Elzette and I helped Ronel pack-up her husband Pieter’s 4x4 - which he kindly agreed to let us use for our trip.  Then we set off from Upington, heading north, a 265km drive to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. One of the largest nature reserve parks in the world; on the South African side it is 9,591 km² and on the Botswana side it is a further 28,400km². The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a result of the historic 1999 unification of South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok Nation Park and Botswana’s Gemsbok Nation Park.  The Namibian boarder is on the North West side of the park. Image: Kgalagadi official information guide   

Man has been part of the Kalahari for a long time, Artifacts belonging to early, middle and late stone age, some dating back some 200 000 years, have been uncovered.  Over the last 3 000 years humankind’s presence has been on the increase with the coming of black tribes and white traders and hunters.  But before the coming of these peoples, the Kalahari was the domain of the San (The term San was created in the 1930’s by European researchers who felt the word Bushman was derogatory).

San children on the side of the road near Molopo Kalahari Lodge © Noleen Kutash

For me personally the red sand of the Kalahari Desert, that begins just north of the equator and stretches to the banks of the Orange River, is one of the most beautiful sites especially up against the blue sky. The red colour of the sand dunes is caused by iron oxide, which covers each sand grain.

Red Kalahari Sand © Noleen Kutash
264 species of birds have been recorded in the Park. However, not all are resident species.  Many of the birds cannot survive all year round in the Kalahari and fly to areas experiencing favourable conditions, either seasonally or occasionally. The Sociable Weaver builds huge nest and may have up to 50 chambers and house up to 300 birds, including chicks.

Sociable Weavers
Nest of Sociable Weavers in Kgalagadi © Noleen Kutash

We arrived at the entrance of  the park at Twee Rivieren Chalets one of several camps in the reserve, it was not our first choice to stay here, however the park was so fully booked it was the only available space. 

We had a short siesta and then Elzette started our fire early because it takes about 1½ hours for the wood to turn to hot coals to barbeque our meat.  At 7:30 we had booked a game-drive that lasts anything from 2½ - 3 hours, this way we did not have to return to the camp by 7:30pm with the rest of the guests that were using their own cars.  Elzette made the best dinner and while we were eating we had a few little fellows stop by for a visit – according to park rules we are not allowed to feed any animals whilst in the park. 

Yellow Mongoose Visited Us Asking Nicely To Share Our Dinner © Noleen Kutash

There was just enough time after this meal to grab our gear and head to our pick-up point for the game drive.  It was a full moon and a stunning evening; I just took deep breaths of fresh air and filled my nostrils with the smell of the African bush.  As luck would have it there were only 4 of us on the game drive beside our game ranger, and we quickly befriended passenger number 4 a lovely man from Italy.  This park is so large and being out there for only 3 hours is a mere drop in the bucket.  However sometimes you get lucky – here you need major telephoto lenses for your camera.  My 300mm lens just could not cut it in this vast terrain.  Here are just a few moments taken during our drives.

Full Moon in Kgalagadi © Noleen Kutash
Lion in Kgalagadi © Noleen Kutash
Ostrich in Kgalagadi © Noleen Kutash

Springbok in Kgalagadi © Noleen Kutash
Flash back - when we all dashed off to grab our gear just before we left for our first game drive Elzette and I heard a major scream coming from Ronel’s cottage right next door; she barged into our room, white as the driven snow, and announced that there were bats in her room.  Seeing that we were late for our game drive we decided to deal with it upon our return.  And so when we got back from our drive we asked our ranger to please assist us with this matter.  He came over and nicely escorted several bats out of Ronel’s room.  It was a high-pitched thatch roof and seeing these bats and getting to them was impossible.  So we moved a bed from our cottage entrance into the main bedroom and the 3 of us bunked in the same room. 

And so the “bat party” began Elzette became the official exterminator with her tennis shoe. The vocals (screams) were left to Ronel and I.  It just so worked out that the bravest amongst us slept right up against the wall, I was in the middle and Ronel to my left. Each and every bat fortunately for Ronel and I decided to attack from the wall end of the room and thus consistently landed on Elzette all night long. If either Ronel or I were on Elzett's side of the room the entire camp would have been awakened by our shrieks.   At 2:30 in the morning we were all still wide awake, waiting the next bat attack that seem to happen every 20 minutes.  Our alarm was set for 4:30 am, but long before it went off, we all agreed to get up and make ourselves some strong coffee.  We quickly showered and hastily packed-up and left our bat cave (room) and headed to the park gate that opened at 5:30am for our sunrise game drive, before heading back to Upington and our luxurious accommodation at Ronel’s Riverplace Guest House.

On our drive back I wanted to go to Hakskeen Pan, in the worst way, but seeing that it was a 140km diversion there and back, coupled with the fact that none of us slept the night before, I reluctantly decided not to push for it.  I wanted to observe and photograph the racetrack knowing that 2/3rds of the 24 million square metres stones have been removed thus far, in preparation for the World Land Speed Record Hakskeen Pan 2013 - Instead we stopped by Molopo Kalahari Lodge, for tea, right near the turnoff to Hakskeen Pan.
Government Workers Clearing stones at Hakskeen Pan - Image: bloodhound ssc

Back at Ronel’s, Pieter had prepared a sumptuous lunch for us and afterwards we all crashed for a much needed afternoon nap.  That evening we watched home movies of the Orange River Floods at the beginning of 2011.  Ronel and Pieter’s place almost did not make it see the before and during flood images of Riverplace below.

We stayed with Ronel for two more nights, enjoyed several boat rides on Pieter’s speed boat. And on our last night in Upington we joined friends of theirs on Sakkie se Arkie - afterwards we all went out for dinner, before calling it a night, Elzette and I were heading back to Cape Town at daybreak the next morning.

End of day Orange River on Sakkie se Arkie © Noleen Kutash
On our drive back Elzette was telling me about this guy Thinus Coetzer, an avid motorbike collector in the town of Nieuwoudtville.   Unfortunately, Thinus was not there and upon seeing the place, I knew I’d have to return another day, there were literally hundreds of bikes 99% of them covered up for protection against the environment. And we had no time for a photo shoot, so I hurriedly snapped a few images, did not even take the time to changes my camera lens and we were back on the road relieved to know we’d be home in time for supper. 

1898 Columbus model 10 with a 1904 Wall Auto Wheel motor © Noleen Kutash
Triumph T21 - 350CC late 50"s © Noleen Kutash

Triumph Cub Racing Bike 200 CC from the 50's © Noleen Kutash

Until next time travel safe and we look forward seeing you back here at www.travelandtradesouthafrica.com soon.