Sometimes it does not hurt to be a bit lyrical. When heavens tear open to reveal new colours, when silence mumbles some eternal riddle, when natural death sings the glory of life. Like in the Kgalagadi desert. But this report is more than a song. It is a brief account of a weekend of two privileged ones starring sights, sounds, sand, thunder, cheetahs and a whole lot more – don’t leave before the ground squirrel ends this tale!
After extravagantly flying from Pretoria to Upington – a surprise for half of the party – we picked up a rented Toyota Hilux 4x4 diesel. Not only was this a good choice because of the higher clearance, the Nossob road also was so wet that we were seriously doubting if a VW Polo would make it.
Luckily the airport is not too near the park as the road from Upington to Twee Rivieren is only just long enough to get used to the wide open spaces and to clear the Gauteng-poluted mind. At TR we checked in for our first night – in the dunes where Di and I would celebrate our first year together.
We heard rumours of rain, but the Aoub at first mostly provided desert scenes like this.
After a first of four hyeana sightings (click here for locations & pix
) and some blue wildebeest we turned to Auchterlonie to admire the views.
Meanwhile the skies in the north started to cast dark omens over our heads. I delightedly noted that my former European antipathy towards rain had disappeared in my two years in Africa as I was welcoming the clouds one by one into the desert. We turned onto the southern dune road as the storm approached.
When it came down we found ourselves in camp and could have elected to stay dry, which we did not.
The sun was not going to give up that easily and fought back - the collision of the elements resulting in double rainbows plus smells & sights that will make Di and me feel homesick for the desert each day of our city life.
And yes, the many carcasses of eland and wildebeest entice sadness. But they also tell a magical story about migration, cycles and natural processes that have almost disappeared from our fenced-off planet. A temporary victory for the sun paralleled our early evening drive to Kij Kij waterhole.
During the early dark night the wind blew last day's scene clean with tremendous force. When it fell silent, we woke up because of the sheer peace that came down – although the roaring of distant lions might have had something to do with it too.
Early morning blessed us with an amazing cheetah sighting
. Another magical day, with a slow drive up and down to and from Mata Mata showed us the Aoub giraffes – who were looking stunning and healthy - more hyeanas and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl. The birds of the desert seem all so dignified and confident, I thought, when an African Hoopoe flew by. We get those in the garden in Pretoria, but it is not the same.
The night we spend in a river camp was quiet, except for the leopard that made its existence known at about 10 meters from our tent in a very, very loud voice. Due to utter tiredness and because the sound of opening the rusty zip would have scared the leopard away, we decided to enjoy this nocturne
in awe from under our sheets.
En route to the Nossob spotted hyeanas once again showed up. The river up north is so wet, it’s almost flowing which is crazy. C’mon, everybody knows rivers don’t flow!
In fact the river did not, but some parts of the road did – as enjoyed here by these two black-backed jackals.
And as promised, it is not the road back to Upington, the flight back to OR Tambo or the sense of displacement we felt on Monday morning that end this brief account. It is the ground squirrel standing in the riverbed. It is how we felt during our amazing Kgalagadi weekend.
Humbled, small, in place.