"I'm on the top of the world lookin' down on creation, and the only explanation I can find…” So sang the Carpenters in their 1973 hit. But to enjoy such a top of the world experience, Limpopo residents need only travel to Marakele National Park and make the journey up the tar road to Lenong Lookout Point by the cluster of communication towers on top of the Kransberg massif in the Waterberg Mountain Range.
That there is a sedan accessible single track tar road up a mountain pass to this high altitude location at Lenong is thanks to the historic need to service the various towers that are both for military and Sentech (television/radio) communications, and I think Eskom and Telkom might have a presence there too. The route and the road up the mountainside is one Thomas Bain would have been proud of designing and for parts of the route the various engineering feats that navigate the treacherous incline and prevent rock-fall and landslide can be seen and admired. The drive is pretty hairy at times because it is a single lane track and there are many blind bends, but given the sheer drop on the side of the road, users will be traveling at a cautious speed…There are several pull over places to enable vehicles to pass each other, but also to facilitate breath-taking views of the valleys below. And it is these views that enable visitors to understand why these seemingly barren mountains are actually called the Waterberg, as the vleis and seepages on the valley floor are clearly visible.
Kransberg National Park was the original name for Marakele National Park, originally named after the highest peak in this part of the Waterberg Range, and Lenong (which is Setswana for vulture) Lookout Point is one of my favourite places, and there are a number of reasons for this:
• The vista is constantly spectacular.
• There are a number of high altitude specials you should see that are almost incongruous with the Limpopo bushveld location.
• You can alight from your vehicle and move around safely in the vicinity of the towers within a Big 5 national park - the paved road provides an accessible and safe platform to move around - the rationale is that the dangerous wildlife doesn’t venture up to these heights…
• What is it about high altitude birds that make them so tame and confiding? I don’t know if it is something that has been studied in-depth, but the world of birds on the top of mountains seem to have an abnormal inquisitiveness and will miraculously appear at close quarters and give quality views and pose for photos.
• Lenong is nearby one of the largest Cape Vulture colonies and these awesome critically endangered birds will be seen soaring, like giant juggernauts over your head. Their stealth as they glide silently and effortlessly is awesome to witness at such close quarters.
• In the immediate area around Lenong it is not just the birds that are of great interest… - the Mountain Cypress Widdringtonia nodiflora; Silver Sugarbush Protea roupelliae; Sengis/Rock Elephant Shrews and the Kransberg Widows Dingana jerinae are all some of the fantastic non-avian attractions visitors will see at Lenong. The sengis (in relation to their size supposedly the fastest mammals on earth) display the same curiosity as many of the high altitude birds (and I suspect have been fed by picnickers and become a little habituated), while the widows are a type of butterfly known only from the upper slopes of the section of the Waterberg around the Kransberg peak.