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 Post subject: Canon's The Kalahari Unplugged - April '13
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 7:16 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
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On Thursday SO and I departed on a dream trip that we had planned a year ago. This trip would take us to the remote corners of the Kalahari before finishing off in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I am going to submit the entire trip report despite the fact that we were not in a SAN Park all the time - I trust that this will be in order.

Our itinerary was as follows -
28/03 van der Kloof Dam
29/03 Kuruman
30/03 Tsabong, Botswana
31/03 Heinie's Pan
01/04 Mabuasehube Pan No 2
02/04 Monamodi Pan No 1
03/04 Thupapedi Pan
04/04 Gnus Gnus Pan
05/04 Swartpan No 1
06/04 Swartpan No 1
07/04 Nossob
08/04 Nossob
09/04 Nossob
10/04 Mata Mata
11/04 Mata Mata
12/04 Mata Mata
13/04 Mata Mata
14/04 Rooiputs No 4
15/04 Rooiputs No 4
16/04 Rooiputs No 4
17/04 Twee Rivieren
18/04 Britstown

This map will give an idea of where our travels took us. The yellow line indicates the routes we took and the red dots where we stayed. It is a bit small but hopefully still give readers an idea.

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:01 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 1 : van der KLOOF DAM

We could only leave Grahamstown at about 11h00 which meant that we had about 6 hours driving time. The Landy was like a stallion raring to go as we pointed her nose north with trailer en-tow and new roof top tent fitted. After last year's close shave with the lions at Mabua we decided to take the plunge and acquire a Hannibal RTT which we would use on our one night stop-overs and when in the "wild". The trip went well and we arrived in time to set ourselves up for out first night in the RTT. We got a site on the water's edge which was great. Many of the locals started arriving after us - clearly a serious fishing competition was due to take place judging by the equipment that was being unpacked. An early braai was the order of the day which was just as well because the weather was brewing with plenty of thunder and lightning. It rained during the night but our RTT stood firm and we were very impressed with how it handled the elements.

This was what our "room with a view" looked like

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DAY 2 KURUMAN

We did not need an alarm Clock on this morning. Before sunrise the first squabble was on the go about who had booked a certain fishing spot first! The one fellow had clearly not slept much. We broke camp quickly, grabbed a shower and headed for Kuruman via Luckoff, Kimberely and Barkly West. It was interesting comparing notes with our 2012 trip - the dam was overflowing then but not this year

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2013

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2012

We reached the our stop outside Kuruman in good time. The Easter Weekend was certainly dishing up a number of surprises - a fishing competition at the dam and clearly this joint was the meeting point for one hell of a motor bike rally. We were entertained all afternoon watching the proud owners of a wide range of "ysters" strutting their stuff! All sorts of magic potions were being passed around but all in all it appeared to be good fun. The campsite was fine - each site has its own bathroom and kitchenette which is very useful. The weather seemed quite ominous when we went to bed. There were a few claps of thunder during the night which all added to the atmosphere.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Wed Jun 26, 2013 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:01 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 3 : TSABONG

At about 04h30 we were woken by one almighty bang - sounded like a gas bottle exploding! We later learned that this was merely the alarm to wake the bikers to prepare for their long trip. I dare say that not many of them had had much sleep. I suspect the alarm was a flare or such like! Anyway we got going early and packed up. We would stop in Kuruman to get wood, fill diesel cans before heading up to McCarthy's Rest where we would enter into Botswana. We were very excited because this is when the adventure would really start. Just before we reached Kuruman the heavens opened and it poured with rain. It was chaos in town with hundreds of locals doing last minute Easter shopping, the traffic lights were not working and the pedestrians appeared to have the freedom of Kuruman. We eventually got ourselves sorted out and were very relieved to get out of town and on our way. The rain continued to fall but so what - we were on holiday. At Black Rock we were suddenly confronted with a ground road - this was my first slip up because all along I thought the road was tarred all the way to the border post. Well we were in for a surprise because this is what we had to negotiate for the next 100km!

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It was hard to believe that we were heading into the Kalahari and this is what we were witnessing. The road was terrible and we had to do a number of "cooling off" stops before eventually reaching McCarthys Rest. It was a pity because this would be a lovely drive in good weather conditions. We were very relieved when we rounded the bend into the border post

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The border crossing was quick and efficient on both sides but we did have to pay a bit more than bargained for on the Botswana side. The 20 km to Tsabong is a tarred road so it went quickly - plenty of livestock on the road though. We stopped in at Shoppers to collect the meat that we had ordered. We were very impressed because the meat was all ready for us, vacuum packed and all. The biggest bonus was the price which was less than half what we would have payed in SA. Beef fillet cost R50/kg! We tried to draw money from the only ATM in town but it would not work - the offers for assistance at the ATM from the locals scared us off so we headed for our next overnight stop.

We took the sand track up to the farm where we were greeted by our delightful hostess. The accommodation is rustic, which is what we expected, but very comfortable and more than adequate. There are a number of bomas for those who wish to camp If anyone want's the name please PM me for details.

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We stayed in one of the rooms - this would be our last stay between brick walls for nearly 3 weeks.

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 10:15 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 4 : HEINIE'S PAN

We bid our hosts farewell and headed off to Tsabong to buy paraffin for our lamps. The first 20 or so kilometers north out of Tsabong were absolutely horrendous. We had a heavy load so took it slowly. Slowly but surely we were leaving civilization behind which was an unbelievable feeling. We suddenly realized that we were well and truly on our own. We reached the point where the heavy sand road started so decided to stop, let our tyres down and stretch our legs

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A steenbok watched us for a while before dashing off

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Not long after hitting the heavy sand road SO asked me to stop so that she could rescue a little tortoise that had got itself caught in the deep tyre tracks

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The area that we were driving through was still a hunting concession which was why the game were so skittish. This kudu clearly fell foul of a hunters bullet at some stage - what a magnificent speciman this kudu bull would have been

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Once we reached the south eastern boundry of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park game sightings became a bit more regular but they were still skittish. The sand track was really deep but the Landy was in its element with the challenge. Eventually, about 5 km before we reached the Eastern Gate of Mabua we saw these Red Haartebeest standing in the road. It seemed as though they realized that I was pointing a camera lens and not a rifle barrel at them

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We continued north passed the East gate till we reached the Kokotsa cutline which we followed for about 10 km before turning left to Heinie's Pan. The facilities at Heinie's Pan used to be used as a hunting lodge. This lodge has been "abandoned" and has really fallen into disrepair. I guess this is as a result of the new legislation that has put a stop to hunting in Botswana.

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The owners warned us that a large pride of lions were frequenting this area and had in fact made this lodge their home. Exciting but quite un-nerving! We decided to set up camp next what must have been the dining area. We were very grateful for this because the stoep came in very handy later when the rain set in. There was a lovely view of the pan from here

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The weather was really looking threatening as can be seen in this pic.

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We cset up our RTT and parked next to the building, using the stoep for our evening braai. The atmosphere was unbelievable, especially when the lightening lit up the pan later in the evening.

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This old wheelbarrow was very useful

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We really kept our eyes peeled for any unwanted visitors which never arrived. We had hardly gone to bed when the rain started - and my, did it rain! Our RTT was certainly having a baptism of fire.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:59 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 5 : MABUASEHUBE PAN NO 2

My thanks to all those who have posted replies - welcome on board. There is always space in the Landy!

We woke at about 05h00 and it was still raining steadily - we thought to ourselves "what now! How are we going to pack up in the rain" We dozed off and before we knew it it was really time to get up and what do you know - the sun peeped out from behind the clouds. The smell of the Kalahari in the early morning after plentiful rain is hard to describe! We soon discovered that we had had visitors during the night. There were three sets of these tracks on the veranda. I guess that they belonged to Spotted Hyenas.

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We were really lazy to pack up - felt like sitting back and simply soaking up the view and the fresh air. I don't want to bore you with repitition of this pic but you have no option!

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I moved the Landy into the sun so that the RTT could dry off while we packed.

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Two Barn Owls visited us while we were having a coffee and rusk. They appeared to have spent the night in the building next door and were obviously keen for some fresh air. They played cat and mouse with me, never letting me get close enough for a decent photograph

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We took our time because it was only about 50km to Mabua East Gate so we were out of there by about 10h00. Along the cutline we saw these Sandgrouse

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The condition of the cutline was quite good - 50km/hr was easily attainable (not that we drove at that speed.)

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We were soon at East Gate to check in. There was nobody to attend to us so we hung around a bit before tapping the hooter. Took this pic while waiting to be checked into the park

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After about 15 minutes a lady arrived (walking at her own pace I might add) to check us in. It was soon very evident that it was HAPPY EASTER time!! Nevertheless she told us that she had checked us in for all our Botswana stays. I must admit that I was a trifle worried about this arrangement but what can you do? Through the gate and happy to be in the KTP proper

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It is a beautiful drive from East gate across to Mabuasehube Pan. The road was wet so no dust , the birds were all over the place and I simply could not resist cracking an early morning can of the best! The first game that we saw were these very relaxed looking Blue Wildebeest

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When we creasted the dune at Mabua Pan we could not believe our eyes - there was water in the pan!
This was an unbelievable sight - we later heard that this area had had about 100mm of rain during the night. Who could have imagined the sight of a pan full of water in the middle of the Kalahari. We were indeed fortunate to witness this.

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We drove past campsite No 4 which is our favourite site at this pan (Stayed there in 2012 when Lions visited us every night) on our way to No 2. When we arrived there were a number of cars parked there and immediately I thought that the lady at the gate had really messed this one up!. However the folk at our site had driven over from Khiding and were merely having a picnic lunch under our camel thorn tree. They told us that they had seen Lions about 8km up the road so we left them to finish their picnic while we went Lion hunting. We battled to find them and were about to give it up as a wild goose chase when SO spotted them about 100m from the road. So frustrating for the first sighting because they were doing what Lions do best - relaxing. We counted about 10 of them which included a few cubs. We sat patiently for about 20 minutes but they were going nowhere so we decided to head back to set up camp. Here is the proof

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When we arrived at our camp our visitors had left. It was about 13h00 so we parked under our camelthorn tree and decided to have a beer and some lunch before setting up camp. A piece of paper blew across our path and I immediately cursed the picnic goers for leaving this scrap of paper lying around. I picked it up and was about to toss it in our rubbish bag when SO said to me "what is written on that paper?" You will not believe what was written "Beware - there is a Rock Python in the tree". We looked up and right above our heads we saw this

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We got the fright of our lives and decided right there and then that we would not set up out RTT under this tree. The Python did not budge all afternoon but when we got up the next morning it was gone. Where to, who knows! We spent the remainder of the day watching all the antelope coming down to drink nice fresh water from the pan. They definitely had a spring in their heals and seemed to be in 7th heaven. It is amazing how nature provides. We thought that the Lions would venture down to the pan in the evening but there was no sign of them.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:24 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 6 : MANOMODI PAN No 1

This map will give you a good idea of the location of the campsites at Mabuasehube Pan.

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We awoke to a beautiful morning and it was nice to know that there was no rush because our next stop at Manomodi Pan was just around the corner. What more could one wish for than to wake up and look out of your bedroom window....

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.....and be treated to this view

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We "went downstairs" for a nice cup of coffee and to witness the herds of animals coming down to the pan for a drink of fresh water. They must really enjoy the sweet fresh water. Our guess was that within a few days this pan, the only one that had caught water from the rain, would be a hive of activity. The bush telegraph would have got out and I am sure folk who stayed at Mabua within the next two weeks would have seen an extravaganza of note. The predators would most likely also have camped in this area, living off the multitude of antelope that would have been around.

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The early morning sun added some interesting lighting effects for photographs

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There were plenty of squirrels, hornbills and other critters around - all seemed so busy for early in the morning. I think too many of us focus so much on the predators and tend to forget that the Kalahari is always alive . I pays to take time to soak this all up and it can really be rewarding at times. This Yellow Mongoose dug this bug up from under the sand.

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It clearly did not taste as good as what he had expected so he spat it out in disgust. His mouth was certainly burning because he seemed to be in a bit of discomfort

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However, the temptation was far too great so after rolling it around in the sand a bit he gobbled it down before dashing off to play with his friends

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Soon it was time to pack up our stuff so that we could get going.

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As we passed campsite number 4 we saw this large collection of Kudu and Springbuck down on the pan

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Day 6 to be continued....

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:24 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
.......DAY 6 continued

We decided to travel to Manomodi Pan vis Leshogoloago Pan. This was really a pretty drive, crossing a number of quite big sand dunes along the way.

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We came across a very alert Meercat (Suricate) when we got to the ring road that circumnavigates the pan

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We turned left and travelled round towards the waterhole. In the distance we noticed that the Wildebeest and Red haartebeest who were heading up to the water suddenly turned round and scattered back to the middle of the pan

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Clearly something had disturbed them to we sped it up a bit to get to the waterhole. This was clearly a tactical mistake on our part. We kept watching the antelope and never looked above the waterhole. When we were about 100m from the waterhole we saw a huge male Leopard turn around and run back into the bush. Had we been two minutes later we would have found him at the waterhole. DAMN! We had seen Lion and Leopard but only "half sightings" - like kissing your cousin! Here is the pic just for the record

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We were bitterly disappointed but nevertheless we parked under a large camelthorn tree above the waterhole and waited for half an hour or so with the feint hope that he would be so thirsty that he would need to come back to the trough. Sadly this was not to be. We continued on to camp site No 2 where we stopped for a cup of coffee. This looked like a really nice spot - showers working, nice view of the waterhole etc. We would seriously consider staying here if there was next time! We had the usual visitors here

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From here we headed due south to Manomodi Pan with not much to report except for a couple of Lappet-faced Vultures which we found sitting on the ground in the middle of nowhere. We immediately thought that they were at a carcass but no such thing. Photos unfortunately not great.

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Before we could get nice and close they took off

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We arrived at Manomodi Pan at about 14h00 and were welcomed to our new spot at No 1 by a very vocal Yellow-billed Hornbill who was sitting in the lovely shepard's tree at this campsite

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Day 6 to be continued.....

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:46 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 6 continued....

Once we had set up camp we decided to drive across to Mapayathutlwa Pan which is about 15 km from Monamodi. This is a pleasant drive but we never saw much. We found that most of the game is definitely to be found around the pans. We were surprised to see how big Mpayathutlwa pan is. There is a waterhole on the northern side of the pan at which we saw a Red-billed tealwhich I suspect does not happen all that often. There was also a Martial Eagle at the waterhole - it was behaving quite strangely by sitting in a bush and continually scratching at something (possibly a mouse I suppose)

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We continued round the pan and checked out the campsites which were unoccupied - they looked really nice. Along the way these two Lessor Grey Shrikes posed for a photograph

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There were large numbers of game, Gemsbok in particular, on the pan. These Gemdbok took fright and ran straight past in front of us. This guy is a magnificent speciman

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We cooked a delicious potjie on this evening. We were not mad about the campsite and actually felt a bit vulnerable due to the fact that the bush sort of enclosed the site so there was not much warning if predators were on their way! During the night we heard noises and when the potjie lid got dropped we knew straight away that the Hyenas were visiting. We could see them quite clearly and were dismayed to witness one of them walk to our trailer and with one nip it bit the top end of the trailer's brake lever off! The power in those jaws is frightening. Fortunately we could still work the brake lever albeit with a certain amount of difficulty.

Here are some pics of the campsite

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Tomorrow was going to be a loooong day's driving all the way to Thupapedi Pan - a distance of about 240 km. It was early to bed for us. This map will give you an idea of where were were whilst in the Mabuasehube section of the park.

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Sat Jun 29, 2013 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 4:28 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 7 : THUPAPEDI PAN

We were awake and packing at sunrise because, as mentioned earlier, we were in for quite an adventure today. Our original plan was to head back to Mabua Pan and then take the track north from there to where it joind the cutline which leads to Kaa Gate. This track is listed on Tracks4Africa. Fortunately for us we noticed that this section of road was closed when we went in search of the Lions on our first day at Mabua. We were very fortunate to have discovered this because if we had had to turn back we most likely would not have made it to Thupapedi!. Anyway so our route took us back to East Gate where we exited the park. We then headed north on the cutline and then turned due east at the corner. This section of the road was top notch - clearly a lot of work had been done on it. Unfortunately this was not to last because the good road headed for Hukuntsi so we soon hit the heavy sand along the longest section of dead straight driving that I have ever done. From this split to Kaa Gate there is not a bend in the road for at least 150km! The driving was reasonably easy and we managed to maintain a speed of about 40km/hr. We never saw much game which did surprise us somewhat. We did, however, spend some time with these Suricates. I have posted a host of pics because they are all so cute!

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We saw a number of places along this cutline where huge heards of Eland (I checked the spoor) had crossed the road. The cutline would be churned up for stretched of about 200m. I was so sad that we never saw any of these herds but nice to know that they are still around. We decided that we would stop for breakfast and a leg stretch when our Garmin (Tracks4Africa) indicated that we had 50km to go before reaching Kaa Gate. SO had had a wonderful sleep along the way so I really had to put my endurance to the test - I am sure some of you have experienced this "Love, please wake me up if you see anything interesting!" YES DEAR!!!

We duly pulled off with 50km to go having not seen another vehicle all day. It was so nice sitting in the middle of nowhere whilst having a nice greasy breakfast and a cup of coffee.

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SO was now suddenly full of beans - I suppose that lovely siesta and a nice breakfast (cooked by 'you know who') gave her this sudden boost of energy!

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Quite an amazing thing happened while we were sitting on the side of the cutline - the place was crawling with really angry ticks. We only noticed when they started getting lodged into our legs! We must have removed a dozen of the blighters. One could actually see them crawling out of the sand! Wonder what they live off of out here in the semi- desert. Fortunately we were able to do a thorough tick inspection without fear of being seen by anybody!

We packed up and headed on towards Kaa. We started to encounter a number of quite steep dunes during this latter stretch of road and also passed a vehicle - a Botswana Parks Board team. We noticed a few sets of Lion spoor in the sand - looked like about 5 of them. These tracks were quite fresh and they stayed on the cutline for a distance of 27km - all the way to Kaa Gate. I suppose they walked to the water hole at Kaa during the night.

We were quite relieved to reach Kaa Gate where we checked in for the next part of our trip. We still had about 40km to go to get to Thupapedi so we never wasted much time before heading on our way. This stretch of the trip was really beautiful. It was clear that plenty of rain had fallen in this area. The Gemsbok were really in good condition. Our Tracks4Africa was brilliant and was a great help - without it I am sure we would have got lost a few times. We eventually reached Thupapedi Pan

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We saw these Gemsbok grazing in the pan as we drove towards the camp site

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This is the campsite - we set up camp where the red dot is

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After we had set up camp we sat under the Camelthorn tree, opened a can of the best (champagne for SO), put our feet up and simply soaked it all up. Can I describe how we felt - NO NEVER

We had a few visits from Black-backed Jackals and Hyenas during the night - saw the spoor in the morning.

This map will show our travels for the next few days whilst on the Kaa 4x4 Trail

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:29 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 8 : GNUS GNUS PAN

We were exhausted after the long trip yesterday and had a bit if a lie in because today would be a short 40 km trip south to Gnus Gnus Pan. The sand "twee spoor" is actually a pleasant drive - no corrugations. I suppose this is because when you visit this part of the world you get so chilled that there is no need to rush anywhere.

Soon after hitting the road we saw this fellow - I presume a juv Pale Chanting Goshawk

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There was still good grazing but it did seem as though a fire had damaged the vegetation in the not too distant past. We ambled along spotting Gemsbok and Red Haartebeest that for some reason or other were very skittish.

This will give you an idea of what it looked like as we headed south. We had still only passed one vehicle since leaving Mabua East Gate yesterday morning - not that we were seeking company!

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Before long we reached Gnus Gnus Pan. We travelled along the eastern side of the pan for quite a while before reaching the campsite which is situated near the southern tip. Unfortunately the camp site does not have a view of the pan despite the fact that it is elevated on a dune. Without being too critical I would say that this is one that we would skip if there was a next time.

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This shows where we camped. We decided to put up a bit of protection on the one side of our camp because this was really a blind spot. We were a trifle uneasy because there were Lion spoor in the camp so rather safe than sorry!

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We spent the rest of the day relaxing at our campsite. We were kept company by these little creatures

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These LBJ's really frustrate me because I can never ID them - any help?

The silence that evening was deafening. SO said that one sensed that you could hear the stars twinkling.

I am sure those of you who have been following this trip report will notice that so far it has not been all about the fancy animal sightings but hopefully it will have illustrated that there is more to the Kalahari than chasing the sightings - if you are patient your turn will come. Once you learn to appreciate the small things there will never be a dull moment in your day. Stay on board because once we got down to the KTP proper things did start hotting up.

SO and I leave for Mountain Zebra National Park tomorrow so will continue with this TR when we return on Monday. Maybe we will see the Lions that have just been introduced to the MZNP. Watch this space. One thing is for sure though - WE ARE GOING TO GET COLD!

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:04 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 9 : SWARTPAN No 1

Well we have just returned from a very enjoyable 5 days at the Mountain Zebra National Park. It was wet and cold for most of the time but nevertheless still a good place to be. Did we see the Lions - well here is a bit of a taste of what you could see when I get to that trip report

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While we were away a large number of comments and kudos were posted on this trip report - my thanks to each and every one of you for your interest.

We packed up at Gnus Gnus quite early because today would be a longer trip - about 90km. We rounded the southern tip of Gnus Gnus pan before heading north west to Swartpan. These Gemsbok were grazing on Gnus Gnus pan

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The trip was really scenic and at times beautiful. We saw a number of Eland but they were so skittish that there was no chance of a photograph.

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Not far from Swartpan we saw these Gemsbok licking up the minerals from mother earth

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As we neared the pan we encountered a few steep dunes and what a sight greeted us as we crested a dune and there in front of us was the huge Swartpan.

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There are two campsites and a permanent waterhole at Swartpan as is illustrated in this map. The pan is in the most north western tip of the KTP and is seriously remote.

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We headed straight to our campsite No 1 which is near the waterhole. The road around the pan unfortunately has a number of very nasty grey thorny bushes which do scratch your vehicle quite badly. There is, however, evidence that the park officials do trim them from time to time. Soon after setting up camp we took a drive out onto this huge pan and could not believe how many animals were to be found - at any given time during our 2 day stay here there must have been at least 200 antelope on the pan. It had rained recently which meant that grazing was good here. We expected to see predators a plenty but not to be - this pan would be perfect Cheetah hunting grounds.

Here are a few pics of what was to be seen on the pan

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There is a twee spoor track that runs right down the centre of the pan - I suspect that this could have been a runway in years gone by

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We spent the rest of the afternoon at our campsite - what a beautiful spot. We were spending two nights here so made ourselves quite comfortable. We had great excitement soon after dark. Whilst tanning a nice rump steak on the coals I casually did a cursory scan of the area with the spotlight to check that we never had any visitors - well you can imagine our excitement when we saw a Leopard drinking from the water at our tap a mere 15m from us! She took no notice of us and treated us to a good few minutes before moving off into the darkness. Wow! Those of you who are familiar with this campsite will know how close the tap is if camping under the camelthorn tree. This must have been the the highlight (or one of them) of our trip. Unfortunately we were caught so unawares that my camrea was still in the Landy so sadly no photographs. This is what makes this place so special - there is always a surprise around the corner. We were visited by a number of Spotted Hyenas during the night but fortunately they never caused us any grief!

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:08 pm 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 10 : SWARTPAN No 1

After a leisurely cuppa we took a short drive down to the pan and once again the game was plentiful

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We then took the road that heads due south from the pan. My info indicated that this was a short 3km loop but the road seemed to go on and on. We decided to turn back because we were somewhat unsure of ourselves and did not feel like heading into the unknown. This was a pity because when we got home we studied another map and it indicated that this road in fact led to another pan - pity we missed this one. Anyway along the way we saw a few Gemsbok and some very wild Ostriches with chicks.

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We then headed back to camp and along the way bumped into a HUMAN BEING! The fellow really seemed a bit lost (foreign so not much communication). He actually looked like David Livingstone! Anyway he pottered around on the pan and then left. Back at camp these little fellows entertained us

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We took another drive around the pan and noticed that campsite No 2 was still unoccupied so we were due for another night all to ourselves. This Double-banded Courser crossed our path and further along we discovered a family of Suricates enjoying the evening sunshine

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The camelthorn tree is certainly so much part of the Kalahari. One wonders how old some of these trees must be.

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Here are a few pics of the intrepid travellers and their home at Swartpan

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This beautiful sunset signified the end of our very enjoyable stay at Swartpan. There is no doubt bthat we will be back here

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We used solar lights, fires and candles to secure our campsite during the evening. We kept a good lookout for our Leopard but she never popped in for a visit!

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:10 pm 
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Location: Grahamstown
DAY 11 : NOSSOB

We knew all along that this was going to a long day but we still underestimated our time. We had to break camp and then cover a distance of about 240km to get to Nossob. We did not take into account the the twee spoor from Swartpan to Kaa Gate was going to be so badly corrugated, unlike the rest of the tracks that we had covered up until now. Anyway today's route would take us east to Kaa, then south to the Nossob valley for about 80km and then 90 odd kilos to Nossob. We packed up quickly and really bid Swartpan farewell with heavy hearts - this place had really grown on us. As I said the going along this track was very slow but still really pretty. We came across a few pans at which we saw a few very wild Eland accompanied by Gemsbok

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It was at this stage that our GPS gave us the alarming warning that we would not make it to Nossob travelling at our current sedate speed of 20km/hr. We had to speed it up a bit and I'm sure that our rig took huge strain on the corrugations. I took these pics of the scenery just before reaching Kaa. Clearly there had been plenty of rain but we were in for a rude shock when we later reached the Nossob valley - serious drought conditions!

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Once we turned onto the Kaa - Nossob Valley road the conditions improved a bit and the trip became less stressful. We saw a number of antelope, predominantly Eland that would not stand still!!

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We needed a bit of a break so stopped along the way for a quick cuppa and a bite to eat - tinned curried cabbage and bully beef (the corrugations made us pay for this indiscretion a while later!!!). Once again we were tackled by an army of ticks which really baffled us. They seemed to be emerging from our tyre tracks which implies that they were under the sand before being disturbed by our driving over them.

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We saw more Eland as we neared the junction - once again on the run

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About 10km from the junction with the Nossob/Unions End road we suddenly went from lush green vegetation to red sand. The transformation was so sudden that it appeared as though a line had been drawn across the sand. It was quite a depressing sight. No more grass and only a few brave trees and shrubs offering a bit of a fight against the elements. Fortunately we knew that good rains had fallen over Easter and that relief would be forthcoming. However, I do fear that it was too late for much growth from the grass. We saw one or two Steenbokkies nibbling at rare greenery but apart from that the surroundings were lifeless. We were very pleased to reach this landmark knowing that we had only about 90km to go

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It was soon clear that good rains had in fact fallen. The Nossob Valley was already displaying tinges of green and there were puddles in the road which was very encouraging.

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It was not long before we started encountering game along the road

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We stopped off at our favourite waterhole, Polentswa. Since our last visit a solar pump had been installed which is encouraging. Note the raptor in the tree..

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.....a juv Bateleur

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As we hit the home stretch we were treated to this magnificent sighting of a Tawny Eagle.

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We arrived at Nossob in time to check in and set up camp but we were pretty exhausted, not because of the long trip but because of THIS...

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I am going to have a bit of a rant here and then not speak about the roads again. I have been visiting this great park for many years and absolutely love the place. I know that part of the deal is that you have to put up with roads that are not good but I am afraid there is a limit to what one can tolerate. I have NEVER experienced roads like this and sadly I must admit that it put a big damper on the remainder of our trip. In fact friends of ours who we had encouraged to visit this park and who met us at Nossob eventually packed up and went home simply because of the road condition. I engaged with the officials at the Nossob office about the roads and of course I was talking to the wrong people. A guy overheard my conversation and glibly interupted asking me if this was my first visit to the KTP because, if not, I should know what to expect. He then went on to say that he would like the roads to be even worse so that it would keep people like myself away from the park! I was blown away by this idiots attitude. I do not know what the solution is but surely some plan needs to be made. Surely after the 130mm of rain that had fallen it would be a good time to scrape the road. I know that speed plays a role etc etc but then there should be more policing - I have never seen speed traps on these roads. Anyway enough said but I would sincerely urge the park officials to think of a way to improve this situation. In the three days that we were at Nossob two vehicles with bearing trouble and an off-road trailer with axle problems limped into the camp! Our vehicles are big investments these days and yes they may be tough but certainly not army tanks!

A good bottle of Merlot, clear star -filled skies and the call of the Black-backed jackals calmed us down before having a restful night's sleep despite the chorus of snoring that engulfed the campsite as the night wore on!

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2013 7:17 pm 
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Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 12 : NOSSOB

We decided to take it easy today, taking a short drive out via Marie se Gat before spending time in the camp and at the birdhide.

Marie se Draai was very quiet which is unusual so we decided to head south towards Dikbaardskolk for a short drive. We saw Kori Bustard and what I think is a Juv Brown Snake Eagle

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After about 10km we turned back and we soon rewarded with a sighting of this magnificent Lion - not sure how we missed him on the way down!

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We followed him for quite a while and thought that he was heading up to Marie se Gat for drink which would have been quite special. However, he disappeared into a small clump of bushes and never re-appeared! Probably stopped off for a nap.

We had a great day in the camp before driving up to Cubitjie Quap in the late afternoon. We were really surprised to find this waterhole virtually abandoned. There were no doves, no sandgrouse, no Lanner Falcons, no spoor - absolutely lifeless! Amazing. In the past this waterhole had always been a hive of activity. We sat around for a while before heading back to camp.

_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


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 Post subject: Re: The Kalahari Unplugged
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:28 pm
Posts: 412
Location: Grahamstown
DAY 13 : NOSSOB

We decided to head south again for a quick spin before breakfast. We got up early - today it seemed as though most of the campers were lying in because the camp was very quiet when we got up. Once again Marie se Draai was very quiet - WHATS GOING ON!. We bounced south and along the way saw this magnificent Kudu bull. This was the biggest bull that we had encountered in the park in all our travels. This kudu came dashing down into the Nossob valley near Jan se Draai. He was very agitated for quite a while and was all on his own. We were convinced that he had been spooked by a lions. He soon calmed down though and posed beautifully for this photo.

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There were definitely more kudu in the park - on previous trips we listed kudu sightings as rare! The rest of the drive down as far as Cheleka was very quiet. At Cheleka we saw this BBJ climbing under the ball valve cover to get to the freshest water - cunning fella

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This is a lovely waterhole to sit and relax at. We parked under the huge kameeldoring tree and waited for a while. A herd of Gemsbok came over the dune to have a drink. The chap spent more time digging up calcrete to satisfy his mineral needs

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We hastened back to Nossob, had a short break and then headed north, hoping to reach Polentswa. Going was slow on this road but this gave us a good opportunity to scan the valley for interesting sightings which were few and far between. Cubitjie Quap quiet again but the Kwang waterhole presented a beautiful sight. The fresh water pools had attracted a number of Gemsbok to the area.

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We continued up the valley passing this Bateleur along the way

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The Grey-backed Sparrowlarks were plentiful in this part of the park

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_________________
WE ALL HAVE TWO CHOICES : We can make a living or we can design a life

15/08 Malelane
16/08 Letaba
17-21/08 Shingwedzi
22-26/08 Balule
27/08 - 01/09 Berg n Dal
02/09 Glen Reenen


Last edited by canon on Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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