Friday, 19 June 2009

Road Trip 2.4

Sunday 7th June - Monday 8th June

We woke early on Sunday morning and left Kimberley behind heading off on the 550km journey to the Augrabies Falls National Park. Once again the weather was stunning (30 degrees in winter is pretty good you know!)and so was the scenery.

We passed plenty of interesting Northern Cape small towns en route and stopped at Griekwastad (the first town to be established north of the Orange River)for supplies and to take some photographs of the interesting businesses and buildings either side of the main (and only) street.

A short while later we arrived in the largest town in the Southern Kalahari, Upington. The town was deserted as it was Sunday but you could see that it is quite a bustling place, set out on a large grid it had the widest streets that we have seen on the journey so far, no problem with u-turns for lorries here!

One of the most striking features on the edge of one of the world's famous deserts are the nests of the aptly named weaver bird cloaking the telegraph poles, absolutely amazing!

This is a really interesting area and the towns of Keimoes and Kakamas provided further distraction with a herd of Springbok at the former and collecting the seed pods of the 'Kameeldoringboom' and the fabulous Pienk Padstal (Pink Farmstall) at the latter. Elaine bought a bag of rose quartz, which is mined locally, at the Pienk Padstal and we browsed the ecclectic collection of curios on display before Jon made use of the unique and amusing urinals made from cut off wine bottles! Another place that we can recommend spending half an hour or so exploring and talking with the very friendly owners.

As time was ticking on it was now time to head to Augrabies and find some accommodation for the night. We spotted a sign for a backpackers and followed it, or so we thought! When we arrived it turned out to be a hot air ballooning site! Despite getting directions we still didn't find the backpackers amongst the dust so decided to change tack. We rang various lodges in the local area but the prices quoted were very steep, especially for this time of year. Finally we decided to see what was on offer within the National Park itself. As is normal in a SA National Park camping and the usual good quality chalets were on offer. Even better was the 20% discount offered at this time of year and the fact that our front door would be about 100m from the main falls themselves! Deal done. We moved in and bought some supplies at the shop before setting out to watch the sunset over the falls. Stunning.

We decided to eat at the restaurant within the main camp and enjoyed a fine Kudu Pie and a nice bottle of wine.

We fell asleep to the sound of the falls after setting the alarm for dawn, with the plan of capturing some nice images from the excellent falls viewing platforms.

We shared the early morning light with the local troop of baboons and walked to a high vantage point to watch the sun rise. Satisfied and happy we headed back to the chalet to make breakfast, visit reception to book for a second night (it was so good) and head off on a game drive in the park along the Orange River.

We had to drive through some nice deep fords to get into the game area but we made it with dry feet eventually, though our brows were sweating slightly! First up was a walk up 'Moon Rock' to get a fabulous panoramic view of the Park, Falls and Orange River Valley.

The roads in the first half of the park are accessible to all types of vehicle and it is well worthwhile to visit each of the Orange River view points which have been recently had fantastic wood decked viewing platforms installed.

We spent a good few hours exploring the park and even managed to drive the 'bakkie' 25km into 4x4 territory before deciding not to push our luck and turn back. Not only did we get some fantastic views of the river but there was also plenty of wildlife to see including Giraffe (with their unique light colour to match the local terrain), the rare Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Klipspringer and Springbok.

We had a fabulous day and decided to head back to base and celebrate with a braai outside the chalet watching the stars. First though there was time for a close encounter with the local 'Dassies', unbelievably close relatives of the Elephant!

Another terrible day in Africa!

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