I had packed for expected hot weather with a down jacket for nights that might be cool, and how lucky that turned out to be. A late cold front hit the Western Cape and dumped heavy snow on the mountains of the Southern Cape. The wind changed to the prevailing summer southeaster and blew that icy air across the country as far as the Kgalagadi, causing frost damage to vineyards along the Orange River and keeping morning temperatures around 15″C in the park. This lasted for a few days before the normal 34″ re-established itself and helped to acclimatise to the relentless heat for the next few weeks.
A list of essentials:
- Skin cream – after a few days in the dry climate, your skin starts to resemble a cracked mudflat. Slather yourself with cream at least three times a day.
- Lip Ice – same as above!
- Wet scarf as used by sportsmen, hikers, etc. (dampen and flick – it becomes instantly cool).
- Warm jacket – puffy down jacket keeps you comfortable and compresses easily for packing.
- Sunglasses – the glare is relentless.
- Boots/sturdy closed shoes – for walking through rough terrain searching for birds and night walks to guard against scorpions.
- Sandals for hot sand – you won’t be walking barefoot around the chalets.
- Talcum powder for sweaty feet.
- Water!! Always have 5 litres as a back up.
- Torch – essential to know what is staring back at you at night.
- Biggest Tabard you can find – enough said.
Having prepared the above, these are some interesting things I discovered on the way:
- Opened packets of biscuits: they don’t go soft, they actually get harder!
- The skin on your feet cracks worst of all and you need to rub with a thick layer of repair cream and sleep with socks on.
- Hair becomes dry and unmanageable, rather like the nest of the White-browed Sparrow Weaver. For me this was a new and rather welcome experience, as having very fine hair does not make for much to work with!
- The songololos are huge! Another reason to have a torch and sturdy shoes.
- The ground squirrels wreak havoc in the camps and you can break an ankle if you don’t watch your step.
Despite all of the above, you will want to go back!