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Reisverslag Backpacking through Loskopdam - English
1 april 2014
Backpacking through Loskopdam - English
So last weekend a colleague and I were invited to go on a backpacking trip through the restricted areas of the Loskopdam Nature reserve, with a guide of course. The nature, the whole scenery for that matter, was beautiful. The mountains, the animals ( which we haven’t seen in large amounts up close ), the plants and the weather. Juul ( the colleague I went on this trip with ) and I where invited by Pieter, the coordinator of the volunteers of several places in the Hartbeespoortdam area. We went together with his wife, Isabele, her brother ( or atleast a relative ) Alberto and the volunteers Rachel ( from the USA ) and Lisa ( From Norway? ) We picked up our guide, and friend of Pieter, Albert near Hartbeespoort. He hopped into the car and we left for Loskop. The ride took us right about 3 hours, give or take fifteen minutes. We stopped at the pub/bar/café at the edge of the reserve for lunch, a platter of fried foods, soggy fries and a “spicy” sauce. It was delicious, but you can’t walk on it. When we finished the meal we got back into the car and went on our way to the reserve. We crossed the bridge and the first creature we spot is a large Lizard. I got out of the car to take a picture but it spotted me and dashed off…quicker then I could imagine of such things. So I got back into the car, disappointed, and shortly after we reached the location where the boat was waiting for us. We took our bags, after a quick stretching of the cramped legs, and gave them to the guys in one of the boats. They where going first and we would follow to the drop-off point. We met our speedboat captain, Collin, who would take us towards the drop-off point after a quick chat. Soon enough we we’re all inside the speedboat and on our way. The scenery was perfect! The mountains where a sight to behold and the sky was clear blue.
When we almost reached the drop-off point, where the other boat was already “docked”. Albert advised us to take off our shoes and walk the first few meters on barefoot, because we couldn’t get to dry land from the point we “docked”. The thing is, I was wearing army boots and if you know what I’m talking about those things are a hell to put on but a lot worse to take off. So I decided to not take off my shoes and just walk straight towards the first dry spot I could find. I stepped into the waters but I reached dry land without even getting wet feet. Good thing I polished them until they were water resistant! Ha!
When everybody got to dry land safely, and after putting their shoes back on, Collin dropped our bags a few meters away on edge ( luckily on dry land! ) Albert got his rifle and ammunition and once everybody was with saddled their backpacks we where ready to set off. Collin left, the other boat left and Albert said with a grimace “There goes your last chance, hope we don’t run into anything hungry.” We walked off into the bush and were looking for a open space with lots of shade to get our briefing from Albert. Not very long after we set off we found a good spot underneath a Sickle bush tree, a thorned acacia like tree. Albert told us to get comfortable and he began to tell us what to do and what not to do within the upcoming days of hiking. He told us about the snakes they got slithering around Loskopdam, what they look like and what types of venom they have. He also told us the African “joke” or instruction about what to do when bitten by a Black Mamba : “Once you’re bitten, go sit in the shade of a tree. A corpse doesn’t rot that quickly there.” Dark, African humour ( No pun-intended on dark African ) He also told us what to do when we encounter dangerous animals like the brown hyena, leopard, buffalo and rhino. He informed us about the protocol : “When we run into something dangerous, do not run around. Drop your bags and walk or stand still. Do as I say and you’ll be fine. Just do not run around because I do not want you running in my line of sight if I have to use my rifle.” Simple and clear. Also, we where not allowed to look on our cellphones or watches. This was to make the whole bush-experience more…primitive? I liked it, but my cellphone was already without battery…so…yea…
After the briefing we went on our way. We had to walk a few kilometres before we were setting up a campsite. So we had to dodge the acacia branches that where hanging dangerously low and every now and then Lisa or Rachel or anyone else got stuck in the thorns. They also did a good job on scratching the inflatable mattress I was carrying. But we had been “walking” through the acacia thickets for atleast an hours ( I think ) before we reached a large flood area. This was quite spectacular to see because it was a very wide, and long, area where the water was going slowly down the mountain slope. Large boulders and rocks, covered with big plucks of grass, made up the terrain and made it very tricky. You had to step from rock to rock or risk going straining your ankle. The water looked like it was covered with a small film-layer of oil, or fuel but when I asked Albert he told us that it was a mineral, or element, washed out of the rocks and together with oxygen and water made a chemical reacting to form the harmless ( not flammable… ) layer on top of the water. After crossing through the flood area we found ourselves in another acacia thicket, exactly what’s boosting your morale : Needles in your face. We were making our way down the mountain slope towards the lake again. It wasn’t long before we reached a potential spot in an acacia thicket on the shoreline. Shoreline has to be taken lightly, it was not a beach, it was not next to the ocean or sea, but I couldn’t come up with a better explanation. We dropped our bags and set up our camp. Juul and I were tasked with gathering stones for the campfire and the others had to look for firewood. The rocks were gathered quickly, buuuuut the firewood was gathered 2 sticks at a time. So Juul and I helped with gathering more firewood. Albert was busy making an emergency shelter, just in case it might pour down on us that night. In the meantime, after all the firewood was gathered and people were preparing their beds, I was looking at the lake. It was a sight to see, perfect blue sky with mountains set against them like the perfect postcard, oh yea, there was a beautiful lake right in front of me as well. I stood there for quite some time and saw a few animals, amongst them was the African fish eagle, some Herons, Cormorants and a Pied kingfisher. But soon enough the fire was lit and my stomach was calling out for food so I went back.
The sun went down pretty quick and before you even know it it’s dark, so I had to roll, and inflate, my mattress in the dark. Suddenly we heard this loud, hoarse breathing just a few meters from out campsite. So I thought, big baboon, but Albert said : “That’s a leopard, a big male. That’s it’s contact call.” So yea, we’ve been watched by a big male leopard for a few minutes, pretty awesome. The rest of the night was quite uneventful, animal activity speaking. We cooked our diner, or Albert did. We made “askoek” Ashcake? Ashcookies? and it’s very simple : make a big fire, get some good coals out of it and throw your meat directly onto the coal. It’s delicious. We also made bread on a stick. It was a sticky, gluey disaster, but, atleast the bread had a distinctive alcoholic after taste. Albert also made Banana-rum flambé. That recipe is also very simple : Get a pan, throw a lot of butter into it. Let it boil ( or melt whatever ), get some bananas cut them vertically then throw them in with a lot of sugar, cinnamon and let it simmer. When it’s mushy, throw the rum in, a lot. Wait a moment before lighting it on fire and ( depending on how big of a rum fan you are ) blow it out after 3 seconds. Albert said it would do the trick, but the banana-rum flambé turned into Rum-banana flambé. It was outstanding! I want to make it myself…I think I’m addicted now. Haha.
We also watched some stars and Albert showed us the constellations of Orion, Taurus ( Partially ) and Canus Major and Minor ( also partially ). He also showed us how to find north with the use of Orion’s arrow. There was also something going on with a giant school of catfish hunting smaller fish, that was funny to watch.
The next morning was great, the best night of sleep I think I ever had in my life. I woke up to a fresh mug of Dutch coffee, Albert had found some Douwe Egberts powdered coffee. Good stuff. And after some initial wake up problems with some people everybody was packing their stuff and we left somewhere around 7, I think? It wasn’t very light by that time so I think 7 is accurate.
Our goal for the second day was to walk towards the river, dump our backpacks and walk upstream to the waterfall. Then we would walk back, gather our stuff and hike towards the extraction point.
We went on our way quickly after that but we walked through acacia bushes and low trees for a while before we reached a vast open area of eroded land. Deep gullies cut through the whole place and small eroded streams came down the mountain and into the thicket. It was awesome to see the evidence of a destructive force of nature. I made great pictures, deceptive ones as well, but it’s how you look at it. Literally. We also, to my disgust, found a few large spiders. One is the Golden Orb spider, with has yellow/golden cobwebs in which even humans can get stuck, or atleast annoyingly sticky. It’s a spider the size of my fist…with long needle like legs and bah, it’s disgusting. I got pictures. We also found the butterspider, but that one was almost at the waterfall and not in the eroded field. But it had a large carapace, it’s bah.
The walk towards the river was one of dodging acacia branches either by squatting down and moving in a crouch or, how Alberto did it, by hooking them behind other branches so you don’t have to put any effort in dodging them. Very clever. But Albert suddenly squatted down and told us to do the same. He removed his backpack and grabbed his rifle and binoculars. He told us to stay put because he thought there was a buffalo on the other side of the thicket. They are notorious for surprise attacks and premeditated ambushes. So it was wise to follow his advice and stick together. Albert moved closer and stopped every few steps to look. Eventually he came back and told us it was gone and he had no idea what it was. So with caution we moved on towards the river.
It wasn’t that far, but it took us a long time to get through the acacias and other needle shrubs. Finally we reached the river, dropped our bags and found a zebra skull. Big one, beautiful. We, well actually Pieter, found a baby chameleon. It was no bigger than the small leaf it was sitting on! It was so cool to see one of them, but the bigger, mature specimens, are more awesome. Just because it’s big. After some deserved relaxation we followed the river upstream towards the waterfall, without bags. It was a relief to finally drop that thing! But I haven’t complained the whole weekend about that annoying thing. The water was delicious and fresh, pure mineral water! Albert ensured us it was no longer than half an hour of walking towards the waterfall. Well…we’ve been stepping from, over and past large boulders, through the water, alongside the steep riverbank and through the bush for some hours, not just half an hour. Albert admitted, finally, that it was longer then he could remember. But it was okay, the landscape was perfect and beautiful and although the sky was gray and thick with clouds it was perfect. It was silent, calming and beautiful. After encountering the butterspider, a few giant grasshoppers and lizards we finally arrived at the waterfall. Which was the point where I dropped my camera, well…my mother’s camera ( sorry mom ) onto a rock and followed by a watery grave in the rapids. So now I’m without a camera, but I did safe all the pictures.
I took some well deserved relaxation by washing my face in the waters and then dropping onto the nearest rock along side the rapids.
When I woke up I was covered with dragonflies, mayflies, butterflies, a few moths and those large black flies, that was quite interesting. The small nap did me some good because my legs felt relaxed. After another break with the others everybody filled their canteens and water bottles and we went back towards our backpacks. Juul, Lisa and I went back through the stream, because that was just awesome. I slipped only once, almost broke my ankle and got my right foot wet…and just for the sake of symmetry I submerged my left foot as well. Because I can. We found a spitting cobra hidden under a rock and Juul almost got sprayed on. But we reached our bags without further incident. I took off my boots and let them dry until the others arrived.
We took another break at the bags, but just a short one so I could dry my feet, my boots and fetch some fresh socks.
The last part of the second day was quite easy. There was a wide animal trail going through the bush that we could follow with ease. We saw some Wildebeasts, Impalas, Kudus a baboon and the creature we made up : The carnivorous Loskop Impala…don’t ask… somewhere along the way Albert called Collin to bring some beers and ciders with him when he came to get us. Not long after that we walked onto a large slab of stone that stretched into the water. The sight was, once again, beautiful. It was also rewarding, some sort of finality. We saw another African fish eagle here and also a mature Goliath Heron. We didn’t have to wait long for Collin to arrive, but he docked forty meters away so we had to pick up everything again and walk all the way towards the other side of the rock, climb down and into the boat. Lucky he had a good cider to make up for it. It is one of the most rewarding things to end a long day of walking with a good cider and a nice boat trip it was ( and I’m going to say it AGAIN ) perfect. ( deal with it haha, this is my blog ) After a short boatrip we practically docked into a bunch of hyacinths and had to step on a large log to get to dry land. We had to walk another fifty meters to get to the base-camp and I must say I felt like guerrilla the moment I saw that camp! It was so freaking awesome! In the middle of the bush, no lights in sight, no civilisation, no nothing! It was just a few tents, sanitary buildings and three wooden huts. The main hut was a bar/pub/restaurant? With a large walkway that stretched for a few meters with tables and ( soft ) benches. It was the most prefect spot to spend your spare time! It was silent, it was green, it was nowhere near anything! After the welcome talk to the camp everybody went to do their own things, the girls went showering ( haha ) Juul went to the shower as well ( haha ) and I went about the hateful job to try and repair my ( mother’s ) camera. ( haha ) It is beyond reparations…the recording microchip was broken but atleast the memory-stick was still in one piece and functioning.
I dropped my stuff in the tent Juul, Albert and I shared. It was an eight-person bunk bed tent. And those mattresses where just wonderful after a night on the ground and a long day on your feet! When I came back to the main hut they were serving diner, a buffet of Boerewors, “Pizza” or actually a large portion of pepers, other spicy stuff, veggies on a dough bottom, some sauces and green beans. It was delicious but the “pizza” was so hot I thought for a moment I would either throw up or never eat again. After diner I was too tired to stay up, since I had a few drinks by then already, but when I left I was called back by Albert. I slumped back, annoyed because I wanted to sleep, but I saw he was holding a large bottle of alcohol and shot-glasses. Apparently each of us had broken one of his rules and we were ought to take a punishment. The so called Strafdop was given to each of us, he told everybody what he, or she, did wrong. Juul was singing to much, Lisa didn’t talk to enough, Rachel…did something wrong but I can’t remember, Alberto was on his phone when he told us not to and I was well…actually wrong in more ways, I was talking to much, singing, making noise, asking question whatever…so I deserved that punishment haha! Well it was a good thing to get to sleep. The bed I was laying in was so comfortable! I slept for a few hours before waking up…and falling back to sleep again.
The next morning was scheduled for a walk in the early dawn. So at 7 we left for a walk. It was just around the camp but we’d walked for a few hours, looking for rhinos…we found none. We did find tracks, and we got very close to it, but we haven’t seen him, she, it. What we did see was a giant spider, I think it was either another Golden Orb or a Butter spider…I don’t know I was to grossed out to identify it. I was larger, or just as large as my face and it’s web spanned 6 meters, atleast. I also spotted a large herd of Buffalo in the valley below, Juul spotted a couple of waterbucks and Lisa spotted a few Zebras. Once again the scenery was amazing and it was a shame our walk came to an end because we had to pack up and leave.
It was a wonderful weekend, I came back relaxed, rested and with a feeling of accomplishment. I walked through a restricted area, with a guide and great people, I took great pictures, I enjoyed Africa’s nature and slept in it as well. It is something I will never forget, it was amazing!
Photos will have to wait, since I did not upload this blog at a bar or whatever, so I will be putting them up ASAP.
1 april 2014 20:44 | Door: Peter
Ademloos je verhaal gelezen. Je moet een boek gaan schrijven! Gr. P