I am sitting at home, unpacked, washing machine going merrily (with possible clogged pipes tomorrow, full of desert dunes), the dogs have now licked every available piece of skin they could find on my feet and legs, and the blurry photos have been deleted.
I know, I know, you’re thinking, what happened to Darling? Little known fact, I actually lived in Darling for years, and have a house there, where my mom lives. So I went to Darling, I just did not visit Evita. I forced my poor mom to sit through 1784 photos, which took me an hour to setup on the laptop as a slide show (and don’t be shaking your head now, we have all put poor unsuspecting souls through this same torture of a pictorial review of our just completed holiday!). Mom is 81. Ten photos later, she was yawning, and recalling when my Dad could not buy cool drink at the Lamberts Bay Hotel, because he was not wearing a tie. This was in 1950. And by photo 1531 she was actually nodding away.
She snapped right out of that again when I mentioned that my writing has been put on the internet. “How did you get it there?” she asked. Well, I have this dongle thing, it is like calling on a cell phone, but instead of using my voice, it sends text. “Yes, but how did you get it to land on the internet?” I emailed it to the office, and they pasted it on there. “No, that’s not possible, there’s no cable or aerial. So, how did you get it on there?” Ok, Mom, focus. My stuff was on the internet, don’t worry how I got it there. And people I don’t know read it. “How did they know to read it? Did somebody call them?”. Laugh all you want, you try and explain the internet, and wireless, and Facebook to somebody who worked in DOS years ago for two months! And now she wants to buy a laptop, so she can find recipes and needle point patterns on there. She can barely send an sms yet! I am keeping myself out of that little debacle!
Luckily, my brother is one of the people who actually read this, so there was no need to explain this to him. But he is actually a Mr Twitcher. He has 14.5 bird books and promptly downloaded all my photos, and is most probably sitting as we are speaking, identifying all the shots I took of avian life in the Kalahari! And he faithfully read my story every day: Hey Boet!
The recap done with the family I now sit and reflect on my absolutely Epic adventure.
I met some amazing, and odd people! The game spotters in the Kalahari, some from close, some from far, all were there with one purpose, to see wildlife. In each other or in the bush there are questions not fully answered yet, but still.
The two drunk Frenchmen, who took their lives in their own hands by getting out of their car next to lions, and to offer me drinkies, after I sat in the sun for three hours next to said Lions.
The people of Kenhard, who stepped into the 21st century, and had their first interracial wedding the evening I was there and let me tell you, it was a big makietie! I actually also met a true wildlife photographer, Hannes Lochner, from the back seat of a land cruiser, but still, I met the man, I saw his photos, and let me tell you, he actually lives permanently in the Kgalagadi. One can see that. Ok, I did not actually meet him per se, more like waved at him. He would not know me from a bar of soap!
Then the crazy kayak people from Khamkirri, who really fell with their career bums in the butter, seeing as they live right next to the river where they can practice and enjoy their passion! Kayaking you sickos!
One can say I nearly met Lord Milner’s wife. Thank goodness I did not! And one can say I nearly met the Polish space people as well, but seeing as they do it all remotely from Poland, also not.
I am very sure I met an Alien, but they wiped my memory after they did the tests and stuff, and concluded that there is intelligent life down here!
The seafood man from Lamberts Bay, the laughing locals in Brandvlei, farmer Jnr and his dog, the perpetually late gate keeper at Kgalagadi, the old man with the road phobias at Hyundai in Upington, and all in all, most of the road workers between Keimoes and Kakamas!
The places were a revelation, and yet strangely familiar! Perhaps because I have been to most of the places before but every time, is a new time with new sights and smells. I am still looking for the broken bottle of shampoo in my car, but the smell is apparently the Katbos and Kambroo bushes from the Karoo, and not shampoo! The Bullet and I traveled from Cape fold mountains, to flat stretches with bicycle warning signs, to deep red sand dunes, and flat salt pans, all with its own appeal and enough space to actually have a thought or two. We also had very nice acoustics, hence missing the V8 engine sounds for half a day! And I swear, the higher up in altitude one goes, the higher one can sing as well. I could reach that one spectacular note with Alphaville! A couple of times. And I am technically classified as a tenor, more like James Earl Jones after the ciggies and the vodka drinking from my youth. Like Rebroff in his hey day! But I hit that high note (also nearly popped a vein in the process)!
Animals. More Animals. The strange, the furry, the bald, the evil, the lazy and the funny! My personal heroes, officially, the fantastically brave suricates! They surpassed the wild dog, cheetah, and hyena in my affection now. No other animal poses as well for photos, pulls the weirdest faces, and just generally are soo busy, they don’t have time to just sit back and hide in bushes. Oh, and the Mice. Man, the smallest little things, but Braveheart is nothing compared to them. They should really paint their faces blue as well.
And the animals were not contained to the Kgalagadi. No, baboons at du Toits Kloof, rock hyraxes next to Tankwa Karoo, raptors on telephone lines all over, seagulls, and attacking Kelp Gulls on the coast, and I even saw a klipspringer close to Citrusdal. And not to mention the one gazillion locusts who bravely died, in full battalions, on a 100km stretch in the karoo.
I do hope the two frogs from Sutherland got the feeling back in their legs, after sleeping under me for a night.
Not to forget the livestock. Chicken, geese, donkeys, peacocks, sheep (different types as well) goats, dogs, cats, cattle, emus and some horses.
And then there was Damien. My friend, the narcissist, mirror crashing bat straight out of a Meatloaf song!
I think of doing a list of what I did see, I should perhaps note what I did not see!
My final thoughts after all this excitement: One should never go on holiday with big expectations. No place, person or event would ever be able to live up to that which one built up in the head. Expect to see a nice tree, that way, the crocodile hanging from the elephants tail, while singing karaoke, will be more visible under the tree!
One should always pack medicine, that way you won’t get sick while on holiday. It is when Murphy comes calling because you have no stomach remedies, or flu medicine that things become a little on the uncomfortable side.
Prepare for the coldest ever, and think summer holiday. It takes double the space in the car, but, you won’t be caught wrapped up in your beach sarong, beach towel, oil rag and three pairs of jeans, with dishtowels around the feet, and having to shove your hands into live coals to get some heat going!
Don’t look for the big things. Keep the eyes open, the imagination running, and make up stuff in your head!
And watch out for Aliens, ghosts, and all things that can make an appearance in a Spielberg film.
(And note to self, I watch way too many movies!)
Things I have learnt:
I need to take more leave.
Unusually, after a stint like this, I do not regret not going to work for San Parks. If I did, I would still be there, and not be able to tell anybody any off this, as it would be every day. This way, I could tell everybody about my Epic Adventure, ad nauseum (the Latin rears its ugly head again).
Bullet is not a 4×4.
My tops become shorter, the more I eat! I am practically wearing a boob tube today!
And I have the coolest job of all times! I can go do stuff like this, write about it, have people go oe and aah, and still have a job when I come back!
I am back at work, broke and heart sore. But in my dreams I am running with the cheetah, lying on sand dunes, and driving a rally car on a deserted stretch of a two lane dirt track through the Karoo. With not a care in the world. In my dreams I am strapped to the roof of a Landrower, and some khaki clad Marlboro man is calling me Ms Slovakia!
In my dreams…..
( Hene, all dramatic ne!)
Please contact me on email@example.com for any information on the 9 Day, Cape Town to Cape Town, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour, we would love to have you on board with us!
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
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!
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!
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!