South Africa Travel Diary |
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
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 2006
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
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
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