This morning Stephen and I went out for a sunrise drive in Augrabies and a group of crazy people went for a morning run. The temperature was 10 degrees C in the camp but once we were in the game area it dropped down to 4 degrees C. Stephen and I saw an Eland pretty much straight out of the camp and we managed to add 2 lifers to our bird list as well (taking my tally to 398 … closing in on the 400 mark!). We considered that quite a successful morning drive. I am now on 32 birds for the trip so far with the serious birding still to come.
Check out time at Augrabies was 10am and we left pretty much at 10am. There was quite a queue to check out at reception and only one lady on duty so it took much longer than expected. Michael and I did see one highlight for the day while we were waiting though – a guy with a Go Pro strapped onto his head recording his every move. Why would someone do that?!
Today we drove from Augrabies to Springbokpan Guest Farm that is almost on the Botswana border. The drive took us through Upington (a quick stop to buy some rolls for lunch) and then on to Olifantshoek, Kathu, Hotazhel and then our accommodation for tonight. Not places any of us had frequented and doubt we will again any time soon.
About halfway to Olifantshoek we determined that the other 3 cars seemed to have taken another road entirely (and it turned out incorrectly being led by the GPS wanting to take them in a very long route to our destination). My 10-year old GPS (the trusty steed) took us the most direct route and the end result was we arrived substantially earlier than the rest of them. We did stop just after Olifantshoek to have lunch at one of the million rest areas with a picnic table on the side of the road (there really are no shortage of them on these roads). It was pretty windy and cold so we ate quickly and then we were off again.
The route took us through the Sishen area (with the town of Kathu) that is surrounded by iron ore mines. Kathu (which I hadn’t known about until today) even has it’s own airport with scheduled flights to Johannesburg on Jet West Airlines (which I also had never heard of today). Chloe also enlightened us on how iron ore is extracted (she had just learnt it for her iGSCE exams). After Kathu comes Hotazhel. We never went into the town but Stephen (traveling with his girlfriend’s family) did and they said it was really abandoned. The area around Hotazhel is a manganese mining area.
Just after Hotazhel the road turns to a dirt road. I didn’t know this but about 10 kms before it happened I needed a break from driving and Michael took over. He got the 100 kms of dirt road to contend with and he did remarkably well especially since it was his first time driving a substantial amount of time on a dirt road at relatively (100 km/h) high speeds. The only issues we had was that when someone comes the other direction they kick up so much dust you actually have to stop for a short while to see where you are going. And then Michael had to stop very quickly for a warthog that decided to linger in the road. The safety belts of the car immediately kicked in and locked and then actually pulled us back into the seat. I have never felt anything like that before. We fortunately missed the warthog and Michael did well to stop and keep the car under control for us to safely travel on and arrive at our destination.
We arrived at Springbokpan Guest Farm at around 4:20pm and as we arrived first we checked in for everyone and got our rooms. The rooms are basically prefab rectangles. Nothing fancy at all. No kitchen except a central one and most of the rooms have no en-suite either – the bathroom is outside the room. We fortunately have a room that includes a toilet and basin.
The others arrived 40 minutes and an hour 10 minutes later than us (depending on which route they took). We then got dinner going – a braai in the central boma. We enjoyed the dinner together and then sat around the central fire until it burnt down and we were getting cold.
Cellphone signal is really patchy as I would love to post a few pictures of the trip but unfortunately I have not been able to do it yet. I am currently standing outside holding my laptop and cellphone in a patch with signal and about to freeze to death (must be 4 degrees or colder) – the things I do to send out the blog!
Until tomorrow … P, M (for driving today on the tough stretch), H, S (even though he has abandoned us for another vehicle), C (and she deserves to be last and she knows why …)