At Tkabies

by Vincent Parker

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Monday 14 April  S28° 42.33’ E 20° 54.38’

There was a light rain shower while I was packing up to move on in the morning. I first went a short distance upstream along the main road to Upington to do some observation near the roadside, and then doubled back to go to the Tkabies campsite, just 7km downstream from Keimoes, where I will camp for the next week.

The campsite is next to the main road, on a green lawn bordered by flowerbeds among vineyards. The ablution facility is beautifully furnished and well kept. It is a short walk from the bank of the outermost of the five channels which here make up the Orange River. The bank is densely overgrown, so that one only occasionally glimpses open water while walking beside the bank.

There are four other campers in two caravans, who have been here for some months. They are technicians from Gauteng who work on the construction of the main plant of the new solar energy project for the region. The plant lies between here and Upington.

Tuesday 15 April

I walked by the riverbank, and tried crossing one of the old suspension foot bridges across the stream to Elim Island. It was not easy, and I had to hold on to the cables with both hands. It is difficult to imagine how supplies were carried in and produce out over these bridges in the past.

A hitch-hiker carrying heavy bags wandered into the campsite from the road, and asked for food. I gave him some bread and a banana and he went on his way. I realised later that I had neglected my new-found duty as a journalist (although an amateur one) to get his story.

Among the vineyards (here as well as at my previous stop), there are a great number of biting midges, fleas and mosquitoes, and my legs are a mass of itchy lumps.

Wednesday 16 April

I cycled westward along the road to Kakamas. This is a fairly built-up peri-urban area, with many residences (labourers cottages and larger dwellings), some agriculture and some natural vegetation. I took coffee at the Akkerboom (oak tree) farm stall. The farm stall is very rustic, cluttered with a large range of dried and preserved produce, and decorated with rusty farm and other ancient implements. There is a very small, newly planted oak tree in front (the original oak is out of sight at the farmhouse), and two small Baobabs (these occur naturally a long way north of here).

Later, I needed to take my pick-up for a spin because the fuel tank had been overfilled, and the build-up of pressure during the heat of the day resulted in some spillage, so I drove into Keimoes and bought some fresh produce.

A number of bird species have recently expanded their ranges westward along the Orange River. The Hadeda, Crested Barbet and Burchell’s Coucal are now well established here. The Common Myna has also intruded into the Kalahari recently, but has done so through the northern woodlands, and not along the river.

Thursday 17 April

I cycled northwards along the road to Lutzputs. Away from the river, the terrain quickly becomes flat and treeless, and with dense grass cover (for now). I was pestered alternately by a swarm of midges and a swarm of flies, a consequence, I guess, of being in an area that has received more rain than usual. A pair of policemen in their van stopped and enquired where I was going. They then headed for a solar powered pump installation on the farmland a little way off the road, where it was evident that some of the solar panels had gone missing.

Friday 18 April

I repeated the excursion of yesterday in order to collect more data from the neighbouring grid cells. I moved at a slower pace though, because I had had a bout of nausea and an upset stomach the previous evening, possibly brought on by breathing petrol fumes on Tuesday, or by sand-flea bites, and was feeling a little feeble.

The long term campers left for the long weekend, and were replaced by a couple of travellers making an overnight stop on the way to exploring the Richtersveld.

There seem to be domestic cats around wherever there are vineyards. I guess they are kept to control rats, especially when grapes are laid out to dry.

Saturday 19 April

I cyled westwards on the main road, in order to have coffee and melktert at the Akkerboom farm stall, and to collect some data. I called in at Die Punt campsite, where I will be staying next week (it is close to the farm stall) to make my reservation (I had been unable to reach them by telephone). Die Punt was crammed full of easter holiday-makers. I assume it will be less crowded by Tuesday.

Sunday 20 April

I went west again, to collect more data for neighbouring grid cells (the Akkerboom farm stall was closed). While wandering among vineyards near the river, I noticed a pile of very small shells (fresh-water clams I think) and a large bone (probably of a cow), possibly a midden of a family of otters

The campsite owner has a Landcruiser pick-up with a camper body and solar panels attached. I am not envious though. The sleeping space being inside instead of on top means that there is insufficient packing space.