Onwards and upwards to the Kalahari
Day – 109:
KLMS – 17,256
It’s fair to say that the days following the robbery were a low point for us. Although we only lost a couple of items, it was straight off the back of a number of things going wrong and unexpected expenses which only added to the frustration of allowing ourselves to make such a silly mistake. It knocked our confidence at a critical time – a time when we should have been fully pumped about finally begining our African ascent, but we just felt pretty stressed!! We’d been so spoilt with our first few weeks in Africa, it felt like the rug had been pulled from under our feet. I realise now that this reality check was a good thing for us and after hitting the ground with a bump, we are more determined than ever to ‘get to the top’…even if at the time of writing there is no clear way out of the top unless Egypt, Libya and Tunisia sort themselves out soon!…but we’ll worry about that later!
So to brighten our moods we headed to Stellenbosch for a few days of wine tasting. While we were there we visited one of our sponsors, Tracks4Africa, who if you don’t know, have created a mapping software that is based off actual traveller waypoints. A constantly evolving map, it ensures that you always have the latest information on Points of Interest, road conditions, fuel stops, campsites etc. It really is something that we couldn’t live without, so it was great to meet Erin and founder, Johan to discuss our route and get loads of tips including their latest software updates. Thank you guys!!!
We were also treated to an amazing lunch at Moreson’s Bread&Wine restaurant in Franschoek by my very lovely brother Jon and his wife Michelle. That day we dined like kings – such amazing food and wine!! Would definitely recommend to anyone and spirits by now were well and truly lifted!
Heading up into the Northern Cape, was like driving across Australia again –wide open expanses of barren land with the road ahead going as far as the eye could see. And yet, despite the remoteness, we still often came across roadworks! Every so often, 5km sections would be closed for repairs and waiting times were around 20minutes! It took 3 ladies to manage each stop. The first waved the red flag as you approached, the second turned the sign from Go to Stop and the third would push a barrier or place a cone across the lane. Similarly, the roadworkers tended to have one guy digging, whilst 2 looked on. It seems in South Africa that many low-paid job roles are performed by at least 3 people! At least it tries to tackle the terrible unemployment rates. We soon got bored of the tarmac so headed off-piste onto an unsealed track, which took us through some fantastic rocky scenery, although as the weather turned for the worst and the rains began to fall, the road soon turned into a slippery, muddy mess. It was slow going, so by 3pm we were far from our planned destination so headed to the nearest town, Calvinia – our coldest night yet! I’m guessing that it got to around -5°C, as it was far colder than even our nights in Lesotho. In the morning, the tent was frozen inside and out – putting the tent away was not much fun at all, but at least there were hot showers to go and defrost in!
We drove the final KLMS to Upington the next day, one of the last frontier towns in South Africa where we would stock up on supplies before heading into the Kagalahdi NP. After driving through so much nothingness, Upington is a welcome change, on the banks of the Orange River so is surrounded by lush fields and vineyards. We found an awesome little camp on the banks of the river Orange and were lucky to meet the owner, Theo, who as it happened had spent 35years taking guided tours through Namibia! An evening with him and we had a route through our next country fully sorted!! We can’t wait to get there. Theo also had the coolest dog we’ve ever seen – a Boer Bull, which is like a ridgeback x Mastiff – just enormous!! As avid dog lovers we just adored her and even more adorable were her 3 week old puppies!! It took a lot of will power not to sneak one into our car, but we’ll definitely have to put in an order in for the next litter!
So fully stocked we headed up to the Kgaladari NP – or to pronounce it without the spitting – the Kalahari, 3.2million hectares of protected land that runs between South Africa and Botswana. Having only booked our camps last minute we could only find places in the more carefully managed South African side, which are still amazing but not as wild as the Botswana camps. So if you’re planning a trip make sure you book in advance, but as we’ll be heading to Bots soon, we weren’t too disappointed. We took a morning game drive on our first day – watching the sun rise over the frosty Kalahari was just spectacular, if a little chilly from the open game viewing Landrover! We learnt a lot from our guide so it was a well worth trip and on the way back we caught our first glimpse of a leopard – only a glimpse but so exciting to see our first big cat. The excitement of the morning continued when we went out later that day and found our first lions. 3 large females and 2 cubs lying blissfully asleep in the sun – we spent a wonderful afternoon just watching them. It’s amazing how warm it get’s in the day (25-30°C) enough to defrost you after a night of camping at -5°C!
We drove further north into the park for the next couple of nights. Driving slowly through the semi-arid desert, its amazing to see how much wildlife has adapted to cope with the dry conditions – for me the most beautiful of which, the G(H)emsbok –the Kings of the Kalahari. Watching them stride out across the plains, with the long straight horns, distinctive black and white markings and their tails flowing out behind them, they look like something you’d expect to see being ridden into battle in a Lord of the Rings film. We drove until sunset before returning to camp where we spent the evening with new friends Steve and Kate, an English couple out here on holiday. The night got rather merry and sitting out under the most star filled sky i’ve even seen was just incredible. We sat and listened to 2 lions calling each other. Although within a fenced camp, the noise gave us goosebumps – it was unreal. However, nothing prepared us for the next night when a lion came to within feet of the fence we were camped near and roared on and off throughout the night. I swear the roar vibrated through every part of my body and my heart pounded -i guess it was pure primal fear kicking in. I can’t begin to imagine how much more intense that feeling will be in Botswana when the noise isn’t going to be coming from behind a fence!