Karoo National Parks- January 2022

After we left SALT we headed into the direction of Beaufort West, criss-crossing our way through the wet Karoo via back roads and dirt roads, past some vanilla and chocolate sheep and a car wreck, and a big ostrich farm!

The weather, however, remained ominous and dark.

We arrived in Beaufort West late in the afternoon and we decided to grab a bite to eat (and negotiate with the restaurant to sleepover in their parking lot). We stopped at 4sheep restaurant, which luckily is situated next to a 24hr petrol station, making it very easy for us to park the whole night.

While I ordered a normal dish, Stefaan opted for offal. As the waitress made her way to the kitchen however, I saw images of the menu scrolling on a digital screen on the wall and I mentioned to Stefaan that they advertised sheeps head. He was up immediately to run after the waitress to change his order from offal to sheeps head. I’ve never seen someone enjoy his dinner so much!

We got up fairly early the next morning and headed into the Karoo National Park. We booked in for 1 night and off we went to explore the park. Expecting more or less a similar landscape as Tankwa, it was a very pleasant surprise because the park was definitely different with roads winding up and down the mountains. The main roads were well maintained, with interesting information sites and rest areas. 

One of the fascinating things we saw was a hyena trap: a little stone structure that seemed to be very apt at doing the job. This viewpoint over the valley was on a rocky outcrop. I’m not a geologist who understands the finer details of how landmasses have been created over aeons, but I’m nonetheless always amazed at the extensive variety of designs and patterns on rocks and stones that come out of mountains that seem to have their origins in the same geographical area.

We decided to take one of the off shoots of the main circular road through the park and this road proved a bit more challenging. We were able to cross some of the muddy river crossings with reasonably steep embankments until we got to the one that eventually got us. Going down into the riverbed was no problem, getting out was a total different story. Long story short… we got stuck.

After trying to dig and drive us out for an hour or two, rangers passed us and offered to help. Unfortunately the only help that would really be able to get us out would be the park tractor and he was busy somewhere else. The one ranger gave us two options: go with them to the lodge and sleepover there or sleepover in our truck. The last one came with a warning to stay in the truck as the riverbed showed spoor of hyena and rhino! We chose the last one and locked ourselves into Trokkie. It made for a special night as our truck stood at something like a 15 degree angle! Stefaan was good: he didn’t roll over in his sleep and flatten me!

Against all odds we had a good sleep and as we were busy the next morning trying to dig away the mud (which was actually more like muddy water) and add stones in front of the wheels, the tractor arrived. The tractor did a great job, even though at certain moment he also sunk away axle-deep in the really soft and muddy riverbed. The tractor eventually pulled us off the bank backwards, then we turned around on our own steam and the tractor pulled us out again, face first onto the other bank. This way we would return the way we came.

Eventually we said our goodbyes to the two rangers and, seeing it was only mid morning, continued our trip through the park. Even though wildlife is a bit scarce, we were excited to see more eland and gemsbok, which we had only seen in Etosha in Namibia so far! But the landscapes are just so worthwhile! And if we don’t see big wild life, then we start looking for the smaller things. We saw a variety of lizards and witnessed a David and Goliath stand-off in the middle of the road!

While we were cruising along the rocky roads, we all of a sudden saw a reddish brown cloud-like movement on the road. With closer inspection we saw that it were gazillions of mini locusts making their way down the mountain, over the road and back up the mountain. We stood watching this spectacle in utter amazement. It was fascinating to see how this living wave rolled its way up the rocky mountainside as if there was nothing to stop it! When we would later drive further north in the Karoo, we would see these same waves of red crossing the road, with one big difference: in the park cars drive slow and try to avoid driving over them… on the national roads, cars drive with a high speed and the locusts don’t stand a chance. There were stretches on the road that had brownish red lines, where cars had driven over whole swarms trying to get to the other side.

After our river-sleepover the previous night, we decided to camp another night at the proper campsite and took some time to clean clothes and car of excessive mud and chill out after this good day in the park.

The following morning we took a quick walk through their fossil walkway, before leaving the park.

We now aimed for Mokala National Park and would wind our way there via Victoria West.

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