I don’t know what day it is. I have lost count.
Oh yes, the day I leave the Kgalagadi. Oe, sad. I have my last coffee, leave the gate, and as I do my last drive, I just want to rock myself to sleep I am sooo sad, did I tell you I nearly got eaten by a leopard? I decided on a last game drive, early morning. The gate lady, who on a previous occasion, was 2 minutes late in opening the gate, asked me if I can open the gate to the park, when I go through, as she was running a little late this morning. Again. This is about 1km from the camp itself. Yes, of course. I am like a local by now, I can open the gate! I get there, still semi dark, and I make like, !Ku!?, The Busman tracker, and spot some Serval tracks at the gate. Oh fantastic, you Field warden you, spotting something like that! As I drive that first bit after the gate I nogal keep an eye out for the said Serval (that’s the cat with the pointy ears. Like Dr. Spock, just not as handsome. No, the new Dr. Spock! Not William Chatners buddy! Demmit, I am not that old! First Dr. Spock is living in a nursing home in Florida! Or the cat could have been an African Wild cat, or Civet. Wait, the Civit is possibly the Dr Spock look alike).
Anyhow, back to my bush signs interpretation! After my 5 Lion spot, I drive back to camp, and very sad, crying quietly in the corner of Bullet, I meet up with two South Africans. Now important to note that it was South Africans, as two days prior, a German(?) lady pointed out the 5 cheetahs as: there are some animals lying under a tree. And true as Bob, that evening, somebody (?) put up the leopard spot on the sighting board for the exact same spot as the cheetahs were in. So, not trusting anybody but a South African anymore with vital info like this. Back to the story, two South African guys tell me, they saw two Leopard that morning, at the main gate! Yes, that gate. Leopard, not Serval, not Civet, not even Dr. Spock! Leopards! I could have died, I could have been Leopard fodder!
Ok, sob fest over. I leave the park, take some nice shots of dunes and stuff, and then tackle the 250km to Upington. Lawn capital. And place of dodgy lamb chops, that gives one food poisoning.
A lone windmill and a sad goodbye to the Kgalagadi National Park, I will miss you Kalahari!
First things first, Bullet gets down on bended knee, no, wheel, and kisses the tar! I heard smacking noises. In fact, I think there was some tongue involved!
20km later, I am so sleepy, I can barely keep my eyes open! And the road there is flat. Not only flat (I mentioned flat yes?) but not a single thing along the way to distract. No highway robbers, no GQ men’s show, no farm stalls with funny farm implements. Nothing. I played tunes, I yawned, I sang with the tunes, I yawned some more, honestly, I don’t know how I made it. But, there it is, Upington! First order of business, get Bullet to a Hyundai doctor! Thinking of the prime plan, I don’t watch as carefully as I normally do with side roads joining the main road I am on and some bloody nincompoop eases over a stop street, right in front of me, and then does not try and stop. No, he meanders on by, not even putting up a semblance of stopping. I slam on brakes, still have a cramp in my calf from the pressure force, and nearly pee in my pants! Of course, language in the Bullet at that moment, should never ever be repeated in public. Not even in the bathroom when one is alone. You Bloody @&#^%@%$#!)(R$*&%# gulp @^$^**&$## gulp more &$^@^%##!!!!!! And don’t you even try to make as if your brakes failed, you @*&$&^$@))*^.
20 minutes later, arriving at the Hyundai dealership, my knees are still knocking together like Flip from Maya fame! (and seriously, somebody should contact Hyundai and say they should start sponsoring this blog. They are in Korea I think, you can call now, really)
Then comes the second shock of the day. The (very old) sales person at Hyundai (call Korea now, demit) says: “Lady, these cars are not built for roads like the Kalahari ne”. No, really? You shit me not? Why did nobody tell me this?? I thought it was an innate 4×4 (and the x button on this laptop does not work. Luckily I don’t have to write xenophobia too much. Or x ray. Or with Neanderthal man, XXX…..).
The old Hyundai dodger at least confirmed, Blue Bullet’s digestive tract ie. silencer/exhaust pipe (and now I have to use the x) has a hole in it. Which will make consumption a little less than the stellar 20km per litre it has been up to the park.
On to the next ( Whats with all the x’s?) order of business, I make the mistake of asking Mr Senior Senior citizen if he knows how to get to Khamkirri Camp? The poor old man slams down on both his arthritic knees, and nearly starts sobbing! What? Heart attack? Should I call somebody? No, he says, the road turns off from Kakamas town. It is the worst road ever! Dirt road, oh my god, it is bad, he moans, he cries, he nearly pulls his hair out, and Bullet gives a quiet sigh in the background, then pulls herself together, and points her eyes in the direction of the bad, evil road.
Now, with thoughts of “bad road” reverberating in my head, I take direction Keimoes. Then turn there for Kakamas. And what a little oasis Keimoes turns out to be! Reminds me a lot of Malawi, with the Orange river running through town at several tribunals (English, not first language remember). Every couple of minutes there’s a bridge, across another tri bunal. Tribularies. Trifactas. Grrrrrr, Man, side bits of the big river. And the bridges are all single lane, which means, you have to spot the car on the other side, about a kilometer away, and decide if he stopped first or if you did, as a miss spot can lead to a serious case of playing chicken on a bridge over the Orange River! Ah, Tributaries!
And everywhere, people meandering. With umbrellas and hats! Beautiful. And graveyards in red sand dunes, and not 20metres later, green lush vineyards. Contrast rearing its head again.
Ok, I make Kakamas, and seriously, these are some of the normal sounding town names I have come across in the last couple of days.
Oh, and I saw love bloom! Between Keimoes and Kakamas, on that 40km stretch of road, it is road works everywhere. Now road works basically means there will be a long stretch of road where only one lane is open. No visible work is being done in this 1 km stretch, but there are a lot of construction vehicles driving around, with drivers shouting conversations out the window at any pretty girl walking past. And then on both sides of the long stretch would be a stop and go. At each stop and go, is the lady with the red flag, and walkie talkie. Once all the cars from one end pass the finish line, she then hops on the walkie talkie, and asks the other side if all the cars are through. Although all of us, sitting on this side can clearly see the other end, and can see not a single car coming from that side. Then she changes the stop sign to a go sign. So, one of these stop and go ladies, obviously on a tea break, walks off and one of the construction workers, on full day break, starts chatting with her. As I drive off, I see in my rearview mirror, he puts his arm around her waist. She shrugs it off. Tony Bennet starts crooning softly from the back seat of Bullet. The worker puts his arm around her again, and this time, she leaves it there! And they walk off into the sunset! See, government, creating jobs, and environments for love.
Wait, still on my way to Augrabies. At this point I am tired, and grumpy, and heartsore, and thinking off just skipping the whole thing. I have been to Augrabies plenty of times. It is a lot of rocks, and big water. Very big water. Something like 3000 cubic something per spit of drop per second or some such (see, and some people think I was appointed for my people skills). I thus take the Augrabies turn off as I was under the impression that Khamkiri turnoff should be on this road as well. And just to mention here, and not pointing any fingers, but somebody who wrote the operations manual for this tour, wrote directions to Khamkiri: On leaving Augrabies NP, there is a road that turns right, then follow the signs. Now, this confuses me slightly, as if you are coming from direction Augrabies, the river is to the left. But maybe the person did not check which arm his watch was on when he was writing it. So I check on the other side and see Khamkirri sign turn off. Yayaya!!
This is where the mud section comes in, Bullet went bananas! I end up somewhere in a strange vineyard, on very bumpy dirt tracks (aa, the old mans nightmare, I think) and plot on. And then all signs disappear. And the road starts getting more overgrown, and bumpier. So I call Khamkirri. Oh, no, I am on the wrong side of the river! What do you mean, wrong side? How can there be a wrong side? Well, Philippa explains, I should have taken the turn off before Kakamas. But never mind, I can always park my car on this side, and they will ferry me across the river. Long discussion on that side, about what car I have (a big monster car, is my answer) and how much does it weigh (Hmmm., ferry me and Bullet is what crosses my mind)? Before I can think this through, I agree, and off we go, following the directions. Mud, and hang bridges, and large boulders! And the next thing, Bullets parks with wheel basically in the very fast flowing river! IN DEEEEEEEP mud! The motor boat comes in from across the river, and I get out, knee deep in mud, and there docks this little small boat. And no ferrying of Bullet. Only all my stuff and me, and Bullet stays on this side! Nooo, I don’t think so. NOBODY puts Bullet in a corner! How far exactly is the correct turn off? 50km, approximately. So, off we go, with a spin start. Mud is flying everywhere, and Bullet is going nowhere, but, seasoned rally driver that I am, I go into reverse, get bullet out, and mud slide skid out of there, over hang bridges, through little rivers, up mountains, but out of there. Bullet is now blue, with a faint undertone of mud!
The road the old wise man talked about? I spit on bad roads! Ga! Nothing! Some bumps, some dongas, some 4 wheel drive required. Ga, I spit I say! 23 km of this. Ga! I am Sarel Van Der Merwe!
And what a spectacular site, beautiful. Nice camp ground, very small swimming pool, really, very small. More like a bath. Spectacular lapa, overlooking the river, with lounge chairs, and a great bar area and 95 local farmers attending a dance do. But fantastic place. Warm, friendly staff, who came to meet me at my car, and got me a cold drink immediately, introduced me to literally all the staff, helped me with my tent, and generally made me feel so much better. They even gave some very sympathetic nods in Bullets direction, after I told them the hell we have both been through.
View over the Orange River from the bar at Khamkirri, welcome to paradise!
My camp on the banks of the Orange River, heaven!
Then came the shock, they are taking me canoeing this afternoon! No, really, not necessary I say. I can see you’re busy. I have this thing with water, and a headache, and darn, I forgot my rafting clothes at home, and …. off we went in some kind of 4 wheel drive, bakkie thing, with kayaks, and one inflatable canoe thingy for me, and my own guide.
Loading up the croc and kayaks, ready to hit the river!
Ok, I am thinking it can’t be too bad right? Rapids! Big ones! Zambezi is nothing compared to this wall of water waiting for me. They dragged me by the hair, and dumped me in the canoe, and said, don’t worry, we can all swim! Hmmm, did you check if I can?
Rocking it on the Orange River, now this is a jol!!
The First 20 minutes go nice and peaceful, and then off goes Danie and Phillipa, in their kayaks, which I suddenly realize, is what they call “Safety Kayaks”! No, why would we need this? And why do I not have a paddle thingy? And why am I wearing a helmet with a lifejacket resembling a bomb disposal unit’s flack jacket? Oh, because of rapids! Halfway through the first one, I expected to see Keanu standing on the beach, with a long board under the arm! I am very embarrassed to say, but I screech like a Banshee, and with the PITH helmet on, with Maya the bee sunglasses, and the 30kg flack jacket, I make an absolute stunning picture. Do please see the photos. One of my prouder moments, even beats the time I fell down in the main road in Pretoria, or when I lost my skirt on an escalator in a massive mall, or when my pants fell into the long drop in Zambia. No, ok, that takes a lot to beat.
My safety kayaker doing a rekkie of the rapid where I will see Keanu!
And then the second rapid, which was not even a surprise, as we actually had to get out of the canoe thing and walk around some obstacles and through the Long Grasses to get to the start of it! I looked like a chameleon trying to walk on a smartie box as I am attempting the world speed record through reeds barefoot! And off we go again, and I did see Keanu! As my life flashed in front of me, he was also wading through the long grass like a chameleon!
Bouncing through a death defying rapid, with Khamkirri on the Orange River
I had a blast! And yes, I know, in the photos that Danie so kindly took (again, really, I looked so fantastic, no wonder people wanted to take shots of, or at me) it looks like a very small little bit of fluff water, not really a rapid. I tell you, it was an evil monster rapid, one just cant see it from the angle the photo was taken.
Fantastic food later, nice long chats about the overnight adventure waiting for our clients, and off to bed I went. With the sound of Tony in the background… Love is in the air… or was it Elvis? Keanu can’t sing can he? As he can’t act, so just checking.
Has somebody called Korea yet?
Lessons learnt today:
Leaving makes one sad. Like R.E.M.
Do not believe kind people with promises of a gentle meander down river, they have evil intentions.
Always question why you don’t get a paddle.
Keanu and Korea generally don’t respond fast.
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Orange River sunrise, magical!