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Thread: Sundowner musing......

  1. #1
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    Sundowner musing......

    Hello from Bulawayo.

    Looks like this Easter will be spent under canvas again.

    Not complaining mind you, because the lodgings are fairly easy to take.



    This is Khulu Lodge in Hwange NP - basically caters for about a dozen people in 'tents' circling a well used water hole. The vlei attracts a wide collection of visitors each day ranging from fairly large herds of elephants on down to the usual monkeys and baboons.



    You can see that dress standards are SLOW appropriate - note the correct colour of the helmet.....

    This will be interesting in that the 'tents' are spread about and, unlike most places I have glamped at previously, there are no barriers between the camp and the critters.



    Last year I stayed at a sister camp about 1km up the track and came across this pair early one morning:



    I suspect they are less inclined to purr for their supper than the S3cat...

    So, it should be pleasant with a good book, sundowners and another opportunity to tool around in the camp's old Defender.

    I hope your own Easter offers up plenty of enjoyment too.

    Cheers,

    Neil
    Last edited by The ho har's; 26th November 2014 at 05:00 AM.

  2. #2
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    We are staying home Far to busy to go anywhere at Easter time. We will be busy though, getting the 6x6 ready for it's maiden voyage

    Mrs hh
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    '51 80",'56 107 Series 2a, SIII, defender 130, 101 FCx2 + 20+ other series vehicles

  3. #3
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    What's on for Easter?

    Wonderful report, Neil. And a relief to see no sign of any offending Green Pith in your environs.

    In terms of Easter arrangements, I do hope Godfrey has been busy, because I'm quite confident the camp Defender will suffice as a fine exploratory vehicle in the ongoing quest for automotive heraldic items, should you prematurely extinguish said reading matter.

    Perhaps prudence might dictate Khulu's meat house be "poached" as a form of de facto insurance, ensuring the larger versions of S3 cat are preoccupied in the event of success.....A fitting variation on the traditional egg hunt, methinks.

    My own Lent period has been, thus far, particularly uneventful with a distinct lack of Pretzels or Sundowners.....a mandatory part of the rehabilitation process, and part and parcel of daily life in the Kalimna Infirmary. At least I am not required to forego potatoes again this year!

    Given these remarks, and in answer to your enquiry, movements at Kalimna shall be a more sedate affair, with post operative recuperation the order of the day. I had envisaged getting together with a group of like minded monkeys and baboons next weekend myself, but alas, a slight mechanical has thrown a banana in the works there.

    We do however share some commonality in having to remain vigilant in the company of our feline friends, given Kalimna estate's roaming Maine Coons have been known to pounce at the sight of nasal blood discharge.



    But enough from me - God's speed and good grace in your endeavours, and as always, regards to Godfrey and all at Khulu.

    Regards,
    Scallops.

  4. #4
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    Urban terrorists

    Quote Originally Posted by Scallops View Post

    We do however share some commonality in having to remain vigilant in the company of our feline friends, given Kalimna estate's roaming Maine Coons have been known to pounce at the sight of nasal blood discharge.


    Dan,

    Hello again from the Matobo Hills - UNESCO world heritage listed for good reason. Another one for another time (did see a nice old Series 1 109" in a native compound upcountry yesterday though)...

    Yes, forget the big ones, these terrible wee beasties can inflict nasty injuries on the unwary and deserve substantial respect. Tripping over one in the dark has been known to create havoc at Casa del S3 on more than one occasion.



    Here's a shot of the S3cat - forever amazed at how it can hold this pose for most to the day, but leap into action at the first sound of a cupboard door being opened.

    Cheers,

    Neil

  5. #5
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    Sundowners, lions and little else

    Hello again from the Matabos as Easter fast approaches. Another bit of self indulgence from the Highveld and hills, I must confess.

    Decided to abandon the stoep tonight for sundowners because the 20 or so blue wildebeest that have taken to camping around it each night have started to make it smell a bit like a sheepyard. Moved instead to a comfy spot by the fire pit in the boma which is surrounded by San cave art of genuine antiquity – a large part of why the Matopos Hills region of southern Matabeleland is UNESCO heritage listed.

    Anyway, and this is a chat thread for which topics of any nature should be tolerated, I was sitting in the old canvas camp chair, Zambezi in hand, and noting the Southern Cross and Milky Way as a mental link back to Mrs S3ute, the S3 juniors and S3cat. Thoughts turned to the topic of lions, more specifically lion attack, and the efficacy of fires such as the one I was presently stoking in keeping you and them apart.....

    Bear with me if you will, as this chain of thoughts took several threads – each aided I suppose with a recharge - which I will endeavour to draw together at some final stage.

    Starting off – let me ask you this general question. Have you ever survived a serious mauling by a lion, or perhaps know personally of someone who has? Likely the answer will be no on both counts.

    Well, I can count myself lucky to not be counted in the direct experience category, but do fall into the second category. The chap I work with here in southern Zimbabwe (Dr Andre Van Rooyen) was dragged by the head from a tent by a lioness at the famed Mana Pools on the Zambezi a few years back. Quick thinking by his campmates (luckily medicos) drove the lioness off and got him a boat trip of several hours and a direct medivac flight to Johannesburg where he survived after considerable surgery. A book waits in there someday, but this is just background for now. I will return to Andre and his general rather than personal experience with lions later – he started his career as a wildlife biologist in Kruger NP.

    Moving on to another link in the chain – in a previous post I mentioned spending this Easter and the last one in a small camp in Hwange NP. The S3tent this year will be off by itself and open to access by whatever happens to want to wander past, lions included........ Now, I also posted a photo of a couple of young males that I spotted on the track while out in the camps’ old Defender one morning and these fellows were only about 100m from the coming tent site. I have added a gratuitous photo of the Defender since this is a Land Rover forum and also a repeat shot of the two lions to give the tale a bit more context:

    Camp Defender




    Lions




    There is an interesting story with these two young lions. When I was driving into the camp for the first time the young guide mentioned that an old lioness had been lying next to the track on his way to get me. As we went past the spot she was no longer there, but her bed, tracks, dung and urine patch were clear to see and smell. Over the next couple of days she would wander down to the waterhole in broad daylight and plant herself there for all to see. After a while she would wander off as if she had not a care in the world – anything but, however. When I spotted the two young males the guide gave me this story. She is the alpha female of the local pride and her daughters, sisters and other lionesses would likely have cubs and sub-adults at that time. The young males wanted to find the pride, drive off the leading male, kill the cubs and young males and put their genes into the pride. So, she goes into a false oestrus and wanders the countryside up hill and down dale well away from her pride giving the young bucks the journey of their lives. This flirtatious chase goes on for ages, but eventually if she is successful the potentially lethal suitors will give up and look for another pride. As the day went on you could see that the fresh lion spoor along the tracks went literally for miles. She was definitely giving the young amoristes the long distance come on.

    Moving on a little – the other day I was driving through the hills with Andre and happened to ask if having a fire at night would keep lions and other unwelcome guests at a safe distance from one’s tent. He mentioned that on the night of his own attack there had been a blazing fire going all night just near his tent and that he doubted that it had any effect on the lioness’s intent. In fact, and this I found interesting, he went on to state that much of what you read about confronting and handling lions and other big game is near fiction. An artefact of the colonial big game hunting era where most of the game was being regularly shot at and generally afraid of humans. Lions then would run away or be very wary of human contact. Nowadays they are not actively hunted and he feels they have largely lost their fear of humans – in fact, some are now active hunters of humans, a point to be returned to.

    Andre went on to mention that animal behaviour can be seemingly perverse – for example, male lions will regularly plant themselves in full view of game and make no secret of their presence. Roaring is common when the pride arrives and beyond being territorial may act to stir the game up a bit and add to the general confusion of an attack. Noting the temptress’s (above) inclination to freely wander in and out of the camp in the middle of the day was consistent with Andre’s thesis that they have simply lost their fear of humans thereby making them considerably more dangerous than the good books suggest. He suggested that when he woke up to the fact that he was being attacked the lioness had a grip of his head and he could hear that her breathing was quite measured (surreal as he put it – I personally doubt that I would have been that composed to notice) and he could feel her heart beating on his chest. Again, nothing abnormal or suggesting a frenzied rush and grab – in fact, she had 3 cubs with her and was likely intent on teaching them how to catch and kill a silly human. This is probably what saved his life as she was driven off while dragging him alive over to the cubs for lesson 1 in food preparation and presentation skills.

    As a postscript to the attack on Andre, he told a ranger at Mana Pools some time after he had recovered that he believed the lioness had killed humans before given the calm way she had gone about setting up the attack and carrying it out. The ranger thought this was more than likely as many deaths, especially of poachers and illegal entrants, typically go unreported and kit and snares etc are regularly found without signs of the owners – possibly crocodile or lion attacks.

    So, that is the general thrust of a pleasant evening spent around the fire pit contemplating the coming Easter at Khulu camp, and the prospects of encountering something larger than the S3cat. Fires, it seems, are particularly good for embellishing sundowners and a good braai. However, the temptation to take a quick slash in the bush should be tempered with the reality that nature can sometimes bite back.

    Cheers,

    Neil

  6. #6
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    Never a dull moment it seems Neil. Oh, the exciting life of the field scientist. My only claim to imminent danger of similar variety was being chased by a rouge taipan down a dirt track in WA - true story, although I had a distinct advantage - I was driving a 4.2 litre Nissan Patrol.

    But I always drew the line at following seminal discharges in the wilds. I don't know what they put in the Khulu Sundowners, but I want one!

    As for having even been attacked by a Lion....have you ever seen a Maine Coon?

  7. #7
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    Ouch

    Quote Originally Posted by Scallops View Post


    As for having even been attacked by a Lion....have you ever seen a Maine Coon?
    Dan,

    Hello from the bush.

    No - can't say that I have ever been bailed up by a Maine Coon (S3Cat is officially listed on the RSPCA vet check as a 'dsh' - more commonly called a moggie...).

    However, turning to an authoritative source by no less than the world-famed Prof. Claude Ballz, it sounds quite daunting.

    Cheers,

    Neil

  8. #8
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    Mistaken identity

    Hello again from Brisbane.

    Back before Easter while still slinking about the Matapos Hills, and generally tooling about the landscape with the half-chewed Andre, I thought I had found a little piece of Oz and a testament to our former export prowess - either an FB or EK:



    Hitting the brakes and going for a closer inspection found it was just a mirage:



    A locally assembled Vauxhall Victor - and another example of why finding older cars in the native camps is a challenge of sorts - even "strong cars like Land Rovers".

    All was not lost however for national pride. I did find some Vegemite in a local supermarket, but had already procured a fortnight's supply from the Qantas Club, plus a small margin for trading for Minties with the Ambassador in Harare.

    Cheers,

    Neil

    Cheers,

    Neil

  9. #9
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    Brilliant. The Mintie must rank as the only diplomatic tool used by this country since last September! Keep up the great work, Neil, I for one am just lovin' it!

  10. #10
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    Trip report

    Hello again from Brisbane.

    It occurred to me that with all of the other good things going on, such as the excellent Coolatai bash and the usual mayhem otherwise called managing the lifestyle at Casa del S3, I hadn't really effected closure on the Easter trip to Hwange NP.

    So, here is a little of it.

    First, prior to heading to Hwange I changed my town digs in Bulawayo from the Club (now run by a complete set of wankers) to a more modest B&B - Sondela:



    This modest spread is owned by the former owner-manager of a large textile mill in the city – a genuinely nice guy who is widowed and I suspect in a pleasant enough domestic relationship with the dark lady who does the cooking (Prudence). It was built in 1936 by (more correctly for) a Mr Hadden, a partner of Hadden and Sly one of the town’s trading emporiums. He and Mrs Hadden came from the UK then to set up the business and owned it until the late 1960s when a riot broke out in the street out front – guns, tear gas etc and a baton charge or two supposedly had the Haddens on a plane back to the UK the following morning never to return.

    It gets even better because to top it off the tariff is $80 per night (cf. Club $120) with $1 a beer and another $15 for a 4 course meal and wine to boot................


    Happened to run into a fellow lodger who kindly offered me a lift to the park rather than my more conventional bus - interesting character with a bit of a drinking problem it was soon revealed:





    This is only 10kms from Bulawayo and despite the early morn sold Castle and a few other necessities of the road............

    On closer inspection of the sign there were a few services that you don't normally see advertised at your typical 7-11....




    Now call me a bit cautious, but driving down a Zimbabwean highway past the mandatory dozen or so roadblocks pulling on a large Castle or several would have normally seemed to represent risk-taking behaviour - but not for my guide because this quaint ceremony was repeated several more times over the next 60-or so kms.

    Not all bad, I might add - in days gone by the white tribe had a few sacred sites of their own, including the rather attractive "half way house" which I was informed was another mandatory stop....



    Now there was quite a collection of caps hanging above the bar and when I casually mentioned to the barmaid that at the Daly Waters public house and a few other high class inns the local custom was to offer up a brassiere should one be near to hand she quickly decamped in a fit of modesty (especially when I suggested that she might like to kick start the new tradition) - the large fellow with her thought is was a capital idea.....



    Anyway, we finally made it to Hwange a few hours later than planned and with a quick refill or ten at the main camp my driver decided it was time to go check out the animals -the good wet season had created a lot of tall feed and so the animals were fairly scarce. Probably, lucky because the state we were in it is highly likely that he would have been offering cans to the lions......

    Not much around other than giraffe, but they have their charm:



    Did eventually get to Khulu Lodge in fine shape and it didn't disappoint.

    There were the usual comforts:







    And a new "old camp Defender" to tool around in:



    As noted the game was a bit scarce this year, but it made a lot of noise at night - as did I......

    This is a daytime shot of the sundowner pit above the dam:



    The first small hole also has a lick and under normal circumstances there would be anything up to 10 or so bull ellies standing there in the early evening while another 40 to 50 females and younger animals would be hanging around the larger dam. The small log seems a fairly insignificant barrier when they are there - 2:00am on the my last night and I couldn't be bothered getting out my camera.

    All good stuff and like a good Famous Five story the adventure came to an end for another time - might be more about next year.

    Cheers,

    Neil
    Last edited by S3ute; 4th February 2016 at 12:57 AM.

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