Tag Archives: South Africa

Kgalagadi Game Drives

Day 5 Dec. 17 Wednesday

Because we went on an early morning game drive at 530 am, we didn’t follow the usual morning routine. First of all, we were woken up by a thunder and lightning display with heavy rain and then,  a spectacular sunrise! Water water everywhere! What had been dry during the afternoon game drive of the previous afternoon, became a lake.

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Our first sighting of the day was a Leopard Tortoise. Richard explained to us that the bushmen in the Kalahari use it for survival in the desert, poor things. We saw many more Sociable Weaver nests.

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A few springbok close to the truck. The first ones we saw got a lot of photographic attention but as the day passed, because we saw so many of them, we no longer stopped, admiring them on the move instead.

Then … a highlight!! We saw a vehicle pulled over and when we stopped, we saw a lioness, close enough to see red stains on her chest and paws. We watched for a while and then continued on but we hadn’t gone very far when we saw another vehicle. The person driving pointed to a thicket and told us that there was another lioness in the thicket, with a kill. Sure enough. It was right beside the road but so well hidden we could hardly see her. What we did see was tawny fur and the bloody head of a springbok and what we did hear was the loud crunching of bones. We were astounded and stayed watching for quite a while until the feeding lioness joined the first one.lionesses

By this time it was around 11 and all we’d eaten was a rusk and coffee so we set off to find a place for brunch – eggs, bacon, beans, salad, fresh pineapple! After brunch we headed back to camp for an afternoon siesta before heading out for our third and last game drive in the Kgalagadi.

The big, culminating event was seeing this black-maned lion. At first, he was stretched out in the shade and we couldn’t see much but then, he got up and moved to another spot. We had a good laugh about the males of this species as we were told that the lionesses do the hunting and raise the kids. The males? They just lie around doing nothing …. well, they do make a lot of noise!!

Black maned lion Protection from wild animals

And this is to protect game viewers from the lions!! We stopped to use the toilets and this is what was there. Just outside and across the road from this ‘enclosed toilet’, Anne found a paw print and sure enough, Dumi told us it was a lion track!! I guess there’s a good reason to have the toilets enclosed!!

We saw lots more small game and birds including a bird I was fascinated by, the Kori Bustard. I don’t know why – we saw lots of them. They were quite shy and would run to get out of the way and once, we saw one take to the air. They looked prehistoric to me.

Kori Bustard

With all of the driving and looking for game have come many opportunities for quiet contemplation and a deep appreciation of the beauty of nature seen from my window. The different times of day of the game drives presented us with a variety of lighting effects.

On the way back to camp, the setting sun was giving a warm, golden glow to everything it touched. There were a few puddles still on the road; all that was left of the morning’s rain storm.

Dinner was spaghetti bolognaise with fruit cocktail for desert.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 500 km

Day 4 Dec 16 Tuesday
Another disruption in the middle of the night when the camp dog chased a cat up a tree just outside our window, not just once but twice. We were on the road by 7, heading for Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, in the Kalahari region of South Africa, where we would stay for the next two nights. We would have our first game drive that afternoon.

On our drive this day, as we travelled through the Orange River wine region (which produces about 40% of Africa’s wine exports), we passed through miles and miles of grapevines accompanied by big, flat, rectangular, concrete pads for drying the grapes into raisins. Vinyards stretched as far as my eye could see. We stopped to shop in Upington then continued north. The terrain was characterized by flat plains, white salt pans and and red soil.

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We were on the Kalahari Red Dune Road. Above is what it looked like.

We stopped at Molopo Kalahari Lodge for a lunch of rice salad, veggies, bread, turkey,and pickles. While we waited for the guys to prepare lunch, we went up to the lodge to see if we could use their internet. We found some internet, very slow, but we also found an abundance of ostrich eggs – they were everywhere, being used as decorations.

Molopo Lodge 1 molopo lodge 2 Ostrich egg lamp

We got to our camp, which was called ‘Twee Rivieren Camp’ (2  Rivers Camp) by about 3pm; explored a bit, got our tents set up and did laundry. Then it was time for the game drive. We set off at 430. Saw lots of animals and birds. The first ostrich prompted a photographic frenzy.

DSCN3799 first ostrich sighting

The crowning glory at the turn around point was three cheetahs lying in the shade at the side of the road. WOW!!! We watched them for a long time.

Cheetahs  Wildebeeste sunset

And at the end of our drive, wildebeest at sunset, in a herd, on a ridge in the distance.

our camp  Kgalagadi Camp  our camp 2

Home for a dinner of chicken curry with loads of veggies, a mix of wheat and lentils, and a gem squash. Healthy and good! A glass of wine, good conversation and bed by 10.

 

To Augrabies Falls National Park 480 km

Day 3 Dec. 15 Monday

It was Monday morning and we were awakened at 5 by the resident peacock, its early morning screams shocking us into what would quickly become our regular morning routine. By 6 am everyone was up and  making toast on the grill by 630.

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The morning routine stayed much the same throughout most of the trip: the crew would get up 30 minutes before us sleepyheads, lighting the coals so we could make toast, boiling water for tea and coffee, and setting up the table with with a continental- style breakfast consisting of what became a new favorite – rusks – and yogurt, cereal, toast, peanut butter, jam, and coffee and tea. Meanwhile, we would get up, remove our luggage, sleeping mats, sleeping bags & pillows from our tents, and put them on the tarp prepared for that purpose. While we ate breakfast, the crew would take down the tents, bundle everything up and load it into the truck.

We were generally on the road between 7 and 7:30. On this day, we were headed north into the Green Kalahari region and the Orange River ending our day at  Augrabies Falls (place of great noise) National Park where the Orange River plummets 56 meters into the gorge below. It is the longest river in Africa. Even though it is only 195 km from the Indian Ocean, it flows over 2000 km to empty into the Atlantic.

After made a short comfort stop in the town of Calvinia, in the middle of a great wool producing area originally started by the Afrikaners,  we continued on, driving across the ‘Little Karoo’ which I think, became the ‘Big Karoo’ when we crossed the Orange River. We spotted a few animals along the way: springbok first, then camels followed by a giraffe way off in the distance. There were lots and lots of sheep and goats too, as promised. The terrain was identical to Wyoming’s …. undulating miles and miles of sagebrush …. or at least, the African equivalent. During this part of the trip, Mike kept saying, “We could be driving through Wyoming!” Eventually, the endless sagebrush gave way to endless grasslands.

It was at this point  that we started to see sociable weaver bird nests, looking like mini-haystacks hanging off the power poles.

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Sitting for hours on the bus, gazing out at the scenes sliding by, for me promoted self reflection. So many thoughts came bubbling to the surface …. mostly about how content and happy I was, grateful to be travelling like this. This is definitely my milieu. On the bus, we each had two seats to ourselves so each of us set up little mini-work stations. Here is Mike’s.

DSCN3792 Mikes Workspace on the bus

I have been seeing lots of acacia (camel thorn) looking trees with multiple nests. These are the nests of the masked weaver bird. The male builds a nest to attract the female. She must approve of the nest and enter it and look around. If she doesn’t approve then the male must build another one. The female must be pretty picky because these trees have so many failed nests of which only one is being used! Dumi explained to us that the nests, for the most past, are built by the on the west side of the tree, therefore providing a directional guide for desert travelers.

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Stopped for wine tasting in Kakamas, at The Orange River Winery and had so much fun, many of us bought a case of wine (6 bottles, not 12!!). We had our own fridge on the bus and most of it was filled with wine instead of water!! Afterwards, we ate the lunch prepared for us, sitting in the shade of a tree: bread, grated cheddar cheese, bean salad, pickles. It seems we were always hungry.

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At the falls, we walked the three kilometers which was laid out as a boardwalk. It’s actually a national park with opportunities for game drives but we just did the 3 km walk around the area. I enjoyed seeing it. The highlight was the multitude of brightly coloured Broadly’s lizards that seemed to disregard everything except each other …. mating season?? Territorial attentions?? The males were dressed in colors that were neon-bright.

Broadley lizard  Agrabies Falls

Arriving back at camp, we settled into our tented living spaces and and got busy with the individual pursuits of showering, writing, exploring, photography, pub-crawling and chatting which occupied us most evenings, while the crew prepared the evening meal – beef stew with rice.

Tent Anne  IMG_2584_edited-1

 

Our camp at Augrabies Falls Rest Camp.

Day of Firsts: On the Road and Camping 570 km

Day 2, Dec. 14/14

To begin with we were a group of 8: Mike and I from Bahrain, Anne from France, Rachel from the USA,  Jan from the Netherlands and our crew – leader, expert driver, historian, geologist and more, Dumi; Richard, expert on birds, wildlife, jokes and good times; and Mandla,  chef extraordinaire – all three from Zimbabwe and all three members of the Ndebele tribe which originated from the Zulus. We were all fascinated with the different clicks in their language and tried with hilarious results to copy them. (In order from L – R in the pic: Dumi, Richard, Mandla.)

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It was the second day of our adventure, a Sunday.We went for breakfast around 7 am. Both of Mike and I were feeling rough … Mike got my cold and, I well … don’t know why … but I was still suffering from the effects of my cold too. After breakfast we all met at the truck, loaded up and went directly to the V&A Waterfront Mall for water, wine, rand, cold meds etc and were on the road by 10. Claire, originally Irish but more recently based in Greece , joined the trip, having come via Mozambique. So now we are 9.

Around noon we made the first of many  “comfort stops” for gas and a pee and were on the lookout for a place to have lunch. Still travelling through the wheat belt called ‘Swartland’ so named because when the wheat is growing and the wind blows, it looks like waves of black. We saw a few vineyards with many more to come, apparently, as we neared the Orange River.

We finally stopped in Cairnwilliam for lunch and by 2 pm we were enroute again. Mike saw 2 baboons from the bus before lunch. Lunch was a greek salad, bread, ham, and fresh pineapple. All fresh and very good.

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Later in the afternoon we entered Namaqualand, the domain of the Nama people. This region stretches from Herrera to and across the border into Namibia. The Nama are bushmen.

The terrain changed from a very Kamloopsian looking landscape (dry, tan-colored, hilly, sagebrushy) to a flat, red, sagebrush-covered landscape. Flat – topped mountains appeared on our left.

I felt very content sitting there on the bus, watching the land change, my Michael beside me, the guides chatting and laughing loudly in their Ndebele language. As we neared the mountains, the terrain became more hillier  and all of a sudden we began to see termite mounds. These termite mounds were not as big or as red as the ones I saw in Kenya but certainly had more unusual shapes.

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We went up and over a mountain that looked like it had “rock’ icing on it …. a flat – topped mountain with a thin layer of a different kind of rock on top. Stopped at the top of the pass at a viewpoint, the Van Rhynspas, to take pictures and enjoy the view.

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Our first night was pent in Nieuwoudteville. The camp was a bit dilapidated but I enjoyed it immensely. Why? It was our first night camping. I got to see the tents for the first time, how they set them up, and the way our ‘stuff’ was organized on tarps so that all we had to do was collect it, carry it to the tent, and get organized for the evening.

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We showered (with little black leeches for company), watched how the crew cooked dinner, sipped wine  and sat and chatted. It was great fun getting to know our traveling companions.  Rachel, the baby of the group, is a computer software developer …. easy and interesting to talk to and always ready for an adventure AND a whiz with clothes pins! Jan a tad bit older works as an archivist and is a true history buff. Initially quiet and shy, he relaxed into chuckles and outright guffaws after a beer. Lover of laughter and dance, he enjoyed and was mightily interested in all things African. Anne works in the car industry. I was so impressed with her linguistic efforts in English. Communicating in a mixture of English, French and hand signals reduced us all to helpless laughter on many occasions throughout the trip. Claire had an interesting story. Originally from Ireland,  she worked for Starbucks, overseeing its Greek, Romanian and … outlets. She quit her job to take a year off to explore both the world outside as well as her own inner world and has been travelling nonstop ever since. She joined us from Mozambique (and Ethiopia, Mongolia, the Congo and and and ). It took her longer to get to Capetown than it did us, coming from Bahrain!!.

When we got to the camp we were met by the resident peacock. He was the funniest, most curious bird I’ve ever seen. I left the door to the toilets open. They must normally keep them closed because this peacock went right up to the door, cocked its head, and looked like it wanted to go in. It did the same thing with the open cargo door of our bus.

Dumi explained yesterday, when we stopped for a while at the top of the pass that we were entering into Namaqualand which is a plateau stretching all the way to Namibia. We were up at a higher altitude so it was cold later in the evening and during the night. Thank heavens for Claire’s extra sleeping bag. She’d brought her own and didn’t need hers and gave it to me for the night.