Golden Gate National Park
January 2, 2020

Yesterday morning we left Maliba Lodge at 10am as we were heading out of Lesotho and to Golden Gate NP. It isn’t a great distance from where we were staying. It took us an hour to get to the border post at Caledonspoort. It was not at all busy and we basically just walked up and handed over our passports and then headed back to the car to drive into SA and did the same thing there again.

We then headed to Clarens where we planned to have an early lunch and do some shopping for supplies. On route we saw a long-crested eagle sitting on the telephone pole which was a lifer for S and taking his tally to 16 for the trip. He added another one later in the day while walking around near our accommodation and I also added one at the rest camp. So we are now on 14 for me and 17 for S for the trip.

Clarens is a quaint little town in the Free State. I was surprised at how English it was given it is in the Free State. We ended up having lunch at the Clarens Brewery (and also had to sample their beers & ciders that they make). We all remarked on how much cheaper Clarens is than Cape Town for food – what we had for lunch would probably have cost us 50% more in Cape Town. We did some shopping for essential supplies we needed for the next few days and some people did gift shopping as well.

We headed to Golden Gate NP with the iconic rock faces you always see advertising the park. I was surprised that the national road to Harrismith actually goes straight through the park. We had to check in at Glen Reenen rest camp but we are actually staying at Highlands Mountain retreat ( which is on the side of a mountain at 2200 meters above sea level looking over the park. The views are incredible and no photo can really do it justice.

Just as we arrived at the rest camp, it started to rain. We grabbed a few items and headed into our chalet and then the mother of all thunderstorms passed over us. The thunder and lightening were a thing to behold against the landscape. At one point it looked like a lightening strike hit straight over the M’s chalet. We checked in via WhatsApp and found them to be (fortunately) all alive still. It turned out later that their appliances weren’t unharmed though as the strike seemingly knocked out a circuit and so they have no power in the kitchen area. Having grown up in Pretoria with regular thunderstorms, I am pretty used to them but their were some shrieks from the rest of our party especially when the storm passed right over us. We were able to watch the storm for most of the night as even when we were having dinner we could still see the intra- cloud lightening in the distance. It was beautiful to watch.

S, K & I went for a short evening drive and saw a number of black backed jackal. We didn’t add to the bird list though we did go to the vulture hide but unfortunately no vulture to be seen there at that point. We did see a secretary bird fly up and roost in the top of the tree for the night though – always interesting to watch them as they seem to fly and balance really awkwardly.

Braai for dinner and off to bed relatively early. The mist had moved in and was quick thick yet strangely dry. Really quite strange and never experienced something like it before.

Until tomorrow …

P, H, S, C & K

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