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Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… Damien the demon and other baby beasts

As always, I would like to start at the beginning of my day.  This was at 2h30am!  I briefly mentioned the barking Gecko in the rafters yesterday?  I have now decided, it is not a Barking Gecko, it is some kind of demonic hissing, spitting amphibian creature, put in the rafters to specially annoy me!  Every time I turn around in bed, it spits at me!  And then comes the post spit HISSSSSsssss!  But the problem is, Damien ( it now has a name), puts so much effort into the HIsssss, that it promptly has a bowel movement!  There are little fire balls of crap all over the room now!  Hence, me being awake at 2h30!  I was spat awake (English is not my first language, but even I can see something is amok with that sentence?)!

Ok, post 2h30 demon spit later, some confusion with gate times.  On the map they kindly give you to illustrate the two roads in the Kgalagadi, it clearly states gate opening time for November is 5h30am.  But, on the clock sign at the gate it says 6h15.  I reckoned that the people at the park would know better than the media print shop in Cape Town that printed the map and gate times. So I will go with the Gate clock sign!  By 6am, I am standing ready, but strangely, the sun has been up for a while!  I got clarity on this matter later in the day, when the gate guard said he doesn’t know who made the time on the gate wrong (my personal feeling, somebody who wanted to hog the Lions for themselves)

So at incorrect 6h15, I went into the park!  Halihaaaa, what a day!  Spectacular!  It started off with a family of Suricates (and o henetjie, how embarrassing would it be if it was actually banded mongoose or some such, and here am I, Guide trainer of note, and a qualified field guide saying it is a suricate!).  But I know in Afrikaans they are called Meerkatte or Graatjies.  I digress.  Back to the massacre theme of this epic adventure!  One of the Graatjies managed to catch a Rock Agama.  A BIG one!  It was chomping away, starting with the head, and from here it is going to get a bit graphic.  PG in effect!  So, it bit of the head, but apparently the sinew is a bit of a tough customer to get loose.  So, furious snapping and pulling, and that sorted it out.  And in the middle of this feast, some danger was noted, so the Suricate was standing on its back legs with an agama’s lower half dangling out of the side of its mouth, with one agama arm still  kicking!  I wonder what the agama though it would do if it could kick itself free? Run around with no head?  Oe, this reminds of  Matjiesfontein all over again!

Suricat tentatively stalking a Rock Agama

Suricat tentatively stalking a Rock Agama

Got it!  Suricat has surprised it's prey, Rock Agama comes off second best.

Got it! Suricat has surprised it's prey, Rock Agama comes off second best.

Suricat making a meal of it, sinews and kicking legs can be hard to swallow!

Suricat making a meal of it, sinews and kicking legs can be hard to swallow!

Word on the street, there's something going on out there, best I keep guard and pretend I don't have half a lizard sticking out my mouth!

Word on the street, there's something going on out there, best I keep guard and pretend I don't have half a lizard sticking out my mouth!

Now in my head I am an award winning photographer. In reality, I am rather crappy at it. But it gives me so much joy just pressing that shutter release button that I actually don’t really care if the photos never end up in the National Geographic!  So unfortunately, my photos don’t really show the guts and gore, but believe me, it was spraying all over the show!

After that little blood fest, I stumbled over a Dark Chanting Goshawk!  Again, some mediocre photos there, but well worth the 70 spaces it took up on my memory card!

And so it went on.  Two hours of small birds, little mammals running around, and fun and games to be had by all.  I have to admit, seeing as I am in Blue bullet all alone, and Bullet is not a big talker, I found myself having fat chats with myself, and random animals around me!  Hello there Mr Ostrich!  How YOU doing?  And the last song I played before entering the park was a song of which I only know about a half a stanza, and that got stuck in my head (I see a hmmm la la da, grace lala your mind.  In a world of laahmmmlaaa la I see).  Hence my decision to turn back after about 2 and half hours in one direction (also, the guy at the gate told me that the road is closed from 20km from Twee Rivieren Camp.  He also drew this on my map with magic marker, in case I got confused between the metric system and the other system that people use on maps.  Ok, I see his point.  But, 30km later, still no clear “road closed, don’t you dare cross this one rock lying on the ground” sign.  I thus turned around of my own accord. ( They say it is hard to find internet in Jail)

Hello Mr Ostrich, enjoying your stroll today?  What lovely feathers you have!

Hello Mr Ostrich, enjoying your stroll today? What lovely feathers you have!

And then it happened!  I was doing a spot of bird watching, and as one does when doing this hobby, the eye will always go into trees, and underneath trees.  So I saw a small black bird, under a tree.  This now as I drove past.  But then my mind said, hang on, a small bird wont sinuously stretch itself out like a snake!  Slam brakes, come to a skidding halt that even the big Sarel van der Merwe would not have been able to pull off, without rolling poor Bullet!  I Slam into reverse, and take out three Kanna bushes.  O hell, it could have been Njarra bushes too, I was not really looking ok!  And then I see it.  One ear sticking up, in the shade!  Leopard I think?  Nah, the last time the Kgalagadi pulled a strange animal that don’t belong here stunt, was when they brought in 12 Giraffes, and my brother also nearly rolled the car when we saw one.  Basically, a traffic hazard to do that.  Then in my jumbled confusion, it sunk in, CHEETAH!  The fast cat?  Lives in the Kalahari and Namibia.  Ag, ok, pretty much everywhere.  Seriously endangered, due to its love life being a little Mississippi, Deep South thing, where your grandmother is also your cousin, and you are your own nephew!  So, with the tune from Deliverance Banjo duet playing in my head, I switch off the car and just sigh and smile.  Cheetahs.

And not one, but four of them. Mom and cubs!

Eventually another car arrives, and I hang out half mast through the car window, in my excitement that my eyesight is actually not as bad as I thought, and enthusiastically pointed out the four cheetahs.  All lying flat, can barely see them. So we settle in for the duration, because at some point one of them must surely go to the bathroom?

Then the lady in the other car drives parallel to me, and asks me, she bought a new camera, and do I know which camera setting one uses to get the Cheetah to come out of the shade?  My answer in my head was, yes, of course, turn the dial on the camera to raw meat, and then point it in the direction of the cheetahs.  But that was in my head.  In fact I was a bit worried about the lady, as her eyes were watering terribly.  Now I am not sure if it was with emotion, to finally see a cheetah, or if she should rather stick to the Kruger Park, where they have tar and not dust roads.

A spot in the wild!  Waiting for cheetahs to move can become a little Mad Max..ish

A spot in the wild! Waiting for cheetahs to move can become a little Mad Max..ish

But, eventually she leaves, and not 5 minutes later, the cheetahs get up!  I slam Bullet into reverse, again nearly take out two dunes, and half a plantation of whatever bush that was, and so I ran with the Cheetahs!  Truly!  In reverse!  And I got some lovely shots.  Cheetah walking.  Cheetah walking still.  O look, Cheetah walking!  And then Cheetah sleeping 2 km further down, under a duplicate shade tree!

Well Done Mum!  These are some beautiful babies!  Cheetah Cubs getting in on the action!

Well Done Mum! These are some beautiful babies! Cheetah Cubs getting in on the action!

O well, all ends well that is well?  No, all is well that ends?  Bugger, you know what I mean.

Lunch time saw me back at camp with a duet tan going on on my face.  Half burnt, the other half very light white!  And, there stands a Nomad truck!  In the Kgalagadi!  I must tell you, white contrasts very nicely with the red sand dunes!  It was a truck on a charter tour, but luckily the driver, Richard, could come check out Blue bullet and the V8 sound.  He gets under the car, with about 30 bystanders cheering on, and it seems there is a hole in the silencer!  And, more bad new, Blue Bullet is going through a slight identity crisis!  Reason, she lost her Registration number plate!  This part Richard asked me very politely:  “Boss lady, where is the Number plate?”  So I explain about the hell road, and also the Kgalagadi roads, and he says, but is Bullet then 4×4?  I could hear a faint sniff coming from Bullet at that point.

Plate-less and a little confused as to whether it's a 2 x 2 or a 4 x 4, poor Blue Bullet!

Plate-less and a little confused as to whether it's a 2 x 2 or a 4 x 4, poor Blue Bullet!

So, number plate-less, I venture back into the park.  And saw a side striped Jackal!  Either that, or a very Mangy looking black backed Jackal.  I am hoping for the side stripe, it is rather rare to see.  So, as I am minding my own business, taking photos of said sick black backed, or rare side striped, another 4 wheel drive car approaches at the speed of light, or rather much more than the allowed 40km per hour.  Then the driver slams on brakes, creates a dust cloud like Hiroshima would not believe, and looks around.  Then he asks me, what am I seeing.  Now, right underneath his nose, possibly with its tail caught under his tyres, is the Jackal.  Which I meekly point out.  O, he says, its just a jackal.  He has been looking for a Lion the whole day, and still have not found one.  I thought to myself, if that is how you drive, and you can’t even see a jackal under your nose, chances are you drove by a whole assembly of Lions!  But again, wisely, I kept that to myself!

So, the bottom line, boys and girls, is that we all learnt a lot today!  Demons can live in Geckos, and then spit.  Cheetahs sleep with the wrong ones.  If you drive too fast, you park on Jackals, who in turn won’t tell you where the big Lion party is being held that evening!

My day ended with another insect attack!  This time it was done in full frontal attack mode, on the entire bush front Chalets!  While I was busy battling a swarm of bees, the Dutch family next door was busy chasing them with a bath towel, and the Americans two chalets down, were just bemoaning the fact that one just can’t control wildlife anymore these days!  I have to admit, I was screaming a bit like a girl. Sorry.

I got the bees out, had a nice piece of sheep, and started looking forward to tomorrow.

My sighting list add-ons:

Four Cheetahs.  Did I mention I saw cheetahs?  Yes, four.

Red Hartebees.

Two very close Ostriches.  Not close to me, close to each other.

Dark chanting Goshawk.

Pale chanting Goshawk.

Blue Heron (water bird, but seemingly one with identity crisis as well)

Namakwa Doves

Spingboks and springbok babies!  Very very cute

Side striped Jackal.

And I did see one Black backed as well.  Or then, one healthy and one sick Black backed Jackal

One Nomad truck, with emotional Spanish Tour Leader.

One Agama foot, still kicking.

Gemsbok.

Did I mention about the four Cheetahs?

O, how could I forget!  Tree climbing mice!  Beyond adorable!  They hang like Kite surfers on three different branches and try to get the seeds on the bush!  Then the wind pulls one of the branches to one side, so then the poor mouse stretches like bubblegum and eventually just !  Hundreds of them on bushes!  Looked like the Chinese Lantern festival!

That’s it for today, tomorrow the adventure continues!

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to do this tour with us, have a look at the itinerary for the 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour and book as soon as possible!

 

Tosca’s epic Kalaroo Adventure… kaalgat in the Kalahari!

I woke up at 5 feeling very off.  You might wonder why I start this piece off with something you really couldn’t care less about.  But this will become clear a little later on.

Anywho, woke up, read a little, figured out that the thingymabob that comes out of the camera actually has a little hole on the laptop that was made for it (like the spiders and their mating).  Had about 10 cups of coffee and generally made out as though I was on holiday.

Coffee on the fire, now this is a holiday!

Coffee on the fire, now this is a holiday! What adventures will we encounter today?

This killed the time until 7am, when I could start packing my car.  Now after the big scare from yesterday, what with my car growling at me, and sounding like a V8 stock car, I was a bit nervous about the day.  So I ignored little injured blue bullet, and presented myself for breakfast.

Two hours later, Linda, the owner of the guesthouse, and myself finally concluded our chat and plans for the town, and how we can incorporate the local artists into our tour, etc ad finitum!  O, and also why we really don’t need a man in our lives, unless you are short like me, and need somebody to assist in changing lightbulbs.  It was great to meet somebody who actually cares about her community, and wants to see some kind of improvement in the unemployment rate, and sees having some self respect, and off course something to do with your hands, as the way out. And for those who did not know, they have some awesome Bushman paintings right outside Kenhard.  And, when we designed this tour, we really wanted to actually spend some time on a working farm in the area, and guess what, Linda owns a farm, right next to verneuk pan.

The Blue Bullet patiently waiting outside the Guest House while the ladies compare lawns

The Blue Bullet patiently waiting outside the Guest House while the ladies compare lawns

So out came the photos.  One can actually still see the tracks from 1938, when that Malcolm bloke drove across there.  Linda says, they actually swept the track he used with a broom. 17km long!  I wonder who had that little gem of a task?

So, finally by 9h30, I had to take my leave.  Bullet was quiet, the road uneventful, with no Kamikaze wildlife present.  I even stopped for some nice photos of nothing.

Made Upington, and felt a little worse than this morning.  Again with the feeling sick bit, but wait, it is coming…

So, bought some meat, met a very nice lady at the meat market, decided against buying the 300kg bag of Ice (Upington I think is a little like Texas), and on my way out, realized that in Upington it is not the size of the house that counts, it’s if  you have a lawn or not that separates the Joe soaps from the Joe Soap Opera.  The uppity ones, all with lawns!  So basically, if you had a one room bathroom set up, and some green spray paint, chances are, you would be invited to all the cool parties there.

So, now the sick thing.  About 30km outside Lawn capital, I really really didn’t feel well, and decided to have a strong pain killer (not the rum type).  Thinking it should sort out any headache, flu type thing brewing.  40 min later, I could barely keep my eyes open!  It was horrific!  The road does not even have a hint of a curve, to break the monotony, no Kamikaze wildlife to keep me on my toes (and awake).  About 100km before Kgalagadi, I really couldn’t take it any more, and pulled of.  Now, the last time I did a bush toilet break was in 2004, behind a small mountain.  Please do take note, the Kalahari is flat.  NO mountains!  And a swarm of Tsetse flies, cross bred with boeing 747 on steroids attacked me!  I NEVER pulled pants up that fast in my life (except for the time when my pants actually fell into the long drop in East Africa, but that story for another time)!  With the pants still dangling behind, and the shoe getting stuck in every little bush, it was a spectacular run for my car!  And, needless to say I was awake.

The best part of the day, after a semi uneventful and shorter drive, of course, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.  It is a place of such contrasts, and always invokes such massive emotions when I see it, that I am never sure if I should cry or laugh, or just shut up and go and look for Animals!  So I did the last bit.  The other thing about this red sand dune playground is that one does not trip over animals.  So this is where one actually starts sweating the small stuff!  Look for the little things, and that in turn leads to some very rare and exiting sightings!  But because it is so beautiful, just looking at the passing dunes with its clumps of yellow grass and the very blue sky above (yes, the three primary colours all together in one shot), is more than enough!

But still, I saw some stuff!!

Mongoose, Suricate (scratching for food, too cute), Rock agama (very colourful indeed), Springbok, Gemsbok (high up on a dune, lovely contrasts there), Ostrich, Ground Squirrels, Forktailed Drongo, Crimson Breasted Shrike, Starlings, Korhaan, Cori Bustard (heaviest flying bird).Rock Agama, in the Kgalagadi, it's the small stuff that counts!

Rock Agama, in the Kgalagadi, it’s the small stuff that counts!

The winner was definitely a Martial Eagle, not 2 meters away!  I got one spectacular shot of it, after 300 attempts. But what a beauty! As always, one big thing a day.  That is what makes the Kgalagadi so special.

Marshall Eagle, the biggest of the African Eagles, spotted in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Marshall Eagle, the biggest of the African Eagles, spotted in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Marshall Eagle takes to the skies, you can feel the power of this bird!

Marshall Eagle takes to the skies, you can feel the power of this bird!

Meanwhile, I have a barking Gecko in my roof ( Thatch roof, so yes, In) spitting at me at present, and a family of bats outside, having fun next to my front door.

It is 5am now, and I am off on another adventure in the park! Coffee flask done, left over braai wrapped, cool drink and water in the cooler box, and Camera on standby!

Coffee and biscuits, ready to hit the road!

Coffee and biscuits, ready to hit the road!

I can’t wait!

 

Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo adventure … telescopes, toads and technical driving!

What a night!  I found my camp site, and with some slight blonde moments, managed to put up my tent.  Then with great enthusiasm, I decided to start a fire, with the wood I bought in Worcester.  My question, after three hours of frantically waving a magazine at the logs, and blowing like a Southern Right Whale the rest of the time, is this:  veld fires are trees, still living, and sopping wet, that burns like a mother, right?  Then, why the hell do the three small logs, long dead, and slightly damp, NOT WANT TO SPARK up a semblance of a fire? Needless to say, I had to buy new paper plates, and firelighters today.  And a new set of braai tongs.

But, eventually after several hors of patient (intended) waiting, I had a small kettle full of semi boiling water. For a cup of coffee. 30 minutes later, I also had about 3 coals to braai my boerewors on.  So, supper and cold sorted out, I got into bed.

Thank you warmly to our workshop manager and his wife, who lent me their small, compact tent (to help with the weight in my car).  But I do hope they realize it is made of paper?  And last night, there was a slight (gale force) breeze in Sutherland.  So every time a gust came through, it sounded like somebody was busy crumbling up a whole set of Encyclopedia Britannica next to my ear!  And, after my ghostly experience of yesterday, I was not that comfortable with the unidentified noises coming from behind the tent.  Then, at 2am this morning, I woke up, in a cold sweat, tried to rush out of the tent, and the zipper was stuck on the side material!  PANIC!  I got out, on my stomach, through a small opening in the door.

The paper tent, the Blue Bullet and a rather serene and peaceful looking campsite

The paper tent, the Blue Bullet and a rather serene and peaceful looking campsite

This morning, while rolling up the paper tent, I realized what it was that woke me up.  Two bull frogs burrowed in under the tent, and slept right underneath me!  I have proof.  I took photos of them disdainfully limp hopping away (they misjudged my weight, it seems).  So another wildlife injury ascribed to me.

Frogs that don't make good bed friends, I wonder what a kiss would have done to this one?

Frogs that don't make good bed friends, I wonder what a kiss would have done to this one?

OK, so that was the night’s escapades. Now for the day!

I met with the SAAO (South African Astronomical Observatory) people this morning and got royal treatment with a private tour of the facilities.  It seems that an evening star gazing experience would be the order of the day!  I was expecting lots of Europeans with white coats running around up there, but not a soul in sight.  First I feared an alien abduction, but apparently they all come to put up their telescopes, and then bugger off home, and do the research from there!  So, the Polish, Korean and Japanese little hubs looked abandoned, but at least they had a roof over their telescopes while the poor Americans only have 4 slabs of concrete.  Their stuff is still being built it seems!

South African Large Telescope is the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere

South African Large Telescope is the largest single optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere

The absolute highlight of my day (and this is unfortunately the proof that I did in fact drive over that poor olive grass snake yesterday, and I know it was an olive grass snake, as it was still lying dead in the road where I left it) was not studying the dead snake, no, the highlight of my day was route R354.  Please go and check out this road on a map?  It is 142km long, dirt road. So, I reckon, two hours tops, and I will be in Calvinia!  As a side note / footnote type thing, I do really want to call Hyundai, and congratulate them on their vehicles.  Bullet was a superstar today!  Road R354 is the road straight to (or from) hell!  And it was not paved with good intentions.  It was not paved with any intentions, or tar, or even smooth gravel.  It was granite rocks, filed to a sharp edge, interspersed with knee high soft sand, and not to forget the fantastic corrugated bumps in between!  Some mountain passes looked like a step ladder, and not a road, so steep was the gradient!  And of course, sometimes, all four would be at the same time, same place! So, to get through the soft sand, one cannot slow down.  It is go go go!!. The granite MOUNTAIN size boulders require careful avoidance tactics to stay away from a tyre blow out.  The corrugated bits looked like speed bumps on LSD!  Man, I could park my car in the dips, and needed to reverse out on the high parts.  So, slow go, slow go, slow go.

Sand, corrugations and boulders, together on a pass. FUN!  Can’t slow down or the car gets stuck, doing figure of eights in the loose sand while dodging rocks and jarring over corrugations, prompting visions of sheer cliff drops at speed, I was surprised to find my pants dry at the end of the day!

I felt like a contestant on the Cape to Dakar race and leading it as not another car in sight, except for the donkey car, who REALLY could have moved to the bad side of the road, seeing as the donkey had LEGS that can’t have a blow out!

All my little blue bullet needed was the Total rally Stickers on the side and the mesh windows.  With the amount of dust coming in, it could just have well not have had windows!

I smoked so much, that I am sounding like James Earl Jones as Darth, and all of those had to be lit without taking my eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel.  I do not have eyebrows at present.  Not anymore!

Then, finally, blissfully, tar!  And I take the wrong turn.  Luckily only 20km in the wrong direction which saw me entering the bustling metropolis of Calvinia.  I could again do a U turn in the main road without checking for other cars!

Estimated drive time?  Two hours?  It took me FIVE hours of sweat, tears and eyebrow sacrifice.

I had a blast!

The trucks of course will have an easier time of it, seeing as they carry double sets of tyres in the back, which makes loose sand less of a hassle, and also seeing as the truck tyres have way more tread than normal car tyres, they can take the punishment!

And, in-between I did manage to take some photos, of a desolate landscape where the rocks are actually scorched black by the sun, red clay sections of the road are smooth and in total contrast to the burnt landscape and rivers flow in the most unexpected places – beautiful!

The tarred section saw a return of my tunes!  Top volume.  And speeding along, I hit the next obstacle.  Remember again, the locusts from yesterday?  They were itty bitty little things compared to the swarms of red hopping mad locusts that all tried to cross the road. And no, we don’t know why they would want to cross the road!  It was wholesale slaughter!  On a busy highway, with trucks and 4×4’s and cars.  The tar was stained red with little carcasses!  And when you approach one of the waves of locusts, it actually looked like a swell in the ocean, as they tried to move faster across the road!  Scary!  My car still has carcasses hanging from the undercarriage.

I was supposed to go and visit Verneukpan, where they attempted to break the world speed record in 19 something really early, but by the time I got to the first turn off, I just did not have it in me anymore.  Neither did Blue bullet, who sounded like a V8 engine at a stock rally at that point!

But, Luckily I am staying at a fantastic guest lodge in Kenhard tonight, and guess what?  The owner has a working sheep farm right next to Verneuk pan, right outside town!  So the negotiations will begin soon!

All in all, an exhausting, exhilarating day.  For me, Blue bullet, and all the wildlife I actually managed to dodge today!

The tally of wildlife stands at:

  • Sheep. Lots of them.
  • Two donkeys, pulling a cart. On the good section of the road.
  • Rock Hyraxes, on a relaxing stroll across the road (as I was not going more than 5km per hour at that point, they did not have to do anything faster than a meander)
  • A mini Rock Hyrax (Seriously, it looked just like one, but just very small, with a stick in its mouth. Perhaps he is called Woof?)
  • Pale chanting Goshawk.
  • Masked weavers.
  • Pied crows
  • One dwarf mongoose (possibly it was a cat, but I was on one of those hell passes, at full rally speed)
  • Family of Suricats, trying to pry the carcasses of the dead red locusts of the road.
  • Dead and alive locusts!

Two days, but man, I am exhausted. Tomorrow it is Kgalagadi!

In the words of Bruce (That would be Willis) – JipeeKaJay!!

Book this tour now or you’re going to lose out – 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour

Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… the massacre!

Nomad’s Operations Manager, Tosca Korver, has dangerously been let out of the office to get a closer look at our new tour route, the 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour (Cape Town to Cape Town).  Don’t miss out on her epic adventures right here!

From the Road…. Day 1

It was a Massacre!! I left a blood trail from Cape Town to Sutherland! I am so depressed at the moment, drinking a plastic cup of Beyerskloof red, and hope that tomorrow the small animal life will please STAY OUT OF MY WAY!! It started with a Cisticola (little bird) that went Kamikaze on me, and flew into the side of my car!  Then, of course it is apparently locust migration season in the Northern Cape, so, yes, quite a few colonies were wiped out by my 2×2 wheels.  And then, the Leopard Tortoise, that, not at the speed of light, in fact, at no speed at all, crawled across the road on some unnamed pass.  That one I missed, but nearly rolled my car in the attempt, seeing as the Leopard tortoise is on the endangered species list.  I think.  And then, of course, the snake! Seriously, it should not be on a 45km per hour road.  Where I drove 30km per hour, as I was trying to capture the spectacular view from the Observatory Mountain! Not sure if I hit that one, but I think the tail might be something of the past now.

And this was NOT due to reckless driving, or lack of attention! They all just seemed to brim over with a lust for death!

Anyhow, that being said, what a fantastic day.  My first vacation leave in yonks (and when I say Yonks, I mean, since the advent of electricity type of Yonks), so the first three hours was of course taken up with thoughts of work, and what did I forget.  Then I ran into the Bikers club from Cape Town.  At the wimpy about 5km outside of Cape Town(I was hungry, OK), and they seemed to be in such a high spirit for their bike trip (possibly to the Tygerberg Zoo and back) that I also promptly got into the spirit of the Epic adventure!

Du Toit Kloof tunnel, as always, gave me a moment of hesitation.  I am not the type to be driving blithely underneath a couple of tons of mountain, and not be worried.  But that 4km went past without a ton of bricks coming down on my head ( SA Engineers, ne!). I was very tempted to stop at every farm stall, and trout fishing stop, but managed to contain myself, until I saw the sign post for the Ostrich farm just past Touws River!

Ag cute man!  Did a lovely 40 min tour there, with Bob, the Ranger, from Zimbabwe nogal. And low and behold, Bob knows Nomad very well, as he recalls our trucks pulling into Vic Falls when he was still living there.

That bonding session later, I fell back on the road again, looking for Matjiesfontein.  Now, it must be said that I have been there before! A couple of times, but strangely, I couldn’t find it this time.  Possibly because it has a population of like 3.  And is more like a thought of a town, than a metropolis.  I eventually pulled off at a truck rest stop, to check my map, to see if perhaps I did not drive past, and was speedily on my way to the Lebombo border to Mozambique (but I do carry my passport, so it would not have been a train smash, except for the 2000km round trip part). 15km later, I stumbled into Matjiesfontein.  Originally founded by some Scott, and his wife, the whole town has been declared a national monument.  And one can see why.  Strangely, it reminds me a lot of Pilgrims rest in its hay day, with clapboard houses, and staff in colonial dress.  The Museum was closed, temporarily, as the caretaker had to go to the bathroom, just as I arrived.  So I meandered over to the bar, and met the Character of Matjies!  He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, pulled me inside and gave me an impromptu tour of Lord Milner’s home.  Or lord somebody.  (Sorry, I was not really listening that well, as I was too busy looking at the amazing range of weird and wonderful old time furniture!

It seems that my casual tour guide, is actually a jack of all trades, who can play piano ( which he did, bowler hat and all), and a standup comic!  He showcased the performance he did on a SA standup comic television show, and if I must say so, he was rather good with his Madiba impression.  If it was not for the beer gut, I would have thought I was in the presence of the big man himself!

Matjiesfontein Piano Man

A jack of all trades, the tour guide and piano man character of Matjiesfontein

I took my leave of Mr. Piano man, after he issued an invite to any Nomad group arriving, that he will take them on a 5 minute drive through tour of the town in the old London bus, and found the Museum caretaker back from her bathroom break.  And not a tooth in her mouth, but mouthy is a good way to describe her!  Fantastic!  So, she showed me around, and then she had another urgent call from nature (I know, I also started worrying about the state of the food there).  And there I found myself, abandoned in the cellar/basement, dungeon of the museum.  Now, as my mom would say in Afrikaans “Ek is nie met die Helmet gebore nie, maar hier kan ek voel spook dit vanaand” ( Translated, I was not born with Du Bois ESP Ghost detection built in, but even I can say that here the ghosts are running free).  I felt a cold chill running down my spine, and absolute deathly hollow quiet!  Not to throw away my name as a fearless type, I exited the basement at a brisk pace. I did not run.

I suspect that lady caretaker might actually not exist on this astral plain?  Maybe she is a manifestation of the slave of the Scott?  Halihaaaaa!!!

And just before I jumped in my car, to make haste out of Ghost town, my tour guide from the bar shows up, and shows me a photo taken just the previous week, of him, with a ghostly apparition in the back ground!

Matjiesfontein. A town for all souls, lost or not!

The London Bus in Matjiesfontein

The London Bus in Matjiesfontein

Then, the next 110km to Sutherland.  This is where I truly felt I was in theKaroo!  Tectonic plate moment that shifted mountains clear out of the sockets, flat ground in between, the occasional raptor ( this route is known as the raptor route, by the way, for those avid bird watchers), and pretty much nothing else. Breathtaking, abandoned piece of land that just shows the magnificence that is South Africa. Ok, enough waxing lyrical!  I drove on a deserted tar road and saw some pretty amazing Karoo flowers, birds, and the occasional swarm of locusts.  Biblical I tell you!

Sutherland has a population of 2000.  I know this because it said so on the sign board at the beginning of town where I realized that I just drove past my camp site for the evening!!  But, with a population of 2000, one can make a U-turn, with no traffic in either direction.

I popped in at the SAAO ( the South African Astrological organization?) or some such.  And, managed to procure a star gazing tour for the Saturday evening, using SALT! No, no tequila drinking.  It is the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. So, one thing set at least, I am going back in the morning for a proper tour, and info session with the powers that be.  But, meanwhile the friendly owner of Southerland Caravan Park will give a star gazing tour tonight, through the telescope here at the camp site!  Pretty neat!

So, in order to kill some time, I made a fire. Well attempted to make a fire. I cannot see now, through the snot and tears, and also have to restock on Paper plates in the morning.  Used them all to keep the wood burning.  But it is finally crackling away, the sheep went home to bed (yes, sheep, next to the camp site. Very pastoral, Breughal kind of scene), and my toes are freezing!

All in all a very good day.  Except now for all the deaths and dead people.  I saw some spectacular scenery, visited two lovely towns, saw an Ostrich and an Emu, O, and a sheep, and managed to start a fire with paper plates and wet wood!

Epic I tell you!

To pre-empt Tosca’s next day on the road and see where she’s going – have a look at the Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour itinerary!

Go Mo Mad with Nomad in November and win a 7 Day Desert Explorer Tour

How do you feel about going on a 7 Day Camping Tour from Cape Town to Swakopmund?  For FREE!!  And a 25% discount for your travel partner.

To make this dream a reality, all you need to do this November is grow the most creatively NoMADic moustache we’ve seen!

Send us your pictures of your Movembers!  Frovembers and Logomos will be accepted too.  Girls, no mo?  Mow your hair in any creative fashion and your entries will be accepted too.  Don’t be cruel to your pets but if they look like they have a cool potential Mopportunity for a photo, get them involved!  Creative hair is what it’s about and the more Nomad’esque it is, the better!

Enter your photos by:

In order to qualify:
What we will do:
  • For every photo that is entered into the competition and qualifies as above, Nomad will donate R2 to a charity selected by the owner of the winning picture.
Logo Mo from Nomad African Adventure Tours
Logo Mo from Nomad African Adventure Tours
This Nomad is begging for a Mo... and a Fro! Show him what you can do!
This Nomad is begging for a Mo… and a Fro! Show him what you can do!
Need some inspiration?  Have a look at some other Movember ideas:

Opportunity knocks on Cape Town’s door again, welcome to the World Design Capital 2014!

Rioters crashing through the streets, inhumane living conditions, congested, overpopulated, polluted, a mess.  These are the graphic images that have stayed in my mind after a presentation by Bulelwa Ngewana, Managing Director of the Cape Town Partnership, about a fast growing city of Seoul, South Korea, hungry for development but with no feelings for it’s people.

A turnaround happened for this city as it was selected to be the World Design Capital 2010, the focus shifted to the people of South Korea and a general improvement of their living conditions ensued.

Seoul's traffic congestion before World Design City

Seoul's traffic congestion before World Design City

Cheonggyecheon once the highway had been removed and space made for the people

Cheonggyecheon once the highway had been removed and space made for the people

Today it was announced that Cape Town will be the Design Capital of the World for 2014 and we couldn’t be happier!  Everyone in Cape Town wants a better future for their neighbours, friends and families and we believe that this is another opportunity for all of us to get involved and enhance general living conditions for all through design.

Keep your eye on Bulelwa Ngewana, Grant Pascoe, Andrew Boraine, Michael Wolf, Patricia de Lille, the Cape Town Partnership, Cape Town Tourism and the general design fraternity in Cape Town as they bring our city together and transform the lives within it.

Our future Soccer heros should not have to practice on the side of the N2 highway!

Our future Soccer heros should not have to practice on the side of the N2 highway!

The redevelopment of Green Point Park is a good indicator of what can be expected to improve living conditions for all

The redevelopment of Green Point Park is a good indicator of what can be expected to improve living conditions for all

If you’re feeling inspired to be part of the transformation, make sure that you keep on creating these opportunities and vote for Table Mountain to be included as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature!

Sharks, Mantas and the Big Five! Mozambique and South Africa’s best kept secret

You’ve island hopped to see sea lions and hammerheads in Galapagos, you’ve been blown away by the corals and colours in Indonesia, you’ve coursed the Caribbean for turtles, frog fish and brightly shining tropicals, the Barrier Reef and the Red Sea – more of the same – it’s time to try something a little more off the beaten track and wild (ok, so I may be a little biased, please don’t take offence)!

Nomad Africa Adventure Tour’s 14 Day South African Dive Safari

Nomad Africa Adventure Tour’s 20 Day South African Dive Safari

There is only one place in the world where you can lay your beady eyes on the Big 5, dive with tiger sharks, hammerheads, reef tips, silkys, whale sharks, great whites, ragged tooth, cow sharks and manta rays!  Not forgetting the smaller toothed tropicals.  On this tour, when you finish your epic dives for the day and you think the adventure is over, we hit the road and go and visit more big toothed animals in the Kruger National Park and Swaziland.

Fern Perry, owner of Lutwala Dive, Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Technical Instructor, specialises in large pelagic diving and she will run all of the dive tours.  Fern is particularly interested in the preservation and conservation of the species that she works with every day and you will find that while on tour, you will be introduced to passionate professionals who will give you further insight into the lives of our incredible marine life.

We have a 20% discount on two of our tours, departing 23rd and 26th January 2012.  Seats are limited so get in contact with us as soon as possible if you’re keen to join us on this epic adventure!  If names like Aliwal Shoal, Protea Banks and Paia Do Tofo excite you, this is the tour for you!  Contact us on nomad@nomadtours.co.za or visit our website on www.nomadtours.co.za to find out more about this incredible journey.

Join our South African Dive Safari page on Facebook to keep up to date with all the exciting news from the upcoming season!

The gentle giants of the sea, Tofo

Praia do Tofo, home to the largest population of Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in the world

SCUBA Diving with Sharks on Nomad's South African Dive Tour

Playing nonchalant with a predator of the seas

One of the only family of sharks that swim in schools

Looking up at a school of Hammerhead sharks

The graceful Tiger shark

Top apex predator, these Tiger sharks have an open curiosity

South African Dive Safari with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours and Lutwala Dive

This is our route map for a 20 Day Dive Safari Tour, we can also offer you a 14 Day Dive Tour

Fern Perry, Owner of Lutwala Dive, 5* PADI Dive Resort and TDI Dive Centre

Fern Perry, Owner of Lutwala Dive, 5* PADI Dive Resort and TDI Dive Centre, also your Tour Leader!

Discovering the recovering beauty of Zimbabwe

On the 17th September a truck full of excited adventurer’s set off from Johannesburg to be the first guests on our 16 Day Camping, Zimbabwe Rediscovered Tour.  Zimbabwe has really come a long way in the last 3 years and has been working at re-establishing it’s National Parks and getting the basics back into good working order.  Zimbabwe’s people have always valued having visitors in their country and now they have the opportunity of welcoming travellers back to their most incredible homeland.

One of our agents, Chris du Preez, joined the tour and is absolutely raving about it!  Chris’ highlights included game viewing in Hwange National Park, the two night canoe adventure on the Zambezi River and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  The spectacular scenery and unique activities certainly make up for some of the longer days on the road.

Below are some pictures from Chris’ tour, if you’d like more information, please contact me at jess@nomadtours.co.za .  You can also see a full itinerary of our 2011 and 2012 tours on our website (30% discount for 2011 departures)

Elephants in Hwange

Elephant family having a dust bath in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Two night canoe adventure on the Zambezi River

Looks like a great way to view game from the banks of the Zambezi River
Tents setup for a night on the Zambezi River

Now this looks like the real thing! How else do you get closer to nature than on the banks of the Zambezi River

Dinner at the truck, camp setup

While the guests were out exploring, the guides decided to surprise them with this incredible dinner setup!

Pangolin, Scaly Anteater

How lucky to have spotted this Pangolin, that's a definite tick off the bucket list!

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Visiting Zimbabwe's World Heritage Site, The Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Chris du Preez with lions at The Antelope Park

The lion walk experience certainly captures the hearts of the people who experience it.

16 Day Camping Zimbabwe Rediscovered Tour

The route map for our Zimbabwe Rediscovered Tour, 2011

Come and explore Zimbabwe with us, and if there’s something else you’re looking for, we have a huge selection of tours for you to choose from and loads of excellent specials for 2011 departures!  Please visit our website for more information:  www.nomadtours.co.za

Thank you Chris for these wonderful images of your Zimbabwe Rediscovered Tour.

Packing for your African overland adventure tour with Nomad Tours

Only pack as much as you can comfortably carry, not pull:

There are going to be other people on your tour and as the adage goes, first impressions last.  When they see you arriving with everything but the kitchen sink, you’re going to get the hairy eyeball.  The more you pack, the more uncomfortable you will be; this is definitely a game of less is more.  When you arrive at a campsite or at your accommodation, you will need to take your bag out of the truck and carry it to where you will be sleeping and this may be more than a hundred meters away.

Money belt, Day pack and Duffel bag (and sleeping bag if you’re camping):

This combination of bags will see you safely and comfortably through your African adventure tour.  Stash your cash, passports and any other important travel documents in your money belt and keep it on you or in the safe.  Your daypack is for water, snacks, a light wind resistant top, extra set of socks and underwear, a good book (or your kindle), camera, binoculars, phone and ipod.  Put everything that you won’t need during the day into your duffel bag – other clothing, shoes, toiletries, medication, towel and shove it up onto the shelf overhead or into one of the lockers at the back of the truck.  Not all trucks have lockers and lockers are not standardised in size.

Money belt

A money belt is an excellent way to carry your important travel documents, cash and cards

A good strong small backpack

Carry your day time necessities in a good small, strong backpack

Duffel Bag

A compact and flexible duffel bag is perfect for stashing into a locker or an overhead shelf

Wheelie / frame bags are not advisable:

As the wheelie / trolley bags have a solid frame, they don’t squeeze into spaces the same way a backpack or duffel bag does, some of the lockers are as narrow as 38cms and some of the shelves as narrow as 20cms.  If the frame does not fit these diameters, there aren’t many other places to put your bag.  Also, by day two, the mud and stones will get into the little wheels on your wheelie bag and the novelty will be over and you’ll be carrying it from A to B.  They aren’t as comfortable to carry as a duffel bag and as you know you don’t have to carry it, you end up packing a lot more than you normally would.

Wheelie Bags

These bags will not suit your needs on tour

Make sure you pack these into your luggage:

If you remember to pack these few items into your bag, you will be so much more comfortable on tour:

  • Wet wipes
  • A pillow
  • Ziplock bags
  • Head torch
  • Small first aid kit – plasters, eye drops, spray or cream for bites and stings
For more information on the trucks that you will be travelling on with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours – click here
View our website for more information:  www.nomadtours.co.za
Contact us on nomad@nomadtours.co.za

Call us on +27 (21) 426 5445

5 Critical Hours for our Rhinos and our Springboks

The crowds go wild at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.  It’s 5pm in the afternoon, New Zealand time, and the anticipation is mounting.  The mighty Namibian and South African teams stride their way out onto the turf and a deathly hush settles over stadium.  The spectators look again, they can’t believe what they’re seeing!  There’s no green, gold or blue on the field but all the players are wearing red and black!  Imagine that, South Africa and Namibia, standing together at a world class event to say NO to rhino poaching.

We still have time to turn this into a reality, that’s the beautiful power of social media.  Consider the fact that there will not be a highway built across the Serengeti – thanks to social media, the power is yours, act now!

Today is World Rhino Day and we will all be standing together to end the demand for rhino horn.  These precious animals were brought to the edge of extinction not very long ago and over the past two decades have been nurtured and protected to regain their strength in numbers.  Unfortunately a new wave has hit our shores and the demand for rhino horn has increased significantly.  These poor innocent beasts are having their faces hacked off so that we can satisfy this market, it’s time we stood against the organisations who are demanding the horn and make a noise about it so that we can protect our future with healthy rhino’s in the wild.

Enjoy the game today, may the Springboks fly to victory! While you’re watching, plan one thing that you can do for our rhinos, and then follow through with it.  Talk about it, tweet about it or follow it on facebook.  Update your profile pictures with the lovely leathery beast with the really sad eyes.

The official web page to find out where you can go to join in with activities to end rhino poaching and show your support in your area will be updated regularly throughout the day, have a look here to see where and how you can get involved:  www.rhinoconservation.org/world-rhino-day/.  There is excellent information on everything you need to know about our efforts to save the rhino!

View our website for more information:  www.nomadtours.co.za

Contact us on nomad@nomadtours.co.za

Call us on +27 (21) 426 5445

A white rhino at Hlane in Swaziland, Big Game Parks

Glen from Big Game Parks in Swaziland eyeballing a rhino at Hlane

Photographing white rhino's as they bask in the sun after a lovely mud bath

Photographing white rhino's as they bask in the sun after a lovely mud bath

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