Sunday, November 23, 2008

7 September 2008

Grootkalk [a camp in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park]

Yesterday, we entered Kgalagadi and spent the night in Nossob (camping). We saw lots of eagles (Tawny (various shades) and Marshall (immature and adult)), but not much of interest in the way of mammals (Springbok and Wildebeest mostly, but a few hartebeest at a distance too). And then the troubles started in earnest--we'd been suspecting that there were problems with the fridge/freezer we were renting--it didn't get cold all the way (only down to ~18-20°C) and had a flashing error light. The battery it ran off never seemed to get charged...

(break--lots of commotion here because a Pale Chanting Goshawk [P.C.G.] that was in the tree over the watering hole swooped down to catch something, then flew back up into the tree (didn't see if it got anything), setting off alarm calls in a flock of sparrow weavers and/or red-headed finches that is hanging out in the tree next to me. I was too busy watching an adult sparrow weaver feed a younger one by our outdoor sink to notice the P.C.G.).

The Pale Chanting Goshawk above the waterhole at Grootkalk.

...When we got set up in camp (in Nossob), our neighbor came to see if it was okay that he plugged into our campsite's power outlet because his was in use by his neighbor and his fridge/freezer wasn't working off his battery! So we asked him for advice on ours and we tried his plug-in cord on ours, and it ran! He tried to clean our battery leads for us (didn't help) and ultimately let us use his cord the whole night, so our stuff finally got chilled for the first time in 1.5 days [wasn't that nice of the guy? So, his fridge wasn't plugged in at all, but he said it was okay because he was near the end of his 8-day trip through the park (still had to drive back to Pretoria) and so didn't have much fresh stuff anyway. We ran into other helpful people in the park too]. 

Our rooftop tent at our campsite in Nossob (the fridge is the beast in the wooden frame in the back, with battery in front of it).

Then, Jesse realized (within half an hour of the fridge problems and the realization that Kalahari 4x4 had given us a bum setup) that he had lost his pocket knife [that he'd had since he was ~12] somewhere along our trip, and soon after that, our lantern started going out (presumably because the rechargeable battery was low) and of course Kalahari 4x4 hadn't given us a cord for recharging that either... and then the flashlight we'd brought from the USA died... and it wasn't the batteries (we had spares) but probably the bulb (no spares of that). And we both had headaches. Not a good evening!

[A note to me delicate readers: Kalahari 4x4 did refund us the money we'd paid for renting the fridge/freezer when we got back, but we were stressed at this point in the trip that we were going to lose all our fresh food AND that we would end up paying for something we didn't get to use but yet took up a lot of space. And don't worry about Jesse's pocket knife... I found it in the console of our 4x4 a week later when I was making sure we'd got everything out of it before returning it... but imagine for the sake of the story that you don't know that either. And our kind cord-loaning neighbor loaned us a gas lantern for the rest of the evening and we managed to get by without needing our own reliable source of light at night for the remainder of our trip, because all but one of the places we stayed had light, and there was a second, very weak, lantern that we used sparingly. All's well that ends well?]

I cooked up some of our vegetables with stock and made up some rice to eat with it. For desert, we had fruit salad (to use up the pawpaw [papaya] and guavas that weren't being kept cold by the fridge). Oh, and we also ate a lovely avocado that Anne Kotze had given us (she lovingly ripened the avocado and pawpaw for us while we were in Hermanus). We slept in our rooftop tent last night and found it quite comfortable.

This morning, we set off for Grootkalk, after waiting for a petrol attendant (to sell us petrol since it was going to be two days before we saw a petrol pump again) to get back from looking at the camp water tank that was acting up. Since we were in lion country, we looked and looked for lions to no avail, but finally someone in a vehicle heading the other direction told us they'd just seen lions mating at the next (for us) water hole. It was 15 km away so we sped off towards it. But, we couldn't see a lion (or two) anywhere. We headed back to the road to try to find them from a different view (some Gemsbok were looking especially wary in the vicinity), also to no avail. On the way back to the waterhole for one last look, I thought I saw a leopard-like shape in a tree at a distance and resolved to get a better look at it as we left. Again, no lion at the waterhole, so we went to leave and I asked Jesse to stop so I could look at the leopard-like shape. It was just a pile of twigs. Then I casually looked our the other window and saw a lion! Just its head, then it lay back down again. They really are quite well hidden in the grass!

There's a lion under that there tree (about 1/3 rd in from the left).

(Another interruption--just watched the P.C.G. get a sparrow/finch and eat it... and now it's trying to get another one!)

Anyway, we finally got bored of waiting for the lion to lift its head again, so continued on our way. Saw loads of secretary birds before finally reaching Grootkalk, where the "tourism assistant," Eric, showed us to our lovely chalet, with an anti-leopard door and separate anti-snake door. Thankfully, it has a gas-powered fridge/freezer, so we can chill our food again! we also have our own bathroom, and there are (solar-powered) lights, so we don't need to worry about our lamps running out. 

Our tent at Grootkolk, with anti-leopard door leading onto the porch (more just deters leopards/lions, since they could of course jump over the wall/gate).

The local leopard came to the watering hole here yesterday at 4 pm, and it's 4 pm now, but no sign of it yet. Apparently it visits a different watering hole some days. And the lions that are usually here have moved on to Gharagab, according to our neighbors. Let's hope we see some big cats soon, since Jesse and I are currently a bit disappointed in Kgalagadi (Etosha [where we went together in 2001] and Mata-Mata [where Jesse went in ~1998] are better).

No comments: