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29 December, 2009

Tarred Road Between Askham and Twee Riviere

The first time I visited the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park the road between Askham and Twee Riviere was still notorious. Reports of vehicles breaking down, corrugations shaking your teeth loose and tires being towed behind vehicles were in the order of the day. To meant excitement.

Bad road conditions led to few people venturing to that part of our beautiful country and those are the places I love. Nature tends to be unspoiled when fewer human footprints litter the area - a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately all too true. So, we packed the car, at that stage a Pajero and the off-road Explorer caravan (bad choice, but that is a story for another day) and set off in the middle of the night to reach Molopo Lodge at Askham where we would overnight before embarking on THE ROAD.

We reached the lodge just before sundown and thanked our lucky stars that we reserved a chalet for the night. THE ROAD had to be embarked upon well before first light if you wanted any chance of arriving at the gate at Twee Riviere by eight when it opened. So, by five 'o clock we were on our way. The road proved to be everything it was reported to be - and then some.

After ten kilometers (and more than half an hour later) I thought the Pajero would lose at least some of the wheel nuts. Anything that could shake loose, did and I shuddered at the thought of the mahem I would find inside the caravan. We drove on every possible side of the road and sometimes even next to the road, but regardless of how fast or slow or where you drove, the corrugations hammered away at the car and your body. (I suspect the idea for the Vibro Shape belt originated on this road) Dust whirled around the cars and we had to keep a substantial following distance from our companions to be able to see the road ahead.  

Just before eight we arrived at the gate of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and watched the sun rise over the huts of the Botswana Twee Rivieren camp. The sixty-odd kilometers took nearly 3 hours to negotiate. What a wonderful start to a holiday in the bush!

During 2008 we entered the Kgalagadi again from Askham, and despite rumors of the road being tarred, I still held some hope that parts would be gravel. The freshly tarred surface continued to the gate of the park and we traversed the same stretch of road in less than an hour.

Now, I may be completely wrong about this and it is purely my own opinion, but I wonder if the tarring of the road didn't contribute to the influx of tourists to the park. During the time when access to the park was still limited to a few people who didn't mind "roughing" it a bit, we experienced no traffic congestion on the main roads, no motorists driving at excessive speeds and virtually all the people we met, were there solely for the purpose of experiencing nature and drink in the unique ambience of the Kalahari Desert.

A quiet appreciation of the animals and vegetation ruled the campsites at Twee Riviere - this changed to traffic jams, tour groups and noice-filled nights. While I am all for making our national parks more accessible to everyone and wouldn't dream to shun progress, I can't help but feel a little sad that the park is following in the footsteps of the Kruger National Park and is now well on the way to becoming a more commercial enterprise. With the road between Twee Riviere and Nossob being fixed (rumour has it that it will eventually also be tarred) it feels like the last vestiges of the quiet beauty will be lost for future generations. I hope the management of the park would be able to find a balance between commercial viability and preserving the park and its riches.

That said, I continue to visit the park despite these factors and during every visit the Kalahari reveals a little more about itself. You just can't help yourself - you need to go back again and again to experience the sometimes barren and dry soil of the Kalahari Desert.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park should be on every tourist itinerary.

04 December, 2009

Wildlife Photography - 2 Must See Web Sites

Being an amateur photographer and only dreaming of taking beautiful photo's, I stand amazed at the quality of photo's these two photographers take. The photo's on the blog of Gerry van der Walt at Photo Africa took my breath away.

He recently had a guest, Morkel Erasmus,  posting an article about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo's with an explanation of the software and how to do it.  This is amazing article with so much information, I bet you will read it at least twice and keep returning to make the information your own. (I know I will.)

The photo's alone will have you itching to pick up your camera and head for the wilderness of Africa. Please look at these sites and tell me what you think.

Tips for Camping in Africa - Why Campers Must Wear Shoes

Whether you camp in places with (Kruger National Park) or without fences (Mabuasehube and most of Africa), the animals always have right of way. And not just the Big Five, all animals. That is why you should always wear proper shoes.

Africa is no place for sissies. You probably heard this statement before, but didn't quite know what is meant by it. Let me illustrate by way of a few short tales.

As you know, I am an avid camper and the wilder it gets, the happier I am...well mostly. This means that although I enjoy the Kruger Park, Pilanesberg and other game reserves as much as the next person, the places I feel most relaxed are where nothing but canvas stands between me and the animals of the veld. If you have to traverse a few 4x4 obstacles along the way, I really enjoy myself as this means less human traffic.

Camping Tip 1 for Africa: Wear Shoes While Camping in the Wild
  • Prevent Insect Bites While Camping in Africa
We've been visiting Balule camp in the Kruger National Park for several years now. Our holidays in the Kruger were mostly during the summer months. So besides taking prophylactics against the dreaded malaria mosquito, we also had to deal with a myriad of other six and eight legged creatures. Balule and we found this also at Shingwedzi camp, is notorious for its huge spiders running around at night. (I still can't figure out if they chase the shadows or the light.)

Although this afforded us hours of entertainment when middle aged ladies and large muscled men jump onto camping tables barely equipped to handle the loads of food on them, it stops being funny when these spiders start to target you. I'm sure they are perfectly harmless,but I have never stood still long enough to have a proper look and try and identify one. Why take the chance of stepping onto one and finding out they are as menacing as they look? Solution? Wear proper shoes.

  • Wearing Shoes Helps Prevent Snake Bites While Camping
Snakes are also rife in the Kruger Park as well as the national parks and parts of Africa with a warmer climate. One afternoon while enjoying lunch under the tree you see on the photo, hubby and children suddenly jumped a mile high and broke several speed records trying to get away from the tree. A snake was busy making its way silently down the trunk of the tree, only a few feet from where we sat.

Imagine this at night: It is dark, with only the stars shining down on you. Somewhere in the distance a lion roars and the veld goes quiet. You absolutely have to go to the bathroom. No time to put on shoes. And then you meet one of those unfriendly creatures that zaps you on the ankle. Besides being painful and possibly lethal, your holiday will surely be ruined.
  • Shoes Protect Against Scorpion Stings While Camping
 Scorpions tend to hide in shady places during the day only to roam around at night, early morning and late afternoon. Although few scorpion bites are lethal, they pack a nasty punch and could cause a lot of discomfort if you are far from any medical facilities or medical help.
  • Shoes Protects Against Thorns While Camping in Africa

You may laugh at this, but have you seen the thorn of a Camel Thorn Tree? Imagine that long thorn sticking through the soft part of your foot. Besides delivering a painful sting, these thorns tend to break off inside your foot, causing infection and a slow healing process.

So don't be a baboon - wear shoes while camping and everyone will enjoy walking around in the bush so much more.