Yes, it is my birthday today. And the best place for me to spend my birthday is in a National Park somewhere in Africa. This year we managed to cover 2 national parks in one day. We started off in the Augrabies National Park and end up in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I warned you that we might not have mobile phone coverage to be able to post a blog but as you can see we do.
I was woken up at some unearthly hour that no one on their birthday should be woken up at. My dear, beloved wife decided to go for a run before the birds started singing and so turned on the light to find her running gear. About a hour later the sun came up and I got up out of bed to do some birding with Stephen. We added a few trippers to our list. After the morning birding in the camp and the afternoon game drive we are up to 35 species for the trip including 2 lifers (Burchell’s Courser & Scaly-feathered Finch – given for you Paul).
We packed up and headed out of Augrabies National Park heading for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We were booked into the Twee Rivieren Rest Camp which is right at the gate of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Google Maps said it would take us 7 hours 50 minutes to do the 440 kms to the Park, our GPS (or SPG as my father-in-law calls it) said it would take even longer. It turned out that both were wrong. The road used to be untarred but now is tarred (though at stages it is as bumpy as a gravel road). We made exceptionally good time. And there is really not a lot to see between Augrabies and the Kgalagadi. We had to drive back through Kakamas and then to Upington and then from Upington to the gate you only pass 1 town and that was Askham and that was actually 1 km off the road. We went in to Askham to refuel the Beast and incredibly it had 2 petrol stations to chose from. I think the main economic activity of Askham is refueling 4×4’s and their jerry cans.
As it was a Sunday Michael suggested the we listen to a sermon. The wonders of modern technology allowed us to download one from sermoncentral.com and so we killed off some time of the trip listening to sermon. The preacher (Philip Ryken) quoted Voltaire (the philosopher) who during his lifetime made the bold prediction that in 50 years Christianity would be dead and no one would even have heard of it. The irony was that after Voltaire’s death, his house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society who used it as a base to distribute Bibles. A prediction that must still be haunting Voltaire today (well after his death). God does have a sense of humour!
We arrived at the gate of Kgalagadi just before 1pm. At the gate you have SA immigration as well as Botswana immigration. If you plan to exit into another country you have to do immigration at the gate. So we are currently stateless as we have exited South Africa but have as yet not entered another country. The formalities did not take long and we picked up our keys (including our travel companion’s key) and headed up to our hut (which is a 2 bedroom one with an extra 2 beds in the lounge). Our travel companions (let’s call them the Bluers today), arrived about 20 minutes after us as they had gone to have a quick view of the Falls during daylight hours before they left.
We decided to head out for a game drive at 3pm (after letting down our tyres – helps you handle the bumpy gravel roads better). You have to collect your permit and sign out and when you get back you have to return your permit again. That way they know you are out and if you haven’t returned in time they can come out looking for you. The road network is pretty basic. There are two roads from Twee Rivieren Camp – one to Nossob Camp and the other to Mata Mata. We looked at the board and all the sightings were on the Nossob Road so we headed up there. The bird life is incredible and we were soon stopping every few minutes to identify another bird. We are a little rusty having not birded for awhile and so are getting back into the swing still. Fortunately there was enough to entertain the Bluers who were traveling behind us. They cleverly brought a walkie talkie set along so we could communicate. We did see Gemsbok (they are beautiful buck and also incidentally make great biltong), Springbok, Wildebees and Suricate (made famous by the UK TV adverts Comparethemarket.com, comparethemeerkat.com – anyone in or from the UK will know what I mean – for the rest of you search YouTube and you will see what I mean very quickly). We also saw loads of birds including a Pygmy Falcon which caught something and returned to it’s tree and proceed to eat it. As we started heading back we also saw Black Backed-Jackal (actually 2 separate sightings). The number of carcasses lying around is also remarkable and hopefully augurs well for the rest of the time in the park.
We got back just before 6pm (gates close then) and got a braai going. As we started the braai the moon rose and it was staggering beautiful. It is a SuperMoon tonight in the Southern Hemisphere. Not surprising because it is my birthday. I expect planetary alignment on my birthday. It was incredible to see it rise. If the connection allows me I will try to post a picture before I post the blog tonight. If not, go onto Instagram and search for #templetravels and you should be able to see a photo (and others from the trip). Our family has increased it’s use of Social Media for this trip by hashtagging on Instagram as well.
It is now 10:45pm and we have some guy strumming on his guitar in the camp site below. Quiet time is meant to be from 9:30pm. If he doesn’t quit his strumming soon I may just point that out to him! Until tomorrow.