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 Post subject: Restio goes roaming (to Karoo, MZNP and Addo) - Dec 2006
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:18 pm 
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This summer holiday, we visited the Eastern Cape. I wanted to take CB (my four-year-old son) to see the elephants in Addo; CB wanted to go fishing in Rhodes (where his great-uncle runs a splendid guest house); my SO didn't really care where we went as long as it was quiet and relaxing.

I planned an itinerary that involved overnight stops in the Karoo and Mountain Zebra National Parks, and four days in Addo. Then we scooted off to Rhodes, and spent a night in Graaff Reinet (GRT) on the way back.

Since GRT is practically surrounded by one of the newest SANParks, Camdeboo NP (proclaimed on 30th October 2005) we did see that NP too, but only CB actually got to visit Camdeboo, when his friend's father took them for an early morning game drive. SO and I had to stay behind and pack.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:03 pm 
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26 December 2006: Karoo NP

We bravely chose to start our trip on Boxing Day. On the upside, the roads were wonderfully empty. The downside was of course packing amidst the Christmas chaos. But eventually we managed to leave the house, after only a few minor squabbles. :lol:

We arrived at the Karoo NP in the late afternoon and were impressed by the friendly staff, who laughingly acceded to CB's request: "Stamp the permit and stamp me too please!"

For the first time, we stayed in one of the new cottages with a separate bedroom with much-needed aircon, lovely bathroom and good kitchen. "It has real pots!" exclaimed SO in surprise. By this he meant stainless steel pots with glass lids, instead of the usual SANParks cast iron or aluminium. I took a picture of the stylish bathroom, which also included a sparkling clean shower.

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After unpacking the car, we made a beeline for the pool, and then wandered back down the hill to make supper and admire the view.

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The sunset tinted the harsh dry landscape a soft rose-gold, and the first bright stars began to shine. We sat on the stoep, talking softly and eating pasta arabiata and a salad of chickpeas, feta and cucumber.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:07 pm 
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Thanks all for the positive feedback. People on this forum are so wonderfully friendly and supportive! :D

Salva, the bungalow was really lovely. I would have taken more photos but it looked less attractive once we'd dumped all our clobber. It was basically designed for two, with a sleeper couch in the lounge (so OK for a family with one or possibly even two kids). The best part was actually the outside area: a lovely tiled area with a table under the eaves and a braai. Plus, of course, a stunning view. There are more pictures on the SANParks site.

Accomodation type CO3, if anyone wants to book. :wink:

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 6:43 pm 
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Bert, thanks! But I must admit those are SO's photos not mine. Forgot to mention that when I started: some pics are mine, and some are his. :redface: We use the same camera, and often can't even remember who took which photograph.

Arks, great idea! Most of the smaller parks are delightful. They don't offer the what's-around-the-next-corner excitement of KNP or KTP, but they do offer value-for-money accomodation, lovely views and lots of birds. Because you don't feel the (self-imposed!) pressure to keep on the road looking for lion/leopard/cheetah, the smaller parks feel more restful and relaxing. An added bonus is that because they don't have dangerous predators, they mostly have some good day-hikes. I find that a combination of the two types makes for a balanced holiday: Augrabies and KTP are a perfect match, for instance. We love Karoo and Bontebok, and MZNP (next episode of this report) is a real jewel.

Ravvie, we didn't drive up "the twisty windy road" (CB's name for the Klipspringer Mountain Pass) this trip because we had too much travelling to do. We did it twice on our last visit to Karoo (Easter weekend) and it is just beautiful. The Rooivalle lookout point is a great place to see black eagles.

Sable, it is indeed very relaxing and wonderfully peaceful.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:16 pm 
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26 December 2006: Karoo NP to Mountain Zebra NP

Note: Some pix are by me and some by my SO. We share a camera, so have no idea who took what.

We started our day with breakfast in the restaurant. The Karoo NP is the only SANPark I've been to which provides bed-and-breakfast. When you book in, they give you breakfast vouchers. I imagine that's because they get a high percentage of people overnighting there due its proximity to the N1? In any case, it's very nice! 8)

On the way out, we we saw our first game in the park: a few zebbies and a tortoise. CB was very happy to see the tortoise. There was one hanging around the camp on our Easter visit, and he felt that no trip to the Karoo NP was complete without a tortoise-sighting. I post it for his sake.

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It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived in MZNP. We were greeted by some springbok and red hartebeest. We checked it at the pretty reception, and then went for a swim. The pool has a lovely view.

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We then packed some snacks, piled into the car and drove a section of the Kranskop Loop (the eastern part which has the picnic places, for those of you who know the park). It was breathtakingly beautiful, and wonderfully green after our long drive through the arid Karoo.

CB was keen to see kudu, and we had some excellent sightings of these magnificent beasts. I was more excited by a distant eland, and we all enjoyed seeing an ostrich family in the fading evening light.

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The road meandered through the mountains, across little bubbling brooks and past a lovely dam. The Doornhoek Guest House, a restored Victorian homestead, overlooks the dam, and looks like a fabulous place to stay. We all decided that we'd definitely go back to MZNP for a longer visit, and would stay in the guest house. :D

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2007 8:12 pm 
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27 December 2006 Part 1: MZNP to Addo

I'm going to split this day into two halves (part 1 MZNP and part 2 Addo).

We had a quick breakfast in our chalet while we watched the dassies climbing around in the trees. When we checked out there was a huge and very hairy caterpillar on a rock near Reception. Anybody know what it is? And does it turn into the most enormous butterfly or moth? :shock:

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We then drove the main game loop (the Rooiplat loop). You have to climb up a windy road to get to the open highlands where the game graze. There is a lovely view of the camp from there.

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We saw lots of game on our drive. The highlands were full of mountain zebras, red hartebeest, black wildebeest and springbok grazing peaceful. Poor antelope: they're in for a bit of shock when the cheetah are introduced next month.

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On our way down back down the hillside, we saw kudu browsing. Near the stream at the bottom of the hill there were vervet monkeys clowning around, and two buff munching steadily in the shade of the thick bush.

As we approached the gate, we had a delightful surprise. A clan of meerkats were foraging next to the road. We sat and watched these delightful little creatures for about fifteen minutes, until they moved off into the distance.

Mountain Zebra really is a lovely little park, and we're already planning a return visit. I was interested to read the following in a SANParks brochure about the Camdeboo NP:

Quote:
The vision for the future is ultimately to link Camdeboo NP with the MZNP - creating a unique African Karoo wildlife experience and protecting a huge diversity of plant and animal species. This will assist in the conservation of the endangered Cape mountain zebra. The idea is to create a single mega-conservation area over 120km in lengeth and including up to 520 000 hectares by means of partnerships through private landowners and conservation authorities.


This is a brave and audacious goal, and I hope that it is realized in the years to come.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 10:16 pm 
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28 December 2006: Addo (Main Camp)

We had a pleasant drive from MZNP to Addo, with a stop at Cradock Spar to stock up on fresh food. We lunched at wonderful farmstall near "Daggaboer Hoek" and bought loads of fresh pineapple juice. I can't go to the Eastern Cape without purchasing pineapple products! :lol:

When we arrived at Addo, it was packed full of people. It was practically impossible to park in the shop/restaurant/reception area. It was good to see so many people visiting the park, but we were quite relieved when we moved to Mathyolweni for our third and fourth nights. Much more peaceful.

Still, our cottage in the main camp had lovely view over the hillside, and we could sit on the stoep and watch ellies trouping down to drink. The safari tents definitely looked like the best place to stay though - right near the waterhole.

On our evening drive we saw red hartebees, kudu, zebra, buffalo and warthog families.

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Of course we also saw elephants. It was CB's first sighting of ellies and he loved the babies. But he preferred the kudu. Kids! :roll:

I was amazed by how relaxed the Addo elephants were. Kruger elephants can be quite scary at times, but the Addo elephants are gentle giants. (Although needless to say we still treated them very respectfully!)

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That night, lion came close to the camp. They were roaring so loudly that they sounded almost too close! :shock: One of our neighbours shone a spotlight, and we watched them walking near to the fence.

Unfortunately SO and I could not enjoy the night sounds because CB woke up screaming. He had bad earache. We administered paracetamol and eventually got him back to sleep after an hour. I nearly phoned the camp manager at one point, as I thought we'd have to take him to a hospital in PE, but fortunately that wasn't necessary. The next day SO and I were exhausted and shattered, but CB was absolutely fine again. Kids! :roll:

On a more serious note, I was impressed with the Addo emergency list that was stuck on the wall near the stove. It had contact numbers for doctors, hospitals, fire stations, police and other emergency services, and it was comforting to know that we could have phoned for help had we needed it. :thumbs_up:

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Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:20 pm 
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Thanks for the positive comments! :D

Christel, Addo is great! But it is not nearly as wild as KTP. :lol: I will keep a look out for emergency lists in the camps in future - I don't remember seeing them in other parks, but on the other hand I think that's the first time I've actually needed one.

Christo, we certainly felt lucky to see and hear lion. I think I like hearing lions calling almost as much as I like seeing them.

Salva, we saw one male, but I think there were at least two lions judging by the calls. I couldn't look as much as I'd have liked because CB needed his mama. :wink:

Loams, thanks for the tip about the good chalets! :thumbs_up:

Michele, Mountain Zebra and Karoo are both worth visiting. SO and I both really loved Mountain Zebra - wonderfully peaceful and scenic.

And now, apologies in advance for an anticipated delay in posting the next episode...
I usually contribute to the forum from home, but I'm posting this from work, because our home ADSL line is currently down. If Telkom smiles upon us, then I'll post the next episode in the report soon. If you don't hear from me, then it'll still be broken. *sob, sob*

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Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 11:00 pm 
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29 December 2006: Addo (Main Camp)

We got off to a latish start due the shenanigans of the night before. CB was completely recovered from the earache. SO and I, on the other hand, were quite worn out.

We went to the waterhole by the camp reception, and watched some ellies drinking. Then it was off to the underground hide. CB was not impressed by it - the gist of his complaint seemed to be that it wasn't really underground. I pointed to the grass growing on the roof, but he was still not convinced. Unfortunately he made his indignation known in a loud and clear voice, so we cut our visit short. :redface: Kids!

The great thing about Addo is that in the heat of the day every second waterhole has an elephant herd drinking and splashing. It is always such a treat to watch ellies bathing!

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At Hapoor waterhole, we saw a fairly large herd. They bunched together and walked quickly up and down the plain, raising lots of dust.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:39 pm 
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30 December 2006: Addo

This was the day we moved from the Main Camp to Matyholweni. While we we packed up, CB played outside. Suddenly he came rushing inside, most excited. "Mama, Dada! Butchie is here! Quickly, come see!" And indeed our nascent twitcher had correctly IDed a fiscal shrike (butcher bird), which was sitting hopefully on the braai place. CB was surprised to see "butchie" so far from his home in Cape Town, and insisted on phoning Grampa Gene to share the electrifying news. Kids!

After checkout, and some shopping, we took a leisurely drive north to Matyholweni, which is located in the new southern extension of Addo. You can drive all the way from Main Camp to Matyholweni inside Addo, with one brief exception (to cross a public road).

We stopped at Spekboom hide to stretch our legs.

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The Matyholweni section of the park has not yet been stocked with large game. We saw two tortoises, and lots of blackheaded herons (which we'd last seen at waterhole on the dune road in KTP). The new section is bristling with prickly pears - I wonder how SANParks plan to remove it all? :hmz:

At last we arrived at Matyholweni, where the very friendly reception booked us in.

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We were staying in one of the family cottages, #11. It was in the middle of the row, but still managed to feel quite private because it was surrounded by thick bush.

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The cottage was lovely. Big glass doors with windows on either side opened out onto a deck with solid wooden furniture and a lovely braai complete with skottel.

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Apologies for the washing.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:55 pm 
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The bathroom had a huge shower, and a well-equipped basin. I'm a sucker for a nice bathroom! :D.

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Just wish I could remember to take photos of the accommodation before we unpack. It looks so much nicer without our clobber on every surface. But we are always in such a hurry to get settled in that I forget.

The family cottage basically consisted of one big open plan room with a double bed and a sleeper couch. The kitchen was equipped with a small fridge, a microwave and two plate stove (no oven).

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My apologies for the poor quality of these photos - I'm not good at interior shots. I must admit to tweaking the "gamma" slider for one of the pix. Plus I hasten to add that these are definitely my shots, and not my SO's. :wink: Still, I haven't seen pictures of the Matyholweni cottages elsewhere on the site, so thought it may be of interest to those planning a visit.

That night, we had our first braai in Addo (the previous nights had been far too windy, even for Capetonians). Of course, it was a bumper braai: boerewors, chicken kebabs, cheese-and-onion braai bread, brown mushrooms, courgettes, potatoes and a green salad with feta. Washed down with lots of delicious Sauvignon Blanc.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 12:37 am 
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31 December 2006: Addo (Matyholweni)

This was our last day in Addo, and so we took things easy. We did, of course, have to go for one last game drive.

A herd of elephant had congregated at Domkrag waterhole, and we spent a happy hour watching them, entranced.

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CB insisted on taking a photo of the ellies.

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It was interesting to see how they crowded around to drink from the place where the water came out. Presumably the water was fresher, and less muddy.

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One of the nice things about Domkrag is that you're allowed to get your car. As the waterhole is down the hill, it felt quite safe.

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On the way back to our cottage, we saw this scarred old buffalo. He didn't even deign to look at us....

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That night was New Year's Eve. It has become a tradition for us to eat pannetone on New Year's Eve. Pannetone is an Italian Christmas cake - a light Milanese cake filled with candied fruit and raisins. It is absolutely delicious! We cracked open a bottle of good sparkling wine, dipped our pannetone into it and welcomed in the New Year in style!

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