Touch the earth!! Pilanesburg Reserve

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Scooter
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Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:05 pm

I was called by a friend who is 60yrs old and has climbed Mount Kili and various other mountains and he invited me to join him on a hike called 'Touch the earth'.
Not knowing anything about it, I asked, and to my surprise it consisted of hiking throught the Pilanesburg Game Reserve and sleeping under the stars.
A resounding "hell yes" I can still hear myself saying. After a few questions and a bit of shopping, I was ready to take up the challenge.

We left for Pilanesbrg the morning of 23rd September 2006 and arrived at the main gate around 10am. We found our guides waiting for us and off we went.
We drove to where our "camp" (read piece of ground) was going to be and off loaded the vehicles.
Our guides then proceeded to drive the vehicles away and walk back to the camp. This we were told was to make sure we got into the groove of being in the bush, after all it is called "Touch the earth". Picture 10 people, no cars, 2 guides and 1 rifle.

Now for most people sitting on holiday having no car around is great, but when in a game reserve that has all 'BIG 5' it gets a little more intense.
Non the less we set up our matresses, as that is all there is to set up. Had a bit to eat and set off on our first hike. The option we took for this particular weekend was the fixed base camp, as it meant we didnt have to carry as much when hiking.

While hiking we encountered various species of buck, warthog, giraffe and of course white rhino. The guides are very well informed and most do this as a love for the outdoors and have stable jobs in the real world. Anyway, they tell you all sorts of interesting things about the animals and the vegetation. You will stop and watch the sun, learn about trees, track spoor etc. We came across what looked like an opening in the veld and well it was, but on the ground read the tale of a mother rhino with her calf, having a sand bath. You could clearly see the layout, which you would have missed had you not looked.

On our way back to camp we came across a white rhino, who didnt seem to like the fact that we were there but with a bit of patience and a lot of silence and NO movement from us, it moved on and we were all the wiser that day. We were educated on how to react if in various situations as chaos could reign if a level head is not kept. We arrived back at camp after a 4 hour hike and sat down to enjoy a pot of chicken pasta for dinner. The food is catered for, even though you may have to help in the cooking or fire making etc.

After dinner, we sat and spoke about the days events and of course discussed the main topic "who does night watch?". Nightwatch was divided between all of us, and as it turned out we each had 1 hour to do each night. What would happen is, everyone goes to bed except the first watchman. They would sit and keep watch and after an hour they would wake the next person and so on. The guides said that in the event of an elephant or lion walking through the camp, we were to let him sleep. :lol:

For me this was not a problem and i took the 2-3 am shift for both nights. For the ladies it was better that their husband/boyfriend etc sat with them, or you may have found yourself left in the bush. :lol:

The next morning we had brekkie and packed up our lunch and water, day packs are all that needed. Off we set in the opposite direction to the previous day. We hiked and as the first day we viewed some beautiful animals and took in some breathe taking views. Unfortunately I didnt have a camera with me so there are no photos and I was quite glad to just sit and watch and enjoy the silence.

Coming up to lunch we were coming down a moountain where there happened to be a clearing and the guide was about to start telling us about a warthog burrow when one of the other guys whispered and pointed, well we all nearly had to change our pants. Standing not 30M away was a black rhino, the more agressive of the two rhino species. It was so well camouflaged behind a small bush. We stood still as the guide moved away from us to take the rhinos attention away. Rhinos have a personal space that you do not want to step into. This means that as we stood there, this rhino was deciding whether to charge or not. fortunately for us, it decided we were not worth the effort and off it went.

After this close encounter of the animal kind, we felt it necessary to enjoy a bit of lunch, while watching a herd of giraffe make their way across the landscape.
We sat for an hour and discussed all sorts, being told stories by the guides, stories that would make you shiver, stories of lions and rhinos charging.
While with the guides you feel quite safe, but you are never completely at ease with knowing that around any corner there could be a lion waiting to eat you.
Yet, on you hike and lets face it, you wouldnt be there if you didnt want, in some weird way, to come across a lion or two.

We didnt get the chance to see them but we did hear them. After a full day of hiking we sat enjoying sundowners (on a mountain we had to climb to get to the top of, as if a full days hike wasnt enough) and then sat around the campfire having a braai and swopping stories, listening to the calls of animals and insects alike. Time for bed came fairly early as hiking in the heat takes it out of you. On my watch at 2 oclock in the morning, I sat listening to the trees, only to find that it was a herd of elephant, walking in the dry river bed, not 50M away from me. I just sat watching, listening, they are too amazing animals.

The monday morning came and brekkie was served, we went for a walk and then enjoyed a lesuirely drive back to JHB with an experience that will never be forgotten.

"TOUCH THE EARTH"
"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

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Fri Nov 09, 2007 4:25 pm

Thanks for sharing with us.

Like I said, this is on my to do list for next year
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Fri Nov 09, 2007 7:05 pm

Scooter,

Sounds like you had a great time! :P

To all those contemplating doing this sort of thing please print out & sign the following:

"In the event of me being killed by a stampeding buffalo, or charged by a rhino, or eaten by a lion or any other carnivorous creature, carried away by giant bugs or mozzies, I hereby bequeath my Hilux to F_D, who will lovingly care for it and promises to wash it every week and say a Prayer of thanks to me for being so thoughtful before my desire to meet with my Maker was factual."


-F_D
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Niel
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Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:07 pm

Scott this sound like my type of thing. Do you have more detail on where to book ...... if you still have it can you please PM it to me. Looking at heading in that direction next year of a week or two.

Eric, good one

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Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:39 am

I once listened to a presentation by a guy named Ian Thomas (author of the book "The Power of the Pride".

He told this story:

He was employed by a tour operator that was testing out a new safari opportunity to market. It involved taking some overseas guest (you know those rich yankies that come on these big wild African safari) on bicycle safaris into the wild.

During the briefing section beforehand someone asked them how they protect themselves against the Lions. He told them that they issue each visitor with a set of silver bells to ward off the lions and also some pepper spray for protection if the lions still decide to attack.

Later on in the briefing they discussed examining the dung of animals to determine their species and size. Then one of the visitors asked him how they would know if the dung from a lion belongs to a cub or a big male.

He said it is easy, you look at the texture of the dung and also smell it. If the dung contains little silver bells and smell like pepper, it is from a large mail lion.

He then received a warning from the Tour Operator that employed him. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :wink:

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Scooter
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Mon Nov 12, 2007 6:42 am

Eric, I think that's the best offer I have had, SWAMBO would be quite happy to say goodbye to it. (LAND..... fanatic, poor misguided soul)

Niel, take a look at the website. It tells you more and gives contact details etc. They do it all year round as far as I know but be warned, it might not be so cool to go in the rainy season. (not that it rains much up there)

http://www.touchtheearth.co.za/main.htm

The cost when I went was R600. This included 3 meals per day, fresh water, thin matress for sleeping on.

The only things I took were : Sleeping bag & pillow, clothes (not many), daypack (with camel pack or bottles for water, juice etc), a few beers for around the fire at night, snacks for during the day (energy bars, biltong, sweets, nuts etc). In september it isnt to cold but it can get cold at night so make sure your sleeping bag can take it. Sleep in your clothes because you will be getting up during the night to take watch.

If you have a problem with watching the scenery when nature calls, take imodium to block yourself up :lol: Most woman tend to do this as they would rather not have someone standing guard either. There are no showers so be prepared to be dirty fo a few days. This is not so bad as every one smells the same. Try walk at the front of the line when hiking, it wont be so bad :lol: . Seriously though, you will rotate your single file line so that everyone gains equal chances.

Any other questions please feel free to ask.
"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."

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Niel
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Mon Nov 12, 2007 8:49 am

All sounds well apart from the imodiums :lol: :lol:

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