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@@Chakra,

 

Fascinating report with stunning pictures. You have a lovely family as well!

 

I found your musings on the background of your inspiration by Bengali authors on getting to Richtersvelt particularly interesting. Thanks for your report again.

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Chakra

@@Alexander33 : Yes, the flowers are totally dependent on rains and nowadays we have weird weather patterns. So it is a gamble but perhaps worth taking once. Someone like you who loves nature will enjoy immensely.

 

@@AKR1 : I'm really impressed that you took note of my rumination. I'm not boasting. Indian literature is honestly vast and enriched with wonderful authors but sadly only a few ever reach the international arena. Nowadays many more of Indian origin are writing in English and gaining recognition. American Pulitzer prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri is one of them.

What is fascinatiing is the author of that book Mountain of the Moon, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay (it's a tongue twister for you guys :unsure: ) , wrote that in 1937 with unbelievable accuracy and vivid description and he had never set foot in Africa. He was the one who introduced me to the man-eaters of Tsavo and the Indian Koolies who built the railways through Africa under British rule. Many many years later in a theatre in Manchester I watched Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer, taking on the The Ghost and The Darkness and that instantly took me back to my boyhood.

 

Anyway enough digressing !

 

So with heavy heart I bid farewell to Richtersveld and started a long drive towards Augrabies NP, The place of Great Noise. I have got to say this was one of the most boring drives of the trip.

Augrabies is usually not popular with overseas tourists but I'll never miss the chance of seeing a decent waterfall and it was conveniently located for me to return the car at Upington and catch the flight to Jo'Burg.

 

South African National parks (SANParks) is one of the best government bodies that I have ever come across and they had done a great job of building a wheelchair accessible path close to the falls and they even light up the falls in the night. The chalets were also one of the most spacious ones. I see SanParks getting criticised all the time but I feel they are doing a decent job under pressure.

The mighty Orange River is forced through a very narrow gorge and it does produce a lot of noise. In winter the water flow was not impressive and the river bed was strewn with boulders. I did the usual drive and got so late that reached the gate back at 2 minutes before gate closure time.

The rock formation was quite unique.

The water flow was not that impressive , but I was more than happy to forget the lack of water as the dry rock face was a superb opportunity to watch one of the most colourful creatures of Africa in action: the Rock Agama Lizard.
And I was in the right time: The Breeding Season !!!
The Males were desperate to impress the ladies and showing off their colours in all possible ways. The Latin name is Agama Agama : they are so beautiful that the scientist had to say it twice. Also known as Rainbow lizard and I could see why!

The place was thick with flies and it was a great chance for the males to show off their hunting skills by jumping up in the air and catching a fly mid-air !! The body is just about 6 inches long with a long tail and it was very difficult to catch them in action from a distance.
But this was on my shooting list for some time and even the scorching sun could not put me off.
The other tourists clearly thought me as crazy. Lying on my belly, crawling, crouching and then jumping from time to time and running to another spot. After some futile attempts I gave up on action shots and focused on stationary ones while wife concentrated on videoing them in action.

I do not like people’s obsession with Big Five. The world is full of pictures of majestic lions and leopards but do they know how much patience and effort it takes to capture a "Little Five" like a fluttering butterfly? And The Rock Agama can definitely give even the most majestic lion a run for his money.
I didn’t manage to get a good quality shot but it was a pleasure just to see them in their full glory !

 

After doing my usual search of wilderness and pretty birds, I returned to see the Augrabies falls lit at night under the starry sky of Africa. Everything looks so different in the moonlight. Some rocks which I didn’t even notice in the day looked like many creatures.

Next day dawned and it was time to travel to Upington airport, an “International” airport smaller than our local supermarket ! I wanted to buy a bottle of the famous Orange River Wine, but was worried if they would allow me to take it on the plane.
The lady who sold me the wine reassured me and when my turn to check in came, she just shouted at the security guy across the lobby telling him to let me and my wine bottle pass !

I wish I could say this about Heathrow !
And to top it all they had a "domesticated" Halfmens tree planted just next to the sitting area ! And I had travelled hundred miles to see one !!

Later I asked Xelas who was due to travel through UTN and he did confirm it was a Halfmens.
The tiny plane took off and slowly took me away from the Red Sand of Kalahari and the wilderness of the amazingly beautiful Northern Cape, flowers of Namaqualand, the green ribbon of Orange River, desolate beauty of Richtersveld and land of the Khoi Saan. :( :( :( :(
If I can motivate just one person to travel to Northern Cape I’d consider my efforts aptly rewarded.

 

But as Arnie says, " I shall return".

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Chakra

The Rainbow Man

 

 

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Rainbow man looks...very colorful :)

Hope you have more pics to share.

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penolva

The Rainbow Man

 

 

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Wow great capture what colours. So glad you did the drive. As you know this area of SA is our favourite stomping ground and you have captured it perfectly in words and pictures. Pen

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Kitsafari

I love your stories on Halfmen's, on the Sans people which resonate with your mother's poignant history, on the Staggers rock the concept of which is so philosophical and simple and filled with warm humanity (which is so sorely missing in half of the human population). they make the landscape come alive with your narration.

 

and that glorious orange wonderland that carpetted namaqualand. Wow.

Edited by Kitsafari
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xelas

@@Chakra

 

You have motivated at least one (well, two) persons to follow your steps so please send me your detailed itinerary by post :) !

 

Too many Bollywood movies, my friend. The Terminator said "I'll be back" ... I have seen that movie way too many times :rolleyes: .

Edited by xelas
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Chakra

@@xelas : i'm ashamed of myself ! How could I mess up that famous line from Arnie !!

 

@@penolva : yes I'm aware of your love for this place. Fully deserving.

 

Thanks @@Kitsafari

 

@@xyz99 : no I'm not finished yet friend :):) So here are some more.

 

4 males trying to impress 1 female. Just look how unimpressive the female is. I'm slowly commando crawling towards them with my heavy lens while my belly and other tender parts are getting roasted on red hot rock surface :wacko: :wacko: :wacko: But I think it was worth the roasting :D :D

 

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Look at me , Look at me !!

 

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God is an amazing painter to blend all these colours

 

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Presenting his Photogenic Profile for the paparazzi

 

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The Dwidnling flow of the Gariep river through the narrow gorge.

 

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Echo point at sunset

 

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The Moon Rock

 

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The flat terrain

 

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A turtle ?

 

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Under the Spotlight

 

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Upington "International" Airport. Comfy sofas. No passengers !!

 

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Bye bye friends ! We'll be back !

 

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100% genuine Halfmens. I checked it out with my compass. Looking at exactly Zero degree north !

 

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@chakra- welcome to ST.

I for one would love to see a TR on all of your Adventures on this trip.

Classic writing and superb photography - well done mate.

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Chakra

@@Hads : many thanks. Much appreciated. I'll try to share as much as I can. I also genuinely enjoy and hugely benefit from the interaction here and in other travel fora.

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TonyQ

@@Chakra

I have really enjoyed your report- the writing, the humour and the superb photos. I love the Agama photos - your suffering was worth it!

Your daughter looks exhausted after a wonderful trip

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Chakra

@@TonyQ : my daughter was just posing for me !! She had no reason to complain on that day as I didn't drag her to see the sunrise again.

 

 

After a short pleasant flight in a small plane we landed at JNB and reunited with our bags without any problem. I see many queries about the notorious Baggage Handlers at JNB but I have to say that I have not experienced any pilfering of my bags on my travels through JNB on many occasions. I always keep my dirty under wares and smelly socks right on the top of the pile inside my cases. I think the smell wafts out gently even through closed bags and I'm sure that aroma regularly deters the potential thieves.

 

Went to pick up the car from Hertz. Another Avanza, which served my purposes very well in and out of Kruger. I've to say the Hertz employees at JNB are not the friendliest ones. I specifically did not like the lady who did the inspection on my return. When I asked her for a copy of the inspection and a receipt she literally threw that at me and stomped off.

I had broken my stay on the way to KNP for 2 nights. The first night at Middleburg which was within couple of hours of easy driving from JNB. I reached JNB at 3 PM and I didn't want to drive on N4 after dark so Guesthaven B&B at Middelburg was nicely placed, booked through Safari Now. The landlady Krista was a wonderful person. She knew we were of Indian origin and had cooked the most delicious Biriyani meal ( a rice based spicy dish) for us for a very reasonable price.

 

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast I hit the road again towards our next destination at Blyde River canyon resort via the Panorama route. I had planned to take the N4 to Belfast, then take the R540 towards Lydenburg via Dullstroom and then over the Long Tom Pass going towards Sabie and having a lunch at the fabled Harrie's Pancakes at Grasskop. After that carry on North on R532 towards Blyde River Canyon touching the POI of the Panorama route.

I had heard about Grand Canyon size potholes in this area. I did encounter some but none big enough to swallow the Avanza and can easily be avoided with sensible driving.

 

The only problem was that Lydenburg has changed its name to Mashising ( I believe it means The place of Big Trucks !) and in many places the authorities did not have the money or perhaps were not bothered to change the signs so both names abounded happily along the route.

 

Normally my eldest daughter shows little interest in scenic places but she had ordered me to take her to the God's Window.

Her Geography teacher was from SA and apparently he had told the class that he found God at God's Window ( fairly obvious isn't it ? where else can you see Him?). This geography teacher was also marking the GCSE course work so it was vitally important to impress him.

in fact she was already in the good books of the Geography teachers as a few years back one teacher had asked which African Country was an ex-German colony and she was the only one to say Namibia, shortly after her trip to that country. I was pleased to see that spending my hard earned cash was having some educational benefit !

 

Now , let me be honest and say that I was not terribly impressed with the scenery of the Panorama route. I didn't get the feeling of a wide vista, apart from the top of Long Tom pass. The waterfalls were nice but the stops were unkempt, crowded and quire a few shops and vendors around. There was a picnic party with loud music going on at Bourke's luck potholes, which was probably the most interesting stop. And we had to pay a small fee in most of the places.

 

Photography in the late afternoon was extremely difficult because of the haze arising from the falls. The view from God's Window was so hazy that I felt compelled to leave a note to remind God to get His window cleaning guy pronto ! The Three Rondavels were also difficult to snap. In fact the next morning I tried again and realised how quickly the whole valley got misted up.

 

I wonder has anyone used the new "Dehaze" function in the new version of Photoshop ? I'd definitely need that if I return here.

 

And the most important stop of the whole route was : Harrie's Pancake. So many flavours !!! Delicious !! Harrie : please open a branch in UK !!

 

Blyde River canyon resort is quite a big resort but nice and quiet with decent size chalets. The best view of the Three Rondavels is actually from their Higher Car park in the late afternoon.

 

The next day I took the Abel Erasmus pass towards Hoedspruit. An eventful day but I'll come to that in a minute.

 

First some pics from Panorama route :

 

Long Tom Pass

 

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The hills of Mpumalanga. I belive one can see the beginning of Drakensburg range from here, my next destination when I return

 

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The Long Tom : Bane of the British

 

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The Gunners

 

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Many waterfalls

 

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Not so clean God's Window

 

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Bourke's luck potholes

 

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The Three Rondavels at Sunset

 

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And morning

 

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The Bush on Fire as Moses saw. Our chalet at Blyde canyon resort

 

 

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Yummmmmyyyy !!

 

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A savoury one !

Edited by Chakra
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michael-ibk

Even though you had some issues with this stop, the photos of the falls and God´s Window look amazing! Really enjoyed the Augrabies section, I always enjoy to see places I´ve travelled myself in other people´s reports. The photo just before Echo´s point - where was that taken?

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Chakra

@@michael-ibk and all other "likers" : thanks very much for your appreciation . I also love to relive the memories through others' photos, although sometimes that makes me a bit jealous.

I think that photo before the Echo Corner was taken from Ararat or Oranjekom view point. I can't exactly remember which one.

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Yes, a lot of haze in the air, but you made the best of it, and the scenery is amazing! Would love to get there someday.

 

And the pancakes....mmmmm...can I have one, please?

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Chakra

And the pancakes....mmmmm...can I have one, please?

 

No , you can't have one. They are all mine :D :D :D

 

Some more to make you drool :P :P :P

 

Chicken and Mushroom

 

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If they taste only half as good as they look.....

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xelas

OK, so where exactly is this pancakes place?? It might make my decision to visit Kruger already this year a bit easier (or sweeter??).

 

The first few photos reminds me of Isle of Skye; yes, the road is wider and the waterfalls are higher but still, about the same vistas and landscapes.

 

Between JNB and Blyde canyon rsort, how much driving in total?

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Peter Connan

@@xelas, it is in the town of Dullstroom.

 

When you stop there, make sure to visit the Birds of Prey rehabilitation centre just on the outskirts of town. They have flying displays (normally two owls, a falcon and an eagle) daily, a great photographical exercise!

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Towlersonsafari

good call @xelas-the rock formations resemble the Quirang on North Skye-in the the Trotternish ridge!

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xelas

@@Towlersonsafari

 

Spot on, exactly the location I was referring to! I love that drive enough to make it on both of our visits to Scotland!

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Chakra

Thanks guys. I have to travel to Skye one day.
@@xelas : jnb to Blyde canyon would be 5 hours of non-stop driving but then you won't have the time to enjoy. I think it would be useful to have at least one overnight stop here.
@@Peter Connan : we stopped at the Graskop branch of Harries.

 

Now time for a very exciting day !!

 

I had originally planned to travel north from Blyde canyon and the take the R 531 and enter KNP through Orpen gate and then proceed towards Talamati, my first stop for 2 nights. I had a sunset drive booked at Talamati that evening. But my wife came to know that there was a big Pick and Pay at Hoedspruit and she wanted to stock up from there. I wish I had put my foot down 1

 

For first time travellers : if the car from the other side is flashing lights at you it does not mean there is a problem with your car e.g. you have left the lights full beam, your exhaust pipe falling off etc. They are probably trying to warn you about a speed trap.

I was warned about this in N4 and also given the location of popular places e.g. Klawer at N7 where a car was indeed hiding where the speed limit changes from 100 to 80 to 60.

 

I got too excited about Kruger and saw a few cars flashing at me outside Hoedspruit but did not pay too much attention as didn't see any car for several kilometers.

The speed traps are usually hidden where the road dips. The big Pick and Pay is very well placed to pick up supplies before entering through Orpen and is a tourist magnet. I noticed that speed limit had dropped and reduced to 80 and I honestly did not see any sign to tell that the limit was reduced to 60.

 

Nobody in the road was doing less than 80.

 

About a kilometer before the Pick and Pay the car in front of me was flagged down to slow and then allowed to move (clearly not a rental car) but I was stopped by two policewomen and told that I was speeding in 60 KMPH road.

I requested to see some photographic evidence. It was definitely not a speed radar . Basically a camcorder mounted on a tripod which was trying to focus on the cars coming down the hill and calculating the speed. I was apparently doing 78 KMPH in 60 zone. I had a good look at the video and I'm absolutely sure they had not focused on my car properly to calculate the speed. I tried to explain that but the lady turned aggressive and said she didn't like me challenging the procedures. Of course I did not want to see the records of when the machine when was last validated !!

 

As I was definitely doing more than 60 so I just bit the bullet and they wrote me a 400 rand fine. Now comes the fun !

 

The procedure is that you have to pay within a month at either a post office or at Standard bank or at Traffic regulation office.

At Post office they apparently do all the paperwork and send it straight to Police whereas at Bank you have to post/fax the proof of payment to relevant dept.

 

In a grumpy mood I went looking for a post office which was next to the Pick and Pay, the source of all this problem. If my wife had not planned to shop there thenthere was no need for me to get into Hoedspruit.

In Post Office I waited patiently for 20 minutes before being informed that their system was "down" and they could not process my payment. No explanation and nothing about when it will work again. Apparently all the Post offices were affected.

Went to Standard bank. Two counters open and about ten-fifteen people ahead of me. After wasting ten minutes when the queue did not move one single place I decided to move on.

 

At this point I was starting to get worried as I had a game drive booked at 4 from Talamati. But I did not want leave paying the fine till the last day. Felt like I was travelling in India again !

 

So time to find the local Traffic police office. The notice just had the name of the Street : Panther street. Nice name !

 

Went to one office in Panther street which had a Police sign and they redirected me to another place. When I reached a T junction I was not sure where to go and was about to ask a chap. He saw the pink coloured fine slip in my hand and before I could say anything he told me where I needed to go.

Looks like locals are familiar with the hapless tourists trying to find the right place to pay the fines.

 

Went inside. Lo and behold : two more grumpy faced tourists waving the same pink slip. A good day for Hoedspruit traffic control. Anyway, paid the fine in cash promptly, got my proof and went to Pick and Pay.

Who do I meet there buying banana ? The lady who gave me the ticket. Hope the bananas give her an upset stomach !

 

I am not complaining too much as I was probably doing more than 60 kmph and the fine did not break my bank. The learning points are that if you are a tourist you'll be pulled over, watch out for the change of speed limit very carefully and Police clearly know tourists come to that Pick and Pay; so take extra caution there and pay attention if anyone flashes at you.

You have been warned !

 

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Chakra

After an expletive filled ride I reached Orpen gate. No queue at all and as soon I gazed upon the wonderful Marshal eagles nesting close to Talamati camp I statrted to cool down.

 

After a look at the Talamati waterhole we got into our sunset drive with Nicholas, our driver/guide. And within ten minutes he spotted the resident leopard for us. The leopard was a bit shy but we all had a good look. Plenty of other animals as well. And of course the wonderful sunsets which is totally unique.

 

So let's start with some photos of the sky. I admit to using filters and post-processing to make these look even more dramatic but even without anything they would be spectacular.

 

 

Retinitis Pigmentosa

(Perhaps you can guess my profession from this caption. This is what the back of your eyes look when one has this eye condition)

 

 

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The Bush is dancing in anticipation of dusk. Sometimes those twigs add a new dimension.

 

 

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The Waiting Game

 

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Sunset is the Sun's fiery kiss to the blue lips of the night sky

 

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"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storms, but to add colours to my sunset sky" : Rabindranath Tagore. The first Nobel laureate in literature from India and a resident of my home town.

 

 

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Sun : cut in half !!

 

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My Doe-eyed beauty

 

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Edited by Chakra
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xelas

@@Chakra

 

Obviously you have not visited my neck of the woods often enough otherwise you would be well aware of what flashing lights are for :) ! And 25 Euro ... there is no such small fine in Slovenia; your ticket would be at least 125 Eur (including the 50% discount for immediate payment). Anyway thank for the warning, I will put it down for future use.

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michael-ibk

I also thought flashing lights would be quite universal. :)

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