Breakfast at Affinity Guesthouse was 7:00-8:00 and after some eggs and toast and packing up all our frozen stuff, we were on the road at 8:00. Upington to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is about 250km on good tar roads and we made the trip in just under 2.5 hours, and were in the park just before 11:00 after checking in at the gate and being issued our permit and letting our tires down. We were booked into the Kalahari Tented Camp just outside Mata Mata for our first night, and it is quite a trek from Twee Rivieren so we didn’t hang about.
The first part of the trip was quite dull but we soon started spotting animals – first a Gemsbok, which the park is known for, and then red heart beest, ostriches, foxes, springbok, wildebeest, ground squirrels, giraffes, many, many birds, and a couple of lions. The trip was quite tiring even though the road surfaces were ok and you can drive up to 50km/hour. There didn’t seem to be as many animals about as I was expecting, but it may be that it is just a bad time of year, even though the fact that it is still pretty much winter means that it is easier to spot animals. We made a quick stop at Auchterlonie Picnic Spot to look at the museum there – it is basically a little house where people lived at some point, and I have to say, those people must have had some real issues to go in live in such a desolate, hostile environment! We also stopped at Kamqua picnic spot and like at all the other picnic spots in the park they have nice tables where you can have your lunch or breakfast, as well as toilet facilities – though you do get out at your own risk as the areas are not fenced!
We got to the Kalahari Tented Camp earlier than expected, and though it is starting to look a little bit frayed around the edges it is still a lovely place to stay. We had a four person unit (all I could get!) and there was more than enough room for us and all our stuff. The tent has its own shower and toilet, as well as a kitchen in a separate tent, I assume for safety reasons! Everything works on gas or solar power, which means you only have lights until 21:00 or something like that, and no power sockets. We also had a gas fridge/freezer that amused Brian no end as he’d never seen one before! There’s a stoep running around the tent and kitchen area so that you can keep an eye on the waterhole and nature around you.
We didn’t feel like going for another long drive after spending most of the day in the car, so just did a quick drive to Mata Mata to see what it looks like there before coming back to camp and sitting down to relax with a beer, overlooking the waterhole. It would have been a perfectly calm and relaxing afternoon with only the sounds of nature around if it wasn’t for the screaming family in the next tent over, who communicated everything they had to say at the top of their voices, not taking into account that they were living in a tent! Fortunately the parents and their four kids went on a game drive later on and everything was peaceful and quiet while I lit the fire and kept an eye on the animals coming to drink.
We almost had a major incident when the gas hotplate pretty much exploded, but luckily Brian got away with both his hands intact and the ranger came to install a new one pretty sharpish. I had a few moments of pure terror though when I thought the whole tent was going to go up in flames! The picture below is showing Brian with the hair scorched off his arms! After that little incident we both needed a stiff drink, and we spent the rest of the evening braaiing a lovely steak, drinking some wine and beer and sitting by the fire. The Kalahari Tented Camp is unfenced and your tent only has a low wall around it, and at some point there were a few jackal fighting and carrying on not too far away, but nothing tried to eat us while we were sitting there! There’s some spoor all around the camp that to me looked very much like hyena (not that I’m an expert) so I’m sure the animals walk around the camp during the night, looking for scraps of food, or just passing through.