Our plans for a super early start are scuppered by cosy warm duvets and two many glasses of Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc the night before, but we eventually sort out our permit at the Twee Rivieren gate and start the chug up to Mata Mata. The atmosphere in the car is a little subdued this morning and looking across the veld with not even a springbok in sight, I can’t help but wonder whether I’ve made the right call on coming here. I feel the pressure of the children’s expectation as though it were a physical presence in of itself. Granted it’s probably me projecting as they are all kind, fairly easy-going children, but still….
But, as so many people have told me, the Kgalagadi never lets you down. And it certainly doesn’t this time. About 20km out of Twee Rivieren and shortly before the Auchterlonie picnic sight we are treated to the sight of two male cheetah under an Acacia tree. Their bloody nuzzles are rummaging beneath the ribs of a black Wildebeest. Had it not been for the tell-tale teardrop marking on their faces, one could have been forgiven for mistaking these two for leopards with their low slung stomachs fat from the feast.
We stay and quietly watch the pair tear strips of flesh off the carcass and then lazily groom each other in the dappled shade. Three camera’s click wildly and continuously and the cheetahs stay put, seemingly unphased by our presence. It’s a beautiful thing and I am thrilled to be off to a good start.
We arrive at Mata Mata in the early afternoon. We choose our camp site for maximum shade and a good view of the fence and then start to set up camp. Within minutes an angry desert wind wips into camp and stirs the sand into angry fistfuls of grit and dust. The children wrap up like bedouins, scarves tied round their faces, as we battle to keep the canvas steady in the wind and still see what we are doing. The team soldiers on though, the little boys stand on the tent corners like meerkat sentries preventing the canvas from flipping up and away; while the rest of us do battle with a tangle of tent poles and ropes.
Finally we’re up! Granted our tent looks nothing like the sleek military operation of the trio who have just pulled in with their still perfectly white Landrover, complete with two shiny rooftop lockboxes and two perfectly matching dome tents, but everyone has a place to sleep, we have a fire going, the milo is hot and the wine is cold.
Supper is a simple affair of lamb chops and wors, potato and sweetcorn but it fills the hole. Courtesy of big Sis, we have one bag full of sandwiches and fruit for lunch and another one pre-packed with flasks and rusks for breakfast. We all agree that if a dustbath is good enough for the ostrich it’s good enough for us and go to bed without venturing near the showers. Always good to have something to look forward to tomorrow!
Two jackals are yelping at each other in the distance and there is the soft buzz of campsite talk outside. Sounds travels far in the bush and so I hope the gods of the Kalahari can hear me when I thank them for connecting me to this land and for allowing my children in.