About Paul & Lin - The Lostshepards

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Dec 2018 Tankwa Karoo Langkloof

Annual Trip to the arid semi-desert wonderful Tankwa Karoo – SanParks – Greater Cape Area, hot – very dry – dusty – but totally peaceful – no cell reception.

Sadly since our last trip last December SanParks in their lack of wisdom have removed Varschfontein from the list of choices of accommodation available in the park – for the following totally spurious reasons.

It requires major restoration – totally untrue

It is 100 Kms round trip for staff to come and service the house – totally untrue, it is 78Km – and like hey ? what else do they actually have to do ?

The truth is that the word maintenance is not often used in Africa and where SanParks is concerned this is becoming more and more evident as standards drop. What Varschfontein needs is a good plumber or local farmer to come and sort out the ABUNDANCE, note abundance of water at this location and get it from the dam into the donkey storage and down to the water hole for the animals. Secondly a good tree trimmer to tidy up the palm trees and a general site clean up. Then market it as basic accommodation like Paulshoek & De Zyfer which also have a wood fired water donkey and make it a minimum two night stay.

Over the last 10 years Varschfontein has often been fully booked and you have struggled to get a booking, this alone proves its desirability. By removing it from the choices it puts greater pressure on the other locations.

It is quite evident that not everyone wants the upmarket Elandsberg “Wilderness” Camp – security type complex – all grouped together accommodation – (white towels & sheets FFS and little dinky plunge pools that you can’t swim in due to the bees) up at the top of the park – and that there are many others who are quite happy to camp or take rudimentary cottages – will they listen ? I doubt it – they have seemingly a mindset of indifference and a closed “company policy” of what they think the public wants – a modern disease – I noticed that they were fitting security gates up at Elandsberg !

OK rant over – it was wonderful to be back in the park and we arrived from Cape Town via Wellington, Bains kloof Pass to Mitchells Pass to Ceres on then over the Theronsberg Pass to the R355 and thus into the park. Having left at 5.00am to get out of Cape Town before the general and holiday traffic we arrived very early in spite of our usual breakfast stop at the start of the R355

Start or finish of the R355 proper – looking back – edited in LR to remove electric Pylons & Road signs LOL

Breakfast Stop R355

So having entered we decided to go via Oubaaskraal and have a look at what might be happening at Varschfontein (nix) – the roads are very hard and corrugated – I sometimes wonder if SanParks have an annual competition to see which Parks have the worst roads – well Tankwa – Kgaladagi or Mapungubwe would be way up there for the First 3 prizes 🙂

Passing the Stonehenge access gate we noticed that it was left wide open with no notices to say “shut the bloody gate you fool” – animals grazing nearby, so easy access for all –

Arriving at Varschfontein the heart lifts and you sigh that sadly you can’t stay there this time. Looking through the windows all the equipment/furniture is still there and a full allowance of fire wood at the donkey. The dam is 3/4’s full and no water getting to the water hole – the stop cock float at the hole has been removed, windmill still leaking, so the animals come up there to get the water – so sad – and totally unnecessary – it is obvious that no one from parks has been there for a while – well as they said 100km round trip on dreadful roads !!! Given that there is no security at Stonehenge I wonder how long it will be until this place is cleared out thus giving Sanparks another reason to shut it down.

Wide angle 10-22 Canon lens with adapter set at F5.6 on Lumix G9

Varschfontein

Varschfontein

Varschfontein

Well at least the Eagle Owls are still there !

Eagle Owl at Varschfontein

So with a heavy heart we shoved off to Reception on the other side of the park – 38Kms and yes the roads are shockingly hard –

Friendly reception from staff as usual – discuss the Varschfontein issue – above their pay-scale but yes it is sad isn’t it.

First night we elected to stay at Paulshoek which is way nicer than De Zyfer – good to be there and it was a clear night, almost full moon. Didn’t see any red Hartebeest this time though – the bokkie are extremely skittish which rather makes one wonder !

Paulshoek

Sunset

Up early next morning at dawn as very hot and can’t sleep

For the next three days we are camping up at Langkloof, a place we have often visited but never stayed at, but due to the lack of Varschfontein we decided to book it out for the rest of our stay – good decision – however it is early so we decide to take a drive and see if one can do a round trip via the Ou Berg Pass. Exit from the Paulshoek Road. We come to an unlocked gate (no signs) which shows on T4A as still being in the park and pass an old farm house with high security fencing all around it with barking dogs but no one appears – it turns out that this is now in the park but the old lady who lives here can stay for as long as she lives – In any event we carry on through some more gates – no signs – and eventually come out at the road and head for the Ou berg Pass. Nice.

Tractor exhibition ?

And so for once we go UP ! the Ou Berg Pass

Imagine our surprise when we encounter these two Okes – having a bush camp at a narrow view point 3/4’s of the way up the pass – photo taken from the top 400mm lens – well it’s a Landy so maybe……………LOL

Landy bush camp !

View from Ou Berg Pass

Anyway we press on and turn to get to the Gannaka Pass to get back down into the Park proper. On the way just pass Middlepos a loon in a white heavily loaded soft-roader NC plates appears from nowhere behind me and overtakes at speed in spite of all the dust I am throwing up – he has no lights on. Well this is the 2nd time this has happened to me and what joy to encounter him 2 kms down the road with a stuffed tyre – We Smiled & Waved – yes I know… BITCH!! – but what a sense of satisfaction, F*** Idiot.

Get up to Langkloof late afternoon – there are two camps sites only – large ablution block comprising 2 loos, 2 kitchens, 2 showers. We have booked BOTH camp sites to ensure peace & tranquility – it could be spoilt very easily if you had the wrong sort of neighbours – campsite hell – We spread out and set up camp –

Langkloof

Langkloof

The remains of the old cottage at Langkloof there are a lot of them up here and with a bit of imagination they could be repaired and let out

The next day we do very little, see and hear no one, but go for a short drive in the pm to keep the batteries for the fridges up.

Langkloof

Langkloof

Langkloof

Mousebird as usual one of many !

Karoo Scrub Robin ?

No longer in use sadly –

Still-life – between a rock and a hard place

Downside to Langkloof lots of VERY large and annoying flies and plenty bees all after water from the drains.

Next day we decide to go down the mountain and up to the N West part of the park past Elandsberg. Again roads very hard.

Along the road we see a PCG – have seen very few larger birds on this trip and yep on closer inspection see he has his lunch with him.

P C G

Takes off – food on a rope LOL –

We go back via Varschfonetein as I don’t have the energy to do the trek up the 4×4 mountain route at Elandsberg – it is way too hot – get lucky with a PCG going for a spin –

Time to Leave – one more iconic photo –

On way back up to Langkloof

Bedtime for the swifts

So 4 nights away – leave for home on Xmas Eve – easy drive, all the traffic going the other way – get home middle of the day and start preparations for Xmas.

Pity about Varschfontein !

Fin.

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