Saturday, 9 September 2017

Steak, Egg and Tshipise

Tshipise is a Forever Resort on the road between Parfuri Gate and Louis Trichardt or Makhado as it is now called.  The massive camp sports over 350 sites and I managed to find one in a quiet corner far from the maddening crowd.  The mainly Afrikaans speaking population had obviously been in residence for some time as some of the sites had little gardens and a couple even had vegetable patches.  Regular visitors included a huge pack of banded mongoose who left hundreds of little craters in their wake.  Three youngsters kept disappearing into the bowels of the bakkie's engine bay and when I went to investigate, I received a proper bollocking - seems it was just a grand place to play.

Was fascinated to see a klipspringer making a meal of a rubber tree Euphorbia tirucalli, the milky sap of which causes all sorts of vile reactions in humans.

The resort's attraction is the hot spring whose waters escape the earth at a modest rate of 54 litres an hour and an impressive temperature of 58 degrees centigrade and, of course, have reputed healing powers.  The pool around the source has an underground viewing chamber where you ought to be able to see this happening but the windows have been completely fogged over by algae.

There are four other pools, kiddies, cold, hot and hotter - the hot being at 38 degrees - a bit much for me so didn't bother with the hotter which is indoor nogal.

These aloes were just coming into flower and reminded me of a red-crested korhaan..............

...........and the magnificent maroon flowers of the sausage tree Kigelia africana were eagerly chomped by the local antelope.

It was then on to Zvakanaka, which apparently means no worries in some obscure language.  Up in the Zoutspansberg, 11 km from Makhado it, by contrast has all of four campsites.  They are all very private, have magnificent views and come with a covered concrete slab and gas stove - I believe it's referred to as glamping, but at R100 a night it is certainly appealing, think I may be here a while.

There are dozens of white pears Dombeya rotundifolia around which look as though they are covered in snow - too beautiful.................

...............and up close the flowers are in tightly packed bouquets.

Came through the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels on the way here, which beg the question how the heck has that name survived?  Didn't want to do the touristy thing with the Beast in tow, so took a trundle back down there mainly to see the old road which I vaguely remember traversing as a child.  It is amazing that they managed to squeeze a road into that tiny crevasse.

The surrounding farms are into avo's and macadamia nuts and the flowers of the latter look very similar to a local family of trees of the genus Faurea, which got me googling and sure enough they are also part of the Proteaceae family and hail from Australia.

On the rare occasions that my family could afford a South African holiday, the first overnight stop was always at the Mountain Inn, which is still around and just up the road.  The joy of staying in a place with a magical garden was always tempered slightly by the view of the road which would have to be tackled the next day - arrow straight for most of the 100 km to Polokwane.

While this farm is trying to be indigenous and given over to game it's losing the battle but there are a couple of trails up the mountain that are free of aliens so like an idiot, off I went.  Thought I'd reached Everest base camp by the time I got to the top, but the view was worth it............

..................... I guess........................

...................I warned you what would happen if you got too big for your roots!

Had it in mind to revisit Mapungubwe but wanted to check out the roads before taking the Beast there so booked in for a couple of nights, courtesy of a generous return from the taxman.  The main camp, Leokwe, is unfenced and when Jo and I visited an elephant wandered though.  This time there were only klipspringer but the ellies were all around.  The two-bed units consist of linked rondavels that are beautifully appointed and have an outdoor shower.

It is situated in a crater that wouldn't look out of place on Mars and the local freckled nightjar bow-wow'ed me to sleep'

For most of the year Mapungubwe does a very good hot and dry so was surprised to find a large dam filled to the brim.

One of the features is this hill which may ring a bell, as a certain Meneer Moordyk, who farmed in the area, was inspired enough to submit a design based on it's shape to the committee which was responsible for selecting a suitable design for the Voortrekker Monument.

Was up in time to see a rather spectacular sunrise..............

..............then on to the tree top walk though riverine forest on a boardwalk of impressive dimensions.

Slight design flaw? Or didn't allow for growth?

Unfortunately the Shashi river was down to a trickle which allowed all the Botswana cattle to come to the party.

What do you mean "no entry"?

Up at the confluence lookout points, there is this to one side..........

...........and this to the other. The great grey-green Limpopo River (?) all set about with fever trees.  As with Crooks Corner in Kruger there's a Poacher's Corner here where Botswana, Zimbabwe and SA meet.

At the confluence the Limpopo once more becomes a river courtesy of the Shashi's meager flow.

Something new since my last visit is the Museum, restaurant and Education Centre housed in this unbelievable structure clad in local stone and looking rather like Zimbabwe Ruins which is where the descendants of the community that lived in this valley ended up.  The abundant history of the area is covered extremely well in the museum which charges R55.55 entry -  seriously, who came up with that figure.

Missed the full moon by one night but it was light enough to read by at tinkle time or 1 a.m.

Another visit to the boardwalk turned up something I've only ever met once so managed to get some good shot's of Meyer's parrot having his breakfast.

For an area that is so dry it takes one aback somewhat when you are suddenly confronted with the sublime tranquility of Zebra Pan.

Found a small herd of ellies molesting a baobab and they did look quite embarrassed about it.

Back at Zvakanaka I was treated to a sunset of epic West Coast magnitude.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Kruger finale

The impala lilies (Adenia multiflorum) certainly live up to their Latin moniker at this time of year.  As they are found in virtually every garden in Phalaborwa but nowhere in the reserve, I assume they are pushed by the nurseries but are only found naturally further north, a bit pedantic of me I suppose  - they really are beautiful.

When first sighted I couldn't figure out what this was but with pickings getting scarce this resourceful little tree squirrel was stripping and eating combretum seeds. 

This golden-breasted bunting was singing his heart out but was on the wrong side for the light, so cheated and played the call to which he responded by flying across the road, not very PC but just look at that picture.

Have been having problems with the fridge so managed to find Eddie to come and sort them.  Access to the back of the fridge is limited to two small air vents and in one of them we discovered this minute hitch-hiker - a grey tree or foam nest frog hibernating.  In the rainy season the females find a branch over a pool, secrete a fluid which is then whipped into a white foam glob about the size of a tennis ball and lays eggs therein.  If mom has got the timing right when the tadpoles hatch they drop into the pool.

Spring must be sprung as all the knob thorns (Acacia nigrescens) are flowering, their white catkins giving off a subtle perfume that is nowhere near as powerful as some members of the family.

Seems the baboons really appreciate the bonanza too.............

..............try as I might I just could not get this green wood-hoopoe to pose, a quite spectacular bird anyway.

As mentioned the dry season is beginning to bite, this grey duiker resorted to dead leaves.

Sorry but there are just so many of them in the park, always nice to bump into a tusker though.

It appears that oxpeckers are a mixed blessing, this impala just wanted to get down to some serious cud chewing but the cheeky blighter just wouldn't leave well alone, so the hind leg did a lot of waving around trying to discourage it.

Mom brown-headed parrot feeding a pair of chicks, odd time of year for breeding.

Virtually all the camps in the park have resident bush buck that act as lawn mowers in exchange for protection from scary, hairy beasts.

Have talked about red-crested korhaan before but this is the first time I've ever seen the crest.  It's used as a final lure, so only comes out when a female is interested but this guy had forgotten to pack it away completely.  It is far more spectacular when fully raised but this is the best I could manage.

Yellow-billed oxpeckers are generally only found on buffalo and are far rarer, but this one seemed to be doing a fair job on the festering sore on the back of this beast.  These oxpeckers are extinct in most parts of the country as when the buffalo disappeared they transferred their allegiance to cows and then along came dips.  An intensive captive breeding program has seen their return to a lot of parks.

This baobab near Shimuwini looks spectacular...........

............until you get up close and see the damage dome by elephants. They are actually not a tree but a a dirty great succulent, so there is no hardwood and the pulpy fibre the trunks consist of is obviously coveted.  In Zimbabwe the locals do the same to make mats to sell on the side of the road.

Kruger is still chockers so could only get four nights at Punda Maria which was fortuitous as a report came through about orange-winged pytillias frequenting a swimming pool water feature.  An hour after I arrived bingo, the males showing a lot more red on the face than the green-winged version, but ............


...........only managed to get a picture of the female actually showing the orange primaries. Lifer one.

Lifer two proved a bit more difficult and required an early start to drive to the Luvuhu River bridge near Parfuri.

On arrival I was greeted by a boatload of flame creeper (Combretum paniculatum) the most unique of the family as it's not a tree.  Certainly acted like a magnet for the birds.

This is another one of those places where you may alight from your vehicle and stay within the yellow lines. Mentioned the leopard in the last blog but this ellie had obviously received the memo about not crossing them.
 There's always interesting stuff around this area such as white-crowned lapwing............                           


..........a really cute wire-tailed swallow, but I was after the grand prize.  After a couple of hours hanging around atlassing the target put in an all too brief appearance but it is so unique as to be unmistakable.

Determined to get a better view, I was back the next day and after another couple of hours had just about persuaded myself that I'd made it all up, so took a drive past Parfuri to a rocky ridge that was well populated with baobabs and there they were a pair of what has to be a real avian oddity - Bohm's spinetail.

It's a swift that prefers nesting and roosting in hollow baobabs which are not exactly dime a dozen and on 12 or so previous visits here I've never had the honour, so was very well pleased.  I hasten to add the photo was lifted from the internet as my camera is not good enough to get action shots.  Another species that is found in association with baobabs in this country is the Mosque swallow, which must prefer something different in other parts of Africa.

 The Punda Maria area is really the only part of the park where nyala are found and they are nearly as prolific as impala.  Not too sure what the raised tail was all about as it wasn't defecating, perhaps showing the warthog that he's not the only one who can get it up.

Parfuri is also home to the starling which sports the longest tail, Meve's.  They spend a lot of time on the ground and chatter away to one another with an odd mewling call

Driving towards Crook's Corner came across this ellie ramp and was surprised to see how carefully they negotiated it.  That large hole in the bank............

........was created by them using it as a wallow, this chap was stirring things up to get the right consistency.

The name Crooks Corner is given to the place where three countries meet, RSA, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  It was a useful hangout for some dubious characters who popped over one border or another to dodge the long arm of the law.

Something else not often seen are Indigobirds and one of the village persuasion I've not had in at least 20 years.

Though their lilac-breasted cousins are plentiful, I only saw two purple rollers in over two months in and around the park.

 On my last morning I drove around the Mahoni loop and was delighted to find a small group of grey-headed parrots feeding seeds high in a tree, and no he's not suffering from a late night out, there was a breeze blowing.

Driving up to Parfuri Gate, met up with this old daggerboy who really did look like he'd had a night out on the tiles as he wombled along the road oblivious to the car behind trying to get past.