First stop en route to the Karoo National Park outside Beaufort West was the Huguenot Tunnel's toll plaza. R13 later and we were whizzing up the mountains and through them, and on our way to the hot hinterland.
We discovered the first of many roadworks a few hours into our trek, and waited for ten minutes while traffic in the opposite direction was allowed through. By the end of the trip I was assessing local provincial government corruption levels by the state of the roads. Let's just say that I think the Free State must be in big trouble. More later. The Western and Eastern Cape were quite impressive.
It was hot when we arrived.
We changed campsites to find more shade for the tent and car, and moved from a really grassy stand to a small, bare one surrounded by acacia. But at least we were protected from the sun. It was 36'C in the shade.
At this point A Very Sad Thing Happened, but I will write a separate post about it.
I learned on our last expedition to Namibia that setting up camp fast and making sure a fire is going well before dark is the best way to maintain inner peace. Starting to cook in the pitch dark is harder than it sounds, especially if everything has to be set up from scratch. And I hate the white glare of headlights and gas lamps, so light comes from candles with glass shades. So the new routine of early nights and early mornings starts, with sleep feeling normal at 9pm...
Supper was lamb chops with rosemary, lemon and berber pepper. Very good. And bubbly for Valentine's Day.
When it got really dark big moths and other night insects made me a bit shivery - they were attracted to the electric lamp that came on automatically near our stand. We have only ever experienced this night flurry of wings in really dry places. Why is that?
After I'd returned from my shower, and was ready for bed in the tent, Vince popped back in and said, Did you take my toiletry bag from the washrooms?
That bloody guy stole it, then, he muttered, and popped back out again.
Padding back and forth outside, he returned with the bag soon, searched in it, then muttered again and this time stormed out. He doesn't storm very easily.
His bag with fancy electric razor and headlamp plus sundry had been removed from the bathroom, and his T-shirt that had covered it hung up carefully on a hook. Odd. When he returned to the bathrooms he spotted the elderly, fattish man camping near us, leaving with a bag that looked just like it, which the man denied when confronted. Vince reached for the bag and unzipped it- sure enough. When he got back to our tent he discovered that his prized headlamp was missing, so he went to their caravan to ask where it was. Don't know nothing about the headlamp was the lame answer. Then 2 minutes later the man comes to us and gives it back! Scared, maybe.
No tyres were slashed, no fuss was made. It was just bizarre. Camp kleptomaniac. They had KwaZulu-Natal number plates and cleared out of camp early the next morning.
And so to sleep. That first night started awfully hot, but it got cool very fast, and we pulled the unzipped sleeping bags over us sometime in the fox-singing dark. We were happy to be there, but still sad from The Very Sad Thing and rattled by The Thief.
We hoped the rest of the trip would be better. I worried about jinxes.