Kgalagadi Part 1 : Rooiputs

Day 1: Drive to the Kgalagadi

Monday morning we are up at 6am, continental breakfast at 7, and on the road shortly before 8 am… Kgalagadi here we come! But Richard is not feeling 100%…hmmm

Fuel stop in Upington, and then to the park. Again the De Villiers know of all sorts of interesting places to get supplies…this time for good wood…the Komani San Community village a few kilometers outside the park.

The red sand of the Kalahari is now dominating the landscape as we approach the entrance to the Transfrontier Park. Although we are booked in to camps on the Botswana side, we do not need passports. One checks in on the Botswana side of the office (same room as SANParks), pays whatever is owing in cash – Pula or Rand, and with permit in hand enter the Twee Rivieren/ Two Rivers area. Quick stop at the little shop to purchase a map, and off we go on a game drive, in 35 degree heat, armed with our binoculars and camera now at the ready, en route to our first campsite.

It was afternoon, so not much was about, but we saw Springbok, Gemsbok, Wildebeest, and a variety of birds, including my first Lanner Falcon.

Time to set up camp – Rooiputs No 4 for 5 nights- lekka bush camping. Richard and I managed to get Klippie off the bakkie with no drama, and slowly set up camp in the heat. Poor Rich was really not feeling well and was running a temperature. We stayed in camp while the others went for an evening game drive. We all enjoyed sunset from the lapa sipping our gin and tonics. Supper was burgers…we all brought our favourite meat…warthog, chicken and beef were all on the braai ! A delicious meal.

While we were waiting for the coals to be ready, a very thin black-backed jackal wandered into our camp area. We were immediately concerned as it showed absolutely no fear of us, was behaving really strangely. The jackal even came up to the fire and put its head in the flames! Didn’t even cry and made a lame attempt to move- we tried to chase it away, but it seemed to be completely mesmerized by the fire.  At last it started moving away. It just wandered between our tents and vehicles, and if we were there it took absolutely no notice of us. Definite signs of rabies so we were not pleased. After it became clear that this poor animal was not going to leave, and was obviously not well, and very weak, we trapped it under a very large piece of shade cloth, drove up to the nearby lodge to ask if they could get hold of rangers to check the animal out. Poor thing slept restlessly under the shade cloth all night, and eventually at about 11 am a ranger arrived. We had made more shade for the animal with tables and more shade cloth. The jackal was removed as we said we are pretty sure the animal has rabies, but apparently the vetinarary services do not stay in the park, so no one was around to check it out. It was released back into the veld – apparently went and lay under a tree. If this animal does indeed have rabies, this is clearly not a great scenario for other animals it may infect.  The ranger did not have much option though, as it seems there is no support for them for this kind of circumstance. Of course nature should take its course, but rabies can be transmitted to other animals and humans of course too…tricky one.

Day 2: Chilling in the scorching Kalahari

Richard stayed in bed, got his tea in bed, and I joined Digby and Krista for a morning game drive.  Wow, tawny eagles literally everywhere, and so many Lanner falcons. Juvenile Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks we’re also abundant. Other special sightings were a Crimson-breasted shrike, a capped wheatear in inbetween plumage and a small flock of Namaqua sandgrouse.  Also Springbok, gemsbok, ground squirrels, Black-backed jackal, a huge leopard tortoise, and I think a beautiful hinged tortoise.

The rest of the day we vrotted in camp- well the Gericke’s were on a long game drive, and the rest of us decided to take it easy. Rich was feeling a little better. After a lovely cold shower – yes, at the moment the water is working at Rooiputs, and the shower repaired today. Bliss!

Sundowners to the twilight chorus of thousands of barking geckos followed by a delicious lamb potjie, flavored with ginger, cinnamon, a few herbs etc… cooked by the Gericke’s ended a lovely day. And then Richard spiked a fever again, so we are heading into Upington tomorrow to the hospital to check if Rich hasn’t contracted malaria from our trip in February to Kwanza, Angola. Hold thumbs that it is something a lot more benign…

Day 3: A visit to the doctor

Unbelievable how quiet it is here. Lulled to sleep by the gentle hoot of an owl and a distant roar of a lion. Up by 6:30 after quite a good night’s sleep. Made tea, and we all sat on the edge of the lapa watching the sunrise over the duneveld, the birds darting around and two rats foraging. Eventually Richard and I got going and drove the 3 hour trip to Upington. We got an appointment luckily with a doctor very quickly, got sent for blood tests….the malaria test was done almost immediately and mercifully it is not malaria. Back in the car armed with a suitable broad spectrum antibiotic and we headed back 3 hours to Rooiputs. Thank goodness for audiobooks! 

Just in time for a sundowner with Olga, Nigel, Krista and Digby…and then a superb fillet on the braai, sweet potato chips and salad, and yesssss, ice cream for dessert…wow!

Rich then decided to try his skills again with some night photography….see what you think ….

In bed now, it is boiling hot and still with no wind. Jackal calling occasionally tonight. Hopefully an early morning drive tomorrow will reveal some more of the famous, but at the moment, elusive predators.

Day 4: Exploring

The alarm went off at 6 am…but this morning I did not feel like getting up early. The Gericke’s and the De Villiers set off early, we eventually got going around 7:30 for a game drive. We headed along the Nossob River road and encountered the injured young male lion…he was in a fight with 2 adult lions about 2 months ago and it seems he has broken a leg in that fight. His mother and siblings apparently call when they have made a kill if they know he is in the area. Poor guy is really thin, but clearly determined to hang on!

We landed up heading over the dune road to the Auob River – the red rolling dunes are carpeted with grasses, small leafed shrubs and flowering plants – it looks like an endless colourful meadow. Saw some interesting birds.  The highlight was Richard spotting an African Wildcat – beautiful cats, and so elusive. 

Along the Auob we watched flocks of Burchell’s and Namaqualand sandgrouse swirl down to a waterhole to fill their feathers with water for their chicks, and some quickly grabbed a sip themselves. Closer to Twee Rivieren we encountered a big male lion resting under a tree- his interesting facial marking turns out to be a porcupine quill! Can’t be too comfortable. 

Back at camp we had some lunch, and started to prepare supper-our turn to cook, and it is chops and wors. Otherwise we did some tidying up, looked at a few photos, tried to ID a few birds, chatted, enjoyed a delicious cold shower.

Lovely day. Tomorrow the plan is to actually get out of bed at 6 am in the hope to see the cheetah the others saw today.

Day 5: Cheetah

Yesss, out of bed, tea made in our travel mugs, and on the road around 6:30 ish. We just missed seeing 3 cheetah- we were not as fast as the De Villiers and the Gericke’s this morning. Nice sightings of herds of Springbok, Wildebeest, and Oryx, some nice birds, then we headed towards Twee Rivieren for some cell coverage and a cup of coffee, and a catch up with the family. Approaching Leeuwdril waterhole we came across a lone cheetah sitting under a tree with a view over the waterhole. He/she was calling – elegant cats.

We headed back to the camp, enjoyed brunch, relaxed, showered, had late lunch, some fixing of the leaky gas cylinder to keep my husband busy. A late afternoon drive didn’t reveal anything – very hot still, except for about 10 Kori Bustards.

Supper was left overs from the 3 couples-perfect camp meal, and a farewell toast to Olga and Nigel who are leaving in the morning.  We will be breaking camp and heading up to Polentswa for another 5 days of camping. Pete and Sally Shaw will be joining us there.

Number of bird species so far on my Kgalagadi list is now around 50. Very happy.