Day 3 continued
After the drive, I took a nap. Now, anyone that knows me is fully aware that I slept enough during holidays when a student to make up for the rest of my life, so naps are not something I even do on a rainy Sunday while not on standby. Nap time is a time either to watch TV or get done with that admin or tidy or play games or something, but not nap. But, 3.5 h later, what a new person I was. Rested. On holiday! The inner fun started here.
As I was preparing to leave the chalet to find necessities, I noticed that something was wrong. Something distressing. Later I would encounter scary creatures on my path. This was different. Jail… Well, sort of. My door could close and lock as a door should; unlocking worked too; ummm, but opening, not so much. Now I did not unpack my tools from the car as I would most likely need them in the wilderness, so I was trapped. Luckily there are no burglar bars, so I broke out through a bedroom window and opened the door. There was something whimsical about the predicament that made me smile a little, something about childhood oddities and memories coming back. It was almost mischievous getting out, nice. Later I would use a dish cloth wrapped between the two door handles to allow the mechanism to slip out the pillar – engineering in the bush.
Once on parole, I filled up the transport. R733 got me a full tank (at R13.70). Many may complain about the price, but, considering the distance to be covered just to get the fuel there, and let’s face it, having fuel is a luxury not a right although we are so used to it that seems counterintuitive, I think it is cheap. Also, the tanker has to get to KTP and that is it, no other purpose. Out and back. Plus the fuel providing infrastructure has to be built and maintained (I still remember the hand operated pump at Nossob years ago) – without correct design and maintenance, dirty fuel, or worse, dirty soil near the sump, would be a reality. The service was also great, on such a hot day, nice to see a working man smile.
I had some time now to wait out the heat before going out again. So, I fetched a few bags from the car and marched to reception where I was told I could ask for the office where I could leave items for the clothing drive – some blankets, clothes, shoes and travel magazines that I was not using could make someone else happy. Thanks to the organisers of this, you make it easy to want to participate.
Having dropped my stuff off, I decided to reward myself with something cold. I really ambled, much like one does on a Karoo farm when inspecting troughs from the homestead, nothing too fast. The heat was hot, but not that bad, but being so drying just drained every ounce of energy from me. I bought a 2 litre Coke Light (yes, I prefer its taste) and a Rolo ice-cream for R34. Taking into account that someone else brought it to the park for me and that both were kept properly chilled, bargain. I always feel that if you want to complain about prices of anything at a SANParks shop, just bring all the stuff with you. Or budget for it. But don’t complain, it is not that expensive when you again think that someone had to pay for someone to drive a refrigerated truck from far so you could have a frozen ice-cream of flavour you choose on the day. Again, a privilege, well sort of, on holiday, at least one ice-cream is a tradition for me. Passing me in the shop was a friend from the homelands, Secunda – one of three groups of friends from town I knew all on holiday there at the same time, who knew Secunda had that many people?
I got aspeaking to Robbie (a game ranger – not sure if this is offensive as a lower rank or something, but I mean it here as a general term). He was leading the night drive and noted that there were only 2 places booked so far. So I marched myself down to reception (by that I mean I ambled back to my hut to put the drink in the fridge and get the car and drove down) and booked a seat. I had cleared with Robbie that a flash was allowed with the proviso that he could tell me to stop using it if he thought the animal I was targeting was taking offense at the relentless paparazzo – seemed more than fair.
While at reception I mentioned the door issue. Oh the apologies. Shame, I can imagine that many other guests kick up a fuss; I anyhow was pleased with my dish cloth motif, so I said that they could rather fix it when I was gone. Given, partly as I had many thousands in equipment that I would then rather have packed away, but mostly as I did not feel the need to make someone rush out and fix it in the heat, rather a leisurely planned job when I left.
I packed my flash, making sure the batteries were freshly charged. I paired my 6D and 70-200 f2.8 to maximise my low light capabilities. Also, the 500 would be really clumsy in a game drive vehicle. I took my monopod along too. However, as a general rule, while I will always have my camera with me on a drive like this again, such activities should rather be approached as experiences and less as photo ops. To me anyhow. Perhaps my settings were rubbish. Also, as I had feared, 200 mm was never going to be enough.
While waiting for the magical drive which started at 1900 if memory serves, I phoned home. I agree that cell phones are overused these days and ringtones and loud conversations on them are all annoying when in a serene palace like this desert, but being able to check in and make sure that all is well with the SO and little one, that’s pretty cool.
“Okay then, gotta go… Yes, I have everything… Talk to you later then… Bye.” It was time for the drive.
Getting to the vehicle I noted that it was full. Oh no. I was planning on taking some serious pictures and now there was only one seat left and other people and how was I meant to take from both side of the vehicle and what if they were bored and I wasn’t finished – see, don’t make it a photo trip. Luckily I had no such issues, well, except that nobody else cared about birds at all, but oy vey. There were 8 students with me, 7 girls from Holland, 1 German, and 1 other guy. By the end we were all in good spirits with some good conversation, albeit light – they were exchange students studying at Stellies, so how could I not like them? Also, their wanderlust had made 5 of them travel in a Polo Vivo through much of Namibia, coming to KTP via Mata Mata, good solid people. They even let me lean over them when needed.
A general note if on a night drive, when you stop, keep the torch far outside the vehicle lest you be plagued with moths (and other insects I am sure) until someone swots their neighbour to hospital. I got to hold the torch (made me think of simple times doing the same on a farm, only then it was for more sinister appearing activites); there is an art to scanning the vast bush with a torch.
On the drive we spotted, scrub hare, springhare (kangaroo), sociable weavers nest, spotted eagle owl x3, 2 PCGs roosting, jackal, bat-eared fox, brown hyena, lion, AWC, porcupine; we learnt about the rats that split trees, that there is 17% protein in kameeldoring pods and their seeds can be used for coffee (incidentally, the kameeldoring pods also make lovely rattles for 16 month babies, plus then the baby gets some streat cred as who else has such retro play things?). Thanks Robbie for such a relaxed and informative trip. I will not go into much detail as I am sure much gets repeated with each drive I would like others to enjoy the knowledge imparting as much as I did. A special mention though to the porcupine that continued to scurry in the road although our lights were off – what a special sighting.
There were only 2 decent shots I got on the trip. The others are memories, sure, but not worth sharing.
After the drive, partly owing to the long nap but fuelled by the adrenalin of such a fun activity (which was like R203 or something, bargain! Especially if you are alone and that is almost how much petrol you would have used, for a family of 4, perhaps not cheap, but consider budgeting for 1 drive, on a trip, sometime, just for the memory) I had supper. 2 pies, some coke and a crossword by headlamp. Uh oh… the wind is blowing… uh oh… (please read that as if a pantomime) I knew to be wary if the wind blew, and sure enough, a small but scary scorpion came my way. Luckily I noticed it and moved away from where it may have wanted to walk. I quickly noticed that it moved away from my headlamp’s light, so using that, I persuaded the fella to move on and cause a nightmare somewhere else. It is owing to creatures like these that I did not want my littlun to join me on the trip, on curious poke and ouch, no more fun panto scream, real pain and rush to Upington yelling.
After the crossword, it was off to bed.