Kgalagadi Part 2


Day 6: Venturing north to Polentswa

Early start to wave goodbye to the Gerickes and to pack up camp. As we had our full Nkandla setup, it took us a while, so the De Villiers headed out. We caught up with them at Kai Kai waterhole watching in the region of 30 Gemsbok jostling for a drink at the waterhole. Polentswa is a good 4 hour drive from Rooiputs so we set off, stopped at a picnic site or two for a quick leg stretch, cup of tea and ablution break. At Nosssob we filled up with fuel, popped in to the hide overlooking the riverbed and waterhole-  a lone Abdim’s Stork was wondering in between the herd of Springbok, and a Rich then spotted Shaft-tailed Whydah… I did catch a glimpse of one ….wow, beautiful birds, and another tick for me :).

On we drove through incredible Kalahari bushveld, listening now to an audiobook, and at Kwang waterhole we came across a mating pair of lions. Very hot cats lying on the sandy road….having intercourse a few times every hour in 37 degrees Centigrade heat can’t be fun :).

Polentswa Camp has only 3 sites, and it is only available for 4×4 vehicles. No water. Long drop loos, and a bucket shower system, obviously with water we have brought. Stunning vistas over the pan of the Polentswa Riverbed. A beer shandy was enjoyed before setting up camp. Supper was pasta and goulash I had precooked, so easy meal tonight. Lovely chatty dinner with the De Villiers in their favourite camp – I already can see why. Isolation. Quiet. Views. Another special spot in Africa.

Tomorrow Rich and I will probably lie in…been a long hot day.

Day 7: Of doves and jackal

Well, so much for a lie in… Richard was the one rearing to go for an early sunrise at the Polentswa Waterhole. Off we went – De Villiers s were already there. We watched a small herd of Springbok trying to get in a few sips of water in amongst literally thousands of Ring- necked doves flurrying and jostling to each get their morning supply of water. Quite spectacular. A Lanner Falcon flew through the frightened flock and nabbed a bird in flight, sending feathers raining down between our two vehicles. Then a black- backed jackal trotted into view. He drank, and then nonchalantly eyed the whirling birds. Next minute he was in full stalk and bolt…after numerous failed attempts, he eventually had some luck and trotted a few steps from the waterhole with a stunned looking dove in his mouth. Breakfast for him started with biting the hapless dove’s head off and crunching that before devouring the rest of the bird. A Tawny Eagle had been watching, swooped down, hoping to get a few morsels from the jackal, who hardly flinched at Tawny’s presence. Only a few “crumbs” left for Tawny!

Young Bateleurs were also hanging around, but mostly kept their distance. Back at camp we tucked into breakfast – eggs and bacon, before chilling in camp, watching the social weavers, scaly-feathered finches, cape starlings, sparrows, and a few violet-eared waxbills competing for water in plastic bottles converted into bird baths. After a fun few games of Banagrams with Krista, Richard and I started preparing dinner- Sunday roast of pork, potatoes, tinned peas, green bean salad, carrots, apple sauce and gravy! At 5 pm, just in time for sundowners and starters of Springbok Carpaccio, Pete and Sally arrived! Yay, party complete. So good to be with our Africa Adventure travel buddies again.

The roast worked beautifully in our portable braai oven, complemented by a bottle of bubbly. Fun evening, followed by a massive team wash up- all brought our portable washing up stands t the fire and communally washed and cleaned up. What a pleasure to cook like this.

Day 8: Relocating

This morning the De Villiers and Shaws  went to the waterhole early- we had a short lie in, and decided to not go – of course we missed the brown hyaena coming to drink. Need to be up and out there early in the bush ! We had to move campsites to Polentswa One, directly on the pan. Before it got hot, we loaded chairs, tables and other camping paraphernalia from our 3 vehicles into our bakkie and dropped them at the site below the one we had been on for 2 nights. Digby was busy tying down his roof top tent on his trailer when he detected a movement next to his foot – a puff-adder curled up next to the tyre of their trailer!! Richard used a pole to pick the snake up and place it in a crate, carried it to the edge of the campsite and released it…this turned out to be Puffadder No.1…

Klippie was put on the bakkie, driven down the road and then re-erected on its new site for 3 nights. More chilling in camp, left overs and other snacks goodies for communal lunch, chats, discussions, repairs, showers, before heading off for a quick hour at the waterhole. Well, the Shaws stayed behind for some peace and to continue preparing their Mexican dinner- they were the chefs tonight.

In between, Rich and I drove the couple of kilometers skirting the pan to the Polentswa Lodge to have a look. Beautiful position on the dune overlooking the pan and a little waterhole. If you are not a camper, but would like to experience  a little of the isolation and beauty and harshness of the Kalahari, this is probably not a bad option.

Not much action at the waterhole- some beautiful Bateleurs though,  and a great sighting of a Shaft- tailed Whydah. Sundowners from the A-framed lapa overlooking the pan-just beautiful. Pete and Sally produced a fabulous meal of Tacos, and for dessert produced Magnum ice-creams out of their deep freeze! And then some Amarula on ice as a night cap. It’s tough camping in the middle of nowhere, but someone’s got to do it.

Day 9: The trek to Union’s End

Up at dawn after quite a good night’s sleep as it wasn’t hot last night. All set for a drive up to Lijersdraai. We started at Polentswa waterhole to drink our morning cup of tea out of our trusty bamboo travel mugs that have survived our long trip last year. The morning entertainment was provided by some Wildebeest and Bateleur. We have been struggling with our camera- nearly all our pics from our Africa trip are actually not in focus, so have had the lenses, and now the camera body sent in to check. Adjustments have been made, and the situation is much better, but we are still struggling a little. Anyway, Rich is using two different camera bodies for comparison shots, so that was done this morning.

The jackal was present again, but no dove hunting this morning so off we went, 3 vehicles in a spaced out convoy so we wouldn’t eat each other’s dust. The road is bone-jarringingly, teeth-rattlingly corrugated. The mission was to try to spot a leopard, but instead we came across a coalition of 3 Cheetah, swollen-bellied and replete after polishing off a Springbok ewe. A Jackal was picking what he could still find left on the carcass, which was really not much.

Heading slowly up the river bed were three Lionesses, possibly also seeking a shady place to digest their early morning meal. The one looked as though she has an injury, but too far away to really see.

After a breakfast of granola, yoghurt and apple at Union’s End picnic spot, we decided to keep going to Union’s End itself where 3 countries meet: South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Another interesting place on Earth visited and enjoyed.

Heading back to camp went a lot faster… windows closed, aircon on, audiobook playing, to avoid the 36 degree heat. We ended with a stop again at Polentswa waterhole and were rewarded with 4 Secretary birds, a Tawny eagle and a Bateleur.

The afternoon was spent doing zero- except chatting, and eventually a shower. Richard and I have a water shortage as we suspect our main water tank carrying 70 liters must have a slow leak. We have enough drinking water till we head back to Rooiputs via Nossob to get more drinking water, but shower water…..we would have been using many wet wipes. Very kindly the De Villiers have extra water, so we are luxuriously able to shower. Very embarrassing and not okay to run out of water on such a trip. We worked out that we had maybe used 20 liters of the big tank…another check and probably repair job when we get home. Or buy a new water tank.

The De Villiers were on chef duty tonight- lekka braai with Krista’s sweet potatoes, salad, and braai rolls. Marshmallow chocolate Easter Eggs and Whispers kept in the fridge for dessert. A gastronomic Kgalagadi trip this is!

Day 10 – Amazing sightings and some Adrenalin

I really wanted to see a brown hyaena, and one has a habit in this area of heading down to the waterhole at sunrise to drink. They are very shy animals. Problem is, is that one is not allowed to head out before 6:30 am until end March, and then  I think it is 7 am from April! But the sun is up by 7 am. Anyway, tea is made in our travel mugs, and Rich and I head off to the waterhole to see if we could find a pair of lions that we had heard all night roaring around the area of the waterhole. Quite something waking up at 2 am to the sound of a lion chorus. We found the tracks of the lion pair clearly going to the waterhole, and then another smaller set of tracks leaving the waterhole, which were leopard. Despite our three vehicles heading in 3 different directions, no sign of any of these cats….well eventually Pete and Sally saw the lions halfway to Leiersdraai. We were heading back to Polentswa waterhole from Kousant when Digby called us over the radio to say there was a brown hyaena at the waterhole! Our timing was perfect….a beautiful male brown hyaena having a long breakfast drink. What a treat.

After he had disappeared into the bush again, Rich and I decided to try to find the leopard. We drove slowly trying to follow the spoor in the road, and scanning trees for for dangling limbs or unusual shapes that could be a leopard. And there in the road was the brown hyaena again… we followed him for about 500 m, until he turned up a dry stream bed into time bush. Sjoe.

On we drove. Next minute Rich shouts “ badger” …on the right hand side of the road was a honey badger digging for food with a Pale Chanting Goshawk not even 2 m away from it, waiting to catch any insects, lizards or mice that the foraging badger might flush. The badger obviously got a fright and ran across the road and into the. Use on the other side. What a majestic feisty animal. The PCG was not happy with us, and gave us a withering look before flying away in disgust that an easy breakfast was no more.

We headed back to camp for a late breakfast with everyone….bacon and eggs, coffee. Washed up in our kitchen with a view, then relaxed in the A- frame, reading, identifying birds, chatting and drinking more tea. And again, another scorcher of a day with strong afternoon winds.

Late afternoon bucket shower, a beer shandy, then time for us to prepare the potjie- beef shin and veggies, served with Naan bread and gem squash done on the fire. Worked well.  So I am armed with my basket of goodies to be stowed back in Klippie, reach down to open the tent zip, basket in my left hand, and as I am straightening up and have the tent door half unzipped I see this movement right next to me in the torch light- a puff adder! Those who know me, will know…I screeched and ran, dropped the basket in the middle of the campsite, and thought I was going to throw up. My hand couldn’t have been more than 20 cm from the snake when I reached down to open the zip. Gosh, I was so lucky! Mercifully for our brave men, who caught the snake with braai tongs and moved it out into the veld. As they were putting it down, a loud shriek from Krista…another puffy right next to their tent entrance ! This one was a bit more aggro apparently, but again, the animal was safely remove by my brave husband and the Digby and Pete, and placed in the veld. Our shattered nerves. Anyway, we regrouped in the A-frame after packing dinner away. We sat with no lights on to watch the distant lightening display ( much more exciting than a laser light show :)), and I hear the bushes in front of us rustle. My fragile nerves…anyway, Richard shines his very powerful torch, and we watch a little Cape Fox leaping over bushes trying to catch a springhare! Magnificent. And I decided that was a good way to end the day, and head to our rooftop tent for some sleep. Quite a special day all round. 

Tomorrow we leave Polentswa and head back to Rooiputs for 2 nights…my wishlist for that drive…a leopard, an Aardwolf and a pangolin! Wild dog would be good too. But maybe that will have to be on another visit.