BY: CHEMONE CARPENTER | 2012-11-19
The very first time I ever came to the realization that I was going to be skydiving was literally when I was in the activity centre in Swakopmund, Namibia standing in the queue to pay for it … Yup… that was it, I’m doing this!
The next morning a group of us were collected in a small van and we headed off into the desert. There were quite a few of us and upon arrival at the hanger in the middle of nowhere in the Namibian Desert, we were greeted by another approximately 60 people all waiting for their chance to brave gravity and throw themselves out of a perfectly good aeroplane! Oh dear… What had I been thinking!
Everyone there was so supportive and happy and seemed to have no cares in the world at all, they had a small radio playing and it was very festive with everyone hiding their fears on the inside. They suited up, climbed into the plane, soared off into the sky and then one by one they jumped and landed… simple!
My turn next! The harness fitted snugly between my legs and under my arms, it was very tight and rightly so! They wormed me into the suit as I had to be as secure as possible to remain attached to them when we jumped out of the aeroplane. Harnessed up, all set and scared to death, off we went! My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, yet other than that I felt calm. We climbed into our little plane feeling like sardines as we launched into the air.
Looking back, and at the photos above, it really does look like I am over the moon to be travelling at snail speed in the smallest plane known to man, climbing to heights no one could ever fathom wanting to throw yourself out of?
Before I tell you what it is actually like to throw yourself out of the plane, I have to tell you that I did it again! Yes, I did it again… It is honestly the most amazing and truly amazing adrenalin rush you could ever dream of! My new goal is now, one jump a year!
I’ll try to get together the correct words for this phenomenal experience:
They slide you slowly to the edge of the plane, kick your legs out so that you are literally just hanging onto the front of your jump buddy on the outside of the plane. You look down and look around not really able to comprehend what you are about to do. He starts rocking you, taps your shoulder and gives you a thumbs up. 3…. 2… 1.. and off you go!!
You drop at an incredible rate with the wind blowing past you so quickly that through all the screaming and all the magical and expressive words you can possibly use in your 36 seconds of freefall, you are left with a very dry mouth, a heartbeat that feels like it is now on the outside of your chest and a smile that no one could ever take away from you! You did it! The sky is no more the limit! Conquered!
After my jump, I found this on the wall in Swakopmund Jump Club which is the best description of the life changing experience of throwing yourself out of an aeroplane!
You must jump to know, no words can describe the incredible rush when the wind invides you to play. You are one of the few. For a moment you doubt, but the doubt is short lived, as gravity pulls you from the safety of the plane you understand, this is freedom! No turning back now, but who would want to?? The dream of human flight. You know what it means to SKYDIVE!
Swakopmund is the adventure capital of Namibia and there are so many phenomenal activities to do here! You can visit Swakopmund on a number of our tours and experience all of these activities yourself! Here are a few of your options:
20 Day Vic Falls to Cape Town – available in the opposite direction
14 Day Vic Falls to Swakopmund (Desert and Delta) – available in the opposite direction
12 Day Cape Town to Windhoek (Namibian Experience) – available in the opposite direction
7 Day Cape Town to Swakopmund (Desert Explorer) – available in the opposite direction
I have been fortunate enough to participate in three scheduled tours with Nomad and decided it was time to share the experience with my friends, so we headed to Namibia for 10 days, on a private charter, booked through the Groups & Charters department. We decided February was the most convenient for us, taking into account our work schedules and for our overseas based friends to be able to join.
The route was simple, but most importantly included all the highlights Namibia has to offer, Orange River, Fish River Canyon, Namib-Naukluft Park, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park & Windhoek, or so that was what we planned & expected, what we got was the “unexpected”….
Heading North from Cape Town, we made our first overnight stop at the Orange River, now what I need to explain is that a few weeks before our trip, we received news of “heavy rains”, “not seen in decades” in Namibia. “Really? But it’s a desert, it never rains in a desert, does it?”.
Crossing the border between South Africa and Namibia, we had our first glimpse of the “heavy rains” and upon arrival at our overnight stop, we saw further evidence, but, we had blue skies, sunshine and the most delicious bobotie (a dish of curried mince with an egg custard baked on top) for supper, besides, we were on holiday, what’s a bit of heavy flowing water? As we had a mixture of camping & accommodated, the campers chose to sleep under the stars, while those that chose accommodated settled into their river facing bungalows for the night.
Our journey continued north, next stop Ai-Ais hot springs, tucked away in the southern end of the Fish River Canyon. The afternoon was relaxed with a few rounds of poker being played while the chicken potjie was on the go. As the evening approached, we all hopped on the truck and headed to the Fish River Canyon viewing site for a spectacular sunset, and spectacular it was! We spent about an hour hanging out at the Canyon viewing point just staring into the sunset and beyond.
Day three greeted us with a sprinkling of rain as we headed for the Namib-Naukluft National Park and our overnight spot, Sesriem. Every kilometre driven showed more evidence of the “heavy rains”, the normally dusty gravel roads were soaked, muddy and slippery which made for an interesting ride. The landscape was something I had never before witnessed – green, green, green. Having travelled to Namibia on many previous occasions with my family, I was used to the dry, arid landscape, I was in awe at the amount of water and the shrubbery and felt privileged to have been able to see the desert this way. Upon arrival at Sesriem, we pitched our tents, lit the fire and had an early night in preparation for our earliest morning and the climbing of Dune 45 at sunrise.
Sadly our dream of climbing Dune 45 did not materialise, the road into Sesriem and Sossusvlei was closed as the river had come down during the night which made the road impassable, however, this did not deter us as we made our way into Sesriem and found the next best dune called Elim dune. Taking all the huffing and puffing into account to get to the top of the dune, it was all well worth it. While we were up there, a hearty cooked breakfast was being prepared, which we gobbled down upon our return to the truck. Next stop… Swakopmund.
Now this is where the fun really began and the warnings of “heavy rains” started making sense. Just outside Solitaire we came across a number of cars parked in the road, the river was in full flow over the road and was impassable. Luckily there was a detour further back, so we backtracked and carried on our merry way, it was after all tea time and we were salivating just thinking about the famous Solitaire apple pie.
Take a moment to notice the beautiful blue skies, we opted to spend a few moments admiring this raging river and photographing it as we all thought it rather impressive. Finally, after our detour, we made it to our warm apple pie. If ever you find yourself in Solitaire, buy yourself two slices, one to eat while in Solitaire and the other to save for later, you will regret it if you don’t!
Now what I have not mentioned yet is that Sonny, our beloved truck, developed a disliking to the mud, rain and river beds which he had to pass through on the last two days, he was starting to choke up. But it was manageable as we would be in Swakopmund within a couple of hours and there Sonny could be sorted out and given a rest. Ready to leave Solitaire, we heard a couple of stories from the shop assistants that the Kuiseb pass was closed as the river was raging down, that is the only direct route to Swakopmund from Solitaire. In the meantime, another Nomad truck had pulled into Solitaire, and a second truck was well on his way to go and investigate the Kuiseb situation. We decided to follow truck #2 and investigate the Kuiseb pass, after all, we wanted our photo at the Tropic of Capricorn which was in the same direction, so off we went, poor Sonny huffing and puffing along.
While having our pics taken at the Capricorn sign, in the distance we saw truck #2 coming back, not a good sign, he was headed back to Solitaire as Kuiseb was full of debris and there was a strong build up of water. Back in Sonny, we turned around and headed back to Solitaire, once there we would plan our next move. Heading back to Solitaire, we saw the reality of the situation right before our eyes! A huge big rain storm was in front of us and we were heading straight for it.
Sonny had now decided enough was enough and he was going to wait while the rain passed, so we decided to wait with him. While our guide and driver attended to the problem, we watched as the storm moved over and so the downpour began. Who would have thought that a river could form within five minutes!
It was late afternoon and we were still waiting in Solitaire, would we still make Swakopmund? The baker of the famous apple pie had just heard a rumour that there was a grader down in Kuiseb busy moving debris and the pass would be open soon. Truck #2 headed back down to the Kuiseb Pass. Sonny was still being stubborn, so we waited. Truck #1 in the meantime also decided to leave, after consultation with our operations department, they headed to Swakopmund via Windhoek on the C24. By now it was probably around 15:30, our guide proposed the alternative, that we follow truck #1 to Windhoek and onto Swakopmund, which meant arrival in Swakopmund would be late, very late. We all agreed to and were very happy with this plan (we had big plans in Swakopmund, we packed the snowboard to play on the dunes and we had a birthday to celebrate).
Off we headed towards the C24, cellphone reception was dodgy while we were making our way through the mountains, so only about an hour into the drive, our C24 journey came to an abrupt end as a message was received from Tosca, our beloved operations manager “STOP, C24 has been closed – road in bad condition, do not proceed” (in case you were wondering, Sonny had since been given a good talking to and was happy to continue). We all stood there, in the mud in the middle of nowhere, speechless. Our operations department had already put Plan B into motion, we would be backtracking to a lodge just between Sesriem and Solitaire.
Getting to our Plan B overnight stop was without incident, back through the mountains, past the detour and so we arrived. Lucky to have a beautiful sunset and a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – a waterfall in the surrounding desert mountains! Yes, a waterfall in the middle of the desert, how many people can honestly say they have seen a waterfall in the desert of Namibia? After a long day on the road, well, over 500km, 10 hours in and out of Sonny, we ended up 47km from Sesriem, where we had started that morning.
After a group meeting, we all agreed that to go to Swakopmund would no longer be realistic and therefore opted to proceed north, to the gates of Etosha National Park, which would mean we would have more time to explore Etosha and relax. The C24 had been opened and off we went, quick shop stop in Windhoek and onto Outjo where we spent the night in Plan C accommodation.
And so we entered Etosha National Park and the game viewing started immediately. Over the next few days, we would encounter an old male elephant, 2 packs of lions, a rhino and her calf at the watering hold in Halali, antelope and various bird species. And what would a trip to Etosha be without a stop on the pans themselves.
After 2 wonderful days of sunshine, spending hours staring at the campsite waterholes, we said goodbye to Etosha and headed back South to Windhoek, which would be our second last night of our tour. While we only had one night in Windhoek, we chose to spend this evening at Joe’s Beer House, enjoying a great meal.
Our second last day of tour saw us taking the long drive back down to the Orange River, back to where our journey had begun 8 days earlier. Having had a late night out in Windhoek, the morning felt a bit rough, so I thought it would be a good idea to slip on my three quarter pyjama pants and travel in those, after all, it was going to be a long day in the truck and comfort was my number 1 priority.
Just outside a town called Rehoboth we pulled off to the side of the road to have a quick “bathroom” stop, making use of bathroom #3 (which for those that have travelled with us before will know is a bush toilet), you look for a bush and squat. Myself and two others eyed out the perfect spot and off we went through the ankle high grass. All of a sudden, there is a scream and my name being called! With a “WTF” expression on my face, I turned around to my friend who was waving her hands and screaming wildly, yet no words came out her mouth.
In the movement of me turning around and my “WTF” face – something became entangled in my legs, natural instinct told me to start screaming, jump, shake my legs and run!! S.N.A.K.E!! Aha, that is what my friend was trying to warn me about! I stood on a snake and apparently not a small one either. The moral of the story, never wear your pyjama pants when in the bush!
And so we arrived at the Orange River, our final night of our adventure. Exhausted, we had a refreshing swim followed by copious amounts of red wine, reminiscing about our last 9 days. Our last day saw us head back to Cape Town. Our wonderful, memorable adventure had come to an end, but that was not the last adventure, as soon, we would be heading to Mozambique to start a brand new adventure!
Join us on and adventure of your own! Contact our Groups and Charter department if you’d like to build your own tour: email@example.com
If you would prefer to join us one one of our scheduled tours to experience Namibia – we have a whole selection for you!
20 Day Vic Falls to Cape Town – available in the opposite direction
14 Day Vic Falls to Swakopmund (Desert and Delta) – available in the opposite direction
12 Day Cape Town to Windhoek (Best of Namibia) – available in the opposite direction
7 Day Cape Town to Swakopmund (Desert Explorer) – available in the opposite direction
BY: ANNELIESE KORSCH | 2012-10-29
One of our guests, Caroline Kullendorff, very kindly let me steal some of her photos from her Facebook page to give you a better idea of what to expect when coming on a camping tour with us to see the Masai Mara and Uganda’s Silverback Mountain Gorilla… This is part one of her tour, from Nairobi to Kampala
Stay tuned for Part Two!!
- Mambo Jambo Masai Mara – Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya (travelpod.com)
- Lions of the Masai Mara – closer than ever before (greatcatsoftheworld.wordpress.com)
- Masai Mara Kenya – A Memorable African Safari Getaway (boldstate.com)
We pass the town of Alice, seeing the University of Fort Hare where Nelson Mandela and other well-known politicians studied. We then made our way on to Grahamstown, well known for it’s annual Arts Festival in July, but this time we just stopped for groceries for the next few days.
Time flies so quickly and my last stop on this tour is the Addo Elephant National Park. Heading to the park we see Private Reserves along the highway and spot giraffes sitting on the ground (as there was clearly no threat to them). We wait for a train to cross in front of us before we enter the park. The keys for our chalets are collected and we make our way with Ella to our accommodation. We were handed the keys and I had chalet 41, luggage off-loaded and I made my way to my own chalet. WOW!! I just smiled. It was just so beautiful. The double bed looked out onto a balcony overlooking the other chalets and the parks forests ahead.
After I took in the comforts of my room I quickly freshened up as we were to meet at the camping site to have lunch. En route to lunch, I stopped over at the bird hide looking for interesting birds; walked over to the waterhole when a Kudu made its way down to the hole and I discovered that there was even an underground hide. It was a lovely stroll to the camping site where Rimson was setting the lunch table. Sven asked me if I would like to see a snake and I said yes! Yes!! I took my camera as we headed behind the truck…and there was the snake …a rubber snake! There were independent travellers from South Africa and being regulars to Addo, they were aware of the Vervet monkeys that roamed the area in search of the food. Apparently they stay away when they see the snakes ‘strategically’ placed around the couple’s cool kitchen camp setup.
Addo National Park is in the malaria-free Eastern Cape province of South Africa which is great for travellers who are pregnant or travelling with children. There are elephants, lions, black rhinos, buffalos, leopards, zebra, and a variety of antelope and bird species in Addo. I was very excited for my game drive. After lunch, we collected our water bottles and jackets (as it started getting chilly). All eagerly waiting with our camera’s and binoculars, we had to be back in camp as the gates closed at 18h30.
In distance we could see a herd of about 50 elephants crossing the road and heading to a waterhole. Johannes slowly made his way and parked so that we could all get a view of the herd and admire these graceful creatures. Elephants are my favourite animals so I was over the moon to see so many of them drinking water and watching the mothers look after the little ones. The interaction of the herd was fascinating from bulls playing with each other to the little ones watching their mom’s every move and being camera shy. Catching a glimpse or a snap of them was so difficult as they were almost always hidden behind their Mom.
It starting drizzling as we made our way to the other waterholes where we saw more elephants and more…we must have seen at least 150 elephants so far. The park was originally established to protect the remaining African elephants in Addo and it is doing a good job by conserving these majestic mammals.
We make our way to the gates to find Rimson to see if he has managed to fight off the monkeys near the kitchen camp, everything looks well protected from their cheeky little hands. Dinner is ready and is smelling great! We all sat under the canvas awning, drawn from the side of the Nomad truck and talked about the game drive. It was a beautiful calm night and sadly, my last dinner with the group. I was truly going to miss the African road. It is something so special that every South African or lover of the wild should experience.
An early morning as we get ready for our game drive at 6am. We saw zebra with their young, black backed jackals, kudu, ostriches, a buffalo, Red Hartebeest, warthogs, Leopard Tortoises and a scrub hare. No luck with lions or leopards today but hey, I got to see my elephants.
We stopped for breakfast at Jack’s picnic site to fill our stomachs. We were now making our way to the exit of the park driving to the Southern Gate to reach the N2. Goodbye Addo see you again, soon I hope!
I reached Nomad’s post tour accommodation, the Eltham Lodge in Port Elizabeth at about 12h00. A well located guest house about 5 minutes away from the airport and walking distance to the beachfront.
Port Elizabeth is known as the friendly city and it is where I had to say goodbye to my family as they headed to Tsitsikamma National Park to end their tour in Cape Town. I truly wished I was going to see more of my own beautiful country.
I met great people, had good fun, learnt more than I could have imagined and can’t wait for my next Nomad Adventure Tour…. see you on the road fellow nomads!
Day three of the tour was a long driving day as we made our way to Lesotho. We crossed from the KwaZulu Natal Province to the Free State Province in South Africa. We drove through one of South Africa’s untouched and I think most beautiful national parks – the Golden Gate National Park – it’s name came about from the sunsets and sunrises in the area, when the sun shone on the rocks it reflected a golden colour.
Stunning mountain cliff formations and the various layers of the rock could be seen as the colours changed from layer to layer. There is a pass in the park where we reached the height of 2041m. It was a quick drive through the park before lunch was served, we still had to get through the border. Rimson, our guide, found a comfortable grassy space and we all got out and started helping with the lunch preparations. The camping chairs were stored underneath the truck and the Nomad family helped with setting them out and taking the table out – which is stored in the back of the truck where we clean, wash and cut the fruits and vegetables. It is actually quite amazing how much Ella, the truck, could hold and store within her.
The border crossing process lasted about 45minutes. On the Lesotho side there was a man and this huge book where he wrote all of the foreign nationalities details from their full name, passport number, date of birth, expiry and necessary information. On the South African side a simple scan of the passport was efficient with high tech (relative to Lesotho only) scanners. One of the travellers on tour had quite a long name, Gerarda Williamena Maria Cloudmans so the gentleman was in a troubled spot as he tried to fit her entire name into a small block and still needed to fill in her other information – this was quite amusing for us. For South African travellers, there was just a simple stamp and I moved on, back to the truck. Benefits of having a South African passport – moving faster in queues when travelling in Africa.
Dumelo – greetings in Basotho. The Kingdom of Lesotho, land of Basotho culture, a landlocked country in the centre of South Africa. I found the people to be very caring, friendly and proud of their nation. When you see photos of Lesotho, a common picture are the men wearing colourful woollen blankets and grass hats in the fields. Before entering Malealea we stopped for a photo stop on the rim of the valley which was called Gates of Paradise (2001m high). It is the gateway to the Malealea valley which is in the remote part of western Lesotho.
On arrival at the Malealea lodge, we were informed that there was a generator for electricity from 5pm to 10pm so torches or headlamps are a must to bring along to find your way through the night. Our cook headed straight into the kitchen to prepare dinner. After dinner, we played Uno and headed to our rooms for an early start of more adventure.
Today Ella rested again. We could choose from a selection of hikes according to our fitness and a group of us headed to the Botsoela Waterfall Hike. This is about a four hour hike down into the base of the valley along a river bed. It was raining for a few days so the rocks were wet and slippery so I slid around in the mud quite a lot which was all part of the adventure. A hat, raincoat, sunscreen, water and snacks again were important on this route. Depending on the number of hours hiked the fee is paid to the local Basotho guide. Pony trekking is another activity that is well known and can be done in the valley.
Luckily, the weather held up for us but as we headed up the valley it starting drizzling. After lunch a visit to the Malealea village was organised. Three Basotho’s took us into their village and showed us their local store, shops, craft centre, school and museum which was housed in a traditional Basotho hut.
Heading back to the lodge, in the games centre, the Malealea City Choir (MCC) sang a few songs and then a local music band called Sotho Sounds entertained us, using their home constructed instruments. It was a great way to interact with the locals by dancing to the rythyms of the Malealea. Great fun was had by all as we joined in with dancing to the African beats.
I awoke to the sounds of peacocks calling each other so it was a great African wake up call. At breakfast, the sun rose above the valley and the two male peacocks were actually doing a face-off against each other showing off to the female who was not interested as she was nowhere to be seen. Typical men haha!
After our 6am breakfast, we drove out of the valley passing Basotho children going to school waving and shouting hello to us. This day was another long distance driving day as we needed to make our way to Hogsback. Passing van Rooyens border post, the town of Wepener and road works you could expect to have delays of up to 30 minutes. We passed through Aliwal North, stopped at Queenstown for a break and on to the town of KathKath where we took a gravel road – like our guide said – Ella was going for an African massage – as the truck usually experiences big bumps on the gravel roads.
As we proceeded, we could see mist hovering over the hills in front of us. As we popped over the top of the hill, we could see a valley filled with mist and trees – it was a forest of the unknown ahead – a tranquil chill hung in the air. We entered deeper into the magical forest to our lodge. I can see where Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings author, found his inspiration. We continued to meander through the green lush forests, eventually reaching the quaint town of Hogsback. A mysterious town with a restaurant called ‘Enchanting Eatery’; hair studio called ‘Hair on the Hogs’; a hostel called ‘Away with the fairies’; chalets called ‘Never Daunted’ and a whole lot more! Well, at least the place where we were staying sounded a little more realistic, Kings Lodge, it definitely lived up to its name! A warm and extra comfortable bed, what more could I ask for more!
At Kings lodge, there is a fireplace in the reading room combined with a pool table and an outside deck to enjoy the sunshine. Some of us played card games and others became amateur to intermediate pool players. Dinner was served inside and again, Rimson’s food was delicious! After dinner, we were briefed on the activities we could do the following day.
After breakfast, we walked through the town, only realising then that the town of Hogsback sleeps on a Tuesday as it is their day of break from being open throughout the weekend. Reaching Hogsback Arboretum we strolled through the Garden of Trees from all over the world including 5 Californian Redwoods over 100 years old. It was a gentle walk to the beautiful 39 Steps Waterfall.
Hogsback is nestled on the slopes of the Amatola Mountains with centuries old forests around you – magical forests making it a place I will return to very soon.
Next, we move further into the Eastern Cape, stay tuned for my next update!
- An overland adventure full of hiking activity and beautiful scenery (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
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!
You will not believe this! Serious, what can the weather and South African roads still throw at poor Bullet! Seeing as farmers sleep on Sundays in Nieuwoudtville, and I agreed to the 6 am meeting, outside the town, I am up with first chicken fart (hehehe, considering the welcoming committee chicken at the camp site the previous evening)! I get all my stuff into Bullet, and on trying to start it, I see some dew on the window and put the windscreen wipers on. Guess what, it is not dew, it is ice! And a heavy layer of ice! What more can Bullet face was my question. So it took half an hour to get the ice defrosted! Off to the farmer meeting I went. 13km outside town, and thanks to the lovely rain the previous day, the full 13km of dirt road (you guessed it) was muddy and full of holes. That took a while.
The meeting with the farmer started off with the big farmer’s dog of 6 months, coming out to meet me. Please picture this, a dog, belonging to a farmer. You are seeing a massive bull mastive, or like horse dog or some such ne? Hah, Miniature Doberman Pinscher! Seriously! This was the most ridiculous sight of all times! But, in this dogs head, he was a Bullmastiff. In his mind, he was Goliath. He promptly lifted his leg against Bullet’s tyre, and although it was only two drops that actually found target, and the other three drops that landed on the Pinschers back leg, he looked as if he just peed the whole of the water capacity of the Mississippi on the tyre! Proudest moment of his life. And his owner’s thoughts on the whole thing? Ya, sometimes he is what we call a sample.
But, true to the farmer’s word, he was up, dressed, and apparently went on the first run to find missing lambs already by the time I showed up. He just failed to locate the sugar pot. I know, not a problem to face at 6 am in morning. When I say farmer, it is actually farmer Jnr. Dad and Mom were somewhere in the house, so loud screaming ensues, about who saw the sugar pot last. Bathroom doors opened, and there is furious searching under furniture (I am thinking, what does this family do with sugar? As my search would have been contained to the kitchen area). No, says farmer Jnr, this pot can be anywhere. I offer to go get the sugar in my food box in the car, but as I get up, the sugar pot is located, in the kitchen zinc! I told you, contain kitchen item searches to the kitchen. I won’t find the garden hose in the bathroom, for instance, so why waste time, by looking there?
I really wish that one could translate Nieuwoudtville Afrikaans to the same intonation, and sentence construction in English. But, I can’t even translate it into Afrikaans. Needless to say, I laughed a lot on this hour long sojourn (see, now I am getting way too confident. English done, moving on to Mandarin. Sorry, French). I also actually learnt a lot too, about farming, and when lambs can take a ram without it being slightly sick and under aged, and about the biggest danger to sheep farmers. On this I got a very short, one sentence answer: Do not even think about bringing a match close to me. So, apparently fire. Then I made the mistake to ask if they then prepared for veld fires with a fire break: “Oe, noooo, I said, don’t even bring a match close to here”! But, even with English being a compulsory subject in schools, poor farmer Jnr’s biggest concern, these people we are going to bring for this tour, are they from overseas? Mostly yes, I said. Long silence. Then the next question, “So, they speak English?”, “Yes”, I say, “mostly”. Again, long silence. Then comes the clincher. “Well, then we have a problem. The last time I spoke English was the 9 months I spent in Australia. And I had to take my cousin with to help with the translation”. So it seems that we will be running the Kalaroo tour with at least one Afrikaans speaking guide to help translate for farmer Jnr!
His last question to me was, “ so, how much should I charge you for this per person”!
Absolutely priceless! I actually did learn a lot, and besides the 20 gates we had to open and close, found it a thoroughly enjoyable time spent! I would recommend though for clients to rather ask farmer Jnr questions. He is of course not a guide, but he is passionate about farming, so you ask him one question, he starts going like Old Faithful! Spouting all kinds of interesting farmer trivia and logistics, and points excitedly in the direction of his uncles farm, about 200km that way, who tried that new thing with the grass sustainability etc etc. Again, priceless. But remember, please ask him questions, otherwise the hour is going to be very quiet. In Afrikaans.
Now as I came into Nieuwoudtville late afternoon, and felt slightly attacked by silence, I decided to rather leave my explorations of the town for this morning. I did a drive through, in both directions, as well as photo shoot of most of the buildings, and that took about 5 minutes! No, really. Although the church was absolutely beautiful! On the side of the church is a marble headstone type thing and on it, in very High Dutch, the following message (not verbatim). O, hene, now I am throwing Latin! Message on marble slab: “This is to remember the 11 000 pounds sterling debt that the congregation of this church paid back after a long struggle, of which the 11000 pound debt was incurred completely by accident, and was nobody’s fault” In Marble! Seriously!
It was finally time to take my leave of Nieuwoudtville and get back into the Western Cape province which happened somewhere on Van Ryns pass, that is not a pass. It is a nearly vertical downward spiraling road! Massive decline/incline. I really wanted to take photos, but I doubt if Bullets handbreak would have kept holding if parked on that for more than 5 minutes! I rather went down.
Lamberts Baai! Yayaya! The last time I saw Lamberts Bay, I was still in diapers. So, about 16 or so? Lamberts Bay was named after a guy called Lambert. That is about what I do know, and even that might be incorrect, but this is one weird ass town. The information centre also serves as entry to the graveyard! The Nature Reserve is also a putting range, and the restaurants are mostly all closed until December, when they make their years profit, and leave it at that! And the Lamberts Bay Hotel faces out onto the fish factory that totally covers the beautiful view of the harbour with its colourful fishing boats. So, I had some trepidations (Oh hell, it is now becoming out of hand, this English thing!), but what an absolute breath of fresh air. As I walk in, they know who I am, without me opening my mouth. Out comes the owner of the Hotel and takes me on a walk through. She has owned the hotel for more than 10 years, and is slowly busy with upgrades. Most of the rooms were looking beautiful, tastefully decorated, bathrooms comparing favourably with a boutique hotel, and not a snobby tone to be found anywhere. All the staff greeted me, every time I walked past, even the two parrots in the lobby greeted me! The hotel cat was a bit old, and just opened one eye slightly. See, I am a sucker for service. Even if the place looks like the return of Mad Max, with friendly staff, a lot of battles can be won.
Now listen, this is Lamberts Bay. One can’t expect the Lord Nelson, and frankly, I prefer this type of setting and place to the big fancy ones, where you feel you are definitely using the wrong fork and where you are not sure if you should tip the eyebrow plucker or not, or if that was included in the R900, 10 minute job.
Nice food, comfy bed, normal people working there, wearing normal uniforms, not starched spaceship shirts, and this is the place for us normal people to go.
Oi, now I waxed lyrical. Not that they can’t be fancy, I got a full cheese/olive/snack platter in my room, with garnish, and the correct knife and, two point plugs was not like a non spending American President. It was actually readily available! That is unusual.
Enough, Enough, Enough! Bloody nice place.
The rest of Lamberts scared me a little, also scarred me a little! I went to check out the camp site, the bathrooms can use some work, and, with sea sand, not a lot of grass. But there were a lot of workers about, on ladders, and with paint cans, so I am assuming they are sprucing it up. But, just in case, I went on a search for some alternatives (one never knows if space might become a problem). I was zipping through town like a soccer mom, campsite to campsite. In this zip through, I actually drove into somebody’s yard, just outside town. Seeing that I was there, I decided to take some photos in any case. I think the family was hiding behind the living room furniture. I discovered a great outdoor restaurant with a Prickly Pear plant with flowers! Pretty!
Off I went again, calling ahead to warn the hotel of my imminent arrival, and unfortunately, Muisbosskerm was not open for this evening, but they did have a couple of hours open over lunch time, so off I went there as well!
Very rustic, all outside restaurant. But I have to say, one of the owners made me slightly upset. He sprouted all kinds of facts and figures (rated one of the worlds best seafood restaurants in National Geographic was one of them), but then he kept on mentioning one of our competitors, and how they always come in there, and how they get a special rate, and did he mention when that Other-Company-Who-We-will-Not-Mention comes here, blah blah blah! Listen, buddy, we are not that Other-Company-Who-We-Will-Not-Mention. We are Nomad Africa Adventure Tours, and we’re going to rock this route! Demmit! But, I kept my conversations in my head and just smiled at him. That’s fine, he will see! But the food did look amazing, although primarily seafood, which is not my first, or even tenth love. But they also do have meat, and vegetarian meals, and fresh bread, and dessert and all. Great! Clock in at 6pm, and food stops at 9pm, an orgy of eating!
With all the work parts done, I went for a walk about to Bird Island, behind the town harbour. Crossing the harbour wall, where, as the gate keeper said, the ocean is a bit upset, but I should be fine walking over it. Hmmmm, but true, on the first section of Bird island, is a sign board warning tourists about Kelp Gulls, who can get a little upset if one walks too close to their nests, and will then attack. Yes, I say in my head, bloody tourists. One has to put up boards to warn them to not go traipsing through the short grass and then I forget all about this little, very apt and valid warning and see gazillions of Malgas birds (Cape Gannet)! The smell! The Noise! OMG, chaos in a very small space, with some seals trying to stay cool a little further away on the rocks. With that amount of things to aim at, I took a constant barrage of photos, and had to physically stop myself! Ridiculously pretty, crazy chaos!
Off I go on the walking trail again, I have been going a bit artsy on my photos the last couple of days, I spot a perfect opportunity for a contrasting photo of the water breaking bollards and waves. So I am pulling my body this way and that, and go down on one knee, and one elbow, to get the low to high angle, with camera bag abandoned on the side, when the next thing, a male Kelp Gull attacks from above! They warned me! I abandon ship, fall flat down, in gull poop, scream like a girl, and this monster attack gull plays the role of all 3 000 birds in Hitchcock’s movie. Hitchcock should have cast this guy! He was relentless! He was vicious, he was a Spartan Kelp Gull, he would fight to the end! All this while wifey calmly stays on her nest, about one hand span away from me.
I leopard crawled away, a bald spot on my head from attack one, dragging my camera bag behind me. Bloody tourist!
Lamberts Bay is charming, funny, and a little odd.
Have you booked your spot on this tour yet? Don’t miss your opportunity to experience these wonderful places with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours – details about the tour here! 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour.
Grab a pen and paper, or your iSheet, tablet? If nothing else close at hand, a coal from last nights braai. I am about to give you very sound, thorough advice. If you are going to come and experience the Kalaroo adventure, pack a beanie, and a scarf, and gloves, and mittens, and polar socks. Also, pack your minus 200 degrees parka. Did I mention a beanie? Scrap that, pack a balaklawa! It Is Cold! Enough said.
My morning started with the sound of a softly flowing Orange River behind my tent, and little birds cheeping… and the absence of my fingers. I first thought I forgot them somewhere again, but it is just the cold. Numbingly cold, cold. With Visions of Sutherland, I pack up the paper tent, which actually stayed quiet last night. It can also be that the Farmers Association party drowned out the sound of the Encyclopedia Britannica being crumpled up. Oh, yes, write this down as well. Do not, under any circumstances, pitch your tent a metre from the main reception/dance hall. You might have some problems with drunk farmers tumbling over your tent on the way to their carefully pitched, 1 km away, tents. And if you should have a party the previous evening, then rather pitch your tent close to a light source, and close to where you are having your party. I think I saw one farmer on the opposite side of the Orange River, sleeping on the banks, hugging a reed. I of course, slept the sleep of the dead, and, thanks to my careful wake up training from the Kalahari, woke up at 5h30 AM, with a vague desire to have some coffee.
Two hours later, I was skulking around, trying to sniff out anybody with a little caffeine in their tents. Maybe hidden in the toilet tank. Perhaps the bar has a secret lock, and inside they store the best mocca ever. Coffeeeee! Please, just inject it straight into the veins. Finally some of the kitchen staff shows up, and I try and pull my best, “Oh, look at this poor thing, one can clearly see she needs a cup of coffee” look. To no avail. They most probably thought I had indigestion. Then I thought, if I can steal some wood somewhere, and start a fire, then I can boil water and have COFFEE! Nope, no wood. I even considered making coffee from warm tap water. Finally, after the tables were set, and farmers were all in attendance, and Bullet has been packed, and standing ready with bleary eyes, does somebody say, oh, would you like a cup of coffee? Nah, thanks, I’m ok. YES demit, can you not see the craving stamped on my forehead! Now, having to make inane conversation with a red road map eyeball farmer, about the strange weather, meanwhile it is screaming in my head, can you please just get the sugar in your cup, so that I can get to the good stuff! Finally, I had coffee. Good stuff too.
Then I heard the bad news that there is no shortcut to Niewoudville, my camp for the night. It is back to Kakamas, then to Keimoes, then down to Kenhard, Brandvlei, Calvinia, and there, finally a turn to Niewoudville. And it is about 500km. In my search for coffee, I was still standing at the Orange River at 9am this morning. But, with sad goodbyes to Phillipa and Danie, and the three kittens running around, and Sparky my canoeing guide from Mafikeng, I started the 500km journey.
Kakamas first. After my 3 hours craving, just one cup of Java would just not do it. So, I decide to turn into Kakamas town. Two streets really, please do not expect a metropolis. And there, on the side of the road, I find The Pienk Farmstall. Yes, you heard me correctly. The Pienk Farmstall. And not just the name, everything from the name board, to the lady at the till, all pink. And not just any pink, binneboud pink (inner thigh pink? Hidden part of bum pink?). And absolutely nothing of any value, or to do with a farm stall inside.
But a coffee machine! Besides the coffee machine, there was an old typewriter. Pink porcelain savings piggies, stuffed and mounted Springbok head, wearing a pink baseball cap. One spectacular sundress, surprisingly not pink. Thinking that a biscuit or some kind of baked goodies will go nicely with the machined pure half mast cup of coffee, I only find four empty serving plates. But wait, dining tables outside under the awning. So I ask the pink clad ladies, do you serve breakfast? Nope, they say. Aaa, I thought to myself, they cater for the lunch crowd. Lunch? I ask. Nope. Well, then dinner surely, nope. They don’t serve meals, but then why in all that is logical, do you have a seating area like a restaurant? Answer: In case people want to sit down (in my head, this amounts to teasing, people can bloody go sit in their cars if they want to sit). Anyhow, I walk out with some stale koeksusters, and the last biltong muffin, and I must admit, not bad. Very salty, but not bad.
Ok, rest of the driving. I swear, I have solid 8 hours sleep. Solid, despite the farmer doing a Nuck Chorris over my tent, with a double Flick Flack, side split, ending with an overhead roundhouse, so I should have been bushy tailed and very awake. My personal opinion is, it is the damn roads! 5 min into taking the long road, I feel like I have the Titanic attached to my eyelids. But I soldier on, get through Kenhard, and then had to stop about 20km’s outside of town. Not because of sleepy eyes, 20km outside Kenhard there is nothing. Some large farms, no farm houses, just grass, broken telephone lines, and a fence. That’s it. No other signs of civilization, or people living there. Yet, on the side of the road, a very clear road sign, to please be cautious of the Bicycles. Where? What bicycles? Really? You serious? I actually had to do a U-turn on the highway, to get a shot of this. I am sitting here typing, still wondering about that.
Ok, off the 500km I did, it went quiet for about 150 of those. To Brandvlei. But by then I could have just as well put Bullet on autopilot, and slept. Luckily, Brandvlei, with all five of it’s houses, do have a wide open stretch of sand, with some iffy shade trees. I pull in there, and decide to just close my eyes for a bit. An hour later, I wake up, (or possibly I snored myself awake) with two locals sitting next to Bullet, against a tree. A couple of slow blinks later confirms it is not a mirage. Two locals, and they are giggling away. Looking at the only remaining reg number plate on Bullet, the one asks me, so, you from Somerset West? My reply was, no, of course not, this is a rental car (yes, I know, I disavowed poor Bullet, but she got it), and off I sped.
Now I have been saying from the start, there is something amok with spirits and ghosts and freaky stuff in the Northern Cape. I am driving along, full sunshine, thinking to myself that I should maybe exchange the sweat pants for shorts, when it starts raining! Big drops. Not a lot, but causing me to look up, and again, I swear, clouds! And then Arabian days started. In that area are lots of pans, with no vegetation. Just sand. I see a couple of sheep to the side, trying to actually dig a hole, so close to the ground they are lying, and think, strange, why aren’t they hopping along like sheep do? When to my right, a sand storm the like I have only seen once in the Namib, approaches, and together with the sand storm is a cloud bank, with rain tinted a brown colour due to the sand storm. I did stop Bullet, who also promptly tried to start digging a hole to hide in, and just looked at this spectacular freaky bit of wind magic going on!
It was sand and dust, and rain altogether! I was actually expecting Omar Sharif on a camel to come tumbling past at least! I actually started humming the theme song to Caravans! Then a Land Cruiser drove into that whole sand water aerial mess! Bravely going where no other vehicle (except for the Nomad Truck that other time in the Namib) has ever gone! William was waving from the back seat! Spectacular! I stopped a little further down, and called farmer Tractor Wagon, to arrange for the meeting re the tractor wagon trail at Niewoudville. He says, lady, on a Sunday, farmers sleep in the afternoon, so I would have to call him at 6am the next morning. So, nothing to rush forward to, I meander on to Niewoudville, in pouring rain, glad I have my sweat pants on!
Then I get another urge for coffee. Luckily in Calvinia, the local petrol attendant has a kettle. Working like an Old Model T Ford, but still working. Thirty minutes after starting it, we had liftoff, and I had a flask full of coffee. Only to arrive in Niewoudville sooner than I could get a cup poured. But, 500km, not to be sneezed at, so I am rather tired at this point, and not one soul to be seen on the streets, or rather, street, of Niewoudville. A little like Tommy Knockers. I find Olive camp ground, get the gate open, drive around to the back, and am greeted by, wait for it, a chicken! And an aggressive chicken at that! And following close behind him, two Peacocks! Tommy Knockers!
Calling the number on the gate gets me through to the owner, who it seems, owns most of the town. He directs me to the Smidswinkel restaurant, where one lady waits. Shame, I don’t know what she does on weekends there, but definitely not gather with a sociable group or something fun like that. No other people! And then comes the good news, I don’t have to stay in the camping ground, they prepared one of the guest houses for me! Great! Historical house, restored. With no other soul in town? AAAAaaaaaargh, Matjiesfontein all over again! I start a fire, which cheers me up slightly, make a massive amount of food, which cheers me up even more, and then the sun sets. And still, no sound. No wind through the trees, no sound of kids playing, grownups talking. Only a sad sheep baaaaaa coming from two houses down. The last ciggie I had, I was huddled in the corner of the stoep. Trying my best not to give off body heat, or a heartbeat! You know they can find you like that!
- Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure … Wet, wild and very muddy! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s epic Kalaroo Adventure… kaalgat in the Kalahari! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo adventure … telescopes, toads and technical driving! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s epic Kalaroo Adventure… The Slaughter of the Small Folk! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… the massacre! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… Bravely going where only one mad bat would not fear to fly! (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… Damien the demon and other baby beasts (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
- Tosca’s Guide to National Park People Watching (nomadafricaadventuretours.wordpress.com)
I am going to veer a bit off topic, but I assume some people have never been to a Southern African National Park and need a crash course in people spotting. Now by National Park, I mean a place with animals, preferably some of the Big 5.
With that in mind, there are two things that you need to know about, one, are Animals – that would be the furry and feathered types; the other, is the people coming to look for, and at the animals. Also, the furry type.
Now the second category can also be subdivided into quite a few smaller categories, and even share some common traits with other categories.
Lets start with the most well know. Mr Big 5, that is the guy, usually in a Bakkie, with a much cowed wife in tow. Also, can be recognized by the fact that he usually shows up with a caravan, and a trailer in tow. He can mostly be spotted, zipping at top speed, between waterholes, and carries a humongous pair of binoculars (not to be confused with the Bird watcher, which we will dicuss later).
Now Mr Big 5 is not a guy that will keep quiet about his findings ( unlike the Ms/Mr Yuppie Big 5). Any chance he has, he will stop you, and gleefully tell you all about the Lion he saw that morning. Nearly. Well, his paw was peeking out! It was a magnificent paw! And it was at a waterhole so and so. Tomorrow morning, he will be back there, looking for the Big sighting!
Now Mr Big 5 is good for some limited information on where to find some of the animals you are looking for. When the day is done, Mr Big 5 can be found, in his chair, outside his caravan, while his wife organises supper.
Ms/Mr Yuppie Big 5, well, difference here, she/he shows up in a brand new Pajero. With Aircon. Also differs slightly from Mr Big 5, in that he/she stays in chalets, and uses the very expensive high tech camera in a dual function of binoculars as well. Ms Yuppie Big 5 will Never share info with the other weary travellers, as this would most probably necessitate for them to open the Pajero window, and that in turn will get dust onto the GPS system, which in turn will delete all the info, triangulated, of the previous visits Big 5 sightings. Ms Yuppie Big 5 will only share this vital information with the other Yuppie friends, at home. And have a right giggle at those other fools, looking for birds! And telling other people where to find stuff! This all over a glass of carefully selected Sancere.
Briefly mentioned above is the Bird Watcher. Fantastic type, who mostly accidentally see the big 5, as he is so busy scanning trees, and driving so slowly as not to disturb the lesser breasted, immature, never spotted here before bird, that he just kind of stumbles over the Big stuff. Mr Twitcher actually does not secretly yearn to see the Big 5 ( unlike Mr Tourist), and sees animals as a bit of an inconvenience, especially if said member of Big 5 is lying close to the much sought after Lesser breasted, immature, never before spotted Tit. Mr Twitcher is easy to identify. He also carries a pair of binoculars, but these have distance and height and all kinds of vital statistics showing on the inside lens. He is also the one driving really slowly. And when parked, please watch angle of head. If pointed upwards into a tree, chances are he is Mr Twitcher. Mr Twitcher’s wife, Mrs Twitcher, shares his passion, but secretly yearns to see the big five, as she gets very tired of handing over one of the 12 different bird books that Mr Twitcher carries with him. Always. Even to the shop, as one never knows when, a lesser breasted, does not exist wading Mossie, will dart around the next isle. Mrs Twitcher, however, can’t cook to save her life, and is thus dependant on Mr Twitcher’s good will, in the evening, when they park off next to their small tent, made of recycled Gwano platform pillars.
Mr Tourist can be divided into two sub-categories. One would be the large luxury coach type tourist, usually from some Asian country (where cameras can basically cure cancer, while operating on your pet parakeet, and cost barely absolutely nothing in their currency, and can link to your iMattress, that in turn can call up your stock broker, who can programme the iFax to bounce off iSatellite, to make sure you choose the right pair of underpants). So, Mr Luxury Bus Tourist is pretty much like Mr Big 5, only not in a bakkie, or with a caravan, and won’t tell you where the Big 5 is, as he basically doesn’t know if he saw a cheetah or a goose. Also, he can only say: “Where is the bathroom?” and “my pants are on fire”, in English. Mr Luxury Bus Tourist comes stock standard with a guide, who wears his Field Guide badge proudly, and reports anybody else, who looks like they can actually communicate with their own clients, as non registered. Mr Luxury Bus Tourist Guide also knows to shut up, find the Big 5, or as close as possible without Mr Luxury Bus Tourist knowing it is actually a domestic cat, and not a cheetah he so kindly pointed out.
The second sub category of Mr Tourist, is actually Mr Undercover Tourist. Now Mr Undercover Tourist has heard about the other types of tourists who visits National Parks, and would never want to be known as one of those. So, Mr Undercover Tourist can be recognized by the rental 4×4 he is driving, and his obsessive road rule use. Mr Undercover Tourist also invested big money on a mammal guide book, a bird book, a map of the said park, a book written by rangers about their stories in the bush, as well as a book on the Traffic Act, the full 12 editions.
Mr Undercover tourist will carefully read the park rules and instructions at reception when clocking in, and will never ever ever be late for a gate closing time. He is unfailingly polite, and will stay on the left side of the road, even if on the right side there is a lion, chasing a hyena, using a springbok leg as a club, and every Mr Big Five in the district is blocking his view. It says so in the 12 part Traffic Act book. Drive on the left side of the road, and when he sees a crocodile, hanging from an elephants tail, smoking some marijuana, he will not slam on brakes and pull out cameras. No, he will first indicate that he will pull off. To the left. And once the car has come to a complete halt, he will then put on the hazards.
Mr Undercover Tourist would secretly also like to see the big 5, but that brings him too close to Mr Luxury Bus Tourist. So he keeps that to himself. Mr Undercover Tourist also bought the full Bush Pride Safari Wear range, including the zip off pants. He carries a regular sized camera, with interchangeable lenses, in case he has to take some shots of the chalet as well. Now the first two days of his 7 day stay in the park, with the days carefully divided between the main camps, will be spent getting the lay of the land. So if you should stop next to him, and ask him to roll down his window so that you can have a chat about sightings, he will first be hesitant, and only roll down two centimeters (he also researched the crime stats in SA, and was told to never ever ever open your car window to strangers). So, when you then tell him, two kilometers on, he will see two lions under a tree, he will first look shocked, and then start doing the calculations in his mind to convert miles to kilometers. But, two days later, if you should meet up with him again, he will flash lights at you, and greet you like an old friend, and swap sighting stories with you. He catches on fast and is a great source of info, as he is actually very diligent in checking out every bush and tree, and generally enjoys the small stuff too. He is easily identified in the evening, as he will be spending it inside his chalet (he really wanted to camp, but he could not get the tent he used for last years everest attempt through customs, and also could not find a place on the internet who rents out tents) eating a plate of cooked food. He does not know how to braai. He would love to, but is scared this will give away the game, and then everybody will know he is a tourist. Please invite him over if you should be braaing yourself!
One of my personal favorites, is Mr Wannabe Photographer. Not professional, them you never see, they hang out on the no access roads, because they grew up in the park, and their father is the head ranger etc. No, Mr Wannabe Photographer is the one whom you must not park close to at any sighting as when he starts to unroll the camera lens, chances are you are going to lose your car windshield. The lenses Mr Wannabe Photographer carries are bigger in circumference than Mike Tyson’s thigh. It is so big, that Mr Wannabe Photographer must carry it with a special pillow and pulley system, just to lower it onto the window frame. Mr Wannabe Photographer also hogs all the space at any sighting, and stays there until whatever animal you wanted to see, has disappeared beyond the 10 km mark, which is how far his lens can see. Mr Wannabe Photographer does not have time for chats about where to find what animal as he is too busy cleaning his lens and hoisting it back into the car, which is also a Pajero. Because if one can afford a NASA lens, as a hobby, chances are a Pajero costs nothing to him either. Mr Wannabe Photographer is not the happiest type, as he secretly yearns to find the Big 5 and then talks incessantly about it. But he can’t, as he is busy with his lenses. No time.
Just on a side note, if you should ever run into Mr Professional Photographer: He drives a beat up old 1980 Uno, as he spends all his money on cameras and Park Fees. He is also dating the current Miss Slovakia, who he straps onto the roof rack of his Uno (or Landrover), as his custom built camera box, that is also bullet proof, water proof, sand proof and has in fact survived Sarajevo, takes prime seat in the front. In the back of the car he keeps his emergency supplies, in case he has to sit next to a sand dune for 10 days, where 9 days ago somebody saw a Lion. Miss Slovakia he keeps on hand for, well, things that only Miss Slovakia can do. Also because it looks cool!
Another of my favourites, just because of sheer dogged determination, is Family Joe Soap. Now Family Joe Soap can easily be confused with Mr Big 5, as they also pull in with a caravan. But that is about where it stops. They have 3 kids, of which one is a baby. The reason why they show up in a National Park is to instill the love of nature that their parents taught them at that age, and their parents before them etc. So, very optimistic bunch this, as they rock up at the camp site, where Mom runs off with baby to find some space somewhere to change diapers, and Dad starts leveling the Caravan. Boet and Sus will go suss out the shop, and the swimming pool. On gate opening time, the whole family will sit ready at the gate, with baby on mom’s lap, and Boet and Sus with their noses smashed up against the back windows, ready for action. And all goes well for at least 30 minutes. But after 3 hours in a non airconditioned sedan, Boet then has his finger up Sus’ nose, baby is screaming, and Sus is trying to hide under the driver’s seat from the spider she saw three hours ago at the gate. Dad actually really wishes with all his heart for the big 5, preferably within 30 minutes of leaving camp, so that he can then turn around, go start the fire for his afternoon braai, while the kids play in the swimming pool for the rest of the day. Mom wishes for the same, but instead of the braai part, she wishes fervently for somebody else to be changing diapers, while doing said task on the dashboard on a side dusty road. After about 3 days if this, both Mom and Dad promise each other to rather go to Bela Bela next year. But, next year they will be back, as this is what their parents did, and their parents, and they can only remember how much fun it was to sit in the back with their noses pressed to the windows, waiting for the first sight of lion. Bless their hearts, at least they are trying to get their children into nature! As much hell as it seems. And please don’t disturb them with questions about sightings? They most probably only saw dirty diapers, and Boets bleeding foot which he stuck out the window and which then got torn open by a branch, and really can’t tell you anything, as much as they want to.
And so the list goes on. The Amateur Field Guide, who will tell you where he saw animals, but who would also want to share his limited knowledge of wildife, gleamed from a National Geographic channel in the process, to be avoided unless you have no other choice.
The Forever Couple who have been coming to the same park for the last 20 years, every year, and keeps to themselves, unless you ask them where to find what. Fantastic source of info, as they won’t talk your ear off, but will be very precise in the info (third bush to the left, tree that looks like a dog upside down, 1 metre behind, is a Cape Fox. In the tree above him, is also a Rock Kestrel, in case you like birds).
So, the bottom line of all of this, you will meet some strange and wonderful people in National Parks, and lets face it, everybody really wants to tell somebody of the luck they had today when they saw blah blah. So go make friends, start a chat in the bathroom, speak to the gate guard, roll down the window, flash the lights if you saw something, as when you leave the park you will not know anybody’s name, but you still would have made a friend for life!
As I near the end of my visit to the Kgalagadi National Park, I look back and realize I saw, interacted with and met most of the above, and a little of each of the above is in me too!
To the Indian gentleman from Botswana, who described a waterhole scene in one sentence (hyenas with pups played and splashed and caused big drama and all); To the Dutch couple, with wife in the back seat, and husband in the front, and the most exited smiles ever; To the North West farmer who missed the lion by 2 hours; To the quantum full of Spanish folk who really tried to look for any predators, as I asked them to, while I was busy running a couple of metres into the bush to pick up a glass bottle there; And even to the two drunk Frenchmen, who made my life hell at a lion sighting with their “You want drinky?”. Here’s to seeing you all, in some form or other, at the next park!
Keen to find out what adventure awaits Tosca next? Here’s a clue… she will be playing on the longest one in South Africa!
No, seriously, one would assume that the small folk in the bush would stand together and protect each other from the large, vicious ugly ones like the lion, cheetah, and Hyena (have I mentioned the Brown Hyena? Nanananana…). But Nooooo, they are like the final days of the Roman Empire, back stabbing, scheming, murderous little bastards, all of them!
I am driving along, as one does in the Kalahari, and spot a lovely serene looking Tawny Eagle, perched (see, English getting much better) on a Sociable Weavers nest. Now one would assume he is the large predator in this little band of robbers. But wait, next thing a Pigmy Falcon swoops in and starts attacking him! And with every dive bomb it does, it makes the sound equal to, or actually surpassing the London air raids of WW2! Poor Tawny, sitting there minding his own business does not attack back, it does not defend itself. It sits there like the big eagle he is, and takes it! Now one can understand the Falcon’s conundrum as he gets free room and board and very nice fat snakes from the sociable weavers in return for protecting the nest. And he was most probably fearing a horses head on his pillow the next morning, one can not break a contract with the Don. So, yes, he should have at least put some attempt into it, to show Joey times 200 that he does NOT want a Horse head on his pillow. But this over the top display of ferocious mental determination from the Pigmy Falcon would have won WW2 in three months! With no sirens needed!
But it does not stop there. Three Kestrels (small little raptors really, not even worth the word raptor, more like raptits) attack a dove. That symbol of peace, of flying out over wedding guests, of lily white breasts, and serene smiles. Two of the Kestrels tear it apart (PG rating please) from different directions. Then the third also wants his share, so they divide it again. It was blood and feathers, an aerial blood fest, over in seconds. With one lonely feather drifting sadly to the ground the only testament of the peace that reigned over the valley before the attack of the Hitchcock Kestrels!
But oh wait, there’s more! If you call now, I will tell you all about the two striped mice. You know, those cute little kite surfers? They are basically just cannon fodder for Goshawks. It is like wholesale slaughter! I get all exited, with the sighting of a Goshawk, on the ground, and before I can grab my camera to get a nice shot of this pretty Raptor, it takes off, with one of the cutie mice clutched in its Talons! Well, as they say, one mouse in the Talon is better than two in the pocket! But knowing these Goshawks like I now do, chances are he has three chained to his nest already, and every time he brings in a new catch, he taunts them all with promises of torture and mayhem! Fodder I tell you!
But the pinnacle of atrocity must surely be the hour and a half standoff in the dunes. Not lions stalking Springbok, not cheetah on the hunt, nooo, it is the bloody Goshawks again! A family of Suricates left their hole digging (for sleeping purposes) a little too late. So while the three adults industrially try to find hard ground (sand dunes have a tendency to cave in on your head, or so I am told) to dig in, three itty bitty babies frolic about in the grassy knolls. But, like the shooter in the observatory, or behind the grassy knoll, the Goshawk stalks, in slow sweeping circles. The next thing, the Chief Suricate starts making the most distressing warning sound ever heard. Even compared to the aforementioned air raid sirens! Babies make a beeline for mom, adults pop up like Jack in the Boxes, and general pandemonium ensues. It is babies tripping over each other, and adults running so fast in circles, that tail hairs are still fluttering over Kalahari dunes. And Mom is the only one who keeps her head, and stands ready, hind legs splayed, arms out in front of her, to repel the deadly attack from above! And evil goshawk swoops in! Chaos. They run, they stop, turn around, run again, mom spits and screams, and babies try to burrow into her stomach, and one adult furiously tries to make the dune sand hole stay a hole, but the more he digs, the more it caves in. Now I am standing with my window facing this whole drama! So, when they start running forward, I have to slam on reverse. But I am hanging half body out the window, so basically have to steer with my knees. And get Bullet into reverse with the toes of my left foot, while looking through the view finder, as all of this must happen. Blue Bullet at some point took matters into it’s own hands, or steering, so to speak, and just tried to stay in a straight line. But making things more intricate, is the fact that I have two other cars surrounding this attempted kill sight, one being the Sri Lankan man and his 5 kids, wife and mother in the vehicle. He basically put his 3 year old behind the steering wheel, in order to get his NASA built lens out the window. The other car had an American woman behind the wheel, and she apparently missed the obvious full frontal attack from the Goshawk and was still viewing this scene as a pastoral peaceful little tableau! So, from steering with my knees, changing gears with my big toe, hanging out of the window, for an hour and a half, shouting instructions to the American to WATCH THE DAMN HAWK BEHIND YOU and at the 3 year old, to move, Bullet is coming in, taking about 300 photos, I can STILL not feel my legs, my back is in a spasm type cramp, akin to paralysis. The Suricates now had to contend with a Blue danger, reversing over dunes and a Gemsbok, two Leopards, and 9 kite mice (well, the amount of bumps, and blue sky photos only clearly indicates that something died, and it was not a Suricate). Mom finally got the troops together, got two to dig, ran back to the first nearly successful attempt at a hole, 2 km back, and kept babies under her the whole time! Horrible Goshawk tried three more times, and was repelled! Way to go Suricate woman you! I am woman, can make fire and defend against Goshawk!
Meanwhile, I am scarred for life, the Sri Lankan Kids are still hiding under grandma’s armpit, and 3 year old now has visions of Le Mans! Oh, and American Lady, was crying through half of it! Either because Bullet reversed over sensitive vegetation, and or Gemsbok, leopard and Mice, or because the underdog won! Well, rather, the under Suricate.
Moving over to a Mongoose of a different colour! A couple of nights ago, a slender mongoose stole a whole piece of chicken from my neighbours, the new friends from my valley. We all thought he would disappear behind the closest bush, and finish the chicken, but strangely not. He runs about half way into the park, with the chicken in hand, or rather, in mouth (in hand was the Ground Squirrel who also stole a whole toasted sandwich, pretty much at the same time, but it was way too heavy to clutch in his mouth, so he was running at breakneck speed, with the sandwich clutched in one hand, dragging behind him). So, we then amend the story, and think shame, he is feeding a whole household, and wifey told him not to show up empty handed, or mouthed for another night. So he was running home with his treasure, to appease wife, and feed kids. This story made us happy. But, being a typical male, his true colours came shining through! He sits blankly staring into space, on a braai step platform thing. The next moment, a female comes running in, looking over her shoulder. He calmly steps off the platform, grabs her by the arse ( BIG PG rating please) sits down with his hind legs stretched out and proceeds to, well, hmmm, make tender love to her, while sitting on his bum, with no tender words or flowers! Again small little fellow, one would think that he would be done in about 1 minute flat. Again, surprise! He goes on, and on, and on! Humping away. At one point, he even stares up at the sky, in case some eagle or whole piece of chicken should fall on his head! But, girly got her own back. When he finally gets done, she turns around, and whacks the living chicken out of him. And not a woozy open palm smack, she clobbered him over the head!
This of course lead to a very long debate as to the purpose of the stolen chicken. Andre and Maritza, the new friends from the valley, recon he used this as a “gunsie”, to get her more amenable to some action! And what a cheap little She Mongoose! To fall for it! Granted, with no food in the Kalahari, and only small lizards and small folk to eat, I see her point. A piece of chicken for her is like a trip to India, a dip in the Ganges, and a free spa makeover for us. I would have considered the offer. Or maybe she is an emancipated Mongoose, and did it for free! Just because she wanted to!
Well, he is now known as The Neanderthal Man.
Meanwhile, it is baby time in the park. Hene. Baby Cape Fox, baby Springbok, baby Black backed jackal, baby Ostrich (classic, Mom takes a sand bath and leaves dada to check the chicks, which he does, but very nervously!), baby Suricate, baby Blue Wildebeest, baby everything! Cute man.
So, final count:
Lion ( did I mention, 5 of them, at sunrise, on a red dune. Two big black maned males)
Cheetahs. Last count about 9. Yee, ne na na ne na!!
Brown Hyena. Again as above.
Suricates plus babies.
Springbok plus babies
Blue wildebeest, plus babies
Red Hartebeest, only their bums.
Pale chanting Goshawk. Miserable pieces of …..
Possible Dark chanting Goshawk.
Two men who saw two leopards.
Tawny eagle, plus immature
Two drunk Frenchmen.
Stanley’s bustard ( stuffed in the Twee rivieren restaurant)
Two striped mice
Ag demit, I cant remember all!
Another tip for the weary traveler, make lists of what you see!
Oh, I forgot the tortoise. After seeing about 20 000 signboards to say, please drive careful, and don’t drive over Tortoises, I started to believe that the boards went up a day too late, and they were all killed. Most probably by other small Folk. Pecked to bits! Thrown onto sharp rocks to break the shells. But, I saw one!
I am very sad to leave this amazing park, and will treasure and recount, and retell the stories for years to come!
I made some friends, saw some deep sheeeet, and learnt again, to sweat the small stuff.
Cherio red dunes!
Don’t miss your piece of the action, find out more about our 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour here!!