Category Archives: Wild Magazine

Places of Solitude

Cederberg Trail, Western Cape

Sunshine to sepia in seconds.

Climb past the gently waving fynbos to sit aloft in the Cederberg, looking back down the valley into the sunset. The mountains turn their signature golden orange as the last few birds circle into their roosts. myriad streams send rushing waters tumbling into the world far below. A full moon rises behind you, bathing the scene in a washed pale light. There’s nothing out there but the night.

The Idea

Using Algeria campsite as a base and carrying the bare minimum in a backpack, camp high in the mountains in the cool, fresh air.

The Camp

Algeria has 48 campsites, each with power point and braai spot, plus good ablution facilities. Hiking huts up the mountain are basic, remote shelters without any furnish- ings. More like an adobe hut.

Soak up The Solitude

Walk in the shadow of the San amongst vast boulders and wind-eroded rock arches as birds call overhead. It’s just you, the odd grey rhebok or klipspringers and some ba- boons. They lope away. You stay put. This is your moun- tain, for today.

Activities

Valley daywalks, overnight mountain hikes, rock climbing at Truitjieskraal or Kliphuis. Visit Stadsaal Cave and its nearby rock art. Overnighhikes to camp in the wild must be booked in advance. Minimum three people, maximum 12.

Bring along

All your food. Warm clothes, sturdy walking boots and a detailed map are essential. Fires are not permitted on hikes so carry a gas stove. A copy of Henrietta Rose- Innes’s The Rock Alphabet to absorb the story as you never could before.

Rates

Campsites for up to six people at Algeria from R165 (week- days) to R220 (peak). Over- night trails cost R65 a person and are for experienced hikers only. Wild Cardholders don’t pay the daily conservation fee of R40 for SA residents and citizens.

Where on earth

The Cederberg Wilderness Area stretches from Middel- berg near Citrusdal to Pakhuis- berg north of Clanwilliam. Algeria, in the northern sec- tion, was named by a Frenchcount who was reminded by the cedar trees and mountains of the North African country.

The Best Approach

Come cross-country over the Pakhuis Pass from Calvinia to see the Karoo scrub turn to fynbos and sense the undulat- ing rise of the mountains. Head home over the moun- tains to Ceres or Wuppertal.  CH

3 Bitterpan, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Look out across the Kgalagadi dunes from your reed cabin. Beyond the waterhole, a gemsbok stands proud. A grey, brown and white sheen against the glinting sand, its finely curved horns cutting a perfect arc in the stark, sharp light. Later, at the dying of the day, the brightness gives way dramatically to night and a black cloth pricked with billions of bright stars stretches uninterrupted above you. The yelp of a jackal breaches the silence of the darkness. All around is emptiness.

The Idea

To follow the 4×4 route from Nossob to Mata-Mata and spend a night in the middle of the dunes.

The Camp

Four canvas-and-reed struc- tures on stilts are linked by a walkway. Each has its own bathroom. There is a commu- nal kitchen, which is fully equipped. Linen and towels are provided. Water is gas- heated. Lighting is powered by solar panels. Children un- der 12 aren’t allowed.

Soak up The Solitude

This is a place of grandeur and silence. For the most part, even the animals are solitary in the Kgalagadi. The exception being the springbok whose vast herds, building up for safety in the riverbeds in the evening, somehow seem only to accen- tuate the human solitude.

Activities

The waterhole is only 20 me- tres from the cabins. Although driving in the area is limited, there is a short game-viewing loop from the camp.

Bring along

All your food, including drink- ing water. The pan is, after all, bitter! Also bring firewood or charcoal and maybe an extra blanket in winter.

Rates

R795 for a cabin, with two single beds. One cabin has universal access and accessible ablutions (see page 11 for more destinations). Visitors without a Wild Card also pay a daily con- servation fee, from R40.

Where on earth

In the red dunes at the centre of the South African sector of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, halfway between Nossob and Mata-Mata. Check-in is at Nossob, around three hours away.

The Best Approach

The only road to the camp is by the 4×4 route from Nossob to Mata-Mata, which is a one- way road. No trailers are per- mitted. It’s wise to spend a few nights en route at Twee Rivieren, the main camp. The Twee Rivieren entrance is 265 km north of Upington on a tar road.  CH

4 Sirheni Bushveld Camp, Kruger National Park

The far northern camps of Kruger are all but forgotten by the hordes. sirheni is an oasis on the mphongolo River under a vast, undisturbed canopy of jackalberry and leadwood trees, a light breeze rustling their upper boughs. By day, a leopard sips from the dam below you. Squirrels run and dart busily in the dust. A buffalo shuf- fles in the long grass only metres away, on the other side of the fence. A snorting rhino hurtles across. Bee- eaters glide above the buzzing bush. By night, the call of a nearby lion and a hyena’s overconfident reply.

The Idea

To immerse yourself in the still of the bush and the ma- jestic colours of the dusty Mopani belt.

The Camp

There are 15 fully equipped units of varying sizes spread out along a dam. Unusual an- telope sightings around the camp include Sharpe’s grys- bok, sable, roan and eland. Scan the dam for pygmy goose, painted snipe and dwarf bittern.

Soak up The Solitude

Take a walk along the fence in the heat of the day. Climb up into one of Sirheni’s two hides with binoculars in hand, sweep the view of the river and revel in respectful silence.

Activities

Guided walks and night drives are especially intimate due to the small numbers accommo- dated at the camp. The roads to Sirheni are open to resi- dents only and passing vehi- cles are rare.

Bring Along

All the sustenance you need. The camp usually has ice and wood for sale, but bring your own just in case, plus all your food and drink, your binocu- lars and a copy of Peter De- rich’s Kruger National Park guidebook.

Rates

Cottages for four people from R1 035 to R1 180 a night. Six- and eight-sleepers can accom- modate additional adults for R248 and children for R124. Wild Cardholders have free entry into Kruger, otherwise there’s a daily conservation fee starting at R40.

Where on earth

Roughly halfway between Shingwedzi and Punda Maria camps in the far north of Kruger National Park.

The Best approach

From the north on the road to Punda Maria gate. It’s ap- proximately two game-filled hours from the gate to the camp.

Did you know?

Sirheni is a Tsonga word that means cemetery, referring to an elephant graveyard in the surrounding area.  CH

5 Sirheni Bushveld Camp, Kruger National Park
Iphika Camp, Spioenkop Game Reserve

The flames of a dancing fire blaze brightly under a clear black sky. A stillness pervades the night, to be shattered by the stumble of startled hooves a few metres away as a white rhino and her calf go crashing through the undergrowth. silence falls again, then is pierced by a
distant jackal’s howl. in the morning, a dense cold cloud slowly lifts to reveal towering caramel mountains, stub- bled with shady umbrella thorns. The golden sunlight reveals sloping landscapes soaked in the blood of bat- tles long ago.

The Idea

Explore the many activities available in the reserve during the day and, at night, retreat to the remote iPhika Camp on the lower slopes of Spioenkop. The Camp
Maximum four people in two spacious permanent tents perched on mountainside decks. Rock-and-thatch ron- davel with Jetmaster. Kitchen hut with gas stove and fridge. Reed hut with lavatory, basin and steaming hot, open show- er. No electricity. Paraffin lamps, gas, linen and towels are pro- vided. The camp is unfenced.

Soak Up the Solitude

Pull up an armchair on the verandah overlooking a water- hole or take a cautious walk
through the long grass, closing in on giraffes and herds of ze- bra. Listen for the sound of tearing grass; numerous rhino middens are proof of a healthy population.

Activities

Game viewing from your own vehicle, on horseback or on foot. Almost 300 bird species. Boat- ing and fishing on the Spioen- kop Dam. Battlefield tours.

Bring Along

Torches, a warm jacket, all your food, drink and firewood. Bin- oculars to watch the bobbing blue waxbills.

Rates

R190 a person, minimum charge R570 (three people). Day visitors R20, free entry for Wild Cardholders. Prices valid till 31 October 2010.

Where on earth

Along the Spioenkop Dam and the Little Thukela River. The main entrance is 14 kilo- metres from Winterton on the R600 towards Ladysmith and the N3.

The Best approach

Take the Van Reenens Pass and follow the winding road from the Free State down through tree-studded hills and valleys into the foothills of the KZN Drakensberg.

Don’t Miss

Exploring the reserve on horseback for close-up views of plains game. Horse trails R110 for 11⁄2 hours.  CH