Days 29, 30 and 31 – Upington to Kalahari National Park – 7th / 8th / 9th October

Day 1

We left the B&B in Upington at 8.00 for the drive to the Park. From Elsa’s research, it was about 250 km to the entrance along exactly the same sort of roads as the previous 2 days so 120 kmph cruise control drive through nothing of interest. We got to the gates at about 10.00 and set off on the supposed 3.5 hour, 115 km drive. The speed limit in the park is 50 kmph so I think they allow for the bad roads and a bit of stopping to see animals etc. However, it took us about 5 hours to get to our camp, the Kalahari Tented Camp.

Everything about the trip was different to our previous National Park visits, with the terrain being pretty flat and open and the roads initially being gravel but then becoming very soft sand which took a bit of getting used to but having traction control on the car certainly helped. Also there are far fewer animals in the park than in the others so we basically only saw springbok, gemboks, blue wildebeest. giraffes, jackals. lions and a few kudu – and in reality, the only ones that there are a lot of are springbok, gemboks and blue wildebeest so it was a bit disappointing. The one thing a bit different in the wildlife is the number of birds of all varieties – not that I’m a twitcher but it was interesting. Another thing in the whole area of the Northern Cape, are nests that are made by lots of birds who combine loads of individual nests into one big one – a bit like a bird multi storey block of flats!

Our chalet was basically half walled / half tented with a separate tented kitchen. It had no plug sockets at all and the lighting was solar powered but it had a 2 ring gas plate, a gas (I’ve no idea how it works) fridge / freezer and a gas boiler for the shower so was enough for us to get by. There’s no phone reception in the park at all and obviously no internet so was strange being out of contact with the outside world! We unpacked and had a quick drive to a couple of water holes and another camp to see if there were any more animals about but there weren’t really so we went back and lit the braai for our dinner.

I was taking some pictures of the sunset when Elsa started shouting that the gas cooker was on fire! I rushed back and the cooker control had fallen off and was leaking gas which was alight. Being a super hero I managed to put it out (I turned the gas tap off at the main) but had still managed to burn all the hairs off my hands and they were a bit sore! I stormed off to get the camp manager to scream at him – but he wasn’t too bothered, basically just said ok and replaced it with a new one! We managed to have a nice dinner sitting out on the deck and had the obligatory few beers and went to bed.

Day 2

We got up at 6.00 and packed all our stuff in order to go to the watering holes to see if we could see any more animals after the lack of them the previous day – but there was still only springbok, wildebeest and gemboks! We were going to stay in another camp (Nossob) about 120 km away and so set off there. This involved driving the dune road for the first half which I’d expected to be all sand but was actually a gravel road which went up and down (a lot) through all the sand dunes there. The second half of the drive was again all through soft sand but because of all the sand banked up on each side of the road, it meant that we couldn’t see anything!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I came to the park as I knew it was the desert but it is unlike what a Brit would expect of a desert. It isn’t all miles of high sand dunes with nothing in it, rather it is like the previous parks but with the vegetation growing in the sand. There are big plains with grass on that actually look like fairways on a golf course but also big dunes surrounding it – a bit bigger than bunkers! On the dune road, the sand was all a dark orange colour whereas in the lower levels it is all very fine brown sand, much like a nice beach!

We unpacked our stuff and had some lunch in our next chalet (this one had plug sockets and electric stove and fridge / freezer but they switch all the power off between 22.00 and 5.00 the next day!). As we had seen very few animals again, we set off for another 2 water holes, again along sand roads. This time we planned to stay there for a couple of hours in the hope that the animals would come along – but again, it was only gemboks and springboks though we did see some vultures and eagles. We then went back to the chalet for our dinner. We’d planned another braai but it got very windy so we ended up cooking and eating inside with the obligatory few drinks!

Day 3

We were awake early (5.00) so we waited for a bit and then walked down to the park’s animal hide overlooking a water hole hoping to see something – but the only thing there was a family of 6 Indian people who had been in the chalet next door to us in our previous camp! We managed to get a few good pictures of the sun rising though so it wasn’t a complete waste of time but it was freezing cold (there was ice on the car) so we didn’t hang about too long.

We packed our stuff up and left at 8.00 to go to our last camp, Twee Rivier (Two Rivers), about 150 km away. This was actually at the gate we entered the park at and we planned to stay there overnight as we had a fairly long drive on the next leg of the trip to Augrabies. It meant that we had done a sort of big loop around the 3 camps (about 540 km in total) so we’d managed to see quite a lot of the park. The drive was pretty uneventful with no different types of animals spotted but I had got used to driving on the sand roads now so we made pretty good time. Driving on the sand is like being in the UK and driving on freshly fallen snow but without sliding quite as far when the car loses grip. After the previous day of 33C temperatures, it had cooled down a bit and was only 20C when we arrived at Twee Riviers Camp at 12.30. It warmed up a bit then to a pleasant 25C and as there wasn’t a lot to see, we went and did our washing and sat in the sunshine reading our books. It was about the first time we’d actually just sat in the sun for any length of time on the whole trip so was good just relaxing, though we both got a bit burnt! Elsa wanted to go for one more visit to a water hole, more in hope than expectation of seeing anything decent, so she went off at 4.30 while I cooked dinner. She was there for 2 hours and saw precisely nothing!! When she got back, we had our dinner and a couple of drinks before watching Kung Fu Panda 3 on the lap top and going to sleep.

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