Addo Elephant National Park - The tenth step ... SISA Episode II - CycleBlaze

March 8, 2021

Addo Elephant National Park

Carel, our friend and business partner, arrived to collect us at half past seven this morning to give a a lift to Colchester, just outside Port Elizabeth, so we wouldn't have to contend with the ugly and busy ride out of the city.  An hour later we settled ourselves onto our saddles and headed up the dirt road to Addo.

The obligatory photograph at the start of the journey.
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The road seems to have got a bit rougher since we started out here on the tenth step three and a half month ago and the strong wind made the first few kilometers westwards less than enjoyable.  But we soon turned northwards and slowly made our way towards the town of Addo.  Having ridden this road so recently meant that it didn't have much to interest us.  All we wanted to do was get to the Addo Elephant National Park and hopefully secure a game drive this afternoon.  None the less, it was great to be back on the bicycles again.

After a quick stop off at the pretty good OK Supermarket in Addo to buy some essentials it was another fifteen kilometers to the park itself.  The park's main camp and headquarters lie adjacent to but outside of the game area so it is possible to access it by bicycle.  It's initial primary purpose was to preserve the last Eastern Cape Elephants and the southern sub-species of Black Rhinocerous but it is also home to other dangerous animals such as Lion, Leopard (seldom seen), Cape Buffalo and Spotted Hyena.  Because we cannot access the game viewing area we need to make use of the park's guided game viewing services that are enjoyed from the back of an open vehicle.

The park is also a refuge for the vulnerable Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus). It's prime choice of poo is that of the Cape Buffalo but Elephant dung works just as well.
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Upon arriving at the park, soon after midday, we discovered that the accommodation we had booked (a safari tent, the cheapest possible option) was unavailable and we were upgraded to a lovely chalet for free (they are normally more than twice the price of the safari tents).  We also booked a sunset game drive which was scheduled to start at four thirty.  However, the wind has picked up quite dramatically and we have decided to cancel the game drive - the animals tend to seek shelter from the wind in the thick bush and it will be pretty unpleasant on the back of an open game drive vehicle in this weather.

Lunch was spent on the verandah of the chalet in the company of a gang of begging birds. Here a Southern Black Flycatcher (Melaenornis pammelaina) waits for Leigh to drop a piece of cheese.
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To lighten the load, I haven't brought any camera equipment with me so all pictures will have to be taken with my cellphone.
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Cape Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis nitens)
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Cape Weaver (Ploceus capensis)
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Andrea BrownThat's right! You two are the bird-masters! Your phone is doing a perfectly nice job.
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1 month ago
Jean-Marc StrydomThanks Andrea but I am already missing my "real" camera!
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1 month ago

None the less, the chalet has a lovely view over the area surrounding a waterhole in the game viewing area so we will have to bet on something braving the wind to show itself in front of our digs.  

And now for today's lesson ...

Addo Elephant National Park, which covers an area of one thousand six hundred and forty square kilometers, was established in 1931 to preserve the last eleven remaining elephants in the Eastern Cape.  Over the past ninety years their numbers have increased to over six hundred, a situation that must have been difficult to imagine at the time of its establishment.

Before we became nomads, Leigh and I used to spend a lot of time photographing elephants in Addo. This is one of the many picture I took during those days.
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For about four thousand years the area was home to some the San and Khoikhoi tribe, the original inhabitants of South Africa.  The early eighteenth century heralded the arrival of the first European settlers in the area (moving eastwards from the Western Cape) as well as the Xhosa tribes (moving westwards down the east coast of South Africa).  The early nineteenth century, with Britain's annexation of the southern part of Africa, saw an influx of British and Irish settlers into the area.  Much of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries experienced bloody clashes between the European settlers and the Xhosa tribes.  A great number of Khoikhoi died in various smallpox outbreaks, at the hands of both the European settlers and the Xhosas and of those that remained some were absorbed into the Boer population but most merged  with the Xhosa tribes (from whom a whole new tribe, the Mfhengu, developed) or disappeared into the melting pot of other mixed race people in southern Africa, the so-called "Coloured" racial group of the Apartheid regime.  These days it is certainly impossible to find someone who is truly Khoikhoi.

During the days of the San and the Khoikhoi elephants roamed the Eastern Cape moving from area to area driven  by the availability of grazing and water.  The European settlers slaughtered thousands over the years for their tusks and by the time the British settlers started establishing citrus farms in the area towards the end of the nineteenth century very few remained.  Those that did were considered pests by the farmers and in 1919 an attempt was made to exterminate them.  In one year alone, one hundred and fourteen were killed but after a public outcry, aided by the difficulty and danger of tracking and shooting them in the thick Addo bush, the National Parks Board established a small sanctuary to preserve them and the Addo Elephant National Park came into being.

Until an elephant proof fence was built around the park in the nineteen fifties, the elephants continued to raid the neighbouring citrus farms with the farmers retaliating in the expected manner.  This meant that the elephants were incredibly aggressive and the public were not allowed into the fenced off area.  The dominant bull of the time, named Hapoor because part of his ear had been shot off by a farmer (a long-winded but accurate translation of the name would be "ear with a chunk taken out of it"), was especially aggressive.  After his demise and the lifting of the restriction on public access, the elephants became far less aggressive and are now more comfortable in the presence of motor vehicles and people than most.

The thick Addo bush is part of the reason the elephants were saved. It was just too dangerous for Major PJ Pretorius, the hunter tasked with exterminating them, to take them on in their turf. For those who are interested, I notice I took this photo with a 15mm lens on a 1.6 crop body (the wide angle accentuating the perspective shift between the front and rear of the elephant). This means that I was probably only two meters away from this cow when I took the photo (don't try this at home!) which illustrates how less aggressive the Addo herd has become.
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Today's ride: 42 km (26 miles)
Total: 42 km (26 miles)

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