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)
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.
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!!