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Offline LeonDude

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Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« on: July 07, 2013, 08:30:06 pm »
A bit of housekeeping before the story starts. Although the photos will, mostly, be in chronological order, I cannot guarantee that they are, because I used photos from different cameras.
And although the story is in chronological order, the story and the photos do not necessarily follow each other, mostly because it’s difficult to remember what happened in what order for 3 days. But put them together, and I think you’ll get the picture. Right, now put on your backpack, and off we go!

After much organizing on the part of everybody, the big weekend finally arrived. Andrew got to Sharron’s house just before 7 AM on Saturday, everything was thrown in the back of the van and off we went on the long drive to Phalaborwa. We got there at around 2PM, and then took a ride through the Kruger Park in anticipation of what the next few days would bring.

Seven of our group spent Saturday night at a backpackers in Phalaborwa, and next morning we made our separate way to Mopani camp. This is quite far, and our meeting time was set for 10AM, so we had to hurry to get there on time, but we made it with just enough time to have breakfast before meeting our guides who would be looking after us for the next few days. Just after breakfast, there was a stampede for the toilet, as we all tried to use the loo for the last time. For the next 3 nights, there would be no bathroom, it would be strictly bush.

Ash is an old friend of Sharron’s, and it was him that organized this trip for the ESSA members. He introduced us to Wayne, our other guide.

Shortly after 10AM Wayne gave us a short briefing, asking if we all knew what to expect, and then it was onto the game vehicle with our backpacks in the trailer. By now we were very excited, but Wayne was also a bit worried as we were a bit late, so he didn’t hang around for too much game viewing, because we had an hour and a half drive to our drop – off point. After an hour we turned off the tar, and another few minutes saw us leave the public road and follow a ranger road. This road got quite bad, 30 minutes later we stopped on a small open veldt where a herd of blue wildebeest and some impala were milling around, but they quickly disappeared.

Here, to great excitement, we left the game vehicle and collected our backpacks from the back. Here we were given a much more detailed briefing by Wayne. Walk in single file, don’t talk while walking, (this was so that the guides could listen for animals, and so that everybody could enjoy the peace of the veld) whistle softly if you spotted game or if there is danger, always stay behind the rifle. And thus, with my backpack feeling far too heavy, we set off into the bush.


We get offloaded, now we are out of the safety of our vehicle, getting ready to go.


The packs, ready to make mules of us.


Our very first sighting, a giraffe.


This is how you walk, in single file. Don’t call the guide if you see an animal, because the animal will scamper. Just whistle softly, he will stop.



Cave girl was carrying her soft toy, which is also her pillow to sleep on. It is an African wild dog called Nuffy, and was watching the game with interest. Here is its shadow on her backpack.


As I understood it, on hikes like these it is the time spent in the Kruger only that is the reward. Mostly, people don’t see many animals on the hike, as the bush is thick, the animals shy and the hikers sound like a truck as we walk through the bush.

Our first rest stop in the riverbed.


I was thus pleasantly surprised that we quickly saw giraffe, impala and waterbuck. I had a problem though. This being my first hike, my bag sat very uncomfortable on my back, and the straps from my camera and binocs was bugging me. To make it all worse, I was using walking sticks for the first time, and I just couldn’t figure out their use, so I ended up just carrying them along.

One of our two guides, Wayne.


More of the group resting


Andrew resting. Andrew is six foot eight tall. I ragged him about this for the whole walk.


Cave girl.


John and Selina



We soon came upon the newly cleaned off bones of a rhino, but sadly, the head and horn was missing, leading our guide to the only conclusion he could come to – that the animal had been poached not long before.

Rhino bones. Sadly the head and horn is missing, so this guy was probably poached.




Our guide, although he marched at a cracking pace to get to where he wanted to camp for the night, would stop every now and again to point out the spoor. Here was a Rhino, there a leopard, various buck and, all around and not needing any pointing out, the footprints of elephant. At our first break I shook off my pack and made some adjustments, and then the pack was much easier to handle, with no straps digging into my shoulders.

We kept on crossing the riverbed. That sand is not easy to walk in.


Wayne apologized for walking so fast, but explained that where we were headed for the night was still a few kilometres away. We made it to about a kilometre from the point where he wanted to camp when things became interesting. He suddenly stopped, and there, about forty meters in front of us, was a bull elephant eating.


Now look, I’m not very comfortable with bull elephants, or with any ellies for that matter. The whole group took up station behind him, so that we had a rifle between us and the bull, and watched him for a few minutes.


Now let me explain about the photographs. Most of the sightings were so fleeting that we never got any photos of wild animals. This bull stood there for a while however, but I never even thought of taking a picture, the first moment of meeting a bull elephant in the wild with only a few meters between us was just too fantastic.


And all the time, in the Mopani bush ahead of us, we could hear rustling. We left the bull to feed and continued on our way, but it wasn’t long before our path was cut off my more elephant. We could now hear them in the bushes all around us. Our guide stopped, waiting to check where they were so that he would not lead us into harm’s way, when a big bull suddenly stormed out of the bushes very close to us. He stood there with his ears out, making himself as big as possible, as if that was necessary.


Yours truly contemplating appreciating the scenery.


Wayne quickly showed us to back off, and Ash skirted around the group to take the lead, so that we now had one rifle in front of us and one at the back. We walked back the way we had come, but the big bull was not going to give up too easily, he followed us. This, I can tell you, was nerve wracking for me. And all around, we could see the elephant trunks rising above the Mopani bushes as the breeding herd of elephants sensed and heard and smelled us.

We backtracked further and further until the bull that was following us eventually lost interest.

Wayne took us down into the riverbed, skirting the big herd of ellies, and then back up the bank and once again into the bushes. Low and behold though, it took just five minutes for us to be surrounded by elephants again. Once again there was the adrenaline rush of getting the hell out of there before they could get stroppy, and we once again beat a retreat.

This was not the first elephant we saw, but the others was not good photography material as we were usually trying to get away from them.


More of those ellies


By this time I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. There were elephants absolutely everywhere. Even when we went into the dry riverbed we could hear them all around, breaking bushes, fighting with each other and eating.

One of the great trees growing on the riverbank.


By this time, Wayne was laughing, and even we couldn’t get the smiles off our faces. Not even he had thought we would see so many elephants. He now had to drop his original plan of where he wanted to camp, and led us instead to a safe spot in the mostly dry riverbed where we could set up camp for the night. Still, mind, with the sound of elephant all around.

Being the beginning of July, the veld was very dry.


Once we’d set up our tents Wayne took us to the water’s edge and showed us where the elephants had dug for water. Apparently they don’t drink from the stagnant pools because the water does not taste good. Instead they dig holes next to the water and wait for clear water to seep into these holes so that they can drink clear water. After scooping out the muddy water we were surprised at how quickly the water ran clear, we then used this hole to get our cooking and cleaning water from.

Cave girl having a great time.


That night, around the smallest campfire I had ever seen (to lessen the impact on the environment), Wayne told us about the bush around us, and what we could expect for the next few days. He also told us quite straight forward that the amount of elephants we had seen was phenominal, it was not something he was used to on the hikes. And when we shone our torches on the water where we had dug our waterhole earlier, there was the unmistakable eyes of a crocodile silently watching us.

Have you ever wondered if animals step in each other’s poo? Well here you have it people, this leopard stepped in some buffalo poo.


In the bushes we could hear leopard and hyena call, and far off, we heard a lion.

Single file, on we go.


We had a nasty surprise coming though. We had thought we’d only need to take our food into our tents, but Wayne explained that especially hyena likes to carry stuff off if there were strange smells on them, so we had to put our backpacks and everything in the tents with us. And, because I was going to have to carry that tent, I had chosen the smallest two – man tent we had, so it was going to make for some pretty cramped conditions for the next three nights.

Check out that ellie behind me.


I’m glad I was as tired as I was that night, or I’d never have gotten to sleep. But I dropped off almost at once, and only awoke now and again during the night.

Andrew with a big smile for the ellie


Here’s a close up of the big guy.



Just in case anybody thought we didn’t really swim with crocodiles, here’s the evidence.


Me in the water.


Andrew having a snooze


This was our camping spot for the first night, right in the riverbed.



Sharron cooling down.

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Geotraveller

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2013, 09:30:54 pm »
Very nice, please keep it coming.
 

Offline OOOOMS

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2013, 09:32:06 pm »
Pretty awsome Sub!
 

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2013, 10:11:09 pm »
LD I can understand that you battled.. just look at the angle of you pack.. You want it as close as possible to your back preventing it to hang backwards..

But gooi some more..
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Offline EssBee

Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2013, 08:31:23 am »
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: Nice Leon!!!
 

Offline Dwerg

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2013, 08:48:02 am »
Nice Leon, julle is brawer as ek :thumleft:

Dis jammer ons het mekaar gemis, sou lekker wees om 'n koue enetjie te vat daar by Mopani. Die olifante daar bo was amazing gewees! Een dag het daar so 30 van hulle na die water toe gekom langs die kamp.
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Offline woody1

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2013, 09:16:24 am »
Klink lekker.

I WOULD RATHER BE AN HONEST ASSHOLE .... THAN A FLIPPEN LIAR !   


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Offline Groenie

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2013, 09:37:11 am »
Gooi meer
Don't look back, that's not where you're going.
 

Offline Mooch

Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2013, 10:13:08 am »
Cool Report. Keep it coming.
How many Km per day??
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Offline subie

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2013, 11:02:48 am »
Lekker :thumleft:
Ek het ook die ou landjie so plat op my eie gestap met my karrimor totem classique rugsakkie. Daar was nooit eintlik geld so het maar altyd op "shoestring" gestap. Paar trippe as ek nou so vinnig moet dink.
Oos Londen na PE al op die strand. PE na Jeffries op die strand paar keer. Mosselbaai na Stilbaai sommer illegal
deur die rocket range wat toe net oopgemaak het. Die Ottertrail ook illegal vroeg 80-ish. Van Vioolsdrif al met orange rivier in Woestyn see se kant toe. Hordes ander trippies altyd alleen en meeste as hobo op die beach.
Sien uit na nog n paar fotos
As time washes by, our footprints are all for naught
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Offline Hentie @ Riders

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2013, 11:19:06 am »
Nice  :sip:

Offline punisher

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2013, 11:51:43 am »
Wow ... Must have been amazing nice one chaps
just wanna have fun , and ride ... and ....... ride
 

Offline LeonDude

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2013, 04:01:54 pm »
Day 2
Sharron and me seemed to always be the first to arise in the mornings, as I just cannot sleep late. So we were out of our tent as the first light washed into the riverbed, and soon our gas stove was getting the water hot for coffee. Everybody had to use gas stoves for cooking, as burning wood for cooking would have a too great an impact on the environment.

Packing up camp in the morning


The others crept out of their tents eventually, but by that time Sharron and I had had our breakfast and were busy packing up our tent. It was around about this time that we noticed the crocodile trail that went right past our camp, from one water pool to the next. Not a very big croc, but a croc nonetheless. At the water’s edge we also found the marks of a much bigger croc, as if to say, you have been warned.


Every morning, the guide would clean up, remove and bury all traces of the fire we’d had the night before, so as to make sure that the next group to pass this way would have a clean veld to walk through, and would not have to look at the remains of our camp. We all also did chicken parade to make sure that we had not left anything in the campsite. What we carried in with us, we carried out with us.


At first, we had wanted to camp at one spot for two nights and then move on to a third, but two of our group had a problem with that, they wanted a new campsite for each day. We came to a neat compromise when we decided we would try to reach the campsite Wayne had been trying for the previous afternoon when the elephant got in the way, and then we would set up camp there for the second night.


When our camp was packed up we headed out, and once again I had made changes to my backpack to make things easier. Now walking was much easier, and a bit more enjoyable.

More elephant


Of course it was not long before we were back among the elephant again, but this time we had a lot more time on our hands and we could detour a bit more freely. The leaders in the group had the lucky experience of seeing a leopard slinking off into the grass, not something that you get to see every day.

Myself with the elephant


As soon as the wind changed his trunk came up because he smelled us.


We stood around watching him for some time, he accommodated us.


Our guide Wayne with the elephant.


Time to go, let’s leave this guy to enjoy the peace and quiet.



When we reached the spot where we were to camp for the night we quickly set up camp and ate a light meal, then took a daypack and headed off into the bush. With only a daypack to carry, the walking was a pleasure, and once again our guide was stopping every few paces to point out birds, footprints, animals, trees and other plants and of course, more elephants.

Some birds on a tree. Wayne was extremely knowledgeable about the trees and the birdlife, and would stop and point out things every few meters.


An old buffalo skull. The park has a lot of Anthrax and tuberculosis, and for this reason it’s not a good idea to touch the bones.

This is where we stopped to set up camp for the second night. Actually it was still early morning when we stopped to set up camp, but we then went for a day hike with light packs. Much easier than hiking with heavy packs.


Something that caught us out even with the light daypacks was the heat. We had known it would be a bit hotter in the low veldt than on the high veldt, but this was really hot and humid, sometimes up to the point where it was unpleasant. But then there were always the (crocodile infested) pools to cool down in.

Sunset over the river.


It looks as if the river is dry, but if you dig a few feet, the water is there.

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Geotraveller

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2013, 08:36:50 pm »
Leon can you please give more info where, how and when. would love to be able to do this sometime.
 

Offline Cave Girl

Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2013, 08:44:28 pm »
You can book directly through the Kruger Park web site. You need a min of 4 people and a max of 8. Hikes happen all year round leaving Wednesday to Saturday or Sunday to Wednesday.
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Geotraveller

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2013, 08:45:38 pm »
You can book directly through the Kruger Park web site. You need a min of 4 people and a max of 8. Hikes happen all year round leaving Wednesday to Saturday or Sunday to Wednesday.

 :thumleft:
 

Offline mischiefjay

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2013, 09:27:07 pm »
:thumleft:
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Offline CHorse

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2013, 09:28:49 pm »
Looks fantastic.... :thumleft:.....added to bucket list.

What sort of distance is walked each day and do they have age limits?
 

Offline LeonDude

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2013, 06:13:27 am »
Looks fantastic.... :thumleft:.....added to bucket list.

What sort of distance is walked each day and do they have age limits?
The distances depends on a few things, but there are no set camps.
The first concideration is water, you have to camp where there is water. Some years are dryer than others.
The second thing is how much wildlife you spot. As you can see from the first day of our hike we had lots of elephants, so we never got to the campsite where our guide wanted to go. I was glad, as I really liked the camp in the river.
And then of course it depends on the group. If there are people in the group who cannot keep up, the hikes each day will be shorter.
As for age limit, everybody must be able to carry their own equipment and food, so young children and old people are not a good idea.
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Offline LeonDude

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Re: Cave Girl and LeonDude does a Kruger Hike
« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2013, 06:15:47 am »
Oh yeah, I would not do this in the summer.
The park gets really hot in summer, and even in July the weather was HOT during the day. Nights got cold, but not unbearable. I used a normal sleeping bag with an extra inner, and I slept in my pants and a warm shirt and fleece.
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