Proclaimed in 1979, the Karoo National Park is situated on the southern slopes of the Nuweveld Mountains near Beaufort West and is home to approximately fifty-eight endemic species of animals, quite apart from birds and reptiles. Even though the vegetation is sparse, one cannot expect to see them all in only just over a day. Time, as well as the luck factor, determines what one can see during a drive. The animals we saw tended to be scattered over a wide area and did not occur in great herds.
Among the animals we saw was a kudu bull peering at us from behind a bush.
Later, we were delighted to come across more kudu in the company of Cape mountain zebras.
A lone springbok seemed unperturbed by our presence.
It is always wonderful to come across the majestic looking gemsbok.
The red hartebeest shone like burnished copper in the sun.
A small troop of baboons crossed the road ahead of us and proceeded to fan through the veld where they nibbled on grass seeds and overturned stones looking for insects to eat.
There were other animals too, some too far from the road for a good photograph. Sadly, we had only one full day in the park – we clearly need to spend a lot more time there!
For the past few years the catchment dams around our town have dried up completely during the drought, leaving the town heavily dependent on water piped in from the Orange River via the Fish River. In June last year Milner Dam looked like this:
It has taken months after rain in March – none of it heavy downpours, but all within the catchment area – for enough water to finally seep through the surrounding countryside so that it could begin filling the dam. This view of it was taken in March:
I felt such a thrill of excitement at seeing the sky reflected off the water! The water level is still very shallow and the dam is still very far from being operational once more. There is less water in it now, two months later, and even less chance of any further rain coming as winter is peeping around the corner. I am hoping though that the dam won’t dry up completely and that more water will come through along with the summer.
One of the first interesting signs you come across after entering the Karoo National Park warns visitors to be aware of the possibility that tortoises may have sought shelter from the sun under their vehicles in the parking area outside the reception centre:
Another informs visitors when they can enter the game viewing area and when to return. During our visit it was from 7a.m. until 6 p.m. – the times vary according to the season:
In places the speed limit is only 30 kmp:
This is understandable once you realise that you need to watch out for tortoises, chameleons and snakes that might be in the road:
One also has to be aware of the presence of larger animals, such as lions and rhinos, especially when getting out of one’s vehicle to enter one of several dedicated picnic areas:
Should you wish to make use of the ablution blocks in these areas, there are signs reminding you to watch out for baboons and monkeys. Visitors are cautioned to keep the doors to these buildings closed so that one of these creatures does not get trapped inside … imagine finding an irate baboon or monkey indoors when you wish to visit the toilet or wash your hands! Anyone notice the grammatical error?
In common with other national parks, the Karoo National Park does not allow the use of drones:
Given that the South African road network comprises over 700 000 km and that the distance between major towns can be over 100 km, several roadside picnic spots have been established along the main roads. These provide one with the opportunity to safely pull right off the road in order to take a rest from driving. Most have tables and seats and many have either shady trees specially planted there or wooden structures to provide welcome shade on a hot day. No other facilities are provided except for a receptacle in which to put one’s rubbish. Here is a typical one in the Northern Cape:
I noticed on our recent trip through the Western Cape that long-haul truck drivers make good use of these spots in which to sleep in their cabs for a while before continuing on their journey. Other motorists stop to eat the food they have either packed for their journey (called padkos – road food in this country) or purchased in a town they have passed through. We stopped at this picnic spot outside Aberdeen:
Unfortunately some of these welcome stopping places have been vandalised or left in such a filthy state that one cannot really use them; others have become targets for potential thieves … all of which means that one has to look around very carefully before stopping. I am pleased to say that most offer the safe and welcome respite travellers need.
Apart from the welcome shade on a particularly hot day, we could also enjoy a pleasant view from the table – one of several:
A large truck was parked further ahead from us, the driver fast asleep, so we could enjoy the rest and scenery in peace on our own … or so we thought. A quick movement caught my eye and, after much searching, I found that we were being watched after all:
This lone monkey watched us closely without bothering us at all. Here is another example of a roadside picnic spot we stopped at to change drivers on our way home:
One gets a good taste of the Karoo landscape whilst driving through the Karoo National Park. The environment there is so arid that it is difficult to believe that millions of years ago it was covered by a shallow sea. Look at these beautiful hills and carved out valleys.
The sky is beautifully clear and ‘big’; the air is crisp.
The rock-strewn valley floors are sparsely covered with typical Karoo vegetation.
This flock of ostriches seem to have an endless vista through which to explore.
Mountains and hills provide a worthy backdrop to the flattish valley floor.
I leave you with a closer look at the rocky layer that forms the top of one of the many hills.