Feb 2015 Kgalagadi The Vehicle Breaker Trip

We were invited to join our good travelling friends – the Scotts – from Jhb. for another return trip to the Kgalagadi; so naturally this was an offer not to be missed – most of the places we had been to before – but then again it’s different every time you go and this trip included a visit to Swartpan up in the top corner of the park, a place we had not previously visited so this was reason enough.

Mindful of our last outing with them last year in Central Kalahari when we got severely drowned out from the torrential rain I hoped we would not have a similar experience. I certainly did not need to worry on that score, this was from the sublime to the ridiculous.

We left Cape Town Saturday 14th Feb before 4.00 am to get a march on the road ahead and enjoyed a leisurely drive stopping off for breakfast at Hamtam Huis in Calvinia. We had wondered about the roadworks on the N7 but were lucky in that the only 3 stop/goes were in our favour and the traffic, being a Saturday, was very light.

From Calvinia we enjoyed the long stretch through Brandvlei to Keimos where we turned off for the night to go to Augrabies and the falls – always a favorite of ours. When I had checked the on-line bookings for Sanparks it indicated that all the chalets were full so we elected for camping. Given that it was February and thus warm we looked forward to it. In the event whilst busy it was not full at all and the campsite we had almost to ourselves – just two other campers arrived during the course of the afternoon, so it was very pleasant indeed to be here. The water flow was so so – having been spoilt by seeing it in full flood in previous years, but even so, it is just such a nice place to stay and Sanparks have eventually got around to repairing the previous flood damage. We braaied that night and left the next morning after a relaxing breakfast heading for Molopo via Upington where we were to meet up with our friends. It was very hot and the apart from around the river everything looked very hard & dry.


Deserted campsite
Deserted Campsite

Newest great export Prepackaged Grapes 🙂
RSA greatest new export - pre-packaged grapes :-)

Shopping was done in Upington – the temperature was rising steadily up to 33 degrees and we were soon at Molopo Lodge in that wonderful oasis and greeted like old friends by Reinhardt. We managed to buy some fillet steak from him at vastly cheaper than CT prices but game steaks were sadly not available, he also supplied us with large bags of braai wood that I strapped onto the top of the car. The Scotts eventually rolled in late in the afternoon and it was good to be all together again. We had dinner that night in the restaurant and the standard has improved considerably. Very hot night.

Slow start in the morning and off into the park, staff training yet again at Reception so things took some time but all very pleasant and once in, a slow drive up to Mata Mata campsite for the night. Very hot, 35 degrees and very dry and very hard roads, saw a lazy lion but sightings few and far between.

Take a letter Ms Jones…

Life is just so exhausting…

The campsite at Mata Mata was quite full but we managed to find some shade, they have built new ablution blocks which are welcome even if they do not think and supply the facilities one would wish for – like a foot rest – people who design things should be made to use them to experience their lack of forethought ! Very hot night, heavy clouds but no rain anywhere near us – light show & thunder taking place on the other side of the park.

What we gonna do today then ?

This was a bit of a zig-zag trip as it proved very difficult to get the bookings we wanted from either Sanparks or Botparks, the park however was very far from full. I wonder if they just say they are full to keep the numbers down.

From Mata Mata we went around and up to our old favorite, Polentswa, now 39 degrees – we arrived to find a group in “our” designated site – checking permits we found that we had all been booked into this site. I managed to get on the Sat Phone to Botparks office and eventually they managed to confirm that they had made a “Writing Error” and that we were booked for the next adjacent site – there are only three – Warfare avoided………Saw quite a lot of wildebeest but little else and no lions roaring in the night either. Ground very hard.Stunning sunsets.

Continuing the next day saw us going to Sesatswe Pan where we had a few spots of rain but again not seeing much animal or bird life and again very hot. The night was very windy. On the way the next day to Lang Rambuko the temperature shot up to to 45 degrees, man was it hot ! We saw Step Buzzards, Steenbokkies & Gemsboks also cape Lappett Vultures, the shade was poor at the site and again lots of cloud build up but rain was there none.

A timely reminder to always check and take care…………

The Impressionistic school comes to Kgalagadi 🙂

The next morning we had all decided it was time for a good old fry up for brekkie before heading back to Nossob – this was the only booking we could get – on the way we saw more Vultures and Hartebeest with their young and Secretary birds. At Nossob we had a very brief rain squall but it went as quickly as it came and after an all too brief respite from the heat, up rocketed the temperature again. 42 degrees.

It is HOT !

The ground is dry

Dust to dust…………..

We were now booked to do the route to Swartpan so we set off North again and took the general road to Kaa Gate – it was very hard and slow going. Stopping at the Gate we met the usual officials who allowed us to change our route and campsites – the park was very far from full ! Botsparks strike again !! So having filled up our water tank supplies we went off to Swartpan itself. What a lovely location, but again sightings were very few and far between and the ground rock hard and just in case I have not said this already it was stinking hot. Now it so happens that I like the heat but I have to say that constant temperatures of 40-45 over several days is not a great attraction and it seems to get hottest in the mid afternoon. The clouds were out in full tease mode and there was always signs of rain happening somewhere over there but this rain was most certainly not making any impression on the ground. The drought was the worst I have seen here and in comparison to this time last year when we were awash it was quite a striking contrast. Sighting of a brown Hyena !!


We enjoyed being at Swartpan. I would like to be able to go back there and spend a couple of days there but due to the bookings we had to push on and had a long slow hard slog to Gnus Gnus. Pretty Camp site but deep sand all around. We were visited by a spring Hare and a very tame springbok doe.

Due to the heat all the fridges were taking great strain and the c-tek units started playing up – they obviously find it difficult to cope in such conditions. Fortunately everything hang in there and once we got back into more usual conditions everything went back to normal.

This could have been us I had smelt a slight ! Burning but could locate the source and thought it was just the excessive heat……….

Temp often between 40 and 46 !

Rain always…..over there………

From Gnus Gnus it was back to Nossob again – no other bookings were possible – on the way saw Lions at Polentswa doing the heavy ignore bit and lots of Hartebeest with their young. On a late afternoon game drive we came across a lioness with a kill and yet a 2nd brown Hyena too quick for me to get my camera. That night we had a thunder & lighting show and in the morning set off on the route to Bosobogolo pan and Mabuasehube area.

Waiting for High Tide ?

Magic Sunset

Cutline with Namibia

Deputy Daug ?

Gnus Gnus Camp

Route to Mabuasehube

The “track” was beyond belief. It was constant corrugation into corrugation with the occasional respite for a deep sand hills very chewed up, and several choices, from previous peoples unsuccessful attempts to cross. I could hear a banging from the rear and had smelt burning on and off which I could not locate. 44 kms in I pulled off into some shade and with Lin keeping an eye out for the lions who were sure to be watching from the long grass 🙂 got out and under the car. To my horror I found that the shock absorbers had just disintegrated at the bushes and the front ones had boiled black but further worries appeared when I discovered that the brackets for the long range fuel tank had broken and said tank was resting in the rear bash plate.

Roger had come back to see what had happened to us as we had got out of radio range as he was able to move in his 4500EFI much faster than me, I was simply not able to travel at more than 22/24 kmph. Whilst he reckoned that the loss of the shock absorbers no biggy they were going to be leaving the park at Mabuasehube and thence into Botswana en route to home in Jhb. They had their passports stamped at Twee Riverien. We had intended upon returning on our own from Mabuasehube to Nossob and thence south out of the park at Twee Riverien; and as we had not had our passports stamped I knew that we could not go with them and if anything further went wrong the likely-hood of getting help that far into the park would be a no no; so again, with regret, we had to say goodbye and head back slowly to Nossob like a rattling tin can.

well I didn’t get the Zebra…………

Once back onto the gravel road of the park it was like nothing was wrong ! It was like driving on silk except for the occasional clang from the tank when I hit a bump – unbelievable. We pulled into Nossob for lunch and given how early it was decided to head for Twee Riverien where we spent the night. Again sightings were not good.

Leaving the park the next day we called in again at Molopo to stock up with more meat at great prices and took the tar road South to Upington where we stayed at Tshahitsi Lodge which is in the same group as Molopo Lodge. We had not stayed here before and I must say it is very nice and it was good to have a room with an aircon ! The lodge is however on the Main Road (Schroder Str) to Jhb so there is a lot of passing traffic.

We had thought to maybe go into megaworld 4×4 in Upington to get the OME shocks sorted but having spoken to Cris Ingram at R&D he assured us it was safe to travel thus and that they would be exchanged under warranty seeing as how they were only three weeks old with less than R4K on them ! And it has to be said that once out of the bad area of the park the car did feel fine.

shocking OME shocks 3 weeks old 4000km !!

The day next we headed to Calvinia where we stayed as usual in one of the self catering houses – an easy drive and the following day an equally easy drive home to CT.

Molopo Lodge are opening another lodge in the grounds of the Church that is next to the N7 at the turnoff for Vanrhynsdorp it will be open at the end of this year. For us this will be great as we always like to stay the last night close to CT so that the last day is an easy drive and so that we do not arrive back in rush hour traffic.

So in all we cut the trip short by only 2 days and considering what could have happened we thought ourselves very lucky.

Amazing that one can drive 1400 Kms without any shocks !!!

Having unloaded the car a different beast emerged – without the weight in the car it was all over the place with shot shocks so it was a slow drive to R&D where true to his word the shocks were replaced under warranty and the fuel tank brackets replaced and strengthened.

out off car

The trip was enjoyable as we were with good friends with whom we enjoy travelling. This for sure, makes all the difference. But it was a disappointment on other fronts, poor sightings, really hard roads, excessive heat, drought and poor photography. I am not sure if this was my own incompetence or if it was the heat but so many photos I took of birds in flight looked fine on the camera but once home and up on the big screen proved themselves to be out of focus or with heat effects like impressionistic paintings ! Oh well try and try again.

More trip photos at:- Google+: Trip Photo Albums