12 November (Part II)
We were both quiet on our return to Grootkolk, it was as if stillness of the landscape had come to settle deep within our beings. In the east, an almost full moon was rising and in the west, a brilliant sunset coloured the horizon.
At Union’s End water hole I broke the silence with an indignant snort. “Damn cheetah crossed over our tracks…!” Partner stopped suddenly and uttered a swearword. We looked at each other and couldn’t stop laughing – we were taunted once again.
Back at Grootkolk, Eric came from his unit to enquire about our sightings and told us that none of the other guests saw big cats on their afternoon drive either – this made us feel a bit better. Our neighbours, a couple from the Western Cape, invited us for a drink and soon we were laughing and joking like old friends. By the time we left, the moon had risen mid-way in the sky and touched everything with a silvery wand.
Since Grootkolk is supplied with solar power and gas, the light at the water hole was switched off after 20:00 – much to Eric’s discontent as we had seen nothing stir during the time it was on. We assured him that the darkness and peace of nighttime was more than enough for us. By 21:00, whilst partner was busy braaiing, he also lit the area in front of our unit with our spotlight and to our utter amazement we saw a cheetah drinking at the water hole. “At last!” partner sighed and then thanked the spotted one for coming at night so that it was impossible to take a photograph… We continued to watch until it slinked away into the dark of night.
In order to understand what happened a bit later, I need to explain the layout of Grootkolk. The four units are placed in a semi-circle that overlooks the water hole which is approximately 50 meters away. The units are placed in pairs of two each with a central kitchen and braai area that serves for a group booking between them. The caretaker’s unit is situated on the eastern side of the camp about 20 meters away. The units are built on flat terrain – thus no stilts or stairs – with a carport for each a few steps away from the unit. Our particular unit had a beautiful Camel Thorn tree and some shrubs right at the entrance which obscured a direct view to the water hole somewhat, but standing in the furthest corner of the hip-height enclosure, we could see the water hole.
After dinner, I washed dishes in the open-air kitchen and just enjoyed the cool night air while partner was making Amarula coffee for us. While we were sipping on our coffee, I said to partner that I was getting cold and I went inside the chalet to fetch a jacket. Since there was no electrical points at Grootkolk, we had our freezer running inside the vehicle and partner said that he was going to switch it off. So, here I was inside the chalet, pulling on a jacket when I heard a lion calling. (Partner is an ace when it comes to mimicking lion calls…) I stood there thinking that partner was sounding like a real lion tonight when suddenly the calling burst into ground-shaking roars.
Within split seconds I was out the door and partner inside the enclosure where we collided with each other! In Afrikaans we say; gat af skrik which means you had such a fright that your ass fell off. What transpired was – partner came back from the vehicle and saw the lion walk away from the water hole. He turned to alert me and the next minute the lion started to call from somewhere unseen. It had moved behind the thicket in front of our chalet’s entrance where it started to roar. Then came the collision and by the time we came to our senses, the lion had moved right next to our chalet, heading in the direction of Eric’s unit. We watched the huge male in the beam of our spotlight as he glanced across his shoulder at us. When he disappeared into the darkness, we sat down on our beds and experienced the legendary lion-shakes – a feeling not new to us, yet one that leaves you filled with adrenalin and concrete at the same time…
Overview of Grootkolk wilderness camp:
This wilderness camp is an approximate two and a half hour’s drive from Nossob and six hours if you are traveling directly from Twee Rivieren. It is an ideal camp to stay at for exploring the northern section of KTP up to Union’s End and it is closely situated to the road that accesses the Kaa entrance gate at the Botswana border. Due to its limited accommodation, it is advisable to book well in advance as this is a popular camp – and with good reason!
Once again, clever use of materials and inimitable architecture creates a living space in harmony with its surrounds. Canvass, wooden frames and sandbags form a modern, yet reminiscent of colonial style, unit with a view over the plains.
Each unit has an outdoor kitchen and braai area enclosed with sandbags. This area has a table, chairs, basin and a two plate gas stove. The living area consists of two single beds, a fridge and a cabinet which is stocked with crockery, cutlery, utensils and cookware. A separate bathroom area with a toilet, shower and basin completes the unit. A carport for two vehicles is situated between the units. I liked the “tent” feeling of the unit – windows are netted with flaps for good ventilation and there is a ceiling fan to provide relief on hot days.
A central kitchen separates two pairs of units, placing it in the middle of the four units. This kitchen houses two fridge/freezers, a basin and a gas stove. Easy chairs as well as a dining table and chairs provides for a cozy gathering place if the whole camp is booked exclusively. This unit also boasts a large patio with braai and has a superb view of the water hole.
Grootkolk is surely one of my favourites, but then, each wilderness camp has something that makes it unique. Since this camp is built on ground level, one gets the feeling of being part of the plain. This camp comes highly recommended – with regular predator sightings at the water hole and hospitality second to none. A few pointers; there are no electrical points as the camp runs on solar power. Be sure to have your camera and video equipment fully charged before you arrive. The closest shop and fuel station is at Nossob.
Lastly; remember to take a spotlight for nighttime viewing and if you hear a lion calling, do NOT misconstrue it for the sound of a water tank (or your partner…).