I don't want to end my trip report! So i'm going to drag out the next few installments. Hopefully, by the time i'm finished, i'll be off to Addo again, and will have something new to write. Anyway...Day 9: PM
I think I forgot to mention that we had found out yesterday that John was going back to Nossob and there would be no night drives tonight. I was quite disappointed that there was just one ranger covering night drives over the whole of KTP on this trip
. I’ve spent so many nights now at Twee Rivieren, and I’ve never once been able to go on a night drive. It just means I have to go back soon, and I will.
So we left camp at 4, and headed out towards Aucterlonie to look for leopards. We decided we would just go as far as Munro, but for some reason, I kept pressing on and with my ultra-slow driving, time was pressing on as well. I really wanted to see this leopard!
The drive hadn’t turned up anything, and I decided to go around just one more corner. How lucky did that turn out to be! For surely enough, around the next corner, we came across a roadblock of 12 cars- very big for KTP. And it was….
….The cheetahs! Again!
This time, ‘Mom’ was stalking a springbok about 200m down the riverbed. The other 3 didn’t seem to care all that much. It was funny that the cars had gathered not beside the cheetahs, but beside the poor springbok. The Cheetah Project vehicle was among the cars gathered watching the springbok. The springbok kept giving us all looks that seemed to say, ‘what’s going on here?’
. Cactus Scot wondered whether the springbok had begun to make the association that every time it saw the green Cheetah Project vehicle, something tried to eat it.
How must the lonely springbok feel, with a huge audience gathered solely for its death. It was cruel, harsh and a little vulgar. People can be so sick
. So I quickly joined the group of cars, nabbing the space closest to the springbok and farthest from the stalking cheetah who we could barely see this far away. This was going to be awesome and we had front row seats!
We’d be able to smell the blood!
The cheetah sighting turned out to be a ‘Wall of Shame’ goldmine.
Earlier on the trip, CS had seen the ‘Wall of Shame’ in Nossob, and thought it was fantastic. One guy was watching the sighting, perched on his window. Another had actually got out of his car to take photos, and we just snapped him as he got back in. They say lions are fast, try cheetahs.
Mom didn’t want to be fast though and was taking her time. A lot of time. The springbok knew she was there, but continued to nibble nervously at the grass. The tension was incredible. We’d been watching the drama for a while when I looked at the clock and panicked. It was now well after 5, and by my calculations, we were more than 30kms out. The gates closed at 6 and I don’t speed in the park. It wasn’t looking good. None of the other cars budged. It seemed no one was going to miss such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But I was
. I stayed for five minutes more, hoping Mom would make her move, but she didn’t. She was so close to the springbok now. Staying would mean witnessing the coolest spectacle nature has to offer, but it would also mean speeding in the park and arriving to a locked gate at TR. I couldn’t bear the shame of having someone come and unlock the gate just to let me in, and I pulled away. The other cars gave me looks that said, ‘are you CRAZY?’
. I recognized the look because it was the same look I’d given people who drove away from unbelievable sightings.
I was so sad as I drove back. I wished I had stayed to watch the chase, even if it meant a fine, but it was too late to go back now.
On the dune road, I was driving at the absolute limit- 50, and was horrified when a giant ProTours bus overtook me very fast, close to some baby gemsboks. It must have been doing about 70 or 80, because it disappeared so quickly, leaving a massive cloud of dust. I was pretty angry. It never slowed
. I’ve never seen a big luxury bus in the park before. What kind of experience must a tourist have on one of these buses in the KTP? Being on a crammed day trip from Upington, riding 20 feet above the road, cocooned in velour, windows closed, being blasted by ice-cold air-conditioning, while drinking imported bottled ice water and wearing slippers, while smearing a mini tub of cheese over an individually wrapped cracker with a plastic knife, with some awful American comedy film playing on screens attached to the ceiling. Every time there’s a sighting, those who actually care and aren’t just in the KTP because it’s ‘part of the package’, must have to jump up and rush to the other side of the bus, pushing strangers out of the way to try to take aerial photographs through an impossibly tinted window. I’m sorry, but this is not how God intended us to experience His Kalahari.
Anyway, we couldn’t speed by the gemsboks, and stopped to take a few photos. They had been scared by the bus and had moved far from the road, but they were lovely to see. Near the gates we stopped for an awesome Namaqua Sand Grouse.
We made it back to the gates with about 3 minutes to spare, knowing there were at least 12 cars still in the park behind us (and at least one ProTours bus in front of us). As we handed in our permit at reception, the cheetah roadblock was trickling in as well. I was afraid to ask (so I made CS do it), and we found that no one saw anything at the cheetah sighting. After we had left, everyone else followed. I felt better about having to leave
In the shop, I watched an American couple holding a map they had picked up. The wife turned to the husband and asked, ‘Is this Zambia now? Are we in Zambia yet?’. Her husband responded, ‘No, I think this is still Botswana or maybe still South Africa’. ‘That’s impossible’, she replied. The husband asked the lady behind the shop counter if this was South Africa or not. She didn’t say anything.
Back at camp, Cactus Scot and I had saved our tin of Woolworths Butternut Soup especially for this, our last night. We then realized that we had no way of heating it up (I do NOT cook while camping), and had to make a plan. Eventually, we figured out we could heat our soup by pouring it into a ziplock bag and dangling it inside our boiling kettle. It was messy, but we ended up with slightly warm soup. This is CS holding our soup. I have very detailed videos too, but I’ll spare you.
Witnessing our ridiculous soup project, our Nossob friends came over and offered us some actual soup and Milo. We couldn’t turn them down. We stayed with them at their camp until 10, eating soup and listening to conversation. They even had portable heaters to heat the air around their campsite. Wow. These guys were in their 60’s but I’d never met anyone so adventurous! We exchanged contact details and they invited me to come on one of their frequent hiking trips in the Drakensburg. If I can, I definitely will.
At their fire, I finally got to roast the marshmallows I hadn’t been able to roast for the last 10 days, due to lack of fire. At the other camps, CS never let me buy firewood, saying that a fire needed more than wood to keep it going, and I’d just be disappointed. I didn’t know what she meant.
It was our last night in the KTP.