The leopard jumped from the tree

13th May 2014
Backs ups having a drink on the Luvuvuh bridge as the sun goes down

© Henry Parsons

Sunday 4th May 2014

The main group were heading down to Banini for a spot of birding, I opted out and instead went walking with Johna. We headed up to the Sandveld, parking at the junction of Outpost Home Run and Lanner Drive. Walking as only two meant that we were going to have plenty of opportunities to explore and also to push the boundaries a little if needed seen as we had no guests to need to do things by the book.

I’m not sure how old Johna is, he’s retired from his corporate job which is allowing him to spend his retirement in the bush as well as lecturing. Regardless of age the way he goes up and down kopjes he resembles a mountain goat very often leaving me to catch my breath some way behind. Once I caught up I could enjoy the scenery, especially when we walked through the wooded areas. The
Lembombo iron woods are found growing on the sandstone, before I’d only seen them as scrubby trees but here they were towering above us as we followed an elephant path.

We had one very steep decline where we failed to reconnect with the game path we’d been following. We were now walking an area that nobody may have walked before, it was true exploration as we made our way down the steep sided drainage line. It was hard work with most of it spent lowering myself from boulder to boulder. It was worthwhile when we reached the banks of the Luvuvuh where we immediately discovered the spoor of cape clawless otter.

We followed the river round and had a good encounter with a small herd of buffalo that had come down to water. Once we’d made our way past it was now my turn with Johna handing the lead to me to get us home via the rock art site which I’d never been to before. Does Johna know that navigation is not my thing?

We headed back up onto the Sandveld, aiming between a saddle in the sandstone. When we made it to the site I was blown away. It was humbling to know that this was a site of ancient occupation. The last bushmen in the area moved out 500 years ago so this could have been from anytime before 1500. I had a few moments on my own as Johna was busy taking photographs of the landscape elsewhere. This gave me the opportunity to discover the paintings for myself and sit down next to the ledge and look at the old tools that had been found there, spearheads and scrapers were easily identifiable.

Whilst I was sat there I painted a picture in my own mind of what it must have been like to be living in the bush all those years ago. The venue was here but the people and what they were doing came from a series of books I’ve read, The Earth Children by Jean Auel. I could have stayed all day but we needed to move on. I will definitely be back, perhaps even to do a sleep out.

Rock art at Makuleke

The day got even better, first when we saw a bush pig which is a rare sight during daylight, then even better when I took a short cut through two kopjes. I can’t remember exactly what we stopped to look at, I imagine a tree. Whilst Johna was talking I heard what I thought was an elephant eating. I suggested that we climb up over the rocks to have a look. It wasn’t an elephant, much smaller in fact.

As I reached the top of the rock there was nothing. As I walked forward I saw a leopard jump from the tree, hit the floor with a thud before it was off in a flash. I said to Johna, “I know we shouldn’t go and have a closer look but there are only the two of us”. He couldn’t agree more. That noise which I couldn’t quite place seems so obvious now, the crunching of bones. The leopard which I think was a small female had dragged a large impala up the tree. We could see the claw marks on the tree trunk, above us the fresh looking impala was dangling face down from a fork in the tree.

Impala carcass hanging from the limb of a tree


The walk was six hours, certainly one of my favourites since I’ve been here. It would have been great if it had happened the day before with Chubby and Claire. The rest of the day was relaxed, well what was left of it. We did some plinking with the air rifle, some running and then we had beers on the bridge with a few from the Outpost.

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