Kgalagadi 2017

Where things fail to go according to plan.

Now it all started a few years ago when my brother and I started fixing up the 1996 red VW Microbus which we’ve had since 2000. It had two major issues, firstly with the fuel delivery (we ended up having the fuel tank overhauled* and replaced the fuel pump) and secondly with the battery draining (turned out to be the P.A. system my father had fitted, I tossed it). Then I replaced the distributor hall sender, fitted new rear brakes and shocks, had the aircon re-gassed, fitted new side mirrors, replaced the auxiliary coolant pump which some fool had removed along with the relay for it, messed around with the immobiliser a bit, got a quote for removing the rust and respraying… just the normal maintenance type things which had been neglected for a while.

Tanya and I wanted to go the Kgalagadi (remember the Kgalagadi? This is a story about the Kgalagadi) because we’ve been to Kruger a number of times and Kgalagadi has meerkat. And lions and leopards and cheetahs, hopefully. I figured the Kombi is a good choice for this because sitting high up gives you a longer view over the veld.


Of course, a 2200 km round trip in a 20 year old bus with 200000 km on the clock is not particularly sane. But then, who wants to be known for their sanity?

So off we went, 05:30-ish on the 23rd of September, Arlo Guthrie on the hifi (coincidence — I dumped a lot of albums on a stick and it plays ’em alphabetically).

Oh, that aircon I had re-gassed? Stopped working pretty much as we left home. Feh.

The road from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is insane. Miles and miles of straight nothing between Calvinia and Keimoes, interrupted only by the tiny towns of Brandvlei and Kenhardt. And then the road from Upington to Twee Rivieren, more on that later…


Tanya took the opportunity to get in the back and scrap.

We stayed over in Upington at A Chateau de Lux which we can really recommend. Much attention to details, sweets on the pillows and chocolates and biscuits and bath salts ready in the bath… te lekker. Can’t comment on breakfast ’cause we were in too much of a hurry to be off. 250 km from Upington to Twee Rivieren. Got there, booked in, friendly people, pitched camp, let some air out the tires and off into the Kgalagadi we went.



Yes, there was a chain across the road. OK, OK, I’ll stop with the Alice’s Restaurant Red VW Microbus references now.

Now at this stage, there was only one of two things we could do (oops. Sorry). Take the road to the left, towards Mata-Mata, or take the road to the right, towards Nossob. We chose the Nossob road.


Got as far as Kij-Kij (only about 40km from Twee Rivieren, but that’s about two hours’ drive. Distances in the Kgalagadi are insane) where we found a lion under a tree. Next to a sign saying “You are not allowed to leave your vehicle at this view point”. Yup. Gotcha. Wasn’t planning on doing that, no.



Damn thing had fleas.


Kalahari lions have black manes.

From Kij-Kij we took the dune road to Auchterlonie. It’s boring. Nothing moves. The two river beds are much more interesting. Stopped at Auchterlonie for a body break, and turned back towards Twee Rivieren. Now this was Sunday, and Sunday was forecas t to be the hottest day of our week in the Kgalagadi, and yes, it was hot. Got up to 48-ish inside the cab. So we’re fahrvergnügening over the dunes and *bang*. Hmmm, that’s not good. Check the rear-view mirror, that looks like water on the road behind us. Scheisse. I figured it’s a radiator hose that popped, tell the first car passing us to tell the staff back at Twee Rivieren to come fetch us. Nope, sez the omie, he’ll tow us. With a Fortuner. The humanity.


Back at camp I investigated and no, it wasn’t a radiator hose, it was the coolant bottle.


Never seen that before.

So we started a braai.


And worked on Plan B, being, get to Upington, hire a car, get a new water bottle, fix kombi. With complications, because the next day was a public holiday. I got up early, toodled on down to the gate, asked about organising a lift with some staff maybe going to Upington. Nope, nothing like that, you’ll have to hitch a ride. So I stopped the first car out the gate, being Ditmar and his wife whose name I didn’t catch from Cape Town, they gave me a lift to the airport. Much appreciated. Got a car, flogged it† back to Twee Rivieren, and off we went for more sightseeing.

Took the Mata-Mata road this time, found the meerkats Tanya was looking for. They like being high up, so they can see further.


A car stopped and told us there was a cheetah with kill under a tree, so off we went to find it.


The cheetah had brought down a springbok ram and was nomming down under a tree on the other side of the river bed. Good thing Tanya has a long lens.

We’d also heard there was a leopard in a tree further up the road, so we left the cheetah, tried to find the leopard. Found some people who claimed they could see the leopard lying behind something, we saw squat (of course, if we had the kombi it might have been easier) so went back to the cheetah who was just leaving her meal to the jackals and moving off, fortunately towards the road.


We think this is Hanri, a six year old female, but I am new to this, feel free to correct me.


This owl has a nest and a large chick opposite the road from the Monro water hole. We stopped there a number of times.

Plan B still required that I go to Upington again (to get a new water bottle on a day that the shops are actually open), but we started Tuesday by going out early to see what we could find.


Found two jackals close to where we’d seen the cheetah, they were fast asleep. We stuck around until they got up but they didn’t feel like doing much — I suspect they finished off the cheetah’s springbok pretty much on their own, and were still stuffed to the gills (we ended up seeing lots of jackals).


Got back to camp around 10 (after which not much moves until late afternoon anyway) and then I mercilessly flogged the Polo the 250km to Upington, found a new water bottle at Goldwagen, got a lead on a towing company (Plan C), and mercilessly flogged the Polo the 250km back to Twee Rivieren (and of course we eventually had to get the Polo back to Upington again. It came with 1000 free kilometers. So much for that. We ended up putting around 1800km on it). Got back close to five, and of course out we went again.

We were watching jackals come and go at Kij-Kij when I looked the other way (always look the other way) and spotted two bat eared foxes quite far away. Cute little buggers.


Back on the way to Twee Rivieren we stopped to look at some meerkat, I looked around and spotted a little cape fox sleeping close by. The meerkat also spotted the fox…


… and proceeded to chase him off.


Little bastards.

So back to Plan B. I fitted the new water bottle, added water, and… water poured out of the side of the cylinder head flange. I suspect this is where I lost the water in the first place, leading to the destruction of the bottle.

Time for Plan C? I got a beer and thought about it.

Coincidence #1. I’d packed the toolkit I normally have in the Golf at the last moment, mostly for the shifter. But it includes four small sockets, and the largest socket fitted the bolts on the flange. So I could remove the flange.

Coincidence #2. Our old mattress had leaked and I tried a new O ring on the valve. Didn’t work, and I tossed the mattress, but I still had spare O rings in the kombi. And they turned out to be the exact diameter.

Coincidence #3. I’d also packed a tube of gasket maker.

Which means I could apply a temporary fix. Which I did — not that I trusted the fix enough to take the kombi back into the Kgalagadi, we ended up using the Polo for the rest of the week — but (spoiler alert) it did end up getting us home with no further issues.


Secretary bird.


We spotted two cape foxes with cubs, but they were extremely far away. 500m or more. This picture is at the limit of Tanya’s 600mm lens.


This owl had a nest just outside the camp gate. We stopped there often.

We saw many more animals. Gemsbok, springbok, red hartbeest, giraffe — those are pretty much guaranteed. Lots of Kori bustards (they’re scarce in Kruger). Ground squirrels everywhere. Slender and yellow mongoose. But… no cats. Well, OK, we did see two lions silhouetted against a ridge far off, but they don’t count in our books.

So right at the end of our last day in the Kgalagadi we decided to go out one last time. Looked at the sightings board, saw that some people has seen lion(s?) around Rooiputs. So that’s where we went. Didn’t see much, except there was a guy parked next to the road, we asked him what he had. Turns out there was a lion under a tree, but the only reason he knew it was that “it had been there all day”. Couldn’t see much of it, would not have spotted it on our own.


Whaddayamean can’t see it? He’s right there! (The tree’s about 100m from the road).


So we waited for him to wake up.


We will rule over all this land! And we will call it… this land!


We had supper at the restaurant the last evening. Can you believe that T-shirt is over 20 years old? Thanks Unca Joel :-)

The next morning the kombi didn’t want to start. I spent an hour fiddling with the wiring, I think it was a bad connection to the MAP sensor since that’s the last thing I touched. For the rest the drive back was uneventful. Stopped at Goldwagen again,  bought a new Topran 107613755 (Goldwagen part number A1300) as well as the two O-rings for the temperature sensors (Goldwagen part number 1821). After that I was not concerned, because if my temporary fix failed, I could fix it properly. Of course my temporary fix held. Got home not that long after nine the evening.

Continue reading…

Slovenia 2017

(Backdated as always)

So an opportunity presented itself for me to join my brother for a quick trip to Slovenia via Italy. Of course Tanya was not going to stay behind, not with Slovenia being close to Austria and Graz being where she has a scrapbooking friend.

Pieter had other commitments so he would fly out on the 5th but we decided to use the weekend and fly out on Saturday the 2nd. Ethiopian Air, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Milan. We figured we could take in some Italy before going on to Ljubljana, Maribor and Graz.


Rietfontein se pan from the air.


That shiny dot north of the Orange river is Khi Solar One.


La Spezia from the air.

Got a little Citroen C1 from the airport, headed off to Turin because there’s a museum there.



Didn’t get to see it. Couldn’t get close because of all these crazy people in Santa Claus costumes. These are only a few, there were thousands of them. We still have no idea what it was all about.


So we went to the aquarium in Genoa, which is either the largest or the second largest in Europe. It’s bloody expensive for sure.



They have some impressively large tanks, one with a whole bunch of dolphins, the other with two Manatees. Hoooon.




We AirBNB’ed with Federico, really a nice place in old Genoa with rather steep steps.


Federico directed us to Trattoria delle Grazie which is really good.We were not nearly hungry enough. Had the pesto and the ravioli al tocco, both recommended by our host. I will definitely try to make it out there again to catch up with the rest of the menu.

Slovenia 2017 – Genoa to Venice

I expected to wake up to the typical noise of a city but Federico’s place is wonderfully quiet. We were up early anyway, that’s how we roll. Rescued our car from the parking garage and made our way out of Genoa (I keep wanting to type “Genua“), heading south — autostrada to Piana and from there the back road to Cinque Terre. It wasn’t the best time to visit but we knew that — think of it as a fishing expedition*.


Monterosso al Mare, where we had lunch (well, Tanya had a sandwich which ended up being enough for both of us). Looks like the kind of place I’d enjoy spending more time in.


I discovered that my cellphone has a panorama mode.


La Spezia. One of Italy’s biggest Naval Bases.


Still playing with the panorama mode.

It was getting late so I started pushing for Venice. Autostrada, no more sightseeing. Reached Venice Airport at a quarter to five. Handed the car in, boated to Guglie (but we’re not talking about that).

The room we AirBNB’ed is in the perfect location. Top end of Calle Colonna, next to Alla Corte Ostinati. You have to turn into Calle del Magazen, something Google Earth didn’t tell me, so we had to hunt the place down. No problem, Venice is tiny. The bed was the most uncomfortable one I’ve slept in maybe ever. But the location is great.


View from our window. Alla Corte Ostinati below, dogleg to Rio Terá San Leonardo straight ahead.


  • Next time, maybe fly into Genoa, take the train down to La Spezia, stop over at some of the little towns on the way. Then… Idunno yet.


Slovenia 2017 – Venice


What can I say about Venice? It’s different. It’s touristy. One probably has to see it, one definitely can fall in love with it. Although I suspect one can also fall out of love with it quite quickly in the tourist season.


This is is the Rio Terá San Leonardo just down the street from our room, at nine in the morning. The Rio Terá San Leonardo is the main thoroughfare from the station down to the Strada Nova and probably the easiest way to walk all the way down to San Marco.


We went the other way. This is the view northwest-ish from the Guglie bridge.


It was too cold for that.


I had pre-booked a trip to Murano Burano and Torcello, so that’s what we did.


I don’t know what the shiny rhino is doing next to the Biblioteca di Studi Adriatici. Google is not much help either.



We were not much interested in the really old church on Torcello so we rather had lunch at the Taverna Tipica.


On the way back via the Strada Nova Tanya stopped at the Lush shop.


Tanya wanted pizza and Ae Oche was on my list, but they were closed, so we googled a bit and went to Gino’s. No complaints. Ended up drinking wine at an Irish pub (!)



The next morning we went for a walk through the (original) Ghetto. Had breakfast at Trattoria Bar Pontini on the canal, same place we had wine the night before — Venice is not big.


Collected our bags, walked past the station to the bus stop, waited for Pieter. Waited a long time. It was cold. There might have been spritzes involved.

Slovenia 2017 – Ljubljana

(Pieter picked us up in Venice)

So I stuck the GPS to the window, told it to find Ljubljana, and off we went. We thought we might end up in Trieste, do lunch there, but the GPS had other plans so we got to Ljubljana at around 1500.


Dragon bridge.


Butcher’s bridge.



Went searching for free wifi, found some at a vegan place close to the Butcher’s bridge. They had unfiltered Union, we had a good time.

(We needed the wifi for Pieter to get the address he had AirBNB’ed. I scribbled a map off of Google Earth, but fortunately my GPS had the street in memory, so we found it without having to resort to notes. Right next to the Calimero Caffe Šiška where we got some more free wifi, contacted our hosts. Had beer anyway. Then went to see the place*. Very nice).

By now we were getting hungry. Vegetarian meals only go so far. Google Maps was consulted. It told us the closest real food was at Gostilna Keršic, a Serbian place on Celovška,  so off we went.


The menu is… interesting. Four languages, being Slovenian (“v”), German (“mit”), English (“with”) and French (“con”). Still trying to figure out what Pleskavica and kajmak are (kidding. Pleskavica is a burger patty and kajmak is a funny type of cheese. Courtesy of Google after the fact).


Go big or go home. Pieter thought he’d organised a mixed grill to share, we ended up with three of everything. Hamburgers sausages pork steaks sosaties rolls… there was also chips. And salad, I seem to recall… the leftovers lasted us a good long time. The wine was pretty terrible though. They had some white from 2001 “very good”. Ja, erm, no thanks.


We went back to Calimero Cafe Šiška where we had beer. Lots of beer. Tap ran dry so we switched to bottled. I had fun playing with my 50 prime











(Pics all straight off the camera, resized to 800x, no editing. I love my 50 prime).


* Note that the “free parking” is on the street where-ever you can find it.




Slovenia 2017 – Murska Sobota

So this is what we actually came for — go to Murska Sobota, sign some papers, do some stuff, sign some more papers, then wait. Maybe if something happens, sign some more papers on Monday, then go home.


Got to the lawyer’s offices in Murska Sobota and they were nowhere near ready for us. Still had to arrange a translator and all kinds of stuff. Arranged to go back there on Monday, went for some sightseeing towards Ljutomer. It was a rainy day so we didn’t take many photographs.


Ended up at the Smolkovic* place for lunch. Yes, Pieter knows the people, he’s been there before (fairly obvious that they’re our kind of people, if they put wine in litre bottles with crown caps). Met Primož, Robert was out somewhere.


Švicarski zrezek is Swiss steak. Pizza is pizza everywhere. There was enough to go around.


Went sightseeing. Look at that view.




Of course Tanya found a friendly cat.


Drove back via Ptuj. Like many towns it has a castle up on a hill. Golden hour, half past three in the afternoon. The days are not long in winter.

Meanwhile we had gone shopping at the Tuš. Bought wine. More than enough wine… I thought. But first we went for a couple of beers. After that, Pieter reheated what was left of the mixed grill, and we started tasting wine.



These are the corpses, photo taken the next morning. OK, the Refošk was not empty, the others… were. Three of us. Tanya complained that Pieter had snored all night long. He probably did, Idunno, I was fast asleep.


  • It’s a c caron. “č”. The moment WordPress saves the file, it converts it from “&ccaron” to the single character, which it then saves, and then somehow it becomes “?”. Don’t ask me why. S caron š and z caron ž works just fine.


Slovenia 2017 – Ljubljana and Maribor

Friday is market day in Ljubljana. It’s not huge in winter, it’s apparently stunning in summer. We went to have a look anyway.



… Novelti, Paarti Triicks (what?).











And then we were off to Maribor.


Got there, went looking for free wifi. You know the story.


The Kavarna Isabella looked good — it’s hard to see at this resolution but the top Vinarji is Marof — more on this later. Pieter contacted his landlord, walked over the bridge to go find the place (walking being easier than finding parking), came back and we went to drop him off.


(Liquid Cocaine is IPA — beer from Hungary. Pretty good beer too, but King’s Blockhouse is better).

Then we took the car and went off to visit Tanya’s friend Irit in Graz for the weekend, leaving Pieter stranded in Maribeer on a craft beer weekend with nothing to do but hang out with his friend Uroš and partake of the fruits of the country. Shame.

Slovenia 2017 – Weekend in Graz

As mentioned previously, Tanya insisted on coming along on this trip because she has a scrapbooking friend in Graz.


So the first stop was a rather large arts crafts and scrapbooking place, after which we found parking close to the Graz Cathedral and walked down Hofgasse and Sporgasse into the centre of town — which was packed.

The weather wasn’t so great for photographs.

This is the view from Freiblick, a rooftop cafe above Kastner & Öhler. It was cold. The wind chill up there was bracing. There were people sitting outside having coffee and stuff. I suppose you get used to the cold.

Our hosts had booked us into the Gasthof Grosschedl zum Kramerwirt which is close to where they stay, outside Graz. Slightly upmarket from what I normally pick, very nice of course.

… and back to Maribor, where it had snowed while we were in Austria.

Pieter found us a very nice place just around the corner from the main square, on the river. This is the view from there, facing south. The building on the left is the Maribor U Faculty of Medicine. We had the place to ourself — Pieter was still booked into his place for one night.






Slovenia 2017 – Murska Sobota again

So on Monday we drove out to Murska Sobota again.

Our appointment was for one, so we dawdled around a bit, visited the Marof winery (winemaker, Pieter’s friend Uroš). Impressive place. Good wine, too.

This little Land-Rover lives with his mate the Renault and a bunch of other junk at 5 Bogojina on the road to Dobrovnik.

Had lunch at the Gostilna Pri Lujzi in Dobrovnik, then kept our appointment with the lawyers, signed a bunch of papers, stuck some money in a bank, had some coffee, and drove back to Maribor, where it was pretty much pitch dark already. Walked across the bridge and went shopping at the InterSPAR, cheese and cold meat and wine and beer, called it supper.

View from the bridge, that’s the windows of the place we stayed in.


Slovenia 2017 – Going home

We had all day to get to the Malpense airport outside Milan so we were in no great hurry. Turned off the highway and had coffee at Cafe Racer in Kamnik.

From there we went to see what Lake Bled looks like. It was raining, I don’t even have half decent pictures — but it looks like it can be stunning in summer. Which is probably why Bled features on the front page of so many travel guides to Slovenia.

It was around this point that we put Malpense into the GPS and realised that we didn’t have all day, and that we would have to put foot to get to the airport in time to catch our flight.

So Pieter put foot.

This is not what you want to see if you are trying to put foot. 82 kilometers before Venice, we were stuck here for maybe 40 minutes.

We ended up giving them the car with an empty tank, and there’s a penalty for that but… we made the flight. Well, we managed to book in our baggage in time, that’s the important thing. Then we got caught in a free-for-all in the passports queue, and when we finally boarded the plane got delayed for an hour but… we made the flight*.

Addis Ababa is not known for their tolerance of airlines other than Ethiopian. Because of being late, we basically walked in the one door and our the other without going through security (good) or duty free (bad). And then we sat on a mostly empty plane watching people arrive in dribs and drabs and hoping that the last group would be the last group so we could have plenty space on the plane. We ended up with plenty space on the plane. I slept through most of the flight. That’s how I roll.

  • You have to be at the airport two hours before the flight. Unless you book in electronically, then it’s an hour. We had three cellphones and one iPad, and airtime enough to find the website (not and book in and email the boarding passes to Pieter’s account. He didn’t have airtime to download the boarding passes but the airport supposedly had free wifi. Didn’t get that working but didn’t get hassled either so that was all good. Sheesh, I remember the days when your tickets came printed in quadruplicate in a book.