Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Day one and two

 

A wider view over the relatively small waterholes, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A wider view over the relatively small waterholes, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

After an exciting week or so along the coast and Oranje River, it was time for another re-day in Upington. A big enough town along the Oranje River and gateway to Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, combining South Africa and Botswana. As long as you enter and re- enter the same gate, one can roam free in between both countries area of the park.

Watching Oryx antelopes wandering the red dunes, black maned lions under camel-thorn trees, or many many more wildlife scattering around waterholes, sunsets over the Kalahari, taking Zimba on 4wd tracks, camping under the stars…… one gets the picture.

Oryx,or Gemsbok are desert specialists, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Oryx,or Gemsbok are desert specialists, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

However my enthusiasm was short lived as the usual South African frustration set in. After eventually finding the information centre, no one was really able to help me. I needed a map to see where the campgrounds are and plan ahead, but no maps were available. Instead, I was handed a telephone to pre-book my camp spots. No other way to get in. But without a map, how was I supposed to know where the campsites are. One can buy a booklet or map once you get to the gate. Despite the fact, that the only 3 campsites are mostly fully booked. One could opt for a chalet for about 300$Au, 10 times as expensive than a campsite. No one could give me any info about the Botswana side of the park, even though this is a ‘transfrontier park’.  I know this is Africa, but c’mon,really???

Spectacular rainbow over the arid Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Spectacular rainbow over the arid Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

It was a damn cold morning, windy, cloudy and partly rainy. After a quick shop stop, I made my way up north. The cold southerly wind gave us a good push, we were cruising. Some dark clouds appeared on the horizon. Other parts were sunny and even a rainbow appeared. How cool was that. Shame I wasn’t at a nicer viewpoint at the time, but it sure was an unexpected bonus. A rainbow in the Kalahari!

A chilly morning over the Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A chilly morning over the Kalahari desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I found a spot to camp next to a gravel road, it was still very cold. Nice sunset in between some old trees, with weaver bird nest hanging. Some of these nests are immense in size, quite a structure.

An immense building for a tiny weaver bird, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

An immense building for a tiny weaver bird, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I’ve seen nests on the ground a few times on my travels. The dry branch just couldn’t support the weight anymore and snapped. The wind dropped overnight, the temperature too.

Desert without frontiers, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Desert without frontiers, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Even the sunny calm morning couldn’t warm me up. Not long after packing in, I arrived at the gates of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Friendly and helpful service and I was one of the first newcomers. I set up camp at ‘Twee Rivien campsite’. A coffee later, I headed up the road towards Nosseb. The waterholes marked on the map weren’t of natural structure. These were dug out by the SA army during WW1, in case they would attack German South West Africa, now Namibia. Very small in nature.

The spring of life, things can get a bit heated at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The spring of life, things can get a bit heated at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Oryx, or Gemsbok, were the main occupants and even scared off the smaller springboks. A jackal, a few ostriches and blue wildebeest scattered along the roads, even a seldom seen secretary bird was sighted.

A secretary bird stalking the dru grass plains, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A secretary bird stalking the dru grass plains, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I decided to drive the ‘lower dune road’ back to the Mata-Mata road, which was nice. Red hot sand dunes, blue skies with a few white clouds shining through.

A tiny Steenbok in a vast desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A tiny Steenbok in a vast desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A hot looking ‘steenbok’ stood in the red dunes. Meanwhile, dessert temperatures were on the rise, still bearable. I passed the Museum house, which used to be a living cottage some years back.

Remains of the past, a museum today, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Remains of the past, a museum today, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I was lucky enough, to get a few close up shots of springboks and ostriches.

Springbok grazing on spiky Camelthorn trees, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Springbok grazing on spiky Camelthorn trees, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Driving, spotting and taking photos on gravel road sure increases your multi-tasking skills. I might need a driver…?

A female ostrich grazing the plains, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A female ostrich grazing the plains, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

No lions or other predators to be seen. The campsite filled up quickly and I had a wee chat with my neighbours. All happy friendly campers. ‘Twee Rivien campsite’ is well set up, including pool, showers, laundry room, kitchen, souvenir/grocery shop and restaurant. The chalets looked luxurious too. Unexpected luxury in the desert.

Luxurious chalets at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Luxurious chalets at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I lid the fire and cooked my chicken fillets on the braai, served with stir fry veggies and carrot salad, gotta be happy with that. The stars were out,the wind dropped and temperature was comfortable. Even more so around the fire. The braai facilities are hip high, one needs a bar stool to look in to the fire. I was hoping to hear a lion roar overnight, or some other animals, but no such luck.

A spacious campground with excellent desert settings, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A spacious campground with excellent desert settings, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

5 am wake up, most people were already packing in and getting ready to drive out. The German couple next to me worked in efficient team spirit, like a clock work orange. Quite a queue lining up at the the gate, where you receive your driver manual, stating the direction you are going. In case you won’t make it back, they know where to look for you. I was ready to go some time later, it takes a while to pack the tent in, have breakfast and coffee. I was determined to be out all day.

Well, that didn’t happen. Apart from the usual suspects, I saw a lion sleeping not far off the road. Actually, I saw 4 cars parked right in front of him and eventually as one car moved on, I was able to take two photos.

Lion around after a busy night, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Lion around after a busy night, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

At first I thought he was dead, but the tongue came out some time later. He is the only, passed out lion around. Tough day in the Kalahari.

Mexican stand-off between lion and wilderbeast,Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Mexican stand-off between lion and wilderbeast,Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Moving on a bit further, I saw a lioness, casually walking towards a herd of wildebeest. Here we go, some action I thought. The lioness wasn’t in stealth mode  and was carefully watched by the herd. It was more like a ‘see what happens’ action. The wildebeest obviously walked away from her, just as casual. She then got tired of it and turned around to that shady camel-thorn tree, where another lioness was lying around. So the wildebeest turned around and walked that direction as well, until the lioness turned around again. Not really the action I was hoping for, but it sure was entertaining. Tug of war in the Kalahari. She then had enough and joined her sister. The wildebeest were thinking of going further, one could see their brain working overtime, but decided to go for shade for now, smart move.

Picnic area with little shade, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Picnic area with little shade, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Not much else was happening and I was parked in the sun, there really is not too much shelter from this sun. Getting out of your car is only allowed at designated picnic areas. That’s my next destination, sandwich and coffee in the shade. There wasn’t much shade either, but it was peaceful and quiet. The northerly wind blowing went through the holes of the steel bar for the elevated braai, it sounded like a flute. Really cool tune actually. The rest of the lion parade caravan arrived not long after, time for me to move on. I decided to take the ‘upper dune road’, connecting with the ‘mata-mata’ road. Just graded, it was fun driving.

A well maintained road through the desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A well maintained road through the desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A few Oryx were spotted in the very distance,as well as the odd ostrich and springbok. The temperature was on the rise even more. Too hot, too little shelter, so I headed back to camp earlier then expected.

A starling looking for more, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A starling looking for more, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A shady tree, chilly swimming pool and some squirrels and birds kept me entertained. These small cuties sure knew what they were looking for.

A very entertaining squirrel, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A very entertaining squirrel, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Meanwhile, the new camping crew had arrived, setting up camp all around me. Flame grilled chicken and a cosy fire, as temperature drops quickly once the sun had set.

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