Sunday, 5 June, 2011
Back to the Bush: Letaba to Bateleur Bush Camp

Our plan was for everyone to get up at 7:00 a.m. today, but I woke up at 6:15 and ran out the door to catch sunrise. I had a very nice walk. There were loads of waterbuck down by the river and lots of bushbuck activity inside camp, including one bushbuck mama nursing her baby. I watched a lone hippo walk about a mile along the riverbank before it moved out of sight.

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Sunrise

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Heading home after a long night

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Bushbuck nursing her young

At 8:30 we dropped off our keys and left Letaba for the last time. Our route: H1-6, S48 a/k/a Tsendze Loop, H1-6, S50, S49, H1-6 (plus many unnumbered side loops), to Mopani Rest Camp, H1-6, southern S52 west, Red Rocks Loop, across the Shingwedzi dry riverbed to the northern S52 west, stopping at Tshange Lookout and Silwervis Dam, and on to Bateleur Bush Camp.


 

For the first part of the drive this morning, all we saw were giraffes, buffalo, buffalo, and more buffalo. Then on the S50 we hit the jackpot. Not only did we see a bunch wildebeest and zebra, but we spotted two animals we hadn't yet seen, the tsessebe antelope and a pride of ostriches. It's fun to find new things!



Tsessebe

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A pride of ostriches

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Off to their important ostrich business

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Zebra sleeping, I hope

We stopped at Mopani Rest Camp to use the picnic area and to fill the car with petrol. Mopani is a large, peaceful camp with a quiet picnic area just inside the entrance.

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Crested barbet

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Jana at Mopani

At latitude 23 degrees, 26 minutes, 22 seconds south, we alighted from our vehicle at the Tropic of Capricorn monument, marking the southern boundary of the tropics, for the requisite photos.

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Tom and Jana at the Tropic of Capricorn

The traffic in Kruger, sparse at all times, became even more sparse as we traveled from south to north in the park. At times it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves. Well, us and the wildlife!

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Stork

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Not enough water

Turning onto the southern S52 west, in the direction of our next camp, we then turned up the Red Rocks Loop. “Leopards are commonly spotted in the Red Rocks area,” or so says our book. Well, we looked and looked, but darned if we could spot any. It was a nice view, regardless.

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Leopardless Red Rocks

Crossing the Shingwedzi riverbed, between the southern S52 and the northern S52, we watched a pair of saddle-billed storks and admired an African fish-eagle.

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Shingwedzi dry riverbed

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Saddle-billed storks

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African fish-eagle

At the Tshange Lookout, we were again authorized to leave our vehicles. There was no game visible, but it was a nice long view of the surrounding countryside. I perhaps wandered a little further from the car here than I should have, but I live to tell the tale.

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Tom and Jana at Tshange Lookout

No one is allowed past Tshange unless they are staying at Bateleur Bush Camp, as we were, so the guests of Bateleur have two dams all to themselves, Silwervis and Rooibosrand. The side road to Silvervis Dam was pretty overgrown and obviously little used. We braved the road in our rental sedan anyway, startling a pack of banded mongoose, who quickly scurried out of our path.

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Silwervis Dam

At 3:25 p.m. we arrived at Bateleur Bush Camp, where we'll be staying for two nights. We were greeted at reception by Freida, who checked us in and, this being our last camp, after determining we had no outstanding fees still owing, (our finally having successfully paid the last of our fees at Letaba), issued our exit permit, which we'll be required to show to exit Kruger two days from now.

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Our last Kruger camp

Bateleur, located in the northern region of Kruger National Park, is the smallest and oldest of Kruger's bushveld camps. It has only seven guest cottages. We were assigned cottage number 1, next to the hide. Our cottage has three bedrooms and two baths, and the kitchenette is outside on the stoep. We were told they don't have monkey or baboon trouble here, but still we kept the non-refrigerated food in the spare third bedroom, just in case. This is our first accommodation of the trip with a double bed instead of singles. I was beginning to wonder how South Africa stays populated!

At 4:10 we left on an afternoon drive to Rooibosrand Dam. Our route: 9 kilometers south and west from Bateleur and 9 kilometers back. We shared the dam with one other couple for a few minutes, until they left and we had it to ourselves. Cool! We saw several birds and a hippo and the beginning of sunset. Just before the sun touched the water, we left and zoomed back to camp with only five minutes to spare on our 5:30 curfew.

As we prepared dinner, Bateleur's camp manager, Lazarus Lehuleni, came by to welcome us and see if we needed anything. A very nice touch!

For dinner we cooked cheese-stuffed beef sausages, baked beans, and Linda made french fries. For sundowners tonight we had brandy and coke, a favorite drink of Afrikaners, I understand.

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Linda and Tom in our open-air kitchen

As we were sitting on the stoep in the evening, an odd creature skittered by that looked like a cross between a rat and a mongoose, with a splotchy body and ringed tail. Tom and I then sat in waiting for two hours with our cameras, but it never returned. Later, our rat-mongoose was ID'd as a spotted genet.

Well after dark, Tom and I walked the camp fence. It was fun and spooky, but we had no animal sightings. We did hear elephants moving around and breaking trees not too far away, but we couldn't see them by flashlight.

You must be wondeirng at this point, but, Jana, what was the high temperature today? I will keep you waiting no longer. It was a sunny, mild 84 degrees. And we were hoping for a mild night as well, because not only does this cottage have no heat, it also has no real front door, only a screen. We are in the tropics now, after all.

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Mosquito-coil art


Continue to June 6, 2011

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