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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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!
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)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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!
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!