What was supposed to be a pleasant trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park over Easter for Wayne Jacobs and a friend turned out to be a nightmare experience. He feels the park and its administration are a disgrace.
A few months ago I asked some friends to join me for the Easter weekend plus a few days in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I am an avid off-roader and have indeed had a few articles published about my travels. My Pajero, with its orange bottom section, is well know all over southern Africa, with people coming up to chat and look at it.
I went to the Kgalagadi web page and booked seven nights accommodation. I was sent all my confirmation documents from Gabarone, done in print. I confirmed the bookings and paid in full.
It so happened that only two of us ended up going, and the other four lost their payments, in terms of the conditions.
My friend and I left Cape Town early one morning and were at the Twee Rivieren entrance at 17.15 the same day. We walked into a fancy new complex and were greeted by a pleasant lady who took our booking papers, but could not find anything about our booking. We were told to go to the opposite side of the entrance hall – the Botswana side – as we had booked via Botswana. This seemed a bit strange, as we had followed the information on the park’s web page.
This is where things started to go very wrong. The person who looked at our booking documents seemed confused, and muttered something about the Gabarone office being closed at that time.
I told him that after driving 1200km to get there, I would drive through the boom if needs be, but I intended to sleep in Twee Rivieren that night – “just over there”, and I pointed to the campsite.
I think he realised that this was a man who would do what he said, so he instructed the man at the gate to let us in. There was no checking of the vehicle. I had five massive bags of wood I’d purchased in Upington, and later saw a sign that no wood was to be brought into the park. It is no wonder we are the hottest place in the world for poaching. There is simply nobody who does their work correctly.
Twee Rivieren was disgusting. The toilets stank, the shower water was not running away because the outlet was blocked – the place was a mess. Two days earlier the sewer pipes had burst and a section of the camp was covered in sewage. Could they not have got a front-end loader and turned the soil? It was the Easter weekend, after all.
The next morning it was off to Nossop. Well, it the road was a total disgrace – 162km of corrugations the size of 2-litre Coke bottles cut in half. They were the worst I have ever driven on, shaking the car and everything inside to pieces. Two beers and my bar fridge pipe burst.
I have been all over southern Africa in my trusted Pajero. It has done Mana Pools to Cape Town and every pass and game reserve in between, but never in conditions like this. You could see the look on people’s faces, coming the other way. They all looked as though they had seen a ghost. I pitied the poor guys with low profile tyres and caravans. I was running at 1-bar pressure, but nothing helps when the roads are so bad.
We got to Nossop and our reservation was not accepted. I had to pay R342 for a camp site – no power, no water and a broken braai. What a cheek!
The next day we headed to Mabusehube Pan. Here we found the shower frame had rusted off at the ground and been left against the side frame of the toilet. That made no difference to me as my vehicle has a hot pressurised shower, but think of those who don’t have that luxury.
Back at Nossop we were told that you have to book and pay. What for? It is a normal sand track. I never paid, as they had enough of my money already due to the messed up bookings.
By the way, it is a big thing that the vehicle must be a 4×4 for both runs of about 114km, going there and back on the trail. My loaded Pajero went there and back in two wheel drive. Just give a little pressure as you approach the small dunes and momentum takes you over. What 4×4 trail are they talking about?
We had a run-in at Mabusehube with a couple who arrived, and started their introduction with the words, “If you think you are going to stay here tonight there is going to be trouble as we have booked this place.” But he was clever – he left as quickly as he came, and I stayed. I had booked the site, and that night a Botswana patrol came around and confirmed my booking was correct. There seemed to have been a double booking. It is a joke, the way the place is run.
Back in Nossop, I would not pay another R342 for a site. I flatly refused, and found a site for the night. Enough was enough. I had paid Botswana, and I was not paying another cent. They could sort out their own mess.
I had also booked and paid for – and this was confirmed on a booking form from Botswana – that I was staying at Swartbas Camp, 7km from Nossop. At Nossop, I was told there was not a camp site there. It was a meeting place to start the 4×4 route and there were no facilities. I didn’t need any facilities, but I was not allowed to camp there. By this time my frustration was at the point that I just had to walk out of the office to avoid a big row.
I left Nossop and drove back to Twee Rivieren over that disgusting road. You cannot even drive a little to the side as the walls are too steep.
When we got to Twee Rivieren, my friend and I looked at each other, and no discussion was necessary. It was just a case of, “Let’s get the hell out of here” – three days early.
We left at 15.30 and at midnight pulled in at Clanwilliam Dam to sleep for the night. We headed home the next morning, totally disgusted with the trip.
It makes me sick when you read articles about the Kgalagadi and the writers fail to mention the roads. They stand there for the photos with a big smile, as if nothing is wrong. We are just accepting everything in this country as it is run into the ground by incompetent people with a bad attitude and useless staff. Visitors seem to accept that the conditions we are subjected to are simply OK.
To those under the impression that the Kgalagadi is paradise, please try somewhere else. It is the worst, most unkempt, disgusting reserve in southern Africa. Nothing remotely compares with the state of the place including the toilets, roads and staff.
Across our borders are beautiful reserves with clean amenities and pleasant staff. The Kgalagadi is a disgrace to SANparks, but then one must also realise who is now in charge of the Parks Board, so I understand why nothing is as it used to be and some of us like sheep, simply accept it. What a shame.