A sight to behold

After the wonderful sighting of the Cheetah family, in the Kgalagadi, it was time to head for The Karoo via Augrabies Falls. The heat, relentless. Upon my arrival, barley checked in for camping, my assistance was needed. Someone had missed a step, along the path, and broken their foot or something. Details were sketchy. The front desk hurried us down the path. We came upon a lovely family and their mum in obvious pain. The park guides had already splinted her foot. Pretty well done, I might add. She needed x-rays and pain killers. Nothing that could be done there. Not much for me to do.

Augrabies Falls is like a mini Niagra Falls midst the rocky outcrops. The walk about is not particularly taxing with the ped-ways but those steps are meant for giants! Somewhat vertically challenged, I know, but even those towering above me had some issue navigating those lower steps.

There is also a reserve for one’s viewing pleasure. No walking safaris were available at the time. It’d be a nice place to do one, I’d wager. Driving slowly into camp and finding the best spot with shade trees, my eyeballs were melting. It was hot and humid. I peeled myself from the front seat and hiked back to the restaurant which had AC, as did the check-in office. I loitered for a little bit to cool off and catch up on blogging, before deciding to sign up for a night drive.

The heat lingered into the evening. It began to abate half way through the night drive. The night sky surrounding the outcrops with an occasional Klipspringer and three different types of hares (Cape, Scrub and Red Rock) far too quick for photos. The stars were out in full force and my fellow passengers from Spain were enjoying the evening as much as I. And then we get a flat. Not only a flat but a flat on a bus that had just been in the garage and thus no wheel spanner. A spare was on the bus but no way to remove the flat tire. We were now stranded waiting for another bus to come and get us. 30+ minutes under the starry wonder to ponder life’s secrets. I relished the moment. The Spaniards were missing their drinks. A very late return to the camp but at least the heat had finally dissipated to make the night more tolerable for sleeping in a roof top tent with thick canvas and nigh zero air flow.

Agamaweb
Even this Agama was hanging out in the only shade around. Smart little guy.

The guide, the previous night, mentioned they had a healthy leopard population and pointed to a spot on the map that was known for frequent sightings early in the morning. Getting up that early after a late night was not easy but it was done. Alas no Leopards.

The drive about was pleasant until the sun rose and the heat, hotter than the day prior, set it sights on melting all life forms off the earth. After a few hours driving my heat capacity was breached. Returning to camp and walking about the falls seemed more tolerable, not by much mind you. But I wasn’t melting into the bakkie at least.

The heat continued to rise, easily in the 40 celsius with no wind. I cracked. I did. The thought of having to sleep in the tent through this type of heat was not enticing at all. I upgraded to a room with AC. A weak moment but oh so splendid. Safari Karma must balance things out, however. Find the last room with AC, sure, want water to go with that room, not a chance. Yup. The whole camp was without water. The pump had been flooded due to rains somewhere up the way. They worked diligently but the water was not available until late into the night and then was still a little murky. But the AC was marvelous.

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Skinny looking Steenbuck
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Namaqualand Sandgrouse and poop. The poop was everywhere, no clean shots to be had.

The drive from Augrabies to The Karoo would be 800 or so KM the next morning. Waking early to get a head start, packed and ready, my plans were thwarted with a flat. I drove gingerly to the petrol station a few meters away. It would not open for another hour. Fine. Took out the jack, and started on the lug nuts. The first 2 had me going nowhere. All my body weight wouldn’t budge those suckers. Eventually enough blood was spilt and the universe allowed them to turn. Yay. Tire off. Water poured to find a leak. Wait what, no leak. Then why is it flat? It was full last night. Pump it up with the air compressor in the back and it looks good. Slowly it becomes squishy again. All this took about an hour and the gentleman working at the garage arrived. He used his compressor and we poured more water and even got down on our knees, ears pressed close to the tire, to find the bloody leak. No obvious leak. He thinks it’s a rim leak. Not much I can do to fix that. Punctures sure, rim leak no way.

Flat-Tire-Augrabiesweb
Not the best start to the morning.

We managed to get the spare tire down, not an easy feat as the hook is hard to hook in the slot to drop the tire. But we got it down and I got the spare on and loaded the flat tire in the back. Now two hours have gone by and I still needed to fix this tire and drive that distance. On the bright side the arm workout was excellent!

About 30 minutes outside the falls I came upon a small town of Kakamas and Dunlop Tyre. I popped in and asked if they could help me out. As I stood, the mountain of tires with punctures kept piling up. It’s harvest season for raisins. Chatting away with one of the farmers, he explained, it’s Monday and all the harvest equipment for all the farms will undoubtedly have punctures from the weekends harvest, making Monday a very busy day. Regardless the tire burden the tyre shop had my rim leak fixed, and the tire back on the front wheel and the spare back in its place rather quickly. What’s best, when asked where to pay, I received a smile and told it was on them. How wonderful is that. So Dunlop Tyre in Kakamas thank you for your wonderful hospitality. I was quickly back on my way heading to the last park, The Karoo.

The Karoo is a little hidden gem off a major highway nestled amongst The Great Escarpment. This would be the last stop before Cape Town. Karoo beautiful. A bird hide, and fossil trails and plenty to see. The camp was sprawled and very nice with many pleasant campers. No night drive, they had a minimum of 4 people and well it’s just me. Maybe something the next day. The evening came quickly and the giant tortoises roamed the camp. There would be plenty to drive the next day. The last full day of 4×4 driving. The escarpment made the nights cooler and definitely more pleasant to venture into dreamland than the falls. I plopped the tripod and camera on the roof of the bakkie and tried my hand at night captures. Good thing as the next night would be too cloudy.

Night-sky-Karoo_1webNight-sky-Karoo_2webNight-sky-Karooweb

Early start to catch the sunrise midst the escarpment. The landscape is fantastic, making driving slow, enjoyable and honestly fun. The 4×4 sections were not very taxing and just fun to drive. It was a great way to spend my last couple days with Springbok doing what we did best, getting lost.

The various passes through the park offered different perspective. Klipspring was the windiest, steepest and funnest of them all. The further you venture into the park you can see Hartmann’s Zebra, Eland and Springbok. Supposedly there is Aardwolf, Brown Hyena and Caracal but none that I could find. Still it was a fabulous place to finish this 4×4 adventure.

Karoo-SunrisewebKaroo-panoramicwebKaroo-Klipsringer-passweb

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Mountain Tortoise
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Verreauxs Eagle soaring in the mid morning.
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Impressive wing span.
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Karoo Korhaan in the morning light.
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I believe this is the female Karoo Korhaan
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The mighty Forked-Tailed Drongo.
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Hartmann’s Zebra. Note the white belly with the stripes that stop precisely and the lack of a shade strip. Handsome fella.
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Hartebeest displaying her heart-shaped horns and the reason behind the Afrikaans name.
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Wee little one not sure what to make of Springbok.
Sign-Karooweb
In case you weren’t sure about the Lions and Rhino’s. Lol!

I may have spent 9+ hours driving around and grinning like a Cheshire cat. I treated myself to a nice dinner at their restaurant and even managed to get a sunrise drive. The last game drive of the trip. Enough people had finally signed up. A wonderful evening. The morning drive was early and relaxing. No great sightings and I don’t even think my camera came out. I just breathed it all in, tried to ingrain every sight, sound and smell into my sensorium for eternity.

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Last night camping spot. Beautiful view.
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Moonrise over the escarpment. What a sight.

Leaving The Karoo was bittersweet. I was looking forward to Cape Town and hiking Lion’s Head and Table Mountain but saying good-bye to the bush was hard.  It feels so comfortable and comforting with endless little surprises. I could stay there forever. It was time to go, I made one last loop through the one paved track on the way out and headed for the metropolis that is Cape Town.

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