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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 12:18 pm 
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Thank you for your comments! Hoping everyone had a peaceful Christmas and that the turkey left-overs are officially finished by today.... :? :D

KTP Nov'08 Continued

8 November

Much of our evening at Nossob was spent cleaning up and re-arranging after the Mabuasehube trail, but by 21:00 we called it a day. We were exhausted – the heat was getting to us. Although camping was a little harder work than staying in the comfort of a chalet, we missed the openness, to look at the stars from our tent and to hear the sounds of night clearly without interference of fans that worked desperately overtime to cool down sauna-like interiors.

We switched off all our lights in the chalet and sat outside to watch the magnificent night sky, listening to the jackals calling. The moon was starting to fill and lit up the white sand of Nossob all around us. My eye caught movement close to where we were sitting – a scorpion! In general I need to say that I am not disturb by any creepy crawlies, spiders included, but scorpions have me covered in goosebumps the minute we cross paths.

During our travels we have had a number of encounters with these creatures and I am proud to say that I have conquered my fear of them to the degree that I no longer scream and dance about. Actually I had become cheeky to the extent where I had special container to catch them, as one of our projects were to photograph the different kinds of scorpions for identification purposes. (Partner is just simply too weary of them to do the capturing…although he would gladly take photographs after I had “calmed” them down a little…) So after capturing the scorpion – a yellow poisonous one – we finally went to bed as we had a busy day ahead.

After doing our scheduled work for the day at Nossob which also included our arachnid model, we left Nossob by 10:00. If you are wondering, the scorpion was released in a safe place and it gave us an angry tail up as it scampered into the leaf cover.

We were heading for Kielie Krankie wilderness camp via the dune road that turns away at Dikbaardskolk picnic site. The obligatory loop to Marie’s Gat waterhole and all the way to the picnic site yielded very little sightings, a few gemsbok and springbok, but the heat forced the animals to take shelter which made sightings scarce. The picnic site yielded nice bird sightings – Kalahari Scrub Robin, Red Headed Finch, Glossy Starlings and a few other LBJ’s that still needs identifying from our photographs. (And of course, the obligatory debates that accompanies it…)

We arrived at Kielie Krankie by late afternoon where Willem welcomed us warmly. This wilderness camp consists of four guest units which are located on top of a dune with views over the dune fields into infinity.

All the wilderness camps have a tourism attendant that stays on site in his own unit. Our meeting with Willem was not our first, as we did pre-arrangements for our visit to Kielie Krankie in August. Something needs to be told about these young men and their devotion in making a visit to a wilderness camp special. Apart from their normal duties such as housekeeping and maintenance, they are also very knowledgeable about their environment and its activities. What really stood out for me in our second encounter with Willem was his ownership and passion for Kielie Krankie – this wilderness camp was not just his job – it was his “farm”, his space, which he shared with those who, after carefully measuring their enthusiasm, willingly. We left Willem reluctantly and settled into our chalet.

It was incredibly hot, yet a breeze moved on the deck of the chalet where we sat. I cannot say that we were sipping elegantly on our drinks, we were gulping down the cool refreshment in an attempt to find relief from the burning air…

What is the concept of wilderness camps in KTP? A small, intimate haven where the landscape and its beings are not fenced out. Unique architecture with little touches of luxury, yet rustic enough to create an ever-present awareness that you are secluded in a place far away from the hustle and bustle – if one can term human concentration in the Kgalagadi that. Kielie Krankie had an aura of vastness due to its location high on a dune. In my poetic, writer’s mind, this was one of those places on earth where thoughts could take flight into the blue sky and continue flying after the sun had set in magnificent colours to play amongst the stars in darkness. It was a place where your soul could dance to the music of silence…the sacred songs of earth whispered infinitely.

Willem joined us on our deck after sunset. We sat in darkness, watching the heavenly bodies starting to form in an inky black sky. Earlier on, Willem told us about the African Wild Cat who had kittens behind the water container in the unit next to ours and we were keen to see them. Their mother left them for longer and longer periods as she went hunting and doing what AWC’s do when they slink away into the veld. As soon as it was dark, Willem used his search light in the direction of the water hole to see if she was returning to her kittens and as if on cue, she appeared in the beam of light! We followed her path with the torch light until she came up the dune in the direction of where her kittens were hiding. As we opened our door to go to the back where the entrance to the water container is, we saw a kitten coming out of the enclosure of our unit, heading towards where we estimated the mom to be! We waited a while and tip-toed with Willem who carefully shone towards the two cats. What a privilege it was to be able to see AWC so close up!

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:44 am 
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Thank you Mashona for the compliment! :redface: It is so pleasurable to share our story with people who are as passionate as us about Africa and in particular, SANParks. It has been the constant encouragement and feedback from LP, Mikerid, BillyF,Anne-Marie and Pumbaa that gave me faith to carry on with my musings... :) Thank you also to other Forumites and guests who drop in to read from time to time! I hope that through my writing, an awareness is created, perhaps a little voice that whispers a constant invitation to visit or re-visit these incredible sanctuaries...

KTP Nov'08 Continued

9 November (Part I)

We left silently in the semi-darkness of dawn for an early drive before our work for the day started. The dunes surrounding Kielie Krankie bore the evidence of life-giving rain – desert rose was blooming in red splendour, the yellow straw grass replaced with juicy green sprouts and judging from the herds of springbok and gemsbok we passed, it looked as if the animals were enjoying this fresh summer salad just as much.

After Willem had left us the previous evening, partner also headed for bed and although I felt just as exhausted, a little reserve inside of me held me back on the deck. I sat in darkness, listening to the desert wind play over the dunes. The unforgiving heat of day had dissipated and below me in the valley, barking geckos had strummed up a musical in stereo sound – a spotted eagle owl called intermittently to add a new element to their song.

Why do some of us seek sanctuaries such as these, I wondered. What do we find here that compels us to return. What is it that takes our beings captive and set it free in a dimension that we can try to explain yet know that it is almost impossible to really put into words or pictures… My debate with self carried on deeply into the night – as I said – the place called Kielie Krankie took hold of my thoughts and made it play amongst the stars… But alas, I am wandering off to matters of the soul, when I need to tell about our day…

Our morning drive yielded Cape Fox with young, a group of boisterous springbok and a large herd of wildebeest that came down from the calcite ridges of the Auob river to have a drink at Kamfersboom water hole. There was also plenty of lion tracks, which meant that the pride of lions we had seen here on our second day in KTP before setting off to Nossob, was still hanging around…

Two hours later, we had to return to camp as we had an appointment with Willem to help us finalise our work at Kielie Krankie. We also had another “model” waiting for a photography session – a beautiful specimen of a Red Roman spider. Then there was the lizard who had claimed its home underneath the coffee pot on the gas plate…

Kielie Krankie, apart from its beautiful location and unique architecture, is a comfortable drive away from Twee Rivieren. The dune roads are in excellent condition as well as the exclusive drive to camp. Each of the four chalets have incredible views over the dunefields from their decks. As per my photograph of the previous day – the braai’s are built on the decks, with comfortable chairs and a table to afford an unforgettable cook-up on the edge of a dune.

The unit has a separate kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and the deck is accessed from a door in the bedroom. The kitchen is fully equipped with crockery, cutlery and has a good sized gas fridge/freezer with a two plate gas stove. I liked the combination of building materials in the units – wood, glass panes, canvass and netting – that all combined to create a feeling of openness. Each room had a view of the dune fields – at any given place in the chalet, the structure felt like it “floated” on the horizon. The bathroom has a wonderfully spacious shower, a basin (with a view) and a toilet. (I also loved the welcoming way Willem folded the towels.) A word of warning though…(and actually I am spoiling the fun now…) do not misconstrue the waterpump’s sound for that of a calling lion…. Each chalet has two water tanks that are cleverly tucked away at the entrance as part of the construction and closed off with a gate. Parking is at the bottom of the dune, which means that your luggage needs to be carried up-hill. Willem is not shy to help with tasks such as these…although, I have been wondering about these carts that you get at resorts…perhaps an honorary ranger or patron is reading this…

Too soon we were heading back to Twee Rivieren from the magical Kielie Krankie. We were meeting family who were traveling back from Mata Mata, at Auchterlonie for breakfast. It was Sunday – but none of the day’s lazily pleasure had settled in us – in many ways, light and shadow had become our master, even if we were in the Kalahari, where clouds were a rare sight. Thus, after exchanging news with our family, we started to ease into Sunday-mode, enjoying a leisurely brunch and a lot of laughter, whilst all the time, from the corner of my eye, I watched how thick Cumulus clouds were gathering on the horizon…

After changing our camp site three times at Twee Rivieren (it was very quiet and someone already occupied our favourite spot with lots of shade), the men parked their camping chairs and sat down with intention as if they were anchoring themselves before us women change our minds again. By now, I had crossed completely to the other side, drinking beer, I mean. The temperature gauge in the vehicle read 45 degrees – and it was parked in the shade! The air had become sticky like candyfloss. I looked at the horizon, the clouds were rushing in, dark blue clouds, thick with life-giving water. We decided that a dip in the pool would be the only option left to revive our wilting bodies, and on our way there, we were splashed with large raindrops from a small cloud that could not contain itself any longer. Heavenly! (Excuse the pun…)

Back from our swim, we felt much cooler, but the temperature had dropped a whopping 10 degrees as well! Apart from the few odd drops, there was no evidence of rain at Twee Rivieren, yet the fragrance of rain and wet earth hung heavily in the air. We decided to take an afternoon drive in the direction of Rooiputs.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2008 10:10 am 
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:P Thanks for you comments! A book???? :whistle: :twisted: :wink:

KTP Nov'08 Continued

9 November (Part II)

Two Rivers and Samevloeiing water holes were strangely quiet for the time of the afternoon. Usually a springbok or two came to drink, but there was nothing to be seen, except for the brooding clouds on the horizon. Close to Leeuwdril we found the first evidence of the storm that passed Twee Rivieren completely. The dunes had changed from sun-baked orange into a deep reddish terra cotta, underlining the landscape that was vibrant with intense colour. We stopped to watch a family of Cape Foxes that sat outside their den – the coolness of the afternoon made them playful after what I suppose, must have been a very stifling Sunday afternoon snooze.

Not far from Leeudril water hole, the road had become a shallow river with rivulets of water draining into it from the clayey surface of the Nossob river. I wish I could describe the mood of that afternoon – the paradoxes of emotion carried on the air. There was gentleness yet the dark, almost black-blue clouds on the horizon betrayed that. Around us, small animals like tortoises, mice, mongoose and birds became giddy around hundreds of pools of water, yet there was an aura of brooding silence as bolts of thunder interspersed the dark clouds.

We traveled through the river that was previously the Nossob road in the direction of Rooiputs. It was the second time I had witnessed a summer storm in the Kalahari and the experience left me in awe. Perhaps my association with earth as mother and rain as blessing to bring forth abundance brought on a silent reverie in my being. When I said to partner that I wanted to see a summer storm in the desert when we were on our way to the Kgalagadi, my dream was not only to witness the spectacular event. It was more – it was to share the awakening of new life, to celebrate the abundance and blessings of earth, for sometimes I wonder how long it will be before earth will not be able to give…

We arrived back at camp, spattered with mud. The vehicle as well… Now that is a rare sighting in the Kalahari! Still in Sunday-mode, we made reservations at the restaurant earlier as a visit to KTP is not official until you have had venison pie and a few bottles of smoky Oranjerivier Pinotage. Since we were having an “evening out” after braving the bush for so long, we spruced up and when I appeared back at camp, partner looked at bush woman with sparkling eyes… Yes, I exchanged khaki’s and hiking boots for a sexy dress and lipstick…(but stopped short of high-heeled strappy sandals – there is too much sand for heaven’s sake…).

A few bottles of red, much laughter and yummy venison pie later had us searching for our campsite in the darkness. I will blame this “searching” on the fact that we forgot to bring a torch along, although the sky was clear and a three quarter moon was shining brightly… When partner suggested another Amarula coffee to celebrate us finding our tents, I rolled my eyes, took of my (flat) sandals and headed for the ladder of the rooftop tent. Thank goodness, I made the bed before we had set off for dinner…

Two things woke me, no, three. Partner was literally squeezing me so tight that I could not breathe; I was incredibly thirsty and very cold. Nice, I thought, someone is pouring water on my face, so I can just open my mouth and drink…and that is when the second and third thought hit me simultaneously – which had me fighting partner out of his steely grip on me. The water was rain blowing into the open tent flaps and my cold condition was due to very soaked sheets. Partner’s grip was not a romantic move on a tipsy woman – he was holding me down as a mini-tornado was loosening at its very height around us! It was downright scary as the whole vehicle rocked and at times it felt as if our tent was going to be torn from its fittings. This gave new meaning to the phrase; riding out a storm…although this felt like one of those electrical rodeo bulls…whilst having an icy shower.

An hour later a deathly quiet fell. The storm moved on to rage somewhere else in the darkness. The campsite, which had filled up significantly after we arrived, was in chaos from the little that I could fathom in the darkness. Everybody literally crawled from their tents. At that moment I was once again thankful for our rooftop tent, as some of the campers were standing ankle deep in muddy water in their tents. It was past midnight when everyone had settled down once more after cleaning up and drying out as much as possible. Strangers jumped in to help each other and it was not long before the whole calamity of the storm gave way to a feeling of solidarity with quite a lot of laughter that resounded in the early hours of the morning.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 8:59 am 
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Thank you! Yes, the storm was an experience :shock: , but one I would not trade! I am incredibly homesick today after being in the city for ten days now... :cry:

KTP Nov'08 Continued

10 November

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…


11 November

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…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:32 pm 
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I hope that 2009 presents an opportunity to each and everyone to explore our South African National Parks! Do it for your soul!

KTP Nov'08 Continued

Overview of Nossob

From the onset, I am embarrassed to confess that I never took one photograph of any of the chalet interiors at Nossob, but I will try my best to describe what is on offer at this camp.

Nossob is an approximate three and half hour drive from Twee Rivieren – that is, if you really don’t see anything on your way there – which is impossible! There are two picnic sites on the way, situated on the road for easy access. I am aware that the road conditions are really not sedan friendly, but there are a number of people who travel in sedan vehicles – the password is SLOW and remember to deflate the vehicle’s tyres to a lower pressure!

Nossob is an unassuming camp situated on the bank of the river that bears the same name. It has accommodation that varies from family chalets, a guest house, two bed chalets and a camping site. The chalets are comfortable and airy, each with a patio and braai. The two bed chalets have a kitchen/dining room area, a separate bedroom with en-suite bathroom which consists of a basin, shower and toilet. The family cottages, an enclosed verandah with two beds, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The guest house can be rented as a whole unit, which can accommodate 8 persons, or partly which would then accommodate 4 persons each per unit. There is an interleading door between the two units if one party wants to use the whole unit. There are also two separate braai areas at the guest house if it is used by two parties. All the units at Nossob are well equipped with microwave ovens, fridges, crockery, cutlery, utensils and cookware. The guesthouses have stoves with ovens and the chalets have hotplates. A small touch that I have noticed throughout all SANPark’s accommodation except for in Kruger National Park, is a bottle of dishwash liquid, kitchen swabs and dishcloths – one less item to worry about when traveling.

Nossob has two gates which are separated by the walkway to the birdhide. (The birdhide from which the webcam seen on the website provides images of the waterhole in front of it.) Spend time at the predator information centre which is housed in the same building as reception. Beautiful photography and an incredible amount of information will help you to better understand the fragile ecosystems present in the Kalahari desert. This place is close to my heart as a very good friend spent many many late nights to put this masterpiece together as a work of love.

There is a filling station and a general dealer in the close vicinity of reception. A few pointers here; the fuel transactions have a limit of R250.00 if you are paying with a garage card – thus transactions will be split in units of R250.00. This is due to the fact that transactions are done via radio to Twee Rivieren as there are no telephone lines in Nossob. The general dealer only accepts cash, so be prepared for this before you leave Twee Rivieren. Also, the general dealer closes certain hours of the day – thus ensure that you don’t run out of beer or bread during times when they are not open. The variety of goods are not that of the average Pick & Pay, but the offering is sufficient for basic needs, although somewhat pricey. As a treat, remember that you can order freshly baked bread and roosterkoek (which I described earlier on) at reception. This is delivered to your chalet at a time which you specify when placing the order. It is yum!

I simply love the campsite of Nossob. There are ample trees and the sites are well-situated. The ablutions are spacious, good showers, enough toilets and basins and plugs at the mirrors for drying your hair. There is also an enclosed area with washing lines not far from the laundry / kitchen area. Each of the camping sites have a tap for water and a powerpoint although most of the sites on the eastern side does not have electricity. We in particular like sites 19 and 20 (even if we guiltily looked at the Honey Mesquite trees that provided shade, knowing that they are not supposed to be here…)

And lastly the pool…the greatest boon one could have in the desert in summer. More than just a place to cool down, it became a water hole of note where wilted bodies gathered and exchanged news of sightings and became friends. It is also the place where you can float peacefully at sunset and watch the sky change to all the colours the Great Painter wants to use at the end of the day…

Oh yes, one more thing. Nossob’s electricity is provided by a generator which is switched off at approximately 22:00. Don’t be caught in the shower…


12 November (Part I)

I was busy filling the flask with hot water when partner skidded around the corner into the kitchen. “The jackals…” he said and disappeared again. That was a sure sign of a cryptic clue that he wanted me to follow him. So I walked to patio of our chalet and listened. The jackals were making a racket indeed. “Do you think…?” partner asked in one of his half sentences he uses when he gets excited. I nodded and calmly put our coffee basket in the vehicle. “I am ready…” I announced. We were the second vehicle out of the gate – heading in the direction of Cubitje Quap – but a mere fifty meters away from camp, we found the source of the jackals excitement. Two male lions who came for a drink at the water hole at the birdhide. The two boys were on a mission – their beautiful muscled bodies reflecting golden in the early morning sun.

We followed them until they turned away from the road and headed for Cubitje Quap, hoping to find the cheetahs everyone had told us about the previous day. After a quiet morning coffee, we decided to visit Marie’s Gat. A few meters past Rooikop water hole, we found a lioness with three cubs – the same cubs we had seen at the eland kill – but we could not linger, as we had to return to camp to pack.

Finally we were on our way in the direction of Union’s End – a milestone for me. I had often looked at the map of KTP and wondered about this place, dreaming of a day when I would be able to go there, and now it was happening. As we traveled further north from Nossob the strains of a long dry season became more and more visible. A herd of wildebeest was bearing testimony to the sparse fodder. We stopped for a while at Bedinkt water hole to watch flocks of Red-headed weavers quench their thirst.

Water holes which dot the roads in KTP were originally boreholes which was sunk to supply water for border patrol purposes many years ago prior to the division of the Kgalagadi area into livestock farms after World War I. After proclamation of the park in 1931, the water holes continued to serve as water supply to wildlife as we see it today. I am not sure whether we as visitors to this remote landscape realize the implication of having to maintain water supply in such an arid area. Bedinkt water hole amongst others, has a solar system that supplies power to the borehole. The windmills are gradually being replaced by this more environmentally friendly and efficient system, but these systems are costly. On a plaque at the water hole, an acknowledgment is made to Ousus, a lioness made legendary through a work of love by Piet Heymans. The proceeds of the book called “Ousus” was used to sponsor this water hole’s solar system as this was her area where she roamed. Piet Heymans is synonymous with this landscape – look out for the plaques at the waterholes which acknowledge the work and sponsorship of “Friends of the Kalahari”.

Half way between Polentswa and Lijersdraai water holes, the barren landscape changed once more – evidence of rain manifested in a greenish hue in the Nossob’s bed. Large herds of wildebeest, gemsbok and springbok started to appear.

At Lijersdraai a hyena was having a lunch time dip in the water hole to ward off the effects of the stiflingly hot day. A small breeze moved the inert windmill and a spurt of water landed on her from a pvc pipe. Startled she jumped up to investigate the source and meekly started to drink from the fresh supply of water before she slunk back into the cooling pool with what almost looked like a sigh of great pleasure. I watched her with envy.

Grootkolk wilderness camp. We were met by Eric, the tourism assistant of Grootkolk.. I had thought that Willem was amazing, but Eric was a different kettle of fish. We hardly had time to chew on our lunch as his enthusiastic chatter kept us asking a hundred questions. It was after he had left us discreetly to unpack and settle in, that a new dimension of the wilderness camps came to me. In these remote areas, the only means of communication is by radio – and it was while we were settling in that my ears picked up on the conversation that was clearly audible in the quiet of the bush. The tourism assistants were bragging to each other about sightings at their camps, guest occupation and their “methods” of taking care of their “farms”. It was clear that there was a healthy competition between them, which obviously benefited the guests, thus with an amused smile, I dislodged from my eavesdropping and watched the flock of Sociable Weavers. I had left a pan filled with water to soak after lunch and never missing anything, these clever little creatures soon utilized this new source of water.

After our work was done at Grootkolk, we headed in the direction of Union’s End on a road full of cheetah tracks. We were literally like to two dogs panting after a bone – by now our cheetah-fever was sky-high, but alas, none of the water holes we passed yielded the much sought-after spotted ones.

Then at last, we arrived at Union’s End…and we were the only human beings in a vast landscape that enveloped us in solitude. The most northwesterly point of South Africa.


We had come a long way – from the north, south and west of this beautiful country – to stand here silently and acknowledge gratitude for our safe passage thus far. I walked into the riverbed and stood there, listening to the silence, the whispering of the earth, feeling the rhythm of Africa pulsing through my blood and then I started to cry as I exhaled my smallness to the Universe who created me with the sun and dust of this continent…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:18 am 
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KTP Nov'08 Continued

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. :big_eyes:

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. :redface: 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… :shock:


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…).
:whistle:

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:13 pm 
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Hi Ndoto,
Yes,that's Grootkolk!!My fav.place in the KTP!! :thumbs_up:

I know exactly,how it feels the lion next to you! :roll: :roll:
I hope,you don't mind,posting me some pix from our lion encounter
Sept.07.We stayed also in Nr.4!Lion roaring half the night!! :big_eyes: Early morning,SO shot these pix from inside the hut!
Here are the "lovebirds" looking for a cosy place!! :lol: :P

Image

Image

Image

Image

At Grootkolk you are really part of the bush!! :D :D

_________________
We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.
William Hazlitt


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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:45 pm 
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CC, Lockie, p@m, Mikerid, Billyf, Anne-Marie, LP, Pumbaa & Mashona: Thanks for your comments! Ingrid - your photos were brilliant to help me to explain Grootkolk and its famous lions!

:wink: ( I had become a "grandma" to a baby tree squirrel who was left orphaned after its nest was destroyed by a storm. Needless to say that our whole household had come to standstill in caring for the little guy who was brought home to the city by our child (that lives in the bush) who cannot pass anything in distress... so please forgive me if I did not update my diary yesterday) :tongue:

KTP Nov'08 Continued

13 November

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, wildebeest 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…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:31 pm 
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Thank you! :P Mashona: your wish is my command.... :twisted:

KTP Nov'08 Continued

14 & 15 November (Part I)

What do we deem as luxuries in life? And by the same token, is not the everyday things we take for granted, that becomes precious in its own right?

We arrived back at Nossob by mid-afternoon and by some touch of magic, camping site 19 was available, dark with shade. After seeing mirages formed by the heat – ostriches prancing on the horizon like Dali paintings, we were happy to head for the pool. It was almost impossible to do good photography in 43 degrees – one could clearly see distortions on the thumbnail, which meant that an enlarged picture would even look worse.

At the pool we were soon joined by familiar faces, and the discussion went in the obvious direction – sightings and experiences. Since we had left Nossob for Grootkolk and Gharagab, sightings had become scarce. Our lion encounter at Grootkolk sparked a whole river of memories, and so the conversation flowed whilst we were cooling down.

A late afternoon drive to Marie’s Gat yielded a lot of tracks, cheetah, hyena, jackal and lion – but it was curiously quiet. A lone eland stood on the bank of the Nossob river across from the water hole, unsure of its safety, and that was the sum total of our sightings

A restless night at Gharagab had us in the rooftop tent by 21:00. The heat was taking its toll. Partner laughingly referred me back to our time at Table Mountain National Park where I said that I could not wait to go back to KTP to feel warmth again. The human spirit is amazing – we can take a moment in our lives and make it good. I remembered the freezing temperatures we experienced in the Western Cape and then realized that the heat was not so bad – at least we could open all the tent flaps and sleep underneath the light of stars and the moon…

During the night the warm breeze cooled down to such proportions that a cotton sheet was simply not enough, thus a full-scale blanket search ensued. Going down the stairs of the rooftop half asleep is one thing. Meeting two Black Backed Jackals unexpectedly was enough to wake me for the rest of the night. Yes, the rascals come into the camp and scavenge on whatever they can get. A headache for the staff and one which will never go away. We are the visitors to their world after all, and jackals will continue to do what jackals do.

We woke as day was graying in the east – it was the first time in many days that the morning air had a slight chill to it. Perhaps our bodies were so acclimatized to high temperatures that a ten degree drop made us shiver. We left as the gates opened as we were intending to travel to Dikbaardskolk picnic site for work that still needed to be done there.

Needless to say that we took Marie’s Loop on our way there. We were the only vehicle on the Loop – it seemed as if everyone at Nossob was heading in the direction of Kwang where lions were sighted the previous day.

A few meters into the loop had partner doing the caracal STOP! All he could utter was; CHEETAH…! I looked in disbelief, finally the enigmatic spotted one presented itself a few meters from us in the gentle light of morning. And we were all alone…with a female cheetah and three cubs who were being taught about the discipline of the bush. A half an hour later we were a kilometer into the loop, following them as they cautiously progressed in the direction of the waterhole. A few cars caught up with us and followed in tandem, respectful of such an incredible sighting, no one wanted to put a foot wrong to disturb these magnificent animals.

After almost an hour, they had progressed to the water hole where the female took a small sip of water and carried on. The cubs were lagging behind to quench their thirst. Partner clicked away and sighs of delight filled the vehicle as the young ones posed. The mother stopped and glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the romping cubs, which immediately had them on their way in her direction.

They continued on their mission for another 400 meters and then flopped down underneath the shade of a Camel thorn, but rest did not come. After a few minutes, the female jumped up and in a flash – almost too quick for the eye to comprehend what had happened – caught a rabbit. Four hungry cheetahs shared a tiny rabbit in less than one minute. We watched them as they settled down and started to groom themselves, having the luxury of a few moments of relaxation before heading for cover from the ever-roaming lions and merciless summer sun.

It was time for us to turn around, to greet our “family” in Nossob as it was our last visit there on our journey for 2008. We were heading for Bitterpan wilderness camp and then the Auob river. It is sometimes hard to say goodbye and yet, the knowing smiles of the staff said everything – they knew that it was only a matter of time before we would be standing in the very same place again. After all, they were certainly not handing out vials of Kalahari antidote…

I bade Nossob goodbye as I closed the gate behind me with a lump in my throat. The tracks of a set of bare feet crossed over the last evidence of the jackal’s visit to the camp. Something of me stayed behind, but there was so much inside of me that came along. Simplicity, appreciation for life and a stillness in my soul that I will carry like a precious gift and unwrap in moments of solitude. Life as it is meant to be, and its wisdom waiting here in desert where we only need to open our hearts…

The road to Bitterpan lay ahead – another exploration into the heart of the red sand dunes. There was an excitement inside me I could not define, and with this feeling, we negotiated our first dune, one of many that awaited two people on a journey of dreams…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2009 3:36 pm 
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@ Pumbaa.... :mrgreen: - I am counting the days with you...and I notice they are getting less and less.... :mrgreen:

KTP Nov'08 Continued

14 & 15 November (Part II)

Since my childhood, which was spent in the veld, I have had an acute sense of tuning into the delicate web of nature. It something akin to a sixth sense and it is not reserved for animals only, landscapes tell me stories. In the Kgalagadi, it took a while for me to find the rhythm, as this was a new landscape for someone who intimately knows the fragrance of dawn in the Bushveld.

As we traveled further away from the turn off at Nossob, I felt the presence resonating in me and without effort, I started to pick up little things that nature was showing me. About fifteen kilometers further, had me searching for a pan – the growth patterns of flora started to change and I knew that by the look of things, a pan must be somewhere close. Indeed, as we scaled another dune, a smallish pan awaited in a dune street. I was amazed to read about the occurrence of pans – there are almost ten thousand pans in the Kgalagadi, ranging from a few meters to some as big as two kilometers in diameter. The pans provide vital sustenance to animals during the rainy season, firstly water for short periods after rain, and once the water filters away, the soil type enables growth of very palatable grass.

Another ten kilometers had us stop underneath the only tree close to the road, and there is not an abundance of trees in this area if you compare it to the Gharagab environment. We were in the middle of a large pan, where the Klein Stofpan water hole is located. The windmill was damaged but we lingered long enough on the hot surface of the track to overheat the fuel supply again. We haven’t had that problem in a while, so as usual, partner did the “cool-down-trick” and we utilized the time we had to wait for breakfast. Weatbix and good cup of coffee!

A little while later, we were negotiating the dunes once more. Not much of a 4X4 guru, but as a qualified passenger, this road was not lekka. If I jokingly recommended a sports bra on the previous trip, then I would suggest a corset for this one…and a gum guard… Partner explained the technical aspects of bad dune driving as well as the draw-backs of traction control in modern vehicles for less fortunate who needs to use the road after them – this all minced with a few choice words as we were rocking over the dunes.

A kilometer drive away from the main road to view Namabies water hole had us frustrated – the windmill was also broken and by the look of things, it has been out of order for quite a while. (A sign at the turn-off to inform visitors would have been nice…). I was relieved when we stopped at Bitterpan wilderness camp twenty minutes later. Two sweaty, shaken and stirred travelers hobbled out of the vehicle – seasick from the dune road.

Ah!, but what a picture awaited us, as Oliver, who supervised the camp, escorted us to our room. I walked to the front of the complex and just stood there in rapture. This place took my breath away and made my soul dance in its magnificent ambiance. The preceding discomfort forgotten, almost as if the journey here needed to be somewhat difficult in order to appreciate what was waiting for us.
Bitterpan is situated on the edge of a pan on top of a dune, which allows for wonderful views. In front of the braai area, a dry tree completes the postcard picture. But it was not only the “picture” that surrounded us, there was something about this camp that personified desert, seclusion, and utter remoteness.

Oliver explained how things worked in the shared kitchen and braai area and then added as an afterthought that we shouldn’t worry about these arrangements in any case, since we were the only guests at the camp. Partner and I looked at each other like two cats with a bowl of cream – such bliss!

After setting about our work for the day, we returned to the kitchen for a lunch time snack. As we were sitting at the dining table, we noticed that we were not alone – a cheeky three-striped mouse was casually lapping up the breadcrumbs that fell on the kitchen floor. We started to giggle nervously – it has been while since we had an encounter with mice, but it brought back so many memories of a journey that started thousands of kilometers ago. “Remember to hide the tinfoil, dear…” partner remarked.

Lunch done and dishes washed, we opted for a long cold shower to revive us. We still had a bit of work to do for the afternoon and after noticing the gas stoves with ovens, I excitedly told partner that I would bake bread for our evening meal since we had finished the last of our bread during lunch. Whilst we were working at the dining room table, I decided to read the guestbook and an entry had us in stitches. “…had a flat wheel on our way here and my husband broke two crowns…” (So please take my recommendation about mouth guards to heart…although we were assured at a later stage of our journey that the grading of the Bitterpan roads were to begin a few days after our visit…)

Late afternoon, after we were finally finished with all our work, we opted for another cold shower and then I headed for the kitchen to start working on my masterpiece of freshly baked bread. But what a calamity awaited me – a baby mouse fell into the soapy water I had left after washing the dishes, and it was near drowning. How do you resuscitate a baby mouse, I wondered as I wrapped it in a dishcloth to dry it off. I turned the small animal on its back and softly massaged its stomach, which seemed to work as it started to gulp. After drying it, the baby mouse was placed inside my scorpion box with the lid off on the kitchen floor with the hope that mama mouse would find her. It took a few strategically placed peanuts to get mum interested and luckily twenty minutes later, both of them disappeared into the recesses of the kitchen. Rescue mission one done, had me kneading bread like a true boere-tannie. Operation two presented itself in the gas oven – as I turned on the gas and lit the opening, another (hopefully not the same almost-drowned one) mouse with burnt whiskers leapt from somewhere out of the stove and had me fall flat on my bum with fright. (I have a healthy fear of gas ovens…)

After capturing the poor thing in the heating drawer, I inspected for burn wounds, but the only signs I could find was scorched whiskers. It quickly ran away once I had set down on the kitchen floor. So it was partner that found me on my knees on the kitchen floor, talking to the mice of Bitterpan; “Ok guys, I need to bake a bread now and prepare dinner, can you please behave for a little while…?” “The heat is getting to you…” partner remarked as he made little circles around his ears with his hands. Grrrrr.

The magic of Bitterpan grew as day greeted in brilliant burnt coppers and oranges in the west. Partner made a fire and we were sipping a cool Sauvignon Blanc whilst watching night striding in. A gentle breeze cooled the air, and from the side of the pan, an owl joined in with the barking gecko’s. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted from the kitchen. So it was in this setting that we had dinner, juicy lamb chops grilled over coals and a bread that would win first prize, spread thickly with butter and dollops of apricot jam – a veritable feast underneath a canopy of millions of stars somewhere in a desert in Africa.

It was at 22:00 exactly that the moon rose over the dunes, partner kissed me and a solitary lioness looked at this romantic picture from where she was having her evening drink. We smiled as we watched her in the dim light of the caretaker’s unit and I am convinced that she returned a smile as she glanced back at us before she was swallowed by the darkness.

The moon lit up the pan, a silvery-white oval, almost as if it had become an earthly mirror for the shiny orb in the sky. The Southern Cross, Orion, Taurus and Scorpio lingered to sit with us on their passage to the end of night and the earth sang her song to those who knew how to listen to silence…


Overview of Bitterpan Wilderness Camp

An approximate 53 kilometer drive from Nossob through dune fields on a sandy track takes you to this magical camp. Apart from bemoaning the road condition, which was on the charts to be improved soon, I liked the drive there, as it is strewn with pans of all sizes – and as this road is exclusive to residents of the camp only – it affords an intimate view of what happens “inside” those enigmatic dunes. It is not teeming with wildlife, but we did have sightings of steenbok, gemsbok and springbok. I am also of the opinion that season as well as the lack of water supply to the broken water holes have an impact on sightings in the dunes.

I need to single out Bitterpan as my favourite wilderness camp. Its location and sheer beauty makes it a must when you are visiting the KTP. The architecture is unique, building materials range from canvass, reed, IBR roofing and panels used for walling inside wooden log frames.

Four units accommodates eight people in total. The rooms, bathrooms, kitchen and dining room is housed in a complex on stilts and linked with decks. In front of the kitchen and dining area, one accesses the braai area with stairs or a ramp for mobility impaired persons. The entrances to the decks are gated, which provides for safety from roaming animals, as this camp is similarly to the other wildness camps, not fenced.

Each unit comprises of two single beds and a small deck. Across the sleeping units, a bathroom for each which consists of a toilet, basin and shower.

The kitchen is equipped with two gas stoves with ovens, crockery, cutlery, utensils and cookware. It has two basins for washing up and spacious enough if more than one cook is busy brewing. The dining area has a large dining room table with comfortable safari chairs and a round table with four more chairs. A large box freezer and fridge/freezer provide ample space for cooling down drinks and freezing of supplies. The braai area has a 180 degree view over the pan and dune fields and provides a wonderful gathering place for large parties.

The water hole is situated at bottom of the complex on the edge of the pan, but it was not functioning properly at the time of our visit. Olivier informed us that a new water hole was to be built in the near future. In the interim, they constructed a small birdbath next to the supervisor’s cabin, but this birdbath attracted more than feathered creatures. The night we visited, we saw a lioness drinking there and also found leopard tracks the next morning. Hopefully the new water hole will be finished urgently as a lot of gemsbok crossed the pan whilst we were there, only to find a few drops of water not sufficient for their need.

At the back of the kitchen, a ladder will lead you to a landing that allows for incredible views. It is also on this landing where you can stand in darkness and pick a basket full of stars…

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:47 am 
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KTP Nov'08 Continued

16 November

Sunday morning broke gently over the dunes. The air was fresh and crisp – the time of day when one forgives the sun for its merciless rays when it sits in the noon sky. With renewed energy, I walked to the kitchen area, anticipating to see a bag of rusks I had left on the table, demolished by the mouse family. True to Oliver’s advice, the mice did not get up on the table. So after all, these desert mice have manners, they keep to “their” kitchen. A leisurely breakfast followed with large slices of bread laden with bacon and chunks of cheese.

After packing the vehicle, we debated our exit route; the short route of 12 kilometers that would deliver us on the dune road to Kamqua picnic site or the 45 kilometer drive that enters the Auob road at Craig Lockhart water hole. The longest route won and anticipating it to be in same condition as the one we had traveled on the previous day, we prepared for a long day.

As with most things in wild – never anticipate anything, except to be surprised. The road’s condition was much better – perhaps because many people rather opt for the short route. As we scaled the first dune, we found lion tracks – maybe those of the lioness that came to visit during the night. Steenbok, a big herd of gemsbok and quite a number of raptors kept us company on our journey, but it was the hyena dens that fascinated – some of them were large enough to house a buffalo!

Once more, to our great disappointment, neither Strathmore or Nuquap water holes were operational, yet we found animals in its vicinity, as if they were expecting see water there. The last dune, before ascending into the Auob river valley, yielded a half-eaten ostrich carcass. We left the dune fields with a sense of sadness, knowing the stillness and solitude we had found there will change once we were on the Mata Mata road.

A few kilometers from where we entered we found giraffes lying down in the shade of mid-morning. How incredibly big they looked after seeing only antelope for many days! A pit stop at Mata Mata camp for fuel, ice and ice-cream, had us heading back in the direction of Urikaruus wilderness camp where we would stay over.

The rest of our day was uneventful in terms of sightings, but the tranquility and uniqueness of Urikaruus had us settle down by late afternoon on the deck to watch the waterhole and the end of day. Below us a Yellow Mongoose looked up to the deck with eager eyes for a morsel. A Drongo inched ever closer on an overhanging Camel thorn branch. Peace filled me as I watched the dunes turn into a deep red copper and night’s mysterious blanket full of new wonders started to cover the landscape.

Overview of Urikaruus Wilderness Camp

This camp is an approximate two hours drive from Twee Rivieren on the Mata Mata road. Four units built on stilts overlook the dry Auob river bed and a water hole that is situated in front of the units.

Each unit consists of a bedroom with bathroom that is elevated from the kitchen/dining/braai area. The bedroom has two single beds, the en-suite bathroom, a shower, toilet and basin. At the time of our visit, the zip-open canvas doors were being replaced by wooden and glass sliding doors. The bedroom has a deck with two rustic chairs and a table. Downstairs from the bedroom, a living area houses an enclosed kitchen / dining area with an outside braai built onto a deck. The units are connected by decked walkways.

Something I forgot to tell much earlier on, is the whistle. Each unit in almost all of the wilderness camps has a whistle. The whistle is used to call the camp supervisor in cases of emergency. Quite a neat tool to have when a couple of lions just won’t budge from your front door!

Urikaruus’s architecture is very unique – again mixed use of building materials – wood, canvas, netting, corrugated fibrous wood roofs and walls and the latest addition of glass sliding doors. I am sure that the new addition will provide better insulation, especially during winter. Again, I found the camp as neat as a pin, the kitchen well equipped with a two plate gas cooker, a fridge-freezer, cookware, crockery, cutlery and a very well-placed braai area that affords good views of the water hole.

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2010 8:27 pm 
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ndoto wrote:
on Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:42pm

Dear All

Sorry about quite a long absence in updating "Bushwoman diaries". I am currently working on the manuscript of a book and my time for writing elsewhere is somewhat limited.

I will update the blog on the SANParks' website in the near future. Please feel welcome to read about the various Parks there.

Thank you for your support and great feedback on the Forum, it was always very much appreciated.


:wink: Well...it's a work in progress...

I think I need to pick up the threads here and finish what I started.... :D, besides, there are a number of Parks that still need to be explored with you, here on the Forum.

Just to update:

Ndoto had moved to the bush after returning from the United States... she had raised two tree squirrel orhpans succesfully and both had returned to wild. (In the process of squirrel number three - now 2 weeks old...)

Ndoto and "partner" got married in the Kgalagadi on a red sand dune a few months after they returned to South Africa.... ("partner" will be now be referred to as SO... :twisted: )

Ndoto and SO still travel, and struggling to heal from severe bouts of Africa bug.... :twisted:

I hope you all will enjoy the continuation of Bushwoman Diaries...

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Wed Apr 14, 2010 11:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:59 am 
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Thank you all for your comments and wishes! :dance: Let's continue with the story...

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

17 November

The next two days, we would be based at Kalahari Tented Camp. After a quick breakfast, SO took a few more pictures of Urikaruus and then we headed off.

Image
Early morning Cape Fox

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Cattle Egret (!) at 13th

13th borehole was quiet, and so was 14th, but about a half kilometer away from the waterhole, we saw two cheetahs lying on the side of the road - an adult female with a collar and a cub. A vehicle arrived and I noticed a YR on the side mirror. We watched the two animals for a while and then realized that we had to go, as we had quite a number of tasks waiting at Kalahari Tented Camp. As we drove past the vehicle, we stopped to greet and to ask who the persons were known as on the Forum – and it was none other than Katydownunder and Francolin! KDU told us that the cheetah was injured and that it struggled to move around. It did seem strange to me that the cub was sleeping a few paces away from the mom, as usually, cubs are very energetic and playful. With this sad news, we headed to camp, now with an urgent call to Kennith, the Head Ranger at Mata Mata.

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"Mom"

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Brave little boy

After speaking to Kennith about the cheetah cub, he assured us that Dr Gus Mills would be alerted of the situation. We were finally heading to Kalahari Tented Camp to meet with the camp manager to plan for the next two days of accommodation photography. By mid-morning, we were sitting in the shade of the pool-deck, somewhat wilted by the 42 degrees. A couple of young girls were sunning themselves on the deckchairs (I always wonder how beautiful people get to look so cool and collected in such heat…). Without much ado, SO and I plunged into the pool with our clothes on – by now, after three hours in the sun, we needed to bring our temperatures down, and the best way, was to walk with wet clothes (which dried within minutes in any case). With slightly raised eyebrows, the “bikini-girls” watched us as we closed the pool gate and left a trail of dripping water on the sand. By the time we got to our tent, we were almost dry!

We decided it was time to cool off in the vehicle’s air conditioning and took a drive in the direction of 14th waterhole, where we had seen the cheetahs earlier. As we took the bend, we saw Dr Mills’ vehicle parked close to where the cheetahs were. SO chatted with Dr Mills and we were introduced to Buks – a tracker that would assist Dr Mills in establishing the circumstances surrounding the cheetah cub’s injury. SO then accompanied the party up the dune and I stayed behind in the vehicle, as I was wearing sandals…and could not venture with them. November…41 degrees…and a small lick of shade from a Camelthorn… Luckily I had a birding list to update and became so engrossed with this task, that I did not even notice the return of the search party.

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The search party

It was almost two hours later when the three men returned from the dunes and the blazing heat. A sweaty face appeared on my side of the vehicle begging for something cold to drink… Needless to say that I was very envious of this experience in the dunes, but another valuable lesson learned – always be prepared for anything in the bush! We bade Dr Mills and Buks goodbye and continued back to camp.

The story of the search for the injured cheetah enfolded… as Buks, the tracker, took the lead up the dunes. Searching in his silent way, an indent in the sand, a twig, disturbed grass and tracks started to tell the story of a cheetah mom and her cub. The mom had hunted a steenbok and in all probability, dazed it just enough in order to give junior his first lesson in hunting. There were also signs of jackal tracks and Buks explained that the cub had chased after them. In the process of excitement, the young one had run at full speed into a rodent hole and injured himself…

Buks – a small but nimble man, dressed in three different coloured jerseys in the 42 degree midday, told a story of everyday nature, the way life goes on beyond what we can see from a road that only opens a window when nature smiles upon us. SO said that at that moment, when Buks had finished interpreting the events, he felt something so ancient in the aura of Buks, the wisdom of his silent ways, the way he moved – it was as if he became one with the landscape…

When SO finished, I had one burning question left. “What about the cub…” Long silence and a deep sigh. “Nature must run its course…” came the soft reply. I was devastated! My mind raced around, grabbing at little blades of grass as despair for the little animal spiraled me into an abyss of sadness. How does one leave that moment of knowing how the mother must have struggled to raise her cubs – and what made it worse, this cub was the last survivor of a litter of three… It was one of those moments where I arrived at complete odds with mother nature, not understanding her wisdom and knowing at the same time that this was a powerful struggle that I, in my humanity, would not win.


To be continued

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:16 pm 
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Thank you for your comments - I will reply to them after this post! :wink:

Continued....

The rest of our day was absorbed by photography at camp. By late afternoon, as the light started deteriorate, we packed a sunset drink and headed for Craig Lockhardt. It was summertime after all, and we only had to be back at camp by 19:30. We had a delightful sighting of giraffes that came down to drink with a very intimidated jackal who was watching the acrobatics with a skeptical eye.

Image
Giraffe Ballet

At last, the sun went down, and a slight breeze picked up. We were back at camp and watching the glow of sunset on the western horizon. The jackals started to call, from somewhere in the dunes a nightjar’s song echoed in the riverbed.

By 21:00 we were sapped by the intense heat of the day and decided to head for bed. We opened all the tentflaps and switched off the overhead fan that merely shifted the hot air from one side to another. I still wanted to lie quietly, just to listen to the calls of night, but before my head settled into the cool linen of the pillow, I was in dreamland!

Something woke me somewhere deep in the night. I lay for a few minutes and then it dawned on me – something was running around our tent and breathing heavily. I woke SO with one word; “LIONS”. In our haste to get out of bed to see what was happening outside our tent, we arrived on the deck in our birthday suits. It was minutes later that two shivering humans realized that they could not continue watching a National Geographic saga unfold on their doorstep.

I need to give a bit of background here to bring things into perspective. Kalahari Tented Camp is not fenced. The units are built on a dune that overlooks the Auob riverbed and situated in the middle of the riverbed, a drinking hole that can be seen from the tents. The waterhole attracts quite a number of game, thus making it very pleasurable to watch from your tent. The units have a separate bedroom-bathroom tent, an open braai area and a kitchen tent. Thus, in order to get to the kitchen tent, you will need to exit your bedroom, cross the braai area to access the kitchen. There is a small deck at the entrance to the bedroom area where one has a good view over the river and waterhole.

It was on this deck that we stood with our flashlight to see in the inky darkness where the strange sounds came from, and once we found it, we both froze in complete and utter amazement. Spotted hyenas! As soon as we pulled on something warm – it was 2 am in the morning and the desert had cooled off significantly – we returned to our little deck and searched again. This time, the sight that met us, took our breath away. Two Spotted hyenas had chased a wildebeest up the dune and a clash was taking place a few meters from us. As a matter of fact, the hyenas had pushed the wildebeest right against the wall of our braai area, and a bitter brawl of hooves, horns and flesh tearing bites played out within almost touching distance from us. If we walked two meters to our braai area, we would have been able to touch the wildebeest where it was trapped.

The moment and the sheer violence of the whole scene that unfolded in front of us, was somewhat surreal. The wildebeest at one stage, managed to move away from the wall but as soon as it was in the open once more, the hyenas attacked more savagely. We moved from the deck to the braai area to see what happened to the wildebeest and then suddenly, the groaning and panting stopped. It was dead quiet. Darkness threw its cloak over the animals. We could not see any of the animals anymore. We stood there shaking, mesmerized by what we had witnessed. And then, as SO swept the area again, we almost fell backwards. One hyena was standing on a small dune right in front of us, and looked at us with the wildest eyes I had yet to see on these animals. The hyena’s face was smeared with blood, grimacing like a crazy thing. It stood there for a few minutes and then became part of the night.

Needless to say that we were both on such an adrenaline high, that sleep was far from our minds. We opened the kitchen tent and made coffee to warm us a bit. We did not see or hear anything again and imagine our frustration, as we knew that somewhere close to us this “thing” was happening and we could not be privy to it.

My first encounter with Spotted hyenas was a gentle one – and although I had always known that these animals are better hunters than lions, I had never witnessed them hunting in person. The whole experience, as brutal as what it may seem, learned me yet another lesson in nature. The sheer power of attacking a wildebeest – and in my opinion, not an easy target, as it fought a brave battle, was incredible to me.

It was close to 3:30 before we settled back in bed again, but I could not sleep. I kept waiting to hear something and when the grey light of day finally seeped through the windows, I got up and took a shower to start a new day.

Image
The remains of the night

More about this story to be continued...

_________________
“ When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ”
John Muir


Last edited by ndoto on Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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