We are up very early and start the final packing for departure. The most difficult part is getting the roof of the Comfort Van down. It is very difficult to clip into place there being a front part and a back part that needs to be done. If the one end clips the other won’t and we have not yet learned the knack of getting it right. One is also in danger of bashing one’s head on the ceiling if one doesn’t duck just in time. I am uselessly impractical and tend have serious coordination problems which frustrates the perfectionist in my darling husband. He has soon collected several reasons to divorce or kill me when Jim comes to the rescue and offers to help. I feel fractionally better when I find that the two men have as much trouble as I did with the task but they finally do it without destroying their beautiful friendship. This particular caravan has a problem and Earl says he will have to make a few adjustments so that the mechanism will work more easily in the future!
We had planned to leave at 7 but are ready to roll at 6:35 and we are out of the gate by 6:40 – just 10 minutes later than our usual start. This is as well as we have 160km of rough roads to negotiate while towing our caravan and the maximum allowed speed is 50km/hr
We spot at speed for a while and get Jackal, White-backed vultures and gemsbok before Jim and Maureen stop at 7:00. What do they see – then I spot them – 3 female lions and a tumble of the tiniest kittens. I call them kittens because they are the tiniest cubs I have ever seen. They must be only a few weeks old. Other tourists are turning their vehicle round to follow them and one chap teases us – “Why don’t you turn round and follow too!” If only!
But we are delighted to have got this much of them. I find out later that M&J had seen the male too. He was sitting down proudly watching his family. Somehow E and I missed that!
We do not take the loops round the waterholes but travel the bypass road instead keeping a sharp lookout for anything interesting. We spot three cheetahs (which J and M miss) on the ridge of the dune. It looks like they intend going to 14th Waterhole.
We pass some giraffe then turn onto the Dune Road toward Nossob. The vegetation is denser now but the game is sparse. We find one or two steenbok which we haven’t seen this trip yet. A Kori Bustard struts past and a lanner flies into a tree. At Vaalpan we find a black headed heron in a small waterhole.
Jim is ahead of us and when we catch up he is stationery – we think to wait for us but when we draw up beside him he points to Northern Black Korhaan – the dunes are famous for these birds.
At Elan Water Hole we find a jackal and a little later we spot red hartebeest.
Our loo stop is at Kikbaardskolk picnic site where we meet some people who warn us that there is ‘nothing to see’ in the Nossob area. The annual rains have not yet arrived and may in fact be too late. There will be consequences to the wildlife if good rains don’t come soon.
We find Gemsbok at both Dikbaardskolk Water Hole and Kaspersdraai Water Hole where there is also a jackal. Finally we arrive at Nossob at about 9:30. Jim and Maureen go straight to the camping area and find the shadiest spot they can. I go to reception and the man complains that people seek their camping spot before checking in! We decide not to go out for a game drive today as it is just too hot!
I am finding camping so much nicer than staying in chalets. Ones fellow campers are all so friendly and one gets to meet some interesting people. After breakfast I take the dishes to wash and find a gentleman sitting at a counter, laptop plugged sorting out his photographs. He calls me over and shows me the most amazing video and photo sequence of a leopard that came down to drink as Kaspersdraai water hole. It was on his granddaughter’s birthday so he named her Tara. Later when I return to do some washing he is there with his friend Peter – both of them on their computers. They are discussing birds that they might see and mention that in the rainy season you could sea knob-billed duck. Isn’t that now called comb duck, I ignorantly chime in. Oh no, says Peter – the comb duck is in India – we’ve changed our one’s name back to knob-billed duck. And if you read my book you will have all the new names. Turns out he is Peter Ginn chief editor of The best companion to Southern African Birding.
I meet Peter, his wife Irene and their friends in the pool later. Peter offers me his set of books at a reduced price and I tell him that I’ll chat to E which I do later and Earl is dead keen. Other campers had shown us these beautiful coffee table books at Mata Mata and E was impressed. Peter agreed to give us his banking details and we are now the proud owners of these stunning books signed by both him and his wife who is co-editor!
For supper we do steaks, sweet potato and onions on the braai and combine our ingredients for a salad. It won’t be long before we run out of fresh veggies so we’re making the most of it while they last.
It is very hot tonight and I wring my sarong out in cold water and sleep with it draped over me. I don’t wake till 5 the next morning!