Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘safari’

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!!!

Tracks4Africa team
Tracks4Africa team

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!

Lunch at Moresons.Thank you J&M x

 

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!

Frosty morning in Calvinia

Frosty morning in Calvinia

 

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!

Morning game drive

Morning game drive

Our first lions

Wildebeast

Springbok battle

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!

 

 

Wildebeast diving in front of the car!

Wildebeast diving in front of the car!

 

 

Alan! Alan! Alan!

Alan! Alan! Alan!

 

Nothing like corrugated roads to loosen a new wheel bearing!

Nothing like corrugated roads to loosen a new wheel bearing!

 

Advertisements

Fiesta adventures in Zululand

Day 78

1,500 Fiesta Klms

Just back from our mini adventure – wow, driving in Africa is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Driving out of Durban was like being in Gran Turismo, everyone drives so fast and if you can’t keep up, then the polite thing to do is get out of the way and drive in the hard shoulder! Despite pushing the little fiesta up to 110km/hr, we soon realised that our place belonged firmly in the hard shoulder so pulled over to allow everything else to pass us. This would have been fine, except you are then faced with trying to dodge all the people, market stalls, animals that seemed to line the motorway despite being miles from anywhere. Coming from a place which has a population of only 20million, we can’t get over how many people there are here!

Our first destination was St Lucia, an incredible wetlands area and the first World Heritage site in South Africa. We arrived in the afternoon and although a blissful little place, unfortunately our accommodation was not what it looked like on the picture…well maybe it did 20years ago, but not now. Oh well, it was extremely cheap and once we’d fumed the room out with mozzie killer, it was just about bearable! It’s on nights like these we wish we had our comfy & clean bed in our tent! We are counting the days until Kylie is here! That said, it was pretty cool to sit on the balcony at night and here the hippos in the river just below us…our first African animal!

We took a boat trip the next day down the river to view the hippos close up – a fact i didn’t know was that hippos can’t swim! When you see them in the river, they are either standing in shallow water, or walking across the bottom and  jumping up to the surface now and then to take a breath!

Heading north we ventured up to our first game reserve – Hluhluwe-iMfolozi , the oldest reserve in Africa and credited with saving the white rhino from extinction. We stayed in Insinkwe bushcamp just outside the park – thankfully this one was fantastic! Driving into the park for the first time was exhilarating – you just didn’t know what would be around the next corner and being in a tiny fiesta only added to the excitement.  It must have been beginners luck, but in the first afternoon we saw 4 of the big 5 including both black and white rhino as well as giraffe, zebras and an assortment of different antelope. Our first encounter with an elephant however, was slightly terrifying, as we pulled up to the river’s edge, the dominant bull decided to charge out of the water straight towards the car in front of us. There was a mad panic as the cars all tried to get out the way, but luckily our little getaway car was amazing at reversing at high speed and we were soon able to breathe a sigh of relief! Our second close encounter was with a white rhino! Slowing down to check out 2 warthogs to our right, we didn’t realise that when they started running off, it wasn’t because of us, but a rhino charging full pelt towards us all from our left.  Fortunately, the rhino saw us and turned in time to miss our car (which is a miracle considering how bad their eyesight is) and i only saw him as his horn was about level with the passenger window! How we all missed each other i don’t know, but it certainly made for one hell of a first game drive!

We felt so privileged to have seen a number of rhinos on our trip they are under huge threat from poachers with the horn trade being bigger now than ever, fuelled predominantly by the demand for Chinese medicine. The game parks in South Africa are investing heavily to try and protect rhinos as much as possible and success stories of how many poachers have been caught or killed are banded about in the newspapers. However, with  rhino horn commanding such a high price it seems the risks are worth taking for poachers and the risk of getting caught is not a strong enough deterrent . If rhinos are to survive extinction,  there needs to be more focus  on tackling the source of the problem, not just the poachers who are simply supplying the demand.

After our animal encounters, we took the drive 4hours north to the battlefields, for a history lesson on the Anglo-Zulu & Boer wars. The scenery was just spectacular, with rolling green hills covered in lush long grasses – the livestock here look a lot healthier than those in WA! Driving through the rural villages, it’s hard not to be shocked by the poverty that sits just outside of the city. The disparity in wealth is unbelievable. From big mansions, well healed people and flash cars, to the small thatched circular huts , roaming cattle & ladies sitting on the verges cutting the grass with scythes.

We stayed in Dundee and were fortunate to meet Evan Jones the local historian who told us a lot about the history of the area and the battles at Islandwana and Rorkes drift, made famous by the film Zulu. He was keen to point out the inaccuracies of the film in detail, i didn’t like to say that i hadn’t seen it, but fortunately Rich had! He really helped to bring it all to life for us and made the visit to the battlefields a lot more interesting!

We’re now back at our base in Durban waiting for the car. Apparently it arrived on Tuesday, so we are now in constant contact with our agent to work out when it will be offloaded and through customs. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe not? This is Africa time now.

**Update as i post this. We found out yesterday that to get the car released we also needed the original copy of our ‘Bill of landing’ which we only have as a soft copy. The Australian shipping agent had failed to mention we would need this, so once again they have let us down and left us ill-prepared. Fortunately our shipping agent this side is being fantastic and has managed to arrange a permission to release without original paperwork and we could have the car by this afternoon!!

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

%d bloggers like this: