Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa


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Icy hail on a summer’s day

When I got back from town yesterday afternoon we had a thunderstorm, one the first really heavy ones of the season. When it rains in our tent it is deafening. The rain pounding on the tin roof drowns out our voices completely even if we’re yelling. And yesterday afternoon we had hail as well which made it even worse. It only rained and hailed for about 40 minutes but in that time we had rivers outside.

 

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Once the rain stopped I packed my bag, put my wellies on and headed up the road to the hyaena latrine I am monitoring at night for my PhD. I didn’t get very far. The tiny stream I have to cross had become a proper raging river in less than an hour.

 

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There were brand new waterfalls that had just appeared off the mountain cliffs. You can’t really see them in this photo but they are there!

 

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Sam and I had a bit of a play in the piles of icy hail that had accumulated.

 

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We also checked out another part of the stream in case that was passable. It wasn’t.

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So instead of working last night I stayed at home with Sam and we watched a very dodgy horror film called Hyenas about werewolf-like hyenas that attack and eat people in America and about this hyena hunter called Crazy Briggs who tries to kill them. Well I watched it until about 8 pm when I fell asleep…I guess all that playing in the hail tired me out.

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A bazillion grains of sand, 3300 kms, 2 people and 1 landrover

We went to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park finally! We’d been talking about it and dreaming about it for months. We have a magazine about it which I’d read about 10 times. In early November we decided to take a mini-break and go.

It was an epic road trip. We did just over 3,300 kms in a week. Here’s our map of where we went. We started out where point G is and then on the first day we drove all the way to Vryburg in the North West Province (point B).

 

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We arrived late at Vryburg and stayed at a campsite called die Boereplaas. This literally translates to the farmers farm. It was the epitome of Afrikaanerdom. We had drinks with a boer at the bar and he told us stories of shooting jackals with black powder guns and leopards eating babies. It doesn’t get more Afrikaans than that. There was a tame baby gemsbok there too.

 

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The next day we drove to Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape (point C).  The falls were pretty but the water was pretty low as the rains haven’t come yet this year. We did a game drive in the evening and saw giraffes, elands, springbok and dassies.

 

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The next day we headed up to the Kgalagadi. While travelling one of us would drive while the other one chilled out or napped in our luxurious ‘room’ in the back of the landy.

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After stopping for a spot of sand surfing on the dunes, we finally made it to the Kgalagadi National Park (point D).

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The first night there we camped at Rooiputs. It was one of two nights in the park where we camped in places where there was no fence between us and the lions.

 

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The next morning beside the footprints we’d made in the sand were large hyaena tracks walking just next to our tent.

 

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We saw heaps of amazing animals in the Kgalagadi including brown hyaena, lions, yellow mongoose, bat-earred fox, honey badger, wildebeests, red hartebeests, springboks, spring hares, wild cat and meerkats.

 

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One of the best things we saw was a black-backed jackal who hunted 5 sand-grouses in a row while we watched him at a waterhole.

 

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The sunsets were incredible every night.

 

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Everything in the desert revolves around water. We had to carry our own supplies with us in the landy and fill up our water bottles daily from landy’s tap.

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The animals were desperate for water. If you spilled a bit of water on a table or put a pan on the ground dozens of sociable weavers and grouses would come.

 

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Our final night in the park was on the Botswana side at a very basic campsite called Matopi 1. On our way there we towed out a Toyota which was stuck in the sand. And when we got there we didn’t see another person for 24 hours. The campsite had no fences, no cell phone reception, no toilets, no water, no nothing. It was just us and the bush.

 

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On the long drive back through Botswana we stopped over at Jwaneng (point E) and treated ourselves to a night in a hotel and a Nando’s dinner. We stopped again one last time before making it back to Lajuma in a small village called Baltimore, South Africa (point F). Not quite like the Baltimore I was born in.

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It was a fantastic trip but there was only one thing that could have made it better. We kept seeing signs for Namibia since we were right next to the border and we didn’t have enough time to go there. It tore a bit of my travelling soul out. Next time Namibia, you’re mine.

 

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