Cape Town to the Kalahari

November 11, 2013

31 October (Thursday)
We left home really late and headed off up the N7 (the road that goes all the way to Namibia up the West Coast of South Africa).    The road is long and straight and first travels through the wheatlands and vineyards of the Western Cape and after the winelands around Clanwilliam becomes flat, bleak and dry as one moves out of the winter rainfall area of the Western Cape.  As we neared our destination, Springbok, it became mountainous and the rock formations were spectacular.  A great deal of this road is undergoing major upgrading, so we met with many Stop-Go’s along the way.  This meant that we got to Springbok, about 600 km from Cape Town, much later than we intended.  It was really cold and blustery and we struggled to find our accommodation.  But eventually found ourselves at the Springbok Apartments which were very new and clean and well equipped although all we needed was a warm bed.  Anyhow, we found a restaurant, about the only one open after 7 pm, it seems, and had a delicious pizza and then off to bed.

1 November (Friday)
Up early, and made for the local Spar where we stocked up on supplies and then to the Springbok butcher.  We have bought meat there  before and know it is really top quality.  So our new camping fridge was stocked and we were ready to camp!  The road (the N14) now travels inland and so starts to climb.  Eventually we were close to the Orange River (which irrigates all the farms along the river which makes it a green strip through the desert) and so started to see lots of green cultivated fields.  This area is famous for its grapes and dried fruit.  So we stopped in Kakamas at the rather quaint Pink road stall and bought dried peaches as well as beautiful raisins and sultanas.  Kakamas is famous for its yellow cling peaches which make the tastiest dried fruit imaginable.  Then on to Upington where we turned left off the N14 the national road onto the road to the Kgalagadi.  Upington and  surrounds are all green and lush as this is all along the banks of the great Orange River.  But turning away from the river the terrain is dry and the bushes are brown and tired.  We were entering the arid Kalahari desert.  However, there are still patches of green grass and hardy Camelthorn trees.
We arrived at Kalahari Trails Camp at about 4 pm.  It was still hot and still.  We were met by Kirri, the very pregnant tame mongoose (she is due to ‘pop’ in 3 or 4 days) who led us to meet the owner, Dr Anna Rass.  She is an expert on the Kalahari, its fauna and flora, as well as its people.  She has, however , been rather ill and we were shown around by her very able manager, Andre, who is also very knowledgeable about the area.  After setting up camp all we had time for was supper and the glorious night skies.

2 November (Saturday)
Again we were up with the sun and had a long walk over the dunes around our campsite.  We were soon joined by Kirri the mongoose who trotted along, scratching and digging wherever she smelt or heard something.   The early morning is glorious, but by noon it is sweltering.  We arranged with Andre to go on a sundowner drive and he met us at about 5. We set off in an open-sided vehicle across the bush which is low scrub dotted with camel thorn (acacia) in the beautiful red sand of the Kalahari.  We were very impressed by Andre’s knowledge of the local fauna and flora.  It was a lovely drive, stopping to watch the sun go down over the dunes and then we drove back in the dark with the big lights and spotted spring hares and bat eared foxes and cape foxes.  And then an early night.

3 November (Sunday)
Up very early to go on a guided walk through the dunes with Andre.  We tried to leave Kirri behind in her ‘delicate’ state, but after walking for about half an hour and climbing a dune, she was back with us.  Andre’s knowledge of the tracks in the sand and the behaviour of the local  animals and also the local plants was very impressive.   He was very excited to find tracks of a honey badger, a species which had not been seen on the Reserves for the last 10 years.  Again so beautiful and peaceful early in the morning.  We saw herds of Springbok, Gemsbok and Wildebees as well as the smaller animals and insects.
We then realised that we had no cash to pay for our stay at Kalahari Trails, so drove the 35 km to the Kgalagadi Game Reserve and went to the Twee Rivieren Camp (the main camp), where they had no auto teller, but were prepared to pay us out if we bought something at the shop and then they cashed extra from the credit card.  Also realised that they had no Internet access, so this blog will probably appear when we get to Namibia.
We were no sooner back at camp, when the rest of our party arrived en routs from Upington, so we had lunch under the large Miskeet tree at Kalahari Trails, and then packed up and set off for the Kgalagadi and Twee Rivieren Camp.  By now it was scorching.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park straddles the S Africa/Botswana border..  The S African part is a kind of a ‘V’ shape, bounded by the Auob River in the West and the Nossop River in the East.  The 2 rivers meet at the most southerly point of the Park at the Twee Rivieren (Two Rivers) Camp.  To the East of the S African part of the Park is the much larger Botswanan Part, which is far more inaccessible then the S African part, requiring 4x4 vehicles, and with very basic camp sites with a minimum of facilities.  We were not going to visit Botswana on this trip.
We arrived at Twee Rivieren, found our chalets and headed for the pool.  A glorious dip and supper outside while watching the beautiful stars.  Ruth, our amateur astronomer, had her almanac out and so she was able to point out the International Space Station as it flew over miles above the earth.

4 November (Monday)
We had realised that we needed to get up early to see the game and birds, as they all retired to the shade from about 10 am onwards.  The sun here is unbelievably hot during the middle of the day at this time of year.  So we were up at 5 to be at the gates to the game viewing area which opens at 5.30.  At that time, the air is crisp and clear, and everywhere is teeming with life.
Within 2 kms of  camp, we came across a Verraux’s Eagle Owl’s nest (Used to be called a Giant Eagle Owl).  The nest seemed to be on top of a sociable weavers’ nest.   Mom and Dad were  both there with a fairly large chick.  Terry got some lovely photos.  Our bird list for the day was pretty impressive and we saw Springbok, lots of Gemsbok and Wildebees and silver backed jakkal.  All look sleek and fit, and at this time of year there are plenty of young around.
Back to camp for a late lunch and dip in the pool, an afternoon siesta and then we went on an evening drive.  Now saw, not only the Verraux’s eagle Owl family but also a Spotted eagle Owl as well as vultures, and the usual sleek and healthy looking springbok and gemsbok.

5 and 6 November (Tuesday and Wednesday))
On the 5th, we packed up early and set of for Nossop, a distance of about 170 km up the Western side of the S African part of the Park along the dry Nossop River bed.  Apparently, the Nossop only flows about every 100 years! We had been dreading the road as the last time we were here, it was full of corrugations and a slow and very bumpy ride.  But what a pleasant surprise!!  The road has been upgraded and is a pleasure to drive along, except near the end  where it is very sandy, but hardly any corrugations.  It was a lovely ride and we saw large herds of springbok and gemsbok, as well as a large black maned lion at one of the picnic sites.  He was lying in the shade cast by the ‘Ladies’, and then got up and wandered up to the dune behind the picnic area.  A beautiful specimen, but this rather put paid to our plans to stop for a cup of tea!  We stopped at the next picnic site, where we were immediately surrounded by very tame sociable weaver birds and also, unfortunately, bees.  These little creatures are all over the desert wherever there is a little water.  They clustered around our teabags as soon as we took them out of the  cups, and settled on the lips of our cups as soon as we put them down.  I managed to get stung on the hip, but fortunately, I am not particularly   susceptible to bees tings.  Just a little discomfort.
Our arrival at Nossop in the blistering heat was made worse by the fact that we couldn’t find a double camp site (We have 4 tents and 3 vehicles) that was in the shade and had a power point.  We ended up splitting ur party - the Debricks on a smaller camp site with minimum shade and  a power point and the rest of the party on a large camp site with plenty of shade but no power.  However, the following morning we managed to move our tent to a shadey spot, also with the essential power point.
The Nossop area is very dry at the moment, but drives around Nossop produced  lots of antelope and small mammals like jakkal and lions.  These kept us awake at night roaring very close to camp.  On our second evening at Nossop our camp was nearly destroyed by a mini tornado.  Two of our party were sitting in the hide at the camp and saw what appeared to be a dust cloud approaching.  The rest of us, meanwhile were starting to prepare supper.  Suddenly we were blasted with a powerful wind which blew everything away that wasn’t tied down.  I chased after my washing up basin, dish towels, chopping board, etc, while Terry hung onto the tent, table and chairs.  No sooner had this stopped (about 5 minutes) than the wind came bak with a vengeance, this time in the other direction.  This was too much for our tent which just collapsed, breaking 2 of the top canes which hold the roof in place.  By this time, there was a bit of rain as well.  However, within half an hour, all was quiet again.  We had supper and even managed to play a game of ‘Bananagram’.  Fortunately, we had a couple of spares so we could fix the tent, and my missing plastic chopping board was found blown up against the fence on the other side of camp the next morning.
At this point we were having trouble with our car, and it would periodically stall and then refuse to start again.  This required Terry and whatever other male happened to be around having to hop out of their cars (in lion and hyena infested country) and tinker around under the bonnet, and then we would be up and running.  Just all added to the excitement!!!

1 Comment

Richard Hines:
November 23, 2013
The last report to arrive here is for the 5th/6th November.
I assume you have either been arrested or eaten.
Hope it's neither
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