The aftermath of the storm met us at first light. Garbage cans were upturned and its contents strewn all over the site, branches were broken off as if they were mere twigs and a thick layer of mud made moving somewhat difficult. The washing line at the ablution block was sighing under a load of wet sheets, pillows and blankets. Imagine the chattering of women in the bathroom – it surpassed any sociable weaver’s nest with a Cape Cobra in its midst.
The sun peaked cheekily from the east and within a half hour, the temperature started to climb, or rather, it started to steam. We had to wait for our tent and bedding to dry a little before we could leave thus, lively discussions with all fellow-campers ensued. Even the shy German couple passed by and excitedly told us in broken English about their scariest African experience so far on their first trip here. (I bit my tongue not to tell them about sharing a camping site with lions…)
By 10:00 we were ready to leave, we needed to fill up with fuel and inflate our tyres. The fuel station looked like a lake with bare-footed attendants gliding around in ankle deep water. We were told about uprooted trees and a fridge that was “put somewhere else” by the wind. Our attendant, a man of fifteen year’s service in the Park mentioned that he had never experienced such a fierce storm. On our way to Upington, we found more uprooted trees and at the turn, just past Molopo Lodge, a smoldering tree that had been hit by lightening, lay across the road. We endured something far worse than what we had thought. Partner looked at me and quietly said…”If we didn’t move camp so many times yesterday, we would had severe damage at each of the sites we left…how did you know?” I just looked at him and images of thick broken branches filled my mind…
Our day in Upington lay ahead with many things to do before we could return to KTP on our second stretch of our journey. In a way I looked forward to the last bit – getting fresh supplies, especially vegetables and fruit, but mostly, the overwhelming attributes of being back in civilization, left me stone cold.
By late afternoon we turned back from the city, heading for Molopo Lodge where we would sleep over to do a bit of consignment work. It felt good to see the red dunes once more and even better to pass the turn-off to Ashkam – it meant we were on our way home…
After a hearty breakfast that had us loosening our belts the minute we got in the car, we were heading to Kgalagadi once more. A couple of pedestrians were also on their way, and we had to wait patiently for them until they decided to make way for us to pass. Donkeys. These animals have a very special place in my heart, but let me not ramble on about them; we were after all, going home.
What a pleasure it was to travel most of the way to Twee Rivieren on tar road. Only a few kilometers of gravel remained and by the look of things, we estimated that the last stretch would be finished by the time we would return. The new customs offices, which would serve the Botswana and South African border patrol, had also progressed since our visit in August.
We had a meeting scheduled at Twee Rivieren and also had to wait for a telephone conference before setting off to Nossob. By mid-morning, we made our last calls before entering the seclusion of the desert. The requisite visit to Samevloeiing water hole confirmed that the Nossob road was officially closed. We had to take one of the two dune roads to Nossob. Since we traveled back on the Dikbaardskolk turn-off previously, we opted for the Kij Kij link.
At Kaspersdraai water hole, we found the first lion tracks and eagerly carried on in the direction of Marie’s Gat, not to be disappointed. The same majestic male we had seen at the eland kill a week or so back. With him, two lionesses of which one was showing signs of being in estrus. We parked at the water hole and waited, as Romeo was slowly ambling in the same direction.
I have written often about the moment when we are graced with an intimate interlude with lions, and yet, it is something that I never get used to. Each time I have had moments of eye contact with lions, it leaves my soul in a place of unknown bounds. I am mesmerized and captivated by what the amber eyes are telling me. It was my second contact with this specific male and his intensity was tangible. Was I prey to him at that moment as we kept on looking at each other or did our souls exchange a primal acknowledgement? Light was fading fast, day was nearing the end of its journey, but my being cried out silently…I wanted to stay. Then finally, the male broke eye contact and trundled off in the direction of the two lionesses, who became animated by his raspy calling.
Nossob had become our second home by now and our “family” there greeted us accordingly. We exchanged news, enquired about everyone’s well-being and then headed to our chalet where I started to prepare a large salad for dinner. We both laughed when we sat down on the dark patio to eat – for a few days we would be like plains game after the summer rains – gorging ourselves on greens as if we had to wait a whole winter for the delicacy of fresh vegetables… We were becoming true Kalaharites in more than one way…