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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2013

    Default Mphongolo hikig trial - Kruger - September 2016

    So, in anticipation of our hike starting Wednesday and as requested by Skaaphaas in his thread here is a quick write up about our trip last year with Colin Patrick and Jacques, both from Mountain View - Moholoholo in Hoedspruit area. The trip was from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday morning end August 2016. We packed food, tents, clothes and had to carry at least 4 litres of water. We were 3 couples, a single guy and the two guides.

    We set off from Shingwedzi and to a drop off West of Sirheni where the gravel road ends... We just past through a huge herd of buffalo, where we were dropped off and said good bye to our transport, which we will see again on Saturday. We walked Westward for a few minutes at one helluva pace - some of the women had to almost jog to keep up - and stopped for a quick chat and briefing session. Colin said the fast pace was just a joke to see if we can keep up, if needed and we will be walking at a comfortable pace from here on. Some rules were discussed and we set forth to our camping spot for the night.

    About an hour before we were to reach our camping spot, we found fresh leopard tracks and could clearly see the drag marks of an antelope between it's legs. Colin asked if we wanted to see if we can spot the leopard or what is remaining of the kill - obviously we all said yes and we deviated from our route. We found some bloody remains, a jaw bone and skin of what they say was a Duiker - no leopard.

    We set course back to our camping spot with the sun now disappearing fast over the horizon.

    As we decent into the riverbed, with our planned campsite in few on the opposite side below the trees, we see three lions, one male and two female running up the opposite embankment and disappearing into the bush. We stood still for a while and listened to some low roaring, when the one female appeared again on the bank. She called her three cubs, which she left in the reeds, to join her and they disappeared again.

    We set forth to our site, with darkness almost upon us. We quickly set up camp and went to the river to replenish our water supply out of holes dug by elephants.

    We made a small fire and prepared our food with darkness now surrounding us. Amazing - small glow of the fire with darkness around us, stars in the sky and bush sounds all over.

    The next morning we woke up to the most beautiful colours as the sun rises. Coffee was first on the agenda and breakfast was prepared. We packed up the camp and went to fill our water supply again. Backpacks now resting on sore shoulders and stiff bodies from the night's sleep - or what was supposed to be sleep....

    We saw giraffe, elephant, zebra, impala and some amazing birds (cannot remember all of them) as we traversed through mopani, bush and riverbeds towards our lunch spot next to a body of water in the dry riverbed. As we approach, wind was perfect from the waterhole towards us, we could feel and hear the elephants rumblings. A herd was taking a bath in the furthest end of the water hole - rolling, dipping and spraying water.

    A hippo and crocodile were staying well clear of the herd as they played. Suddenly the wind changed direction and with a trumpet call, the whole herd disappeared up the hill and out of sight. We spread our mattresses, some taking naps and others preparing lunch, where we stayed throughout the heat of the day. The hippo checked us out and once he realised we were not a threat, he went to sleep - occasionally surfacing, showing only it's nostrils for a breath of air.

    We had a lunch spot on the banks of the river.

    Jacques took a nap, while the rest of us made lunch and relaxed

    Do not leave your backpack unattended..... It makes for a heavy carry

    After packing up and cleaning our lunch spot, we left towards our camp site for the night. There was a sudden rumbling in the mopani bush next to us - we froze. Colin and Jacques set themselves between us and the noise - rumbling, growling, trees breaking.... and hearts beating. After some time and actually feeling the rumblings in the ground, they said it must be two bull elephants in must pushing and shoving through the small trees. We went with the wind around and a little higher to see if we can spot them. The wind turned and we could see two massive elephant heads moving off, through the trees, into the distance.

    A little while later, with my wife and I walking at the back, we saw the group ahead of us running - what the hell, we thought. The guides saw buffalo running away from us and they asked the guys in front if we should try and get to see them when they stop again - they said yes and we had to catch them. Colin stopped and he and Jacques started imitating the balking noise the buffalo makes and there they stopped and looked back at us. A big herd with the back blacks clearly visible in the mopani trees and here and there one comes out to try to see us better. Beautiful.

    With the sun setting, we arrived at a very dusty grey open plain with running water through it's centre and some reeds and grass in the middle of the plain. Colin said it is part of the hot water vein running to Thsipise. At the highest point of the plain (bottom of photo - North is top of photo), there is a pond where you can see the clear warm water bubbling out and slowly working its way through the plain.

    We set up camp at the Northern part of the plain below some trees and went to the river to fill up our water supplies. Upon coming back and darkness fast approaching, we took the collapsible buckets and a portable shower and filled it with the warm water from the plain for a bush shower.

    Colin said he picked this spot in the hope that a herd of buffalo or elephants will come and drink there. Again making a small fire, we prepared dinner and enjoyed the quiet bush and starlit sky.

    Colin surprised us by saying we will camp here again tonight and we can only take lunch, snacks and water in the backpacks - the women were very happy in that they did not have to carry anything that day... We ate breakfast and set off across the plane and out the Southern side in a Westerly direction. This part of the bushveld had some amazing kremetart trees. Again seeing and hearing some beautiful birds and animals. Some of the guys had a good knowledge of trees.

    We came up to a wide dry riverbed and the two guides walked down first - apparently they have surprised a pride of lions in the shade before. They called us down and as we were standing in the sand, the wind picked up blowing through the riverbed. There was a big stampeding noise around the next bend and the oxpeckers flying up told us there was a herd of buffalo further down the riverbed. With consensus of all, we raced back up the embankment and through the dust left by the buffalo. Colin and Jacques did their balking again and some of the herd stopped to see who was calling. We came rather close to some of them and then they turned and followed the rest of the herd. We saw a lonely bull elephant, which we approached to within a cellphone camera distance.

    Later we came across a small herd with a young bull - we did not go closer, but turned and walked away from them - they get real angry real fast when they are in must.

    We had lunch next to beautiful waterbody in the river.

    Birds everywhere. Later, while the rest were resting, my wife and I walked to the edge and sat quietly watching a big herd of impala drinking water and disappearing again.

    We came back to our campsite and had to hurry to get our water supplies filled as the sun was setting very quickly.

    Colin and Jacques took turns trying to make fire the bushmen way - the fire was lit and their hands full of blisters...

    Our last evening in the bush around a small fire.

    The next morning while making coffee, their was a rumbling coming from the bush around us. Colin said the herd of buffalo is on its way to the plane and watering hole. We took our coffee - some still in pajamas and sat in front of an ant hill, to not be visible above the skyline. Slowly the herd moved through the bush towards the clearing, appearing towards the water. It was a big herd, probably over 200 strong. They moved around 100 to 150m from us, not any wiser of us watching them. they half surrounded us as they moved through the watering hole. A cow stuck her out from about 80m and noticed something the couldn't make out. Staring at us with slight movements to try to figure out what she saw. She disappeared again and then a young bull came out to also have a look. Standing there for what seems like eternity, smelling the air. About an hour after they came in, they disappeared again.

    We stood up with very stiff limbs - we did not move while they checked us out - we did not want to test the rangers' shooting skills....

    Making breakfast and clearing up camp and preparing for our hike to the pick up point.

    It was quiet as we walked East that morning - everyone knew the trip was too short and it was coming to an end too quickly now. We stopped at a small watering hole in the dry riverbed. We sat and ate our last rations in the shade. There was this -??? - trees on the rivers edge full of openings / holes. I stood up to photograph the tree and switched the phone to video. Watching on the camera and not the tree itself, I came to the riverside and saw this massive opening where a man can easily fit in. Walking further around, I saw this red blip on the screen. I took the phone away and saw an impala hidden in the roots. A few bites were taken from it, otherwise, this was a fresh kill. I called Colin and the others and we found a few meters away where it was caught by a leopard, probably earlier that morning. In following the tracks, it seems as though the leopard went to the water for a drink and must have been surprised by us and ran away. Thinking that that leopard could have been waiting for me in that big hole gave me a chill up my spine.

    We walked the half and hour to the pick up point and waited for our ride. There was a coolbox full of cold beer on the vehicle and we drove back to Shingwedzi

    What a trip. Good friends and great guides.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2014

    Default Re: Mphongolo hikig trial - Kruger - September 2016

    Great write-up, bud. Thanks so much!!

    Will be trying to arrange to do this hike in the near future too...

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