An Interesting Day

August 25, 2016 - Thohoyandou, South Africa



August 25


Today has been a very long but very interesting day.


We were up before sunrise as we had to be at the Reception area by 7 to meet our guide. And the drive from our camp is a good 45 minutes.  Added to our woes was the fact that there was no water at all in the camp this morning.  We think elephants may have stomped on the pipes that feed the camp.  We certainly heard them carrying on last night – lots of trumpeting and squealing.  We also heard lions and hyenas and monkeys and baboons shouting at each other.


The drive to Mapungupwe Hill was lovely in the early morning light.  Beautiful bushveld with great sandstone outcrops and huge ancient baobabs dotted around.  We saw zebra, Oryx, impala, elephant, warthogs while driving along.


Then the walk to the top with an excellent commentary by our very able guide, Cedric, who explained the geology of the area as well as how the archaeological site on top of the hill was discovered and all the remarkable finds that were made on top of the hill. (By the way, the walk included a climb if 147 steps to the top).  This is the first recorded history of a class society in Southern Africa, where royalty lived on top of the hill and commoners lived at the bottom.  The settlement at the top was sustained by women bringing loads of soil and water to the top in order to cultivate crops on the top.  Heaven knows what the men were doing.  Hunting, I suppose.  The soil that was carted all the way up the hill was deep enough by the time they had finished to dig graves and bury the dead.  The remains that were dug up and studied were recently reinterred with all due ceremony, the reinterral being attended by local royalty all who claim to be descendants of these original inhabitants of this area.  The views from on top of the hill are stunning and it is a kind of mystical place – all the evidence of these ancient people who just upped and left in about 1250.  Nobody seems to know why.


After this early morning start we were met by our men and headed off to the restaurant for breakfast before taking a drive to the banks of the Limpopo.  We came across a herd of elephants and found ourselves in the middle of them with some of the youngsters trumpeting and bellowing at us.  So what to do?  We decided to slowly move forwards and then just around the corner we met a large lady elephant who just stood and stared at us. All we could do was wait for her and hope she would move on, which she did.  A little scary, I must say.


There is an amazing treetop boardwalk in the canopy of the riverine forest along the banks of the Limpopo.  Beautiful views across the flood plain of the river which is just about a trickle at the moment.  Looking across the river from the boardwalk one is looking at Botswana.  Goodness knows why there are border posts – cattle and a huge troop of baboons were wandering across the river from one country to the other so there doesn’t seem to be any reason why people shouldn’t do the same.


Then further along we came to the confluence of the Shashe River and the Limpopo.  This is the point where 3 countries meet.  Standing in South Africa, one can see Botswana and Zimbabwe.  The rivers were both very low, but their flood plains are very, very wide.  The Shashe is just a series of pools at the moment and the Limpopo is running but only just.  I gather this is the end if the dry season – I’d love to see this when the rivers are in spate.


At this point we also met several groups of local primary school children who all wanted to have their pictures taken with us.  They were all wildly exuberant, but very friendly, all wanting to shake hands and hug us.  Such a delight.  I think our white faces were something unusual for them, and that is why they wanted photos of us with them.


Tonight the others have gone on a night drive, but we are spending a quiet evening in the camp.


Tomorrow we split up – all going home our own way.  We’ve had a wonderful trip together and already talking about the next one.


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