With the car fully functional and the temperature rising we made our way west of Upington to the Augrabies Falls. The name translates to “the place of great noise” and although not the size of the great falls of Victoria it still packs a punch in full flow. Way past full now, it was still a spectacle to behold and the steep-sided gorge was pretty awesome. We could see huge fish in the green-coloured Orange River far below us. Shark probably… The day-time temperature was 36 degrees. Hot, hot, hot. The Dassies sensibly stayed in their rocky homes for most of the day, coming out in their dozens in the late afternoon and morning to feed on the sparse vegetation of the rocky landscape.
Young Dassie on cliff face
Orange River at Augrabies Falls
Just downstream of the falls
We spent a fairly comfortable night in the tent with a cool breeze helping us sleep, then headed north to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. One of the biggest national parks in the world, this vast area of wilderness covers 9,591 km2 of South Africa and 28,400km2 of Botswana. It is also renowned for its predators, including the famous black-maned Kalahari lions. We are here for 6 nights, after which we’ll leave South Africa, for now at least, and head into Namibia (which the park also borders). We’re spending two of our 6 nights in a site that is renowned for in-camp visitors of the large feline kind. May take that she-pee up to bed of an evening…
Our first night was a slightly wild welcome of a different sort. We’d got dinner under way – a stir fry (using the last of a pack of three enormous T-bone steaks that cost about 130 Rand. That’s £8. £8 for three huge steaks. I may never come home…. ). All was prepped, wine glasses in hand and the braai roaring and ready to go when we noticed a huge bank of brown ‘cloud’ where the sun had recently set. “What the hell’s that?” “Don’t know”. “Do you think it’s a dust storm?” Now we’ve seen ’The Mummy’ so we know what a dust storm looks like and this looked just like one. Most of the campsite seemed oblivious but an Afrikaans neighbour saw us looking. “Do you know what that is?” we asked. “Looks like rain”came the reply. It didn’t.
“I think we’ll baton down the hatches just in case….”. We shut up the roof tent, which we’d opened up in the vain hope that the tiny semblance of a breeze that was running through the camp would cool it down, and carried on with dinner hoping we were wrong. We weren’t. Before we knew it the ‘cloud’ came upon us and then all hell broke loose. We were suddenly hit with howling winds and dust. Even the Scorpions were running for cover. (General rule seems to be big pincers + small tail = ok; small pincers + big tail = bad. This one had very small pincers and a very big tail….)
The perfectly ready charcoal was blasted off the braai towards our open car and tent. We grabbed water to put the coals out as they tumbled forwards and threw everything including ourselves into the car. We waited to see if it would die down as quickly as it had come up but it didn’t. So we poured another glass of wine and sat eating the stir-fry veg – now crudites – with a bit of ham grabbed from the fridge. The wind whipped and tore at the tent above us but it seemed to be holding up well to the big gusts. We were exhausted from our long drive and the intense heat (it had topped 41 degrees in camp that day) so decided it was death or glory and went to bed, with ear plugs to keep out the sound of imminent tent collapse. The tent held up (hats off Eezi-Awn) and we got some fitful sleep.
This morning the skies are blue and clear. The camp is full of birdlife and we have Yellow Mongoose and Ground Squirrels running around at our feet. We’ve done all our paperwork with the South African border control and police and had a bit of a shop, including some useful mossie deterrent, with a very apt name.
My sentiments exactly…
Yellow Mongoose chilling in our camp
Ground squirrel – Now where have I left my nuts?
Crimson-breasted shrike feeding its young
We have a night drive planned for this evening and the forecast for that at least is looking good.
Risk of thunderstorms for tomorrow…