Sunday, November 30, 2008

9 September 2008

Mata-Mata campground, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Well, we're back to camping after the excitement of last night. But once again, we have nice neighbors--an Afrikaans guy and his wife Winnie, from East London. They've been at this campsite for ~a week and this is their last night. They let us share their campsite so we wouldn't have to be next to Das Rollende Hotel--a massive bus pulling a cubicle hotel--looks like there are ~21 cubbies (14 windows on each of 3 levels, anyway) where people [German tourists] sleep. Apparently the whole contraption got stuck on a park road a few days ago and when they were rescued, after spending the night out there in the bush, the Parks people found the Germans wondering all over the dunes, never mind the lions, hyenas (some of which were apparently quite close), leopards etc. Quite the sight, their rolling hotel!

Das Rollende Hotel at Mata-Mata.

Today we had a very long drive from Gharagab to Mata-Mata--7:30 am to ~3 pm. The morning was very interesting--we had some serious 4x4 driving to do, over sand dunes. We got so stuck on one that I had to dig out the tires with our shovel and push the truck just to get it reversed down the hill so we could attempt it again. We had to try ~4 times, if not 5, and I really had to push the truck at times, knowing that lions had been in the area overnight (Jared tracked them to a waterhole, past it, then into the grass). At one point, I was left at the top of the hill with our shovel, with Jesse and the truck at the bottom. [I tell you, there's nothing like the adrenaline rush associated with the fear that a lion or three might pop out of the lion-colored grass all around you at any moment to get you to push a truck that's stuck--it would have made an awesome photo, since I was up to my ankles in red sand and nearly horizontal as I pushed the front of the truck to get it unstuck. Thank you Kirsty for getting me into the "100 pushups" routine--those push-ups paid off!] I then commanded the truck over the remaining dunes, doing some very fancy steering at times to avoid hitting objects as the truck slid around.

The almost impossible hill. Those tire tracks coming up from the left and ending in deep sand are from one of our failed attempts.

We finally (~30 km) got onto the main road and back to Nossob, where we got petrol and switched drivers. That's when we realized that the battery for the fridge had jumped around so much that it was on its side and had cracked the plastic case it was in. And there was battery acid everywhere--I could smell it too. So I had to clean that up. Also, one of the plastic bins they'd given us the camping gear in is totally cracked. Oh dear. Let's hope the R90/day "full insurance" covers that.

Back to driving over the dunes--I just want to mention that I had a LOT of fun doing it, though I was quite nervous (of getting stuck or destroying the truck) too. I was quite impressed by my dune driving skills! [I don't remember the last time I have had so much fun, nor been so scared. I was driving like a someone in an off-road race... we had to go fast to get over the dunes, then the road would turn just as we crested, so I'd have to make a quick steering correction, then another as the road turned again etc. I didn't know I was capable of it, I have to say.]

Anyway, after hours of driving, we finally got to see the giraffe that hang out near Mata-Mata and nowhere else in the park--some pretty small ones frolicking, and some big ones eating the leaves off the tops of trees. It was strange to see such large animals with such long legs after days of smaller animals. Also, saw some Springbok sleeping at the side of the road looking very unperturbed by us driving up to them and taking photos. Saw lots of Swallow-tailed bee-eaters near Nossob--gorgeous birds. Oh! And both Jesse and I scared Kori bustards into flight while driving [this is an old joke between us--the Kori bustard is the largest flighted bird, but you don't normally see them flying because they spend most of their time walking around. One day when Jesse and I were chasing sunset back to camp in Etosha in 2001 (the camp gates close at sunset), we almost hit a Kori bustard that was in the road, but it took off at the last second--so we had proved to ourselves that they do actually fly]. We also saw a whole bunch of ostriches.

A trio of giraffes (sounds a bit like a Heifer catalog, doesn't it?). The all-neck giraffe on the left is a baby lying down.

Baby giraffe having a good gallop.

An unperturbed Springbok.

A swallow-tailed bee eater. No really, there's a bird in front of that tree. It's just to the left of center.

Writing by the light of the moon, as this entry has been, is getting tougher, so I'm quitting here [you should see my hand writing! Remember how our flashlight died a few nights before, the same night our lantern died? Well, we were preserving the last of our other lantern's faint glow for important things, so I had to use moonlight to write.]

Jesse at our Mata-Mata campsite. As far away as we could get from Das Rollende Hotel and a campsite that seemed to be full of the partying types. Of which type we are not. 


Kirsty said...

Sam I am loving going on your trip with you. Your trip is so much more authentic then mine was :D Gorgeous pictures. What an amazing time you had!

Christine said...

You never told me about you having to be lion-bait!