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Deserts and Daisies 2019


MeezersUK

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Deserts and daisies pre trip

This was our second  trip  to  South Africa,  last time we did Cape Town  and Kruger,  this time I wanted to see the spring flowers on the west coast,  this has been on my bucket list  for over 30 years, but it's  a  long way to go to see flowers that may or may not be in bloom when we get there, so I  added another bucket list experience, spending some time in a desert, namely the Kalahari . 
 The closest  airport  to  the  Kgalagadi  transfrontier park  is Upington,  so we started there. Our itinerary  was
1 night Upington
6 nights Kgalagadi 
1 night Upington 
3 nights Springbok
3 nights Clanwilliam 
2 nights Langebaan 
Fly home from Cape Town

It was just me and 23 year old son travelling. We flew indirect as usual, Birmingham  to Johannesburg  via Paris and then an additional  flight   Johannesburg  to  Upington  , which is the nearest city to the Kgalagadi  transfrontier park. As usual with our indirect  flights,  nothing went according  to  plan. Our Birmingham  to Paris flight was delayed, which meant that even with a 4 hour layover we missed our 11pm Paris  to Johannesburg  flight. Air France  put us in an airport  hotel for the night where, at 1am  I was frantically  rebooking our flights to Upington,  luckily getting 2 of the last 3 seats , .and a night in a  Johannesburg airport  hotel to replace  our first night in a b&b in  Upington . Next day we were on our way to Johannesburg,  via Amsterdam! Arriving  in Johannesburg  11pm Friday  night  13 hours after we were supposed  to  land. Unfortunately  our suitcase  didn't  arrive  with us, Air France  promised  it would  be flown out next day - when we were on our way to Upington,  no problem,  they would fly it to Upington,  but we would  then be enroute  to the Kalahari,  no problem,  they would courier  it to us. Long story short, we were reunited  with our suitcase  on day 13. Luckily  I  always  pack a change  of  clothes  in hand luggage  and this time I  must have had a premonition  because  I  packed 2 changes of clothes each. But still, there are no clothing shops in the Kalahari,  it's  hot during  the day, but nights and early mornings are chilly and I missed my fleece. The worst was wearing the same shoes for 13 days.   I'd  also packed several items especially  for our stay in the Kalahari,  my Kgalagadi  self drive guide book that I had flicked through  in the UK,  but planned on reading more thoroughly  once in the park, a thermos flask - no cafes in the park, you want a hot drink during the day, you take it with you , a clothes hanger and laundry liquid ( no washing machines either) and other stuff. All minor inconveniences  but they added up 

 

Deserts and daisies Day 1  23nd August

 

So, I'll  start at Upington,  which should  have  been  day 1 but was now day 2. Our flight landed early afternoon.  

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We collect a Nissan X trail  from Avis and head into Upington, following  the  map in my head to the Kalahari  mall ( I have  directions  printed out, but from the b&b we were supposed  to  be  at) we find the mall after a short tour of the suburbs :) first stop is a Vodacom  shop so I can buy a South African  sim card for my phone and phone Air France  to  organise  delivery  of our suitcase.( ha ha !) Then grocery shopping. I have a list but we are a few hours behind  schedule,  so our grocery shop resembles  a supermarket  sweep,  items being thrown  into  the trolley  with no regard to price or ingredients.  We load up the car and are finally  on our way by 3.30pm.

It's  a 2.5 hour drive  to  the  Kgalagadi.  Our first night  is at Twee rivieren  camp, which is right on the border of the park,  but we still  have  to  be there before  gates close at 6.30pm. I was expecting  our drive to be rather boring with barren scenery, but I was surprised.  The road is called  the ' red dunes route' and it was mostly  scrub covered dunes , but they have their own beauty.  The road is long and straight and empty.  You don't  have to lift your foot from the accelerator  until  the  turn off for the Kgalagadi.  Except  when you're  braking  for mongoose.  We saw warning signs for fox, antelope,horses, owls  , an unidentifiable  bird, but the one animal who was running into the road every 5 minutes  had no warning  sign, still, they kept me alert.

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We arrived at Twee rivieren  at 6pm, got settled in to our chalet and I decided  that after the stressful  start to the holiday we would  eat in the one and only restaurant  in the park. The menu was limited  but perfectly  acceptable,  and there was wine and a bat flying circuits above our heads. We were here, I could  finally  relax . 
   
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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  day 2

Our first night in the desert. Even though we are on the park boundary with settlements  nearby it was so quiet and there were so many stars. I'm  up at 7am and sitting , shivering  outside  with a cup of tea, then breakfast . I'm  already  missing my fleece. I've  washed our underwear and socks and draped them over  the chairs, at least they dry quickly  in  the arid air. Two cheeky little birds perch at my elbow, hoping for handouts. By 8am it has begun to warm up and I'm  no longer shivering.

I let David have a lie in and we check  out at 10am to begin our drive to the  Kalahari Tented camp  where we will stay 2 nights. The drive is supposed  to  take  3.5 hours, the roads are either sand or gravel and there is a 50kmph speed  limit,  so you don't  get anywhere  fast. And we were stopping  for anything  that moved. :)
We saw our first ( and only ) hartebeest , gemsbok,and  ostrich

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 and at a waterhole  we stopped  to watch ground squirrels,  but they all ran off as we approached,  a honey badger was coming  to drink. We had glimpsed one in Kruger, but from a distance,  so I was hoping  we would  see another  in the Kgalagadi,  and here it was, right infront  of  us on our first drive.

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A little  further  on we saw a solitary  meerkat,  where the rest  of  his clan were I  don't  know,  but he posed nicely  for  us. 

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More gemsbok followed,  we soon realised  that gemsbok are as prolific  in the kalahari  as impala  are in Kruger. We'd now been  driving  2 hours and were only  1/4 of the way there.  We sped up a little and were more selective  in what we stopped  for. 

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We stopped  for  lunch at the Kamqua picnic site. You can get out of your car at the picnic  sites, once you've  checked  it's  safe to do so, there are toilets,  picnic  tables  and braais ( bbqs) . And lots of birds. I'd  made a packed lunch and when we sat down to eat it a flock descended  on us. They perched on the table and hopped around our feet . We didn't  feed them ( not allowed  in the park) but I'm  sure  they find enough  crumbs around the tables .

Shortly after leaving Kamqua the road deteriorated.  The sand hadn't  been graded ( scraped level) and there were ruts and deep patches which made driving tedious.  I couldn't  watch for wildlife as I had to concentrate  on avoiding the worst ruts. I'd  been warned of this but hadn't  realised how bone shakingly tiring it would be. By the time we arrived  at  Mata Mata camp, where we were to check in for the Kalahari Tented camp , I'd  decided  I was having a day off, I wasn't  driving  anywhere  the next day ( there is just the one road in and out of camp) . I booked a night drive for that night and a sunset drive for the next day, let someone  else do the driving .
The Kalahari Tented camp  is  about 3kms back along the road from Mata mata. The tents have sandbags reinforcing/ insulating  the walls and the roofs are covered, each tent has a separate  stand alone kitchen  and  a  decking area where you can sit and watch the waterhole.

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  It was soooo quiet and still. I loved it. We had mongoose for neighbours, they appeared as soon as I  lit the braai. My first  braai attempt was a little ambitious.  I tried to cook too much at once and ended up resorting to the frying pan. Just as 4 giraffes  approached  the  waterhole  they were obscured  by clouds of smoke from our braai :)

 

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We're  picked up at 8.30 for our night drive. There are 4 others in the vehicle . We head south , catching lots of eyes in the spot lights. Our driver says' that's  a small spotted  genet' or ' that would be a wild cat' but as all we can see are eyes in the dark 50 metres  away we have to take his word for it. We do see a couple  of  spring hares bouncing  around  ( they look nothing  like hares, more like mini kangaroos) and a wild cat. Apart from that it is just dark, and cold, very cold. We have blankets but I really  miss my fleece. Back at camp I have warm milk with Amarula ( I  packed hot chocolate  , but it's  in the suitcase) and then to bed.  I'm  woken a short while later by hyenas  'laughing' close  by. 

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michael-ibk

Always nice to see a Kgalagadi report, and I´m also interested to see more about your other destinations as well. What a great Honey Badger sighting for a start, awesome! Really sorry to hear about the lost luggage, I´m always afraid about that. Happened a couple of times on the way back home (when it doesn´t matter) but so far never on the way to safari. Really quite a nuisance, and I do remember how surprisingly cold it can be there - also had a really freezy night at Kalahari Tented Camp.

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  Day 3

I'm  awake and up at 7.30am . I was actually  awake at 4am, I was freezing and had to fetch another blanket . Then the hyenas started up again. It really is an extraordinary  experience  to lie in the dark in a tent listening to a wild animal on the other side of the canvas ! I went back to sleep only to be woken by them again at 7.30, so I bundled up in a blanket and went outside to see if I could see them. No luck, but there were ostrich,  jackal and springbok  at the waterhole,  so I made a cup of tea, with bottled water, the water in the park ranges from salty to very salty, so bottled water is used for drinking, and settled down to watch. The blanket I'm  wrapped in and the clothes I'm  wearing are all synthetic and every time I touch something  metal I get a static shock. 

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I do a cooked breakfast when David gets up. I can't  get the gas to stay alight, I have to hold the lighter button down which means I'm  trying  to  cook one handed, in the end I balance a tin of baked beans on the button  which does the trick. I'm  quite pleased with my  improvisation,  it feels in keeping with our 'rustic accommodation ' :D
We sit and watch the comings and goings  at the waterhole until mid morning , when we make the short trip up to Mata Mata  to confirm  and pay for our sunset drive. While there we visit the shop, I'm  in need of coffee,  as my coffee is in the suitcase and I  didn't  buy any in Upington  because  it  wasn't  on my list, because  I'd  packed  my favourite  brand. The only coffee they have are single cup  sachets of cappuccino , the shops do a good job of stocking  the essentials,  pity coffee obviously  isn't  classed as such. Anyway, I  buy a few sachets of cappuccino  and  hot chocolate,  and a bar of soap to replace  our shower  gel. Luckily  we have  travel sized bottles of other toiletries. 
Back at camp I open the rusks , now I have  something  to  dunk them in. South Africans serve rusks with coffee like we serve biscuits  with  tea. My favourite  are the condensed  milk  flavour. 
The rest of the day is spent sitting watching the waterhole and soaking up the peace and quiet. It's  hard to explain  the 'silence' because  it's  not  silent, there are birds chirping and the occasional  ostrich or jackal calling. But all the usual  day to day sounds are absent. No cars or machines or tvs  or radios. I jump when someone  in a neighbouring  tent speaks!

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Lunch is a more successful  braai,  the hours until our sunset drive are passed with a glass of wine in one hand and guide book in the other as I try to identify the many birds around us. One large eagle ( a Martial eagle I think) is making a big performance  of getting a drink without getting wet. 

Our mongoose  neighbours  have  been  playing  nearby all morning.  A jackal trots past within feet of us  on his way to the waterhole. It's  just perfect. 

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Our vehicle  arrives to take  us for our sunset  drive.  It's  just the two of us. We see another wild cat, they look just like chubby  tabby cats. Jackals,giraffe, springbok,  a tiny white faced owl and our first Cape fox, but he was too quick  for  me  to  get a photo. A much more productive drive than yesterday's and as it's  early evening  it's  not so cold.

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Back at camp by 8pm, soup and sarnies for tea, then shower and bed just as the hyenas start up again. I think about nipping out to try and see them, but I'm  warm in bed and it's  chilly out there, so I just lie and listen.

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very interesting report, @MeezersUK!  I can feel the atmosphere.  I was also there iin November/December 2019. It was a very dry year but perhaps in August it was not so bad...  I am curious if you saw flowers ;-)  

It looks like your suitcase came almost at the end of your trip ...

Once our plane (the machine, not the flight) from Joburg to Kasane was changed becasue of mechanical problem and our luggade obviously was not brought to a new machine so, I also experienced comming to destination without the luggage. Fortunately, we stayed for 4 days in Kasane and our luggage came the next day. But if you move ... then it could be a problem! 

Looking forward for next chapters!

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Tdgraves

Your eagle is a black-chested snake eagle. The park was still very dry in January, although there were flowers and grasses were there had been patchy rain. We also lost an item of luggage on our connection (which is why I usually prefer direct flights) our cooler box - pretty essential for KTP (and also containing things like coffee)! Luckily it arrived the following day...

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MeezersUK

Thanks  Tdgraves . I had only the Kgalagadi  park map/guide and so many birds didnt  match the pictures  :)

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  Day 4

We leave Kalahari  Tented  camp  today, we will be spending the next 3 nights at Nossob camp . There are only 4 main roads in the park . The 2 longest follow the dry Auob and Nossob river beds, the river beds form a sort of V shape and have 2 shorter roads connecting them.Twee rivieren  camp is at the point of the V ,Kalahari  tented camp is towards the top of the left hand riverbed and Nossob is on the opposite side of the V on the Nossob river road.
 So , by 8.30am we are packed  up and ready to go , one advantage of having no suitcase is less to pack ;) we collect our permit from reception at Mata Mata,  whenever  we  are  in camp the permit is held at reception,  whenever we leave camp  reception  note where we are going and the permit goes with us. This supposedly alerts staff if anyone  isn't  where they're  supposed to be when gates close. Top up the fuel at the petrol station ( the 3 main camps have petrol and shops ) and then drive South, back along the boneshaker road . There is absolutely  nothing  to  see , even when I can take my eyes off the road. Kamqua picnic site is at the junction  with  the road to Nosdob river, so we stop for a drink and snack . Along upper dunes road we see a heron perched on a water tank, I doubt he's  going to  find anything  to  catch in there, and what is a heron doing in a desert anyway ?  There are large paw prints in the sand at the side of the road, definitely  a lion , I stop for a while and use the binoculars  but their owner is nowhere to be seen. Infact there is nothing to see until we are  at the waterhole  near the junction  with  the Nossob river road. Here we see gemsbok, springbok and wildebeest,  but they don't  really improve a long, boring drive. 

 

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Dikbaardskolk is the name  of  the  picnic  site we stop at for lunch. As well as the usual  welcoming  committee  of  birds, we have a jackal lying in the shade , surveying the picnickers  like a family dog  at a bbq. 

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 We continue north , we see no animals and only 1 other car. I  begin  to think everyone  must be at a great sighting somewhere and we didn't  get the invite :)  Nossob camp is smack bang in the middle of the road. You have  to drive through the camp to continue  North. We  check in at reception,  hand our permit in and collect keys to our riverfront  chalet. This is a new , quite luxurious  chalet  as far as camp accommodation  goes, it even has a TV!  Again , we have a fantastic view of the waterhole. The bird hide is close by and open 24/7 for nocturnal  waterhole viewing, but I think the view from our chalet  is just as good.

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We visit the shop for ice, pop , bread and I want a fridge magnet for my collection, I saw some at Mata mata but didn't  buy, but Nossob doesn't  have any. I must remember  to get one from Twee rivieren. 
 After dinner I'm ready for bed, the combination  of boring drive and sun almost sent me to sleep at times today, I  do a quick check of the waterhole  before  retiring , a jackal is just leaving . I can hear clicking/ clucking noises,  like a cross between a chicken and a duck, coming from all around. I wonder if these are the barking geckos I've  read about.   My room faces the floodlit waterhole and with curtains drawn back from the glass doors I can lie in bed  and watch for animals , but it's  not long before  I'm  asleep. 

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies day 5

An earlier start today. We are loading the car up at 8am when a guy carrying a camera goes running past on his way to the bird hide, he gives me a puzzled look as he sprints by. I surmise there must be something  of interest at the waterhole  and  he is wondering  why  I'm  not eager to see it. I  hurry inside , grab my camera  and go out to our braai area , in time to see a large male lion leaving  the  waterhole. We are preparing  to  go out looking for lions and they're  are coming to us! Though he doesn't  hang around  for long, he is soon out of sight over the dunes.

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We are heading north today to a picnic site approx 75kms away, there are several  waterholes  we  stop at so it takes about 3 hours to get there.

 

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 We see our first hyena at one waterhole. He's  a brown hyena, he has a longer, shaggier coat than the spotted hyenas we saw in Kruger .
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Wildebeest are having a mud bath at one waterhole. 

 

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Apart from the hyena  and wildebeest, it's  all birds today.  P1020975.JPG.f8baa8b392b31a2f1e2a968fe70ee543.JPG

 

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At the picnic site I'm  trying to get a photo of a bulbul ( I think ? ) but he won't  get his beak out of the lense.  I realise  he has his beady eyes on the apple I'm  holding :)

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A little  striped mouse proves as difficult  to  photograph,  he won't  keep still, I get a dozen shots of the tip of his tale :)

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More birds at the waterholes on the way back. Sand grouse and quail I think. They are so well camouflaged. 

 

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Back at Nossob I  book a sunset drive for that evening  , then return to  the  chalet looking forward  to coffee and waterhole  watching. But there's  no power, I can't  boil the kettle ! I've read the power goes off between 11pm and 5am to save electricity,  I assume it also goes off during the day. Anyway, I pour a cold drink and spend the afternoon  watching birds .

 

Our sunset drive  is  quite productive.  We see a pair of spotted eagle owls, a pair of bat eared foxes, a pair of lions, everything in twos, but all too distant or quick to get a decent photo.

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The lions are several hundred meters  apart and call to each other frequently,  the noise gives me goosebumps.  The  male is moving south to join the female who is at a kill, at one point he is quite close to us, but moves so silently.  If he didn't  roar we wouldn't  know  he was there.

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The eagle owls take flight as soon as we pull up beside  them, but one perches on a nearby tree and gives us a perfect silhouette. 

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It's  about  8pm when we get back to camp. We forgot to take torches so have to make our way back to the  chalet  in the dark. Once inside  it's  still  dark, the power is still  off.  I had tried to make  toast that morning,  but the toaster didn't  work, I now realise it must have tripped  the switch. Luckily  I  know  exactly  where I left our torches and manage to find them in the dark, we then head over to reception,  but it's  closed.  Our guide from the sunset  drive  is waiting  to  take  guests  on  a  night drive.  I tell her of our predicament  and she drives off to fetch the  duty manager, who sure enough  finds a switch to flick and we have light .

Dinner is everything that has partly defrosted thrown on the braai :)  That's  several  vege burgers, meat burgers and fish . The vege burgers are tasteless and go straight in the bin once braaied. I  felt I had to cook them first or it would  be a waste of the charcoal I'd  used :D
 The lions are roaring nearby all evening,  but we don't  see them again. I leave the curtains  open when I go to bed just incase they decide  to visit  the  waterhole  again. 

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MeezersUK

The last 3 photos have posted themselves, ignore them :D

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adamt123

Wonderful report thus far @MeezersUK; the wild cat, honey badger and southern white-faced owl are fabulous, but your brownie in broad daylight is truly enviable :) - also the photo of the chestnut-vented tit-babbler/warbler is my favourite  

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MeezersUK
On 11/24/2020 at 5:48 PM, Tdgraves said:

your "bulbul" is a chestnut-vented tit-babbler

Love the name :) he doesn't  appear in the Kgalagadi  map/guide so I never stood a chance of correct identification  :) I wonder how many others I've  wrongly added to the checklist ?

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies Day 6

 

A later start today. I visit reception  first thing  to book another sunset  drive and enquire about buying a wi fi  voucher I've heard mentioned.  I need to contact Air France, tomorrow  night we will be in Upington  and I want to get our suitcase  delivered to our  accommodation . Unfortunately  the  wi fi  voucher  is  only useful  for WhatsApp type calls  but for a few rands per minute  I can use the office landline. For once I get through  to Air France without being put in a queue, but there my luck runs out. I'm  told my suitcase is in Johannesburg.  ' But you promised to fly it to Upington ' I say , he replies ' we did, but you weren't  there, so we flew it back to Johannesburg ' I don't  know  whether  to laugh or cry, this is turning into such a farce. He promises they will fly it back to Upington  today and I can collect  it from the airport on our way to our b&b tomorrow.  
 It's  mid morning  by the time we finally  head out on our drive, we head  south this time. Still very little  to  see. We stop frequently  to scan with binoculars,  but nothing apart from a few springbok  and a honey badger who keeps pace beside  us for a way . 

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We stop for lunch at the Dikbaardskolk picnic  site again , the jackal is still hanging around, as are the birds. The starlings amuse themselves underneath  the  car jumping and pecking at something, I can't see  what. They're  probably  sabotaging  the wiring in retaliation  for  us not feeding  them :D

A slow drive back to camp stopping at all the waterholes . We see a pair of vultures  fussing over something in a nest, I can't  see if it's a chick or an egg .

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Back at camp I  pack away a few things as we're  leaving early tomorrow,  then sit down with coffee and rusks,  waiting for our sunset drive. 
   This , our last sunset drive, was the most rewarding. We see another wild cat, bat eared foxes , an eland ( one of the largest antelope) and a couple of geckos, including one of the   tiny barking geckos responsible  for the clicking noises heard in the evening. He was no bigger than a matchstick,  Incredible  that something so small can be so loud.  And finally , my wishlist is checked when we find  2 cheetahs  sitting at the roadside surveying the riverbed for likely dinner candidates. A perfect last sighting on our last sunset drive. 

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 Back at camp we are just finishing our beans on toast when the lights  go out. It's  only 10pm, I  thought the power was supposed  to stay on until 11pm. Oh well, bed with no shower and the washing up can wait until  morning. 

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  day 7

 

Early start today as we have a long drive out of the park and on to Upington.  So , showered, breakfasted,  packed and permit collected by 8.15. We leave camp for the last time and head south, stopping for a spotted eagle owl who refuses to open his eyes for the camera, even when I do my best  mouse squeak :) At Dikbaardskolk  picnic site we have a mid morning  snack and  say goodbye to the jackal. Leaving the picnic site we are now in new territory , we haven't  driven this section of the Nossob river road.  

 

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  At a waterhole we are  watching oryx sparring while another vehicle is parked up further down the road.  As we pass they point out a male lion eating lunch up on the dune, but he is lying in long grass so we can only just see the top of his head. We wait a while to see if he is going to take an after dinner stroll, but no luck.

 

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The scenery changes the further south we go. I love all the colours, the different  shades of orange and red of the dunes, the landscape is more open, the road is gravel rather than sand and we are driving in the riverbed rather than beside it . Every 100 metres  or so there are concrete blocks stood  marking the border between Botswana  and  South Africa, at one point the blocks were on our right , so were we on the Botswana side for a few minutes ?

 

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 Lots of ostriches here and, as we get closer to Twee Rivieren  we see a few safari vehicles out on their afternoon  drive. They stir up clouds of dust and I quickly learn not to follow too closely.  We haven't  been bothered by dust on the sandy northern roads.

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We arrive at Twee Rivieren  at 2pm. As this camp is on the park border, this is where we will top up the petrol, put air back in the tyres ( on entering  the park we reduced the tyre pressure to cope with the sand )and check out of the park. We eat our packed lunch, buy a few souvenirs and snacks from the shop and are on our way to Upington by 2.45pm, a little  later than I intended,  especially  as we have to stop at the airport  to collect our suitcase. 
We get to the airport just after 5pm. The information  and check in desks are all deserted  , I find someone in the cargo office, who seems rather alarmed to have a member of the public knocking  on his door, he tracks down the South African  airways  clerk who knows nothing about any suitcase. There have been 4 flights  from  Johannesburg  since yesterday,  but my suitcase was not on them. The clerk phones Johannesburg  but can't  get any answers and time is getting on so , despondent, we continue  on into Upington  . It's  beginning  to  get dark and Upington  is really  busy ( last Friday  of the month, pay day and everyone  is out on the town). Detouring to the airport means we are coming in on the wrong road and I don't  notice the charger has come adrift on my phone until the battery  gives up on the outskirts leaving us without Google  maps. We drive in circles scanning the street signs and dodging pedestrians  in  party mood getting increasingly frustrated until , by luck , we find the road our b&b is on.

Our accommodation  is  lovely.  The b&b is on the banks of the Orange river and our rooms look out on the water, which is very low , due to drought, but still host to many birds. When I booked the accommodation  I'd  imagined  I'd  be sitting by the river relaxing with a glass of wine after our long day's driving. My reality was sitting inside on the phone to Air France  AGAIN.  The guy in missing luggage is going to find out what's  happening  and will DEFINITELY  phone me back.

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Dinner is at a restaurant  10 minutes  walk away, it's  very busy but we are given  the choice of seats inside or outside in the pleasant  courtyard  area, we choose outside but are shivering by dessert and now there is no room to move inside. Walking back to our b&b I manage to step in what was probably  the only mud puddle  in Upington, so now my only pair of shoes are stained and wet as well as smelly .

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Peter Connan

They say adventure is just another word for trouble. Seems like you had one! Thanks for continuing this report.

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  days 8 - 10

I didn't  sleep as well as I  thought I  would. After a week in the desert with no light pollution  at night , an outside light caused me to wake at 1.30am  thinking it was time to get up :)   When we did get up at a more civilised  time we were served breakfast on the decking overlooking  the river. Lovely  setting but very chilly with still no warm clothes. In the daylight I can appreciate the grounds, lots of birds ,  bird baths , lots of rustic garden ornaments.  I wish we had been here on our first  night instead of an airport  hotel  in Johannesburg. 
 We leave mid morning  for our 4 hour drive to Springbok, Google maps does a good job of getting us onto the N14, basically  1 road all the way there, but I need to top up the fuel tank and unlike the UK,  the petrol stations  seem to be in the towns rather than on the outskirts.  I have to turn around,  much to Googles consternation  , and spend about  20 minutes  driving in circles through Saturday  morning  traffic in search  of  a  petrol  station. 
 Eventually  we are on our way. It's  a long, straight  road, but the scenery again,  is stunning .  The  colours of the hills in the distance, purples, blues, orange. I  give David  my camera to take some photos, but they don't  do it justice. Weaver birds have built their nest on the telephone poles, we get photos of some smaller ones, but some were quite large, wonder if they affect the phone line ? We see our first , small ,quiver trees and as we get closer to Springbok  I'm  excited  to  see  little patches of flowers on the side of the road, yellow and white, the patches increase in size the closer we get.

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 We arrive at our accommodation  early afternoon . Lovely apartment , lots of tiled, shiny surfaces that look good but prove  to be  rather cold later in the evening.  I'm  disappointed  to hear that the flowers at the local nature reserve  are poor to non existent  this year , I was planning to  spend the day there tomorrow.  I  try to search for alternative  attractions  but the wi fi  isn't  working  because  ' it's the end of the month' , lots of inconvenience  seem to be blamed  on  the  end of the month.
 We cobble together some lunch then head into town for more supplies . We passed a sports shop as we were driving in, we will see if we can get new trainers . Town is one main street, very busy ( well it is the end of the month ;) )  and I can't  find the entrance to the supermarket,  even though I drive by 3 times, I give up and park on a side road and we walk back to find the supermarket  closed at 3pm, it's  now 4.18, the same goes for the sports shop and most other shops, seems everywhere closes early  on Saturday . There is a discount  grocery  store open selling an odd assortment  of basics and random housewares. We manage to get bread, pop and milk, but no new shoes. :(
 Back  at the apartment  I  phone  missing  luggage  again  and finally  get someone  who seems interested  in finding our bag. He scares me first  by saying my brother has collected  it from Johannesburg ! But then realises that our reference  numbers don't  match. When I give him the number from our luggage receipt  he finds the last 2 digits have been transposed, the suitcase they have been  flying back and  forth wasn't  even mine , mine has been sat in Johannesburg  all along!
 Dinner is at a cafe/ restaurant  just around the  corner  from our apartment.  Diners at a neighbouring  table hear us telling the owner of our plans to visit Goegap nature reserve,  they have already  been and say though there are few flowers,the scenery  is worth the visit, so our plans are back on track for tomorrow.  The owner  also  gives me her wifi code so I can Google  best places to see flowers. They actually  have a 'flower hotline' you can phone for updates on where the flowers are blooming. 
 Back at the apartment  I find I can still use the cafe's  wifi if I sit facing the bedroom  wall, so that is what I do  for an hour :)
  I discover I have an electric  blanket on my bed, so opt for an early night reading in a warm bed . It's  also useful  for  drying the socks and underwear that are still slightly  damp :)

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  days  8 - 10

A later start today. We are visiting  the Goegap nature reserve and Skilpad reserve to hopefully  see flowers. The whole point  of  this trip was to see the  spring flowers, but there is no guarantee ,when and if they bloom depends on so many conditions .  South Africa has had several years of drought, but there were spring  rains in the area we are visiting  today and Skilpad at least is reporting a nice display.
 The flowers only open on a sunny day and mid afternoon  is the best viewing time. We head to Goegap  first , as we've  been  told the flowers are poor here there's  no  point in waiting  until  afternoon. Goegap  is a short drive from Springbok  We buy a permit to enter, then park and walk around the succulent  garden , which takes about 5 minutes.  More impressive  are the many quiver trees.

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Back in the car we drive the 13km tourist route, this is mainly sand and gravel, but nothing like  the  Kgalagadi. There are  a  few lonely  little clumps of flowers scattered around, several species all blooming in the same square foot of sand as though this spot and this spot only has all that is needed to grow. 

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The scenery is barren, but striking in places. There are more quiver trees and we see mountain zebra among the rocks up on the hillside. What on earth do they find  to eat ?

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We have to go back through Springbok to get to Skilpad , so we stop for coffee and petrol before  heading south. The patches of flowers at the side of the road grow more numerous and  varied in colour, and I'm  excited  to  see  what waits for us at Skilpad.  My map has us turn off at the tiny settlement  of Kamieskroon where I dubiously  follow a battered Sanparks sign pointing up a dirt track. After a mile or so I decide  this can't  be right, we are on the wrong side of the highway for Namaqualand  and  there is no one else about. We go back to Kamieskroon  where an ' Information  ' sign leads us to a coffee shop set up in someone's house. There are lots of these informal  information  centres , usually  set up by locals who give free  advice to  tourists and sell coffee, tea, cakes and almost always a selection  of homemade  preserves  and knitted items, their ' shops' remind me of a 1980s WI stall :)

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 Anyway, we are told that the dirt track is the right route, we  follow it for 20kms , it goes under the highway at one point, so my map was correct , eventually  we arrive at the park entrance - a tiny shed manned by 2 sanparks staff who note our registration  number and check our Wildcard ( the Wildcard gives us admission  to all South African  national  parks) . Then we are in the park and it's  breath taking. This is what I've  been  waiting to see for over 30 years. So many flowers, carpets of them,predominantly  orange, but many different  colours when you look closer. There are 2 trails we can walk and one to drive. As it is now afternoon  we opt to walk one trail and return  tomorrow  to do the other two.

 

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We leave the park late afternoon  and stop for a drink and snack at the coffee shop/ information  centre . The owner tells us of a field of flowers  we can see from the roadside  a few miles away, so we will go there first tomorrow.  Back in Springbok  we have dinner in the apartment  and  another  early night with the electric  blanket  switched on.

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AfricIan

Stunning @MeezersUK what an amazing flowers display & well captured 

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michael-ibk

Indeed - gorgeous scenery, beautiful!

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Peter Connan

Glad you found some decent flowers after all!

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  • 3 weeks later...
MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies days 8 - 10

Back to Skilpad reserve today, but first we go looking for the field of flowers the guy in the info/ coffee shop  told us about. We find the road ok, but there are just a few patches of flowers by the roadside,  a few cars parked up and people taking photos . I continue on until the road turns into steep descent down a mountainside,  I do a hasty about turn and as we are now heading west I can see the flowers ( they turn  to face the sun) the hillside has a light covering of luminous yellow, but they are a couple  of fields away , too far to get a decent  photo and I don't  fancy walking.
Arriving at Skilpad there are 3 coaches parked up and dozens of Japanese  tourists  are  disembarking all kitted out identically in hiking boots, trousers tucked into socks, long sleeved t shirts with short sleeved tees over the top and mini backpacks. Some carry Nordic walking poles, many are wearing gloves ! ( it's  a gorgeously  warm, sunny day ). They look like they mean business and David and I hurry to get to the trail before  them, I don't  want to be stuck walking behind a huge group. I needn't  have  worried.  They walk a few metres down one trail, pose for photos, then go sit at the picnic tables where their guide is unpacking lunch boxes.
The flowers are more sparse on todays trail, but still enough for me to be stopping every two minutes to take a photo. The scenery is stunning, again.

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By the time we get back to the carpark and sit down at the picnic  tables with our lunch, the coachloads of Japanese  have gone. What a shame to come all this way and not venture more than a few feet from the carpark.

 

There are dozens of weaver bird nests beside the carpark and I spend ages trying to get a decent photo.

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In the ladies the toilet cisterns have  little covers and a succulent adorning them. Lovely.

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After lunch we did the driving route, which was really just circling the trail we walked yesterday.  We walked a little bit of yesterday's  trail again, for good measure.

 

Back in Springbok we walk into town for dinner. I've  chosen the restaurant  from online reviews and it is reassuringly  busy, there is a large book/ souvenir/ map shop alongside  the dining  area , unfortunately  the 3 coachloads of Japanese are here and it is rather chaotic. We are seated quickly ( it seems the Japanese  are shopping, not eating )but then we are ignored. For a little while I assume our waitress is busy, but when she chats to and serves the people behind us, who were seated after us, it becomes  clear  she is ignoring  us. It was a very strange experience,  it felt as though we had offended her somehow.  I  noticed the owner/ manager was watching us, he came over and asked if we'd  been served, he had the waitress take our order immediately  and the food was served shortly afterwards,  then I had to ask for the bill, which she grudgingly  brought, but she disappeared  before  I  could  open my purse. Again we waited and waited. In the end I took the bill, cash and tip ( to prove a point incase she was ignoring  us because  she thought  we wouldn't  tip) and dumped the lot on the counter  infront  of the manager and walked out.

Back at the apartment  I  have a message  on my phone which lightens my mood. Our suitcase  will be delivered  to  our accommodation  in Clanwilliam tomorrow  and I have the name and phone number of the courier who will be delivering  it. I dare to feel optimistic  that in 24 hours I can change my shoes. :)

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies days 11 - 13

 

We head further South to Clanwilliam  today. The plan is to stop off on the way in Nieuwoudtville ' the bulb capital  of the  world ' to hopefully  see more flowers. I didn't  realise we'd  have to drive up a mountain  to get there , well that's  what  the Vanryns pass felt like. As we zig zagged higher and higher I concentrated on some chat show on the radio and refused to look directly  at  the  view. From the corner of my eye it seemed like half of South Africa was spread out below us. When we got to the top I was surprised and relieved to  find we were on top of an escarpment and didn't  have to go down  the other side. In Nieuwoudtville  we stopped at the information  centre  set up in the church hall, then had lunch of soup and toasted sandwiches  , also served in the hall. There was the usual selection of knitted craft items and preserves on sale and quite a few visitors keeping the locals busy.
The assistant  at the info centre advised us that there was a botanical garden a couple of miles down the road , or for fields of flowers we could drive another 40 minutes  or so, but then we'd  be heading to Clanwilliam  in the dusk/dark. We opted for the botanical  gardens,  which disappointingly  weren't gardens at all, but several acres of rough grassland with the very occasional  tiny flower hidden amongst  the  grass.

 

P1030185.JPG.6616ee4c5fcf5fff09093dbd9cc28c9b.JPG It was too late to drive on in search of the fields of flowers, so we about turned  and headed  back down the Vanryns pass. Going down wasn't  so bad, we were on the inside lane so I didn't have   a  sheer drop feet from my door.I gave David  my phone and he eventually  got  it unlocked in time to take some pics as we were halfway down.

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 We arrive at our b&b in Clanwilliam just after 5pm. No suitcase waiting for us, much to my dismay, but a phone call  to the courier confirms he's  on his way, just stuck in traffic. He finally  arrives at 7.30pm. First thing I do is change my shoes for flip flops. :) Then out for dinner. We have a nice enough  meal at one of the top 3 restaurants  on trip advisor  ( not sure how some of these places get their ratings) then back to the b&b and the luxury of our own toiletries and pyjamas .

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies days 11 - 13

 

We get our exercise  today, we are walking to a waterfall and doing a rock art trail. After a delicious  breakfast , eaten while watching the antics of nearby  weaver birds , we head out over the Pachuis pass . This is a proper pass, scenic and with solid ground on each side, so I enjoy the view. 

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 The waterfall walk starts on private property, there is a coffee shop where we get a drink and ask directions . We are told 'cross the stream, walk towards those trees, turn left towards the rocks, follow the footprints painted on the rocks'   Considering ' those trees' were a few 100 metres away this seemed a bit vague , as we start off we are joined by one of the cafe  owners 5 dogs , a brown labrador, when we reach the trees he disappears  into a nearby cottage and returns  with a border collie. The 2 dogs accompanied  us all the way to the waterfall,  waiting for us when I stopped for photos and showing us the way over the rocks, though the collie was a little more conscientious  than the lab, who led us astray a couple  of  times suggesting routes more suitable for 4 legs than 2 :)  

 

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The waterfall  was in a pretty setting and there was a waterhole  deep enough to swim in , both  dogs swum but the water was freezing, my feet were numb from paddling. Both dogs led us back to the coffee shop, a lovely walk all the more enjoyable  for the canine company .

 

 

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 Our next stop is a short drive away. The Travellers rest farm is where the Sevilla rock art trail begins. We have lunch at the farm restaurant  then buy permits for the trail from the farm shop. The trail is 5kms long and a reasonably  easy walk, though there is a bit of scrambling over rocks . There are 9 sites where we can see rock art done by the San people  thousands  of  years ago. Some of  the art requires imagination  to  marry it up with the description  in the leaflet;) , other illustrations  are obvious.

 

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 We get back to Clanwilliam  by 5.30 and wander into town in search of dinner. Ruth's  restaurant  has a blackboard  outside with a very reasonably  priced menu, inside, the menus  are handwritten  on A4 paper, Ruth ( I  assume it's  Ruth )explains she has only been open a few weeks and doesn't  yet have a licence for alcohol,  we decide  to stay anyway and have one of the best and cheapest  meals of the holiday , and she's  not even on TripAdvisor ;)

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies days 11 - 13

I want to do a tour of a rooibos  tea plantation  today. Reception  say they have literally  just received  an email from a local  estate saying they have a tour today , but when we phone they are fully booked. We are told we can follow behind their vehicle in our car which is better than not doing a tour. 
 So at 10.50am we are following a mini bus along the R364 wondering if by any chance it is going to the same rooibos estate,  it is,the group consists of  8 Germans and 1 South African , 2 people haven't  turned up, so we get seats in the tour vehicle. This turns out to be a 1974 converted truck of which our tour guide is very proud. 
 Once we are all seated he tells us it's  history and how it's never let him down. Then it won't  start. We all start laughing, thinking he's  joking with us ( he's a funny guy) but the battery is dead as a dodo. One of the estate workers gives it a push, trying for a rolling start, but we just end up stopped across the driveway  nose first in the scrub . Then a tour bus full of Japanese  tourists arrives to find us blocking the road,  the owner/guide starts grumbling  about the ' click click, kerching' brigade ( so called because they either photograph  it or buy it :D ) the truck is manhandled  off the road to let the coach through, and our owner/guide stomps off muttering to man the shop for the coachload, they aren't  touring the estate,  just visiting  the  shop. We are still giggling at our situation  and our laughter is fuelled by the discovery of a twig used to lock the driver's  door,( a stecken  according  to the Germans) it's obviously  been specially  selected for the job and has been carved and trimmed to fit perfectly . We are still giggling  when our guide returns . Meanwhile jump leads  have been found and the engine started, But a tortoise has just trundled into view so we all get out to take photos. Eventually,  about an hour late we set off for our tour of the estate. 

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 The rooibos ( red bush) only grows in the Clanwilliam  area of South Africa,  it gets it's  name from  the colour of it's  stem. It's  caffeine  free and low in tannin . We are shown the plants in different stages of growth and the production/drying and storage areas. It's  all very interesting  and our guide is amusing ( if very politically  incorrect ;) ) and we finish up tasting the different blends before we decide which we want to buy.  The Japanese  have bought most of the prettily  packaged items but haven't  touched the bargain bags of premium quality tea bags in plain plastic wrapping, I bought a pack of 200, wish I'd  bought more as they have way more flavour than what's on offer in Tesco's.

 

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  It's  lunchtime  by the time we get  back to  Clanwilliam.  We have yummy quiche and chips at Nancy's  tearoom then wander around town in search of a fridge magnet to add to my collection. There's  a  tourist info centre set up in the church opposite  our b&b,  I ask where we can see the best flowers and am told we're  a bit  late , but there is a nature reserve on the way out of town where there was a good display a week ago. 
 Ramskop is less than a 5 minute drive and is in a lovely setting beside the dam/reservoir.  Many of the flowers are past their best but there are enough left to keep us occupied for an hour or so. Lots of birds I haven't  seen before as well.

 

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Back at the b&b one of the employees offers to give the car a much needed wash, it is still coated in dust from the Kalahari, 100rand later I hardly  recognise it in it's  shinyness:) 
 Reception make us a dinner reservation at one of the highly rated restaurants  on TripAdvisor . Again, rather disappointing.  Service was so slow,  2 hours for 2 courses and they were no better than we had on our first night at Ruth's  restaurant. 

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