27 March 2011
My camp lies in the western part of the Limpopo Parque Nacional, a wilderness area of more than a million hectares that is bordered in the north and east by the Limpopo river, in the south by the Olifants river, and in the west by SA’s Kruger National Park. Here, less than 3km from this border, I find myself in the Lebombo mountains, a range of hills that stretches south from the Limpopo all the way past Swaziland and on into northern KZN. It’s a rocky place, quite different to most of the rest of the park which is sandy.
On Sunday I got a chance to explore the sandveld region in the east when I joined two park personnel on a trip to escort technicians to a remote radio mast. We drove through virgin bush along a winding track and saw animals, but not a single human soul. The area is flat and dry with no surface water other than what the many shallow seasonal pans can hold for a while.
We camped for the night on the edge of Banga Pan, a pristine place where you feel you are truly out in the wilds and away from it all. When I crawled under my mozzie shelter and lay there looking up at a star-spattered sky, the ululating calls of jackals and hyena sounded like they were enticing me to lalaland. And so they soon did. Although I woke up a few times to offer my other hip to the hard ground, the night was a peaceful and enchanting one.
Yesterday, after seeing the tech guys off, we went on a recce of another important pan, a remote one known as Marombeni. After bush-bashing with the Cruiser for as far as we could go and then following a dusty elephant path on foot for another 2.5km, we finally arrived at a lush clearing in the bush where water sparkled, a few lilies bloomed and nimble birds scooped insects off the surface of the pool. I sat there in the shade of a tambotie tree worn smooth by itchy elephant and once again I felt as if the whole world was at peace and such a thing as time didn’t exist.
Why, I couldn’t help wondering, does this magic have to be lost where man establishes himself?