Nkurru Newsletter – October 2011

Hi,

What a few months it has been.  Fires, insurance claims, more fires, new vehicles and even more fires!

Let’s start with this.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

I shot this scene from Nik’s View North the day after the most recent fires in Madikwe.  The regular inselberg landscape scene that we all know and love was still covered with smoke from the previous days raging fires.  It was just not as vibrant and magical as it always is but the sky over Tswene Tswene was absolutely spectacular.

On this particular day there was also a strange hangover-type feeling in the west of the reserve.  Many people spent the previous day fighting massive fires that ran wild on the ridge between our lodge and the Wonderboom Gate and the evening was spent checking, double checking and triple checking that the winds did not start another fire.  It was tiring.  Very tiring.

I am not going to go into too much details on the fires but will say this.  It is an absolute miracle that no buildings or infrastructure was lost on Sunday.  I have never seen such a devastating fire run wild without causing massive damage.  Through the perseverance of many people, lots of running around and a serious amount of luck we were able to stop the fire from taking a lodge.  Nkurru never really came into play, even though we were seriously worried late in the afternoon, but our fire breaks are still some of the best in the reserve.  I am also proud to say that our staff knows what they are doing.  My hat goes off to Godfrey for the way he helped to fight the fires and save the various lodges.  I will fight fires with him anytime, anywhere!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

The little truck that can.  Our fire cart, as it is in the driveway right now.  We will be leaving the cart like this, ready to go, until the first proper rains arrive.  Our fire cart is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment we have at the lodge and it most definitely brought it’s A-game to the fires of 24 October.  we had to fill up three times during the day and it never missed a beat!

Nkurru – Insurance Claim

Back at the lodge, things are going well even though the last two cycles have been somewhat (read very) challenging.  During out last cycle we had to deal with the damage from the fires and fight with insurance with regards to payouts to try and get our cable fixed.

Insurance has finally paid out for the damage to our cable and we will start installing the new cable on Monday 1 November.  Instead of doing this in exactly the same way as it was done initially, we will be securing the cable by encasing it and cementing it in the places where we cannot dig it into the ground.  Two or three manhole covers will allow us to check the cable and, should the need even arise in future, pull the old cable out and install a new one.

Now apart from the above cable installation the lodge still had to cough up a lot of money for other damage caused, and costs incurred, due to the fire.  This is an ongoing ‘discussion’ with our insurers so we will keep you posted.

Nkurru – Maintenance

As you might know, we had a maintenance week during October.  This was not planned but it was very welcome as we had a lot of smaller, and some not so small, projects to get done.  Here are a few images of projects completed during maintenance week and the week after.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

In an attempt to neaten up the front of the lodge we have fitted ‘latte’ around the bottom of the deck.  This is similar ot the deck on the waterhole side of the lodge and makes a huge difference to the look of the front area.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

While working with the latte we had ‘latte’ cages built and installed around all the outside aircon units and geysers.  The above image shows the aircon unit outside the wine cellar.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

This image shows the new cover on the aircon unit outside room 4.  All aircon units and geysers have been fitted with a cover.  Looks great and, even though it is quite a small thing, makes a huge difference in our attempt to make the lodge ‘neater’.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

During maintenance week we fitted a new pool filter.  The old filter cracked and was spurting heaps of filter sand into the pool leaving a sandy mess.  While we were installing the filter we also drained the pool and properly cleaned the surface.  Looks great!  In this image, even though you probably won’t see it, we scrubbed off all the stone tiles and treated then with stone sealer.  Small things, but they all count.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

Yeah, this is our spotlight tree at the waterhole.  With the numbers of elephants we get at the waterhole it is an absolute miracle that this tree is still standing.  After a few close calls we decided to pack a bunch o logs around the bottom of the tree.  Looks pretty natural, will keep the ellies away and, when we throw a handful of bird seed into the logs, attracts a huge amounts of birds!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

This is an interesting one.  We cut the reeds, seen above, 5 weeks ago.  It is truly growing like reeds.  Earlier this morning we started to thin the reeds out a bit by removing them from the root.  The reason?  They are growing so well and using so much water that the waterhole was not getting enough water!  We removed a lot of the reeds, and added a leadwood stump, in order to streamline the water flow and attract more birds to the open areas in the reedbed.  Strange problem to have at the lodge… something workgin too well?!? 🙂

Image © Gerry van der Walt

The sliding doors at the lodge are working again!  It was a huge project as all the doors and the entire fitting had to be removed, redone and replaced but at least now both sets of sliding doors are working like they should.  In the bottom corner of the image you can also see a bit of the deck.  During maintenance week the decks at the main lodge and all the rooms were cleaned and oiled.  we oil the decks every three months.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

The area outside the kitchen is in the middle of a ‘beautification’ process.  What you see here is the result of filling the area, where there used to be slate stone, with soil and flatten it.  The next step, and this will happen as soon as I find the correct color, is to cover the are with pebbles.  This is all part of CapEx and I reckon it’s gonna make the area look great.  Just out of view to the right is a new retaining wall that we have built to help channel rain water away from this area and the kitchen door.  With the rainy season approaching this was a must!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

This might not look very impressive from the image but this was one of the largest projects we tackled during maintenance week.  The image shows the view from the Room 5 shower.  The problem here was that it always felt a little dark and dingy due to all the plant growth but a new chainsaw and a lot of hands allowed us to smash through about 40 meters of sickle bush to open up a view from the deck of Room 4 & 5 all the way onto the fire break.  Looks great!  We also opened up the view from Room 1 and 2 so everything is ready for summer!

Apart form the above there are a lot of smaller projects which we have been ticking off the list.  A lot of these things you probably won’t notice during your stay but they still need to happen!

Nkurru – Rifle Application

There is no new news on this.  You will recall that we have finally been issued with our business certificate (to use and own a firearm).  Our final license application documents were handed in at the beginning of May this year.  Firearm control was, as luck would have it, closed during the World Cup so as things stand now we are still waiting.  We spoke to the local police station, who is our contact in this matter, and they said there is no news yet so all we can do at this stage is wait.

Will let you know as soon as we receive the call to tell us we can go and collect our license and rifle.

Nkurru – New Game Viewer

I have just, literally 5 minutes ago, received an email form the company who is doing our conversion saying that the vehicles roof has just been cut off and that it will be going to the paint shop on Wednesday.  The bullbar, side bars and fold out table has also all been completed and is ready to be fitted ot the vehicle as soon as it returns from the paint shop.

I spent a lot of time on the conversion and when we get our vehicle it will be one of the very few ‘legal’ vehicles in Madikwe.  In order to be registered as an 11 seater vehicle there are certain criteria that have to be met.  Our vehicle will meet all of these criteria and will therefore be a legal vehicle in Madikwe and on national roads.

I will be going on leave next week and during my time in Johannesburg I will go and pop in at the converters to check on progress.  All going well I am hoping to bring the vehicle back to the reserve on 22 November when we return from leave.

Can’t wait for this one!  We’re talking kid in a candy store type of excited! 🙂

Wildlife and Sightings

During the last few weeks the sightings have been pretty erratic.  I suppose the numerous burnt areas and us not being able to off road has made things a little difficult but, Madikwe being the park that it is, you can always be assured of some amazing sights.

Image by Grant Marcus (Tuningi)

The Sable’s Final Moments

I am sure you all know about this one by now.  The above image, by Grant Marcus from Tuningi, shows the last moments of Madikwe’s last Sable.  You will see in the image that the sable broke his front right leg and this must be what made the dogs pull him down.  It is very sad that the last Sable had to go this way but nature is cruel and, you never know what is going to happen.

On a side note, the sable’s skull was taken to a lodge, with the intention of it going to Parks Board offices but a brown hyena had other ideas.  The hyena came into the lodge, found the skull and carried it off somewhere.  Let’s hope someone can actually find it.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘Bulls’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

He’s back at Nkurru.  Yeah, everybody’s favorite elephant, Tsokwane, is hagning out at Nkurr again.  A lot!

The whole in his ear is unmistakable and he is just as chill as ever.  I photographed him a few days ago while sitting in the floor with my back against the deck.   Gotta love the old guy!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘Uncertain’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

Not going down the whole poaching road now, as I might get completely carried away.  Madikwe still offers some amazing rhino sightings and it is great to know that there are people out there who are fighting for these amazing animals.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘Focus’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

This is one of the Naledi males photographed at Phuti open clearing.  The two Naledi brothers are the first grandsons of the Batia brothers and if they keep on moving into the areas where we have been seeing them the last while they might have to call on those genes in a big way.

These to males, currently about 6 years old, have been wandering into Kgala territory.

Bad plan…

The Kgala brothers are brutes and do not take to kindly to other males in their territory, as Mateya and his brother knows very well.  Mateya, who is still going strong even though he got lost a while ago and is still limping quite badly, was injured by the Kgala males in a territorial fight more than year ago.

With the number of lions in Madikwe these kind of soap opera plots keep on evolving and things are currently changing so often so make sure to ask about what the latest lion news is when next you get to the lodge.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘Bull’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

There is currently very few waterholes in Madikwe.  Tlou Dam is still, well, a puddle but other than that the most active watering holes are down in the south.  The above image is from the waterhole at the old hunting camp down in the south.  Park Board has been pumping it a bit lately and I have had some of my best ever elephant sightings here during the last few weeks.

We have also made a new wtarehole on Tau Link. Makwepa Pan was an immediate hit and is now regularly visited by elephant, the Kgala males and a range of other species.  Awesome spot!

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘La Luna’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

Winter always means amazing evening skies.  The last few weeks we have been desperate for rain but the evening skies have been spectacular.  Shot this one night from the lodge driveway.

Right, that’s about that for this month.

Next week Adele and I will be going on leave next week.  We still have one annual week left for 2010 so in order to get a decent rest after a hectic two cycles we will be taking three weeks off.  During the first week we will be going to Bangkok (long story and more on this later).  For the rest of the two weeks, apart from a few days in KZN, we will be in and around Durban.  If you are keen to meet up for a coffee or lunch give us a shout on my email address or cellphone.  Always great to meet up!

We will be back at the lodge on Wednesday 24 November so please keep this in mind when you contact the lodge during this time.

Before we say goodbye one more image taken at Tlou Dam earlier this month.

It’s moments like this that make Africa unique and us all coming back to Madikwe again and again.

Image © Gerry van der Walt

‘Sunset Queen’ – Image by Gerry van der Walt

Until we meet at the lodge again – take care and stay safe!

Warmest regards,

Gerry, Adele and the Nkurru Team