48 hours in the Northern Cape

Endless horizons that fill your eyes and sear your soul.

A land of space, and time, and air.

In the words of Minister Derek Hanekom

“Northern Cape is a place of extremes”

As the largest province in South Africa it is extremely big covering more than 360 000 square kilometres

Desert, plains, rivers, pans and 6 National Parks.

Extreme weather with temperatures ranging from  -5 C to over 40C

KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER NATIONAL PARK

It is 6am and I am shivering in a desert. The sky is blue and the sun is rising but I feel like I am sitting on an iceberg.

While we wrap scarves around our heads, Rob our ranger drives  happily in his shorts! They breed em tough out here!

We are driving in South Africa but looking at Botswana as we leave the office at  Twee Rivieren.

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We stop to examine the huge sociable weaver nests that almost take over the acacia trees, appearing to break them in half as the weight becomes too much.

Not true says Rob. In the fork of these trees messy little creatures called Tree mice make their nests. Being too lazy to get up and go to the loo, they wee in the nest.

The high acidity in their urine rots the tree causing it to split and collapse. Personal hygiene is not one of their strong points.

A little further on and Rob points out a solitary male lion jogging along the old road.

He stops from time to time to sniff a tree, rub himself on the bark before urinating, marking his territory.

We chugged alongside this arrogant guy for a good 20 minutes, all eyes on him, while he never even gave us a look.

It seems he has really adopted the mantle of King of the Bush and does not have the time for a glance at mere humans.

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A Secretary bird strides out, looking extremely fierce and bad tempered.

They walk on the ground looking for snakes, and when they see them, they stomp  them to death before eating them whole.

Bigger than I imagined and not graceful in their beauty, these Secretary birds are like scruffy gangsters . I would not fancy meeting one of them in a dark alley!

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Did you know?

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park covers 1,6 million square kilometres and is totally self sustaining.

The only man made intervention are the waterholes.

Kgalagadi means Place of Pans.

It is not actually a desert, more of a giant sand pit  is how Rob the ranger describes it.

It is a huge sand mass the begins way up in the dunes in Namibia and extends into Botswana and the Northern Cape.

Visit the Face Book page for updated sightings. https://af-za.facebook.com/LatestSightingsKgalagadi

MEERKATS and WINDMILLS

Meet Prof Anne Rasa.

Mother to orphaned Meerkat, passionate about her Kalahari and devoted advocate of the little guys and the fine details.

Her desert haven is situated on the R360 about 30km before the entrance to the Kalagadi Transfrontier Park. Do stop, it is well worth it.

The Prof tells us that she believes one must walk in the Kalahari to truly know it. She offers night walks where she shows the bustling nightlife of the desert.

Beetles and spiders, scorpions and bugs, explained by a tracker and a biologist.

Day walks and drives are also offered , and the Prof is enthusiastic about educating young children about the area. From the geology and plants to the meerkats and the bugs.

The Prof is inspiring and as she talks and wanders around her piece of desert her passion is evident.

Although she was born and raised in Wales, there is no doubt that the Kalahari is where she belongs. She is one with this landscape.

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Sadly for us, but happily for the Meerkats, Anne had no orphans when we visited. When she speaks about these beguiling creatures her face softens and she sounds like a proud mum.

They are human and comical in their interactions. She tells us stories of brothers and sisters, eloping couples,the birth of babies, fights and leaving home with such animation that you forget she is talking of Meerkats and not family.

The female meerkats have their babies and then pretty much carry on with life, leaving a babysitter from the group to care for the little ones. The mum does manage to fit in suckleing, but that is it.

Visit the Face Book page for more info  and do take time to read more about the meerkats and their stories here. http://www.kalahari-trails.co.za/en/

Annes trail costs are incredibly reasonable and I will be returning for a few days to learn about her Kalahari.

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HAKSTEENPAN

Haksteenpan,   This is only a small piece of it! The next jewel in the Northern Cape crown

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It is becoming well known as it is the site where in 2015 the Bloodhound Team aim to break the World Land Speed record by attempting to travel at 1600km/ph over a 20km track.

More info on the  World Record attempt here.
 http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/project/adventure/desert-race-track/hakskeen-pan

It is the location for Speedweek Kalahari that sees petrolheads from all over coming to put foot, have fun and not worry about noise bothering the neighbours.

Haksteenpan is really in the middle of nowhere. The closest settlement is Rietfontein, 60km away.

For more information on  Kalahari  http://speedweeksa.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KalahariDesertSpeedweek?ref=br_tf

10603877_558268904273980_3194366821722029327_oMedia Team 1 jumping in the desert to try to stay warm, strange at that may seem.

Being a mapmaker, I had to look it up on satellite imagary.
The 7km track used by Speedweek Kalahari   is clearly visible.

My measurements estimate the pan at about 21,4km in length end to end, and 8,4km at the widest point.

What the photos can not describe is the unique beauty of this landscape that becomes more interesting the longer you are there.

Malibongwe Tyilo and I spent a fair amount of time in the impressive MTN Media Centre, backed by a huge tower and a 150kw power plant, especially built for the World record attempt next year.

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Haaksteenpan was also the location for the WTM2014 celebrations.

Minister Hanekom, the Northern Cape MEC, tourism bigwigs, and representatives from the other provinces arrived en masse at Haksteenpan.

Locals came in their droves to party the day and night away, while others set up stalls to feed the party people.

The massive stage was jumping with DJ’s, singers, dancers and bands rocking the desert.

Derek Hanekom even managed a wiggle or two before his address.

The food and wine flowed, the smiles were huge, the chatter was loud and this party was on!

And then the sun went down. It went orange, then pink, then grey and then B L A C K

I have never experienced such total darkness before. The nearest town, which is tiny, is 60km away, there is no light pollution at all.
Although the visible stars are abundant and clear, the blackness is all encompassing.

It makes you walk in a really peculiar manner as you have no concept of when your feet are going to connect with the ground. Could this be the start of a new condition, the “Haksteen Hobble”?

Nothing could have prepared me for the creative drama that followed dinner. Orchestrated by Witch and Wizard, the light and sound show was astounding.

Entitled  “The Desert comes Alive” this magical show had the crowds screaming in awe.

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A videographer is bathed in luminous green as he captures this spectacle on camera

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To end off, fireworks burst high in the sky and go on for a spellbinding 15 minutes.

SA Tourism and Northern Cape showed us that that know how to celebrate in style.

The name Haksteenpan is synonymous with Speedweek Kalahari, but by next year it will be a name known all over the world.

Northern Cape tourism have embraced this opportunity to showcase their province and have already been commended by Bloodhound for their support and co operation.

Thanks to all at Northern Cape Tourism for organising, hosting and showing off . Special mention must go to Desti van der Merwe who acted as our guide,  George our tireless driver who took us safely over 600km in 48 hours, Minister Hanekom for the awesome giraffe selfie, and of course for being so inspiring and exited about tourism,  and Debbie Damant for everything else.

#Shotleft

For more information on the Northern Cape visit www.experiencenortherncape.com

Some highlights include:  Birds, meerkats, beetles and scorpions

The Augrabies Falls and the Roaring Sand Dunes

The SALT Telescope, extreme adrenalin adventures and the Big 5

The Orange River wine route, the Big Hole in Kimberley.

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