Rebecca Axcell is 29 years old, has a business degree and a string of work experience under her belt, not least a five-year stint in a high-pressure marketing agency in Bath, England. So what is she doing in a desert in the middle of the back of beyond?
A few days ago my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with handmade flowers made of roller towel and a romantic dinner of toasted marshmallows and fresh bread made by one of the workers at Nossob camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. All was right with the world. Yet this morning I’m threatening divorce.
When we arrived in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the second week of May, the road to Leeuwdril waterhole was still closed for rebuilding after nearly a year. The construction work was necessitated by regular flooding and road closure along this stretch, but has proved more time-consuming than anticipated – it was supposed to reopen in October last year. It’s also been so expensive that the park ran out of money after just 13km and is now trying to raise more to take it as far as Kij Kij.
We’re not the sort who have eyes for nothing but the Big Five; in fact, we take more pleasure in tiny agamas, whistling rats and unobtrusive owls. But it’s hard to resist the allure of lions when they lay on a smorgasbord of brilliant sightings like we’ve had in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park over the past few days.
We’ve been coming to the Kalahari since I was in my twenties and we’ve fallen in love with it over and over again. But one thing we’ve only heard about till now is the Kalahari truffle. Now we’re in possession of four of these nuggets.
In April 2009 I noticed that there were smart new drinking water taps at the sinks of all the chalets in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park’s tourist camps. But at that point they were just for show. Well, things move slowly in a desert where a few thousand years isn’t really a long time, so I wasn’t expecting too much too quickly.
With happy memories of our previous journeys to the wilderness camp at Bitterpan in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, we set out again across the Kalahari dunes on the 4x4 track from Nossob camp.
You expect a bit of violence and mayhem in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. You’d be daft to think otherwise, given the numbers of lions, leopards, hyenas and cheetahs who live there, preying on the herbivores lined up in the dry riverbeds or across the red dunes as if they were on some kind of ‘predator menu’. What you don’t expect is to see so many kills on the tar road between Upington and the turnoff to the park at Molopo Lodge.
We got back to our rondavel at the Kruger National Park's Letaba camp in time for lunch, only to find a delegation of four khaki-clad Parks staff exiting and locking the door behind them. ‘Did you have a nice party?’ I asked, just a trifle tersely.
When we popped in to visit to the ‘elephant museum’, or info centre, at Kruger National Park’s Letaba camp, we thought it might be a good way to cool down in air conditioned luxury for 20 minutes, away from the heat and humidity outside (32 degrees and 80% humidity, ouch!). What we discovered was a place that deserved much more detailed attention.
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I'm an independent travel writer and book editor with a passion for Africa - anything from African travel, people, safari and wildlife to adventure, heritage, road-tripping and slow travel.
* Top 5 favourite national parks in South Africa