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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 9:21 pm 
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Location: Slowveld
Thank you for your kind comments and encouragement. After a few days in the city, we are back in the bush again, a slow connection but hopefully enough to get the next installment uploaded...
Richtersveld (Continued)

24 July

The distance from Sendelingsdrift to De Hoop camp is 38.2 kilometer. We leave at 9:15 and arrive just after 16:00. There are a few factors that need to be explained for this lapse of time between departure and arrival, of which “Wow! and Oh wow!” are the main culprits. We take the R1 from Sendelingsdrift and then the R2, R3, R4 and finally the R5 delivers us back to the river at De Hoop.

On our way, just before entering the Akkedis Pass, we find a colony of Halfmense or Half-humans (Pachypodium namaquanum). These plants have quite a number of aliases; lady’s leg, elephant trunk and lastly the local name – Noorderkyke (Northernlook) as the tops of the plants are inclined to lean in a northerly direction. Thus a scamper up the hill and then I am face to face with a Halfmens, ancient and endemic to this region only. I recalled having read somewhere that these plants have a growth rate of 15 millimeters per year, that would age a two meter plant at 130 years, which was just about the height of the plant next to me. Shrouded in Nama legend, I could well understand why the silhouettes of these plants could be mistaken for human shapes looking mournfully in the direction of the river. The plants have an elongated pear shape with a crown of leaves at the top. The texture of the trunk reminded me of a pineapple with long slender spikes. The plants have personalities – each one has a unique shape, some have multiple branches and some have a single branch that resembles a crooked arm. I sat close the plant, touching its base, which was not covered with spikes. I wondered how it felt to be so old, to see so many unforgiving summers and still have the abundance to bring forth a rosette of buds that would soon burst into a crown of red flowers.
Image

As we walked down the hill, a Verreaux’s Eagle swooped past us and landed on a rock not far from our vehicle. Akkedis Pass was waiting patiently to take us deeper into the mountains, but we were captivated by every new discovery as the road twisted and turned. A few more climbs and we found another colony of Halfmense and a wonderful specimen of the Namaqua Resin Tree (Ozoroa dispar) laden with green berries. Another interesting plant we discovered was the Verneuk Halfmens, (Acanthopsis disperma) in bloom. This shrub can be mistaken for young Halfmense but the flower which is a deep purply blue would easily distinguish it from the real thing. It grows no taller than 15 centimeters and the leaves end in spines.

At the link between the R1 and R2, a sign indicated “Hand of God” to the left – we traveled approximately 200 meters on the Oena mine road and found this incredible occurrence. In the sheer granite rock face, an imprint of a hand of almost three meter in height and two meter wide. Logic says its erosion. Emotion takes a step back at and looks at this phenomenon from a different angle. A perfect imprint of a right hand on stone. Perhaps emotion took over in me but a small indent in the stone created a seat in the palm of the hand where I sat down, and for a moment I sat in the Hand of God. The silence was so intense that I could hear it. This place, this landscape seeped into my humanity, it made me small and yet embraced the largesse of spirit.

We turned back onto the R2 and a few kilometers onward a sign announced that we officially entered the Akkedis Pass and it was not long before I realized why the name was given to this road – it was as if it was built for an agile skink traveling up a mountain. This Pass is not for the fainthearted nor for drivers who have no off-road experience, but since I resorted under “brave” and experienced 4X4 passenger, I gave little silent sighs once we reached the top of one climb after another. (Mad skinks…!)

After what had felt like quite a trek through the mountain, a sign announced the end of the Akkedis Pass. My partner’s face looked like a lit Christmas tree, loudly praising the virtues of the man who had planned this little gem of a road. (I ask you…?) The mountain opened to an almost amphitheater-like plain which is called Rooilepel (Red Spoon) by the locals. As we ascended, the rocky road was replaced by a sandy surface. I know nothing of mechanics, but I could swear I heard the vehicle give a sigh of relief too… And just for comic release, we spotted the fat ladies of the Richtersveld – Butter bushes in abundance.

The plain had a greenish hue to it – little seedlings and early flowers adorned the open field. Splashes of yellow, purple and bright red against the backdrop of mountains as far as what the eye could see. We approached the intersection of the R4 and then turned away on the R5 into the mountains once more, but there was no pass this time – the road followed a sandy path of a river that wound through the mountains.

How does one describe the fragrance of water? Here in this seemingly barren desert of mountains, you can smell water’s presence – it is a mixture almost like fresh raindrops falling on soil and a coolness that reaches you long before you see it. Traveling through the most incredible ravines and rock formations, I became aware that we must be nearing water, although it seemed a bit impossible. The riverbed we have been driving in was dry and yet, as we came around two large boulders, there in the middle of nowhere, water seeped from the sand. A small stream flowing for about fifty meters and then disappeared in the sand as if it was never there. Where did it come from and where did it go? This place had so many secrets, its mysterious beauty intensifying the deeper we traveled into the landscape.

One more uphill through a somewhat narrow gorge and another plain opened. The Gariep was in front of us once more, but the river we had found at De Hoop campsite had a new face. A flood plain to the left and quite a number of rapids and to the right, trees and reeds with small alcoves that would be our home for a few days. We found a spot on the river’s bank with a Karoo Boer-bean tree (Schotia afra) that formed a perfect umbrella to house our “kitchen”. We pitched our camp and by the time we were settled in, the water turned into liquid amber from the rays of the setting sun.

It was then when I saw it, the mountains were looking at themselves in the golden mirror of the water’s surface, and I knew then that they were nothing but giants with emotion, wanting to see how they like look in their shimmering finery spun by the last light of the sun…

_________________
“ 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: Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:02 pm 
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Location: Slowveld
It is great to share my experiences with you. The Richtersveld is a long way to travel, but a MUST do for people who love nature. Traveling to this remote frontier was so much more than just a "been there, done that..." - it was a pilgrimage to a place that found a pathway deep into my soul.

Richtersveld (Continued)

25 July

Image

I fell asleep to the sound of the river as it rushed forth over smoothly washed boulders. I had one of the most exquisite evenings of my life. After dinner, my partner took my hand and led me away from the light of our camp into the darkness. On a sandy patch, he rolled out a blanket and gestured for me to sit down. After I sat down, he asked me to look up and there above us, a million stars twinkled in a black velvet sky. The river sang a gentle song with a few early season frogs whilst we were watching shooting stars – two small figures in the darkness, embraced by the arms of smiling mountain giants.

A number of birds shared our “kitchen tree”. Orange River White-eyes made a thorough inspection of the contents of our table and ended up on the Amarula bottle, delicately pecking around the top. Hmmmm, these little birds have very good taste! A Cape Robin fluffed itself in the warm rays of the sun as it peeked over the mountains and started to sing a beautiful morning song for us.

Our camp was set up close to one of the two ablutions of the De Hoop site. Again, the architecture of these buildings is a delight. The walls are made of reed, wood, canvass, and the roof of corrugated iron with a Nama-hut frame on top of it. These structures blend so well with the environment and carries a strong theme of the Nama people’s traditions, but more of that later. Each of the ablutions has two showers, a basin and a flush-toilet. Central to them, there is a dish-basin and benches. Luckily it was not too cold a morning, as there is only cold water available at the ablutions. (Luckily we were also the only people on that side of the camp, as the shower evoked quite a few loud whimpers…) De Hoop has twelve camp sites and all of them have an incredible view of the river and surrounding mountains.

We packed a lunch and set off for a hike along the river. Our morning was fruitful - African Black Duck, South African Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Cape Teal, Grey Heron, Darter, White Breasted Cormorant and Goliath Heron were roaming in the river. Two water monitors scampered into the reeds where we sat down on a grassy spot in the shade of a Black Ebony tree (Euclea pseudebenus). Quite interesting, I noticed that the heartwood of this tree is pitch black where it obviously derives its name from and apart from being excellent firewood, the twigs and roots can be used as a toothbrush!

By late afternoon we climbed to the top of one of the foothills of the mountains to watch their mirror images in the steely blue river, but as things went since we entered this amazing place, we only reached the top quite a while later. The rock formations with their strange erosion patterns held us back. From a distance, the rocks looked like fossilized trees, almost fibrous in appearance, and the erosion of these rocks are vertical, not horizontal as it goes with sediment layers. But alas, not a geologist, I merely stood struck in wonder at these strange formations – or perhaps it was the sharp-as-teeth rocks that made me climb ever so carefully. By the time we reached the top of the hill, the sun had disappeared behind the mountains and the river turned into a bronze snake that flowed away into the horizon. The evening wind sang a doleful song as it played over the rocks which cast finger-like shadows on the slopes of the hill. It was time for us to leave, to return to our camp and let the giants sleep in peace…

A small luxury in the bush becomes one of those things you treasure. Clever partner had an ace up his sleeve… (After seeing his damsel in distress having a cold shower.) A solar shower! Quite a nifty piece of equipment and small enough to pack to still keep that extra bottle of heart-warming red wine in the crate. A bag that carries twenty liters of water is placed in the sun for a couple of hours and viola! – by dusk you have more than enough luke-warm water to get yourself graciously clean.

_________________
“ 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: Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:36 pm 
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Richtersveld (Continued)

26 July

Day broke brightly. Our route – R11 along the river to Richtersberg and then to the adjacent Tatasberg wilderness camp. The R11 proved my partner’s driving skills to be in excellent order once again. I also need to state at this point that the area had quite a storm a few days prior to our arrival, thus, a few areas were badly washed away in the riverbeds and please keep in mind that Ndoto is somewhat cautious (but never un-adventurous).

The continuous secrets of the Richtersveld unfolded in harmony with the undulating mountains. If I had thought that De Hoop was breathtaking, then Richtersberg re-defined the whole picture once more. The water sparkled in the morning sun and lush green riverbanks unfolded as we walked from the ablution block. What an incredible site for camping. Twelve sites and two ablution blocks resembling the ones at De Hoop. From Richtersberg to our destination – Tatasberg – a few kilometers and we are met by Willem who takes care of the camp.

Tatasberg has four two bed units with en-suite bathroom and a separate kitchen on an elevated deck. The site overlooks the river and the backdrop is formed by the dramatic Tatasberg mountain. The units are awesome, resembling a high-roofed Nama hut.

A Nama hut or matjieshuis (mat hut) is a traditional house and an art form which is being replaced by modern building materials. The structure of the hut is like a squat dome or beehive and it is formed by bending thin branches in arch. The branches are overlaid in a basic structure and fastened with riempies (thin strips of animal skin). Once the basic structure is complete, strips of reed matting is rolled over the dome and fastened to the branches. Common reed, Hardebiesie (Mat sedge) and Matjiesgoed (Cyperus species) which grow along the river provide the traditional Nama weavers with materials for their art.

I loved the combination of materials used for the Tatasberg units. The walls are made of thick reed in a wood frame, canvas and the arched roof with matjies (mats) which forms the ceiling. The kitchen and bathroom walls are a combination of canvass, corrugated iron sheets and wood. A very luxurious Nama hut indeed!
Image

Another very special feature for me – the prospect of having a hot shower and a cold G&T, but alas, it was still early in the day and we had some exploring to do.

A walk down to the river in the hot afternoon sun soon had us looking with lustful eyes at the glittering wetness of the river. We climbed down large boulders to a flat rock that looked like a good place to launch our overheated bodies into the water. We sat down and took off our hiking boots and socks and sighed with relief as our hot feet were released into fresh air. My partner eagerly swung both feet into the water and suddenly jumped up with a yell as if he was bitten by a piranha. I had such a fright that I nearly fell off the rock into the water. “What?” I screamed in shock. “It’s freaking cold!” he replied. (I ask you…) At last having a chance to show my steel as a bush woman, I swung my feet into the water with great gusto and nearly had a stroke. It was freaking COLD! We both burst out laughing and slowly eased our feet back into the icy water, suddenly feeling very cooled down…
Image

After lunch we explored the environs of Tatasberg, a small track led us onto a very rocky way that ended at a set of rocks. Partner got out in disbelief, looking for the tracks of vehicles turning around and saw none. I somehow thought that reversing was the only option and then it struck me… “Perhaps you must say the magic words..” My partner looked at me with a quizzical face. “Open Sesame?” So we reversed and headed back to camp, making many stops to look at new plants or different colour flowers we haven’t seen before.

_________________
“ 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: Thu Oct 09, 2008 4:25 pm 
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Richtersveld (Continued)

27 July


Morning broke in a blushing splendour. The river coloured deep pink in the first rays of the sun as I sat on the deck, sipping my first morning coffee. I woke early and updated my diary, not wanting to forget any details of what we had seen. A Red-eyed Bulbul came to check for morsels of the previous night’s braai on the grill.

Our destination for today was Kokerboomkloof, but we decided that since it was close enough to travel within two hours, we would explore a different route to see the Gannakouriep environs. We took the R12, turned onto the R17 and then looped back on the R18, passing Hakkiesdoring trails camp. What an extraordinary place reminding me very much of a Bedouin tented village but unused at this point in time due to maintenance. It would be a great boon if this camp could be made available to the public for accommodation as a unit. Gannakouriep wilderness camp was also in the process of being renovated. Similar to Tatasberg camp, there are four two bed units. Again a unique architectural style – the roofs similar to Tatasberg but the walls are made of flat blocks of stone from the adjacent hills. Each unit has a patio with braai and a view of the Vandersterrberg in the distance.

The crossing over the Gannakouriep river on the R16/R17 link was not easy. One could clearly see signs of water damage and the sand was very loose and thick. Did I worry though? I had the best driver in the world next to me, who negotiated rocks and sand like a fish in water. Soon enough we were on R9 and then the R10 that took us into the Springbokvlakte (plains) and to the eastern edge of the Park.

It was there where I looked to the horizon for the first time in many days and did not see unending mountains. I felt bewildered for a few minutes. It was as if I had traveled from another time and place and looked at signs of civilization – houses, telephone poles and vineyards loomed some distance away across the river. I felt an urging need to turn back, not to see anything man-made, for my soul was not yet ready to leave the solitude and embrace of ancient giants.

As if to console me, the valley unfolded in lush green with abundant yellow daisies. We were nearing Kokerboomkloof and it was evident why. Aloe dichotoma adorned the foothills and plains as far as what the eye can see. There are three types of Quiver trees, Aloe pillansii, dicotoma and ramosissma and they are identified by their different growth forms. It is told that the Nama people used the branches of these trees for quivers, hence the name.

Nothing could prepare me for what waited at Kokerboomkloof. The gateway marked by a rocky outcrop with a gigantic stone which is called the Toe. The stone formations were so different to anything we had seen the past days. This kloof found my soul and took it to play. It woke the child inside of me with incredible wonder and left me silent with awe. It was if this was the playground of the giants’ children. Here they played with huge boulders and left forms that would capture the imagination of mortals for eons to come. How does one reconcile ancient with vibrance, a powerful energy with the solemness of living organisms that could grow four centuries old? Did the eyes of these plants see ancient man roam here and are they looking at me now, the modern woman? Do they recognize the primal blood that trails through me, the searching soul?

As soon as we decided on a camp site, I rushed off into the direction of the large boulders that surrounded us. I had to get to the top. It was as if something was calling me, a voice carried by the gentle, warm breeze. Perhaps it was the child in me, but as I cleared the first boulders, I looked back and saw that our vehicle stood abandoned. Kokerboomkloof’s magic got to my partner just as quickly. Then finally, I got to the highest boulder and looked over the plain where the Quiver trees stood like silent warriors. The mountains surrounded me once more, my humanness a mere speck in a universe of stone and air. My gaze shifted and then I saw it. A stone with wings, an angel stone looking westward, coloured golden by the late afternoon sun. If there was any rhyme or reason to certain experiences we have in life, perhaps magic will not have a place, but what I had felt at that moment in the vastness of a mountain desert cannot be measured or defined in human logic.

Our camp was at site number two, ensconced between two large boulders, it felt as if we were part of the rocky hill. Opposite us, a Shepherds Tree (Boscia albitrunca) grew out of the smaller rocks. Its gnarled and twisted trunk reminded me of a fashioned Bonsai tree, yet its power of growth was evident in the way it split the massive rocks in order to find a pathway for its roots. Cape Bunting came to welcome us as we set up camp and two very active Dassie Rats continued to build their nest undisturbed in a crack not far from where our kitchen table was standing. It was not long before the stars came out and we sitting peacefully at our fire, watching its reflection on the nine meter high boulder that formed our northern “wall”.

_________________
“ 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 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:42 pm 
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:D Thanks so much for everyone's feedback! @ Mikerid - partner and I will be making a DVD at the end of our trip and if you wish, we will send one to you?

Richtersveld (Continued)

28 July

Kokerboomkloof has eight camping sites and all of them are breathtakingly beautiful. There are four ablution blocks but they are not operational in as far as what running water is concerned, luckily we were prepared for this and had enough water to wash up. The toilets work with a chemical system with huge water bottles which can be found at the back of the buildings. Somehow the absence of amenities was not a problem at all, Kokerboomkloof is so remarkable that I did not even think about the luxury of a shower – not even a cold one at that.

I woke as the light turned deep purple in the east, and climbed the flat rock at the back of our camp. A quarter moon was still visible in the sky. I sat down on the cold rock and waited, wanting to greet the sun when it peeks over the mountain. It was silent all around me and I just sat there listening to my breathing, feeling the coolness and freshness of a new day in progress. The dark shapes of the Quiver trees started to light up as the first yellow rays played across the horizon and within a few minutes, the kloof was bathed in gentle light. My thoughts took flight once more. I wondered whether I treaded on the footprints of the ancients, and somehow in the coolness of morning, my face bathed in the golden rays of the sun, I sensed a presence so tangible that I imagined laughter in the wind.


The earliest signs of human occupation was found at Kokerboomkloof dating back to between 3,000 and 4,000 years. These people were the ancestors of the San who had hunted springbok and other plains game here. With that in mind, I closed my eyes and imagined Springbokvlakte – teeming with game. The wide expanse circled by purple-blue mountains on the horizon.

Traveling from the kloof we stopped at the elevated viewpoint to look at the vastness of the Springbokvlakte with Mount Terror peaking at 1,224 meters and the Rosyntjieberg at 1,329. To our west, Tatasberg stood out at 1,026 meters. We made our way in the shadow of its peak and stopped at another lookout where we were dwarfed by imposing sheets of solid granite stone and boulders. The formations looked like solidified bubbles – marbles of the giants. Some of them had eroded holes big enough to comfortably fit a medium-sized bush woman!

_________________
“ 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 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:25 pm 
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29 July

We left Kokerboomkloof reluctantly but our day posed quite a long haul. We retraced our steps to the R17 and R16 and then to the R7 where we would ascend Helsberg. It sounded rather ominous. The crossing through the Gannakouriep River was much easier since a new path was pioneered by some of the visitors – some of the rocks were rolled out of the way and the banked-up sand was flattened. We stopped in the middle of the river and looked at the small stream of water that flowed in the direction of the Gariep River. To our amazement, two Tsamma melons were lodged against a branch. Was it the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park sending us a preceding message? We were a bit baffled by this sighting, not knowing whether Tsamma’s occur in the Park or whether they were brought downstream with the water from somewhere in the Kalahari.

As the road snaked through the mountains, it became evident that our day was going to be a very long one. We stopped just about every five kilometers or so, as we noticed more and more flowers and plants that we haven’t seen previously. What is truly amazing of this Park is that it’s divided in two climate systems. A portion receives winter rainfall and another portion summer rainfall. I read that 360 flowering plant species are found in an area of one square kilometer! Can you imagine how busy we were doing flower-watching? It is far worse and much more addictive than bird watching, as the plants in this arid land get on with their business rather quickly and once some of them flowered, you will have to wait for another year provided there is sufficient rain, to see them again.

I loved the common names of these flowers, so expressive of the local tongue and adding to our pleasurable excursions into the veld, we found a little plant which is called a Sentkannetjie (Crassula columnaris) or roughly translated it would mean scent-bottle.

This plant is tiny – it grows to five centimeters in height and the leaves form a tight column of about one to four centimeter in diameter. The crown was covered in tiny flower buds which were almost open. We literally screamed with delight at this sighting – let me tell you, this equates a leopard sighting any day!

If Darwin traveled a little further, he would have seen evolution at its best in this area. The humble Soetdoringbos (Codon royenii) with its oval-shaped leaves covered in long white thorns was surely the plant that fascinated me endlessly. It must have been a firm favourite of herbivores in this region until it decided to grow teeth!

The adaptations of the plants in order to survive the harsh climate is something to marvel at and a constant lesson to humanity. Look closer and learn, not just the facts, but what this fragile contradiction of survival conveys.

Did I say earlier that Helsberg sounded ominous? It is certainly not for the fainthearted, but at the rate we going, the rough-patches seemed insignificant. This mountain pass held so many surprises with its diversity of flora that our trek across stretched to almost six hours. It was also here where we found large colonies of the third Quiver tree, Aloe ramosissima or Nooienskokerboom as it is commonly known. A small shrub-like aloe with many branches.

Not far from these colonies, we started noticing the Pearson’s Aloe sporting a reddish hue on their leaves and as we ascended the pass, large forests of Botterbome, or fat ladies of the Richtersveld as we fondly called them, started to appear.

By now the sun started to cast long shadows from the west. We still needed to get to Potjiespram camp site before dark but luckily the fifteen kilometers from the gate where the Helsberg road intersects was easy going in comparison to what we were leaving behind. At Sendelingsdrift we disposed of our black bag which could have sold for atomic energy and carried on towards the river once more. By the time we arrived at the Potjiespram site, we were not happy campers anymore as it was half dark and our bodies quite travel weary. We set up camp, had a somewhat hasty braai and turned in early. Our water supply, camera batteries and notebook energy dwindled with ours. The thought of a cold shower seemed very unappealing and we were literally scratchy after only washing from a basin for a couple of days. I sighed as my partner switched off his headlamp in the tent and snuggled into the comforting blankets with a puff of lavender powder which substituted a shower. Tomorrow was another day…

_________________
“ 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 9:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2008 3:50 pm 
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:P Thank you once more for your kind feedback.

Richtersveld (Continued)

30 July

It was my partner’s birthday. There was nothing left in as far as what spoils or treats are concerned. Morning broke very gloomy, we saw clouds for the first time in almost ten days. The malmokkies (fog from the Atlantic seaboard) settled over the mountains and covered the riverine forest where we had camped the previous night. We made a fire but the wood became soggy somehow and after struggling to get it going, we declared Smoky Joe and covered it with clammy sand. At least our gas bottles still had some spark and a cup of cheerful coffee in hand later set the world right. One biscuit and one rusk in hand, my partner celebrated his birthday!

We packed our camp, shivering in the misty morning but decided that before we return to the civilization of Sendelingsdrift, that we would explore the area a bit. Luckily the mist lifted a bit and we had the opportunity to investigate the different sites that Potjiespram had to offer. There are twelve camping sites with two ablution blocks similar to De Hoop. The camping sites are situated in a riverine forest with little pathways that lead to the river.

On our way to Sendelingsdrift we noticed a colony of Halfmense which was totally obscured in the shade of the mountains as we passed the previous night. Excitedly we grabbed our cameras with almost flat batteries and squeezed the last bit of life from them to capture our surprising discovery or rather misslooked treasure.

We were greeted like old friends at Sendelingsdrift’s reception. I am quite sure we must have been a pretty sight that morning and hopefully a few puffs of perfume lightened the smell of many layers of dust…

Birthday man gracefully declined the chance of showering first and opted for a fresh cup of coffee while I, the original bush woman, showered for a full twenty minutes and gently patted myself with lavender cream as reward for my bravery… Clean and fresh, I had enough energy to take on the Richtersveld once more, but it was time to wrap up and to re-charge for our next trip.

That evening we celebrated with our last juicy steak and a chocolate dumpling pudding. One more hot shower to re-assure myself that I was not dreaming up this incredible luxury and then I slipped beneath the crisp sheets and dreamed of the mountains that held us safe in their embrace.

_________________
“ 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 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
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Richtersveld (Continued)

31 July

It was our last day in the Richtersveld and we had an early morning appointment with Seth Domrogh, a field guide that would take us to view the rock art at Sendelingsdrift. These rock engravings or petroglyphs were made by the ancestors of the San and the majority date to the last 10,000 years. The engravings can be found on found on dolomite, a black stone that is quite discernable between the yellowish coloured granite rocks.

The engravings are basic white dots of geometric shape, spirals, grids and strange looking creatures, which is believed to be created when the San went into a trance during their dance ceremonies. A very sad addition to this incredible diary of the ancients is the vandalism that took place on the very same rocks. I looked in disbelief as someone had the cheek to leave their address next to one of the engravings!

Seth, our guide hails from Kuboes, one of the four villages of the Richtersveld, and his knowledge of the Richtersveld is astounding. What really impressed me about this man is the humble way in which he conveys information; patiently explaining about the San and the Nama people, the single clicks and double clicks in language and as we were walking, pointed out different plants and named them – the Latin as well as the common name. We simply stood in awe of Seth’s positive way of approaching life in general and his fiery passion of nature and the Richtersveld. On our way back, he pointed to a pair of Swallowtailed Bee-eaters and then to a Tok-Tokkie beetle that scurried past us. We arrived back at our cottage with such a wealth of new information that we could not wait to continue reading up on this incredible Park. We would meet Seth later in the day for another excursion which he planned for us and we could not wait to lap up every word from this incredible man of the Richtersveld.

The rest of our morning was spent to clean up our camping gear, downloading photographs and getting my handwritten diary onto our re-charged notebooks, thus quite a flurry of activity that made the day pass at an incredible rate. It was an hour before our meeting with Seth that we decided to take break for a snack on the patio of our cottage.

There is something old world about Sendelingsdrift, yet it is comfortable and a perfect place to stay for short excursions into the Park and also to relax for a few days after “roughing” it inside for a period of time. Many people are surprised by a number of factors at this camp when they first arrive. Sendelingsdrift is small mining village which also houses the offices and accommodation units of SANParks and the South African Border Police. If you know South Africa well, there is quite a parallel in the “feel” between Sendelingsdrift and Pilgrimsrest, except for the fact that mining is still active at Sendelingsdrift. The first question that would come to mind is; conservation and mining? There is a small overlap of mining areas of approximately 7,000 hectare in the 162,000 hectare Park. Another interesting fact about the Richtersveld is that the South African portion is contractually managed by SANParks on behalf of the Richtersveld Community. In my humble opinion, I have seen the mining company’s incredible responsibility towards conservation and from a different perspective, also thought about sustainability of the community in as far as what job creation is concerned. So perhaps when you visit the Richtersveld, do not look upon the mining activity with a negative attitude and appreciate this unique synergy that provides a major source of income for the community.

It was almost time for sundowners when we returned with Seth from the veld. If we had thought that our previous expeditions on our own were exciting, then, accompanied by Seth, we could spend a whole day on a patch of no bigger than three square meters. If we had thought that we saw anything, then it was Seth that showed us how to look for the small things that we never noticed in between the rocks and quarts stones. We were gob-smacked! Seth told us about each and every plant and true to his roots, added in folklore and long-used traditions to the most ordinary of things. The environs of Sendelingsdrift took on a whole new perspective through the eyes of Seth. What an incredible asset for SANParks to have personnel such as this young man on board!

Did I say it was time for sundowners? We sat on our patio on the large handmade chairs and watched the river gurgle past to its final destination where it will be set free in the Atlantic sea. What an incredible journey this was and how difficult it was for my soul to extricate itself from the vastness of ancient mountains.

_________________
“ 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 9:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2008 10:37 am 
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Thank you for reading my diaries on the Richtersveld - here is the finale and an overview of the Park. Our next stop - Augrabies National Park.

Richtersveld Finale

1 August

It was time to leave the Richtersveld… Our journey would take us back to where we came from – deep into the heart of the mountains where the Gariep river starts its 2,200 kilometer journey westward to the ocean, but between that and our end destination, some more exciting things awaited us.

We were the first people to cross the river and the swift service of the South African Border Police soon saw us pulling our vehicle onto the Pont-boat that would deliver us on the Namibian shores, so to speak. Issued with bright orange life jackets, we were suddenly in the middle of river and a few minutes later we arrived in another country. The other side of the Richtersveld Transfrontier Park did not look much different. I actually laughed at my thoughts and perhaps borders only exist in our minds in order to separate countries, the world stays the same…

At the same token, the concept of Peace / Transfrontier Parks and its incredible conservation concept that surpasses borders, made me reflect as we traveled onward in the Ai-Ais section of the Park. Conservation and heritage should not be claimed by anyone, it is a task of everyone. We are merely the mortal custodians of future generations and with that thought in mind, I smiled, knowing that one day I will return to show my grandchildren the little plant called Sentkannetjie – all five centimeters of it!

The road that circumvents the Gariep River adds a new dimension to the scale of the Richtersveld. Our co-ordinates that approximately lined up Potjiespram and De Hoop camps from the Namibian side, gave us a fair idea of how far we traveled whilst inside the Park on the South African side. Within the regions of De Hoop, we stopped on the bridge that crosses the Fish River. The sky mirrored dark blue on its surface, a few tufted clouds painted across the sky accentuated the distance between heaven and earth.

Not knowing how soon we would get to the point where the mountains would give way to the vineyards, houses and telephone poles we had seen from the distance a few days ago in the Springbokvlakte, I looked at my partner and asked with a mustered voice; “We need to return to see the Fish River Canyon, don’t we?”

Too soon we passed the border post at Vioolsdrift and heading back to the red sand of the Kalahari, but then, there was Springbok with its awakening flowers and Pofadder where we would buy skuinskoek (deep-fried batter-like fritters with aniseeds) and then there was the little farmstall on the side of the road where we would get home-made ginger beer and of course, koeksisters flavoured with a hint of lemon… If that could console my soul already aching for the Richtersveld…

Overview of the Richtersveld

Although quite a distance to travel, the Richtersveld / Ai-Ais Transfrontier Park is an absolute MUST see. It can be incorporated with visits to all of the Parks in the Arid region. We slept at Mokala National Park and Augrabies National Park on our way and a few days at each Park will warrant a pleasurable and leisurely travel experience. Consider including Namaqua National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as part of your itinerary, as these Parks have so much to offer, but more of them a bit later. I loved each region of the Northern Cape for its unique offering and needless to say that I fell head over hills in love with the Kalahari and its passionate red sand.

We did some of our shopping in Upington where you are spoiled for choice when it comes to dried fruit and dried fruit products. There are a number of stalls along the road where you can get delicious home-made goodies and indigenous food from the region. Springbok has two large stores where you can buy most of your supplies and we found that the butcheries were really well-priced for meat requirement. Port Nolloth has a Spar which is well stocked and reasonable. Alexander Bay has a general dealer as well but limited variety.

There is a small shop at Sendelingsdrift that carries basic stock but they are also dependant on deliveries in this remote location, thus, might run out of soft drinks and so forth from time to time.

At the time of our visit, the restaurant at Sendelingsdrift was in the process of getting equipped for trading. It is situated at Kliphuis, across the offices of the South African Border Control and it has an incredible view of the Gariep River. I met the chef and have a feeling that good stuff is going to happen in her kitchen! At the moment you can purchase beverages, ice and wood at Kliphuis.

If you are planning to camp in the South African side of the Park, you must prepare to be self-sufficient in every way. Although there are ablutions with running water at all camps, excluding Kokerboomkloof, ensure that you have enough drinking water and water for general use. There is only diesel and lead-replacement fuel available at Sendelingsdrift, thus it is advisable that you take extra fuel with you.

There is a good Vodacom signal at Sendelingsdrift but once you travel deeper into the Park, you will only be able to get MTN Namibia reception at certain spots, which would count as a costly international call.

We took too much warm clothing and ended up wearing out our cooler clothing as the days ranged between comfortable moderate to hot. A must for this rocky terrain would be a pair of good hiking boots and a hat if you like to explore on foot. It is almost unthinkable that one will not explore a bit. The evenings are cool and the mornings cold although the temperature soon became comfortable after the sun was up. I think the best months to visit the Park would be between June to early October if you cannot cope with extreme heat. The Park received good rains by mid-July, thus it was a wonder-world of awakening and blooming flora.

On a technical note (without my partner’s input) I would suggest all the necessities such as spare tyre (or two), a high-lift jack and Calmettes for jittery passengers (although, a touch of gin in your morning coffee settles nerves just as successfully…). The roads in the Park have certain degrees of difficulty but all and all, it was really do-able all the time.

If you want to cross at the Pont to the Namibian side of the Park, you need your passport only. Your vehicle registration will be verified at Border Patrol at Sendelingsdrift. It costs approximately R150.00 for a single vehicle to cross with the Pont and if you exit via Noordoewer, you will be charged a border fee amounting to approximately R160.00 per vehicle at the Namibian Border Control before entering South Africa.

_________________
“ 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 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:00 am 
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Back in "civilization" so to speak, we spent a few days in Augrabies Park to explore this unique place. I hope you enjoy our adventures there!
:P

1 - 2 August

Augrabies National Park (Where the Gariep makes music...)

We arrived after dark at Augrabies National Park from the Richtersveld as we had to wait for a while in Springbok to have a shattered side window repaired. Thankful that at least we weren’t freezing anymore, we arrived at the Park hungry and somewhat travel-weary. We decided that we would opt for a meal at the restaurant and then set up camp and go straight to bed after a much deserved hot shower.

Augrabies Park is at this stage the park that deserves seven stars in my book when comes to efficient service, well-trained and knowledgeable personnel, neatness and great comfort for both camping and bungalow facilities. The Augrabies-falls and the rest of the Park all add to an incredible experience.

The restaurant has an extensive menu that would satisfy any connoisseurs’ palate and reasonably priced as well, but after browsing it for a while, my partner and I conferred that we really just wanted a simple burger. Our waitress smiled broadly at our request for the “kiddies menu option” :redface: and after a short wait we were served yummy but HUGE burgers and a LOT of fries. Well-fed and much more relaxed we arrived at the camping site and had our tent up in no time. There are two large ablution blocks at the camping site with ample showers and yes, two baths! One of the things I really miss in the bush is a long soak in fragrant bubbles after a long day, and this luxury came at just the right time! After an extremely enjoyable soak, I headed back to our tent in darkness. The camp was quiet except for the constant sound of the waterfall from a distance.

Day one at Augrabies Park started very much like a day in the African bush. Since we set up camp in darkness and haste as close as possible to the ablutions the previous night, we moved to a spot with more privacy and shade than the one we arrived at. Whilst busy unfolding our canopy and tables, we were mugged. Again! The cheeky vervet monkeys went straight for our breadrolls that were still in the shopping bag as we had bought them at the bakery in Springbok. So we ended up with wors sans any rolls, but by now we were getting used to our own stupidity and the cleverness of hairier primates. :wall:

After our breadless breakfast we set out on the Dassie trail to explore our surrounds – a five kilometer circle route that would take us to some of the most unique places and of course, allow us to continue with our very well practiced plant and flower watching skills. I also liked the pamphlet we received from reception that corresponded with numbered signs along the route that indicated points of interest.

The first thing that intrigued me was the little streams that we crossed with wooden ladders. (A word of note here – this trail requires a relative amount of agility to negotiate rocky terrain, thus, a good pair of hiking boots would be a necessity for starters.)

The next surprise was a large colony of Rock Hyrax or Dassies sunning themselves on the large boulders. Underneath an overhang but within clear sight of where we stood, we saw quite a number of baby Dassies. A discussion ensued; “What do you call the young of Dassies…?” A long silence as partner raked his encyclopediac mind. “Pups…?” Long silence again. “Nope” I replied. “What then?” he asked. “I don’t know either” I answered with a giggle. After some research we found no specific reference to the young of Dassies, but some very interesting facts about them. They are related to elephants and sea cows (dugongs and manatees) by having similarities in their teeth, leg and foot bones and testes, but obviously not in the same proportions. Another fascinating fact is fossil records found of Dassies the size of oxen, which could possibly explain their long gestation period of between seven to eight months – quite long considering the size of such a small mammal.

I need to explain something at this point – I have an incredible partner with a patience reserve I have yet to find in another human being. I very much remind myself of a foraging baboon at times, always searching and exploring in all directions, thus at times needed to be reminded that we were only one tenth into the trail and that the sun was climbing higher into the sky. By the time we reached Moon Rock, the third point of the trail, I already unzipped my trouser legs and tucked my overshirt into the backpack which partner was carrying with a good supply of cooldrinks, water and snacks. Since it was winter, a girl had to capitalize on this good sunshine to keep her golden colour from Richtersveld outings… Oi vey! Vanity makes me forget to tell about Moon Rock… :roll:

By the time we reached Moon Rock, the light had become harsh and the horizon danced in haze of heat. Indeed, a moon landscape with an unforgiving sun that baked the earth with merciless rays. We stood at the bottom of a massive granite dome rock and looked up to where it met the blue sky. Intimidating and impressive and then partner suggested we climb to where we would find the A-frame rock piles… Ndoto was getting a good tan indeed…

Granite domes are resultant of resistance to weathering and some of the processes seen on Moon Rock are millions of years in the making, such as the mentioned A-frame rock piles. Large shards of rock look as if they were ripped from the dome in an almost vertical manner and then landed against each other in a suspended support that looks typically like an “A”. A sad note to this incredible occurrence is once again the human factor where some the piles have been destroyed to almost insignificance, or added to by visitors who does not know the concept of only leaving footprints…

Typical of water erosion, potholes were the next place of interest. Some of these big enough to serve as comfortable bath for a medium-sized bushwoman. I looked at the stagnant pools of water and if was not for the little fish swimming lazily through a thick layer of algae, I seriously considered a quick dip. I think that partner read my thoughts and pointed to a gnarled Namaqua Fig (Ficus Cordata) that cast an inviting shade over a nearby rock. It was one thing to “sunbed” but I am sure he would not survive an algae spa… The Namaqua Fig is quite interesting – it is pollinated by a wasp limited to this tree only. Its bark is used for leather tanning and colouring of skins to a reddish hue.

After we rested sufficiently, we braved the last portion of the hike that took us over the stream once more. The sun glinting on the fast moving water that looked so tantalizingly cool to my somewhat baked body… “I think you must test the water with your hands before you decide to take off your hiking boots…” partner suggested wisely. Nothing changed since our last attempt in the Richtersveld to take a dip in the Gariep – it was actually amazing that the water remained so icy cold when it was hot enough to fry eggs on the stones. I gasped as a splash of cold water came flying over my back. Many scoops of water and accompanying squeals later, we continued to the camp with dripping clothes. So much for an in-transit swim…when, as we cleared a bend in the road, we passed the magnificent day-visitors picnic area with a sparkling pool and large shady trees. We must have looked quite bedraggled as we headed through to the camping site with huge child-like grins on our faces.

Feet in the air we waited for the sun to travel towards the direction of Black Hills on the western side of the Park where it would glide to the other side of the horizon. Soon mercy would fall over the landscape and the earth will sigh relief when the coolness of dusk covers it. The birds started to sing their evening song, ground squirrels scampered past to the safety of their burrows and somewhere in the distance, the river rushed forth…

_________________
“ 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 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 7:00 pm 
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:D Your feedback is much appreciated! Well, we do have a signal where we are, but the last 24 hours have really been incredibly hectic. :big_eyes: We hardly touched sides as we have a few days to do quite a lot! But without much ado, let me add some Augrabies adventures... :wink:

Augrabies (Continued)

3 August

The sound of the falls woke me. I peeked through the tentflaps and saw day approaching shyly. It was that hour when the soft grey of a new day started to change into pastel colours readying the background of the canvass for the final splash of brilliance when the sun breaks the horizon. Something I had noticed in the arid regions was the play of light between east and west with dusk and dawn – the opposite horizons coloured just as magnificently. Cool, fresh air wafted in from the direction of the river. I walked to the general direction of the ravine where the river cut through a wall of almost solid granite stone. All around me Dassies started to position themselves on the rocks to soak up the first rays of the sun. Their furry bodies looked like little balls of gold in the reflection of the rays.

After breakfast we headed off to explore the rest of the Park. Currently, the Park covers an area of 48,000 hectare with the Gariep river approximately in the middle. Our route had four points of interest where once again one could interact with the environment on a very intimate level. Moon Rock which we had explored on the previous day and at a different angle, still had some surprises in store. Behind its dome we found yet another type of erosion in the Augrabies granite. This granite is incredibly unique – once you take a closer look, you will notice delicate wave patterns on the rock surface caused by pressure during the metamorphosis process. We were awed by giant mushrooms and rocks that were hollowed out with only a “shell” that remained.

Approximately three kilometers from there we looked down into an impressive gorge – Ararat view point. From Ararat the road winds through the Black Hills that one can see from afar on the viewing decks at the falls. These hills consist of metamorphosed volcanic rock devoid of any quarts stone and typical to volcanic rock in arid areas, covered by a shiny black crust known as “desert varnish”. The environs of these hills were covered in stark white winter grass and Quiver Trees which provided a very dramatic ambience. As we cleared the foothills of Black Hills, we were in a plateau which delivered us at Oranjekom. This viewpoint is slightly lower and overlooks the gorge in an easterly direction.

I peeked over the rocks and drew breath, far below me the Gariep River rushed forth on its pathway to the sea. This ancient course existed in a world where the water had the power to cut through rock, a world filled with mysterious formations and turbulent events and now it was silent except for the sound of a living river. Standing here on the edge of a sheer cliff, I realized once more that a lifetime is too short to witness the many faces of Mama Africa.

It was noon by the time we arrived at Echo Corner and the sun was beating down harshly on the earth. I looked at partner with a questioning face and then to direction of the walkway that lead to the river. Although this viewpoint was not as dramatic as the previous two, there was a steep downhill pathway to the river’s bank. Partner looked at me and said; “I’ll wait for you…” No guessing as to what choice was made. Downhill to the river means uphill back to the car and I estimated the temperature close to 34 degrees.

We turned back and traveled in a westerly direction towards the Blouputs dividing road that would take us through a short tunnel underneath it to access the other section of the Park. On our way we had sightings of Gemsbok (Oryx), Springbok, Kudu and a family of Klipspringer. The westerly section of the Park has a circle route of approximately 65 kilometers.

Many of the plants we had seen in the Richtersveld also occur here but we also found new plants and an abundance of delicate veld flowers which almost seemed impossible in this harsh, unforgiving landscape. Splashes of intense violet-blue, reds, white and orange dotted the veld.

Camel Thorn (Acacia erioloba) and Sweet Thorn (Acacia Karroo) offered cool hiding places to birds and of course, the ever-present Quiver Trees (Aloe dichotoma) that served as nesting frames for the Sociable Weavers.

It was late in the afternoon when we reached the picnic spot and waterhole. We were sticky, dusty and parched, yet excited about what we had seen. Red Hartebeest, Springbok, Kudu and Steenbok roamed the veld, an array of plant species and of course, birds with very nice sightings of Pygmy Falcons and Doublebanded Courser (which had us reversing and going forward like Austin Powers until it stood still long enough so we could take a photograph of it). Our highlight however was the Quiver Tree forest that met us on our way as we traveled back to camp. We both shared the same thought…our children’s children will see them as we did…

_________________
“ 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 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
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Augrabies (Continued)

4 August

Monday. We broke camp as we would be staying in a chalet for the next two days. After being in the Richtersveld for quite a number of days, our laundry bag was full and our suitcases held a minimum of available clothing – that is if you don’t count warm jackets and track suits as suitable in daytime temperature of about 34 degrees…
After a meeting with dynamic Park manager, Steven Smith, we set off to our chalet to unpack. Augrabies Park was being renovated by the time of our visit. Steven excitedly told us about the “facelift” that all the chalets were getting, and it was serious business from the look of all the building going on around us. I will thus not embroider too much on the current offering and wait to tell you more once we have seen the finished product on a subsequent visit later in the year. Our chalet however had an incredible location that afforded views in the direction of Black Hills to the west and the walkways to the decks that overlook the falls.

But alas, it wash day and we headed to the laundromat at the camping site with a bundle of washing that would make the manufacturers of Omo washing powder smile broadly. Then came the long wait…but soon enough the quiet camp site became a playground for all kinds of little creatures with us trailing behind – camera in hand. Ground Squirrels and Rock Dassies were the first to appear, followed by Yellow and Slender Mongoose. There was no time for wash-day blues with such wildlife activity around you.


A grumpy camper came to call us to take our washing out and when we obligingly offered to wait for him to finish his washing, he meekly replied that he had no washing! Hmmm, perhaps our wash-day fun with the little furry ones just ruffled his tail-feathers. After two loads of washing (the machines are industrial size, so you can also wash your pet elephant in them…) we dumped our clothes in the dryer…but the coin-slot was stuck! I am sure the grumpy camper had his own chuckle when he saw us departing with a bag full of wet laundry.

Back at the chalet, partner erected a make-shift washing line to hang our wet clothes – luckily it was a whopping 34 degrees with a strong breeze blowing, thus our short washing line had a change of clothes every twenty minutes or so. In no time, our washing was dried and of course, the ironing started… We happily exchanged our HOT long-sleeved shirts and pants for kikoi’s , closed the curtains of our chalet and switched on the airconditioner. It was a general administrative day for us, we had to take stock of our food supplies, repack our ammo boxes and do a clean-up.

By late afternoon most of our chores were done and we decided that we needed some “comfort” food – a cooked meal that contains lots of vegetables to curb the impending homesickness we felt. (Yes, one does get a little homesick occasionally…) One lamb and vegetable stew later with lots of gravy did the trick and we literally fell into bed, tired but satisfied.

_________________
“ 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 9:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:33 pm 
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I am not going to add my summary to Augrabies yet since we have an upcoming trip to see what has happened in the meantime. I will update on the revamped chalets and give my impressions then.

Ndoto had and incredible 13 hour day! :shock: All I can say at this point is that I have learned the true definition of being BUSHED. We are leaving early tomorrow morning for our next destination and we were assured that there is no mobile reception and electricity except for solar power whatsoever. Please bear with me for a few days of absence as we will not be able to communicate.

Thank you all for your wonderful feedback and encouragement!

Augrabies (Continued)

5 August

Aukoerebis.

Place of great noise…

And home to the legendary water snake of the Gariep River. The Khoi had the utmost respect for the falls, it was not a place where they dwelled regularly nor leisurely.

I left the falls for last. Every evening we ended our day with a walk to the viewing decks to see the display of colours as the sun went down behind Black Hills in the west. There are five viewing decks connected with walkways from where one can watch the falls and the gorge at different angles.

As with all the Parks that we have visited, I always find a phrase that I think uniquely describes the emotion or experience I felt most intensely. Augrabies is the place where the Gariep makes music. With that said, we also noticed something about where you are located in the restcamp – when we camped, we clearly heard the falls and yet, in our chalet, situated much closer to the falls, we hardly heard anything.

The walkways are a network of paths that cross over the large rocks that form the southern side of the ravine. In itself, it presents an exploration of the environs that lead to the falls. We noticed white painted dots on the rocks below the walkways and it was only later that we realized that these dots were the markers from where you could view the falls in the past. I am not so sure that I would have enjoyed that, not fearing heights so much as to realizing how dangerous and slippery these rocks could be, especially closer to the falls where there is quite a spray of mist if the wind blows in the right direction…

What really had me in awe about the falls is the fact that a mighty river such as the Gariep is channeled through this passage of stone. I read that during the last heavy flooding in 1988, the water flow had risen to 7,800,000 liters per second and from what I had seen on photographs in the restaurant, it must have been both spectacular and frightening at the same time. The waterfall is approximately 90 meters high and has free fall of 56 meters.

Our last evening walk presented us with a sunset that looked like a continuous painting being created. We walked to the far eastern side of the falls enclosure and looked at the boiling water below us where many water canals merge. Large potholes swirled the water continuously as if it prepared for the final fall, the last glide before it will find its way through a course of ancient stone, leaving behind a legacy of abundance where it gave life in the semi-desert of the Kalahari.

My eyes roamed the horizon that started to colour in gentle hues of days’ end. There is something implausible about the arid landscapes of Africa – it has a magical quality that one struggles to tell in words. How does one explain the kiss on your skin of the warm desert breeze that carries little droplets from the waterfall? This breeze that comes when the earth exhales after a day of pitiless heat. How does one explain the smell of the river and the soft chirping of crickets that leads day into night? And the vibration of water’s force on solid rocks?

It was all here, earth, air, water and fire. Perhaps the primal blood in me looked with the eyes of an ancient being as I stood suspended on a deck close to where the water fell in white-green shafts to a dark pool below. My heart became silent and my being filled with the liquid music of water…

_________________
“ 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 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bushwoman Diaries
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 28, 2008 10:22 pm 
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We are back in the world of mobile phones, traffic lights and no patience after six days in Tankwa Karoo where light meant a candle or parrafin lamp, or the stars...many many stars...

Thank you for your comments. @ Mikerid; yes indeed, it is our shadows on the photograph! I will post a photograph of the two of us at a later stage once I have sorted through the best ones. :D

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Botswana Side

6 August

An early morning start had us heading in the direction of Upington just as the sun came up. By the time we arrived, the town was just about waking. We were like small excited children, in a sense, I think I was much more excited than partner, who had seen the Kgalagadi a number of times. Yes, it was Ndoto’s first trip to the Kgalagadi!

I have read widely about this Park and looked at photographs of the landscape, always imagining and yearning to know how it must feel to be there. There somewhere in the red dunes of the Kalahari where lions with the most expressive eyes I had ever seen, roam. I wanted to see Gemsbok and Springbok in the haze of midday and the yellow-coloured dust on their trails when they walk to the waterholes at sunset. And of course, I wanted to look into the eyes of a Kalahari lion and feel it go right through my soul…

But as always, I am getting ahead of myself… We had to stock-up for a few days, thus not quick passing through town. An hour later we were on our way with a lot of drinking water, gas cylinders filled up and the most important necessity – a bottle of Amarula.

Heading north in the direction of Ashkam, I watched the landscape intently. On our way to the Richtersveld I had seen red dunes, but now it felt as if the ones along the road were the “real” ones – the ones that welcomed me to the ultimate destination I have dreamed about for such a long time.

A sad note to our journey was the number of Bat-eared Foxes we saw run over along the road. Although I was fortunate to have a quick glimpse of two at Mokala, this was certainly not the way I wanted to see these incredibly beautiful creatures.

Having read much about Kgalagadi’s notorious roads, I was quite surprised to see that only 15 kilometers to the Park was still gravel and by the look of things, that section would be finished in no time as well. As we neared Twee Rivieren, signs of construction on the Botswana side also met us. It looked rather busy with large tipper-trucks rushing by in clouds of dust.

Clouds of dust… I sneezed myself into the gate at Twee Rivieren. Did I mention that Ndoto and dust really does not cope well with each other? Did I also mention that I did not have any medication for hayfever bar a saline spray on me? Let me rather tell about the incredibly friendly reception we received at the gate and reception offices, which helped a bit with my burning lungs and watery eyes. (By now I think partner had noticed that the tears of joy to set foot in Kgalagadi lasted way too long…) But then, Africa is not for woosies…
Our trip to Kgalagadi would start on the Botswana side – the Mabuasehube trail – and we had to check in at their customs at Twee Rivieren. Partner left me at the camp site’s ablutions to fill up and deflate the vehicle’s tyres somewhat since we would be traveling on sandy surfaces all of the time. A few splashes of icy cold water calmed my red-alert hayfever, since there was nothing available at the general store that would ease me a bit.

We arrived at the Botswana offices after 14:00. I need to gossip a little at this point – once you have traveled in Africa, you realize how high the service levels are of an organization such as SANParks and to what extend they go to make things work in the African bush. We were met by a young man in uniform and receptionist with a cut-off pantyhose over her hair. Ok… Our booking which was made at the Gabarone offices had to be verified with a phone call since there was no computer access. We were told to come back at 15:00 as the Gabarone offices were closed until that time for lunch. Did I mention at some stage that time was made in Africa?

Thus we set off to Samevloei drinking hole where I saw my very first Gemsbok in the Kalahari. Well, actually we saw quite a number of Gemsbok, Springbok and Blue Wildebeest that came to quench their thirst. I was excited like a small child, this was so much more than what I asked for and I sighed my silent gratitude for being able to finally be here and feel the landscape seep into my being.

Our next sighting – a hasty African Wild Cat that crossed the road and stopped underneath the shade of a Camel Thorn for just long enough to take a photograph, not National Geographic stuff, but good for record purposes. A long stop at a pair of Swallow-tailed Bee Eaters brought us closer to 15:00 and we returned to the Botswana offices once more. Pantyhose-hat gave us a lethargic look and young man in uniform thankfully had our booking confirmed, which was scribbled in pencil on our entry permit. Our Rand/Pula exchange was somewhat higher than what we anticipated, but still not too bad a price for the adventure we were both looking forward to.

We drove back to the South African side of Twee Rivieren for ice and something cold to drink. We were still discussing the Wild Cat sighting, thinking how lucky we were to see it during the day. Partner had a few things on his wish-list. Cheetah, Cape Fox and of course, lions. I had nothing on my mine – I was in KTP after dreaming about it for so long and that was enough for me.

After watching the drinking hole at Rooiputs for a while, we drove to the camping site of the same name where we would spend our first evening. As we entered the site, I noticed that there is no fencing whatsoever…and a lot of animal tracks. There are six camping sites at Rooiputs. Each has an A-frame canopy made of wooden poles and a concrete floor. There is no formal braai, just a few rocks placed in a circle and the remainders of ash that marks it. The ablutions are two circles, also made of wooden poles. The first circle is “bathroom” which consist of a shower and a stainless steel basin which doubles up for kitchen-sink I suppose. The second circle is the long-drop toilet – a nice and airy place where one can watch the stars when nature calls. The same would apply for the shower. I really liked the A-frame idea very much, it was a nice shelter to set-up kitchen and to relax in. Since I had my black-belt in cold showers by now, I was not disturbed by the absence of hot water, actually, I was pleasantly surprised to find ablutions or water at all, since we read that there was nothing at Rooiputs except for a camping site.

We watched the sun set over the red dunes, trees became black silhouettes against a blazing horizon. We were alone – the only people at Rooiputs. My first night in the Kalahari, all alone in the veld with no borders. I LOVED the idea!


We set up camp and partner started to make fire whilst I made little snacks and prepared sundowners. I heard something move and froze. I decided to look around before I start screaming; “LION”. A small face peeked around a wooden pillar. A jackal. I sighed with relief, thinking that a packet of Simba crisps just would not have satisfied a real Simba (lion). So I watched the little face moving closer to the light – it was not a jackal but a Cape Fox! I could hardly believe what I saw. My dilemma was that I had to protect the evening snacks and at the same time alert partner and not disturb our visitor.

So I thought that if I stood very still and click my fingers, partner would have to hear at some time. It worked and I gestured for him to be silent and then towards the fox behind me. Little did we know that this fox would be with us for most of night – well at least until we went to sleep, it was still around, waiting to clean our braai-grid, and to top it all, it brought its partner a while later to greet us as well.

Hmmm… how lucky can you get? Partner had his first animal on his wish-list and an African Wild Cat thrown in as a bonus. While we were having dinner, I said to him that perhaps I must also make up a wish-list and of course, it did feel not right to me. I love what Mama Africa gives to me, whether it is a breathtaking sunset, a small flower or clouds painted across the sky, but then, I decided that I will ask for two animals which I have never seen in the wild. I asked for Caracal and a Honey badger and added that an Eland sighting in the Kalahari would not be too shabby either.

_________________
“ 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 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Botswana Side

7 August

Our route for the day would take us deeper into the Botswana side of the Park. It was quite a long haul and given the road conditions, not a quick travel either. The area we would be entering a few kilometers from Nossob camp consists of thorn-tree and grass savannah with lesser dramatic dunefields. On our way to Nossob camp, we had good sightings of Wildebeest, Gemsbok and Springbok. I got excited about the Pale Chanting Goshawks, soon to realize that they are quite abundant as well as Ostriches. The waterholes yielded very little sightings, but it did not matter to me – a new landscape unfolded for me as we traveled onwards in the Nossob’s riverbed.

We filled up at Nossob camp and bought ice. On our way there, we stopped at Marie se gat drinking hole where we noticed large cat tracks. Lion tracks. I welcomed them, now that we were safely in our car… The sightings board confirmed the tracks and the friendly receptionist who also doubled-up as fuel attendant told us that the cheetahs were also seen at the same hole. Partner looked a bit disappointed, but I consoled him with the fact that we will see them when they want us to see them.

A few kilometers from Nossob camp we turned onto the road that would take us to our destination for the evening. The broad gravel road made way for a track and as we cleared the first sand dune, I got that “alone in Africa” feeling…

At some stages the middle of track was so high that partner took his hand off the steering wheel and the car followed the track on its own. “Can I pass you some knitting, dear” I asked tongue in cheek. :roll: That was before we encountered a stretch of dunes…which had partner in his element. By know, a well-versed 4X4 passenger, I watched intently to see how he negotiated the spinning holes on up hills left by less experienced drivers. I also waited for a few words of powerfully worded wisdom :whistle: that he would utter once we cleared a dune.

The landscape had become more vegetated than what I had seen on our way to Nossob. Acasia in abundance and more grass, but animal sightings were not so frequent as we had seen previously. On the dunes, we found large quantities of Gemsbok Cucumber and Tsamma melons – some were cracked open and chewed on. I watched these with amazement – the survival tactics of plants and animals never fail to provoke incredible respect from me. Tsamma melons resemble a small watermelon and the skin looks similar. Gemsbok cucumbers are a different story – an oval shaped fruit about the size of an orange and covered with spikes – the spikes are not dangerously prickly though. Both these fruits grow similarly to pumpkins, with long trailing stems that yield quite a number of fruits. An essential food source to animals during the dry winter season when grass is not available. What was interesting to see, was the presence of rodent colonies underneath the areas where we found these fruits. I read that the Gemsbok Cucumber has quite a bitter taste but it is a firm favourite of mole rats – which would explain the maize of little tunnels.

It was getting late and by our estimation, we had another seven or eight kilometers left to get to Matopi – our camping site for the evening. By now we were a tad tired and a bit achy from all the roller coasting over the dunes. It was almost dark when we found the sign to the camping site – or let me rather say, it was sheer luck that we switched on the headlights, otherwise we would have missed the tiny sign. Our campsite for the night consisted of a tree – a Matopi tree… :big_eyes:

_________________
“ 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 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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