Coerced by the lodge owner into taking a boat out on the lake, we naively thought that we had a good chance of seeing game on the banks of the Limpopo National Park. Unfortunately all that was to be seen was the rather too frequently-spotted Mozambican farmer and his family accompanied by herds of grazing cattle. The lodge owner explained that while the Mozambican government relocates the farmers to land outside of the park, more farmers simply move in to replace those that have left. We had mixed emotions about this as the people occupying the land are desperately poor and merely seeking to grow a crop that can feed their families. However, the impact of their presence has had a devastating effect on game in the area. Coupled with the fact that the town of Massingir is known as the gateway to Kruger for Mozambican poachers, we found ourselves feeling rather unsettled by the energy of this area and keen to move on quickly. Driving through the Limpopo National Park we came across villages dotted along the road, evidence of further encroachment into what is supposed to be a conservation area. Feeling somewhat relieved to reach the Giriyondo border post, we were happy to learn that plans are in place to re-erect the boundary fence between these two parks.
Camping in Kruger National Park
After three months of having successfully evaded living in a tent, this was the moment of truth. As we had undeniably entered a land dominated by the Toyota Fortuner, our little Suzuki Jimny drew much attention on our arrival at Letaba camp. With every seasoned camper, oom and tannie in the surrounding area curiously looking on, we began to unpack and set up. It wasn’t long before a few people sauntered over to have a chat with us, undoubtedly impressed by the volume of gear that we had managed to fit into Jimny and curious to know more about the modifications that we had made to the vehicle. One chap in particular took an interest in Jimny’s efficient fuel consumption and our ability to travel with only the necessary essentials. He complained bitterly about the amount of fuel that his vehicle guzzled as well as the additions that he had been forced by his wife to install which included a built in kitchen and ensuite bathroom complete with granite surface tops. Somewhat puzzled by this information, all was explained to us when he pointed over to a large truck that can only be described as the “starship enterprise” of overland vehicles. In comparison to its enormous bulk, our Jimny was nothing more than a little moon buggy and was confirmed as such when the man went on to say that he often tows a Jimny behind his truck for the occasional excursion! Kruger never disappoints and over a week we made our way up to Punda Maria and had some fantastic game sightings. Our time spent camping in Kruger also gave us the opportunity to become familiar with the stealth like ways of vervet monkeys after a significant portion of our food supply was snatched up by these little thieves. While we were warned to keep an eye out for belligerent baboons raiding the camp, we didn’t expect to be outsmarted by a bushbuck that distracted us with big “bambi” eyes before hoofing off with a bundle of spinach leaves.
A short stop at Polokwane to see to Jimny’s next service and we were on our way to Mapungubwe, close to the Botswana border. Sprawling with baobab trees, the iconic African symbol that we knew we would see so much of during our travels, this area has much to offer including a rich archeological history centered around the famous discovery of the golden rhino. Led by a guide we made our way up to the top of Mapungubwe Hill where a tribal King had reigned over his kingdom during the Iron Age period. Much evidence remains hinting at the culture and day-to-day life of the people that occupied the area, which much to Gary’s amusement, included having all the woman continuously carry bags of soil up the hill to replace that which was eroded away. If you’re not one for history, the area is still worth a visit for the spectacular views and quiet tranquility that you will experience while watching herds of game below. Despite the rather lavish lifestyle that this royal family would have enjoyed given the era in which they reigned, we descended the hill with a new found appreciation for our cosy campsite and tent.