Africa Adventure Tours and Overlanding Stories by Nomad

Posts tagged “Northern Cape

Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… The End

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.

At home, dreaming of what it would be like to be one of these gulls in a row

At home, dreaming of what it would be like to be one of these gulls in a row

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!

A forgotten car in the Kgalagadi, a sign that a beetle probably isn't the best option for the desert!

A forgotten car in the Kgalagadi, a sign that a beetle probably isn't the best option for the desert!

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.

Two Kgalagadi male lions, bored of being stared at, "leeu loop"

Two Kgalagadi male lions, bored of being stared at, "leeu loop"

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.

A jackal is surprised at a water hole as the flock becomes unsettled

A jackal is surprised at a water hole as the flock becomes unsettled

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!

Doves, the calm before the storm

Doves, the calm before the storm

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!)

 

Giant Eagle Owl, the wisest bird in the world says you should go and visit him on the Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour.

Giant Eagle Owl, the wisest bird in the world says you should go and visit him on the Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour.

Please contact me on jess@nomadtours.co.za 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!

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Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure … Wet, wild and very muddy!

I don’t know what day it is.  I have lost count.

Oh yes, the day I leave the Kgalagadi.  Oe, sad.  I have my last coffee, leave the gate, and as I do my last drive, I just want to rock myself to sleep I am sooo sad, did I tell you I nearly got eaten by a leopard?  I decided on a last game drive, early morning.  The gate lady, who on a previous occasion, was 2 minutes late in opening the gate, asked me if I can open the gate to the park, when I go through, as she was running a little late this morning.  Again.  This is about 1km from the camp itself.  Yes, of course.  I am like a local by now, I can open the gate!  I get there, still semi dark, and I make like, !Ku!?,  The Busman tracker, and spot some Serval tracks at the gate.  Oh fantastic, you Field warden you, spotting something like that!  As I drive that first bit after the gate I nogal keep an eye out for the said Serval (that’s the cat with the pointy ears.  Like Dr. Spock, just not as handsome.  No, the new Dr. Spock!  Not William Chatners buddy!  Demmit, I am not that old!  First Dr. Spock is living in a nursing home in Florida!  Or the cat could have been an African Wild cat, or Civet.  Wait, the Civit is possibly the Dr Spock look alike).

Anyhow, back to my bush signs interpretation!  After my 5 Lion spot, I drive back to camp, and very sad, crying quietly in the corner of Bullet, I meet up with two South Africans.  Now important to note that it was South Africans, as two days prior, a German(?) lady pointed out the 5 cheetahs as:  there are some animals lying under a tree.  And true as Bob, that evening, somebody (?) put up the leopard spot on the sighting board for the exact same spot as the cheetahs were in.  So, not trusting anybody but a South African anymore with vital info like this.  Back to the story, two South African guys tell me, they saw two Leopard that morning, at the main gate!  Yes, that gate.  Leopard, not Serval, not Civet, not even Dr. Spock!  Leopards!  I could have died, I could have been Leopard fodder!

Ok, sob fest over.  I leave the park, take some nice shots of dunes and stuff, and then tackle the 250km to Upington.  Lawn capital.  And place of dodgy lamb chops, that gives one food poisoning.

A lone windmill and a sad goodbye to the Kgalagadi National Park, I will miss you Kalahari!

A lone windmill and a sad goodbye to the Kgalagadi National Park, I will miss you Kalahari!

First things first, Bullet gets down on bended knee, no, wheel, and kisses the tar!  I heard smacking noises.  In fact, I think there was some tongue involved!

20km later, I am so sleepy, I can barely keep my eyes open!  And the road there is flat.  Not only flat (I mentioned flat yes?) but not a single thing along the way to distract.  No highway robbers, no GQ men’s show, no farm stalls with funny farm implements.  Nothing.  I played tunes, I yawned, I sang with the tunes, I yawned some more, honestly, I don’t know how I made it.  But, there it is, Upington!  First order of business, get Bullet to a Hyundai doctor!  Thinking of the prime plan, I don’t watch as carefully as I normally do with side roads joining the main road I am on and some bloody nincompoop eases over a stop street, right in front of me, and then does not try and stop.  No, he meanders on by, not even putting up a semblance of stopping.  I slam on brakes, still have a cramp in my calf from the pressure force, and nearly pee in my pants!  Of course, language in the Bullet at that moment, should never ever be repeated in public. Not even in the bathroom when one is alone.  You Bloody  @&#^%@%$#!)(R$*&%#  gulp @^$^**&$##  gulp more  &$^@^%##!!!!!! And don’t you even try to make as if your brakes failed, you @*&$&^$@))*^.

20 minutes later, arriving at the Hyundai dealership, my knees are still knocking together like Flip from Maya fame! (and seriously, somebody should contact Hyundai and say they should start sponsoring this blog.  They are in Korea I think, you can call now, really)

Then comes the second shock of the day.  The (very old) sales person at Hyundai (call Korea now, demit) says: “Lady, these cars are not built for roads like the Kalahari ne”.  No, really?  You shit me not?  Why did nobody tell me this??  I thought it was an innate 4×4 (and the x button on this laptop does not work.  Luckily I don’t have to write xenophobia too much.  Or x ray.  Or with Neanderthal man, XXX…..).

The old Hyundai dodger at least confirmed, Blue Bullet’s digestive tract ie. silencer/exhaust pipe (and now I have to use the x) has a hole in it.  Which will make consumption a little less than the stellar 20km per litre it has been up to the park.

On to the next ( Whats with all the x’s?) order of business, I make the mistake of asking Mr Senior Senior citizen if he knows how to get to Khamkirri Camp?  The poor old man slams down on both his arthritic knees, and nearly starts sobbing!  What?  Heart attack?  Should I call somebody?  No, he says, the road turns off from Kakamas town.  It is the worst road ever!  Dirt road, oh my god, it is bad, he moans, he cries, he nearly pulls his hair out, and Bullet gives a quiet sigh in the background, then pulls herself together, and points her eyes in the direction of the bad, evil road.

Now, with thoughts of “bad road” reverberating in my head, I take direction Keimoes.  Then turn there for Kakamas.  And what a little oasis Keimoes turns out to be!  Reminds me a lot of Malawi, with the Orange river running through town at several tribunals (English, not first language remember).  Every couple of minutes there’s a bridge, across another tri bunal.  Tribularies.  Trifactas.  Grrrrrr, Man, side bits of the big river.  And the bridges are all single lane, which means, you have to spot the car on the other side, about a kilometer away, and decide if he stopped first or if you did, as a miss spot can lead to a serious case of playing chicken on a bridge over the Orange River! Ah, Tributaries!

And everywhere, people meandering.  With umbrellas and hats!  Beautiful.  And graveyards in red sand dunes, and not 20metres later, green lush vineyards.  Contrast rearing its head again.

Ok, I make Kakamas, and seriously, these are some of the normal sounding town names I have come across in the last couple of days.

Oh, and I saw love bloom!  Between Keimoes and Kakamas, on that 40km stretch of road, it is road works everywhere.  Now road works basically means there will be a  long stretch of road where only one lane is open.  No visible work is being done in this 1 km stretch, but there are a lot of construction vehicles driving around, with drivers shouting conversations out the window at any pretty girl walking past.  And then on both sides of the long stretch would be a stop and go.  At each stop and go, is the lady with the red flag, and walkie talkie.  Once all the cars from one end pass the finish line, she then hops on the walkie talkie, and asks the other side if all the cars are through.  Although all of us, sitting on this side can clearly see the other end, and can see not a single car coming from that side.  Then she changes the stop sign to a go sign.  So, one of these stop and go ladies, obviously on a tea break, walks off and one of the construction workers, on full day break, starts chatting with her.  As I drive off, I see in my rearview mirror, he puts his arm around her waist.  She shrugs it off.  Tony Bennet starts crooning softly from the back seat of Bullet.  The worker puts his arm around her again, and this time, she leaves it there!  And they walk off into the sunset!  See, government, creating jobs, and environments for love.

Wait, still on my way to Augrabies.  At this point I am tired, and grumpy, and heartsore, and thinking off just skipping the whole thing.  I have been to Augrabies plenty of times.  It is a lot of rocks, and big water.  Very big water.  Something like 3000 cubic something per spit of drop per second or some such (see, and some people think I was appointed for my people skills).  I thus take the Augrabies turn off as I was under the impression that Khamkiri turnoff should be on this road as well.  And just to mention here, and not pointing any fingers, but somebody who wrote the operations manual for this tour, wrote directions to Khamkiri:  On leaving Augrabies NP, there is a road that turns right, then follow the signs.  Now, this confuses me slightly, as if you are coming from direction Augrabies, the river is to the left.  But maybe the person did not check which arm his watch was on when he was writing it.  So I check on the other side and see Khamkirri sign turn off.  Yayaya!!

This is where the mud section comes in, Bullet went bananas!  I end up somewhere in a strange vineyard, on very bumpy dirt tracks (aa, the old mans nightmare, I think) and plot on.  And then all signs disappear.  And the road starts getting more overgrown, and bumpier.  So I call Khamkirri.  Oh, no, I am on the wrong side of the river!  What do you mean, wrong side?  How can there be a wrong side?  Well, Philippa explains, I should have taken the turn off before Kakamas.  But never mind, I can always park my car on this side, and they will ferry me across the river.  Long discussion on that side, about what car I have (a big monster car, is my answer) and how much does it weigh (Hmmm., ferry me and Bullet is what crosses my mind)?  Before I can think this through, I agree, and off we go, following the directions.  Mud, and hang bridges, and large boulders!  And the next thing, Bullets parks with wheel basically in the very fast flowing river! IN DEEEEEEEP mud!  The motor boat comes in from across the river, and I get out, knee deep in mud, and there docks this little small boat.  And no ferrying of Bullet.  Only all my stuff and me, and Bullet stays on this side!  Nooo, I don’t think so.  NOBODY puts Bullet in a corner!  How far exactly is the correct turn off?  50km, approximately. So, off we go, with a spin start.  Mud is flying everywhere, and Bullet is going nowhere, but, seasoned rally driver that I am, I go into reverse, get bullet out, and mud slide skid out of there, over hang bridges, through little rivers, up mountains, but out of there.  Bullet is now blue, with a faint undertone of mud!

The road the old wise man talked about?  I spit on bad roads!  Ga!  Nothing!  Some bumps, some dongas, some 4 wheel drive required. Ga, I spit I say!  23 km of this.  Ga!  I am Sarel Van Der Merwe!

And what a spectacular site, beautiful.  Nice camp ground, very small swimming pool, really, very small.  More like a bath.  Spectacular lapa, overlooking the river, with lounge chairs, and a great bar area and 95 local farmers attending a dance do.  But fantastic place. Warm, friendly staff, who came to meet me at my car, and got me a cold drink immediately, introduced me to literally all the staff, helped me with my tent, and generally made me feel so much better.  They even gave some very sympathetic nods in Bullets direction, after I told them the hell we have both been through.

View over the Orange River from the bar at Khamkirri, welcome to paradise!

View over the Orange River from the bar at Khamkirri, welcome to paradise!

My camp on the banks of the Orange River, heaven!

My camp on the banks of the Orange River, heaven!

Then came the shock, they are taking me canoeing this afternoon!  No, really, not necessary I say.  I can see you’re busy.  I have this thing with water, and a headache, and darn, I forgot my rafting clothes at home, and …. off we went in some kind of 4 wheel drive, bakkie thing, with kayaks, and one inflatable canoe thingy for me, and my own guide.

Loading up the croc and kayaks, ready to hit the river!

Loading up the croc and kayaks, ready to hit the river!

Ok, I am thinking it can’t be too bad right?  Rapids!  Big ones!  Zambezi is nothing compared to this wall of water waiting for me.  They dragged me by the hair, and dumped me in the canoe, and said, don’t worry, we can all swim!  Hmmm, did you check if I can?

Rocking it on the Orange River, now this is a jol!!

Rocking it on the Orange River, now this is a jol!!

The First 20 minutes go nice and peaceful, and then off goes Danie and Phillipa, in their kayaks, which I suddenly realize, is what they call “Safety Kayaks”! No, why would we need this?  And why do I not have a paddle thingy?  And why am I wearing a helmet with a lifejacket resembling a bomb disposal unit’s flack jacket?  Oh, because of rapids!  Halfway through the first one, I expected to see Keanu standing on the beach, with a long board under the arm!  I am very embarrassed to say, but I screech like a Banshee, and with the PITH helmet on, with Maya the bee sunglasses, and the 30kg flack jacket, I make an absolute stunning picture.  Do please see the photos.  One of my prouder moments, even beats the time I fell down in the main road in Pretoria, or when I lost my skirt on an escalator in a massive mall, or when my pants fell into the long drop in Zambia.  No, ok, that takes a lot to beat.

My safety kayaker doing a rekkie of the rapid where I will see Keanu!

My safety kayaker doing a rekkie of the rapid where I will see Keanu!

And then the second rapid, which was not even a surprise, as we actually had to get out of the canoe thing and  walk around some obstacles and through the Long Grasses to get to the start of it!  I looked like a chameleon trying to walk on a smartie box as I am attempting the world speed record through reeds barefoot!  And off we go again, and I did see Keanu!  As my life flashed in front of me, he was also wading through the long grass like a chameleon!

Bouncing through a death defying rapid, with Khamkirri on the Orange River

Bouncing through a death defying rapid, with Khamkirri on the Orange River

I had a blast!  And yes, I know, in the photos that Danie so kindly took (again, really, I looked so fantastic, no wonder people wanted to take shots of, or at me) it looks like a very small little bit of fluff water, not really a rapid.  I tell you, it was an evil monster rapid, one just cant see it from the angle the photo was taken.

Fantastic food later, nice long chats about the overnight adventure waiting for our clients, and off to bed I went.  With the sound of Tony in the background…  Love is in the air… or was it Elvis?  Keanu can’t sing can he?  As he can’t act, so just checking.

Has somebody called Korea yet?

Lessons learnt today:

Leaving makes one sad. Like R.E.M.
Do not believe kind people with promises of a gentle meander down river, they have evil intentions.
Always question why you don’t get a paddle.
Keanu and Korea generally don’t respond fast.
The 9 Day Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour is available for booking now, contact us to get your piece of the action!

Orange River sunrise, magical!

Orange River sunrise, magical!


Tosca’s epic Kalaroo Adventure… The Slaughter of the Small Folk!

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!

Social Weaver Nest, the battle place where the Pigmy Falcon took on the Tawny Eagle!

Social Weaver Nest, the battle place where the Pigmy Falcon took on the Tawny Eagle!

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!

Poor little field mouse makes an easy meal for a hungry Goshawk

Poor little field mouse makes an easy meal for a hungry Goshawk

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!

The Suricat family, desperately looking for a place to call home!

The Suricat family, desperately looking for a place to call home!

Brave little Suricate eyes me out as I crash backwards through the bushes in the Bullet

Brave little Suricate eyes me out as I crash backwards through the bushes in the Bullet

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!

Neanderthal Man, you can see the glitter in his eyes!

Neanderthal Man, you can see the glitter in his eyes!

 

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.

Ostrich with chicks making their way across the Kalahari

Ostrich with chicks making their way across the Kalahari

Kit Cape Fox and it's Mum having a little play time together in the Kalahari sunshine

Kit Cape Fox and it's Mum having a little play time together in the Kalahari sunshine

Possible Dark Chanting Goshawk, juvenile... this is up for discussion

Possible Dark Chanting Goshawk, juvenile... this is up for discussion

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.
Spotted Hyena.
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.
Ground squirrel
Two men  who saw two leopards.
Kestrels.
Martial eagle
Tawny eagle, plus immature
Two drunk Frenchmen.
Humping mongoose
Finch
Forktailed drongo
Bee eater
Korhaan
Cori Bustard
Stanley’s bustard ( stuffed in the Twee rivieren restaurant)
Namakwa doves
Rock agama
Two striped mice
Immature Bataleur

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!

The tortoise who escaped the mayhem!

The tortoise who escaped the mayhem!

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!!


Tosca’s Epic Kalaroo Adventure… Bravely going where only one mad bat would not fear to fly!

Day 5 did not start well, and also did not end too well either…

On top of the flu, I also contracted a serious case of food poisoning!  Serious!  One lamb chop later, and my stomach colluded with Damien and sent me straight to hell.  Eish!  Not to get too much into the gory details, I woke up, realized my stomach woke up way before me, and so it started.

But, trooper that I am, I got some water, camera, and lots of ciggies (cause who does NOT smoke when seriously ill?) and went off on the first game drive.  Luckily I met a farmer and his wife, from North West Province the previous day at the third Cheetah visit of the day, and ran into them again on my way out.  So we drove in convoy.  But I was basically bent double over my steering wheel, clutching for dear life, and hoping that Farmer North West was more awake and aware than I was.  And as luck would have it, 20 minutes in, at the first watering hole, a Brown Hyena!  Those that don’t know what they look like, it is a cross between a Desert Yeti, and a Lassie dog! Uncomfortably ugly, and incredibly shy.  Basically like I was feeling at that point!  Except for the shy bit.  I took about 300 photos, but did throw up in between.  I know.  Gory.  But reality bites!

Brown Hyena, what a beautifully ugly shy kind of guy

Brown Hyena, what a beautifully ugly shy kind of guy

After the Hyena sighting I bravely decided to continue on a bit, and about an hour later realized this was one of those not clearly thought through decisions!  Turn around, and get to a Bathroom, PRONTO!  (When I get ill, I do speak in foreign tongues.  Pronto.).  The road I was on, from Twee Rivieren Rest camp to Mata Mata rest camp was in a seriously bad shape.  Luckily, Blue Bullet is an Automatic transmission, so I could cross my legs.  Every car driving past making the mistake of wanting to ask me what I saw in back direction got a meek wave of the hand and a very pinched face, and an incredibly sour stare!  As I am driving, with cold sweat running down my spine and trying very hard not to sneeze (with flu and dust, not a likely prospect), all I can think is, can this road please magically get better!  You will not believe.  The next thing I know, I am speeding past a road grader!  Fixing the road.  So, speed limit be damned, I put one foot in the corner and made haste for camp!  And just in time.

The road that seems longer when you need to get to the bathroom!

The road that seems longer when you need to get to the bathroom!

Lesson one for our intrepid travelers.  Please pack medicine for all occasions?  As Twee Rivieren had Lewens Essens, and Red Lavender.  One for wind, and the other for overeating!  I did not overeat (well, ok, I did), I have food poisoning!  I need some serious medicine. “Well,” Says the lady at the counter, “Ashkam has a clinic.”.  Yes, this is if I want to drive 70km, crunched around my steering wheel!

So, next best thing to a doctor, phone Mom.  At this point I am feeling pretty sorry for myself, and as Mom answers, I can barely contain the gulp, swallowing my tears.  Ma, help!  Eina.  What my mom came up with was:  “Eat Maizena.  It will set in your stomach.  Only drawback, you will be plugged up for at least two weeks afterwards.”  Ok, Ma, no Maizena here.  Right, eat mash.  This, for some strange reason, I actually packed, although I never eat mash.  But, says Mom, if that does not work, eat jelly, luke warm, so it can set in my stomach.  Ok, now what about the cramps part.  “Well,”  Says Mom, “get something warm, and put it on your stomach.”  Ja Ma, I did not pack the warm water bottle.  Thanks.  But, I can always roll one rock in from outside and put that on my stomach, seeing as it is about 45 degrees outside, and any rock would be oven temperature by now.  Yes, says Mom, grand plan.

In the end, I basically slept most of the day.  Ate mash, threw that up, and drank heavy pain pills, and threw that up and slept again.  Luckily, emergency services Nomad came to the rescue, and moved my booking to another two nights Twee Rivieren.  In my pain filled state, I walk to reception to check if I can just stay where I am, or can move.  By this point word has spread, and all were asking how I was feeling, and their sisters cousin also came down with a stomach bug, she lives in Pofadder etc etc. Shame, very caring.

Bottom line, with mash and pain pills, and some caring spitting from Damien, I got over it.

Meanwhile, I made friends with my neighbours, also from the Helderberg area.  They carried in some immune boosters, and pills and all kinds of stuff not relevant to flu, food poisoning or stomach bug, but still helpful.  They went off on a game drive around 4pm, and about 40km out, they saw some lions.  Then, they drove BACK, to come fetch me, to also see the Lions.  Unfortunately, I was out for the count and did not even hear them!  But that is above and beyond the call!  See, making people and influencing friends.  No, sorry, influencing meetings and friendly people.  Ag, yes, Carnegie knows what I mean!

That excitement over, I have been blissfully writing about places, and most probably none of you know where the hell I am!  Please don’t feel alone, I very rarely know either.  But, to put me on the map, I am currently staying at Twee Rivieren Rest camp.  This is the main rest camp for the Kgalagadi transfrontier park.  And that is also a whole new story.

Years ago, the South African Parks Board, and the South African Government decided it would be a fantastic plan to merge (love that word, Meeeerge) a National Parks that connects to a National Park on the other side of the border.  Country border.  So, they started with the Kruger National park.  Which became the Limpopo Transfrontier Park.  That merged (love that word) Kruger and the counterpart on the Mozambique side.  Funny little aside bit, after they lifted the fence in-between the two parks, they realized that the outer boundary of the Mozambique side did not actually have a working fence.  They promptly put the middle fence up again, but I am sure a couple of old elephant geezers are currently lazing about with a sundowner on Bazaruto Island (you may find him on our Mozambique tour).

After that a few smaller ones were done, and then came the Kgalagadi.  It was first known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National park.  This merged (hehehehe) with the Kgalagadi Park on the Botswana side.  So now one can actually travel from the SA side, through to Botswana.  Well, not really.  Only if you have a 4×4 and only if you stay in the park for two days.  Not sure why.  Maybe they think, if you are going to smuggle cocaine through the park, sitting in 45 degrees for two days, surrounded by Suricates, would make any person snort up the stock, and thus keep Botswana clean of the scourge of Cocaine?  Or, perhaps they want to make a little money first before letting you loose on poor Botswana (not so poor really, they have nice diamonds).  But, that is the back story of where I am now.
The Kgalagadi has three main rest camps, Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata (close to the Namibian side) and Nossop, close to nothing.  I am sitting in chalet number 5, in Twee Rivieren.  Please, no stalking!

Map of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Image via Wikipedia

My Chalet at Twee Rivieren National Park, home sweet home

My Chalet at Twee Rivieren National Park, home sweet home

Now I am hearing you all moan (well, the two people reading this at least, of which one is family, so really, you, out there moaning), why am I not staying only two days, like it says in the itinerary?  Because I can!  But, please don’t feel cheated out of 4 days in this wonderful, semi arid (hene, but I am throwing those English words now) park.  Any visit is like an introduction, you can always come back again!

Enough explaining, if you are still not sure where I am, Google it!

Back to Damien.  You know, the hissing, barking gecko in the rafters?  Not a gecko, but, wait for it, a freaking bat!  And either Damien is the only bat this side of the equator without the ability to echo locate (Google it), or he has a serious case of Narcissism.  Damien just got loose, and starting flying wildly through my bedroom!  I kid you not, he flew into the mirror, and with possible concussion, now flew into me!  This went on for a while, and every time I think he has things under control, Wham, into the mirror again! (this does sound freakishly like George Michael, oh no, his problem was with the restroom, sorry, my mistake).  I now called the Parks Board people.  No, not a ranger with a 345 elephant hunting gun, the normal lady at reception.  Now I though the only way to catch a bat is with a tennis racquet, and although I normally carry one in my handbag, I just clean forgot to pack it this time, it seems there is another way.  I always thought there was something just plain wrong with toilet spray!  Well, proof!  Bats flee for their lives when sprayed with toilet spray!  Handy hint this, write it down!  So, tata Damien!

And Tata me.  I am pooped.  Excuse the pun.

Lessons learnt today:  Always carry a Tennis racquet.
And toilet spray.  The nastier the aroma, the better.
Always carry stomach medicine.  And flu medicine.  Next to the toilet spray.
Brown Hyenas are lonely too.  Not just R.E.M.
Botswana has diamonds.
And I am in the Northern Cape, in the top little bit, and not with the Bazaruto drinking elephants.

Epic I tell you!

Ground Squirrel in the Kgalagadi, it's the little things that count

Ground Squirrel in the Kgalagadi, it's the little things that count


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had a blast!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The tally of wildlife stands at:

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

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

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

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