Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kgalagadi and the Kalahari

After our Orange River trip in April, we were heading to the Northernmost part of the Northern Cape via Namibia. The road was long and straight, with towns marked on the map being little more than 10 houses and a few goats in reality. Namibia is not known for its many people.

We reached Askham and to our relief, there was a gas station. I took a picture because we are probably never going there again. 

We stayed at Kgalagadi Lodge that night and drove through a tiny part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park the next day, a massive nature reserve in the Kalahari Desert region of Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. The Kalahari is a dry, sandy savanna area of southern Africa, semi-desert famous for its beautiful red dunes and 'wit grassies' (white grass), and it covers about 70% of Botswana, as well as parts of Namibia and South Africa. It was the first time we've been to the Kalahari, and our timing was perfect - recent rains had transformed the dry area into its most stunning state. 

 Maarten bought a Bushman bow-and-arrow (two arrows, to be exact), and thus he was running around hunting imaginary lions that evening. 

Drifting Shongololo (the word shongololo is Xhosa for millipede). There are a lot of these creatures in the Kalahari - their tracks cover the dunes in the morning. 

The said tracks. It looks like a miniature 4x4 car dared the dunes. 

We arrived late evening and dad, me and the boys went for a swim while mom stayed behind at the campsite. As pitching our tents would have been tricky (it's hard to get tent pens into pavement), mom suggested we sleep open, but upon our return she had definitely changed her mind. It seemed there was a tame emu stalking the campsite, and when mom had tried to take a nap, this guy walked right up to her and stared. After much laughter, we pitched the tents (though flimsily), and I figured The Emu has earned himself a portrait.

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Upon entering Kgalagadi Park, there were plenty of lazy Gemsbok and Springbok but less of everything else. We were hoping to see lions, but got lucky and saw a sleeping leopard instead. Unfortunately I couldn't take a picture - she was beautiful though. 

 Red hartebeest and Gemsbok. 

Springbok lambs - adorable. 

We also saw baby Gemsbok - his horns look like thorns. 

All the animals were lazy and fat, presumably because of the abundant grazing. 

Birds there were many, including the 'Gompou' (bustard), the heaviest flying bird on earth. 

I love the ostrich on the right, staring at her reflection: "I'm so gorgeous!" 

We saw a few falcons and eagles too. 

The sighting of the day, however, was two beautiful 'bakoorjakkalsies' (Bat-eared foxes). These giant-eared, tiny foxes are nocturnal and rarely come out in daylight. 

We also met clients of my mom who had invited us to visit if we ever came to this area, and stayed on with 2 families for 2 nights each where we experienced the famed 'boere' generosity of the Northern Cape. On the first farm, we had a fantastic time with 'oom' Jacques and 'tannie' Rika in the Kalahari. On arrival we were almost immediately taken 'springhaas' hunting/chasing at night by oom Jacques. This crazy activity involves chasing 'springhase' (nocturnal, weird, miniature kangaroo-like rodents) with a 'bakkie' (pickup) at night, and needs someone to hold a spotlight on the victim until it tires, half blinded by the light. Then someone else who can (preferably) run very fast over bushes and sand dunes chase after the springhaas and tries to catch it to the great amusement of the driver and other people on the back of the bakkie. 

Only dad managed to catch one, after a terrific dive into the sand. The boys were very impressed. 

The next day we were shown around the salt factory. In the Kalahari, there are natural, big salt pans (soutpanne) where extremely salty underground lakes prevent anything from growing on top. 

To reach the lakes, big canals are dug. The water in these canals are more than 90% salt (the Dead Sea is 48%). Apparently you can sit upright in the water and it only comes up to your waist. You can't stay in for very long though...

In order to then harvest the salt, the water must be pumped into shallow areas and allowed to evaporate.This is done in acres, where saltwater is pumped and evaporated layer after layer for 2 years. On top of this layer of salt more water is pumped, and only then salt can be scraped off and harvested. 
Salt scraped into piles on a producing acre. 

A bulldozer collects the salt from the acres and sorts it according to grade - the whiter the salt, the higher the grade. He also spreads the salt out to dry (if salt is too wet, it turns rock-solid, because the crystals cling to each other). Where better to dry out than in the hot Kalahari with very little rain?

Here salt is being bagged, and loaded onto a truck. Large quantities of 'raw' salt are sold for mixing into livestock feed. 

They also have a salt processing factory which produces salt fit for human consumption. Top grade salt is transported from the salt pan to the factory where it is first put through an oven to dry. It then goes through a crushing process, which eventually feeds into a big container. 

Sneak peek inside the oven. 

From the big container salt is fed into bags and loaded onto crates. The crates then go onto trucks. 

With noses burning and eyes tearing (the salt dust is everywhere), we now appreciate our salt a lot more than before.  Salt is not all we learned about in the Kalahari though.

Sociable Weaver Bird nest are a common sighting in the Kalahari. Sometimes the telephone pole/tree/whatever they built the nest on falls over because the nest gets so heavy.   

Basically a whole colony builds one big nest together.  

On the other farm my mom presented a homeschool talk, we ate an incredible amount of food, and observed the off-loading of cattle at night.

Our hosts 'oom' Theunis and 'tannie' Lana farm with export table grapes. A lot of the vineyards are under shading, such as the vineyard here. 

They had a hedgehog, which I was unfortunate enough to disturb. The resulting glare nearly cracked my lens. 

From the back of a bakkie, anything is possible. 

 We also visited Augrabies Falls National Park. We've been there before, but the boys couldn't remember it so we were admiring the big Orange River waterfall once again.

The waterfall itself. 

There were plenty of these Augrabies flat lizards (also called Broadley's flat lizards) at the falls, and we suspect people feed them as they swarm around your feet if you stand still long enough. 

Family picture on the Moon Rock, a giant 'whaleback' dome of rock which is a noticeable landmark of Augrabies Falls. It provides an excellent view of the park.

Moon Rock jumping!

Thanks for reading, and have a perky week! 


  1. Jou humorisiese aantekeninge by die diere is so oulik en lekker om te sien en lees. My week gaan sommer 'perky' wees!

    1. Daar is min dinge so skrikwekkend en dus inspireerend soos daardie krimpvarkie ^.^

  2. Ja ek was ook mal oor die Kalahari! Fantastiese fotos - bly jy kon met jou nuwe kamera daar rond speel.

  3. Liewe Elna,
    jou beskrywing laat als na n groot avontuur klink. Dis so lekker om te lees. Die Maanrotse is my gunsteling. Ek hoop so om my kinders eendag te neem. Baie Liefde. Dankie vir jou intressante blog! Tannie Elana


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