Rhulani Safari Lodge – Our Experience

We recently published a review of Rhulani Safari Lodge in Madikwe. This follow up post is to share our experiences while on this trip.

Reviewing a lodge, based on a trip like this, is too factual and doesn’t give the opportunity to convey the adventure we did, or didn’t, have. So here we go, three nights at Rhulani!

First Day at Rhulani

We arrived at Rhulani around midday on Saturday and as we drove to reception we were greeted by lodge staff with beaming smiles and waving hands.

Once checked in and unpacked we had some time to relax with our private plunge pool. We haven’t been to many places with this, and it was very welcome. Summer in Madikwe is HOT!

Rhulani Plunge Pool

Private Plunge Pool

The afternoon drive was going to start earlier than usual that day because we’d been offered, and agreed, to go Drumming For Rhinos later that night.

There had been a lot of rain in Rhulani the week before so there was water everywhere. This is fantastic for the bush although it does make sightings sparse when on a drive. We didn’t have many sightings on the first drive and me being me, I kept fell asleep. That’s a first during the day!

We did get to see swarms of stunning butterflies and see how many zebra, with foals, are currently on the reserve.

Butterflies at Madikwe

Drumming for Rhinos

On our drive in to Rhulani we received a phone call asking if we would like to join the Drumming for Rhinos event that night. We didn’t know much about it but agreed to go. We figured it would be drumming lessons.

After dinner on our first night we loaded back into the game vehicle and were taken to a remote location in the centre of the reserve. There were so many vehicles and people mulling about!

So this turned out to be a fund raiser for the anti poaching units in Madikwe. Guests from all the lodges were taken to this location and given drums, similar to bongo drums.

We were coached through some basic rhythems and together with the drum lead, we drummed under the African sky with only the full moon to light up the areas. It was spectacular. It was fun and it was for a good cause!

I should also mention the Rhulani guides did a very good job of keeping us lubricated.

Madikwe Lion

On the drive back I somehow managed to fall asleep again. Seriously, this isn’t normal! I was woken up to see a beautiful specimen of male lion, one on the prowl and the other, this fellow, resting casually in the road.

Rest and Relaxation

We made the decision to skip the morning drive on Sunday. This comes down to the very late night and excessive libation, thanks guys!

We made our way back to our room after a delicious breakfast. We would spend the rest of the morning at the plunge pool and soaking up the sun. My plan was to nap, but the lure of the pool got the better of me.

We enjoyed our high tea and had a wonderful afternoon drive. More butterflies, many more zebra. We were lucky to see two of the big five; White Rhino and Elephant.

Scrub Hair Babies

Our drive had some great after sunset highlights too. Hyena hunting some impala. An incredible sighting of an owl next to the road. The drive ended with a scrub hair and two babies suckling in the middle of the road. We watched them for a good while before heading back for some much needed sleep.

A Worthy Extension

We were going to leave Rhulani on Monday after the drive. I am so glad we didn’t as we had spectacular sightings all day.

Our morning drive had sightings aplenty with more Rhino, elephant, lion, hyena, butterflies and excellent opportunities for us to practice our bird photography.

The lodge staff were fantastic with extending our stay. It was as simple as telling them we wanted an extra night. They told us the price and that was it.

Our drive that afternoon was perfect. Leopard! We haven’t had a good leopard sighting in a very long time. We left another sighting of Big 5 when a call came over the radio. Riaan, our guide, had to track down the young male, and when he found him we were able to spend a good amount of time with him.

Madikwe Leopard

Other vehicles eventually queued up for the sighting so we had to move off. We had our sundown drinks not far away and bore witness to and incredible sunset. The sunset was so fitting for out last night under the African sky at Rhulani and Madikwe.

Farewell Rhulani Safari Lodge

Our last morning drive was beautiful. We had bountiful sightings and even more opportunities to practice our bird photography.

Alas, we had to say our goodbyes and make our way back to the city. Rhulani gave us that feeling of home away from home and with heavy hearts we pulled away.

African safari lodges are very good at refreshing your soul and Rhulani was no different. We will be back and until we return, we have many fond memories and sightings to serve as a reminder.

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The One Eyed Leopard

Leopard Cub

We set out on our first drive, on the first morning, of our first visit to Mapungubwe National Park in early 2014. We didn’t know what to expect but we were eager and elated to be back in the bush. The vegetation was quite dense and after an initial stop to watch a congress of baboons going about their early morning routines we found the Northern fence and followed it East.

Not long afterwards we were overjoyed to spot a young leopard lazing in a tree on the perimeter of the park. He was quite happily minding his own business which is more than I can say for the squirrels that were chattering and charging him continuously.

We watched him for ages, wondering what his story was. He was evidently a young leopard, surely too young to be self-sufficient.

Cars came and went, none bothering to stop and look at the leopard. Maybe they didn’t realise how rare the sighting was?

We continued to watch as he started moving about, squirrels darting off in every direction, while we kept a lookout for his mother. Surely he couldn’t be all on his own!

After some time he came down from the tree and we re-positioned to keep an eye on him when out of the dense vegetation came a beautiful adult female leopard.

It was a joyous reunion of mother and cub. We’d been right! She had to have been out either hunting or drinking from the nearby stream.

As we watched them play and groom each other we noticed something odd about the mother. She appeared to be blind in her left eye. We zoomed in with the cameras and noticed her left eye was in fact injured. The wound didn’t appear to be fresh but she was surely blind in that eye.

Eventually the pair moved off and we carried on with our trip. The conversation for the next few days focused on what we’d seen.

Leopards are solitary predators and to have one, half blind, draws home the immense struggle that she must have to go through, not only to survive herself, but to raise and support a cub too.

There is no pack or herd support structure for her. It is only what she can do by herself.

Mother’s Day has recently passed here in South Africa and I would like to give a belated shout-out to this incredible mother who defied the odds against her in support of her family.

Well done ma’am, well done indeed!

Injured Leopard

One-Eyed Leopard




Madikwe River Lodge – Game Drives

Madikwe River Lodge

Tlou Dam – Madikwe

Game drives in Madikwe are an experience not to be missed. If you have the opportunity, take it! I promise you wont regret it.

We had a total of six drives during our three night stay and in the post I’m going to go through them on a daily basis as we saw so much, I wouldn’t do the reserve, or Jerry our guide, justice by trying to sum things up.

Madikwe Game Drive – Day 1

We had only one drive on the day we arrived and it started with a bang to say the least. After meeting Jerry, who would be with us for the next few days and having our safety briefing we were asked what we wanted to see. We aren’t picky and everyone on the vehicle mentioned at least one or two sightings we’d like to experience. Buffalo, Pangolin, Leopard and a few more.

We hadn’t even been out the gate for five minutes when we spotted four of only five cheetah in Madikwe. There is a drift next to the lodge and the cheetah brothers were there for a drink. We watched them marking their territory and have a drink before following them on the hunt. There were some Blue Wildebeest close by and the cheetah brothers were set on one for dinner.

We followed them and watched a failed hunting attempt, the wildebeest getting away, and stayed with the brothers as they settled down to recover after the chase.

We moved on and found a male lion lazing in the evening sun. He’d been injured in a previous fight and was recovering slowly.

We moved off from him and word came over the radio that the cheetah brothers had attempted another hunt and been successful. We turned around and started making our way to where they were with their kill. When almost there we had a lioness road block and watched her for a while. As she moved off, another male lion came into view. This was a lion who was in a coalition with the first lion we’d seen.

Moving off from the two lions, more word came over the radio that the cheetahs’ kill had been taken by the first lion.

We found him and watched him eat his Wildebeest for a while. We had mixed emotions here, four hungry cheetahs finally catching something and having it stolen. One injured lion needing a meal. Life is tough in Africa, and no less so in Madikwe.

We had late sun downers as a result of all the action and the drive back to the lodge, while uneventful, was alive with the buzz of all we’d seen on our first drive.

Madikwe Lion

Madikwe Game Drive – Day 2

Morning in Madikwe

All night we’d heard the lion calls and we found the injured male lion near the drift where we’d first spotted the cheetahs the day before.

We watched him a bit before moving off to try and find some Wild Dogs, unfortunately we had no luck there. We did, however, come across some fresh Leopard tracks and spent a good amount of time trying to find him. Again, with no luck.

We had a quick coffee break to warm up and take in the amazing surroundings and had to bring it to a quick end as our guide suspected there was a Black Rhino in the vicinity and he didn’t want us to be caught unaware. As we drove off we saw it was a young Elephant happily having his way with a tree.

We finished our drive with an incredible sighting of three lionesses and nine cubs lazing under a tree and finishing what was left of a Wildebeest that had been caught during the night.

I wouldn’t want to be a Wildebeest in Madikwe, they’re far too popular with hungry predators.

Madikwe Sundowners

In the afternoon we again found the four cheetah brothers. They were very sleepy and there were the remains of an impala near by. Jerry explained that the Madikwe Ecologist had found them, darted them and remove the tracking collar from one of the brothers. In order to be darted, the cheetahs needed food in their stomach and therefore they had been given the impala. I’d say they scored. The got a free meal, had the collar removed and had a quick nap.

From the cheetahs we went to Tlou Dam to watch the sunset. Arriving we saw a herd of elephant, actually as it turned out, a few herds of elephant.

Due to the nature of the game surrounding us, we had our sun downers in the vehicle while watching an absolutely incredible sunset. We even had a brown hyena pay us a visit while watching the elephants.

On the drive back to the lodge we spotted numerous Spotted Hyena which seemed to be hunting and again found another Brown Hyena.

We were lucky enough to assist another vehicle in tracking a Leopard they had seen and caught a glimpse of him while he was trying to avoid us. He had a warthog kill in the tree so we decided to head back in the morning and see if he was there.

Madikwe Game Drive – Day 3

We’ve been to Madikwe before and have always loved visiting Vlei Pan. Jerry decided that on this drive he would take us there. He warned that it was empty though and the game would be sparse but we went anyway.

On the way we went past the previous night’s Leopard and all we saw was the Warthog kill. No Leopard in sight. Still, this was the first Leopard we had ever seen in Madikwe so we were very grateful for our sighting.

We made our way towards Vlei Pan and found Madikwe’s southern pack of Wild Dogs. About twelve in total. It was a very cold morning and they were all huddled together keeping warm. It’s always incredible to spend some time with such rare animals.

We left the dogs behind and visited Vlei Pan. As expected it was dry but there was still some plains game around.

We stopped not far off for our morning coffee and had a great chat with Jerry about burrows, snakes and the wilderness.

We started the long drive back to Madikwe River Lodge and stopped at a dam we remember from a previous visit to Madikwe to find a herd of around 200 Cape Buffalo that had just been drinking.

That evening we went out again and found the herd of Buffalo, this time in a dense Sekelbos thicket and worked our way to the middle of the herd. For such large, powerful animals, they were very skittish and they didn’t stick around long for us to view.

We drove past an old Giraffe carcass and were pleased to see yet another brown hyena. We definitely saw more of them on this trip than any other trip previously.

Right before our sun downers we were driving along and looking to the left as we stopped, we saw two lion faces staring back at us. I had to do a double take because I wasn’t sure I was actually seeing what my eyes were telling me, and then the rest of the vehicle confirmed that they too were seeing them. We looked at Jerry who was sitting there casually with a smile on his face, waiting to see if we’d notice or if we were just relying on him to do our spotting. We watched them for a short while before having our drinks, not too far away, and receiving a briefing on rhino middens and general poology.

After our drinks we went back and viewed the three lions for a short while before heading back to the lodge.

Our Host

The last morning saw a very uneventful drive and we spent a lot of time reflecting on our time in the bush.

I would like to extend our sincerest thanks to Jerry who drove us around during our visit. His knowledge, passion and experience have no match. He is enthusiastic and takes the opportunity during quiet parts of the drive to teach us a number of things and keep us engaged.

Thank you Jerry, you definitely made this trip for us and we all look forward to meeting up with you again.




Marakele National Park – A Bigger Adventure

AfriShots at Marakele

Marakele National Park is a special place. Three hours from OR Tambo Intl airport it is just the right distance for a comfortable two night getaway and as with every visit before now, we left with our souls refreshed and our minds at peace.

We spend a fair amount of time camping at Marakele National Park and so this post is going to focus on what and why we did things differently for this trip and how the trip was structured.

What was different?

We have been talking for some time now about having a larger, informal, trip where a group of like minded people could head out into the bush and spend time together sharing in the beauty of Mama Africa with the added possibility of raising funds for one of our annually nominated charities. This trip was the first step in reaching that goal.

Usually the trips we write about have three people on them and this time we doubled that amount. While six people are not many by most standards, it did give us a chance to tackle logistics, planning and catering and we’ve come away with a solid plan for the next trip.

We chose Marakele National Park because of its distance from Johannesburg, ease of access as well as distance to a nearby town (Thabazimbi) in case of any planning mishaps and we know Marakele National Park well enough to be confident in having enough for a short trip to keep everyone happy.

Arriving at Marakele National Park

We arrived at Marakele National Park in two groups: The two, regular, vehicles left OR Tambo just after 06:00 on Tuesday morning with the three regular “trippers” and one extra passenger and the last vehicle left around 13:30.

When the first of us arrived at Marakele we booked everyone in and paid the conservation fees so when the other vehicle arrived, they just had to get the entry and exit permit and could then head straight to Bontle and join us.

Checking in at Marakele has always been a pleasure, friendly staff and a quick process. Sadly, that was not the case this time. The receptionist was a miserable fellow who seemed to go out of his way to take his time. The same applies to the gate guard.

We made the short drive to Bontle Camp and were very happy to see it was fairly empty. We made our way to our preferred camp site at the top and found the braai knocked over and camping there would also have meant blocking the view of a caravan not far behind us. With so many open campsites we opted to set up camp somewhere else and moved to our next favourite site in the bottom corner.

It was perfect, we got the view we wanted and were far enough away from everyone else so as not to disturb, or be disturbed by, anyone.

Even though we were only six people on this trip we set up a small city for the two night stay. Tentco has their March Madness sale on at the moment and we all had exciting new goodies we wanted to try out.

In the end our campsite consisted of four tents and two gazebos, one as a kitchen and one as a lounge, although we didn’t spent much time in the lounge but rather sat in the shade under one of the many trees surrounding our site.

Because there were six of us, we spread out quite nicely making optimal use of the two sites we’d booked.

One of us unfortunately forgot his chair so he spent the better part of the trip sitting on various other pieces of furniture such as cooler boxes, small braai table and a tiny step ladder.

One group did not have a tent, but thanks to Tentco, we had a spare and lent them our now spare tent, however, they forgot a mattress, or padding for their bedding, so had a slightly rocky sleep.

Setting up camp was a quick affair and we then sat in the shade, had a few beers and waited for the other party to arrive. We didn’t set up their tent for them as we first wanted to make sure they arrived. They had to leave Johannesburg a few hours earlier than they planned due to gate closing times and we weren’t sure if they would pull it off, add to that the fact they both have quite a nasty case of flu we were very happy to see them arrive, and in time.

Cuisine (Food, for us regular peeps)

To avoid everyone scampering around to get their meals cooked/prepared on limited cooking space and having everyone eat at different times as a result we set about delegating various meals to various groups.

  • Jason took care of the first dinner, Cobb Chicken and wors rolls.
  • We took care of the second dinner, regular braai and garlic bread
  • Gerard took care of lunch
  • Byron and Roxi took care of breakfast.

The idea was sound in principal with one minor exception; As a group, we hardly ever have a full-on breakfast. Usually, whoever is hungry will munch a bowl of cereal with their morning coffee before we head out on a drive.

We took this into account and said to Byron to cater for one large breakfast. The plan was to head up to the mountain lookout and have a skottle.

We didn’t take the above into account when telling Gerard to cater for two lunches. You see the problem is, we only had our skottle breakfast in the late morning of our only full day there. So when we got back to camp, everyone was still full and we held out until dinner. One wasted lunch.

The the second morning, our last one, we broke camp, loaded the vehicles and went for a drive. Before leaving the park we stopped at the picnic site and had our first “lunch”. Byron and Roxi had left early due to their flu so after Gerard catered for two large lunches, we barely had half of one.

Oh well, lesson learned.

Marakele National Park Activities

The day we arrived was spent catching up and setting up camp followed by a few drinks and dinner before heading to bed. It had been a long day, two of us worked night shift the night before and then headed straight to Marakele National Park so we called it a night fairly early after a small camp fire.

The first morning we woke up, had our coffee (our tent was too far away for me to be woken up by my regular alarm clock: Jason boiling the water), loaded up all three vehicles and went on our drive. The larger portion of Marakele National Park is not well known for good game spotting and this time was no exception. We made our way up the mountain pass, watched the vultures for a bit and set about getting ready for breakfast, which turned out to be lunch.

After spending some time on the top of the world we headed back and took a small drive around the lower section of the park. Game was sparse but given all the rain across South Africa recently, this was not a big surprise.

We got back to camp and spent the rest of the day relaxing, talking, laughing and watching the game visit the nearby watering hole.

The fire was lit early and we had our braai before all sitting around the campfire until late at night, talking and listening to Byron on the guitar.

Waking up on the last morning there was the threat of rain in the air so we broke camp instead of first going for a drive. Once we were all packed, Byron and Roxi called it a day and left Marakele National Park, by now they really weren’t looking healthy, and the rest of us headed out to do the loop around Tlopi Camp in the larger portion of Marakele National Park.

Thanks to the rains the roads were truly shocking; large rocks, deep ditches and plenty of mud. It made for a very bumpy drive but one enjoyed by all.

We did pass a group of tourists in their tiny rental cars and strongly advised them not to take the route we’d just been on, we found it incredibly difficult to believe that those cars would survived that portion of road and we hope they took our advice.

We stopped at the picnic site in the lower portion of the reserve before saying farewell to Marakele once more.

Marakele National Park is Behind Us

After another amazing trip to Marakele National Park we feel revived and have started putting the wheels in motion for our July trip.

In May we are heading north to Mapungubwe National Park but in July we would like to host a trip similar to this one, with another increase in numbers. The planning has started already but unfortunately we don’t have many details to release at this stage.




Ezemvelo Nature Reserve

Ezemvelo

Firstly, Happy New Year to all the AfriShotters our there, we hope you all have a joyous and prosperous 2014 where all your dreams come true.

Last year was a very quiet year for us regarding trips out into the bush and our main resolution for 2014 is to change that. So, we hit the ground running with a day trip to Ezemvelo Nature Reserve yesterday.

Where is Ezemvelo?

The Ezemvelo Nature Reserve is located north of the halfway point between Witbank and Bronkhorstspruit, about 120km from OR Tambo International Airport. It’s a relatively comfortable drive taking about an hour and a half.

Accessibility

Due to the heavy rains we’ve had this season the 20km of dirt road leading to Ezemvelo was not the most comfortable drive and the road tends to be corrugated is places but overall, the trip from OR Tambo was hassle free and fairly comfortable.

Arriving at the gate you sign yourself in and make your way to reception. Prices were reasonable for our day visit, costing R50 per person and R25 per vehicle.

A word of caution regarding the roads inside Ezemvelo Nature Reserve: We traveled most of the roads inside the reserve including the main and secondary roads and I would like to caution you regarding the use of regular cars. I’m not sure if this is due to the heavy rains this season or if that is generally the condition of the roads but many roads should not be attempted without, at the very least, high terrain clearance. This is also on some of the roads marked as main roads.

We had swampy, marshy stretches to drive through as well as sand and rocks.

Activities

There are a host of activities at Ezemvelo Nature Reserve. Some of which I’ve listed below:

  • Horse riding
  • Game drives
  • Self-drives
  • Putt-Putt
  • Zip-line
  • Fishing
  • Volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Cave walk
  • Hiking trails

Accommodation

There are a number of accommodation options at Ezemvelo from camping (51 camp/caravan sites) to chalets. The family huts are log cabin style chalets located in the northern park of the reserve with great views and ample privacy.

As our visit was at the end of the festive period there were quite a few people using the main camp site and chalets, however, on the roads we had them to ourselves most of the time and hardly ever saw another vehicle.

Animals

We spent most of the day in the southern part of the reserve and game spotting was plentiful. There was always something to see.

Some of the game to look out for are:

  • Blue Wildebeest
  • Black Wildebeest
  • Kudu
  • Impala
  • Springbuck
  • Duiker
  • Eland
  • Klipspringer
  • Dassie (Rock Hyrax)

Overall

We had a lovely visit to Ezemvelo and are considering a second visit, this time to stay over night. The drives were always entertaining with beautiful scenery and always animals to watch.

The northern part of the park had less game to see yet the scenery more than made up for it.

The staff were friendly an accommodating.

If you are going to stay on for a few days, we advise you to take all supplies you need and not rely on the kiosk at reception. They do have the bare essentials should you run out of anything but expect to pay a hefty markup.

What’s next for 2014?

Later this month we are heading back to Mokala National Park for our second visit and to try out their camp sites while hoping to get you some pictures of the more rare species such as Black Springbuck, Roan Antelope and King Wildebeest.

In May we’re heading off to Mapungubwe National Park and into Kruger for a small road trip.

We’re planning our international road trip for around September where we’re heading back into Botswana and possible Zimbabwe too.

Around those trips we’ll have other smaller stays in the various locations around the country and report back to you on all our experiences.

We are excited to try some Voluntourism opportunities so if you know of any you can recommend, please let us know!




Meiringskloof and the Surrounding Area

Meiringskloof

Why Meiringskloof?

We have been on far too few trips this year and as a result decided to do something different this time round which is why we ended up in Meiringskloof Nature Reserve.

We wanted somewhere to stay that was within four hours drive of Johannesburg that had a number of activities in the surrounding area and Meiringskloof came in at the top of the list because of:

  • Distance
  • Price
  • Accessibility
  • Activities

From OR Tambo International Airport, Meiringskloof is a comfortable 332km drive and the roads are in excellent condition.

Meiringskloof has a number of activities ranging from 4×4 trails, horse riding and hikes.

They offer self-catering accommodation as well as camping and this time round we decided to forgo the camping and stay in one of their twelve self-catering chalets.

Meiringskloof is 3km outside of Fouriesburg in the Free State and 33km from Clarens with it’s host of galleries and activities. Another big draw for us is that Meiringskloof is 13km from the Calendonspoort Border Post to Lesotho.

Travelling to Meiringskloof

There are a few routes to take from Johannesburg to Meiringskloof and the quickest, easiest according to the GPS is the N3 to Villiers then on through Reitz, Bethlehem and arriving at Fouriesburg.

We had plenty of time to spare and decided to take a more scenic route so we jumped off the N3 at Heidelberg, went past Deneysville towards Sasolburg then through Heilbron, Lindley (yes, there is a place called Lindley), Bethlehem and Clarens before arriving at Meiringskloof.

We made the route up as we went and in the end were very happy with the results. We had an hour stop-off in the middle of nowhere for a leg stretch before hitting an unexpected 40km stretch of dirt road leading to Lindley. The dirt road is in excellent condition and we comfortably traveled it at 85km/h (with the exception of the last 2-3km which had to be done at about 60km/h due to potholes).

The scenery was stunning and the drive very comfortable.

On our way through we stopped in Calerens for a late breakfast and some window shopping, not to mention a beer tasting at the brewery.

Meiringskloof Accommodation

After arriving at Meiringskloof in the early afternoon and spending what seemed like ages for someone to open the office and check us in, we made our way to Zonbessie, the chalet we would spend the next three nights.

The chalets are nicely spaced and Meiringskloof is set deep within the ravine so there is not much of a view, besides the cliffs towering above you on either side. There is dense vegetation around the chalets and camp site which gives you both privacy and a good, wild, atmosphere.

The chalet was poorly decorated. You can see efforts were made to decorate the accommodation with African themed decor, unfortunately there was a lot of mismatching of items and evidently cheap furnishings.

That said we were relatively comfortable for our three night stay although more attention should have been paid to the lighting in the chalet. Because of the mountains towering up on both sides, you’re in the shade from early afternoon and coupled with the dense vegetation and tiny windows, the lights in the chalet struggled to do much good lighting up the place.

The campsite, which was not too far from out chalet, was fantastic. It was neat, spacious and beautiful. The pool was clean and large enough with a nice surrounding area to allow for a day at the pool should you so desire.

Not too long after arriving we met one of the campers and together decided we’d try the Didibeng 4×4 trail the next day.

Meiringskloof 4x4

4×4 and Golden Gate Highlands National Park

As became customary on our 2013 Road Trip earlier this year, getting up in the morning was triggered by the sounds of Jason making coffee.

After getting ready and waiting for the other vehicle, we set off in our convoy of three 4x4s to the Didibeng 4×4 trails which were a few kilometres away.

We spent the entire morning in the mountains and while most of the trails we did were not too challenging, there are a few obstacles there that warranted caution, patience and nerves of steel.

The views from the mountains were absolutely incredible and we could have spent all day there.

We had to cut our vehicular mountaineering short as we still wanted to make a trip into the Golden Gate Highlands National Park to have a look around.

It was a pleasant trip, I would not recommend going if your goal is to spot game as you will be sorely disappointed, however, the views and scenery is breathtaking to say the least. Mountains, valleys, ravines and rock formations make for one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen.

We got permission from the office to make a trip up to the mountain cabins and from what we saw this is the perfect getaway for people wanting to relax in a beautiful and secluded environment. The cabins are high up on one of the mountains and although there is a bit of a climb to get there, even the humblest of hatchbacks will make it with no problems.

On our way down we stopped at the Vulture Feeding Project and learned some interesting facts about the vultures as well as the projects underway to conserve them.

After Golden Gate it was time to head back to Meiringskloof with a short stop at the Windmill Pub & Grill in Fouriesburg for our last contact with the outside world before disappearing into the kloof and our chalet for the evening braai.

The Windmill had a wonderful atmosphere and we had a good chat with some of the locals about life in Fouriesburg and the fact they won Town of the Year. The best part about the Windmill was they had cellphone signal, a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere and were only a few kilometres from Meiringskloof.

Lesotho Highlands

Lesotho and Afriski

The next day was dedicated to a trip into the Lesotho mountains. We spent the best part of the night before trying to decide where to go as we had a number of options and it was only right before leaving Meiringskloof that we settled on visiting Afriski.

Afriski is only 95km from Meiringskloof however you need to allow at least two hours to make the trip, and that’s in summer. The roads are in excellent condition, however, you climb thousands of feet in a very short distance and that makes for treacherous mountain passes and very slow driving.

Afriski, even though in summer, was incredible. You could just picture the winter vibe with snow-covered mountains. We had a good chat to Heather, one of the managers, and have decided to dedicate a whole trip to Afriski next year, and as a result, I wont go into any more details here.

Meiringskloof Closing

Our last morning at Meiringskloof was, after the customary coffee courtesy of Jason, spent packing up and then heading back into Clarens for breakfast and some last minute souvenir shopping.

We had an absolutely lovely time travelling around that part of the Free State over our three night stay and Meiringskloof was great. There were some negative aspects which I’ve already mentioned, but the main one in our opinion is the complete lack of house-keeping.

We WILL be back, maybe to camp and certainly to play on the 4×4 trails some more.

Have you been to any of these places? How was your stay? Let us know all about it!

 




Road Trip 2013 – Mata Mata, Kgalagadi

Day 13, 14 & 15 (Rehoboth/Mata Mata KTP)

We left Rehoboth at 06:30 Namibian Time (07:30 SAST) – we set our phones and watches back to SAST the night before to ensure that we don’t feel like we are losing any time. It would be our last day driving on Namibian roads and we were hoping that we wouldn’t be disappointed in the up-to-now excellent quality roads as our last bit of the drive (approaching the border post) would be on 260km of dirt road.

We were not, we were impressed. The gravel road was in impeccable condition – we were able to drive 80km/h the entire way. If not for the turns in the road, 100km/h would have been possible.

Along this stretch of road, we were able to see the first signs of the Kalahari Desert. The dunes were impressive, although, not at all what I imagined… I probably just had the stereotypical desert look in my head (rolling dunes with no flora at all).

Namibia Dessert
We decided to stop to stretch our legs and used the opportunity to take some pictures of the two vehicles driving and kicking up some impressive dust. The results were pretty cool! Once we had completed the task at hand, two more off road vehicles drove past and I took pictures of them… they seemed unimpressed (the one even stopped to ask if we were ok – kind).
We were getting slightly restless as we had been on the road for quite a few hours by then, luckily only about 80km to go to the Mata Mata Border Post.

Mata Mata Border

Namibia – South Africa Border

The formalities at the Namibian Border Post were quick and painless – which was the case for our entire trip, what a pleasure!
We checked in for our 2 night stay in Mata Mata at the SAN Parks office. To our surprise, we were not stamped back into RSA. For the next few days we belonged to nobody – in no man’s land. Interesting concept. We were only required to clear customs and immigration at the Twee Rivieren Gate. We received our park permit for the duration of our stay. Each time we wished to enter the park, we had to pick it up at reception and drop it off on our return. A good policy considering how many things could go wrong on a drive – the possibility of being stuck within the park was real & daunting.
We finally got around to choosing a site (after much deliberation – with little choice) and started setting up camp. I was having major symmetry issues with the ground sheets and tents, needless to say I made Daryl a bit irritated when he had to move the tent (Again!) hehe. It all got sorted out in the end and we were all happy with our, yet again, homely site.
Once we’d all had a thirst quencher, we picked up the permit and headed into the park for a short drive. We saw an abundance of vultures and springbok, and not much else. We did however discover the one thing that would possibly taunt our stay in the KTP – the condition of the roads. The roads were severely corrugated which made the driving terribly uncomfortable for us, nevermind the damage it may cause to our camera equipment or to Ed.
When we returned to camp, the topic of discussion was dinner. Apparently, I am an indecisive person and dinner plans weren’t decided on quickly. We went back and forth between canned food and 2 minute noodles. Daryl then threw a spanner in the works and insisted on making our most awesomely delicious braai bread. In the end, I put my foot down and we had 2 minute noodles with left over braai meat (from our last night in Okaukuejo). It was a great decision – perfect warm dinner for a very cold night!
It was by far the coldest night on the trip to date and we decided to make use of the Gluhwein which had travelled 1000’s of kilometres (literally) with us already. We sat around our fire with the gas heater on and indulged in the warm Gluhwein. Once we had all warmed up inside, it was time for bed – definitely not ideal weather to be sleeping in a tent!
It was ops normal when we woke up – gas bottle being ignited. This time however, coffee was second priority to the heater as it was only 0° (coldest temperature we experienced on the entire trip).
We headed out for day 2 at Mata Mata and were pleasantly surprised with a pretty exciting day of sightings. Most weren’t any good to photograph, however, still pretty amazing to see. 2 Cheetahs walking in the distance, a leopard walking across the river bed , and a cheetah lying on a dune.

Mata Mata Leopard

We were witness to an almost jackal hunt of springbok. There were about 6 jackals surrounding a herd of springbok (with many babies). The scene was perfect, but the animals were truly just playing games. The jackals would chase the springbok, they’d run and then stop because they were distracted by the grass which they had to eat. All in all, it was a half-hearted attempt which gave us a good laugh!

Kgalagadi
At the major sightings, the KTP had a Kruger National Park vibe – congestion and a lack of game park etiquette. It is very frustrating when you are not even interested in a sighting, yet you are unable to pass because of the “traffic jam”. In Kruger’s defense, the roads are usually in excellent condition. The KTP has to come up with a more sustainable way of keeping the roads in a better state – creating loop roads may assist as all the traffic is on one main road between Mata Mata and Twee Rivieren.
We were very conscious on our drives about hydrating (or over hydrating) as the bathroom stops were hours apart. As in Etosha, this is a problem that definitely needs to be looked into!
On arrival at camp, we were all exhausted – 160km on severely corrugated roads is not for sissies! Dinner was a quick decision – toasted cheese sarmies on the braai (Delicious!).
Sitting around the fire, I heard jackals in the distance and the only thing going through my mind was how happy I was that they stayed in the park and left our camp site alone. The last thing we needed was another episode of the jackal raid at Okaukeujo, Etosha hehe!
We had an early night to prepare for the early rise and long drive ahead to Twee Rivieren (120km) the following day.




[Road Trip 2013] Part 6 – Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park

Etosha Pan

Etosha Pan

Day 9 – Arrival at Okaukuejo

Continuing on our road trip we had a long and fairly uneventful drive to Okaukuejo that day but we did have the nice surprise of a leopard early on in the morning. He was far off by the time we got there but it was still the first leopard we’d seen since 2011 in the Kruger National Park.

Okaukuejo is a beautiful camp, lovely decor with buildings, parking and people everywhere. It has a lovely curio shop which included meat for sale. Score! Jenece browsed through the shop while Jason and I checked in. It took a while, there were a lot of people ahead of us but eventually, all paperwork was taken care of. It turned out we need not have rushed as we were assigned a campsite.

The awe and beauty of Okaukuejo was short lived when we eventually got to the camping area. There were so many camp sites, and they were all on top of each other.

On our drive in we saw there was little vegetation in that part of the park but we weren’t expecting a campsite of rock-hard sand and most of the sites had no shade whatsoever.

We found our campsite and spent the better part of half an hour trying to work out how we were going to make the most of the site.

It took us a while to set up camp as our motivation was lacking somewhat. Once we had everything set up, we sat around and relaxed before heading off to the shop for cold beers and meat.

On our way to the shop we noticed one of Jack’s friends running around the chalets, another Black-Backed Jackal. Little did we know what would happen in a few hours time. Returning from the shop with our supplies, the jackal followed us most of the way back to our tent.

We lit the fire and settled in for the evening. In the distance we heard the shouts of many jackals, spanning the horizon. What a beautiful start to the night, and a peaceful end to a mixed day. Then it began…

Right at sunset the camp was swarmed by jackals, so many it would be impossible to count. They were doing their utmost to raid every single site on mass. We tried everything to fend them off, stamping feet, shouting, chasing after them, even the sound of a tazer didn’t help. They were between the cars, between the tents, under the cars! Everywhere you looked there were jackals and from every direction was the sound of campers trying to chase them off.

A little way off from us we noticed there was a large commotion at one of the tents. Neighbours to that site were constantly trying to chase the jackals from the tent. More and more jackals ran in. As we passed our spotlight over the area we just saw a mass of jackals.

The next morning Jason discovered that the jackals had gotten into the tent and raided the campers food supplies. They wreaked so much havoc the poor people ended up cutting their stay short and relocating to another camp the very next day.

Falling asleep that night I was reminded of the adage: “Be careful what you wish for, it may come true but for all the wrong reasons.”

Every time we camp, I hope for the sound of jackals at night. That night I got it, but it wasn’t the hunting calls of jackal in the distance but rather the ravenous barks of jackals raiding everything they could get their jaws on.

Day 10

 

We had a lazy start to day ten, slowly making our coffee, sorting out the ablutions and Jenece made some tea that she let cool and put into the fridge for iced tea later in the day. It worked out great and was very delicious.

We hit the road and explored a very arid part of the park, it was so desolate even the ants and termites thought better of making a home there.

We drove as far west as we could, further than that were the private concessions.

As desolate as the landscape was we went through some very interesting landscape. They had what the called the Phantom Forest, once we got there we weren’t sure why it was named such but the trees were interesting. A sparse forest, all of the same types of trees, all the same height with the lower branches all the same height above the ground.

The Phantom Forest (Sprokieswoud) is the only location where the African Maringa tree grows on a flat area.

We saw an elephant carcass and presumed it was the result of lack of water, however, that’s something we’ll never be able to confirm unfortunately.

Mid-afternoon we started making our way back to the camp and drove down the western edge of the pan.

On a dune a few hundred metres off we noticed a small pride of lions lying out in the open and in the baking sun. We watched them for quite a while and were very interested in the interaction with the other game in the area. Springbok would walk along happily until they either saw the lions, or smelled them and would then gallop off into the distance.

Etosha Lions

 

One giraffe in particular was very interested in them and while not getting too close, would not stop staring at them.

We went back to camp for a short time before heading out again, back to the lions to see if anything had changed. They were still there, although higher up on the dune and therefore more visible. Of all the predators we considered seeing, a pride of lions was far down on the list in this particular area.

Back at camp we finally had our bacon. Jenece made a stunning pasta and bacon dish that we all filled ourselves up on and we made another loaf of bread with the coals of our fire.

Jason and Jenece went off to wash dishes and by this time the jackals were back in the camp again. One sneaky bugger came up behind me and helped himself to a whole plate of our delicious bread before I could get him away.

Before going to bed we packed everything up into their boxes, stacked them high on the table where they were out of reach and weighed them down with various kitchen equipment. We learned our lesson the night before.

Day 11…oh wait, not yet…

Still Day 10

Once we’d all fallen asleep Jenece was woken by someone outside shouting that the jackals were eating our food.

She tried over and over again to wake me up, which she got right eventually and we spent a good amount of time around our campsite chasing off jackals and gathering the scattered remains of what was in the supply box they got hold of.

We put everything into the bakkie, had another look around the site to make sure there was absolutely nothing they could get hold of and went back to bed.

Day 11

Impressively, after the events of the previous night we got up early, had our coffee and set off, this time in an easterly direction.

While getting ready to leave we saw the remnants of the jackals feast and just off from our campsite was a massive Sociable Weaver’s nest, they were enjoying a hearty breakfast of crumbs from our Big Corn Bites, Kips, coconut marshmallows and the dried mango that the jackals had gotten hold of.

We were still having issues with the sheer distance in the park between places we could get out of the vehicles and eventually found somewhere we could empty our bladders. It wasn’t far off from a watering hole and we could hear elephant in the distance.

After our rest stop we pulled up to the watering hole and saw a bit of game walking around. There were a few cars there, including our campsite neighbours and then we saw them, three male lions finishing off a Kudu they had killed the night before.

Etosha Lion

 

We positioned the vehicles where we would all see nicely and spent ages watching them. There were two Black-Backed Jackals helping themselves to some of the scraps lying around and it was interesting to watch them trying to get to the carcass and being chased off by the lions who weren’t quite finished yet.

Jason spotted a female off in the bushes to the right but Jenece and I only caught an occasional glimpse of her.

The lions slowly moved off and lay under various trees scattered around the clearing and we then started noticing more lions. In all there were nine of them, yet we didn’t see all of them.

There was another kudu hiding up on the hill and we assume he was drinking with a buddy when the lions came and made their kill.

After watching the lions for a while, a small breeding herd of elephants stomped and trumpeted their way to the water.

By then there were a lot more cars around and we were starting to get irritated. Not only were we parked in on all sides, but people were hanging out of doors, windows and sunroofs all trying to get their pictures and watch what was going on.

Most of those were against park rules and even forgiving that aspect, given the nature of the sighting we were at, and the fact that there were lions scattered all over the place, it was down right dangerous what they were doing.

There was an unfortunate tour bus who, when they tried to move off from the sighting, couldn’t get the engine started. They tried and tried with no success.

We spoke among ourselves and came up with the idea of selling them soft drinks while they waited. N$50 per can of coke! We didn’t actually do it, but I’m sure we could have made a tidy profit. Eventually the vehicle mechanic came out and got their engine running as a replacement vehicle arrived for the travelers.

We didn’t see much more that day, drove to Halali for fuel and took a long drive back to camp.

For dinner we had a stunning braai and had a chat to the neighbours about the lion sighting and shared a few pictures.

After dinner and after making sure everything was back in the bakkie, we certainly didn’t want a repeat of the previous night, we walked up to the watering hole at Okaukuejo with all our camera equipment in tow.

The watering hole was stunning. It was large and flood lit surrounded by pitch darkness. Animals could be a few hundred metres off and you would have no clue they were there.

When we arrived we were greeted by a few Black Rhino drinking and interacting around the watering hole. What an incredible sight to be out in the open and so close to those amazing creatures. We spent the rest of the evening taking pictures and watching the nightlife around the water.

Slowly people started to leave and once the rhino had moved off, I also decided it was bed time.

I hadn’t been back at camp for very long when Jenece came rushing in and announced that a pride of lions had come down for a drink. Quickly I gathered up the camera equipment again and together we went back.

There is something surreal about a waterhole at night. Yes, it had a floodlight or two shining on it but watching the wildlife in the dark is a beautiful experience that I’d recommend to anyone.

We watched the lions, about seven in total, have their drink and two juveniles playing around a fallen tree and all made our way back to camp.

Okaukuejo, Etosha

 

That night we fell asleep to the sounds of lions calling right next to the camp, jackals howling in the distance and zebra yacking to each other. What a perfect end to our last day at Okaukuejo.

Day 12

It was sad to leave Etosha, the initial feelings upon arriving at Okaukuejo had faded and we ended up thoroughly enjoying our time there.

During the night, another campsite had been raided, this time behind us. Seven jackals got into the tent and raided food, all while the occupants were sleeping, in the same tent!

We packed up quickly and started the journey to Rehoboth where we’d spend that night before entering Kgalagadi (and South Africa) the next day.

Useful Links

To find out more information about Okaukuejo and Etosha National Park, you can visit Etosha National Park which has a wealth of information on the region, wildlife, vegetation and camps at the park.

Have you been to Etosha? We’d love to hear about your experiences!




[Road Trip 2013] Part 5 – Namutoni, Etosha National Park

Namutoni Campsite

Day 6 – Arrival at Namutoni

Tsumeb to Etosha was our shortest leg of the trip and a little over an hour later, arrived in the park. Getting through the gate was quick and easy, followed by a short drive to Namutoni, where we’d be spending the next three nights.

The check in at reception was quick and painless, albeit the conservation fees were quite steep for our week in Etosha. We drove to the campsite and spent a few minutes deciding on which site to use, chose a nice shaded site and went about setting up camp. It was incredibly hot and took a bit longer than we had expected but the result was a very nice camp site.

Afterwards, beer in hand we relaxed in the stunning North Namibian warmth and decided to go for a quick drive around one of the smaller pans near Namutoni Rest Camp. It was a lot bigger than we thought and the last part of the drive was spent doing the speed limit (unusual for us as we tend to game drive at about 20km/h) just to get back to camp before the gates closed.

Dinner that night was a delicious Chili con Carne made in a potjie pot over the coals. It was the first time I’d done it that way and am very happy to say it was a great success.

We were exhausted after dinner and had an early night. Lying in bed listening not to the sound of jackals calling, but rather Spotted Hyena who laughed away all night.

Day 7

We rose early the next day and after the customary coffee and short bread headed out on another drive. The bush was quite dense and made it difficult to spot but we had our fair share of sightings including a number of elephant. Eventually we made it to a picnic spot to empty our bladders, fill them again with a cup of coffee and stretch the legs. It was then that the discussions started about how good the Amarok was doing on the trip; fuel consumption, size, power, accessibility and we spent the better part of the trip trying to convince Jason to get one.

From the picnic spot we headed further north and discovered some grass plains near Etosha’s northern gate. What a sight! Flat grass plains that seemed to stretch forever. We then realised where the rest of the game was, all sitting/standing out in the open. There was a loopy warthog running across the plain, going where we had no idea but he was doing a very good job of spooking the herds of game standing around.

Namutoni Zebra

 

We came across a watering hole not too far away with a large herd of Burchelle’s Zebra having a drink. That was one of the largest zebra herds I had ever seen. We stuck around there for a while before starting the long drive back to camp.

At this point we discovered our first, and biggest, criticism of Etosha National Park. Given the size of the park, the distances you need to travel and the time it takes to cover them, there are not nearly enough places to get out and stretch your legs, and more importantly, empty your bladder. Driving for three or four hours without a break is not uncommon and that can be using the most direct routes between stops.

Passing a turn off to a waterhole on the way back we decided to pop in and have a look. On our way out in the morning we had stopped there but it was fairly desolate, this time however, we were stunned.

At the water hole was a herd of 30 to 50 elephants taking turns to drink. The matron and other females, calves of varying ages from tiny to teenager, and everything in between. There was elephant dust bathing, water bathing and young must bulls chasing warthog and guinea fowl. Amongst all of this was zebra and giraffe too trying to have a turn at the water.

Namutoni Elephant

 

We sat there for ages watching the life around the water hole. It was so good not to be chased by elephant and actually have the chance to watch the interaction of the herd. There was one incredibly selfish bull who was having a dust bath and every time another elephant came along for their turn, he’d lie down and cover the whole dirt pit with his body. The others would get fed up and walk away and then we’d have a good chuckle as he tried to get up, just to repeat the whole process when another elephant came along.

Slowly they started to move off and one of my fondest memories of that stop was a young calf that had stayed behind while it’s mother moved off was having his way with a small bush. In the distance we heard an elephant trumpet and all of a sudden he stopped, perked up and ran off in the direction of his mother, ears flapping, trunk raised and trumpeting off into the bushes to catch up to her.

On a couple of occasions our hands moved to the keys, getting ready to start up and make an exit when one or two of the young bulls got a bit feisty with the vehicles but patience won out and in the end, it was a very placid herd. Unlike this experience.

Mid-Afternoon we eventually got back to camp and relaxed for a bit before taking a walk up to the main section of the camp. We wanted to browse for curios and check out the watering hole. Approaching the shops I had a minor disagreement with the wooden decking we were walking on and sprained my toe. Ouch! Of all the clumsy, stupid things to do…

Anyway, we got what we wanted, and more wood, and made our way back to the tents to relax for the evening. The plan was chicken roasted in the cob but in the end just had a chicken-flatty braai.

While waiting for the chicken to cook, out of the corner of her eye Jenece spotted something running around the campsite, lurking in the shadows. At first we thought it was a dog but as soon as we put the spot light on it, saw it was in fact a Black-Backed Jackal. He spent the entire evening running around the camp, being chased off by those who were awake and sniffing around for scraps at the sites where everyone was sleeping. We named him Jack.

Namutoni Jackal

 

We were some of the last people to go to bed that night so Jack spent a lot of time around our campsite and we spent a good deal of time chasing him off, especially when he got too close to the tents and our grocery stock.

We had our dinner, still chasing off Jack, and hit the sack before another early rise the next day.

Day 8

Again we got up just before sunrise for our last full day at Namutoni and while having our morning coffee noticed that Jack had been back while we slept and helped himself to some spilled marinade from the previous night’s chicken and any other scraps he could find. Sadly for him, as far as we could tell, there were none.

That was another very long day on the road with few stops but we did have a lovely noodle lunch at the park’s central picnic spot overlooking Etosha Pan. It was there we discovered the pan, at it’s largest point, is 110km long by 60km wide. That is an unfathomable area covered by absolutely nothing!

I need to add too that at that picnic spot, it was the first we’d come across where there was running water and flush toilets. Everything else at that point had been dubious long drops.

Not far away was the Etosha Pan lookout where you drive out about a kilometre onto the pan and I must say, that view is absolutely incredible. The pan is vast, hot and desolate. Looking at the cable demarcating the lookout you can see salt crusted along it’s entire length as a result of the constant north-easterly wind that blows all day, every day, over the pan. As far as you can see there is just white nothingness. The glare is harsh and without our sunglasses we would all have had rather severe headaches. It was beautiful.

Etosha Pan

That day’s drive had a very good finish when we came across a young pride of lions getting ready for the hunt. We spent a good amount of time watching them until they moved off and started their hunting.

No trip is complete without a rant and this is where my first major rant took place. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. People need to realise that they are NOT the only ones at a sighting and this BS of blocking everyone else’s view is insanely STUPID!

Back at camp, and after a very long day on the road we decided not to cook that night, but rather to eat at the restaurant. It was a pricey dinner, N$170 (R170) per person for a three course buffet but in the end it was well worth it. The food was exquisite. Only after our first serving of the main course did we discover the starter and dessert table but that didn’t stop me from going back for more mains. The lamb was stunning and to order, you could also get a Gemsbok steak. That was the winner for all of us.

Limping along with my sprained toe, we stopped at the water hole on our way back to camp to see what it was like at night. It was lit, but there wasn’t much too see because a) there was nothing there, and b) there are a lot of tall reeds and the water itself is elevated so the view point was not the best. Either way we went back to the tents and climbed into bed. The next day was also going to be a long one, 134km across Etosha National Park to get to our next camp and we knew it would take a good few hours. Also, having seen how many people arrived at Namutoni in the afternoon, we wanted to get there early enough to secure a good camp site.

Namutoni Etosha Sunset

Jason called us out of bed to say two of our boxes holding either food or utensils was on the roof of his car. What?! We spent a while trying to work out what had happened and in the end decided Jack had been back while we were having dinner and one of the neighbours, thinking our stuff was in jeopardy lifted the box for us. Thank you to whoever that was.

 

 

Day 9

Breaking camp at Namutoni that morning didn’t take long at all, although it was delayed quite a bit by much swearing from Jason’s side. It turns out a loerie had spent the night in the tree over his car and it must have had some rotten berries the day before because the car was covered in a thick, green slime. That wasn’t all, the lourie was still in the tree and dropped one of its bombs while Jason walked below it. Yummy green slime all down Jason’s neck. Jenece and I spent a good amount of time laughing at his expense and eventually hit the road…after Jason put in more fuel.

In the next post I’ll cover Okaukuejo, the main camp in Etosha National Park and the emotional roller coaster that was our stay there.

Useful Links

To find out more information about Namutoni Rest Camp and Etosha National Park, you can visit Etosha National Park which has a wealth of information on the region, wildlife, vegetation and camps at the park.




[Road Trip 2013] Part 4 – Rundu & Tsumeb

2013 Leg 3 - Map

Day 5

After breaking camp with Norris the Crake hanging around to say goodbye we stopped for fuel in Divundu. This was the first time I had to fill up without Jason having to do the same, but I still had a few tanks on him so I wasn’t concerned. Leaving Divundu we set off on the 531km leg to Kupferquelle in Tsumeb for a one night stop before entering Etosha the next day.

This was our first proper experience with the roads in Namibia and we were incredibly, and pleasantly, surprised. For roads that go through the absolute middle of nowhere, they were in perfect condition. No matter where we were, the roads were smooth and pothole free. Something that is a mind boggling experience for anyone from South Africa. We drove through remote villages and all the while, the locals were friendly and waving at us as we drove past. Livestock along the road was all accompanied by a herder who chased them away from the road whenever a car came along.

We stopped at a picnic spot, or two, for a leg stretch before getting to Rundu and again, the cleanliness and upkeep impressed us. Every ten or fifteen kilometres was another picnic spot and each had tables, chairs and a garbage bin. There was no litter at all lying around, again something strange for us South African locals.

We stopped at Rundu for two reasons; the first being they had a Wimpy and we were dying for bacon and egg. The second being that, as we were used to by now, Jason needed fuel.

What we expected to be a quick stop-and-go ended up being an ordeal that took well over an hour. The refueling was relatively quick but the order of food, not so much. That was a very educational experience regarding “Everything in Africa happens on African Time”. Things are done, when they’re done.

It took ages to get service at the take-away cashier. Then the order was wrong. In hind sight it’s actually quite amusing, however, at the time our empty bellies didn’t seem to think so.
From Wimpy, as a take-away, I always have a toasted bacon, cheese and tomato. It’s delicious!
Now, what took so long was I was given a bacon, egg, cheese and tomato. Not lekker, I didn’t want that.

So we tried to correct the order and after much talking back and fourth were admonished for ordering a bacon, cheese and tomato instead of

  • a bacon, egg, cheese and tomato without the egg, or
  • a cheese and tomato with extra bacon.

My bad, lesson learned: I’m stupid.

The rest of the drive was a pleasure, no traffic, excellent roads and plenty to look at.

We pulled into Tsumeb an hour early as there is a time zone change. Excellent. Long day on the road and only one night at Kupferquelle resort so all we did was set up the tents and unpack the chairs. We’d eat at the restaurant that evening, which turned out to be a Dros, and climb into bed for an early rise the next day and then…Etosha!

Checking in to Kupferquelle was painless and we were assigned a campsite, probably the first time I’ve ever experienced that. Turned out there was only one other site in use and the lady at reception did say if we wanted to move we were more than welcome.
Kupferquelle is beautiful, stunning green grass, lots of space, easy access, an Olympic sized swimming pool and a Dros.

We hovered around camp for a bit, relaxing and drinking beer before showering in the excellent, clean, ablution facilities at Kupferquelle and making our way to the Dros for dinner. We were famished and hadn’t had any trustworthy meat in days, steaks all around and it was divine! They even had a special on which Jason and Jenece tested out with yummy results: 300g steak, cheese, mushroom sauce, toffee pudding, a shot of Wild Africa Cream and a Wild Africa Cream glass for N$99.95 (R99.95). I had a good old 500g steak and chips.

I must admit that the first 30 minutes at the Dros were spent in absolute silence as we made use of the Wifi coupons we’d bought at reception.

We went to bed after a few more drinks and discovered that Kupferquelle is patrolled regularly by security as we heard the guard yelling at someone over the walkie-talkie on a number of occassions.

Day 6
The next morning we rose early, broke our mini camp and headed into Tsumeb to get supplies from the Spar. We stopped at the Engen on the way out as they had another Wimpy, this time just for coffee. We spent a good amount of time against the hood of my car getting a local sim card to work and catching up on social media time while drinking our coffee.

An hour and a half later we arrived at Etosha and I promise to tell you all about it next week!