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. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Botswana Side
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.