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A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers

- Pink Floyd

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Travel

Aug 02, 2019

There’s a Leopard in the Lounge!

How another evening on the shores of Kafue River, in Zambia’s Kafue National Park soon became a night to remember.

WRITTEN BY

Sarah Kingdom

Nestled under a stand of riverine trees, overlooking an immense dambo on the eastern banks of the Kafue River, in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, is Musekese Camp.

Sitting by the open fire one night with drinks in hand, our pre-dinner chatter was interrupted by a gruff cough, much like one might expect from a butler politely announcing that dinner was served. This was no butler however, this was a leopard making her presence known as she passed by in the shadows.

The next night, heading back to camp, after a game drive, for a much-anticipated dinner, we were stopped in our tracks by a leopard. He was stalking his own dinner. Using the sandy road as a convenient walkway, pausing from time to time to sniff the air. Hearing encouraging rustles in the long grass beside the track, he lay down to contemplate his next move. Not wanting to disturb him by overtaking, we were left sitting in the vehicle, our tummies rumbling for supper. A little later, apparently having decided the sounds he’d heard were not promising enough, he set off again, sauntering down the road. Rounding the corner we saw he had found another, even more, auspicious looking, place to lie in wait. We switched off the engine and sat silently in the dark. Puku settling down for the night got wind of the leopard’s presence and started to shift about uneasily, making tentative alarm calls. Suddenly, we were startled to see another leopard, this time a much larger male, come trotting down the track towards us. Leopard number one, being the younger and smaller of the two, and quite possibly intruding on the big male’s territory, looked nervous. The young interloper turned tail and headed, at pace, towards us. Pausing briefly as he passed our vehicle. He was close enough that we could have touched him. The new arrival also continued towards us. Stopping as he reached the vehicle, he gave us all a good look over, before continuing off into the dark.

A few nights after we left Musekese, another leopard started to make his presence more known in camp. This was a young male, born close by the camp to a resident female (the ‘butler’s voice’ of our fireside experience). This youngster, approximately 8-10 months old, was initially part of a litter of two, but his sibling has not been seen for some time. Still fairly dependant on his mother, she seems pretty comfortable leaving him in the camp whilst she’s out hunting most nights. It seems like this is clearly a case of ‘while the cat’s away…’ as there have been nightly visits to camp in the shape of a young feline intruder. Initially, the camp staff just saw footprints, heard alarm calls and the occasional growl. Mother and son then killed and ate a puku in the lodge parking area. Then there were reports of the youngster walking in front of staff tents after dark, through the dambo in front of camp during lunch hour and even climbing a tree one morning and lying down to watch the guests over breakfast. Becoming more adventurous and playful one night the young leopard had a ‘midnight munch’ on shoes left inadvertently outside the lodge managers’ tent.

This playfulness reached new heights when left to his own devices at night, he decided to turn the lodge lounge area into his personal playroom. Mother and son make regular night-time forays through the camp, but when Richard, the waiter, found the cub on the couch alone one evening, after the guests had gone to bed, it was decided to put up a camera trap to see what he was getting up to. The next morning the bar and lounge were a bit of a shambles and after investigating the camera footage, it was soon revealed why. Giving a whole new meaning to ‘prowler’, the night time partier had not quite danced on the bar but had certainly left his footprints along its wooden countertop. He’d rifled through reading material and redistributed ornaments, before finally trying each of the sofas for comfort, rearranging the blankets, chewing on the cushions and generally making himself quite at home. For Phil Jeffery and Tyrone McKeith, who built Musekese, their ethos is “it must not only feel wild but be wild”… well, I don’t think it gets much wilder than this!

PS. Chatting to Phil, he says they will “maintain our vigilance and not become complacent, it is a completely wild animal after all… the novelty will soon wear off for the leopard and indeed he will move on to find his own territory or follow his mother into other parts of their territory.” But for now the Musekese ‘midnight meddler’ is certainly making himself at home.

www.jmsafaris-zambia.com

 

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Travel

Aug 13, 2019

Carnets de Trail: Montalin Ridge – Hochwang

Episode 3: Sébastien de Sainte Marie's "Carnets de Trail" series continues, this time near his new home in Graubünde.

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Sébastien de Sainte Marie is a steep-skier, runner, climber, The Outdoor Journal ambassador, but above all a lover of wide-open spaces. Sébastien has carried out first ski descents in the Alps, Chablais and Aiguilles Rouges. He made the first ski descent of “Brenvitudes” on the Brenva side of Mont Blanc, as well as off the English Route on the south face of Shishapangma (Tibet) from an altitude of 7,400m. In this series entitled “Carnets de Trail” (Trail Notebook), Sébastien shares all his favourite trails, with all the information you need to experience the same trips yourself.

Since my recent move to Graubünden, Switzerland, I have not stopped looking at this impressive mountain facing my new home, Montalin. Eventually, I found the time to check out the view from the top.

A shot of Luisa having left the marked paths towards Gromser Chopf.

The Key Information

Time: For walkers 9h. For runners between 4 to 5h. There are some sections, specifically on the ridge, where you cannot run.
Distance: 22km for 2100m uphill, and then 1400m downhill.
Location: Start from Chur and end in St Peter (where you will find a bus and train station).
Difficulty: The entire area between Montalin (2266m) and Hochwang (2532m) is located between T2 and T3 with a T4 passage just before Hochwang.
Gear: Trail running shoes are important, in addition to a light bag that you can use for water. Sticks might be helpful at the start.
Good for: The ridge is not very difficult, with good stable terrain and the views are amazing. The first long uphill looks tough, but it’s a soft incline. This route really is something for everybody.

Descending just before the Hochwang

Route

This little adventure starts from the Church of Saint Luzius in Chur (621m), heading up to reach the atypical little Chapel of Saint Luzi nestled in the rocks. The path then continues along Mittenberg (1114m), the chalets of Bargs (1600m) and leads to Fürhörnli (1887m). Curiosity leads us down a short detour to reach the summit of Fürhörnli and its summit so that we can enjoy a few seconds of breathtaking views of the river Rhein.

From there, the path becomes steeper and narrower up to the summit of Montalin (2265m). It is classified as an “alpine” path. From the top of Montalin we follow an excellent path towards Obersass to reach a pass located at about 2180m. We then leave the marked paths towards Gromser Chopf (2260m). The start is steep but then the ridge is flat and wide and only stiffens before the Ful Berg (2394m). Seen from afar, the raidillon before the Ful Berg looks scabrous, but once it has passed its test it is easy. The ridge then takes on the appearance of a dolomite with beautiful delineated rock towers just before the ascent to Schafläger (2429m) and then to Tüfelsch Chopf. A short roller coaster ride and here we are at the top of the Hochwang (2532m) to close this magnificent ridge. From the summit head towards Ratoser Stein (2473m) but quickly turn right to descend towards Triemel (1850m). The view is magnificent but a good half of the concrete path reminds us of the kilometres and the difference in altitude already covered. The path, road at times, then leads us back to St Peter’s which will be the end of our itinerary.

It is possible to do many variations of this itinerary, including a departure from Maladers (1025m) to reduce the positive altitude difference or on the contrary to extend the ridge to infinity on the Ratoser Stein then Cunggel (2412) and this until Mattjisch Horn (2460m) for the most daring.

The dolomite just before the Tüfelsch Chopf

Tips

– This is a route for dry and stable weather.
– Plan for sufficient water supply throughout the whole adventure, because apart from a small torrent at Walpagära (2338m) we were short on options.

The little extras

– It is possible to sleep 300 metres just below the ridge and just above St Peter at the Skihaus Hochwang
– There’s nothing like a good ice cream after an adventure in the mountains and if you’re in the mood for hot chocolate or walnut pie, then you can enjoy the great bakery and confectionery coffee.

Another shot, just before the Hochwang

Useful links:
Trains and postal buses
– The Chur Tourist Office located in the station will answer all your questions
The site to plan your trip with an online topographic map at 25:000.

Sebastien de Sainte Marie would like to thank Luisa for featuring in the photos and his partners Scott and Outdoor Research.

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