Cape Town to the Limpopo River (Kruger Park - by train and electric car)

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

My father was a railway engineer and the train brought back memories of childhood holidays. Our up journey was two days / nights instead of one. I loved waking to the sunrise over the Karoo. (But we forfeited the first night's accommodation as we slept on the train, arriving in Jo'burg station VERY early)

At Nuwekloof the train engine
At Nuwekloof the train engines

At Nuwekloof with the car carriage at the end
At Nuwekloof with the car carriage at the end

In September we saw the flamingos returned to Kamfers Dam in Kimberley. Earlier this year fledglings were rescued from a dry dam and raised by SANCCOB in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Sadly the birds are not breeding this year due to severe pollution. Kimberley's water situation is dire.

Flamingoes at Kamfers Dam at Kimberley in September
Flamingoes at Kamfers Dam
at Kimberley in September

Those huge yellow bales are wool. Pivot irrigation neon green against the brown grass.

Wool bales and pivot irrigation in the Karoo
Wool bales
and pivot irrigation in the Karoo

On the journey up we enjoyed lunch, the water feature and fever trees at the Bela Bela mall (town previously called Warmbaths). Cleverly designed as an arcade with tall entrances and a tropical roof - it was a very popular place to amble along the shops. We sat behind glass in the coolth admiring the view.

Bela Bela Mall for lunch and a passing thumbs up as I took a photo of (our) car!
Bela Bela Mall for lunch
and a passing thumbs up as I took a photo of (our) car!

We travelled through a rainy Haenertsburg where we had a short walk in the mist belt grassland. And a delicious lunch! I don't cope well with altitude - and couldn't have done the much longer hike we had planned. Maybe next time? The Ungardener fell and limped along for a few days.

Makgoba's kloof
Makgoba's kloof

At chilly Magoebaskloof the rain eventually cleared and we could enjoy the anticipated view down the valley. Chief Makgoba was killed in the Makgoba-Boer War in 1895 (the sculpture acknowledging him is 2006?)

Magoebaskloof hiking up and down the kloof and across grassland
Magoebaskloof hiking up and down the kloof
and across grassland

At Baobab Hill in Kruger Park miners walking from Mozambique stopped to sleep. On foot, donkey cart or ox wagon to Soekmekaar on their route to Johannesburg's goldmines (1919-1927).

Baobab near Punda Maria (but not the Baobab Hill one)
Baobab near Punda Maria (not the Baobab Hill one)

Crooks Corner far North-Eastern corner of South Africa (in 2008 we went to the North-Western corner Union's End in our Land Rover). Very dry, then suddenly tall green forests banking the river.

Crooks Corner forest (once were outlaws)
Crooks Corner forest
(once were outlaws)

But the 'great grey-green greasy Limpopo River' was absolutely dry across 500 metres to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Limpopo River was absolutely dry in September
Limpopo River was absolutely dry in September

Beneath the near bank was a trickle from the Luvuvhu River with a few crocodiles. Lala palms and flame Combretum.

Lala palm and flame Combretum in September Luvuvhu River
Lala palm and flame Combretum in September
Luvuvhu River inflow

We were a bit disappointed with the accommodation in Kruger. In the tented camp at Punda Maria (way up North for Crooks Corner) we had a nice wide deck with buck wandering past and resting in the heat of the day. But there was also a leaking whiffy sewer!

We had self-catering accommodation, but the hot plates didn't work - so we were 'forced' to eat at the restaurant. Next time I know not to take supplies for cooking. International tourists don't self cater, and South Africans braai (barbeque). At Punda Maria there was one vegetarian choice which we ate, three nights in a row. My turn to slip on a gravelly slope, land on my knee and slide to a shocked halt.

Punda Maria tented camp
Punda Maria tented camp

Olifants rest camp I did enjoy. We had a (built) rondavel. Circular with a thatched roof and a NOT tented shower and loo. We had a magnificent view from the verandah sweeping down to the Olifants River, which gratefully had water!

Olifants lovely view down to the river
Olifants lovely view down to the river

Our last night in Kruger at Lower Sabie was again disappointing. No view. Tiny enclosed kitchen reeked of rat poison (and the secondary poisoning implications for predators in a nature reserve!) 


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Pictures by Diana and Jürg Studer

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Comments

  1. The train looks wonderful, it’s lovely to have it bring back childhood memories as well. The flamingoes, amazing! The trip sounds wonderful aside from the rat poison and the no cooking situation, I love you car, it makes me thing of a bumble bee lol, have a great week and thank you for the adventure!

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  2. A mixed bag in terms of accommodations it seems but you collected some wonderful photos. I hope the injuries each of you sustained during your travels are well-healed by this point. I'm distressed to see how dry conditions are persisting there.

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    Replies
    1. There is hope for the Limpopo River - that is summer rainfall. But the Karoo and the Northern Cape farmers are desperate.

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  3. "Tiny enclosed kitchen reeked of rat poison (and the secondary poisoning implications for predators in a nature reserve!) "

    Winced and cringed to read that. Here in Southern California two rare precious Mountain Lions died from rat poison. My heart aches.

    No less sorrowful to see dry rivers in your beautiful country. Still, much beauty in your photos.

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    Replies
    1. In Cape Town it is urban caracals, similar to your mountain lions, and owls

      (please - don't use rat poison. That and roadkill - hard for them to survive with people)

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  4. What fun adventures! Travelling by train seems so romantic--I hope to do that someday. And that view of the valley is stunning.

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  5. What a treat! I absulutely love trains, Always dreamed about the Blue Train in South Africa and other clasic trains. The journey through the african landscape is always very apealing...and those Baobab trees, I wish I could be able to be near one! But, seeing the Limpopo river without water worries me and makes it bit sad, part of my family used to live in Mozambique, and when I was a child I used the hear stories about the river and specialy the major floods. Thank you for sharing and bringing a bit of Africa to me.

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  6. Enjoyed your train adventures, Diana. Brought back fond memories of childhood steam-train journeys as a child. P.x

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  7. I had to follow this post if only for the Limpopo river - a name that somehow resounded through my childhood - must have been the Kipling story and geography lessons.. but it was dry! Long train journeys are so alluring and I feel I enjoyed many of the sights just by sitting here. I wish I could manage some of the climbs you obviously took

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