We drove to Upington from the Kgalagadi and stayed in the very well-appointed River Place, on the banks of the Orange River. Sitting on the lawn, we were wowed by the Orange River White-Eyes that came to drink at the pool, along with many Red-eyed Bulbuls and Karoo Thrushes.
From there we proceeded to Augrabies Park. We could not get in to the park chalets, so stayed at a hotel just outside the gate. We spent the day doing the game route with its various stops along the gorge below the falls and were, as always, gobsmacked by the erosive power of the river. Our target birds were coursers and the elusive Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, but we were once again unable to locate either. It was dry and hot, but we were getting used to the conditions. It always puzzles us why they have Giraffes in a park with no trees, but there they were, bending low to browse from the shrubs.
The agricultural development along the Orange River is expanding and there are now huge areas of vines under shade cloth. Being grape season, meant that the production of raisins was in full swing and there were vast cement slabs covered with grapes, set out to dry.
Our next stop was near Loxton in the middle of the Karoo. We drove via Kenhardt (on tar) before tackling the long and dusty dirt road to Carnarvon and then on to Loxton. The former is a poverty stricken relic of its former self – very sad to see – however, Loxton seems to have retained some of its former charm. We stayed at Jakalsdans, a few kilometres south of the town, and had a very comfortable night in a beautiful cottage set in what must rate as one of the neatest farmyards in the country! Our target birds continues to elude us with not a nightjar calling anywhere. It was dry, but the farm had lovely avenues and well watered lawns and gardens.
Travelling south the next day we saw many small birds along the road, notably Black-headed Canaries, Sparrow-Larks and Buntings. The drive down the Molteno Pass was beautiful and by the time we reached Beaufort West, the countryside was showing evidence of good rains, with water lying around and green veld where, a month or two previously, it had been parched! We had intended going on to Ladismith, but a quick visit to the Karoo National Park changed our minds and we decided to spend a night there. This gave us the opportunity to pursue a Karoo Korhaan and an African Rock Pipit, both of which we saw, so we were well pleased.
Next day we set out for Ladismith, taking the road to Prince Albert via Klaarstroom. This allowed us to take on the beautiful Swartberg Pass – and it was wonderful! We had not done it for years and were most impressed with the scenery. We took the back road via Groenfontein to Calitzdorp, before the last stretch on tar to Ladismith, where we stayed at the lovely Mymering Estate, owned by my old school colleague, Andy Hillock. It was a very pleasant stay and a fitting end to a wonderful trip before our return home the next day.
We had covered no less that 8000 kms – for the second time in 4 months! Our trip bird list stood at 240 species, we had seen two lifers, and my Challenge total had risen appreciably. We were very pleased with our efforts, but needed a break from the road! It will be a while before we do 16000 kms in 4 months again!!