I’m hardly complaining. I’ve never been quite so unprepared to go away on a trip as this one, with my work backed up by weeks, following, first, the happy mania of Hifa, and then, the culmination of two years’ regular work that poses inescapable press deadlines for 52 weeks a year — the very recent, Restaurants of the Year Awards 2009 and 2010.
I knew I’d be needing a break badly but it crept up out of nowhere and just bit me! So once again in full blind-panic-mode and completely unable to let go, with a series of insanely late nights to try to be halfway ready to leave with clear conscience, I just had to bring the work with me — right into this paradise place — somewhere, through which, I’ve always wanted to hike! A hastily booked last minute vehicle service.
As usual, we got on the road three hours later than planned. So, we arrived at Stop One — Tshipise — exceedingly late and long after dark, but with a thankfully rapid border crossing. I love the scenery on the trip to Beitbridge, those massive whaleback mountains rising like heavily obese and benevolent sentinels out of nothing at all.
The Bridge was a rapid, pleasant surprise, the quaint anecdote of the evening being the hundreds of tiny quelias who have taken to roosting in one of the fever trees outside the SA border complex inside the courtyard, who took us quite by surprise as we entered, bedraggled, road-tired and by then, just dying to get to destination and flop down on a bed. Their incessant chattering, burbling and muttering to themselves and each other as they settled for another night’s safe sleep, attracted our attention to this small but pleasing phenomenon which no doubt entertains many more passers-through than just ourselves!
We had a good look and with hastily acquired permission lest we be detained for untoward photography, attempted some pictures, though from below they look more like seed pods than birds!
Tshipise is an ideal laid-back stopping-off haven on the way “down south” to wherever — lurking in the hot spring pools, one cannot possibly fail to relax and unwind and an ascent of the large “Tshipise Kopje” which dominates the area is relatively easy, and enjoyable and there’s game to be seen, and signs of it, both up the hill and below in the game park. This I managed to squeeze, with fellow traveller Ian, between squashing in some more nail-bitingly overdue work!
We stopped off in Louis Trichardt for a “quick shop” — and made the mistake of actually going into Trappers. Trappers is one of those shops catering for lovers of the great outdoors, where one can easily spend an entire day — and close to an entire month’s salary — on things designed for outdoorsy people that they simply can’t resist even though they’re entirely unnecessary. Yes, they got us. All of us.
Three of us set out on the Leopard Trail, a stunning four-hour round trip through fabulous terrain, with wonderful vistas of the Canyon throughout. Ian the Bird Man was satisfied. Lots of interesting birds to spot around here, including a “Lifer” — being a Chorister Robin-chat.
For me and Sarah, most of the birds were new! My joy of the day, though, beyond the fantastic views, was following the trail of Porcupine Poo — and porcupine scratchings and diggings, which were intermittently to be found, all the way along the route. My latest bush craft project is finding “signs of the wild” and working out what creatures are frequenting the area — a developing skill I’m passing immediately down to the next generation via my nieces and nephew. In addition and without any doubt, we found leopard droppings. The trail is well- named!