30th July – Motopi to Mpaya #1
We sleep in a little today, though we are already up at 7:30. We pack up, say goodbye to the hornbills and continue our journey towards Mabuasehube. We are still waiting for the big scary dune the Germans warned us about, but we find nothing of the sort. Just deepish sand and undulating dunes. It is clear when you arrive to Mabuasehube, the landscape changes from dunes to pans and rocks. There is not much wildlife around so we proceed to our campsite, Mpayathutlwa 1. I will refer to this simply as Mpaya 1 – the name is a real tongue twister (and finger twister on the keyboard too).
We find someone on our campsite – it seems their campsite has been stolen by an elderly South African couple the night before so they settled on ours. They were a very nice couple and after we gently urge them to they go to investigate whether their campsite is vacated today, which it thankfully is so no need for awkward moments. It is hard to try to “evict” nice people! At the end of the day if there were any problems we would have shared but we come to these remote places to be totally alone. Anyway we agree we will meet up with them for a drink in the evening.
The campsite overlooks the Mpaya pan, and has a very nice view of it. We can watch the coming and going of the game easily. We also have a welcoming commitee of squirrels and hornbills – obviously used to handouts. The thing is at this time of the year the wind is strong and relentless so it is impossible not to feed the animals as crumbs are flying everywhere anyway whenever we eat anything – and of course they seize the opportunity faster than you can say “oops”. So I must admit we did relent and share some of our food with them. They have perfected their strategy to make us feel guilty while we eat…
It is tough to prepare dinner here with all the wind – which constantly shifts directions. At some point all the tablecloth simply flies to my face – with the sauces and chopped onions finding their way to my lap and around camp. The squirrels are also stalking us. But we anyway manage a nice meal of hamburgers in the company of many vultures circling overhead.
In the afternoon we set off on a game drive – we drive around some other pans but do not see too much. We manage to spot some bat eared foxes but as usual they are not too cooperative with our cameras. At sunset the road between Khiding and Mpaya is full of game but they are extremely skittish. I had read there is a well covered up poaching problem in this park and after witnessing the animal behaviour here I am pretty sure there is some truth to the allegations. A pity really. We spend the last daylight hours at the Mpaya waterhole and we spot a brown hyena in the distance.
When the sun sets we return to our campsite for some last chores and sundowners and afterwards proceed with the car in the dark towards Mpaya #2 to meet up with the other couple.
We spend a few hours enjoying good wine and great conversation. I am always amazed at the interesting people we meet in such places and how the passion for travelling forms an immediate bond. They tell us that a Brown Hyena had been drinking at their watertap. We also get to know that the previous occupants of Mpaya #2 had actually fed it. I hope that does not mean the hyena will soon become accustomed to handouts and then it turns into a problem animal.
We returned back to our campsite at around 1am or so, a bit worse for wear after all the wine we drank. We hope we can manage to still wake up early tomorrow!