Keimoes to Home

De Werf Lodge had nice facilities but that didn’t help getting a good nights rest.  They had geese which made an almighty racket anytime anyone walked past them.  It went on the whole night.  We reckon each time a security guard walked past they went off. Add to that the heater in our room buzzed intermittently.  We eventually turned it off preferring a freezing cold night to the intermittent buzzing.

We met for breakfast at 7:15am and asked them to bring the food as quickly as possible.  The other problem they have is only 1 person serving and trying to make coffee, make toast and bring the breakfasts to us.  We eventually got up and made our own toast and Mr M found the butter and jam by rifling through the cupboards and drawers behind the counter.  We all got our food except Mr M and eventually at 8am I went to find the owner to ask them to please make his breakfast.  Fortunately did finally get it.

We were on the road at about 8:30am and after an initial turnaround (my app told me a different route than we really should have gone) we made very good time with very little traffic on the road.  About two hours into the drive I noticed the Gs turned into a picnic spot and we didn’t see them for some time.  Worrying what might have happened we tried calling but no cellphone signal.  Eventually we came closer to Brandvlei and we got signal saying that stopped for a quick toilet break and then the car lost power.  We never received the messages.  They did make it to Brandvlei with limited power and they called their mechanic who said take the earth off the battery, wait awhile and then reconnect.  It might be that the electronics needed a reset.  We did that and voila so further issue.

We made one other stop for biltong (at Trawal our biltong place), the loo and fuel and then we drove straight back to Cape Town.  We got home at just before 5pm.  Some of the drive was in quite heavy rain and we saw one truck that had flipped over (clearly taking the turn too quickly in wet weather). We had an entertaining car drive home discussing numerous topics, listening to a podcast on Truth, playing 30 Seconds, and countering Mr Ms banter about how good his car is compared to the Beast. We even did some power to weight ratios and weight to fuel consumption ratios (Beast won hands down on that one quite surprisingly but we think that is because Mr Ms car is petrol and the Beast drinks diesel). Everyone except Stephen and I got some sleep fitted in as well.

If you’re disappointed thinking my awesome blogging is coming to an end – don’t despair!  The good news is that we just returned to Cape Town to wash our clothes and repack as we are off to Portugal and the UK this afternoon.  Slightly different group (we are adding members)!

Until tomorrow …

P, H, S, M & O

Kgalagadi Finished

Today was our last day in the park.  We left Mata Mata at 8am and drove down to Twee Rivieren.  It is 120km and we figured that it would probably take us 4.5 hours allowing for stopping for animal sightings.  It took us 3.5 hours because there were no animal sightings. That pretty much summarises the Kgalagadi in our view.  We have heard so many people saying how much they love the Kgalagadi and how great the game viewing is but besides yesterday (which turned out to be excpetional), the game viewing is actually poor. I think all the people who think so highly of the Kgalagadi have never been to the Kruger National Park or Etosha National Park or Masai Mara or Sabi Sands.

We did still enjoy our time but probably more so because of the company than the game viewing. I am not sure any of us would be rushing back to the Kgalagadi any time soon.  If we do go back I think we all concluded that our preferred camp is actually Mata Mata.  It is no doubt influenced by the game viewing yesterday but the River Front Chalets (while there is actually no river) are quite nice especially since they have a of the watering hole.

After we exited the park we headed to Keimoes where we are overnighting before heading back to Cape Town. It was about a 300 km drive and we arrived in Keimoes at 3:30pm.  We are staying at Die Werf Lodge (http://dewerflodge.com/). Very pleasant setting with free roaming Springbok, a goat and a lamb (that is very tame). Stephen and I even managed to add some birds to the trip list while walking around their garden.

The Ws have left us as they are going to Augrabies for 3 nights but the rest of us are traveling back to Cape Town. We had dinner together in the restaurant. Speedy service is not what they are known for as we ordered at 6:50pm and got our food after 8pm! The food and drinks were very reasonably priced though – bottle of wine cost us R65!

We are all in bed already as we plan to be off first thing tomorrow for the drive back to Cape Town.

Until tomorrow …

P, H, S, M & O

PS: The photos are the Bitterpan views.

Mata Mata

At this point all the days are starting to blend into one. We went out for an evening game drive last night (after being reunited with the other members of our group) but didn’t really see much. We had a braai again for dinner at the Ws place which is a river front chalet.  River there is not but there is a flood lit watering hole right in front of their chalet. Their 10-year old is somewhat of a genius at shining their R800 torch though and when the sun had set he found jackal (numerous times) and later in the evening he spotted a hyena making its way to the watering hole as well.

We agreed to do a game drive first thing this morning when the gates opened. The Ws were running slightly late because at 2am Mrs W had gotten up to see what all the noise was about and went onto their patio and shone the torch into a leopard right at the side of their house.  It seems both of them got a fright but needless to say after waking up husband and the kids they had quite a lot of excitement and so weren’t quite ready at 7:30am (totally understandable in this case).

The morning drive did yield a fantastic drive though.  We saw all the usual on the way out – gemsbok, Springbok & jackal (we have seen so many jackal no one wants to stop for them anymore) but just about 10 km out of Mata Mata there were a few cars and as we pulled up I saw what they were stopped for … lion! And not 1 but many. Turned out to be a pride of 10.  And they were active.  After tracking them back towards the camp they went down the ridge and we couldn’t see them again. We were about to give up when one of our group radioed (we have cleverly invested in walkie talkies for each car) to say that the lion had turned around and were coming back again.  We watched and eventually saw 3 cross the road in front of us.  Most of the cars then left as the other 7 had not re-emerged but we hung on and were finally rewarded with the other 7 also crossing.  Some of them even tried chewing on the road sign on the way across.

We moved on and saw a large journey of giraffes (24 in total) before eventually turning around and heading back to camp.  On our way back in we saw a large number of cars at the watering hole and discovered a male leopard lying in a tree.  It then climbed down and started stalking some Springbok nearby.  They spotted him and so he gave up with that and just walked up to the watering hole for a long drink and then walked up the ridge and sat down.  Another great sighting and so we headed back into camp.

After all the excitement of the morning drive, we decided to go only for a later afternoon drive starting at 4pm.  We spent some time leisurely at the two watering holes when another car told the Ms about 5 cheetah in road 10 kms south from where we were.  We figured we had enough time to do the 10kms at the speed limit, see the cheetah and make it back to camp.  We headed off and after 10kms we realised the person had underestimated the distance.  It turned out to be 15 kms down the road and 35 kms from the camp.  We arrived at 5:20pm and the gates close at 6pm (and speed limit is 50 km/h). If you’re able to do distance/time calculations you will quickly realise that gave us no time at the sighting.  We watched them for about 5 minutes (4 teenagers having a go at each other) and then turned around and headed back.

I forgot to say that on the way to them we had spotted Bat-eared Fox and Honey Badger – both of which were first trip views for us but we couldn’t stop because of lack of time!  So on the way back we did a quick stop for a photo of the foxes.  That turned out to be a mistake as 2 cars passed us at that point and we had to drive behind them in their dust.  We also quickly realised that the distance markers seem to be suspect as despite the fact we were doing more than the speed limit, we didn’t seem to be covering the distance quick enough to get in on time. It became quite treacherous as the dust was so bad and the sun setting in your eyes made it impossible to see the car in front of you or for that matter where the road was.  Michael was driving and did a sterling job and so despite his constant abuse over the last few days I will promote him on the blog today.

We realised that if an animal of any reasonable size was in the road we would have a real issue and while we did encounter some giraffe in the road, the guys in front were aware that using their hazards would be a good thing to do and so no one came into any harm.  At least one occupant of our car was slightly ‘freaked out’ but the other 3 of us were fine (Helen had skipped the drive).  Mr M has been complaining that I never credited his Subaru car properly in the blogs so now might be a good time to say that we think he enjoyed the rally experience coming back into the camp.  We are convinced he has watched YouTube videos of how to handle the turns and he was reveling in putting his car through its paces.  He also twice drive into a mongoose/squirrel hole in front of our chalet today (I think he was trying to make his point).  We made it back at 6:01pm though no one was on the gate at that point (fortunately).

We had a beef potjie for dinner tonight (done by the Ws) and while it was finishing off, we heard a lot of barking from jackals and sure enough their 10-year old son shines the torch onto a leopard being barked at by jackals.  Probably the same one they saw last night.  The jackals were keeping it in their sight and making howling noises to show they were not impressed.  A great day of game sighting finished off by great food and company.

Until tomorrow (which is now today because the power went off before I finished the blog) …

P, M, S, O & H

Nossob to Bitterpan

Yesterday we drove from Nossob to Bitterpan and unfortunately left the others behind at Nossob. As it is a very popular time to be in the Kgalagadi, we couldn’t all get accommodation in Nossob for both nights and so we went to Bitterpan.  The road to Bitterpan is 4×4 access only and as only two of the group had full 4×4 cars, it meant either the Ws or us.  However, Bitterpan is unfenced and no children under 12 are allowed and as the Gs have a 10-year old son it meant they couldn’t go either.

As we had no opportunity to do a drive north except yesterday morning, we headed north just after the gates opened.  What we have figured out is that you generally see things only around the watering holes.  As you head north there is one about 10kms from the camp and other 12kms further north.  At the first one we were told you only saw birds (and the occasional jackal) and we only saw a few birds we had already seen. Then at next watering hole there was a fair amount of game but nothing we hadn’t seen before. We headed back again and at the first watering hole there were a lot more birds.  A large number of birds were drinking and then suddenly a Lanner falcon came out of nowhere and tried to swoop down and grab a bird.  It missed. But then we knew it would keep trying and so watched and sure enough a few minutes later the scenario was repeated and it missed again, and it tried a 3rd time and again it missed.

Back to the camp to pack up and check out and check in for Bitterpan (you have to do that at Nossob). They also have to open the gate for you for the road so that no one can mistakenly get on the road. Everything we read said not to expect much game and they were right.  We did see a kudu about 1km out of Nossob (they are very rare in this park so it was our only sighting so far) but beside that a few gemsbok we didn’t see much.  The bird life was pretty good though and we did add a number of ‘trippers’ to our list.

The road was generally fine except for the occasional up and down when the bonnet rose so high that you could see the road ahead and just had to hope it didn’t take a sudden turn (which it did a few times!). The upslopes were sometimes very sandy and required the full of the Beast to get up but traction control only engaged 3 times. There was some violent shaking about at times as well. We arrived at Bitterpan before 3pm. It consisted of 4 reed and canvas huts with each sleeping 2 people. The bathroom is separate from the rooms but just outside and each room has its own bathroom. There is a central kitchen area for everyone to use. All of the rooms overlook the pan (which is a salt pan). We had 3 out of the 4 rooms so there was only one other couple staying there with us and they were also from Cape Town and in fact lived just around the corner from my parents home in Newlands.

The sunset was incredible over the pan.  Unfortunately my WiFi access is pretty limited and so I can’t upload photos at the moment but will try in a day or two’s time. Mandatory braai for dinner (butterflied legs of lamb) and off to bed relatively early (8:15pm).  At about 9:30pm Michael stuck his head in and said a Spotted Genet was in the camp climbing up the kitchen roof.  It had gone into a lookout tower behind the kitchen but we could still see it through the slats.

It was a cold night with temperatures getting near 0 degrees.  Inside the rooms it felt colder. I slept with 2 blankets, long pjs and a fleece and I regretted not having a beanie with me. Despite that both Helen and I managed to sleep quite well but getting out of bed this morning was a real problem. It was icy cold.  One positive was that on the tree right outside our room was sitting a Red-necked falcon which was a lifer for me (taking me to 431 birds).

We had breakfast at 8am and then hit the road toward Mata Mata.  As we were the only car heading that way on the road, you can see the animal tracks from the previous night (which were numerous). Michael jumped out at one stage (yes I know you’re not meant to get out but there really wasn’t any danger) and identified the tracks as leopard but unfortunately walking in the opposite direction.  The road was pretty similar to that leading to Bitterpan but with more loose sand and for longer stretches.  Besides the bumping up and down and swaying left to right and right to left (all simultaneously at times), the Beast handled the road easily.

We have arrived safely at Mata Mata (we got here about 1pm) and managed to get our accommodation at 2pm. As you can tell they have WiFi hence my ability to post this blog.

Until tomorrow

P, S, O, H & M (H&M misrepresented me numerous times yesterday and found it very funny so they are worthy of their places)

 

Twee Rivieren to Nossob

We decided to have breakfast and then leave for Nossob this morning.  The drive to Nossob is 160km and given the quality of the roads that is around a 5-6 hour drive.  We left just after 8am with the intention of stopping at the first picnic spot for a break/tea and then the second picnic spot for lunch.

Before our first stop we managed to see our first lion of the trip – a male lion drinking at a watering hole and then it walked off and eventually sat half way up a dune.  Later on the journey north we came across a jackal looking very anxious – running backwards and forwards.  It had seen a caracal and was desperate to chase it away.  We assume it must have had a den somewhere near. The good thing was that we also got a great sighting of caracal which is very hard to see during the day as they are nocturnal animals. Some of our group had never seen one before (including Michael) so it was really a good sighting.

The quality of the road was very bad at stages and I felt like my hands were going to shake off from the corrugations on the road.  I got Michael to drive after lunch and of course the road turned it smooth sand and it was like sailing after that. On the final stretch of the road into Nossob we saw an African Wild Cat (it crossed the road in front of us) and so we ended up the day seeing 3 different cat sightings.

We arrived at Nossob around 2:30pm and checked in. The Ms and Gs are staying in a river front chalet.  While there is not much of a river (or in fact there isn’t one at all), they do have a great position. The chalet basically forms part of the boundary fence. We had dinner at their place and while we were having dinner we noticed two sets of eyes and sure enough two jackal right up at the fence (no more than 5 meters away).

We also went to the hide after dinner and again saw a jackal at the watering hole (it is floodlit).  Quickly trying to send this before the power goes out (it turns off at 10pm which is 1 minute).

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & O

Twee Rivieren

The gates only open at 7:30am as the sun rises only at that time.  It actually felt like a ‘lie-in’ morning for Helen and I as we are used to getting up much earlier when in a game park. We headed out just after 7:30am and went north (you can only go north though from here) toward Mata Mata. It was pretty cold this AM with the temperature reading 0 degrees C when we left the camp. There was not a lot of game to start with but the bird sightings were pretty good.  In particular we saw a lot of raptors including two pygmy falcons very close to the road and tawny eagles in their nest.  Our trip list is just over 30 birds now.

The highlight of the game viewing was seeing black-backed jackal (which we ended up seeing a few times) and suricate (meerkat). We did also see gemsbok (oryx) and springbok but those are the pretty common animals to see here in the Kgalagadi.  We did see two springbok fighting until the one gave up and ran off. Unfortunately none of the major predators.

We stopped at a picnic site and made breakfast on Mr Gs skottle.  Bacon and eggs on the skottle for breakfast was just what was needed at that point.  After breakfast we took the same road back down to the camp again. On the trip back the highlight for us was watching one male ostrich chase another male ostrich.  Both were ready to mate and so we guess that the one was chasing the other one away so that he could get the female.

We got back at around 1pm and the temperature had risen to 23 degrees. Definitely cooler than yesterday when it was around 27 degrees we when arrived. While I type this, some of the group have gone for a 30-minute run (trying to make sure they maintain their Discovery points).

We went out for another game drive at 4pm but three of the wives decided to skip and so only Mrs W came out.  We went out with 3 cars only as Mr G and Mr M decided to drive together. We saw a reasonable amount of game but again no predators unfortunately.  Hopefully tomorrow will yield some predators as we are driving from Twee Rivieren to Nossob and that is a 160km drive.

Our second communal braai for dinner and some more good conversation. Only problem was that the temperature seemed to drop rapidly and eventually it was just too cold to sit outside. I suspect it will be pretty cold tomorrow am when we wake up.

Until tomorrow …

P, H, S, M & O (and she deserves the last spot on the blog tonight (she knows why …!)

PS: If I don’t post over the next 4 days – don’t worry – it is just that there is no cellphone signal at any of the next 4 camps.

 

Calvinia to Twee Rivieren

We still had around 650km to traverse to get to the Kgalagadi and so we agreed to have breakfast at 7:30am this morning so that we could leave immediately after breakfast and still arrive at a reasonable time at the park to allow ourselves to go for an evening game drive.  Traffic was fortunately pretty sparse and so we made good time in covering the 650kms.  The drive north from Calvinia takes you through semi-arid desert though in places in looked like total desert.  The road was called the Kalahari Red Dune route so I guess that should give you an idea of the type of landscape.

Outside of Brandvlei and before we arrived at Upington we drove through amazing fields of flowers.  There was just a purple blanket (and in places orange) that covered the ground.  It was quite incredible to see.  We found a spot to stop to enable us to take photos and a few people took the opportunity to not only take photos of the flowers but also to take photos in the middle of the road.  Fortunately traffic was pretty limited and so no one got hit by a passing car.

We made a quick stop at Upington to refuel and buy some lunch and then we headed on to Kgalagadi.  Besides crossing the Orange River (before we got to Upington) the scenery doesn’t really alter much and so only remarkable things stand out. This includes Khi Solar One which is a large field (140 hectares) of solar panels which reflect into a solar tower plant which then produce 50MW of power.  What makes it even more remarkable is that it produces power 24 hours a day (don’t ask how that is possible because I don’t know!).

We arrived at Twee Rivieren at 3:10pm and after the tedious checking in procedures, we unpacked our cars quickly and headed out for a quick evening game drive.  We only managed to go about 12kms out of camp but saw gemsbok, springbok and Red Hartebees on the drive out as well as a reasonable smattering of birds including a really good sighting of Secretary Bird and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk (trip list is 20 birds for me so far).  On the way back into camp we also saw a black backed jackal.

Dinner was braai (as it will be most nights!) with great conversation.  What a great way to spend your birthday with friends in a game park.

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & O (still missing you C!)

Kgalagadi here we come

We left today at 10:45am on route to Kgalagadi National Park.  We have 6 nights booked in the park but as it is roughly 1037.7km from our home to the entrance, we decided to split the journey and stop on route in Calvinia.  We have stopped in Calvinia a few times on these routes and we always stay at the same place – Die Blou Nartjie.  So that was where we headed.

The traffic was relatively heavy getting out of Cape Town but once we were on the road it lightened considerably and we made good progress.  We stopped at Piketburg for lunch at the Spur and then another mandatory stop at our biltong place in Trawal which has the “Best blerrie biltong” in the Cape. Just outside Trawal there were road works which were operating a stop-and-go system with delays of up to 20 minutes.  We waited 12 minutes (timed precisely by Helen) before continuing on our way.

Just after this you ascend the escarpment and move from the Western Cape into the Northern Cape by going up Van Rhyns Pass.  It was a lovely clear afternoon and that gave a spectacular view from the top.  There were no delays after that and we arrived in Calvinia at just before 5pm.  That gave us enough time for our mandatory walk around the town including a visit to the large postbox so that Oli could be educated.  It is claimed to be the largest post box in the world and is the number 1 thing to see in Calvinia (and actually the only thing!).

We are traveling with the same 4 families that we traveled with 2 years ago when we went to Botswana.  The Ws had arrived ahead of us and the Ms and Gs arrived after us but everyone had arrived by 6pm.  Drinks at 6:30pm in the restaurant followed by dinner and in our rooms just after 9pm.  Enough time to enjoy the liberal use of water (no drought here fortunately) and exfoliation with the sandpaper towel to dry off.  Hopefully a relatively early night as we are planning on departing at 8am tomorrow.

The cell signal is very poor in our room so I am not even going to attempt to post any photos even though we did take some spectacular views.  I might try to sneak some in when I have a better signal (though I suspect this might be the best we end up having for the next few days).

Until tomorrow

P, H, S, M & O (you might notice no C … she is unfortunately in the UK with G&G … missing you C!)