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.
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.
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!
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