Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Moremi - Day 6

As uneventful as yesterday was, today was adrenalin pumping!

Went through to Xakanaxa, or at least to the airstrip near there.  The plan was to head to the Xakanaxa camp, dump our rubbish and then take a drive to Hippo Pools.  Got to the airstrip just as a family of 4 flew in to start their safari.  We dumped our garbage there and then headed on the South Gate road to Hippo pools (the other road – Paradise drive, was flooded so it was blocked off).  We hadn’t seen much so far in the morning, a steenbok, couple of Lechwe and some giraffes.  The highlight was spotting a Malachite Kingfisher at the 4th bridge crossing.  We were a bit concerned about the crossing with all the rain in the past day, but we didn’t have any problems.

Woodland kingfisher
The going started to get tough once we turned on the road to the pools.  The previous one had been graded, but this one wasn’t, and the puddles of water seemed to be getting larger and deeper with each passing one. 

The fear with water is you have no idea how deep it is and how the underwater tyre conditions are. It’s not really an option to get out and check in these wilds, so split second decisions have to be made and committed to – it gets the heart pumping big time!

Finally we hit a massive one, which caught us both by surprise – it looked so deceptive and the car was still in 2WD – the back tyres just started spinning in the middle of the hole, with the water coming pretty high up the car.  That was enough for us; we had only done 4 of the 11kms and decided it was not worth it. 
Malachite kingfisher
So we started driving back, this time in 4WD ;) with the video rolling… We met a convoy of 2 cars on the way back and warned them about the conditions.  They in turn told us about a lion they had seen about a kilometre down the road right on the side.  Of course, we were off like a shot.  We almost missed him as well, but what a sight!  A big male lion lying there, about 2 meters away, pretty relaxed and grooming himself.

We stayed with him for about 30 minutes, in that time he roared at us a couple of times, which was awesome to hear – all on videotape of course ;)  He was probably a little too close for comfort, but was relaxed enough for us to get in about a hundred shots each.

Finally left him with the idea to travel further down the road to South Gate and then head into 3rd bridge again.  It’s 30km to South Gate, and then another 58km to 3rd bridge, probably a little bit ambitious considering it was 11am, and getting in had taken us about 5 hours – just the 58km… Still – nothing ventured, nothing gained…
But we could only venture so far – 12km down we hit the mother of all water patches, with water streaming up the bonnet and up the windshield and splashed into the car.  And so decided that was it.  We had hit a number of scary ones with the water hitting the bonnet, but over and onto the windscreen?  Not a chance! We just couldn’t take the chance of going any further – if we got stuck in one of those water holes, the water would be streaming in and the car would be screwed long before anyone came to help us out.

Water coming up over the bonnet

Of course, deciding to go back meant going through it all again – but at least we knew that we could get through, or at least we knew that we had already done it.  Damn, it was rough, but we got through.  Then of course Dru mentioned that it could have been worse – there could have been elephants along the way near one of the water crossings… no sooner said than we had crossed a nasty one, when a herd of elephants appeared on the road – luckily they were relaxed and crossed quickly, babies and all.  From there, the going was okay, with the worst behind us and the car still going…

Came across the guys that we had driven past the previous evening from the Eastern Cape.  They had seen a lioness stalking a Lechwe on the 3rd bridge plains that morning.  Probably not as good as our lion though, which of course we told them about ;) We told them about the roads, but it didn’t seem to put them off and they headed off with one of them filming the first crossing ;)

Elephants at the road 'waterholes'
Finally got to Xakanaxa, and saw the Indian blokes we had told about lion – they had seen it too.  Pulled up to have a lunch of bacon, eggs and grillers – good nourishment after the adrenalin!

Met up with Jurgen, who apparently didn’t find his way to 3rd bridge, even with GPS ;) Told him about the lion, and the next minute he was on his walkie-talkie to Dennis – “Dennis - kom in, kom in!” Proceeded to tell Dennis that he was talking to Dru and all about the lion.  Dru was absolutely amazed by this, especially since it was all in Afrikaans, and he had no idea what the guy was saying except for his name.  Amused Dru for quite a while after.  Who knows, hope the lion was still there for those 2 guys.  Quick chat to a family of 4 that were camping next to where we were having lunch.  The guy said that they had almost had an accident driving to the park, the roads were so wet, so that’s a worry for us trying to get out tomorrow.

Good lunch, then a glass of Tia Maria with coffee and about to head out for the next adventure…

Writing up the morning's events
Later on…
Basically a tame afternoon after our adrenalin filled morning.  Wandered around the main roads between Xakanaxa, Dead Tree Island and 3rd Bridge to see what was out there.  Got some nice sightings of kudu with egrets flying in front of them while standing on a hill, but nothing more than that.  Suppose you can’t really expect more when you’ve had an action packed morning.

Did meet up with Dennis and Jurgen on our drive.  They missed the lion!!! Apparently they picked up the tracks but the lion had gone already.  They really have had no luck in the time they’ve been here, compared to us.  Think the best they’ve seen is 2 crocodiles, which Jurgen wanted to give us the GPS co-ordinates for.  Really hope they get to see something worthwhile before they go back.

Wandered around slowly back to 3rd Bridge.  We went through 4th Bridge, which was an absolutely breeze compared to the water logged holes of the morning.

Came back and lit the fire – no damage, the baboons weren’t back from foraging yet.  Meandered around again, but only saw the neighbours of wildebeest and impala.  We got back to camp to no damage yet again – think the baboons have given up on us – and had rashers for starters.  It’s been pretty cold today, so heated water in the potjie pot for washes – it makes a huge difference, especially with the wind blowing.  Right now we’re waiting for the main course of T-bone steaks – hell, it’s great to be out here ;)

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