Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari - Episode 5 - final

At the loo stop, I am looking through the binoculars for cheetahs on the flat, dry, riverbed but stumble upon another Cape Cobra hunting in the same fashion as the one before, except that this one is in a dead tree lying horizontal on the ground. It’s longer than the first one and must be over 2m in length. I take some shaky video and we see a young Martial Eagle in a tree about 50m away from the snake, looking about, and we hope it takes a dive at the snake as they are a regular meal for these raptors. Instead, the eagle flies directly over the snake and carries on gaining height, eventually disappearing from view.

Back into the vehicles, suitably relieved, we find a group of vehicles, occupants staring up into a large tree and I get a sighting of a Giant Eagle Owl, the one item I really wanted to see on our visit to the Park. As it happens, it’s the last animal of interest we see on the entire trip and those of us who had wanted to see something in particular, except for a lion kill, have all seen our choices.

We had forgotten about the extra distance the forced detour to Twee Rivieren would add to our trip out of the reserve and had to put our feet down when our distance suddenly doubled. Thankfully, we make it out of the gate before closing time at 6pm and proceed to set up camp, picking a site where we would get all three tents up in the same area so that we could socialise on our last night together in the Park.

Attie and I don’t think Johan will make it out by 6pm but are shocked to see him pull up with about ten minutes to spare. At times, they must have had to travel at up to 80km/h to make the cut-off time and they are lucky there are no speed traps in the Park, and didn’t hit any animals either.

The evening isn’t as cold as previous nights had been in Twee Rivieren, but maybe that had something to do with the Captain Morgan and Coke I was putting away like juice. The only two evenings I’ve had anything more than two drinks (except for Polentswa in the rain) are both nights in Twee Rivieren. The camp is outside of the reserve so you don’t have animals you need to keep in mind or worry about whether they might drag you from your tent if you’ve passed out and forgotten to zip up the door. I always wanted to be aware of my surroundings and too many drinks would have taken that away.

We build a fire fro ma bag of wood that Rea had bought earlier and we manage to keep it going for a few hours. I sit up to watch it to its last few embers and to finish my drink, then head to the sleeping bag at about 22h30, having seen some amazing star patterns in the black night, moonless for the past week.

We all sleep until 07h30, or thereabouts, and make a big pot of coffee to warm our hands in the cool morning air as the temperature had dropped overnight and there had been a heavy dew fall. All our tents were wet between the tent and covering flysheet and we had to let them dry out in the sunrays before packing them away for the very last time on the trip.

Johan’s trio left a half hour ahead of us, once all the drivers had filled diesel tanks and pumped tyres back to normal running pressures, as they wanted to visit a lodge a little way down the road home.

After getting our final park checkout signature and stamp, we hit the road to Upington, a boring 226km away.

We were about halfway to Upington when a familiar vehicle shape pulled up behind, then overtook, us. It was Johan, whose visit had run a little longer than planned and he was trying to make up some time, pushing the Pajero on the tarmac. As expected, Anna had her video camera in hand and filmed us as they passed, waving furiously. That was the last time we saw them on the road and I hope their trip ended safely.

We stopped in Keimoes for some more biltong, the butchery located at a strange place, next to a funeral parlour. Some questions are better not asked…

We then headed for Brandvlei, where we were going to rent a chalet for the night instead of camping, but when we got there and filled the fuel tanks, decided we didn’t want to spend the night there and moved on to Calvinia, still an hour and a half away.

We arrived there just before dark, saw the name of a Bed & Breakfast (“Rolbos” – Tumbleweed), then drove around a while looking for a place off the main road. After thirty minutes or so, we ended up back at Rolbos as it looked the most homely and secure for our packed vehicles.

Speaking to Joey, the proprietor, or at least listening to her as she did all the talking with us nodding agreement or smiling politely most of the time, she drove us around to a house she was letting two blocks away from the main road. It was perfect for us as we were the only occupants for the night. Joey also recommended a restaurant, Myl250, and when she discovered our vehicles could only carry two people because of the loads, offered us the use of her own bakkie for the evening. Such hospitality is rare these days and you’ll only get it in little towns like this. On top of that, she only wanted payment the following morning, so she trusted us on all levels and didn’t even ask for a phone number or address.

Dinner at Myl250 was very good, with three of us having a burger and Steph having a roast baby chicken. We also had some reasonably tasting, cheap, table wine and a couple of beers to start with.

All told, it worked out to about ZAR150 per person for dinner and drinks, including a double scotch for me and Irish coffees for the rest at the end of the meal. Good value, I thought.

Back at the house, Steph had a scotch with Attie and I, while Rea went to bed to read. Steph then also went to bed and Attie and I sat through another round of scotches before retiring ourselves. Attie had won the coin toss earlier, so they had the only double bed in the house, while Steph and I had single beds to sleep in for our first night in a bed in two weeks. Regardless, it was good to be on a firm mattress instead of an inflatable one (or the ground, for that matter), even if I did wake up and stare at the ceiling, as usual.

Eventually, I took a look at my watch and was stupefied to see that it was already almost 08h00. The blinds had darkened the dawn to such an extent that it looked like it was still much earlier than it was.

We all showered, packed our few things back in the vehicles and Steph and I went to pay Joey while Attie went to the Supa-Quick to have a slow puncture fixed. Amazingly, this was our only vehicle problem in over 3,760km on the trip, over some very good and very, very bad roads. We also had to go back to Myl250 as Steph had left her reading glasses there the night before, which the staff had just found when we phoned to find out if they were open.

“Myl250” is called as such because Calvinia is supposedly 250 miles from any of the other towns around it.

After a springbok pie and strong black coffee for breakfast at The Hantam House, a converted stable by the look of it, Attie’s car was ready and we headed out onto the road again for the last, long, stretch to home.

This last piece of the trip was long and boring, but there was some picturesque scenery to remember, most notably the ocean as we came over Chapman’s Peak, a few kilometres from home. We briefly stopped in at Attie and Rea’s place to say thanks to them (again) for organising and inviting us on the trip of a lifetime.

You could feel the relief in the Mazda-rati as we pulled into our driveway just after 4pm, having been on, and off, the road for a day over two weeks.

While there is a lot we will miss, being back in the city, it is good to be home again and we’re looking forward to our next major adventure, which, we think, may be Namibia next year sometime.

I’ve enjoyed spending time with Attie and Rea, down to earth people in all respects and chatting about technical stuff, vehicles and otherwise, with Attie.

We are both glad to have met three other people we can now call “friend” and will be organising a get-together sometime soon to view the photos and videos. Johan and Mariet may soon be moving to Simonstown, also where Anna lives, to retire so I’m also looking forward to fishing with Johan. Although he prefers boats, he is also a keen angler. I’m sure we’ll have many a get-together in the future.

I also learned a lot about myself in that I took our personal security to heart and didn’t always know what to do in some situations (like the hyena episode) but learned how to handle them safely.

Thanks to Attie, I also learned to handle my 4x4 better and am more confident in its capabilities and my handling of them.

In closing, there are a few thoughts I want to share with whoever reads these ramblings…

Water – it is not to be wasted. When you have very little of it to carry out even the most basic of tasks (washing dishes), you realise how precious it is and that the water saving adverts are not talking crap.

Food – you can survive on a lot less than you would normally eat at home, and still eat sufficiently to not feel hungry afterwards.

Home – the security of a home comes to the fore when you are out camping in a wilderness reserve with very little protection around you. Too bad there are others who still want to take our homes away from us in this day and age.

Time – the old adage that time should not be wasted rings true out in the bush. It should be used wisely and to maximum effect. If you have some time on your hands and know someone who could use some assistance, give them your time. It became apparent how much time the home daily tasks took from us when we were out in the bush surviving the elements.


Hygiene – it’s okay to have a fifteen-second bos-kak instead of a fifteen-minute throne-dump at home as the results are the same, except you don’t come away with pins and needles in your legs in the bush…

I urge everyone to undertake a safari like this, at least once. You will learn more about yourself in two weeks than you think possible...

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari - Episode 4

At Sesatswe Camp, it’s only a tree as infrastructure again, next to another dry pan, and we set up camp.

I end up unpacking the back of the Mazda-rati and doing what repairs I can to the battery system. When I repack the car, there seems to be a lot more space now, but it’s mainly only due to repacking things more space-consciously than before.

A flock of finches settles on the open door of the canopy and Steph puts out a bowl of water and some oats for them. After this, everyone starts talking about how they met their respective partners and Steph gives her version of how we met. I have a slightly different story but leave them with her version.

Despite the darkness of the night we don’t get any visitors and there are no fresh tracks through the camp the following morning.

Friday 14th May

We have a decent sup of coffee at about 06h30 and it’s not too cold seeing as we had some cloud cover. The previous evening I had predicted rain either today or Saturday, due to distant cloud build-up and oppressive heat.

Camp is squared away by 08h00 and we move off into the bush, this time with Attie leading. I want him to play “pathfinder” for a change as we have been doing it for the last week.

There are, as usual, no animals other than buck and birds and when we eventually stop at the Botswana Government’s Kaa Camp to beg some water from the border staff, we go through some theories as to why there is no abundance of wildlife on the Botswana side of the park. A signboard just outside the camp gates gives away one of the reasons, organised hunting safaris.

We had noticed that animals on the Botswana side are very skittish as they run away before we can get anywhere near them. The SA animals, on the other hand, are not like that at all and are quite relaxed. Granted, they move if you get too close, but casually and not in a stampede. If you get to within about 1km of the Botswana animals, especially the large buck species such as Eland and Kudu, take off as they presumably relate vehicles (or convoys of them) with rifles, hunters, and death.

I need to understand how the SA government would allow us to open the park borders to Botswana if they were aware that hunting, in a national reserve, was permitted even if it was “controlled”. It does not make any sense as all that is happening is that the SA animals are beginning to migrate that way and are being killed off. Which also means that SA is financing Botswana’s hunting trade. Which possibly means that our ministers also go on hunting trips with their Botswana counterparts. I would call it “legalised corruption”. Could it also be possible that Botswana Parks people are baiting animals across to their side of the reserve? If it’s true, the park is doomed as it is no longer self-sustainable under these conditions, as it had been until the frontier was opened up.


At Kaa, there is a cold-water camp shower available to us and everyone, except Steph, Rea and Anna, has a shower. It is cold, but it’s great. The ladies want to get to our next camp, Lang Rambuka, warm some water, and use the portable camping shower instead.

The rest of the drive to Lang Rambuka is, as usual, boring and there is nothing of great interest to see. We get to camp around 14h30 and camp is set up quickly, refined over the duration of the trip.

The “first drink” goes down nicely and is cold, and the second goes down even better.

A few of us take a walk out onto the “dry” pan in front of us to find that it is not as dry as it looks. Some places are bone dry with no moisture, or so it looks. The animals, however, find patches where there are layers, an inch of dust on top, then a four-inch layer of damp sand, and from there down, totally dry again. They paw open a shallow patch, let water seep into the hole, then drink from that. As Attie and I discuss and agree later, the water will continue to flow at a constant level, until the animals paw through the damp layer, upon which the water will just seep away into the dryness below. These animals might look dumb, but they are survivors and have to be clever to survive in those conditions.

We dig a hold next to the animal’s hole, a little deeper, to see if we can emulate their digging, and will go back in the morning to look at the results (as it turns out, we forgot to go back and have a look at the hole, so do not know what the results were).

Aside from a few Gemsbok, the only animals we have seen at this camp are a cute field mouse, which was given a helping of peanuts, and a lonely jackal that howled to itself on the pan before sunset. Usually they are only heard after dark, and sometimes through the night.

We have a braai for dinner, and somehow the “Smash” (powdered mash potatoes) Rea makes doesn’t quite fit in the bush environment, but it warmly fills the hole in our bellies.

As I had predicted, the rain comes. Just a light shower, but enough to put Steph and Rea off having their shower. It is, however, heavy enough for Attie to erect his camping gazebo and for us all to gather under it for dinner, a chat and a couple of drinks, including a fine Port we had bought from the Orange River Cellars in Keimoes.

At around 21h00, we call it a night and crawl into our respective tents, hoping for a peaceful night and a good sleep.

I have come to know what it must feel like for the animals out in the bush, having only a flimsy tent over us, knowing that it is very precarious living in this environment, not knowing whether you will have an encounter with a predator and, thus, not sleeping too well at night. The rest of them have a dig at me and a laugh at this, but I know their laughter is also a sign of personal nervousness and that they have similar fears in the back of their minds.

With the wind suddenly picking up, I’m going to try and get some sleep…it’s 21h40 and tomorrow we head back to Polentswa and the end of the second wilderness loop.

Saturday 15th May

The flapping of Anna’s laundry on the line through the night made a few of us lose some sleep, possibly only she didn’t lose any as she slept in the Pajero again, for the second night in a row. It appears Anna’s inflatable mattress has developed a slow leak and she would prefer to sleep in the vehicle rather than have Johan try to find the leak and fix it.

We had no visitors again, thankfully, and awoke to a breezy dawn, with rain threatening. However, the rain held off until we were well into the bush, probably an hour after we had had our coffee and packed away the camp.

What started off as a patchy drizzle, ended in a steady downpour towards the end of the 80km trail and, at Polentswa, into a torrent.

Coming off the trail, we had about twenty kilometres to go on the main road towards Nossob before turning onto the Polentswa trail, and the heavy rain made for some fun driving in the slippery conditions, with both vehicles hanging their back ends out on occasions, controlled by counter-steering.

At camp, we found our campsite and, in pouring rain, erected two tents and a connecting gazebo then carried them out to their pitch sites. It was not easy to get them lined up in the rain, but thanks to Attie’s experience, we managed in the end, but got soaked in the process.

The Pajero came along while we were doing all this and those three didn’t even get out of the car for the first fifteen minutes, and just sat and watched us. I couldn’t blame them though, as the weather was atrocious and bitingly cold. The four of us knew they weren’t going to hang around and pitch a tent in the rain and, suspicions confirmed, Johan told us they were heading for Nossob to see if they could hire a chalet for the night. We told them we would not expect them back if they were not back by dark.

After completing this trip, I can confidently say that the rumour that a rainbow ends at a pot of gold is a crock of shit, as this one ended over our toilet.

After the others left, we arranged our chairs and tables under the lean-to, erected a tarpaulin to keep out some of the rain and wind, then proceeded to put away a couple of bottles of white muscatel and OBS. There was also a good measure of brandy and Coke, some scotch, and more OBS drunk. Between us, we ate a can of soup each, sharing all four among us as they were all different flavours. Attie and Steph put together a chicken potjie, with couscous for starch, which was very tasty and warmed us all to the bones.

Following dinner, sunset was upon us and the usual evening photos and video were taken. There was a full rainbow in the dying light thanks to the sun in front, and the rain behind us.

Due to the wet and cold, we didn’t stay up much after 7pm (perhaps it was also the alcohol that closed some eyes) and went for the relative warmth of our sleeping bags.

The wind was still blowing but died somewhere through the night. I wanted to do some writing but gave up as Steph and I were sharing my ¾-size inflatable mattress as hers had sprung a leak a day ago, which we could not find. It was too uncomfortable to lie with a headlight on my head, propped up on my right elbow and write left-handed so I decided to try and get some sleep, expecting to hear the lions grumbling into the night and lose some sleep to that.

The night went by quietly, the only noise coming from jackals howling at each other in the near pitch-darkness throughout the night.

Again, I was awake sometime in the early hours, partly because I’d gone to sleep early and also because my arse was on the ground as my mattress had also started deflating. I stayed on the mattress though, thinking that my weight would push the remaining air to Steph’s side and she would be comfortable.

As it happens, the mattress had deflated to such an extent that Steph’s butt was also on the ground, and both our heads and feet were cushioned on the leftover air for the rest of the night.

I didn’t look at my watch to see the time, at any time I’d woken through the night on the whole trip, in case I got disillusioned with the time left before dawn that I’d have to stare at the tent roof light. I prefer to try and fall asleep again instead of tossing and turning for the few hours.

Dawn broke chilly, as the wind had picked up again and the hot coffee was very welcome in our cold hands.

Breaking up camp and, in particular, the tents was done hurriedly as the rain returned and we didn’t quite get everything packed away in time and the tent was damp when we tucked it into its bag for the trip back Twee Rivieren, and our last night in the park.

On the road back to Nossob to meet the rest of our troop, the rain cleared away and the sun came out, making the trip more enjoyable, though we didn’t see much in the way of animals.

Meeting the others, we decided to travel the 220km in convoy, rather than going separate ways. As it turns out, it was probably just as well…

At a leg-stretch stop, I got talking to an elderly guy towing a trailer and it happens to be that he and his wife are on their way to Botswana via the Kaa gate, the way we had just come over the last few days and I told him about the weather he may still experience. In return, he told me we may be in for a treat, as 60km to the south, they had seen three male lions lying very close to the road. Needless to say, the convoy took off in the direction of the sighting, barely at the Park speed limit of 50km/h, to see if we can find them. After roughly an hour, we find nothing and I wonder aloud if the old man hadn’t been “leading us around the bush”, but a few kilometres further we spot two cars close to the road’s edge and are very happy when we see a young male lion lazing in the sun with his two brothers about 15m away, also sleeping.

We pull up slowly, turning off the engine to try and not disturb the sleeping beasts, but the first one raises his head to see what the commotion is and then goes back to sleep.

Cameras are clicking and video is turning as we all take our shots. Aside from the lone lion a week before, and having heard lions almost nightly, these are the only other lions we have seen, and this on the last day in the Park.

While we were watching the sleeping cats, Steph points to two little creatures coming in behind, and to the right of the lions, and asks what they are. I look up from the DVD viewfinder to see two honey badgers (Ratels, in Afrikaans) approaching and think we may be in for some fun. However, the two look like they know there are lions on the other side of the dead tree and give it a wide berth, going off to the left. The first lion, which has since moved in behind his brothers, lifts his head, possibly when he smelled the badgers going past, but looks at them disinterestedly for a while, then lies his head down again.

After about twenty minutes, Attie and us decide to drive on as a couple of us needed to pee and the nearest loo was about 10km further. Johan’s crowd decide to stay a while and take more lion photos.

Episode 5 - last one - coming up

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari - Episode 3

Even better, it has a brick shithouse and a shower, which is fed by borehole water! Needless to say, we all praise the Botswana government for a change.

With the tents set up, we all settle down for an evening drink and a view of the dry pan in front of our elevated position.

There is a large clan of flat-tailed ground squirrels resident in the camp and their antics and begging brings out the raw peanuts that Rea had bought a few days earlier. Some of the squirrels even run away with loads of nuts stuffed in their cheeks, taking them back to their underground burrows, perhaps to feed pups.

Rea and Mariet get a couple of nipped fingers for not feeding some of the squirrels fast enough at times but it does not stop them carrying on, despite the protests of making beggars out of them from the ever-practical men-folk.

The heat of the day brings on a thunderstorm and we think we are going to get hammered by it. The cumulonimbus clouds pack themselves into a thunderhead and there are lightning strikes in the distance. The sky, however, is not completely covered by the clouds and the sun shining through from the west lights up the sky in dramatic fashion.

Steph decides to make a lamb curry for dinner and the smell makes everyone hungry. It takes about two hours to prepare but is worth the wait and even Johan has some of it.

Because of the hyena experience the night before, we don’t want to leave cleaning up too late but still end up clearing everything away after dark. Tonight though, there are no hyenas, but the camp comes alive again at the lonely calling of a male lion. Attie, Johan and I immediately go into defensive mode, arming ourselves with strong-beamed torches, so that we can track its movements if the lion appears. The women, on the other hand, want to walk out into the bush to meet the fucking thing and go all ga-ga like they did with the hyenas.

The lion roars a couple of more times into the night, each time a little closer to our camp, but he does not make an appearance before we go to bed at about 10pm.

I lie awake for a while expecting to hear the lion padding around the lean-to but the only visit we have that night is from a jackal, scavenging for scraps. Remember that the only camp we stayed in during our entire visit to the park, which had a fence around it, was Twee Rivieren. The other camps had nothing more than a cleared area in front of them and, beyond that, virgin bush. We were roughing it big-time.

It is cold when we get up and I’ve had another restless night. When I first drift off to sleep, the sleep is deep but then I wake about four hours later and toss and turn before drifting off again, this time with strange dreams. There is a cold mist over the pan but it soon burns off with the rising sun and we all crowd into the sun’s rays, rusks and steaming cups of coffee in cold hands. We pack up camp relatively slowly as we only have about 77km to travel that day.

About 10km out of Mpayathutlwa Camp, Attie leading, he suddenly pulls half off the road and I see why. There is a solitary male lion walking down the road directly towards them.

I pull off to the left as well and motion Johan, behind me, to do the same but he stays in the road. This probably made the lion turn into the long grass and continue to walk past us, about 20m away. We’re all taking video and photos, trying to reverse at the same time, and not hit each other’s vehicles too. General chaos, for a while, brought on by the first sighting of a lion on the trip.

Johan has the wrong lens on his camera and later decides he should have pulled off so that we could have passed him to continue taking shots. I get some good video footage of the lion moving towards Attie’s car and into the bush, but only three side-on photos as Johan was trying to get into position himself. Attie has had no chance to take photos so I pull off to let him go past, but Johan blocks his way and he can go no further. All this jockeying for position is being done in reverse gear, using side view mirrors, and is not very easy to pull off, but we do and escape without and accidents.

Next, a Botswana ranger vehicle, which we had seen earlier down at the pan, pulls up behind Johan and blocks our progress further. The lion sees his chance and comes back onto the road, gives a short trot to get away and then carries on at a walk, heading for the pan we had just come from, as if he is relieved to be away from us. The rangers block the road completely, turn their vehicle around, then follow the lion further. We, on the other hand, have a long way to go for the day so we leave them to it.

The 77km drive to Mosomane Camp drags out long and hot as there is nothing other than a few large, dry, pans to be seen. There are absolutely no animals to be seen along this entire stretch. Because of this, we cover the mileage very quickly and are able to chill out for a few hours in the afternoon sunshine.

Mosomane Camp is one of the most picturesque we have visited, thanks to a pan which is brimming with water along most of its shoreline. We see a few Gemsbok and Red Hartbees on the west of the pan, but most interesting of all is the dead tree on the opposite side from us, full of white vultures. We also saw a pair of black-back vultures as we arrived at the pan earlier.

Walking along the edge of the water, presumably hunting, I spot a juvenile Martial Eagle, resplendent in its spotted white livery. It later moves up onto the branch of a dead tree, most probably to avoid being hunted during the night itself.

In the late afternoon, Attie and Johan download photos and videos onto their laptops and, when it is dark, we have a slide show of what we have taken so far. Between us, we have some amazing photos and video, all of which will be amalgamated into a single DVD, which we will all be copied on. There will probably be three versions of the DVD as Attie, Anna and I will all produce a version each. Each one will turn out to be very different from the next, I am sure, even though the same photos and video will form the raw footage to be used.

The sunset over the pan is quite dramatic, as have been most of the sunsets so far. The colours are quite amazing and there are a number of photos snapped by all of us.

For once, we do not hear any animals at night, and the darkness screams silence at us. For the first time, there are Cicada beetles chirping in the trees, an indication that it’s quite warm and I end up sleeping in only a pair of shorts, with no blanket over the sleeping bag. Sleep, however, comes easily but I am still left staring at the tent roof a few hours later.

We are awake early as the drive to our next camp, Polentswa, is to be about 174km long. Coffee and rusks are taken quickly and camp is squared away into the vehicles with practiced expertise.

The road is quite driveable with not too many corrugations, but there is no interesting game to be seen. Attie and I talk at a leg-stretch stop and we decide we need to start pushing the convoy a little faster to get to Nossob, and then Polentswa, our next camp, before 6pm and dark respectively.

We stop briefly in Nossob for the refuelling then head back up the road to Polentswa. The road is in surprisingly good condition, except for the last eight kilometres, which is again corrugated. We make good time because of the initial stretch of the road.

Polentswa Camp is set up the same as Mosomoane Camp, except that the toilet is open air and there is no running borehole water for the shower or wash basin. Tent spots are quickly decided on and the camp goes up like a well-oiled machine.

“First drinks” are taken, even though we had had a couple of quick ones at Nossob after the long drive. The cost of those drinks, and the fuel, is ridiculous but the camp management have a captive audience, so can charge whatever they like. A litre of diesel, usually about ZAR8/litre at home, is ZAR9.07, and a can of Hunters Dry cider, about ZAR6 each, is ZAR10.50. What a rip-off. Needless to say, we need both so end up paying the mob their blood money.

We light a charcoal fire before dark as we have no more firewood and it takes a little longer to get going than usual but it gets done and we braai a mixture of lamb chops and tenderised steak. Anna, on the other hand, is a vegetarian and has a samp and soya mince TV dinner warmed next to the fire.

Again, we hear a lion grumble into the night on the other side of the pan and there’s excitement in the hope that he’ll come over this way. Again, we’re not that lucky and our lion viewings are still totalled at a grand “one”.

According to the Sightings Board in Nossob, Polentswa has had a number of lion encounters recently, but it appears we may not be too lucky though I may be tempting fate by writing this.

The night is colder than usual perhaps because we are on a slight decline down to the pan. I feel the cold through the night and maybe that’s why I don’t sleep too well, but I can’t sleep with restrictive clothing inside a sleeping bag, or a beanie on my head.

The dawn chorus wakes early again, despite my please yesterday to be able to sleep late seeing as we are staying two nights at Polentswa and don’t need to move early. No such luck.

Hot coffee and rusks for breakfast again, but the coffee is the “good stuff” and goes down welcomingly warm.

The others make ready to go for a game drive-cum-water hunt, as we are running low on non-drinking water, primarily used for washing dishes, but Steph and I stay behind for a bush shower. We have not showered since Mpayathutlwa and the light sprinkling of warm water feels good to the touch.

Attie and Rea come back from their drive, waterless. The only water they had found was at an animal waterhole and it was chocolate brown, useless for anything other than drinking water for the beasts.

We all have a bacon and egg sandwich, with a beer, for brunch then Attie and I fix one of his camping chairs, which had broken the night before, with a piece of wire. Cheap Chinese crap chairs.

Attie puts the radiator seed net onto his vehicle, rather late than never. I put mine on before we left Twee Rivieren, just in case, and there’s been quite a bit of grass caught in it so I’m happy I did it back then.

I do some running repairs to the second battery system which had jumped loose of the locking blocks on some part of the bumpy roads we’d be on the day before. I also topped up the engine oil, which was a little lower than required.

Suddenly, excitement returns with a bang…and a slither. A 1.5m Cape cobra was spotted climbing the tree in front of the lean-to we are sitting under. It is one of the deadliest snakes in the world and one of the main reasons why tent zips are always kept closed. Where it came from, we don’t know, as we only saw it moving up the tree as a bright yellow line. The tree mice and a lizard scatter in the opposite direction from the snake as it dips its head into a hole in the tree, presumably the mice nest. Whether there are any babies being eaten, we do not know, as we cannot see the snake’s crop bulging.

A lot of video and photos later and we watch the snake move away from our camp. The mice are also watching from a branch as we are not their primary concern anymore. The snake eventually finds its way down to the ground, having tried a number of different routes. It crawls off into the bush and towards the next tree, probably following a feeding pattern it has grown accustomed to.

Steph and I take an early afternoon game drive back to the “Bedinkt” waterhole but the only interesting thing we see is a Tawny Eagle on a tree branch.

For dinner, Steph makes a Bobotie and everyone wants the recipe, but they can buy it on the back of the spices packet, which form the spicy base of the dish. Needless to say, it goes down a treat and is really tasty. It also makes a change from the usual braais we have.

The evening is cool and we pack most of the stuff back in the cars for an early departure the next morning.

I treat everyone to a Laphroaig scotch, my favourite, and a couple of lines about Scottish culture and the Douglas Clan, then we all head for bed around 10pm. I decide to keep my jersey on for the night for the first time on the trip but I find it restrictive and difficult to sleep in, though warm.

Thursday 13th May

Up at 06h30, thirty minutes later than planned, but nobody minds. Water is boiled for coffee and tents and sleepwear are packed away. We hear stories of lions calling into the night but the only things I had heard were jackals, and plenty of them, from opposing sides of the pan.

The drive to our next camp, Sesatswe, starts sedately, but I lift the pace when we don’t see and interesting creatures or lions where we had expected to see them from the callings of the previous night. Otherwise, we only see the “usuals”.

Coming over a hill, we suddenly come upon a pan, which is covered in an inch of water over the whole thing, and we decide to take a break. There are lots of what look like Shoveller Crabs at the edge of the water, all about 2cm in length.

We soon find out why the pan is called “Tweeling Rambuka” (Twin Rambuka) as there are two pans, separated by a narrow, muddy channel, which we have to drive through.

Without really thinking twice, or surveying the channel properly, I drop the gearbox into 4WD Low Range and head into the channel. Almost immediately I feel the back end sinking and I floor the accelerator. The front of the Mazda-rati starts sliding to the left a bit but eventually grips the harder bottom and we get through with a bit of mud sprayed up Steph’s side of the car.

The other two vehicles use my tracks, as is the norm with going through such obstructions, and I get some good DVD footage of Johan coming through the stinking mud.

The rest of the drive is boring but we bounce across a series of bumps that just about rearranges everything in the back, and the second battery slides back into the switch panel and pushes the live wire isolator out of the wooden panel, cracking the panel in the process. That’s the only damage though, so it’s not too bad.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari - Episode 2

We arrived at Augrabies at about 4pm and Attie phoned Johan to see where they were, expecting a long wait. To our surprise though, they were literally five minutes behind us, just turning off the main road we’d just come off.

Once we were all checked in through the gate, we did some quick introductions and moved off to reception to check in and get the camp set up. John’s team were having a chalet for the night so they didn’t have much to do.

After setting up camp, we all went down to the waterfalls to see how much water was crashing over the rocks, but it was a little disappointing having seen some photographs taken a few weeks earlier of some major flooding. It was still awesome to see the falls again though.

After the walk, we sat down at the pub veranda and had a quick drink to “break the ice”. Later in the evening, we went round to the chalet for a braai and a few drinks, and a very pleasant evening.

The night wasn’t too cold, but maybe we’re just getting used to the chilly evenings and are dressing properly for them.

I’ve woken before dawn on every morning of the trip so far, usually by birds chirping or, in this case, the water crashing over the falls, which are about 300m from the tent. It’s 11oC in the tent but it’s probably the chill factor from the water that makes it this cold. A quick cup of coffee and we start packing up…again. The other three go to catch the morning sun on the waterfalls but I finish packing the car and then go for a warm shower.

Just outside Keimoes, we stop at a little place called “Die Pienk Padstal” (The Pink Road Stall) for Steph to have a look around, and to buy some more biltong. I’m sure the residents of Keimoes must be embarrassed by the place, as it is garishly colourful compared to the rest of the town which is adorned with more rational colours.

By 10am we are at Augrabies reception, as planned, to drive up to where we are as I write this, the Twee Rivieren camp in the KNTP. We have to drive through Upington and we meet up with the others after buying a little more meat…just in case we run out. We had planned our meals down to what we were going to eat each night, but a little extra would not be wasted. We had arranged to meet at the statue of a donkey (a proper one this time) and, after driving up and down the main street looking for a big-ass statue (pun intended), we phone Attie to find out where he is. Turns out, the statue is off the main road, two blocks away and the damn thing is only four feet high, made of bronze. I never would have found it on my own, so thank fuck for cell phones, for a change.

The drive to Twee Rivieren is monotonous, and there is 255km of monotony. It used to be a nice road to travel before it was tarred, as you literally drove on the red sand dunes, making the drive feel like you were riding a boat over waves. Now, it’s b..o..r..i..n..g… Some things are better left unchanged. The upgraded road may also have had something to do with the deterioration of the roads within the park, now that non-4x4 vehicles have easy access to the park. Two wheel drive vehicles and the over-inflation of their wheels ensure that the road becomes corrugated and it is terrible to drive on, like an old washboard. I say all non-4x4 vehicles should be banned from the park as this would go a long way to keeping the roads in good condition. Driving in four-wheel drive mode ensures that you don’t spin the wheels, a major contribution to the corrugation of the roads.

Check-in on the South African side of the park is a breeze. Literally, it takes us fifteen minutes to register all three vehicles and seven people.

Then we have to register at the Botswana side because we’re spending seven nights in their half of the park. What a fuck up…should have been expected though. Some guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing, looks at all the documentation like he knows what he’s doing, then calls over a woman and mutters something in Tswana. She then takes over and again looks over all the papers, asks Attie for 6,000 Pula (Botswana currency), to which Attie produces an officially posted and stamped receipt for the exact amount. This just about puts her nose out of joint because he’s stolen her thunder and makes her look less clever than her not-so-intelligent counterpart, who is following her every movement. She takes the receipt and goes off to phone someone to confirm the payment. Meanwhile, the counterpart comes back for another look at the papers we’ve just filled in and smiles at us. She comes back, we fill in the Vehicle Register and get shown to another desk to fill in another book. This guy smiles at us, speaks in pretty good English, but all the while lets us know in no uncertain terms, that we’re going onto his turf.

Total time spent at the Botswana side: 45 minutes!!

The difference between the two sides? SA has computers and people who know what they’re doing. Botswana has books and people who have attitude problems…idiots.

Smiley asks us to come around with the vehicles but we don’t know why and cannot find a way round the building, so we ignore him and go to set up our camp. Smiley and the woman come looking for us about a half hour later and give us a paper, which we have supposedly forgotten. There are smiles all round, we say thanks and they go on their merry way…idiots.

The first beer of the afternoon, after setting up camp, is always an occasion and we all sit down and enjoy a cold one. That ZAR5,300 fridge is already worth every investment cent for those cold beers.

We can only get two stands next to each other in Twee Rivieren, so Johan takes one closer to the ablution block while we take two next to the road. I know we’re going to get woken early because all the “race car drivers” queue up early to see who can get out the gate first at 07h00 when it opens into the reserve proper. It doesn’t matter as we want to get up reasonable early to go for a game drive ourselves.

The only notable sighting was one we made of a leopard, walking along a cliff and marking its territory with the occasional squirt of urine. We got some video footage on my DVD camera, but did not take any photos of the beautiful beast.

The park used to be called the Kalahari Gemsbok Park and, IMO, should have retained its old name due to the abundance of the beast it was originally named after, the Gemsbok. They are magnificent antelopes, with beautiful shades of black, grey and white making up their markings. In this park, they are as plentiful as the Impala in the Kruger National Park.

We also see plenty of these little creatures, the Black-backed Jackal. They are like little dogs and, compared to previous animals of the same species, seem to have become tamer and are less afraid of vehicles and people. Perhaps they relate people and cars to food scraps.

We have a great first evening in the park, a braai, a couple of beers, a couple of Captain Morgan’s, and some good chat among people who, after only two nights together, are fast becoming good friends.

To explain the people, other than Steph and I, goes as follows: Attie is married to Rea, who has known Anna since she was nine years old. Anna is the sister of Johan, who is married to Mariet. They have all known each other for many years. Anna lives in Simonstown, just down the road from us, while Johan and Mariet live in Richards Bay and are retired, while Anna runs a Tibetan Tea House in Simonstown. Rea and Anna went to Tibet a few years ago together. Johan and Mariet have just sold their house in Richards Bay and are moving to Simonstown in the next couple of months.

L to R: Steven, Steph, Rea, Attie, Mariet, Anna, Johan

The main thing is, they are all really nice people and we all get on well, so it looks like we’ve made more friends, which is good for us, as we’ll probably, end up going camping together more often.

At the end of the evening, we all retire to our tents for another cool night, but we know what to expect by now.

True to form, we’re woken by the first “race car driver” taking his place on the line at 06h30 so I get up and put on the coffee pot, which has become my chore while Steph gets herself pretty for the day ahead.

At 07h00 the race into the reserve begins and there must have been about a dozen cars that left shortly after the gates opened. We have our coffee, get our cameras and snacks ready, then head into the veld as well.

There’s not much to see, no cats, but plenty of what the park is famous for, Gemsbok. Magnificent beasts, easily six feet in height excluding the ramrod-straight horns, which must be another four feet as well, with the most amazing black, white and grey colouring.

We see a few animals such as ostrich (yes, I know it’s a bird), giraffes, Red Hartbees (also known as a Topi), some ground squirrels, yellow mongoose, springbok, wildebeest (black and blue), and a bunch of birds including a hunting Pale Chanting Goshawk, which walks along the ground flushing mice and lizards out of their hiding places.

We have a pit stop at a siding and a leg stretch, and then head back to camp for a chilled day. On the way back, Steph drives and we come across a black-backed jackal on the prowl. I take some photos and Johan moves in front of us to take a turn. At that point, the jackal walks across the road between the two cars, stops, looks at them and us, then moves off into the bush…and I get it all on DVD. The light is perfect and the bright blue sky against the brown road and white Pajero, makes the video perfect. I’m well chuffed and show it to everyone when we get back to camp. Anna wants a copy.

We laze around for the rest of the day, do some laundry and I catch up on this journal to this point.

We have an early start in the morning as we have a long drive ahead because we could not get a booking at the next camp and have to move into the Botswana side where there are going to be absolutely no facilities other than what we have with us, for three days. It promises to be interesting as there are no formal camps. I overheard a guy at Reception asking the Botswana lady if there were facilities at Motopi and she had said, “No, it is just a tree”.

That “tree” is our first night’s stop on the Botswana side of the park.

Attie has just finished looking at the maps, deciding on our route and speed, and we’re about to have a briefing, then an early braai and then pack most of the stuff so that we can be the first “race car” in line on Saturday morning. “Gentlemen, start your engines…”

Sunday 9th May (Happy Mothers Day)

We get woken, fifteen minutes before my alarm goes off, by Anna trying to get everyone up. Thanks for that, Anna…

I get the coffee on and we start dismantling the tent. Most of the other stuff had been packed away the previous night to save time.

We had planned to leave at 07h00 when the gates opened, to cover the 270km to Motopi Camp, in as little time as possible. The last 100km was going to be done with half the normal tyre pressure because of the sandy terrain.

The road to Nossob camp, our turning point into Botswana, was like driving over a washboard, corrugated to hell. The only real highlight of the route was the leopard sighting that I managed to get on DVD even though I battled to reverse the car and film him at the same time. Steph really has to learn to use the various cameras we have so that I can focus on getting the car into position for the best shots. Then we’d both be happier and less stressed with each other than we can be at times.

When we turned off the main road, we stopped to deflate the tyres to 1.2bar and carried on into the dunes. The first kilometre or so was a lot of uphill as we moved onto a higher plateau. This is into real 4x4 country and it’s great to put the Mazda-rati (and myself) to the test. Trying to stay at 30km/h is not easy on the corrugations but we are going to take about four hours to cover the 100km to Motopi Camp.

There is almost no animal life in this part of the world except for the “usual suspects”, but we try and find something interesting anyway.

We get to Motopi Camp 1 and it is already occupied by people, but we are booked into Motopi 2, a further 10km through the bush.

We arrive at camp sometime around 5pm and get the living quarters sorted out before dark. Food tonight is a stir-fry and the smell of cooking has brought us some visitors…hyenas. I heard twigs breaking as they crept closer and I am immediately at full alert because I don’t trust them at all. They have the most powerful jaws in the entire animal kingdom and must be respected. These beasts are also not pure scavenger, they will hunt and kill if they are hungry enough or if they sense a weakness they can exploit. In larger numbers, they have also been known to steal a fresh kill from a pride of lions.

Our women, however, think they are cute and that the situation is fun, and start moving closer to the beasts, talking to the hyenas all the time. They, however, have only one thing in mind…our dinner, or at least, something to eat. At one point we are less than 10m from the animals and Attie and I are trying to get people to see reason, that these are hungry wild animals.

There are three hyenas that we can see but, at one point, a female makes a growling noise and we hear a softer bark in return from within the bush, perhaps a pup or two. The hyenas move back into the bush for a while but reappear to our right and come around the back of us, looking for a gap, again to within 10m.

We end up guzzling our food so that we can get the camp and, more importantly, the food squared away for the night. Once this is done, we cram as much as we can into the vehicles so that there is no further temptation for the night predators to come back.

We also get some light rain, which puts a slight damper on discussions, but as quickly as it starts, the rain is over and we bring our chairs out again and sit around the campfire.

By now the hyenas are gone but I don’t think they went too far, probably just out of visual range then waited until we went to bed as we find paw prints through the camp when we get up the following morning.

Before we go to bed though, we sit under the stars for a bit, talking, and then hit the sack at about 10pm. For once, I sleep through and wake at around 6am, with the rest of the gang not far behind me.

Breakfast is a quick coffee’n’rusk affair as we want to try and catch some game in the open before it gets too hot and they retire to the protection of the trees. We drive around a couple of dry “pans” (waterholes) but there is only a few buck to be seen.

The drive to our next camp, Mpayathutlwa, is unexciting with very few sightings, only the “usuals”. We drive past a camp called Bosobogolo, but because there are no animals to be seen, I rename the camp “Bos-o-buggerall-o”.

The Mazda-rati’s air conditioner cannot keep up with the ambient heat and by 2pm is blowing hot air and it is cooler in the black car to wind the window down and feel the breeze blowing through the cab.

Mpayathutlwa is a nice camp with a wooden lean-to for sheltering camping tables, and ourselves, from the afternoon heat.

Episode 3 coming tomorrow...

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari - Episode 1

As per the SANParks website, the Kgalagadi is:

“Where the red dunes and scrub fade into infinity and herds of gemsbok, springbok, eland and blue wildebeest follow the seasons, where imposing camel thorn trees provide shade for huge black-mane lions and vantage points for leopard and many raptors... this is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. An amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa (proclaimed in 1931) and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares – one of very few conservation areas of this magnitude left in the world.

Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob show antelope and predator species off to spectacular advantage and provide excellent photographic opportunities. Kgalagadi is also a haven for birders, especially those interested in birds of prey.”

On the map below, the blue line is the route we followed through the Park.

Thursday 6th May

Although a few days into the trip, this is the first opportunity I have had to write, hence the date. The trip actually started on Monday 3rd May, but I will catch up here.

I set the alarm to go off at 07h00 but was woken by Steph chomping at the bit to go for a pee at 06h55. I lay still in bed, an inflatable mattress that has been “bed” for the last three nights, until the alarm went off. I had set my watch the night before, not knowing if I would wake in time. We had arranged to meet at Augrabies National Park reception area for the drive through to Twee Rivieren (on the SA side, but known as Two Rivers on the Botswana side – how petty), the entry point to the Kgalagadi National Transfrontier Park (KNTP), at 10h00. This would be the real start to the adventure we had been on for the last four days.

To go back a bit and catch up on those last four days, we had left Sunnydale just before 11am on Monday morning, a little later than either Attie or I would have liked. Unfortunately, it was beyond our control, as Steph had had to take Doberman Duke to the Vet. Duke had had a strange cough for a couple of days that sounded much like a human “croup” cough. A friend of mine on the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), a Vet as well, said that Doberman’s were prone to a “heart cough” and we should have him seen by a Vet. As it turns out, we had to have Duke sent for an ECG scan and it was discovered that his heart muscle is damaged and that we basically do not know how much longer he has to live. He is only eight years old and Steph had expected to have him around for at least twelve years. Also, his heart rate was supposed to be about seventy beats per minute, but his was almost two hundred. He has always been highly strung, but even I think that is a bit high. How long he still has to live, we are not sure, but he is on medication to calm him down a bit.

Anyway, we get on the road, fully packed for fifteen days away from home, the Mazda-rati looking like it is sitting on its arse, the back is so low. Mother has flown in from Mtwalume to look after the animals so that we can go on our first real holiday in over eighteen months since moving to Cape Town. She also brings a friend, Sylvia, with her for company and Sylvia pays her own flight which is just as well as I estimate I’ve spent at least ZAR15k getting ready for the holiday, excluding Mum’s flight, another ZAR1,200.

I have personally installed a second battery system in the Mazda-rati, built a box to contain the 143amp/hour deep cell battery, strung the cables along the chassis from the front battery, affixed all the connectors, wired all the Hella plugs for lights and gadgets, installed the Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) switches to volt and amp meters to monitor power consumption, run a cable back through from the second battery to a special board I built for the new Snomaster fridge/freezer which is installed where the back seat usually is, and ultimately made sure we have enough power to run the whole lot while we are in the Kalahari Desert, starting in a couple of days. However, in the process of drilling the hole back to the cab for the fridge, I also managed to drill through four wires of the wiring harness, thereby cutting off feeds to my fuel gauge and brake lights. I now have to watch the odometer carefully to see when I have to fill up with diesel again – no real problem but a pain in the arse, as I now do not have a warning light to let me know when fuel is running low. Having no brake lights has not proved too much of an issue, yet. Also, I still do not know what is supposed to be connected to the other two of the four wires I cut as everything else works fine, as far as I can see.

From the KNTP, we headed east to Keimoes, a quaint wine producing town on the banks of the mighty Orange River, the “blood” of the region. If it wasn’t for this river and the industries it supports, the region would be a complete desert, devoid of most human activity and, probably, still in the hands of the indigenous Xhoisan people (the Bushmen). Maybe not altogether a bad thing, come to think of it.

In Keimoes, we stop in at PEP Stores to buy a couple of cheap blankets, as our sleeping bags have barely kept us warm over the last few nights and Steph is complaining about being cold. I have slept in just my shorts and am not too bothered by the chill, but it might be different in the desert. I’m also not keen on sleeping in too much clothing, as it is restrictive to movement in the sleeping bag. I also buy a few other bits and pieces in Spar, such as glue for my shoe soles and instant coffee. Brewing the real stuff every morning, although tasty, is time-consuming.

Let’s go back another couple of days again…

From home, we drive via the Bainskloof Pass and its amazing scenery, through Ceres, onto the dirt roads to our first stopover, the Tankwa Karoo National Park. “Park” is a misnomer as one usually associates a park with swings and roundabouts, but here there’s only rugged 4x4 terrain, which is great in itself, and a rough road to our campsite for the night which, as it happens, is at the end of the road – literally. We can go no further as there is only bush after that point and even Livingstone himself would have had to hack his way through if he’d wanted to go further.

The area of the park we stop at is called “Langkloof” and is exactly that – in front of us is a long cliff. The riverbed below us probably hasn’t seen any water in years, it’s so dry.

The night temperature drops to 11oC overnight but is bearable, although I’m in a sleeping bag I haven’t used in ten years and struggle through the night now knowing how a dick feels when it’s crammed into a condom two sizes too small for it. Sleep starts easy but by 4am I’m straining my eyes in the dark looking for the tent roof and the light that swings from it. It is pitch dark in this part of the world as there is no ambient light from towns or cities for at least 100km in any direction. The earlier stargazing was a little disappointing as some cloud had moved in and spoiled the view.

Sitting in the early morning light, steaming cup of coffee in my hand, I was wondering if we were going to have this cold weather for the entire trip. The second night at Verneukpan (“Cheater’s Flats”) and the third at Augrabies National Park was just as cold, but here I am at Twee Rivieren on the fourth night at 23h26pm and I am lying half out of my sleeping bag in only a t-shirt and shorts. So far, this is the warmest night by a long way.

From Tankwa, we had a drive up the Ganagga Pass, and the weather had stayed cool, overcast most of the day until just before reaching Verneukpan.

We got to the entrance to the pan at about 4pm, after another bone-jarring trip over dirt roads, only to find the gate padlocked and having to drive 10km back the way we had come, to the farm to collect the key. It was just as well we went back as we also bought some much-needed firewood, not only for the braai but also to stoke the “donkey” (a modified steel cylinder containing water, heated by an external fire) for a hot shower the following morning, our first since leaving home.

As usual, the temperature dropped to 12oC overnight and the dawn broke chilly. After a quick breakfast of coffee and rusks, we made some toasted sandwiches for the road, Attie fired up the donkey and we started packing the vehicles and taking down the tents. Once the vehicles were packed, the shower was ready and we all took our turns. By the sound of it, it was only me who enjoyed the lukewarm water, but it was probably because I only take warm showers at home and do not need scalding hot water.

As we were waiting for Steph to finish her shower, unbelievably, on one of the driest places on earth it started raining. Just a fine sprinkle, but we could feel it on our heads.

And then it rained for most of the morning, also that fine drizzle.

I found this Praying Mantis warming itself on the black paintwork of the Mazda-rati in the early morning light. It’s the first of its kind that I’ve ever seen and its features were amazing, from the banded green and white rings on its legs, to the feathery antenna and the horn on the top of its head.

After stopping in Kenhardt for a late brunch (for which I had a vetkoek filled with curried mince, and black coffee) and to buy a couple of steel dinner plates because Steph didn’t like the plastic ones we’d packed, we headed for the Orange River Valley (ORV), Keimoes, Kakamas and, ultimately, Augrabies National Park where we would meet up with Johan, Mariet and Anna. They were driving in from Richards Bay to join us for the Kalahari leg of the trip.

I saw this horse standing next to a “Kokerboom” (Quiver Tree) to shelter from the drizzle. When I fed it an apple, it spat it out as it had probably never tasted something as sweet before. The Quiver Tree gets its name from the way the Xhoisan arrows used to stand out of their arrow quivers.

The ORV is a wine-producing region and due to the mostly dry nature of the weather, the day heat is good for ripening and sweetening the grapes. Their wine, IMO, is better than most of the famous Stellenbosch and Paarl wines.

We stop off in Keimoes to take photos of the old waterwheel, which back in the old days before pumps, was used to move water in the irrigation canal to water the vines. The man-made canal is about 100km long and feeds many of the farms in the region, and lies almost horizontal, therefore requiring the waterwheel to move the water in the canal otherwise it would stagnate.

That done, we head off through Kakamas, another one-horse town and through its single traffic light which, this time, is working. When I last passed through Kakamas about twelve years ago, it was either not working or had been switched off for the weekend.

Stand by for Episode 2, coming soon...