News from The Northern Kruger
A Trail in The Makuleke Contract Park
15th – 19th October 2017
It was after a couple of bottles of good wine over a dinner that this all started. The girls were saying that they were keen for an adventure and one of the party had recently been on a game trail.
After a brief internet search, we found Johna Turner and RETURNAfrica, and discovered we could do a shorter version of the Full Moon Walking trail in the Makuleke Concession, as time was always going to be an issue. We chose the slack packing part only as this seemed to be the most adventurous.
Some months later, in mid-October, we arrived at RETURNAfrica’s Baobab Hill Bush House in Pafuri for the start of what would turn out to be a-once-in-a-lifetime 4 days.
After arriving in the early afternoon, the remainder of the first day was dedicated to briefing and last minute organising. Wendy, Baobab’s in-house cook, made us a delicious 3 course dinner as we savoured our last wine before the requisite 4 day abstinence.
Our first day on trail was going to be really hot, the weather man said 45 degrees, so we were walking by first light – with the plan being to do a loop via a spring and back to the Luvuvhu River. The revelation of the first hour were the birds – we must have had 60 sightings before the sun started to bake and the birds went into hiding. Our first real adrenalin rush came when a small herd of kudu managed to get themselves cornered behind a thicket before racing out within feet of where we stood. By midday, the breeze felt like a hair-dryer, Pete’s shoes were held together by duct-tape and having taken too little water, Johna decided the spring was a bridge too far and we headed straight for the Luvuvhu.
It was still a good 7 hours on the trail by the time we got to our pile of bags. Wendy had made good on her promise to include camp chairs but Hla Hla, the assistant guide dropping off our packs, had left all our kit in the sun about 4 hours earlier so our water was nearly 50 degrees and anything metal was too hot to carry! Undeterred, we put on cozzies (swimming costumes) and headed for a nice shallow section of the river where we didn’t have to worry about hiding crocs.
After being entertained by huge herds of elephant and numerous other animals, we enjoyed the delicious kingklip curry that one of our walking crew, Dimi, had premade and frozen, sorted out the 1 hour guard roster, were briefed on guard duties and evacuation procedures and settled into our sleeping bags for the night.
Tuesday dawned to the sight of two honey badgers scuttling right through the camp and after coffee and Sabi’s delicious crunchies, we set off along the Luvuvhu to the east. The find of the morning was fresh crocodile tracks from the previous night to a nest at the top of a steep bank alongside the river.
Due to anti-poaching activities in the area the route had been slightly altered and we were given a welcome lift by land cruiser to the Limpopo. A shrinking pool of barbel infested mud and the welcome intrusion of almost 100 elephant into the river almost through our riverbank campsite were among numerous other afternoon highlights.
By now, we had got Hla Hla on board and he delivered a cooler box of ice and a few ice-cold cokes along with the same chairs and all our bags to make our 2-night stay on the Limpopo deliciously comfortable. Linda’s broccoli and anchovy pasta and the double banded sand grouse that arrived around a beautiful sunset finished off the second memorable day on trail. The edge of a passing front delivered a windy night which obviated any ability to hear approaching animals on guard duty and made the minutes tick away more slowly than usual!
Day 3 was buffalo day. A circular route south of the Limpopo brought us more encounters than we could have imagined. Our wonderful 19 year old guide, Dylan, showed maturity well beyond his years and used every ounce of experience he had gained from growing up in the bush in Tanzania to help Johna keep us on the right side of these sometimes dangerous animals. Quite different bush and another 7 hours on the trail helped us push the bird count well over our original 120 target and Johna and Dylan found all sorts of anaesthetic and hallucinatory plants for us to try! By this stage we were even able to tell the difference between the Jackal Berry and Nyala Berry trees!
We saw the remnants of the Makuleke village before they were relocated in 1969 and Johna entertained us with his incredible knowledge of the history of the region
On our last day, we were all up early to squeeze in as much as possible before heading back to Johannesburg. The night had been perfect – still and clear - and the moonless sky provided a stargazing paradise. The animals had also allowed an uninterrupted sleep after another wonderful tuna and olive pasta for dinner by Sabi and the hippo and lion sounds seemed a comfortable distance from our campsite.
Dylan showed us a hole in an old Baobab tree that once served as the doorway for a Sangoma and true to form, the team felt the need to climb inside to inspect it. Among the bats, a barn owl appeared unconcerned about the invasion!
The mandatory visit to the 1480 year old Baobab provided a test for the tree climbing skills of Sal, Dimi and Lynda and we finished off the trip with a mass of hippos and a very close encounter with a somewhat irritated elephant bull.
All in all, a quite marvellous and completely memorable trip. Reams of new knowledge, a healthy dose of adrenalin, some new and several re-established friendships and memories that will never go away. Many thanks to our wonderful guides Johna and Dylan. We will be back.
Photos thanks to Dimitri and Sally Gutjar.
We have three Full Moon Walking Trails left for 2018:
25 March to 1 April = 8 spots
15 April to 22 April 2018
23 September to 30 September 2018
To enquire about the Full Moon Walking Trails contact us here