Loading Map...

Kruger National Park - Mesi Mesi Trail Day One

Written on: Wednesday November 29th, 2006

A journal entry from: The Winter of 2006/2007

  • Arlene?s plane arrived at Nelspruit five minutes before ours, so after organizing the car rental and arranging to store our clubs at the airport we were on our way to Ber Gen Tal Rest Camp in Kruger National Park where we would spend our first night before joining our trail guide.  The guy who looked after storing our clubs told us that he?ll be caddying for Ernie Els who is flying into Nelpruit on Monday, playing golf at Leopard?s Creek.  Just before we drove into the gates at Kruger, we saw the entrance to Leopard?s Creek.

 

  • Kruger National Park covers an area of 380 kms from north to south and averages 60 kms across, it?s fenced all the way round.  Within the fenced area are 12 main rest camps and several other camps which we understand are privately owned and very high end.  The main camps are all fenced against the big animals and have shops, a restaurant and chalets; they?re usually situated overlooking a river so animal spotting can be done from an outside sitting area. 

 

  • The rest camp chalet was very spacious for the five of us with two double bedrooms, and a large living room with a bed for Arlene.  It also had a separate shower, a bathtub and basin and a separate toilet, so worked really well for us.  Arlene told us that to get the most from animal viewing it?s best done as the sun rises so we decided to get up at 5:30 am.  Unfortunately the animals must like to lie in just like me as there were few to be seen and eventually we came back to the chalet to pack up and leave before 9 am.  We then drove to Skukuza Rest Camp to register for the Mesi Mesi Trail the start of our ?proper? safari, along the way we came across a massive herd of Cape buffalo.

 

 

  • Rudy our guide and Philip, his black assistant, picked us up in the same kind of vehicle that we?d had for the Hluhluwe trip i.e. seats on the back of a truck.  They were pulling a trailer though, which we loaded with our luggage. There are seven different walking safaris in Kruger with a maximum of 8 people in each safari,  joining us on our safari were David from Taunton in England and Garren a thirty something South African who now lives in Sydney, Australia.  It was a 1˝ hour drive to our camp, we saw some elephants and giraffes on the way but we?re still missing that elusive lion and leopard.   On arrival at the camp, we drove in through gates to a small camp of four A frame huts, two bamboo surrounded showers and sinks and two bamboo surrounded toilets.  Our hut has two single beds and a few storage shelves but is adequate for two people for a few days.  There?s all sorts of options for keeping the rain out or letting the air flow through and it?s amazingly cool inside as I write this although it?s probably around 32C outside.  We also have a mosquito net which we didn?t need as we haven?t seen a mosquito since arriving in the area. 

 

  • Rudy (who by the way is very cute) met us by the camp-fire and explained what the routine is and what to expect of our time here, he told us that we would be taking two hikes a day but we shouldn?t expect to see as many animals as when in a vehicle because the animals are afraid of a human shape as they?ve been hunted for years, whereas a vehicle didn?t mean anything to them.  We did in fact notice that we could pull up next to animals at the side of the road and they would just stand there looking at us but the same animal would run when we were walking on the trail. We then had a solid dinner of rice, stew and veggies and drank some of the wine that we?d brought with us. Whilst we ate Rudy regaled us with tales of previous hikes, some of which I would rather not have heard, like the one last week where the group had been ?fortunate? enough to have been charged by a leopard.  Rudy told us that we would be awakened by John (the cook) at 3:45 am, we?d have coffee and rusks and then be on our way for our hike by 4:30 am.  We retired to our huts early and slept remarkably well, I thought after Rudy?s stories I would be having nightmares, particularly as I?d taken my malaria pill for which nightmares are a side-effect. Unfortunately (apart from Roger?s snoring) there were no animal sounds during the night, which we understand is quite unusual.

 

  • As promised John knocked on our door at 3:45 am leaving a bowl of hot water outside so we could get washed.  We had our coffee and climbed into the truck again for a short drive.  As we drove out of camp the sun came up over the horizon.   As we began our walk Rudy explained that we must stay in single file behind him and Phillip and be completely silent.  Apparently there used to be one guide at the front and one at the back but they find that most trouble comes from the front so both guides are now positioned there with their rifles in hand.   The lead person behind the guides was to go to the back every five minutes or so that everyone got a chance to be at the front.

 

  • I was worried at first but quickly realised that Rudy and Phillip knew what they were doing.  Rudy would stop to show us a nest or a spider?s web and Philip would move off to the side and scan the horizon.  At one point Rudy was trying to ooax a spider out of its hole when Phillip motioned that he?d seen something, there were three rhinos in the bush.  We circled around them trying to get closer but they knew we were there and moved away.  Not too long after, Phillip again pointed and in the distance, we realised that what looked like a thin tree, was actually a giraffe.  We started to move in its direction, it had seen us and was keeping an eye on our movements.  When we got closer we saw that there were actually two giraffes, they watched us and moved away slightly as we got closer.  Then we saw another giraffe, it was amazing just how close this one let us get.  As we moved on Rudy pointed out different birds, trees and told us how to recognize various types of animal dung.  All the while he and Phillip were looking at animal tracks and scat.  They thought they saw the trail of an elephant and also a lion so we were heading in that direction but now it was time for breakfast by a river bank.  We?d been given four backpacks to carry and out of these now came, cheese, sausage, crackers, apples, juice and water.  We were all hungry, it was around 7 am.  We then continued our trek at one point passing over a reasonably wide track and there ambling towards us was a rhino, it was quite oblivious of us as they have notoriously bad eyesight and we were upwind of it.  It came closer and closer munching grass along the way, then only about thirty feet from us it suddenly realised there was some danger and stopped dead.  Its ears came up and then it took off into the bush.  We were now back on the trail of the lion  when Phillip thought he spotted one, we started to move in the direction he?d seen it which was OK as we were out in the open but then Rudy and Philip both raised there rifles and started to enter the bush beckoning us to follow.  I wasn?t too happy about that but by the same token wasn?t going to be left on my own, so in we went quite quickly.  It turned out that it was actually a leopard but only Rudy and Phillip saw it although Jean thought she got a glimpse.  Rudy looked devastated that he hadn?t been able to give us our first cat.

 

  • We had a bit of a look around but it had got away and we were now quite close to the safari truck so we clambered in and returned to the camp where we had a bit of a rest before a super brunch.  The morning walk had taken about four hours, Rudy told us to meet him back at the eating area at 3:30 pm, everyone scattered to their A frames for a rest and later to shower up.  We all learned that it you have to get everything done while it?s light as stumbling around with paraffin lights trying doesn?t work too well.

 

  • The afternoon walk was shorter (about 1 ˝ hours but most enjoyable.  It was stinking hot so Rudy tried to keep us in the shade as much as possible.  We saw a rhino in the bush ahead of us at one point, Rudy said it was making it?s way to the water and we should go to the water and wait for it.  Once there we realised that it was indeed heading towards us but Phillip had already found a place to cross the water and took us all over while Rudy stayed on the same side as the rhino.  Once again the rhino wasn?t aware that we were there until it got quite close to Rudy, then it suddenly spooked and ran off.  A little later we came across a dead baby impala, as it?s spring here there are a lot of babies around.  At first Rudy thought an eagle may have got it but then heard baboons on the cliffs nearby and as most of the flesh had gone with bones and hair remaining he decided that the baboons were the most likely culprits.

 

  • The sun was getting low in the sky so we clambered  back in the truck and drove to the top of a nearby mountain where we watched the sunset while we drank a glass of wine.  Then back to the camp for a nourishing meal and a sit around the campfire.  We?d survived our first day in the jungle.