The Karoo and the Gariep River region of the Northern Cape are also mind-expanding wildernesses, but the miracle of red desert sands supporting park-like trees, long waving grasses and wild animals of all kinds, makes it my favourite.
My travelling partner, David Lowe, and I arrived at Leeupan Guest Farm late in the afternoon, after having wrestled with around 200km of dirt track that we’d accessed from the N14. As we were in the Mazda BT-50 on long-term loan to Caravan & Outdoor Life, the vagaries of this road’s rutted surface (sometimes thickly covered in sand) were enjoyable, and a good test for the bakkie.
We were glad when the owner arrived at the gate to show us to our campsite on the other side of the R31. With a lot of fine Kalahari dust having collected in our throats – dust which we knew could only be effectively removed with a cold Tafel Lager from our stash – we were keen to get settled as soon as possible.
About one kilometre into the 300 hectare section of farm, we passed the large and empty campsite which was to be our private stomping ground for the next two nights, and our hosts directed us into our own private boma, with adjacent ablutions about 500 metres away.
After parking the bakkie on the considerate concrete slab provided (as much as I love Kalahari sand, you don’t necessarily want it under your feet when you get out of your tent), I moseyed around in an appreciative dwaal. I took in the camelthorn trees, the fire-pit and braai with an ample supply of true Kalahari stompe, the donkey-boiler for the outdoor shower and the flushing porcelain loo.
With the soothing bushveld ambience, the swaying long grass turning golden in the sunset, the rapid-fire clucking of hornbills and the sense that some sort of shaggy ‘dog’ might just slope into our campsite later… this was Kalahari Nirvana.
Around the braai-fire later, trawling through the problems of the world over a glass of soetes, we heard a loud meowing on the other side of our boma’s dry branch walls. A while later, what looked like a young African Wild Cat (possibly crossed with a domestic tabby) came slinking through the entrance, and after circling us furtively for about ten minutes, eventually rubbed up against David’s leg and started to purr like a tame housecat.
A little earlier, we had managed to revive a Striped Skink (it had very nearly drowned in the dishwashing bowl) by putting it close to the fire. With the arrival of an obviously-hungry cat, we now had to covertly deposit the skink in the crook of a nearby acacia tree without arousing the cat’s interest – not an easy thing to do with the hungry hunter following one.
It was the yapping and yelling of jackals that woke me at around 4am the next morning. Looking through the screen-net of my tent-flap, I took in the myriad fairy lights flickering in the moonless sky, and from the corner of my eye I saw a steenbok ewe munching succulents at the entrance to the boma. A magical scene I won’t easily forget.
Our Gemsbok campsite, I believe, was the best situated of the two on offer, and probably offers the most privacy. And, although it could easily accommodate two vehicles with roof-tents plus another couple of tents on the ground without feeling squashed, I would say it’s an ideal base for two couples or a single family of four to five people.
But the beauty of having it all to ourselves was that I could do things like string a hammock up between the two trees, and then lie there listening to the birds while David went for a walk.
On our way to have a 4×4 duel with a dune later that day, we stopped off at the second and much larger Springbok campsite, and took a look around. With two showers, a double-sink wash-up facility, two tents with proper beds in them (they can sleep six), a small bushkitchen facility with a gas fridge, and an inviting-looking ‘plaasdammetjie’ pool, we estimated that this campsite could easily swallow up four to five vehicles and have room to spare.
Rounding off a day of driving the 30km 4×4 Eco trail, which has a game farm next door (we’d seen some rare Roan antelope, eland, springbok, hartebeest and a lone bat-eared fox) David and I had a lot of fun chasing up and down the dune our hosts had directed us to.
But, with the sun setting and a cold sun-downer calling, we set off back to our rented enclave in the Kalahari parklands, with our only concerns in the world being what to have with our metre of kudu wors, and wondering which animals would entertain us that night.
Leeupan Guest Farm Information
Credit card: No
Swimming pools: two farm dams
4×4 Eco trail
“Meerkat Research Project” in Kuruman River Reserve
Number of stands:
Springbok campsite – 5 vehicles (12-15) people
Gemsbok campsite – 2 vehicles ( +/- 6 people)
Electricity: No (Springbok has solar-powered lighting)
Springbok – 2 open-sky showers (donkey boiler) one flush toilet
Gemsbok – 1 open-sky shower (donkey boiler) and one flush toilet.
Laundry facilities: No
Pets allowed: Well-controlled small dogs by prior arrangement
Tariffs: From R100 p.p.p.n (in your own vehicle or tent)
Contact: Lorraine de Bruine 082 438 3960
GPS: S 26° 57’ 12.34” E 21° 52’ 36.98”
Nearest town: Van Zylsrus Access via sandy/gravel track: fair condition