After an early breakfast at Matjiesfontein with my in-laws, we were on the road just after 8am heading toward Cradock and Mountain Zebra National Park. That is where we were meeting up with the rest of our group – the Ms and Gs. Unfortunately the Ws (family that joined the last two road trips) have left for the darker, wetter world of England.
The route from Matjiesfontein takes you to Beaufort West then to Aberdeen, Graaff Reinet and then on to Mountain Zebra NP. It was a 6 hour car journey. Traffic was still pretty light most of the way. We made a stop in Beaufort West to re-fuel and then a minor detour into Aberdeen so Helen could revisit the street and house where her Mom grew up and finally a stop in Graaff Reinet for lunch at Steers. We arrived at the gate of the national park at just before 3pm and the Ms pulled in behind us while we were doing the paperwork. They came from Knysna and so their timing was impeccable.
It was noticeable how dry the landscape is at the moment. The whole Karoo is in a severe drought and the whole landscape is very arid. It was also pretty warm at 36 degrees C when we arrived. We unpacked and had a afternoon rest. Some slept, some watched cricket (they have DSTV in the cottages). At 5pm we decided to head out on one of the 4×4 drives. There are 3 4×4 routes in the park – two of them are rated 3 in difficulty and the other is a 5 in difficulty. We picked one of the 3 in difficulty. As we were deflating our tyres slightly at the reception area, the G’s arrived (they had come all the way from Cape Town – an 9 hour drive). They said they would aim to catch up after they had checked in.
The road took us straight up the side of a mountain. A short way in I realised that I needed to engage 4x4Low range in order to get up the steep and rocky incline. Once I did that the Beast powered her way to the top without any issues. B’s Subaru also made it to the top without any issue. We did figure that given the rocky nature we should deflate the tyres a bit more and so S braved the lions & cheetahs (there are in the park) to do that for us. Due to the lack of water, the game is pretty sparse though we did see kudu, gemsbok, springbok, mountain zebra, wildebeest, mongoose, ground squirrel, red hartebeest, baboon, vervet monkey & black-backed jackal.
On the birding front, while I haven’t tallied the list yet for the trip, we did see a lifer today (Cape Long-billed lark) which now takes my tally to 439. We are hoping to add substantially to our list this trip as we are going places we have not gone before and there are birds you can only see in this area.
We got back just before the gates closed at 7pm, started the mandatory braai and we all ate together before heading off to bed.
Until tomorrow …
P, S (for his lion bravery), H, C & K