Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Day 3: Munyaweni Lodge Tuesday: November 17th, 2016

It was very hot today, the first day of sunshine. The puddles from Sunday night’s rain have completely evaporated, and Wren and I did not see anything new on our morning drive to Memorial gate. 

We did have very good sightings of giraffe, buffalo and Zebra and I took a video of a giraffe on a casual stroll by our car.  This was with my Samsung phone. Wren remains in a state of heightened alert and on this drive his fear was that we would run out of petrol / gas. The tank was under 1/4 full and we planned to drive 50km before the petrol pump opened.  The tank estimated it had 110km in it but this estimate changed suddenly on an ascent and Wren sat monitoring the gastimater for the whole drive. 

His fears:
The size of his planters wart / veruka
The iPad battery lasting

He has found he likes:
The bats roosting in our bathroom
Cream Soda
Mosquito netting

While we were out on our game drive, Dad, Ingrid, Lanny and David walked in the bush with the guide and the gun.  The guide lost one bullet from his belt and was concerned.  They are rifle cartridges. They were downwind from a lioness walking on the other side of the valley - about 100 m away. Baboons were heckling her.

During breakfast a group of trackers with rifles came into camp to see my photo of the injured rhino.  Apparent they lost 6 rhinos to poachers last month and found two dead rhinos in this area too.  They were killed as a result of territorial battles with other rhinos. I recorded a rhino with a large open wound on its front leg and a puncture wound on is rear leg. Apparently they tracked this rhino and gave it antibiotics.

Day Drive to Mpila
After breakfast Pete, Lanny, Dad, Ingrid, Orion, Wren and I drove down to Mpila in Umfolozi reserve.  The drought was far more evident there - the elephants were walking down the middle of the umfolozi river and it was completely empty.  They dug holes with their trunks to access groundwater, drank from them then ate the elephant-grass by the riverbank before sauntering away.  The nearby hills are burnt red and all the thorn veld is dead without any green. Mpila was a harsh, hot place - burnt earth and dead thorn bush which made it look like a boma around the camp.  No wifi for Orion and only impala, kudu and elephant.  

We were lucky to see a few interesting cuckoos very close to the road. We saw Klaas’s cuckoo and the Red-chested Cuckoo.

We quickly drove back to the Hluhluwe area via the curio village where Wren purchased an assagai and panga and a pangolin carving. He finds the pangolin cute but has no hope of seeing one except on youtube.

The baboons are barking “rar, rarrr, rarrr” outside our window.

Swimming at Hilltop
Wren and I had a quick swim in the milky swimming pool at Hilltop. The plastic tube-wrapped pool chairs sagged comfortably and a troop of monkeys moved across the bush in front of us, sentinels watching carefully while the young ones swung and jumped gathering young figs and flowers. Two Afrikaans-speaking girls read magazines and helped each other apply sunblock under the straps of their swimsuits.

Wren was concerned by all the insects floating in the pool - white ants which rose on the previous day of rain, dead bees, wasps, dragon flies and some longicorn beetles.  I scooped them out for him and waited for the expected resurrection.  No matter how dead they look, I have found most ‘drowned’ beetles revive. The largest longicorn beetle was a beauty, with red and black striped wing-case.  Although he looked quite dead - his legs curled limp and lying motionless in my hand, first one feeler started to twitch, then another.  Ten minutes later a leg protruded and then another.  He stood up on the bark I provided - taking a while to get each foot positioned correctly then his abdomen pulsed (I think his wings were wet and too heavy to open).  I carried him on some bark to a good spot on top of a garbage can and by the time we had finished swimming, he was gone.

Night Thunder Drive
We joined a night drive from Hilltop.  Lanny and Pete described this as the dullest night drive EVER.  We saw nothing that needed to be out at night. At dusk some zebra trotted along the road, looking nervously over their shoulders.  We found the smallest baby rhino I had ever seen - only slightly larger than a dog - trotting after its mother with oversized feet padding - and saw a lion as large as a pinhead on the opposite hillside. 

Other than the the major action was the weather. Spectacular tropical thunderstorms massed to the south of us.  At first there were huge white walls of cloud which turned into thunderheads, blackening and dropping. The guards were hoping the rain would come here but it stopped at the ridge of hills just South and East - the rainline cutting the sky in half.  One half the sky was a wall of black clouds and constant lightening, with rolling thunder while the other was a blue-skied sunset.  The huge forks of lightening was so bright and close that the driver redirected us away from Isivivaneni valley to the Memorial Gate road. Wren kept asking “Are we past the worst of the storm?” and fearing for his life.  The constant flashing across the black horizon lasted for over an hour as the thunder became more distant. Unfortunately, the rain bypassed this area and we had only a slight smattering last night.

Today, we can all feel the promise of rain.  The white ants are in the air, there are low clouds and the long gusts of wind feel damp and cool.  I keep expecting to hear fat raindrops pattering on the windows, but nothing happens.

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