Three days in Mfolosi’s Mpila camp with two demure young ladies.
We saw a few confrontations: Two male impala, two male lions, four rhino, with one male threatening the others. Nothing much came of these feints and threats, despite the loud shouts which came from the back seat, where the two demure young ladies were seated: FIGHT! Fuck him up!
Useful to top up your salt intake every so often by sticking your tongue in your nostril. Must practice that.
Mpila camp’s ‘safari tents’ are great. Comfy with all modcons, own kitchen and en-suite semi-outdoor bathroom. It’s walled in with reeds, like the kitchen wall you see here, but only to shoulder height – above that, it’s open to the outdoors under the big canvas roof. It’s a treat. A Purple-banded Sunbird sang to me as I showered. No pictures.
While photographing these ‘acacia’ flowers (must get the real name – maybe Senegalia?) this biggish weevil or snout beetle dropped into my hand. I’ll ask iNaturalist.org to identify both the plant and its weevil. Otherwise it would be like I saw no weevil.
A slender mongoose made a breakfast appearance at a waterhole. If anything was nesting in there, they were egg and toast, as she inspected every nook and cranny.
Driving along, an oft-heard sound and a not-often-seen sighting:
At the hide (must add the name – Bhejane?) I saw the lovely Mocking Cliff Chat, Lesser Striped Swallows, Village Weavers building nests and a Hadeda Ibis pulling down their new nests around its nest! A Diederik Cuckoo was calling, probably waiting to get into those weaver nests. This hide looks out over a waterfall – dry today:
At another waterhole a bird flew past as my little Canon snapped a 3-shot burst:
I took a new route home, exiting the Cengeni gate in the south-west of the park and heading for Ulundi, Melmoth and Eshowe. Right outside the gate exiting the Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve there’s this puzzling sign:
I asked the man at the gate, How far to Ulundi? 37km. I asked him, And how is the road? and he got all coy, hummed and hah’d a bit, then blurted, “but it is a tar road.” It wasn’t too bad. A fairly normal look-sharp neglected tar road as we’re used to.
If I still had Marguerite Poland’s book on the isiZulu descriptive names of Nguni cattle I’d tell you how this beast on the way to Ulundi would be described:
I’ll go back to Mfolosi. Soon, though. Before it also loses all its grasslands to bush encroachment.
Mfolosi again. Just one night with three twenty year old lasses, Jess, Tarryn & Jordie.
On the way up north one of my pet theories got a bit of backing evidence! When birding by car, I say, ‘Stop anywhere: There will almost always be some birds around’. Busting for a leak I stopped under a bridge on the N2 North. While sighing with relief, I spotted what looked like a black plastic bag flapping in the breeze in a small tree about 30m back; but my binocs revealed it to be a long-crested eagle staring intently at the ground a mere metre below it; then it pounced and fossicked around in the grass; when it flew up it had a plump grey rat with a shortish tail in its beak – a vlei rat, I’d guess. What a lovely sighting at a chance stop.
In the reserve Jess took the wheel awhile on a quiet raod on the far side, near the western gate; she hadn’t driven for a while, so I was pleased when she asked to; she did real well until – Murphy’s Law! – an open-top Land Cruiser came around the corner right in front of her, full of tourists and driven by a handsome tour guide; Distracted, and having to suddenly remember clutch in, steer left and gently brake was a bit too much so she just drove into a little thorn tree, slammed on brakes and stalled. I pretended to be peering into the thorns, some of which were in my open window, through my binocs! Spot the Jessie skid marks!
Jess and I took Trish’s old Cape Town friend Val Excell and her brother Paul Gaillard to Mfolosi for a night. We finally got to stay in Mpila camp. We’ve been wanting to stay at Mpila as it is better situated for the drives in the southwest of the park along the Black Mfolosi river, but it has always been booked up for weekends. This was Thursday night, so easy to book at short notice.
Val is losing her short-term memory so is battling a bit with day-to-day stuff but her lovely sense of humour is intact and anyway our memories with her go back years and she remembers that stuff well. Her brother Paul Gaillard was involved in the establishment of safari companies like Afro Ventures (which had taken me on my first trip to Botswana in 1985) so we had lots to talk about.