Week 9, oh boy!…what a week!
27th Feb 2012
Pella to Augrabies (via Pofadder…again)
Monday morning we were fortunate enough to have a first-class tour of the largest date farm in the Southern Hemisphere. This family-run farm hosts a guest and a full-on date farm producing about 90 million dates each season. Having not known nearly enough about how dates are grown and harvested it was extremely interesting to learn what goes into making sure the finest quality dates are grown in the Northern Cape. After the tour we took the dirt road back to the main road and headed towards Pofadder once again, stopping for a few supplies and pictures briefly before moving on to Augrabies. En route to Augrabies Chris started coughing and spluttering. Finally, he gave up and we had to pull over to the side of the road. Rog changed the spark plugs and we were on our way again, fortunately. Soon after we were patting each other on the back for sorting the mechanical problem he started again. We managed to trickle into Dundi Lodge just in time to give Chris a rest and miss the afternoon thundershower. Dundi Lodge was a real find – a luxury boutique-style Lodge with all the comforts of cosy rooms, a swimming pool and fine dining. Another long Northern Cape drive deserved a cold beer and dinner before bed.
28th Feb 2012
We had arranged to meet Chris Ecksten of Kalahari Outventures for a half-day rafting trip however the arrangement had to be postponed until tomorrow so we took the opportunity to visit the famous Augrabies Falls and the National Park in which they lie. Due to massive flooding last year, all the viewpoints were not accessible but we got the idea of how powerful the falls were from one impressive viewpoint. While watching the mass of water drop over the falls you couldn’t turn left or right without seeing either a Vervet monkey, dassie or lizard. Chris was still giving us trouble and something we could not sort out until we got to Kakamas the next day so that unfortunately restricted our movements for the remainder of the day.
29th Feb 2012 (Leap Year Day!)
Augrabies to Kakamas
Finally our long-awaited rafting trip with Kalahari Outventures – something we had been looking forward to since coming in contact with Craig and his team a few weeks ago. The trip didn’t disappoint. We were collected from the National Park gate and driven 20 minutes to our starting point. Safety talk then kitted up and we were off. Our first rapid was a grade 3 to get us right into the action. Maddy and Rog in one raft and Nicholas in the other and Craig led the way in his stumpy, short kayak. The trip lasted 3 hours and included about 5 rapids ranging from grade 1 to 3. In between rapids, we had the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of the river and the river banks which of course meant, monkeys and Fish Eagles. We hoped we might see some otters but not this time. A well-run and very enjoyable trip and something that we would not hesitate to recommend. It also gave us a chance to chat with Craig and his team about the area, the changes in the river over the years and the plans for Augrabies. One thing we didn’t realise was the amount of raisin farming that goes on in the area!
Next up a short leap over to Kakamas and finally time to get Chris checked out. All the mechanics in Kakamas were full and all we could arrange was a change in the fuel filter which seemed to help for a day or two. A more thorough inspection would have to wait until Upington.
We were fortunate to have arranged accommodation in Kakamas’ exquisite Vergelegen Guest House. It seems that all these boutique-style lodges and guest houses are fast becoming our favourites. Vergelegen sorted us out with possibly the best room they had, in fact, it was more like an apartment, furnished with its own kitchen and detached from the main house. Perfect-sized rooms and fantastic bathrooms. We haven’t even mentioned the pool, the black swans and the three ducks that roam the estate. The ducks have a very specific daily ritual and it is great to watch – depending on the time of day you can find them at different locations on site, including an afternoon dip in the swimming pool (not their pond) and a mud bath after the morning sprinklers. Dinner for the night easily moved into our top five so far – Maddy had her favourite namely Lamb and I had Chicken with Feta and Figs. Accompany with great staff and excellent service and Vergelegen is a great all-round place to stay in a town that impressed us.
1st Mar 2012
We hadn’t expected Kakamas to be as big as it was. In fact, it is as big as Springbok if not bigger and surrounded by vineyards. This part of the Kalahari is known as the ‘Green Kalahari’ because of its location on the Orange River and its obvious greenness.
With Chris still spluttering, once again we were restricted on how far we could travel but we managed to get a feel of the town and the people.
2nd Mar 2012
Kakamas to Upington (Via Kaimoes and Lutzburg)
Day 62 will easily become known as our worst day yet! This is for two reasons:
- Our second attempt at sorting our Maddy’s visa (the first being crossing into Namibia) was again unsuccessful as the Dept. of Home Affairs in Upington made less sense than we thought possible. Do you know how you get those catch-22 situations in life? This was one of them. We won’t go into details but put it this way – AARRGGHHH!
- The other reason for stopping in Upington was to hopefully EVENTUALLY get Chris fixed. The first place we popped into directed us to another and that place directed us to a third. The third place couldn’t find anything wrong with Chris as he miraculously was on his best behaviour. Bloody bastard! We changed the fuel filter again but this time to the preferred steel casing one (a better option for 4×4’s). So after 2 hours of this, we left for Askham much later than anticipated – 5 pm. 20 km outside of Upington guess what?… Yip, Chris broke down. We phoned the mechanic and got him to come and tow us back and get this problem sorted once and for all. That’s not the end of it though. The tow back to Upington was done with a two-metre tow rope at 90km/h – the rope came loose on a bend and we (the towed) cruised passed the mechanics (the towee) as the only way to avoid crashing into the back of them. Much to their horror of course. That little episode must have given Chris a wake-up call and he sprang to life again and we managed to drive ourselves back to Upington until our own steam. We then decided that the problem must be the fuel pump. That would entail removing the fuel tank and replacing the pump. Not a great job for Friday at 6 pm. Two and a half hours later, all of us were tired, hot, hungry and irritable when the fuel pump was replaced. Rog gave the owner a few presents in the hope that he would keep the cost to a minimum but unfortunately, it didn’t work. Over R2000 later and we had no choice but to stay in Upington for the night and miss out on our accommodation at the Inkbospan in Askham. We found a lovely guest house in Upington called Schroederhuis and they agreed to sponsor us with a room last minute – fantastic people and a really really nice room.
Bed now, please. Piss off day 62!
3rd Mar 2012
Upington to Askham
The drive from Upington, the 170 km to Askham was always going to be a little tense as we tested Chris yet again hoping he would make it this time. To make matters worse 20 km outside of Upington there is no phone signal/reception for about 100 km!
We spoke about the Green Kalahari early, well on route to Askham we enter the ‘Red Kalahari’ or more specifically the ‘Red Dune Kalahari Route’. It is still green however add rusty-coloured sand dunes and salt pans and you have yet another face of the Northern Cape.
Sadly due to our mishaps yesterday we had to pass on our sponsored accommodation at Inkbospan and head straight to Lock Maree. 40 km before Askham we took a dirt road turn off to drive 45 km to Lock Maree, tucked in the middle of nowhere. But nowhere definitely doesn’t mean not lovely – cause it was fantastic and run by Retha and Johann, two very friendly people.
4th Mar 2012
…of the week:
- Towns visited this week –Pella, Pofadder, Augrabies, Kakamas, Kaimoes, Upington, Askham
- Accommodation sponsored this week –Klein Pella, Dundi Lodge, Vergelegen Guest House, Schroederhuis Guest House, Inkbospan, Lock Maree
- Food sponsored this week – Klein Pella, Vergelegen Guest House, Loch Maree
- Highlight of the week – Vergelegen and Kakamas
- Lowlight of the week – Chris (our 4×4) breaking down between Pofadder and Augrabies and again between Upington and Askham…R2500 later…
- Meal of the week – Vergelegen Guest House – Chicken with Figs and Feta
- Comedy moment of the week – Getting towed back to Upington on a two-metre-long tow rope
See you in a week…