About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

15 March 2011

R523 to Thohoyandou

I initially took this road as a shortcut to get to Thohoyandou, and am glad I did- it is a spectacular road through the mountains, and villages and small towns that do not seem to appear in the map book. Recent rains have destroyed at least two parts of the road, and I hope it is rebuilt soon. It is a road that drivers would enjoy ...

14 March 2011


About three years ago, I saw a series of large posters highlighting South Africa's world heritage sites at the International Arrivals terminal at Johannesburg International (now off course known as OR Tambo International, and formerly known as Jan Smuts International). All but one of the posters were easy to recognize, and a golden rhino with the words Mapungubwe was the exception. Subsequently, I read up on Mapungubwe, and I have been trying to make plan to come here ever since.

Location, and how to get here
Mapungubwe National Park is located at the North Western corner of the Limpopo province, in the corner where Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe meet. It's about 80 KM from Musina, although the recommended route in both guide books and the SANParks website is through the back roads (R521) from Polokwane via Dendron and Alldays. I drove through the latter route from Midrand (about 500KM in total), and it is a fairly good road with little traffic. I have since driven to Musina, and given the amount of trucks going to and from Zimbabwe, it is a good enough reason to avoid the N1.

The park is broken up into two main areas, the large, and main part being the Western Half, while the Eastern Half has still got a large private ownership, and is not easily accessible.

While the main attractions are easily reached with a standard car, it certainly helps to have high ground clearance to travel around in the wider park. This is especially true in the case of the eastern part of the park. 

Large parts of the park is composed of high rocky hills, rolling into valleys, oars cliffs over the Limpopo. The rocky features, eroded by water and wind themselves make interesting features, especially when there are trees perched on top of them! There is also quite a bit of forest, especially along the banks of the river.

The Heritage Tour
The main attraction of the park is the Heritage tour. A forerunner to Great Zimbabwe, there was, for around 200 years, an earlier civilization south of the Limpopo. It was first based around a hill now called K2, before moving for a brief period, to Mapungubwe, about 1 KM away. Unlike Great Zimbabwe, very little structural remains of the civilization remains, but instead all that really remains are the remnants of the civilization. It is most famous for the gold artifacts found here, most notably the aforementioned gold rhino. 

Mapungubwe and K2 are themselves preceded by another iron age civilization, starting around 800AD, which is also in the park, but presently unaccessible. There are plans to open a museum focusing on the various archeological highlights, but the center was supposed to open in 2008, and the buildings are still empty. It's a pity, because the main highlights of Mapungubwe are to be seen at the University of Pretoria, and reduces the impact of the tour somewhat.

The site was rediscovered in the 1930s, but the apartheid government wanted to keep it very low key, due to the fact that the site directly contradicted one of its core tenets, that all the South African tribes came to the southern tip of Africa around the same time. It was opened as a national park around 7 years ago, and the guide for my trip, Cedric, was the first guide for Mapungubwe.

Tree Top Hide
There are not that many animals in the park. Cedric's opinion is that the animal density is too low, thus reducing the chances of seeing game. Given, the tuckshop guy at the confluence viewpoint, showed me tracks of hyenas from the night before outside the shop, but also commented that the few lions, rhinos and the elusive leopard are almost impossible to see.

That said, there is still some game to see; and he park has some amazing hides, of which the Tree Top hide is my favorite (and where most of this post was composed). 

As the name suggests, the hide is composed of a long walkway amongst the trees, culminating in a hide in the trees, along the banks of the Limpopo. It is a twitcher's paradise, though not much in the way of animals, beyond a couple of elephants who have been grazing on the lush banks for quite a while (according to a regular visitor). It is a very serene and peaceful area, making it perfect place to relax!

A standout attraction, in my opinion, is the very limited cellphone reception. In fact in parts of the park, I get better reception from the otherside of the border!

I have been camping, in the forest area, in the Eastern half of the park, and the camping facilities are superb. There is however no restaurant in the park, while the tuckshops (one at the main reception, and one by the confluence viewpoints) stock cooldrinks at very reasonable prices (R8 for a can!) and not much else. The nearest petrol station and restaurant is 30 KM away (where I am now), or in Musina about 80 KM away. 

13 March 2011

Feel it! It's still here!

The first thing you notice as you drive into Polokwane is a large yellow vuvuzela spanning the N1, with the soccer fan blowing madly into the one end, and the words "Ayoba" spurting out the other. This is not the only reminder of  the world cup from last year, virtually every street corner has some signage related to the event; and even the fan parks continue to be advertised. 9 months on, Polkwane is still celebrating he world cup - I wonder how many other smaller towns continue to do the same?