A bit more conservation and off to St Lucia (SA)

I awoke one day with a likening of this park to that of hiking Griffith Park in California.  Griffith Park is a beautiful place to hike with good hills and lovely trails, but it is tightly hugged and encroached upon by humanity in every direction without a chance to expand.  There is nature there, but it must all deal with the crowding and constant presence of humanity around every turn.  Yes, it’s wild, but in a limited way.  So Mkuse and the other parks in South Africa are in a more confined world than ideal.  Here in South Africa folks have encroached everywhere and affected nature so severely over time.  Then at some point caring folks came seeing small pockets of nature that is left and set out to protect it before it is all gone.  The result are a series of smaller fenced and semi-fenced parks and private reserves.  It’s lovely that as much is preserved as possible, but sad that the animals can no longer migrate by natures plan.  Spreading of gene pools is not by nature’s design but by humans as hunting continues often taking the best of the herds, relocation is a regular occurrence to keep the numbers in each park as healthy as possible, but often splitting families who otherwise would have stayed together, and contraception whereby female elephants are darted with a hormone so they can only be impregnated 1/2 as often as they would in nature.


It’s all a strange and eye-opening thing… bitter-sweet to say the least, but a good thing if we are to have wildlife for future generations to know.  After my time in Botswana in such vast reserves and national parks where animals can spend most of their lives without encountering humans, and the humans who do visit are few and normally quite respectful of the fragile nature they enter.  I miss the connection with nature I had there and the open hearted folks I had the great honor of sharing that experience with.  I try in the tiny pockets of time on the truck to connect in some way and honor the nature around me.  I apologize to the herds of animals for the intrusion into their world as we seem to constantly fly past them in our old squeaky truck and hope in some way my thoughts will reach them letting them know the necessity of the trucks is to protect them from other humans.


21 March~

A lot of early mornings, this morning was no exception with a 3:30am take off time.  It was successful though as we had a good sighting of the dogs, being able to count all 20 as they trotted in front of us along the red dirt road.  The mornings are lovely as are the evenings, but the days are hot and the sun quite intense.  Some of the roads are fun to drive along winding away through brush and trees as through Mr Toad were driving after a few cups of coffee.  It’s fun, but again we are loud and most often inconsiderate toward the other animals in the park.  After the dogs consumed a large animal they’d easily taken down in the river bed, it was time for them to settle in for the day, so we took off to search for the lions and cheetah, without much success aside from the occasional beep on the receiver.  Having bee out for 8 hours with one flat tire and a good dog sighting, the rest of the hours were just sitting in the truck as the staff monitors and intern did the tracking.  I feel so much like a load of useless baggage.  I believe the work being done by this Wildlife project is truly upstanding and I respect with the three guys who founded it have done to protect the endangered animals of this area of South Africa… and new expanding elsewhere.  Having a volunteer program is a good way to keep some funds trickling in to pay for the staff and vehicles as well.  Unfortunately, I’ve ended up on a team of three and with 3 volunteers beyond that, both of whom have volunteered here before, I’ve been excluded from most of what little work there is for us and have to go out of my way daily to partake as much as I can, namely a few tracking sessions, but that is often usurped by the staff to get the job done quicker… so the volley’s sit and go for the ride.


On Monday, I’ll head to St Lucia to take advantage of that get-away and hope to find a descent internet connection to connect with things and solidify some future plans.  It’s a nice thing on offer from the program  in the midst of so many long days (usually about 7-8 hours in the morning and around 4-5 hours each evening).

24 March ~ Day in St Lucia

Evening boat cruise to see hippos and relax on the estuary waters as the sun set… ahhh….

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* Happy happy, Joy joy!  It’s still morning as I start writing and I’ve already had two beautiful experiences… something I realized was kinda missing in Mkuse for me personally.  First thing I awoke after a lovely rain storm last night to a crystal clear morning beaconing me out for a walk.  I waited until the sun was up a bit to give the hippos time to return to the water after their nighttime grazings.  There is a road from here to walk through lush forest filled with birds of many sorts and tall trees canopying the way.  Drips fall off the wet leaves cooling my skin a bit amid the growing humidity of the day.  A couple miles walk felt fantastic after being confined to either a camp or a bumping off road vehicle over the past month.  Thank goodness for yoga to keep my bones from stiffening too much, but there is not often a good time or place for much of that with thorns covering the ground, scorpions lurking and long days starting about 4am.

At the end of the road is a turn off for walkers along a raised boardwalk along the estuary edge that keeps a person as safe as can be from the crocodiles that call this lovely place home.  No one else is around, so I enjoy the company of tiny crabs, various birds and an occasional squirrel.  Hippos honk away not far from me, I check to see they are in the water and not somewhere I’d be in their way.  Eventually, the boardwalk ends and the beach begins.  A long wide strand of sand and dunes across which hales the mighty Indian Ocean.  I remove my flip flops and feel the grainy sand beneath my feet and the Earth beginning to reinvigorate my soul.  The ocean sounds are inspiring and call me forth.  I arrive and my feet meet the cool ocean waters flowing up the steep shoreline.  I let out an audible “ahhhh….”  Suddenly feeling reconnected and at peace.  The beach looks to be a couple miles in length flanked by huge old dunes now covered in vegetation.  There may be 3 other people sharing the beach, it is a delight to every fiber of my being in that moment.  I sit for a while and watch the timid ghost crabs peek out of their holes and rush around finding food before any slight disturbance sends them rushing back to safety.

I smile from the inside out, breathe deeply and calmly and let the moment nourish my soul again.  Eventually, my stomach overrides my moment and I start my way back toward the backpackers where I’m staying for some breaky.   Hippos are honking, guinea foul lead me along, a squirrel watches me and the trees dance away in the soft breeze.  Pink backed pelicans can be seen on a shoal in the estuary.  My heart pumps a bit, my legs feel free… I’m so happy to be walking again.

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Happy happy #2 of the morning.  After breaky, I head to the local Spar market to see if I can find a small brush to clean my hat and fingers crossed, the odd South African adaptor for my electronics, as there is only that huge 3 round pegged plug option here (usually a 2 pin option is available).  Even REI doesn’t seem to carry such a fitting.  I enter the cool air conned store and find a perfect soft bristled brush, then head to the next isle and find not one, but many options for adapters including one with a universal “female” end!  I stare at it in disbelief, I grow giddy in side, I can’t believe after so much searching at the airport and such, that there is a large bin of various adaptors right there in front of me… wow!  I consider buying 2 because I’m so thrilled and wonder if I’ll run into someone in my travels who may find themselves in need as I have been and would be able to share.   Not only is it the right male end, but the female end is a universal… what luck!  I want to jump up and down right there in the store.  I wonder if it’s too good to be true and rush back to my tented cabin and Pip’s Backpackers to see if it actually works, as I’ve purchased similar things elsewhere that were merely teases.  I pug in… the moment of truth!  My computer charging light comes to life, it works!!!!  Happy happy, joy joy!  Sometimes it’s the littles things in life that bring such jubilation!


Ok, now I can calmly go about looking at options to fill my upcoming two weeks that are now available.  I check TripAdvisor for hiking opportunities in Cape Town and find there are plenty and all with nothing but 5-star ratings… yippee… I’ll be hiking again soon I hope!   As for the rest of the day, it’s off to enjoy, buy fresh local pineapple, avocado and mango for the gang back in the bush and perhaps take another walk.  I’ll head back to the project for the remainder of the week tomorrow morning.


Categories: Africa

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