We are taking five days to cover the nearly 1500 kilometers between Kruger and Kgalagadi. It isn’t the most elegant routing I have ever done but was a necessity due to the dates I could book some parks later on. Despite the long drives and quick movement, we have managed to make the most of it – even passed my first official test, breathalyzer that is.Our first stop after Kruger was a full day of relaxation in the heated indoor and outdoor pools of Forever Resorts Warmbaths in Bela Bela. The pools are all fed with the ‘healing mineral waters’ of the hotspring that the town is built around. Being winter here, the heated outdoor pools are a welcome change from the fairly cold pools we were swimming in in Kruger. Around 9am, when we got our act together and made it to the pools, the steam is rising from the pool and it is like being in a hot tub in January; around 11am the steam is long gone and the pleasant outdoor temperature makes it comfortable enough to exit the pool to try out the slide like a trip to a waterpark in March; by 1pm the sun is beating down on you and it is almost too much like a heated pool in June. Ah well, time to hit the indoor hot/cold pools and spa for a massage (well, at least Karen got one). Having fully unwound from our week of camping in Kruger, we headed to Cradle of Humankind to see some of the most important paleontological sites in the world with one of the scientists who works there. It was humbling sitting next to 3.5 billion year old rock looking at 3 billion year old fossils of the some of the earliest lifeforms on this planet in a cave inhabited by hominids 3 million years ago looking at and talking about specimens that track the evolution of hominids from great ape ancestors to who we are today. The private presentation at Drimolen by Charne, a paleontologist at the University of Johannesburg who works the site, arranged by Paleo-Tours, was excellent. Avital in particular was highly engaged and interested in the information and the visuals of the different fossils and bones found there – she even got to take home a tiny bat jaw as a souvenir. She has decided she would like to be a geologist – or at least continue studying rocks for now. Since we were already onsite to visit the adjacent cave, we spent the night at a chalet at the Rhino & Lion Park – a contrived game zoo for people from the Pretoria and Johannesburg area who are too lazy, scared, or tired to make it to one of the real wildernesses not all that much further along. They did design it fairly well – being in a dry area they knew if they maintained small patches of grass strategically along the ‘game drive’ the animals would flock to them for easy viewing. Still, it was a pleasant enough place to spend the evening and very tranquil once the day visitors left. The final stop on our interlude, after the longest (distance wise at 519 kilometers) planned drive of the trip, is the Red Sands Lodge near Kuruman on the edge of the Kalahari. We are spending a full day here between long drives to relax, walk in the red sand Kalahari bush and prepare for the next leg in the journey. As Carel, the owner of South Africa 4×4 Rentals (and as a result Aardwolf) put it when he so graciously brought his crew to us to give the car maintenance service and exchange out some equipment – we have finished the short part of the trip now comes the fun stuff.
Tomorrow we are off to the real Kalahari wilderness and then into Namibia.