South Africa Travel Diary Wildebeest at Dawn (40880 bytes)

19 August 2006
Travel teaches you many things.  On this trip, Charlotte and I have already learned that South Africa is a really looong way from Oklahoma:  22 grueling hours on 3 different flights, not counting the time spent waiting for the next one, before arriving in Johannesburg's gleaming new airport.   On the shuttle flight from there to Upington the fellow passengers chatted mostly in Afrikaans.





Gemsbok (97234 bytes)20 August 2006
Upington is located on the Orange River, which is the southern limit of the Kalahari desert.  Today our rental car takes us three hours north through the desert, a bit like eastern New Mexico, to Twee Rivieren, gateway to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.  Kgalagadi, a northern extension of South Africa, lies snug between Namibia on the west and Botswana on the east.  It features some of the most bone-jarring corrugated roads on the planet, near undrinkable water, and the occasional sandstorm.  But your reward is the wonderful African wildlife in a semi-desert setting, a true wilderness.  You never know what will turn up next.  Our first afternoon game drive produced a confiding herd of gemsbok, one of the most attractive of the hoofed grazing animals. 






21 August 2006Fighting-gemsbok (83950 bytes)
The nice thing about South African parks is that you can drive around on your own, but of course you aren't allowed to get out of your car.   That patch of grass beside the road just might hold a lion who resents your presence here. 
    On the morning drive we find more gemsbok, including two males having a tussle.  You'd think those long sharp horns would be great for skewering a menacing lion, but apparently they just use them to establish who's dominant in the herd, especially with rutting season coming on.  As for their predators, they just try to outrun them.






Secretarybird (75466 bytes)In the Kgalagadi we stay in SANParks' chalets, a bit spartan but clean and well-maintained.   They have kitchenettes so that we can do our own cooking.
    Lots of birds, including Common Ostriches and Kori Bustards, patrol the grasslands for prey, but the most striking may be the Secretarybird, which eats insects and baby chicks but will also take on puff adders and even cobras as well.  Its name is apparently derived from the Arabic saqr-et-tair which means "hunter-bird."  






        Travel Diary      next page>