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Day 5: Augrabies Falls National Park – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park [Twee Riveren Restcamp] (381km)

That was to be a fateful and expensive morning, my camera (a Canon EOS 300D) fell hard with my 170-500mm Sigma lens on it. The results were rather painful. With my arrival to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park imminent and no camera, I was ready to return to Johannesburg there and then. Luckily I am insured and I must say that Outsurance outdid themselves for me, they allowed me to buy a equivalent replacement camera and promised to refund it to me as soon as I sent them the receipt. Highly unexpected and highly appreciated. Unfortunately, the day was wasted looking for a replacement camera in Upington. I eventually found one at Game. And now it was time to learn how this new camera worked, a Canon EOS 400D. As far as the zoom was concerned, I would have to do with my 70-200mm EF Canon lens until I get back to Johannesburg. I was to be rather impressed by the combination… Unfortunately, we also arrived late at Twee Riveren Restcamp. And I will also mention that the last 37 kilometers to the park are not tarred as advertised. But I will tackle that in another entry. The only photo’s I got that day were of the sunset…

In the back is Botswana…

More photos are available here.

Day 4: Witsand Nature Reserve – Augrabies Fall National Park (338km)

After a night spent sleeping in the car and taking the "death trap" road again, it took us a better part of the morning to do the first 120 kilometers, off to Augrabies Fall National Park we go…

All considering, once we were back on dry land the road to Augrabies Falls National Park was rather pleasant and uneventful. We stopped in Upington to re-stock and eat. The Dros Restaurant was rather good.

We decided to take a chalet at Augrabies Fall National Park, if only to ensure a good night sleep without a flood. The self catering chalet we were given was more than adequate. Though Augrabies Falls National Park is bigger than the "falls" it is the falls one goes to see. Everything is organized for the "falls", safety barriers, decks, path, … I suppose it might take out a bit of the charm from the falls, but then again I can understand why it was done. The falls were far from "thundering" but even so one can imagine it doing just that.

 

I was to be very lucky with yet another incredible sunset, I was spoilt.

Augrabies Fall National Park is a worth while stop if you are in the region I really recommend it.

More photos are available here.

Day 3 – Witsand Nature Reserve

A day in Witsand Nature Reserve is a day well spent despite the roads to get there and the local incompetent staff. the reserve is amazingly beautiful and baffling beyond words. Imagine a setting where to the south, stretching for miles is the African bush. To the north, also stretching for miles is white sand dunes of the kind I had only seen on beaches. But the nearest beach is 550 km away. The change is so abrupt that you can literally stand with one foot in the African Bush and 1 foot on the dry white dune.

But that’s not all that Witsand has to offer. This is one of the few reserve where you can hike and walk about, there are no predators in Witsand. Well there might be some Leopards and Jackals but then these are everywhere if you really look for them. The bird life in the "bush" area of the reserve is abundant but that’s all you’ll see and it’s why you will want to go too, mid you we crossed path with a few Springboks. There is also a well organized and situated bird hide.

 

If it was not for the bad service, the access roads, a lack of camping area planing that spans from the electrical plugs being too far to the complete lack of water evacuation, I would say this is a perfect weekend gateway.

Coming back to the irrigation thing…
It does not rain often in the Kalahari, but be aware when it does it’s like being in a tropical storm, that night we had to move into the car as our tent, though pitched on a mild incline was flooded. All of it caused by a lack of water evacuation the camping site.

In brief, if you want to go to Witsand I advise you use a 4×4, do not camp rather use a chalet if you go in the rainy season, take all your food with you to last the duration of your stay. The shop does not even carry fresh bread. And enjoy!

More photos are available here.

Day 2: Kimberley – Witsand (276km)

We started the day by going to see the Kimberley Big Hole, I was told on various occasions not to expect much, if anything at all. De Beers invested a whooping 52 millions and what I saw was just  breath taking. And I am not talking of the "Big Hole".

The surprise came in the form of an hour long guided tour of the "Big Hole". this tour included a 17 minute beautifully done cinematographic presentation, a walk to the edge of the "Big Hole" on a suspended bridge, a recreation of the underground working conditions , a museum and the "vault". The vault contained 100’s of diamonds of all types to view. I had done the "Gold Reef City" tour in Johannesburg many times before, but it does not compare to this. If you ever go to Kimberley, I assure you it’s well worth the detour. some more information is available here or you can contact them on +27 (53) 839-4902.

Leaving Kimberley behind, I was eager to arrive at Witsand Nature Reserve some 270 km away. Our trip to Witsand was pleasant until we hit the sand roads… The Northern Cape government should wake up to reality, I will not buy a 4×4 for traveling on their roads! Nor will most tourists. The sand roads are more death traps than accepted "Regional" roads of any sorts. And the fact that it had just rained is far from an acceptable excuse. It took us near 2 and a half hours to navigate ourselves on the last 40 kilometers of un-maintained sand road made of corrugated ground, loose gravel, mud, mud pits, pot holes, …. In the final analysis, no more than a death trap.

Witsand Nature Reserve, a provincial reserve, has what appeared to be a well maintained, the camp site only has 10 camping spots. As for the first impression of the staff, it was far from what I expected though. I did not feel welcomed at all. Additionally, the people who planed the sites must of been drunk or on a high at the time. The electricity points a so far away from the "camp spots" that one would need a 50 meters extension to reach. But the light for the "barbecue" area is a mear 5 meters away. On the other hand, the ablution block is well designed and implacably clean.

The reserve, though small, looked incredibly beautifully. And as we were to find out the following day, baffling.

More photos are available here.

Day 1: Johannesburg – Kimberley (472km)

Don’t take me wrong, but an 11 day camping trip in one of the most arid and isolated place in South Africa takes some planing. And sometimes, I mess it up. That’s what happened to the day of departure. I have now learned not to leave on a trip on a Sunday. The pharmacy only opens at 9 in the morning, meaning that we left a whole 3 hours late. Yep I needed a prescription.

The funny part of this trip is the fact that I actually saw 1 of the 2 big fives of my entire trip. We saw a "few" rhinoceroses, as well as giraffes and kudus.

The N12 to Kimberley is in good condition and a pleasure to drive on, with a few exceptions. Up to Potchefstroom the 120km/h limit of the National Highways is in force, but once you reach Potchefstroom that all changes, the "National Highway" is now going through the centre of town, well close enough. And it does it for a number of other towns like Klerksdorp, Wolmaransstad, Bloemhof, Christiana and Warrenton. look it’s not a big deal, but these are supposed to be "National Highways". At least the N12 has none of the dreaded tollgates the our government has become so found of.

All in all it was a pleasant 6 hour drive to Kimberley.

We arrived at the "Kimberley Caravan Park", I entered it, saw what was there and exited faster. I other words, do not go there!!!

We ended up camping at the "Kimberley Big Hole Caravan Park". It’s the municipal camping ground, save for the lack of soap and paper towels, the grounds are beyond reproach, also situated at a convenient 500 meters from the "Big Hole" entrance, in fact nearly dead centre of town. See photo below.

Kimberley Caravan Park 180° View

We were also treated to an amazing sunset.

We were lucky that the rain missed us completely on that day.

More photos are available here.