Thursday, 23 January 2014

Finally, we reach the Kgalagadi

Finally, we reach the Kgalagadi

After arriving at Kgalagadi, we drove to the Confluence waterhole and was met with this scene:  A few animals lurking in the shadows of the trees and the hollow skin of an Eland, telling the story of the Eland migration which saw the South Africa side's falling short in delivering enough water to the thousand or more Eland that trekked from the Botswana side and finished the water each night with the weakest of them not getting enough water,
This resulted in many deaths and a feast for the lions and other predators and a hollow Eland-skin every now and then along the road.  It seems that even the final cleanup brigade of the Kgalagadi, the Brown Hyenas, are too fat and lazy after the Eland slaughter to finally clean up the hollow skins from the place.

The Confluence waterhole on  7 November 2013.  It looked like this until 9 December when the rain came.

On the nigh of 9 December 2013 Tweerivieren Camp received about 40mm of very welcome rain and turned the Confluence into this.

We ventured north and found more rain has fallen and at Rooiputs it looked like this:

Photos taken on trips from Tweerivieren

We were lucky to be able to vist all the camps in the Kgalagadi's SA side, including the Wilderness camps, which we enjoyed tremendously.  I will first do the bigger camps and then the Wilderness Camps, as well as the Nossob 4x4 Trail.

We have learned on previous trips to the Kgalagadi that one normally sees a lot of lions and it was the same this time.  Especially at the Kij-Kij waterhole area we saw many lions at many visits.  One could almost guarantee that there will be lions around Kij-Kij if you can be there quite early in the day.  

Later on in the day, they like to sleep in the shade of a tree and they are more difficult to see.  But if you are lucky you can find one very near the road, like the old guy on the picture above who just opened his eyes wide enough to let us know he was still alive.

The lion above at the Kij-Kij waterhole did a balancing trick while drinking and later moved to his older friend under a nearby tree.  This friend of his is maybe the most beautiful lion I ever saw.  Have a look at the video below.

We were also lucky to find these two Cheetas next to the road near Auchterlonie.  We suspect they are the kids of a mother who reared them and only recently left them to fend for themselves - something they can do very well - judging by their bellies.

Above is a view over the Aub river with the lower dune road crossing into the dunes past Kieliekrankie and joining the Nossob road at Kij-Kij.  This was a wonderful circle route.  Tweerivieren past Auchterlonie, turn right into the dune road and see what the dunes offer, then the expected lions near Kij-Kij and back to Tweerivieren with the Nossob road via Rooiputs and Leeudril waterholes where anything can show up to entertain you.

Cape Fox near Auchterlonie.  Supposedly the only real fox in the Kgalagadi.  The others are mere jackals.

This leopard is a female who was lying in the tree near Auchterlonie.  With her was her young subadult cub who, upon us stopping beneath the tree, decided to leave the tree.  Not very impressed with the attention we offered them.

The young one leaving and mother following suit where they joined each other again below the tree in the river.  (Below)

They moved up the dune and vanished over to the other side and we not able to follow it!  So beautiful, these cats.

Back at the camp, we met up with a visitor, a Cape Cobra, which luckily was not aggressive and only peeped from its home under a braai and later left for the bush.  (Below)

One morning, as we left the camp for our early morning drive, this female lion greeted us just outside the gate and walked along for about a kilometer before vanishing over the dune.

Early morning drives on the dune road produced quite a few sightings of Honey Badgers.  The ultimate Honey Badger sighting is when you see them in the company of a jackal and a Pale Chanting Goshawk who both like to strike at the mice and other animals that run away from the Honey Badger when he is digging them out.

We saw this Rooihartbeest who got its neck broken by a leopard and the hind parts eaten out.  The leopard was nowhere to be seen - perhaps in the bush behind it.  We were not willing to check :-)

A Bat-Eared fox hunting for food early in the Aub river near Monroe waterhole.  They use their super hearing abilities to hear small animals and insects under the ground, which they then quickly dig out to eat.  Just look at those ears focused on the ground.

We suspect this female Cheeta is the mother of those two we previously saw.  Judging by the size of her belly, she also know how to look after herself in the bush.  After a while she got up and moved away.  (Below)

Two Tawny Eagles in a tree near Kij-Kij.  Tawny Eagles are almost as common as lions in the Kgalagadi.

Lions under trees above and below.

A wonderful sighting of a Bat_Eared Fox and her siblings.  They were playful and vanished into their den holes ever now and then, playing with each other.

An ostrich and siblings.  Quite a lot of chicks they brought up in a dangerous world!

A Gemsbok/Oryx and calf.

A lioness at the Confluence waterhole.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Eventful move to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Camping around Kruger, new (old) vehicle, move to Kgalagadi,  and TheBushDrifters

Happy new year to everyone, may all your dreams come true.

From the time of my last writing a whole lot of things changed.  I wanted to be at Punda Maria in the Kruger Park to enjoy the Punda waterhole and hide in October to see the animals congregating at the waterhole again like the previous year.

But alas, that did not happen as 2013 was much wetter than 2012 and the animals did not arrive at the Punda waterhole in the same numbers as the previous year. That, and the possibilities of heavy rain prompted us to reconsider our position.

I always wanted to go back to the Kgalagadi and I managed to convince Cari to leave her beloved Kruger for the dry and hot but very interesting Kgalagadi.

In the mean time, we also went through a period or two when we were asleep and did not book further camping in Kruger during high season, just to find that it was fully booked and we had to leave.  So we started looking for places near the Park where we could camp and found quite a number, like Moholoholo Ya Mati, Klaserie Dam and Klaserie Caravan Park, and in the North, the Pafuri River Camp next to the Kruger Park.  We stayed in them all and enjoyed it very much.  All have a different character and atmosphere, but you are always close to nature and that alone is enough to enjoy your days.

Klaserie Caravan Park has its own dam.

Ohrigstad Dam Nature Reserve, we were surprised with the nature here, especially the 4x4 route.

View from Henk van Rooyen campsite in Marloth Park over the Crocodile River with the Kruger Park on the opposite side.

To use up some of our time-share points, we went to Hazyview where we utilized some points at Sanbonani and Kruger Park Lodge.  As our bakkie became a bit full and overloaded, we were thinking of getting a bigger vehicle.  We then bought a Land Cruiser double cab in Hazyview.  Not a new one, just an old one with a new body.  The previous owner built it on an FJ 75 chassis and reconditioned the engine (an 4.2 litre straight six), the gearboxes, the clutch and the axles and then fitted a brand new body on top of that.  We immediately fell in love with the 'truck' and bought it.  I fitted it with a system based on our old one in the Hilux and we were on our way to the Kgalagadi on the 1st of November 2013.

What happened on that eventful day was quite hair-raising and we were lucky to walk away still alive and even luckier to have  not even a scratch (apart from our egos which were scratched right to the bone).  On the right is the drive shaft which overheated and melted right off like hot toffee. 
First the car sagged down at the left back and then we saw our wheel rolling past (what a fine time to leave us, loose wheel:-)

In short, the hind left wheel came off while we were about twenty kilometers from Askham.  We had to wait for a flatbed from Upington to pick us and our truck up and take us to Upington, where we were very lucky to land in the hands of Kallie and Karien of Kallie's Panelbeaters who offered us a room in their home where we spent the rest of the night.  They were truly wonderful and supplied us the next day (apart from a very nice breakfast) with a courtesy car which we used "on the house" for six days until they had the "truck" going again to allow us to carry on with our trip to the Kgalagadi.

The car, which Kallie gave us to use, at the Spitskop campsite just outside Upington. We rented a very comfortable cabin from the friendly owners there.

Quintin at Kallies worked ceaselessly to get the "truck" back on the road again and here you can see the bakkie at Spitskop Camping Site before we left again for the Kgalagadi.  Thank you Quintin and Patrys at Kallies for the wonderful service.  The tent on our bakkie is an electric one (a 'Pod') from which we are still very happy with after a good number of storms during which I slept like a baby in this sturdy, not-so-little tent.

Above: A typical BushDrifter vehicle mentioned later on.

Travelling around like we are doing most of our time, we started feeling a bit uneasy travelling without some goal, so we started thinking about a way in which we can travel and be useful as well (and maybe make a few cents as we travel).

A whole lot of observations we made during our travels worked together to supply us with the answer.  Firstly we saw the empty national and other parks during the out-of-season periods. 
All we saw was the retired people who make use of Sanpark's over 60 discount scheme and almost as many, if not more, overseas visitors. And this led to our 'BushDrifter' idea...

Another typical BushDrifter vehicle.  Rented by overseas people this time.

These empty beds and campsites beg to be filled in some way, and we decided to present our own travels as an example to others like us (quite elderly and members of the "Baby Boomer" era).  Here we are looking at locals who like to travel and camp, whom we can convince that travelling the way we do is not that expensive and can be done for longer periods.  The other big potential market is the overseas market where millions of "Boomers" are still healthy and strong and who are looking for exciting ways to spend the last part of their lives.  We know how rewarding and adventurous our way of travelling is and we are in a position to support and advise people who want to do something similar.  We may even be of assistance with itineraries and reservations.

Another camper vehicle rented by people from Germany.

We also sensed the proliferation of a certain kind of traveler from both overseas and local sources who like to visit the rougher and remote parts of the country and who like to camp (with some "upgrades" to brick and mortar huts fitted somewhere into the itinerary) and drive 4x4 vehicles to enable them to get to that beautiful places where they will be more or less alone with nature.  We started calling them Bushdrifters, so we decided to create a partnership between me and Cari and we decided to call the partnership "TheBushDrifters".  We also are in the process to create a website that will act as a central point for our planned activities.  We hope the readers of this blog will join us in our efforts to encourage more people to visit our parks in the off-seasons to help the country expand and improve our efforts towards conserving our beautiful natural resources.