We arrived at Gharagab wilderness camp at lunch time, lethargic from the 45 degrees temperature. Our morning started early, a return visit to Union’s End and the picnic site for better lighting had us on the road as the sun peeked from the east. The sandy surface of the road was scattered with tracks – lion, hyena and our enigmatic cheetah – but our sightings were limited to springbok and gemsbok.
Returning from Union’s End, we took the turn off that would take us to Gharagab. A 32 kilometer drive through the dunes which can only be done in a 4X4 vehicle. The drive is not challenging but it does require patience, as it winds and twists on sandy terrain, in all respects, very similar to the Mabuasehube trail. A new world unveiled itself to us a few kilometers into the track. Grass savannah with the most beautiful specimens of Camel Thorn and Grey Camel Thorn adorned the dunes in abundance. The contrast between the red dunes, silver-grey and green foliage of the trees, yellow grass and bleached blue summer sky had the artist in me itching for a palette and canvass. Fifteen kilometers into the track, at the water hole that bears the same name as the camp, we found tracks of lion but by the relaxed posture of grazing gemsbok, we knew that they must have moved on after drinking.
Another 17 kilometers of dune-wonderland delivered us at camp where we met by another Eric who tends to Gharagab. The camp is situated on a dune with a water hole in front of the four units, although not the remarkable proportions of Kielie Krankie.
We finished our work on the interiors about two hours later and then gave in to the tiredness that was stalking us. A cold shower revived us a bit, but partner just gave me a knowing smile when I announced that I wanted to read up on the Silver terminalia trees which we had found on our way here. We both woke three hours later and almost missed the late afternoon light to finish our work, but by the time dusk fell we were luckily done and sitting on the deck of our unit, waiting for the coolness of night. Since we were the only guests at Gharagab, a sense of being alone the bush settled in us.
A full moon rose dramatically in the east, bathing the dunes in a silvery light and the world became silent. We switched off all our lights and sat quietly on the deck, drinking in the coolness of night air that brought immense relief. Our evening was not as exciting as the previous night at Grootkolk, but Gharagab presented us with something else – a feeling of being somewhere deep inside the heart of the Kgalagadi, embraced by its mysterious dunes.
Overview of Gharagab wilderness camp
The drive to this camp is an exciting venture in itself – it affords the opportunity to explore a road lesser traveled into the dune fields and to see a high concentration of Camel thorn, Grey Camel thorn and Silver terminalea (which also grows around the chalets at camp).
Again four chalets placed around a water hole and with magnificent views as the units are built on stilts against a dune. The units are constructed with an outer layer of wooden lath (lagging) and an inner of respectively PVR (corrugated aluminum) and canvass. There is a small deck with braai, a kitchen / dining room area, bedroom with two single beds and a bathroom consisting of a basin, toilet and shower. The kitchen is fully equipped with a fridge/freezer and a two plate gas stove.
I liked the drive to this wilderness camp – if you are visiting, do remember to pack a sports bra…the drive over the dunes is somewhat bumpy. If you have dentures…consider glue as the sports bra will not help in this case. Gharagab is one of those places where you would go if you are seeking solitude and to explore deeper into the desert. I will however, recommend a cooler season if you are sensitive to extreme heat but then, I would dearly like to see those dunes covered in fields of green grass after good summer rains…