the roadway a good ten metres ahead of me although it was a moment when two towards the back kicked into junior and there was a bit of a grumble and a spurt, the big girl at the back gave the rump in front of her a spirited push and a bit of a grumble. She then stopped short a moment on the side of the grass they were coming from. She then very weightily and deliberately heavy-footedly stomped over to the other side. She picked up her pace until a bush was between her and me and then gave me the biggest head and shoulder shake with dust flying from her flapsome ears. More than that she called at me with the loudest longest brassiest trumpeting I have ever heard; it was like a zephyr or some ancient god was blasting on a celestial trombone, the slide rising and falling with terrifying vibrato. It terrified me and point made she swaggered round and ran to catch up her fast exiting family.

The second encounter was only a mile or so on from that, and my heart rate a]had steadied. This was one of those massive lonesome bulls that walk the land with their own thoughts very much to themselves following the beat of some silent drum that only they can hear. I stopped where I thought he’d come over and watched him intently. He was Mr Cool. He walked without sound; he didn’t snack as he came. He gave no sense of needing to acknowledge me although he seemed to have made me the certain aim of his target position. At the last twenty yards I could see he would cross a few feet in front of me so I quietly shifted the gear into reverse, just in case. But there was no need, he came on slowly and in profound silence. His big footsteps hardly seemed to be in touch with the ground; the grass didn’t swish, he had no deep grumblings going on. He did not pause until he was directly in front of me, in the basin of the sandy road, presenting his gigantic broadside. It was like looking up at the side of an old wooden ship in port. That was when he took a tuft of the long grass which hangs at the very edge of the track, and delicately lying it across the breadth of his mouth, he hove to around me and was journeyman again, sailing over the sea of grass that ran down a gently slope on my right. I felt uplifted and flooded with endorphins, I think.

What a blessing.

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MrMacBullough
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: MY YEAR IN THE KRUGER -back for two weeks

Unread post by MrMacBullough » Wed Jun 15, 2016 5:15 pm

And the new header on my facebook today:

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