Wednesday, August 29, 2012
So after climbing into bed around 1am last night after some serious packing, we eventually bid the kids a sad farewell and finally got on the road at 10.30am via Harties, Swartruggens & Zeerust….. Apart from a stretch of roadworks, the going was good with very little traffic.
We crossed the border at Lobatse and then headed onto Jwaneng, some 150km’s later, where we refueled and then sat debating whether or not to shack up at the local Cezar hotel, which looked brand new and was actually still in the process of being built, or carry on thru Sekoma to the cutline and bush camp for the night.
Our adventurous sides won the toss so we hit the road, despite the fact it was now 5.30pm. We took a steady drive west, slowing down dramatically as it got darker.
After a further 180km’s, and deciding that night driving is now confirmed as a definite no no , we eventually found the sign to the gate to Mabuasehube. “Gate” being a rough farm gate hanging on by 2 bits of wire!!
By now it was dark, late and AJ was buggered, so about 5km’s down the cut line we pulled over and set up camp. We threw a couple of rolls together for dinner and a Savannah. Although the terrain was predominantly beach sand, the amount of tiny little grass thorns our shoes collected was amazing! By the time we hit the tent, my flip flops had turned into platforms!!
A full moon ruled out a dazzling display of stars, and as I settled down to sleep it struck me how unusually quiet the bush sounds were…….
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Bra’s & Beanbags
After a seriously crap night’s sleep which involved a herd of bovines crashing thru the bush at some point in the night, and something rather large rubbing itself against the car causing the tent to sway alarmingly, I rose woolly headed and bleary eyed the next morning. At some point in the night, whilst laying wide awake and staring at the ceiling of the tent, it dawned on me that i’d forgotten to pack any bra’s. Great, so I was stuck with one, white, already rather weathered brassiere for the entire 10 day trip!! Guess what will be going in the bin when we get home…..
So we packed up car, had a brief brekkie of yoghurts, muesli bars and naartjies and a quick scrubbing of teeth and we were on our way. According to the GPS we had approx 100km’s to drive to the entrance gate so we engaged 4H and set off at a steady 40km/hr.
Eventually the sand road picked up the farm fence which we stuck with for a while. As we rounded a corner, about 50 lappet faced vultures took off from the ground and scattered in all directions to settle at the top of various trees. Unfortunately the grass was too high and the road too low for us to see if they’d been on a kill so we carried on and left them too it. Further up the road we came across a herd of about 15 gemsbok, our first sighting of these magnificent antelope. It was at this point that AJ realised neither of us had packed our beanbags for the camera’s…. I was horrified!!! This is the equivelant of a fish without water!! Oh well, improvisation time I guess. We also saw a good few male ostriches who took to running at great speed in the road ahead before veering sharply left and disappearing into the bush.
Shortly thereafter I took over the driving and once again realized just what an amazing offroad vehicle the Pajero is, she just swallowed up the miles with no complaints! Ploughing thru the thick heavy sand and rattling loudly over the corrogations. But eventually we arrived at the Mabuasehube reception, with everything in one piece, nothing broke, nothing fell off.
An extremely friendly woman checked us in while AJ’s enthusiasm for a good refreshing shower dwindled somewhat after we were informed that Mabuasehube Pan campsites (all 4 of them) had no water and we’d have to travel to Mpaathulwa Pan for water and a shower. However , we’d packed our bush showers so it wasn’t a train smash.
We then took a slow drive to our campsite for the next 3 nights. The corrogations were decidedly worse here as we couldn’t get up to speed to overcome the rattles and vibrations. The change in landscape and lie of the land was very different to the drive to the Park and quite breath-taking as we crested a low dune to find a vast, barren, desolate pan before us, covered in a thin layer of greeny-brown sand and not an animal in sight. Right, so I’d come prepared for this, scarce game is apparently the order of the day here, as is the total relaxation and peace and quiet.
We drove around the pan, stopping at campsite 4 to greet an extremely tanned (weathered) German woman who complained how quiet it was and there being no wildlife and that perhaps going to Nossob a day early might be in order…. It was when she mentioned that they’d not even heard lion or hyena in the night that I hoped that things would would pick up during our 3 night stay.
We then found our camp site, number 3, our home for the next 3 nights. Our first observation was the wind blasting off the pan in our direction, seasonal August winds that I’d not taken into account when I’d arranged this trip!! However, the open pan before us provided a real African setting with a lone single tree on the edge and the odd dust devil swirling past.
The resident yellow mongoose, or should that be Mongeese as well as the ground squirrels, were extremely tame and inquisitive and I’m almost certain they were sending us mental messages to get lunch on the go. The yellow billed hornbills also made an appearance and hung around, silently staring at us like a group of vultures about to descend on a kill.
Our neighbours also came over to say hi, and proceeded to regale us with their previous nights adventures with the lions at Mpaathutlwa Pan, how they’d abandoned their braai and moving to the next campsite as theirs had been taken over by the pride and their cubs – a story to take home for their kids as they said!
We decided to forego the afternoon game drive as we’d been driving for almost 2 days and chilled under the A-frame for a couple of hours, playing with the mongoose & ground squirrels.
A bit later in the afternoon while it was still nice and warm, we rigged up the bush shower in the dry shower cubicle which worked perfectly by shielding us from Hurricane Hilda and thus we we were thoroughly refreshed.
Down with the sun and out with the wine, we settled down by the campfire to an orchestra of barking gecko’s. A very bright full moon completely illuminated the pan for us this evening, rendering the use of torches virtually unneccesary. A yummy braai of pork rashers, boerie and a salad went down well and we eventually retired while the jackals quarreled amongst themselves nearby.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Gasless in Mabua
Early morning rise to the rather distressing realization that we seemed to have a leaking gas cylinder! One cup of tea down and a final pop from the cylinder signified dodgy possibility of end of gas… Not the end of the world but this now meant no bacon & eggs on the griddle, limited hot water for washing up & limited tea & coffee. This must have happened somewhere along the corrugated section of the route yesterday,, all the vibrations causing the gas to escape from the nozzle. But this is Africa so you deal with it! We sure as hell were not driving all the way back to the main road to find a refill!
AJ was now very grumpy so we set off in stony silence to Mpaatultwa Pan to find the lions. We stopped at the first campsite and greeted a retired Belgian couple who were on a 2 month retirement overland trip. They’d heard but not seen the lions last night. Campsite 2 looked like they were having a mass clean up and when we chatted to them, they told us they’d had the whole pride in camp at 8am that morning, playing with and carting their belongings off into the bush, which they were now busy collecting and tidying up.
We found the water hole at the edge of the pan and sat there for about half an hour watching a small herd of springbok and 2 side striped jackal with several wildebeest nearby.
We then decided to head off to Khiding Pan, spotting a Bateleur eagle in a tree and a Juvenile Dark Chanting Goshawk who then spied a lump of twiggy stuff in the road and decided to attack it.
We then drove back to our Pan stopping at the edge for more photos and found 2 white backed vultures by the extremely dry waterhole. This explained the lack of game on our Pan, dry waterhole, dry showers……. Not exactly enticing to wildlife.
Back at our campsite, the mongooses and birds all took up their positions of waiting patiently for food, and kept us entertained for the afternoon..
Siesta time was substituted for a shower later in the afternoon, our bush shower was proving to be exceptionally useful, 20 litres spread over 2 showers. Once we were showered and refreshed, we jumped into the car and headed off to Lesholoago Pan for sundowners and a water refill. We went to the first campsite, but they too had no water. They were also the same folk who’d had their campsite ransacked this morning by the lions. So we bade them farewell and drove around the pan to the other campsite who did have water. They had been fortunate enough to see 7 hyena bring down a sick or injured wildebeest at the waterhole right in front of their campsite the night before, so we left them after a water refill and went to check out the wildebeest, or at least what was left of it. Nature is amazing and us humans could learn a thing or two about cleaning up after ourselves! All that remained was a skull, 2 horns, hooves and a rib cage that had been completely picked clean.
We then carried on round the Pan until we had the sun behind us, grabbed bino’s, camera’s and Savanna’s and climbed onto the roof of the car to enjoy the sunset. Apart from a lone jackal running across the Pan, all we had for company was a solitary gemsbok……. How he felt safe with the coming nightfall I don’t know, but I felt nervous for him!
Eventually the fading light chased us back to camp where we were greeted by another lone jackal strolling across our Pan and the most incredible moonrise made an appearance by producing a huge orange ball on the horizon…….
Dinner was chicken, garlic bread and a salad and rest of the evening was spent photographing a Cape Fox that paid us a visit, mooching around the fire and snacking on our left overs. One things for sure, a R7000 a night room at a top game lodge cannot give you moments like these……..
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Mabua comes to life
Another crap night’s sleep but day broke with me groggily lifting my head off the pillow to catch the sun making its appearance above the horizon in a show of bright yellows & oranges.
The gale force wind that had blown up in the night had fortunately left our camp in one piece and by some miracle, we also managed to squeeze another kettle full of boiled water out of the gas cylinder. The gale force wind had also brought with it some serious cold weather, my feet were frozen at this point!
After a welcome cup of tea and a quick wash up, we jumped into the car, put on the heater and headed off to Mpya Pan so see if we could find some lions. We decided to drive around the pan, spotting a large herd of wildebeest, a couple of steenbok and a good few vultures accompanied by black backed jackals out on the pan.
As we rounded the pan close to the first campsite, I trained the bino’s up onto the hillside and there she was – a lioness that disappeared just as quickly behind a bush. We watched the area thru the bino’s for a while with no further sightings so moved on further along the road, closer where I’d seen her. Not 2 minutes later I spotted a rather manky looking brown hyena watching us thru the long grass.
AJ then decided that a lookout point from the roof of the Pajero might help us find the lions so he opened the door and disappeared round the back of the car. I turned to look up the hill to see if I could spot the lions too and OMG….. Mr Brown Hyena is standing right next to my door!!! I hissed frantically for AJ to get back in the car, which he did at lightning speed!!! However, clearly I was more perturbed by the hyena than he was of us as he ambled on past us without batting an eyelid. Needless to say, AJ’s next attempt at the roof was successful and a damn sight quicker too!!!
However, no lions could be seen due to the long grass, so we headed on to the campsites to ask the residents if they’d seen the lions that morning, only to find both campsites were deserted. Here my brain began plotting, if no campers were booked in tonight, then perhaps we could move across and have a night with the lions……. We decided to play it by ear & check the campsites out later.
We then drove round to the water hole to find the 2 couples who’d given us water the night before doing their best to plug a flat tyre, unsuccessfully. Eventually they gave up, pumped some air into the tyre with their compressor and bid us farewell as they departed for Matopi.
Seeing as the wind was blasting, and freezing cold, we opted to stay put at the waterhole in the warmth of the car. In the 2 hours we sat there we had a herd of wildebeest make their way down onto the pan, and very slowly gather the courage to actually drink.
Two warthogs, a mum and youngster also made an appearance, 4 red hartebeest, a small herd of springbok, various vultures and a small hawk still to be ID’d later.
Finally we headed back to camp as the wind seemed to have dropped a bit and the temperature had risen by 10 deg.
Once we’d had lunch we then took a walk out onto the pan with the iPad and put the 360 deg photo app to use – a bit basic, but effective none the less…….
http://360.io/qdvsvJ (link to 360deg view of Mabua Pan)
We also came across someone’s rather new looking Hi-Tec shoe which no doubt had been carted off into the pan by a lion or hyena.
During the course of the afternoon AJ also found a chewed up pink washing tub, a tea towel and a braai brush which we kept as it was better than ours, teeth marks and all……
The afternoon game drive held no unusual surprises except for a Male & Female Bateleur eagle hogging the waterhole and scaring the springbok.
On our way back to camp, we stopped by the 2 campsites at Mpaathutlwa to see if they were still empty, however, both now had new arrivals setting up camp, so that put paid to my idea of relocating. The rest of the evening was shared with not one, but two Cape Fox round the fire as well as a brown hyena meandering past without giving us so much as a glance.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
Matopi 1 – an unplanned stopover
Hooray, another crap nights sleep, however there was no wind and I did hear lion grunting twice in the night which made a pleasant change to the stony silence I’d become accustomed to waking up to each night.
We had a leisurely pack up and then hit the road making a quick pitstop at the Mpya waterhole so see if anything new had arrived. The usual suspects were there – wildebeest and springbok, the new comer this morning was a white-faced vulture – another one to tick off the vulture list!
The people staying at campsite 2 had seen the pride of lion crossing the pan early that morning but we unfortunately couldn’t see them, so we headed off to Bosobogolo Pan, our next stop for one night.
After about 20kms we eventually came upon the pan. Vast and waterless with the mandatory solitary gemsbok ambling along – I wondered if these animals ever experienced loneliness – I couldn’t imagine being all on my own in the middle of a pan in the middle of the night….. I’d be terrified, As we drove around the pan, it became apparent that here was pretty much the same as Mabua Pan, except this one only had the A frame and nothing else….. No loo and no shower and about 5 million flies and bees – so after deliberating for a few minutes, we decided to skip sleeping here for the night and head off to Nossob and sleep over at Matopi on the way. But given the privacy and lack of any other human present, we decided to rig up the bush shower and have a quick scrub seeing as we hadn’t showered the day before.
Feeling completely refreshed we then threw a couple of tuna rolls together and had lunch before setting off on the Boso Trail to Matopi 1 – 65kms away. The road proved that all the reports and articles I’d read were absolutely 100% correct – it was extremely corrugated in most places with the odd patch of lovely, smooth sand. As we progressed further west, the road became more hilly and twisty. I’d taken over the driving by now,, and once again I realized just how at home the Pajero was in this terrain, even thru the thickest sand, she just got on with it.
We saw a group of 3 gemsbok, a slender mongoose and 2 beautiful male kudu during the drive. So much for nothing ever being seen along this route!
Eventually we came across the first of the 2 campsites, which by luck was empty, but the 2nd campsite was a further 11kms down the road, so we decided we’d try our luck and push onto there and see if that was also empty. It wasn’t, but the campers had set up on the other side of the road instead of on the actual campsite, so we pulled in and found a rather large site with various groups of trees under which we could set up camp.
As we were sorting the car out and AJ having his usual faff with getting the car level, the guys from across the road showed up and asked us if we’d seen the lion tracks, which we hadn’t, I’d been too busy enjoying my ice cold Savanna…….. Walking across the campsite with them, they showed us the very fresh lion tracks, the biggest paw prints i’ve ever seen! However, we weren’t put off and set up camp with the plan being that we’d eat while it was still light so we could be on high alert for the rest of the evening.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Red dunes & hunting cheetah’s
This morning we had a lie in for a change. I’d had my mandatory crap night’s sleep but at least I hadn’t lain awake for hours when I did wake up!! And not a sound in the night…. So much for those huge paw prints we’d seen!!
The gas cylinder once again took pity on us and gave us a cappuccino each for breakfast and after packing up we headed off to Nossob, our next stop over, except this time we’d be in a chalet…. Just a night of luxury in the form of hot water you understand….. Bush showers are great….. When it’s summer…… But our evenings were still chilly at this point even tho the day time temperatures were around 30 deg.
We had 84 kms ahead of us, which we split 50/50 between us, I enjoy driving the Pajero just as much as AJ does.
We had loads of fun taking pics of the Pajero cresting the dunes and it was when AJ needed a bush poo that I hi-jacked the drivers seat and took over the driving.
This proved to be a good move as the dunes were great fun – probably more fun than the road I’d driven into Savuti in Dec last year. The unpleasant part however were those damn corrogations – they were dreadful to say the least…. They managed to switch on interior lights, torches, shift the entire contents of the car around but amazingly, not one egg was broken!!! Those egg holder gadget thingy’s from Outdoor Warehouse really are fab…..!!!! (just as well seeing as we couldn’t cook the bloody things!!)
Once we hit half way, we swapped over and AJ did the rest of the drive to Nossob. T4A had up until now given us endless crap, and it didn’t stop here, it was still telling us to do a U-turn and drive 167kms round the long way to get to Nossob!!! We were, at this point, only about 9 kms away from the Nossob gate. As it turned out, it was having issues with border crossings for some reason….
The terrain had now changed quite drastically. Gone was the flat, vast openness and in its place were dunes, red dunes and lots of them, covered with short, stubby, sparse scrub. Herds of gemsbok were now appearing more and more frequently, along with big herds of wildebeest, quite a change to the solitary animals we’d become used to seeing on the Mabua side.
Eventually we reached the entrance gate to Nossob Restcamp and after a speedy check-in and a meander thru their wildlife info centre, which I have to say is pretty impressive and informative, we found our chalet and then embarked on a serious clean out of the car and fridge. Unfortunately the bag of wine had a pin prick of a puncture in it and had slowly emptied itself into the fridge over the past 6 days so everything had become saturated in Drostyhof Extra Light and now stank like a grape pickers big toe on Kibutz.
The chalet was basic but comfortable with a small kitchen leading off the en-suite bedroom. And the camp itself was very different to the Sanparks I’d frequented in the past. No pretty flowerbeds were found here outside reception, it was sand and veld grass and a good dose of Welcome to the Kgalagadi!!
After the spring clean was done, we then raided the shop as we’d run dry of Savanna’s and grabbed what was left in their fridges much to the disgust of the rest of the patrons in the shop, we grabbed some more wood and charcoal and then headed off to the campsite to refill the water container and we were then ready for our evening game drive.
We went thru the motions of filling in the gate pass at reception, a very good system in that if anyone gets lost or stuck after gate closing time, someone will come looking for you. We drove thru the gate and headed south to Marie se Draai and not 10 mins down the road, did we come across a group of 3 or 4 cars all parked at the side of the road, bino’s and camera’s all trained East. We pulled over scanned the bush and scrub to see a cheetah sitting and watching a herd of gemsbok further up ahead. We sat for a while watching him and suddenly he stood up and started heading in the direction of the herd. It was then that we saw not 1 or 2, but another 4 cheetah stand up in the shadow and follow him. They walked a few paces and then flopped back down into the grass and shadow.
Due to them being quite far off the road, the pics aren’t great, but to see 5 Cheetah for me was a real highlight!!
After sitting and watching them for a further 10 mins we decided to leave them and carry on to the waterhole. We parked in amongst 4 other cars and sat and watched a black backed jackal come down to drink in the setting sun.
As we were running out of time with the gate closing at 6.30, we decided to head back to the cheetah and see if there was any more action happening there. We found them all sitting or lying under the same tree but shortly after we rolled up, they all stood in unison and set off purposefully toward the gemsbok. Hunt mode engaged, we had action! With one of them breaking into a run and the other 4 following at a leisurely walk – us bystanders all shoved vehicles into reverse and backtracked down the road, following the group as they honed in on the gemsbok. Frustration had now kicked in as we were watching the clock ticking and knowing a full on chase could break out at any given moment.
But eventually we all had to turn our backs and head back to camp…..the difference between Sanparks and Botswana I guess……rules and regulations SA side, total freedom and flexibility on the Bots side.
After dinner, some photo downloading and a catch up on the journal, we wondered down to the hide to find it jam packed. We found a spot on the side and sat watching 2 bat eared foxes, 4 or 5 jackal & 2 gemsbok come down to drink and 2 owls flying around and landing in the tree. Eventually it was lights out and we headed back to the chalet for what I hoped was a decent nights sleep for a change.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Seeing as we had electricity, today was cooked breakfast day, scrambled egg on a roll went down a treat! A visit to the waterhole produced a jackal catching pigeons for breakfast and a herd of wildebeest.
After watching the action for a while, we headed back to our chalet to pack up and head out to Bitterpan. While AJ packed the car, I noticed an African Wildcat stalking mongooses in the grass round the back of our chalet, so there was me, running around with my bazooka of a lens as I didn’t want to miss the moment by swapping lenses, hence not being able to fit the whole cat in to the frame in the first shot, he was that close.
it was time to hit the road to Bitterpan, which we eventually found inside the camp after buggering around for an hour trying to find the right route and arguing with the GPS. We eventually cottoned on to the fact that the route was out the back of Nossob thru a locked gate and via a 4×4 trail exclusively for Bitterpan guests.
The trail was great, with lots of red dunes to traverse, it made for fun driving., cresting the dunes slowly as the track dropped away steeply on the other side and as usual the Pajero cruised happily thru it all, getting stuck only once due to lack of momentum. But a quick reverse down and some wellie to the floor we were over and sorted..
We saw one other vehicle on the whole route who we met up with on arrival at Bitterpan, a dad traveling with his daughter.
Bitterpan was lovely, totally secluded and remote, and beautifully designed with ablutions for each of the 4 west facing rooms overlooking the salt pan. Each had its own fenced (very little fence!!) in braai area and small verandah with a large communal kitchen and braai area in the middle of the 4 rooms. All that was missing was the wildlife. Besides 2 annoying crows and 3 gemsbok taking refuge in the sparse shade on the right of the pan, I found the tiniest birds ever taking refuge under our unit drinking water from the dripping water pipe that led from the shower. You can see in the pic just how small these birds were when you look at the grains of sand and the crystalising around the pipe.
The afternoon was spent chilling in the room and eventually moving into the shade of the one and only tree in front of our chalet as the sun was now shining relentlessly and directly into the west facing rooms.
As the sun dropped down onto the horizon, out came the camera’s to capture the sunset, probably the best one so far thanks to a smattering of cloud in the sky.
The rest of the evening was spent braaiing with dad and daughter while out on the pan, all we saw a lone jackal and 2 gemsbok drinking at the waterhole.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Off to find those legendary Rooiputs Lions…
Bad sleep is becoming the norm….. Something crunching on a bone outside the chalet woke me up in the night but thankfully I didn’t stay awake too long.
A refreshing hot shower kick started the day and we bade farewell to our neighbours before heading off to Rooiputs for our last 3 nights. The drive was rough, dreadfully corrogated roads that rattled your fillings and blurred your vision. But the landscape and scenery made up for the unpleasant driving conditions. Rolling hills covered in course grass gave way to red dunes covered with the odd tuft. Here we saw a black headed heron and a Kori Bastard up in the dunes before we descended down into the Aoub River bed.
Here we passed herd after herd of springbok, saw plenty wildebeest and 2 carcasses, but those predators were still eluding us.
Rooiputs was half full on arrival. Our campsite was very elevated, affording us a great 360 view. However at 3.30 it also did a good job of catching the wind full on.
Once again we had no water in camp, but fortunately we’d showered at Bitterpan this morning and had filled the water canister at Nossob, so our 20 litres for showering and washing up would hopefully stretch over the 3 days we were here.
After relaxing in camp for a couple of hours, we decided to head off to find some lions. As we drove out of the campsite, not 400m we came across a lioness drinking from the Rooiputs waterhole. Looking closer we could see she was either pregnant, or had already had cubs as her teats were huge. She then lay down in the shade for about 10 mins and gave herself a leisurely wash before getting up and heading back over the hill.
We then drove South for a few km’s before turning round and heading North to Kij Kij waterhole. We sat there for a while watching the usual jackals rolling up to drink and then disappearing again. A huge eland also arrived and took a long drink before heading back in the direction it had come.
We decided then to call it a night and headed back to camp. On the way we saw a Pygmy Falcon in a tree which was a bird I’d not seen before.
We also came across a large herd of ostrich of which one of the males decided to break into a run on the grass verge next to us, As he accelerated, we put foot and kept level with him.. We clocked 51kms dicing the ostrich before he gave us the ostrich version of the middle finger and shot off up the hill, his harem in tow. Most amusing!!!!
One last check on the lioness, but she was not to be seen. There were however about 20 wildebeest standing around at the waterhole looking very undecided as to whether or not to drink or not.
On arrival at camp, I was thrilled to hear the arrival of Vodacom on the iPhone, so grabbed the opportunity to phone the kids as I’d not spoken to them since we had arrived on the cutline to Mabua.
As we were preparing dinner, 2 barn owls flew out of the “attic” of the A frame as well as a number of bats.
Some very feint grunting could be heard far off in the distance, but other than that, it was a very quiet evening, not even the barking gecko’s could be heard.
Thursday, September 6, 2012 6:55 PM
A – Z…….almost!
Another crap night’s sleep thanks to a pulled muscle in my back which resulted in me lying awake for most of the night trying to decipher what the noises outside were, however, on rising, it seemed most of them were wind related (natures variety, not the gastric version!!) and everything that I’d imagined…..hyena’s chewing on tyres and lions carting the braai grid off into the night had not come to fruition.
For once we managed to get out on a morning drive before 7.30 and we headed off north to Kij Kij waterhole to see if there was anything happening there, which there wasn’t so we continued on to the next waterhole where we found 3 vehicles parked. Thinking they were using the ablutions nearby we suddenly realised they all had their camera’s trained on an eland carcass and there was the most magnificent male lion I’ve ever seen feeding all on his own – a huge black-maned Kalahari lion, the ones you usually read about in coffee table books!!
After watching him feed and doing his level best to protect his food from the hord of scavenging jackals lurking nearby, he suddenly stood up and walked off towards the dune, wind ruffling his mane and that proud stance as he walked….. He really was beautiful!!
Eventually he walked up the crest of the dune and disappeared. I could not believe it, I’d wished for a male Kalahari lion and I’d got him, first feeding from a carcass, and then walking up the edge of a dune. Happiness!!!!
Once he’d moved off, the jackals moved in, about 20 of them, swarming over the carcass like it was their last meal, tails wagging and much snarling and snapping going on between them.
We then headed off for a loo break along with all the occupants of the other cars and whilst I was queuing, yes it’s happens even here in the Kgalagadi, I got chatting to one of the guys who told me that the eland had apparently dropped dead in the road the day before, and he happened along as the rangers were about to drag the animal to the side of the road. Being of the photographer type, he had the good sense to ask the rangers to drag the carcass to the side of the road so that the light would be just perfect for photography the next morning….. Give that man a Bells!!!!
We then carried on north for a few more kms, passing a group of white backed vultures all sheltering on the ground from the biting wind and we then decided to turn around and headed south by taking a shortcut over the dune we’d seen the lion on earlier. We couldn’t spot him but as we descended the hill for a final look on the eland carcass, there he was, that beautiful male laying on the ridge in all his glory!
We then headed south, driving back past the entrance to the Rooiputs campsite and after a while we saw a group of cars all parked together……what did we have this time? We pulled into a gap and sat for a few minutes staring at the waterhole in front of us and the lean to tree, wondering what was holding everyone’s attention. A German couple told us in broken pidgin English they were looking for lions, so we decided to move on. As I was reversing, AJ suddenly spotted the leopard in the tree in front, lying along a branch not far from the ground, completely camoflauged!! I couldn’t believe it!! And here I was stuck behind the steering wheel instead of my camera!! So a quick clamber over each other to rectify this problem, which must have looked like we’d suddenly decided to play a game of Twister from the other vehicles, we were now back to our normal team set up, AJ driving, me photographing. The leopard was well hidden in the shadows which did not make for good photos and I was getting very frustrated.
But finally our patience paid off when the leopard suddenly sat up, jumped off the branch and walked right out into the open.
With me firing off the shutter madly and everyone repositioning their vehicles, it was exhilarating to say the least. Fortunately there were only 4 vehicles, including ours, and everyone was actually very considerate of each other, each giving everyone a chance to get in to photo the action.
We all followed the leopard down the road for a few meters before it turned off into the long grass and after much mock stalking, finally disappeared into the long grass.
Another tick in the book, we were so blown away by the mornings viewings we thought our luck must surely run out now, but it was not to be. Further up the road, we saw 2 cars together, both with the usual tell-tale lenses protruding from car window….. We followed their gaze and eventually spotted 3 cheetah lying under a tree, but they were way off in the distance so we didn’t hang around.
Shortly thereafter we arrived at Twee Rivièren and enquired on a campsite for our last night as we’d decided on leaving at sparrows on Sat morning and driving back to Jo’burg in one go. We booked and paid, had a quick mooch around the camp and then headed back to Rooiputs. Along the way we spotted 2 slender mongoose who were kind enough topose for me in the sun for some shots.
We also bumped into our camping neighbours who told us that not 20 mins after we’d left camp that morning, a male lion had appeared over the dunes and walked straight thru our campsite, right where we’d parked the car and pitched tent!!! Today was really turning into an A to Z of wildlife!
Back at camp we took to cleaning out the fridge as the spilt milk had curdled, yum! And I took care of my poor, weathered feet…. the Kalahari climate is seriously harsh!
4pm we headed out again for a short game drive, vowing to be back in camp by 5.30pm so we could get braaiing before it got completely dark. We headed off to Kij Kij again. As there didn’t seem to be much happening, we were about to move on, when a Tawny Eagle suddenly flew in, wings outstretched, legs and feet extended, and landed next to the waterhole.
We sat and watched him amble awkwardly up to the edge of the waterhole and drink, when suddenly a jackal appeared and tried to take on the Tawny. Excellent action with some good shots!
We then left the waterhole and headed back to camp, as we stopped at the side of the road to rearrange some stuff on the back seat I happened to glance up in the tree in front of us and there were 2 Giant Eagle Owls, one sat snoozing giving me a wonderful opportunity to catch some shots of those lazy, pink eyelids, while the other sat picking at the bird they’d caught and stashed in the tree. Yet another tick on the list!
Back at camp was the usual routine with dinner, journal catch-up and backing up of photo’s.
While we were busy with all this we became aware of a commotion on the other side, near campsite 1 & 2……lions!!! We sat watching as one of the other campers jumped into their car and slowly drove down the road with his headlights on, herding the clearly visible lioness out of camp. It was at this point I decided a quick clear up and retiring to the safety of the RTT was the order of the day. Sitting in our weak candlelight and the remains of the braai glowing, withtotal darkness not 2 meters beyond, and that feeling of “complete vulnerability” was exhilarating, but also a not good idea. Oh for 360 deg night vision!!
Friday, September 7, 2012 2:44 PM
The shower calleth……
After a marginally better nights sleep, possibly helped by the 2 Myprodol I took at bedtime last night, I awoke to a very bright tent interior. The sun had beaten me to it this morning. The lions had been extremely vocal in the night as well as the jackal.
Once again we managed to squeeze a cup of tea out of the gas cylinder while we packed up. Our neighbours returned from their drive to tell us they’d seen 5 lion drinking at the Kij Kij waterhole, lucky buggers. Bidding them goodbye, they suggested we upgrade our campsite booking at Twee Rivieren to a chalet as the campsite was apparently not great. Considering this would also then allow us to just jump in the car in the morning without having to faff with packing up tents etc we decided to go this route.
Out on the road, AJ very quickly spied 2 Spotted Eagle Owls in a tree very close to the road, however I was unfortunately photographing into the sun again…..
Further along we saw an African Wildcat running across the road, which I managed to catch a couple of shots before it disappeared into a bush.
Other than that we didn’t see too much – the eland carcass had been discovered by the vultures, who were resting in virtually every tree around the area, but no jackal in sight.
We then drove South calling in one last stop at the Spotted Eagle Owls before heading for Twee Rivièren. We saw 4 or 5 large herds of gemsbok, a few of which had females with young calves, and I found it quite fascinating to see the big difference in colour between youngster and mum, and how much of their horns had sprouted, given their age!!
We also saw a pair of Secretary birds……
…and a massive Social Weaver’s nest that had partially collapsed due to the weight……
On arrival at TR, we did the border procedures and then transferred our campsite booking to a chalet, which once we’d seen the campsite and then the chalet, decided we’d done the right thing.
The shower left me feeling reborn. To be able to run my fingers thru my hair again was in itself a novelty, bed hair had been the norm for the last 2 days, thanks to no hot water and a rather windy cold front!
As we sat outside having lunch, our neighbours from Bitterpan pulled in to the chalet opposite us. We had a quick catchup on the past 3 days since we’d last seen them and then left them to their unpacking.
After booking a table at the restaurant for dinner we then set off for our last game drive. Heading north on the Mata Mata road, we finally found our meerkats, only 2 but these cute little animals had eluded us until now. Another tick on the list!
Eventually we cleared the dunes and picked up the river. The usual herds were seen meandering along to the waterhole, beautiful sightings with sun low in the sky.
As we drove along we spotted stone buildings and old ruins from a past life up on the ridge heading towards Auchterloni waterhole.
We then came across the original settlement, a quaint thatch & stone cottage set up on the ridge. We took the steep road up and took a walk around what turned out to be a tiny little museum, the cottage was the home of Scottish settlers who tended to the boreholes in the area, hence the many Scottish names still in place in the area. As it was an official museum, we got out and had a look around…. I imagined living up on that hill all those years ago, with a steady stream of wildlife heading down the river all day, what a life!! So much simpler than today’s humdrumness…….
Realising we were pushed for time to make the gate we decided it was time to hotfoot it back to TR. Just before we turned towards the dunes, we were met with the most amazing spectacle of about 100 springbok walking through the riverbed caught in the last rays of the setting sun.
We made the gate with 5 mins to spare, filled up with diesel, R902 for 76 liters, absolute rip off!!! Dinner was spent chatting to Dave & daughter and another couple, swapping story’s and we left eventually with me feeling exceptionally sad to be leaving this amazing place in the morning.
Saturday, September 8, 2012 11:26 AM
Things I learnt on this trip……
The Kalahari gets under your skin in more ways than one! Next time I will pack my foot file and some body lotion! That harsh climate and my skin did not get on!
The animals and their uncanny ability to survive such harsh extremes – a huge respect!
Not sure I’d go in August again… those August winds were not pleasant.
The roads are crap, just deal with it! And the dust gets everywhere, just deal with it!
The lack of crowded roads during a big sighting is a huge improvement on Kruger. Maximum of 4 cars at any good sighting during our trip.
To witness a full moon over the pans in Mabuasehube is quite something.
Always assume there’ll be no water in camp cos chances are, there won’t be. We’ll take a lot more next time, as well as solar heated shower bags.
Patience pays off, sitting and not moving will bring the wildlife to your feet….. Cape fox at night, a week old springbok and her mother, an endless supply of hornbills, ground squirrels and mongoose.
Characteristics of the Kalahari that make it what it is……
The barking gecko’s signifying nightfall, the totally cloudless days, the wildlife, those beautiful red dunes., the little striped mice that dash across the road in front of you to the safety of their burrows, the total isolation on the Mabua side allowing you to rig up the bush shower out in the open,
Total kms done: 2796
Route home: Upington, Kuruman, Vryburg, Schweizer Reneke (only cos I was driving and missed a turning), Potch, Kyalami
Total time: 12 hrs – including 1 fuel stop/brekkie and 2 loo breaks
Damn far – but so, so worth it!!!!!!!!
We Will Be Back!!!