OVERLAND THROUGH THE KALAHARI

  • Meiringspoort
  • Great Karoo
  • Orange River
  • Molopo Kalahari Lodge
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  • Twee Rivieren
  • Mata Mata

INTO THE KALAHARI


KGALAGADI, SOUTH AFRICA

The sound of locust bodies being flung against the windscreen is like hoof beats on the plain. We are in the middle of a massive swarm in the Great Karoo. 

Further down the road we hit the ‘hoppers’. A russet red blanket of these insects lies on the road. Beyond the grasshopper crossing the tar is a red smear of squashed bodies, and the road is slippery.

We manage to keep Hamilton from sliding off the tar until we reach Rooidam Cottages, about 10km outside of Britstown. We booked a campsite on the farm as an overnight stop on the long way up to the Kalahari.

We’d left the Garden Route under sunny, blue skies and had an amazing view over the Outeniqua Pass into the Little Karoo. We stopped at ‘Die Skelm’ waterfall, just over half way (I’d guess) through the amazing Meiringspoort in the Swartberg Mountains. This poort has 63 bends and turns and crosses the Groot River 25 times. The road is a driver’s dream, but it is the awesome views of the folds of Table Mountain Sandstone that tower above which is the real attraction. We walked to the waterfall to admire it’s bottom-less pool where it is said a mermaid once lived, until a flood swept her out to sea, allowing her to be caught by fishermen who then returned her to the Oudtshoorn Museum for preservation … (we haven’t been to see her yet, haha).

Despite more locust swarms, we keep going through a wet and green Karoo, all the way to the Orange River at Upington. We drive over the swollen mud laden waters of the river. It is still running high from the recent rains. We hope the Augrabies Falls downstream will still be high when we go there in about a week’s time. But first we have to head further north into the Kalahari towards the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

We spend the night at the Molopo Kalahari Lodge, about 60km outside the gate of the Kgalagadi. It’s nigh impossible to get a booking at this popular park in the SANParks range, but we’re in luck. It’s just that our booking only starts from tomorrow. But the Molopo Lodge is an amazing place and we really enjoy the evening there, dining on their gemsbok cordon bleu.

KGALAGADI: TWEE RIVIEREN

The Kgalagadi is super green this year and the animals are all in the road as we take our first game drive after setting up the tent in the campsite at Twee Rivieren.

It’s hot, 39 degrees hot, and the gemsbok are either lying under the shade of trees or trying to get a drink of water at one of the many waterholes along the dry Nossob riverbed. We heard rumour of a cheetah at one of these waterholes and drive there immediately, but alas, the cats must’ve moved on. We do get to see a pale chanting goshawk kill and eat a snake though.

NOSSOB ROAD

Dikbaardskolk picnic site is practically deserted, and there is only one other car besides us. It’s a bit beyond lunch time and I guess most folks have moved on towards Nossob camp already. We couldn’t get space in Nossob and this is the furthest up this riverbed we can drive. Now we have to turn back in order to make it back to Twee Rivieren before the gate to the game area closes.

It’s a long drive back but the day did deliver some great sightings of a black maned Kalahari lion and we finally ran those elusive cheetahs to earth.

UP THE AUOB TO AUCHTERLONIE

It’s the next day and the weather looks ominous. A thunderstorm threatens as we try to slap together a bacon and egg breakfast. But our eggs are ‘not good’ and we end up with bacon and eggs, without the eggs. 

The sky looks even darker as we walk up beyond the chalets towards the hide. But there’s nothing much to see and the thunder has started to rumble in the distance. We don’t want to get caught in the rain. So we head back to our campsite and go for a drive instead.

Auchterlonie is a picnic site and museum a little way up the dry Auob riverbed, and we stop here for lunch. The Human’s apparently used to stay here and we explore their little stone cottage before lunch. From the cottage on the ridge we can see down into the riverbed to the windpump as it whirls away, pumping water from a borehole into one of the little waterholes for the animals. We guess this is one of the boreholes drilled long ago by the government. They were meant as refreshment stations for troops but there’s just a peaceful calm that hangs over this place now.

The calm at lunch would be the calm before the storm, and as we drive back over the dunes toward the Nossob riverbed it starts raining. Luckily we seem to be leaving the storm behind on our way back to Twee Rivieren.

MATA MATA THUNDERSTORM

The storm would finally catch us at Mata Mata. It catches all the campers unawares and you just see people scatter from braai fires when it starts to pour. Our tent is leaking and we try to save our clothes by diving in and grabbing the bags. Now we’re sitting in the vehicle and trying to yell at one another over the pelting raindrops, but all that does is to fog up the windows so much so that eventually we can’t see a thing outside. I don’t know why we want to see though since it’s practically dark already and the storm just won’t let up. When it finally gives us a break, we dash out to get some bits and bobs to concoct a make-shift supper out of roosterkoek we’d ordered earlier and some spreads. This we end up enjoying in the car while yet another thunderstorm rages outside. Finally the lightening moves far enough for us to feel comfortable to enter the metal-poled cage of our little tent. Now we just have to dry up the leaks as best we can and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow is our last day and we have to travel back to Twee Rivieren.

The day dawns with sunny skies but nothing seems to dry out and we end up packing a wet, sandy tent. We figure it’s OK since we’re just going to open it up again at Twee Rivieren. But we’d hardly be dry when the sky clouds over again and rain threatens at the main camp also.

LEOPARD HUNTING LESSON

It’s never pleasant, camping in the rain, but we do have a super great sighting on the Mata Mata road. A leopard mum is teaching her two cubs. She left them behind with snarling command while she stalked and killed a jackal. After she’d pounced and choked the life out of the little jackal, her cubs came running to receive the prize. Now it was their turn to show their prowess in getting this jackal up into the nearest tree, and boy was it a battle. Just when they got it up, it would drop to the ground and they’d have to start again. Mom left them to their antics and slowly went on towards a few red hartebeest. She made her approach but at the last second the antelope must’ve caught wind of her and she bailed, opting rather for the shade of a convenient tree.

GOODBYE KGALAGADI

The Kgalagadi is always a magical place of big skies, open grasslands, sandy tracks and huge herds of antelope. And where the antelope are, the cats roam too. Big cat territory … lion, leopard, cheetah. 

Six days are too short but we have to move on. Next stop … Augrabies Falls National Park.

 

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