Garden route and last fitments to the Landcruiser
After Addo Elephant NP we're headed back to Brackenfell (near Cape Town). We drove the garden route from Port Elizabeth to Mosselbay. The views of the coastline are really nice. Despite a turn in the weather (it has dropped again to 13 degrees) we enjoyed the route and Wilfred loves driving through the mountain passes. He was somewhat disappointed that two passes are closed due to bad weather conditions and he needed to stay on the highway (N2). Although not yet flower season we can see the first flower buds blossom. It is so much nicer then what we remember of ten years ago. But at that time we had continuous rain on the garden route.
On the garden route our first stop was in Jeffrey’s Bay and Cape St Francis, two small seaside towns, with nice surfing possibilities. Especially in Jeffrey’s Bay where the world championship was held the beginning of July. Surfers from all around the world come to this town for the so-called ‘super tubes’. From there we drove to Mossel Bay and stayed at a campsite right at the beach. We visited the Dias museum where they have a replica of the ship of Bartolemeu Dias, who first sailed past Cape of Good Hope in 1488. This paved the way for Vasco di Gamma to sail towards India; a passage also used a lot by the VOC. The replica was built in 1987 in Lisbon and sailed with a crew of 17 members to Mosselbay in 1988 taking 3 months whereas in 1488 it took Dias, with a crew of 40 persons, 6 months. From Mossel Bay we visited ‘De Hoop Nature reserve’ a small reserve with two exceptional animals that can be spotted; the blesbok (a similar antelope as the bontebok, only in different colours) and the southern right whale. As it is breeding season we spotted a lot of whales just before the shoreline. Due to the too shallow water we unfortunately did not see any impressive tails.
Then it is time to drive toward Brackenfell to have some minor adjustments made to our Landcruiser. At the last minute we also decided to replace the shocks of our car as well, with a much better stability as a result (Although the previous shocks were still good (meaning not leaking), they were already 10 years old)). Since they are still good, we decided to take them along as spare parts, in case anything happens during our trip. As the weight of the roof has increased with the new box and the sand plates, we also get two new gas cylinders for the pop up roof to install at a later time.
Cederberg Wilderness area and Namaqua region
And at last…on July 26th we left Brackenfell towards Cederberg Wilderness area. We drove a very nice route through the Cederberg mountain range already enjoying the first wildflowers blooming. The next day we stopped in Clanwilliam, a town renowned worldwide for it’s rooibos tea. During a tea tasting of only rooibos tea we learned that there are 7 ‘clans’ of rooibos tea. Our biggest surprise was that rooibos tea isn’t actually a tea bush, but some sort of green grass. The red colour coming from an oil in the stems that is pressed during the fermentation process.
At a campsite near Klawer, in the wine region of Olifantsrivier, Wilfred tries
d to pop up the roof…and almost hurts his back…this was never so heavy! As it is almost dark and difficult to address the problem we decided to just take one of the rooms at the campsite. The next morning we parked our car in the garage of the owner and he helped Wilfred to pop up the roof…and with some extra effort they get the roof up and put a huge log of wood under to keep it open. The problem is immediately located; one of the gas cylinders is leaking and has no power whatsoever. We realized that we are extremely lucky it didn’t break while we were sleeping. Wilfred replaced the gas cylinders for the new ones and problem solved. In the afternoon we treated ourselves to a nice wine and biltong paring at the Spuitdrift wine estate and decide spend another night at Highlanders campsite.
As we need to be in the Kgalagadi National Park by August 2nd the next couple of days are focused on getting there with an overnight stop in a small mining town close to Hondeklip bay, Koiingnaas. The next day we cross through the Namaqua NP and see our first field filled with orange wild flowers and stop at an ancient prison on the way to Springbok. The prisoners had to build their own prison; before they started work on building the Wildeperdepass to carry copper ore with ox wagons form Koiingnaas to Springbok. Unfortunately for the prisoners the pass was never used for this purpose as parallel a railway was built and transportation via rail was much more efficient then by ox wagons. During the weekend towns are extremely busy and this weekend is even worse, the last weekend of the month and people have received their pay check…Judith had first hand experience of standing in queues…first almost 30 minutes to get some money from the ATM and in line at the supermarket for almost one hour. The lines were till the end of each aisles making shopping for groceries very difficult. Wilfred finally found a parking space after almost 40 minutes and after one hour went into the SPAR to see what’s taking so long, as Judith finally emerged with the groceries.
Loch Maree and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Next stop was Upington, mostly a town used as stopover for visits to the Kgalagardi Transfrontier Park. It is a large town and we decide to drive a little bit further to Spitskop Nature reserve for our overnight stay. Unfortunately, it is under new management and no visitors are allowed…as the saying goes…’this is Africa!’; you never know when something unexpected will happen, but at certain times it will! As it was still early during the day we drove towards Askham (just 170km in the direction of the Kgalagadi NP). There are many campsites along the route from Upington to Askham and we ended up at Loch Maree Guest farm. As there were hunters in the field camp (where you have electricity and hot water from solar energy) the hostess asked us if we needed electricity as she preferred that we stayed at their bush camp. Meaning no electricity and hot water only by means of a donkey geyser (you need to get a fire going and after a 1,5-2 hours you will have some hot water). As we have a solar panel we stayed in the bush camp and it is an amazing place, in the middle of the red sand dunes. The next day we drove the 4x4 red dunes trail on the guest farm, crossing many red sand dunes with some really tricky parts of very soft sand. The Landcruiser is amazing and without any problems it got us up every sand dune. While driving this trail we realized again that the limitation are not the car but the driver…
A couple of weeks ago we booked our visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, as it is the most popular park for South Africans to visit themselves. Luckily for us we could still squeeze in 4 nights of camping from August 2 till 6. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The name means place of thirst, as it is a semi-dessert environment. The terrain consists of red sand dunes, sparse vegetation, occasional trees, and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob Rivers. The rivers are said to flow only about once per century. The Nossob river last flowed in 1963 and the Auob river in 2000. However, water still flows underground and provides life for grass and camelthorn trees growing in the riverbeds.
During the day the weather is lovely with temperatures of 20+ degrees, however the nights are extremely cold -7,5 degrees at 06.00AM when we got up to get ready for our game drives. Judith is very glad with the hot water bottle and we used all the blankets we brought with us to keep warm at night.
Our game drives in the park are very successful and we have seen many different animals; gemsbok (oryx), springbok, blue wildebeest, giraffe, lion, cheetah, spotted hyenas, martial eagle, pale chanting goshawk, secretary bird, ground squirrel, cape fox, African wild cat, yellow mongoose, black backed jackal and to complete our ‘big five’ sighting, finally a leopard.
Witsand Nature reserve
After 4 days of getting up at 06.00AM and way to many pictures, our next aim is Witsand Nature reserve. In the reserve flowing white dunes are cradled by contrasting red Kalahari sand dunes and it houses the famous Roaring Sands (Brulsand) of the Kalahari (countless millions of grains of sand rub together to emit a deep reverberating hum. For this natural phenomenon to occur, very hot and dry conditions are necessary). Although Witsand, in the Kalahari, is warm all year round, summer is the best time to experience this extraordinary sand chorus. As it is early spring, we didn’t hear this ‘roaring’ when climbing the sand dunes. Wilfred also had another purpose for this visit… sand boarding! It was more strenuous then snow boarding, especially the way up! After 8 times walking up the dune, not yet able to get down in one go, Wilfred decided it was enough for now. More practice in Namibia…