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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > January-March 2019 (85) > Looking to Limpopo

Looking to Limpopo

South Africa has a ridiculous wealth of attractions, such as Cape Town, its famous national parks and glorious beaches. Step off the tourist trail, though, and you’ll find a depth of experience that reveals the soul of the country in surprising ways. One such region is the northern Limpopo province. By Guy Mavor
Remote access: Pafuri Camp by Return Africa, in partnership with the Makuleke community, overlooks the Luvuvhu River in the far north-east corner of South Africa, close to the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique
RETURN AFRICA

Limpopo. I have loved the word since reading Kipling’s Just So Stories as a boy. The Elephant’s Child, “full of ‘satiable curiosity”, wants to know what the Crocodile has for dinner, and is sent by the Kolokolo bird for an answer to this question to “the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River”.

At the time, “the Elephant had no trunk”. You can probably guess what happens next — Crocodile tries to do what crocodiles do, and the Elephant’s Child returns home with a long trunk.

Over several visits, I have set off in all directions from Johannesburg: west to the Pilanesberg and madness of Sun City, then Madikwe and, beyond, the magical Kgalagadi; east to the riches of southern Kruger; south to the Drakensberg for some of the best hiking on the continent.

Now, finally, I am following my childhood fascination, driving towards the culture, history and wildlife of the far north and the Limpopo River.

It forms the border of the eponymous province, first with Botswana, then Zimbabwe, in a wide arc from west to northeast, before flowing off into Mozambican lowveld and on to the Indian Ocean.

The Limpopo was sluggish in Kipling’s day, and agricultural uptake has slowed it further. But it creates a rich, green vein running through the low mopane and acacia woodland. Giant baobabs tower over it, and it is lush, even in mid-July; a mixed landscape of sandstone kopjes, riverine bush — gigantic Nyala berry trees prominent among them — and circular, irrigated farms set back, hidden behind trees along long sections of the river.

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