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Dec 4, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 9

 After the storm last night we decided to head back to Hoedspruit for some welcome R & R. We seemed to be racing about The Kruger National Park from place to place stopping often to take in the sightings of the game that you become overwhelmed with what you are see so close and in a natural surroundings. The diversity of the Park is so dramatic that you have days with lots of sightings and then others very few but then you stumble on a sight so wonderful it takes your breath away every time.

Arriving back at Raptor to be greeted by Anne’s granddaughter Paige and her boyfriend Mark a quick unload and a cup of tea was most welcome.

Later I set about completing the video I had brought our with me just adding the Ashes scatter to already completed story so far. First part done in about an hour but then I was still up adding touches to bits I was not happy with. Bed midnight

A lovely meal cooked by Paige rounded of the evening nicely.

Dec 4, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 8

Margaret’s Ashes

Early start today as we are traveling north to our overnight camp at Balule near Olifants river. On the way we are stopping at Vutomi Dam as this is the place that Anne has chosen to scatter Margaret’s ashes.

Today was a poor day as regards wildlife sightings that was until we joined the S36 on the way up to Vutomi. The most gruesome sight was a tree with about 10 or so Vultures and then just round the corner was a headless Buffalo and the vultures on the ground were going to town ripping apart its intestines from any direction.

That was gruesome just a little further on there were 3 Lions one large male and two younger ones had killed a Buffalo, this one was fully incapacitated. Each lion would take turns in having their fare from the Buffalo, two kills during my stay unbelievable. 

We arrived at Vutomi Dam at around 10 am.

Anne’s chosen place could not be more perfect, a natural waterhole with development of the road infrastructure creating a dam just below the two trees that Anne had pinpointed to scattering Margaret’s ashes.

The trees are Buffalo-thorn (burial tree of the Zulu) they grow near water courses and are deciduous with mistletoe growing within its canopy. The Buffalo-thorn is particularly significant in Zulu lore, especially in burials of chiefs and royalty when branches  are laid on their graves.

Anne found a rock and wrote her name on it and spoke first about Vutomi Dam and the significance in her family of the place and why she chose this place to scatter Margaret’s ashes. I spoke about how much Margret would have loved to experience the magnificence of South Africa, Anne’s life and friends here. I read a poem that Margaret wrote in her many letters to me on 15/04/1969 called:-

The Search is Over

The thought had been there , though it was hidden,
It took someone new to prove this too me
We had met, certainly fated, the truth was there, covered
by confusion, disillusion which I couldn’t see
Uncovered now, was my aim and my longing,
Those of another struck home, sound and dry,
My life in a nutshell displayed before me,
By he desired what in mere shall try
to find. For we know what the other has dreams of
The longings ambitions and the feelings so strong
For love between two, which will not be destroyed.
By time, or man ,or death,
The growing affection and love of two bodies,
The one and the other are united as one.
Yet the miles between us don’t hinder, but nurture
This growing love growing deeper with each thought and deed
As if geared tomorrow, its hopes and its sorrows.
Together we two will be united as one.

Anne than placed the rock between the tree and a termite mound which as we stepped back appeared to be shaped like an M we were taken aback at this final thought as we departed for Olifants.

An emotional moment of reflection that Margaret’s journey in South Africa was complete.

We made our way to Balule for our overnight camp, pitched tents and had pasta with beef stew for dinner with our headlights on. The wind got up and Stan thought we may have a storm. Storm it certainly was from around 10pm till about 11-15pm it raged, lightning making virtual daylight and overhead we had two tremendous thunder claps that shook the ground. I had closed my vent flaps in my eerie on top of the land rover but Anne and Stan’s tent had not been closed down because of the heat so Stan was up whilst the storm raged to close up.

 

 

 

Dec 3, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 7

On our way to Skukuza this mornings was to be our lowest sightings so far especially to what we had seen in our previous days in The Kruger.

In fact the only sightings were of Elephant and Giraffe.

Buffet breakfast taken at Skukuza again overlooking the Sabie river.

The museum here is dedicated to the first Official Game Warden James Stevenson Hamilton. The Kruger Nation Park was established in 1926 with the first visitors in 1927 all 27 according to records. In 2013/4 that number had increased too over 1.5 million. The numbers of animals in those early years are beyond comprehension only 25 Elephants were recorded and the latest count has the number of over 13000. 

On our way back to Lower Sabie the traffic was at a standstill at a sighting of a Leopard in the tree just a little commotion ensured as traffic sorted it self out and everybody had their moment to witness the Leopard.

In the evening Anne and I took our own game drive towards Crocodile Bridge we had to be careful as the gates are closed at 1830 hr.

Sighting of a good journey of Giraffe on the far side of the river we diverted off onto dirt track to visit the Ntandanyathi hide here we saw a pod of Hippos and in the distance a small herd of Elephant had just left the area.

Towards the end of the drive Anne spotted an unusual shape in a water hole which turned out to be a large Rhino wallowing in the muddy waters. Back to the main highway north on our back to Lower Sabie we spotted some Southern Grand Hornbills we later to learn that some have been ringed and asking to report sightings to learn about their habits.

Back to Sunset dam for evening shot and back to camp in good time.

Today was very warm and we were treated to power outages from about 9 pm when a tremendous thunderstorm developed in the west reaching us quite soon the lightning was just like daylight for ages as well as heavy rain for a couple of hours.

Dec 3, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 6

Early 5 am start for our game drive along the Skukuza road and back to Lower Sabie for breakfast along  designated dirt tracks.

Just outside Lower  Sabie Camp is Sunset Damp where we saw Crocodile and Hippos.  Not much further on we came across a large herd of elephant making their way up from the river and onto vegetation on the opposite side of road. Everything stops to see these beautiful creatures cross in front us replenishing their food intake – patience is needed as any sudden movement could increase the possibility of  a charge.

Our next sighting was of a Lioness with her cubs coming onto the tarmac road, she was very clever in ushering the cubs back away from the traffic and into the bush.

Two more Rhino were spotted with full horn attached, so far we are up to about six in all with complete horns which is reassuring after all reports of poaching.

Arriving back at Lower Sabie we were able to stop on the bridge here we saw Goliath Heron and on our travels Yellow Billed Kite, White Backed Vulture and Bateluer Eagle.

Next was a day/night organised game drive in the locality. The Elephants were very much in evidence as they made their way back across the river to their overnight stop before stating their journey again. Apparently they eat roughly 20 hrs a day whilst making their journeys back and forth.

Two young Lions were spotted resting up and then three Rhinos likely a male, female and a young Rhino again fully horned.

The darkness falls very quickly here just as we spotted a lone Lion in the distance only distinguished by eye colour in the light beams are you able to tell what it is.

Dec 3, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 5

Hi folks back in contact again after our journey to the south of The Kruger National Park.

We left Hoedspruit just after 9-45 to make our way into The Park at the Orpen Gate en route to Satara and then onto Lower Sabie Camp for 3 nights. The Park has eleven entrances nine on the South African border and two on the Mozambican border. The Park has a staggering diversity of wildlife and plant species and beautiful unspoilt scenery. Whilst I have been here the temperature has soured every day into the high 30’s.

On entering the Orpen gate we immediately saw two Rhino and male Lion in the distance along with Zebra and Impala. Lunch was taken at Satara after making confirming our booking for Lower Sabie.

The vegetation changed very quickly as we climbed out of the Veld still on the main H10 road and then wildlife sightings increased as well.

We came across a water hole with two magnificent Lions a male and female we stayed here for a while watching them no more than 4/5 m in front of us. Elephants were in abundance as we got closer to Lower Sabie and the Sabie river. 

Anne, Stan and I had a wonderful meal overlooking the river and finished off our meal with a full on toffee cream which was very sweet so definitely high calorie count here.

A super day traveling down from Hoedspruit.

(Pictures to follow)

 

 

Nov 27, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 4

A quiet day today in Hoedspruit and Raptor reserve.

We had more rain last evening and during the morning – the local population are ecstatic the place has taken on a new vibe now with more of the wild animals venturing to get fresh fodder from the ground cover and the Giraffes from the trees.

We are in planning mode today for our trip up to The Kruger staying at The Lower Sabie camp and then I am told a couple of nights camping in another location on our way back to Hoedspruit on Saturday.

In the afternoon we decided that we would go to the Moholoholo Animal sanctuary  where they take in any injured animal and reintroduce them to the wild. However we were told that it would be more likely private reserves as in truly wild places they may not survive. Most of the injuries are caused by snares which either cut deep into the animals neck or very deep lacerations into their legs. We were shown some very disturbing pictures and thankfully many of the animals survived after treatment.

A whirlwind tour of the animals followed the pictures are of a Cheetah which were allowed to stroke. Then on to the vultures these were some really big birds. Lions, Hyenas and wild dogs.

Tomorrow is Monday already and we are getting very close to the main reason for my trip here to Anne and Stan’s home in the Raptor reserve and spreading of Margaret’s ashes at Anne’s chosen place. Over this last week Anne and I have had some great chats about Margaret and even this morning she was telling of some exploits whilst they were hosteling and camping in Loch Lomond and I thought Margaret never got in any scrapes. I think Anne has enjoyed herself looking back at all the escapades they got upto.

A chill day today ready for tomorrow journey to The Lower Sabie camp.

I am not taking laptop so a rest with blog till I get back – there will be so much to add.

 

 

Nov 25, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa day 3

After yesterday if has been quite today.

On the road with Anne just after 8 am visiting a lodge where she has a commission for art work in their rooms. She has completed only a few so far with more required in the New Year.

Zebra – they came wandering into the camp whilst we there.

Off to the gallery for this evenings exhibition setting out art week that each member has contributed. Quite a  variety on show pen and ink, photographs, pastels etc. We will be off back there around 6-30pm I am one of the barmen now.

Then a visit to The Blue Mountain reserve to meet one of Anne’s friends Crystal. On arrival yes we saw this journey herd of Giraffe. (Journey is the collective of  a group of Giraffe)

Back to Raptor for a rest till this evening.

We might get more rain this evening dancing in the streets again.

Tomorrow well we will wait and see.

Nov 24, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 2

How does one begin to describe today. It is 2200 as I write which means I have been up over 17 hours so far.

An early rise around 3-30am to get prepared to drive with Anne to Tanda Tula approx 50 km. First Anne navigates the tracks around the estate then open road till we get to the entrance gates to the reserve, a further tarmac road and then a sharp right on to dirt tracks to the meeting point. The meeting point only becomes visible at the last minute tucked in among the bush.

Our land rover is allocated and we set off in a convoy of three. We heard stories from the guide that there had been lions close to the camp last night. The first stop was an instuctional introduction in the life of DUNG BEATLES very David Attenbrough style from Civilised the guide. This took about 15 minutes and then a shout over the land rover comms that a lion kill had happened.

Hold tight was the cry and we set off at top speed to locate the kill at full speed off road trees did not get in the way.

The trackers had followed the tracks from the camp on foot and heard the cries from the downed Buffalo. We stayed here almost an hour as this was not seen very often Anne has lived here decades and never seen a kill.


What followed next was just as awesome Elephants, Rhino, and some wild dogs which apparently are dwindling in  numbers with only 5000 left in the wild.

A good hearty breakfast was called for which we took at a bush camp on the river bed – a full english and a few other bits and pieces were taken no calorie count taken but likely off the scale.

Anne had her end of year presentation with her class of ladies which was a good laugh and I have edited them a video.

We departed en route home arriving back around 3-30pm.

Skype with Matthew in midst of a welcome thunder storm on Logan’s birthday.

Today was EPIC.

There may be other words to describe today but what I have witnessed in South Africa takes my breath away and I have so much to come.

It may be a light day tomorrow PHEW!

 

Nov 23, 2016 - Blog, South Africa    No Comments

South Africa Day 1

My journey to South Africa brought me from UK via Virgin Atlantic flight to Johannesburg and then on to Hoedspruit in the north-east of the country. When  I arrived at Hoedspruit it was quite a while before you were at the terminal building. However there was no terminal building it was a small reception area with a lot of people hanging around awaiting to pick ups guest etc. and you walked from the plane to the assembly point.

I was only expecting Stan to be there to meet me but Margaret’s friend Anne was there as well a lovely surprise. It was then just a short journey of about 10km to their home in Raptor. In that short journey we saw Giraffe in one of the reserves alongside the road.

Anne and Stan’s home is on the Raptor reserve nestling in its own clearing (pictures later). There was a lot for Anne and I to catchup on so Stan trotted off to a neighbour to take workmen back to main road. Anne outlined the plans for the next two weeks and then this morning added a few more to the list. I think I will update as the days pan out just incase they change.

My room is on one of the wings of the property with a view of the bush in any direction. I finally made bed about 10pm I think.


During the evening Stan lit a Braai (BBQ) in the open area just in front of the main deck with local wood making the kindle and a couple of beers to chill whilst the kindle got going. We had a visit from a Warthog – mother and her two kids – Anne went out and fed them with some specialist dried food and then – Nyala came as well to have a nosey all in the space of a couple of hours. They also have a nesting bird in a trunk of one of the veranda supports. I spied a beautiful Kingfisher but it was too quick to get any pictures.

I slept well so well I left all the lights on when I woke at 4 am I was so surprised still dark outside. A visit to the bathroom put one light off and collapsed again woke a couple of hours later – now light.

I am sure you would be interested to know that this mornings shower was actually taken in the bush well almost. The shower cubicle is 4 m away but open to the elements so I can say I showered in the cool air of the South African bush at 6am very refreshing.

Spent the day getting my bearings in the reserve. Decided tom take a little stroll that ended up over two half hours. A friendly ranger gave me a map and directed me to a hide on a trail about 3 km away from where I met him. Camera in hand but very little about however I see a group of Impala about a dozen or so but they are quite timid so scuttled away very quickly.

Stan is due home shortly and we are off to the local for an afternoon beer, Anne is scheduled to be at the gallery to make final arrangements for the weekends exhibition.

 

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