Camping delights for ‘kings’ of the Kgalagadi


Camping delights for ‘kings’ of the Kgalagadi

Even though she was plagued by roaring ‘lions' and temperatures above 40ºC, EMILIA SMUTS ate well wherever she pitched her tent.


WE went camping in the Kgalagadi. Even saw lions, man, and everything…

But this is where the similarity with the YouTube videos ends. Because the Smutses are not what you would call “campers". We do not own a bush caravan, a roof tent or a roof rack with petrol cans on top. We always fit five people with all their belongings into a double-cab bakkie. When we went camping in the Kruger for the first time last year, we forgot the borrowed tent's pegs at home.

But we are getting better at it. One problem we solved this time was the one with the “lions". All the driving and eating meat has an uncomfortable consequence, especially for people who don't only eat meat. Deep in the silence of the night one would therefore hear something like roaring from the direction of the ablution blocks. Part of the solution was that we rented a camping fridge, which meant we could take fresh stuff with us. Because in the shops of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the fresh goods become scarcer the further north you drive. And you have to forget about getting by with just a cooler box at this time of year.

Although we are novice campers, we are seasoned eaters. This creates problems because I hate meal planning and have a systemic inability to stick to such planning efforts. This made for, shall we say, interesting food combinations if the fridge contained plan A and my head contained plan B. We are learning slowly but surely. What did work well was to prepare one main meal a day and use the leftovers for a meal the next day.

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I reluctantly drew up a plan of sorts. Thus, our rough-and-tumble camp menu:

Day 1in the Molopo Kalahari Lodge, not far from the park: The road from Cape Town to the Kgalagadi is long, which means you don't really feel like cooking at the end of the day. So I made a pot of soup for dinner in advance. Because you have to light a fire in Africa, we had braaibroodjies and jaffles (also with ready-made filling) with it.

Day 2, Twee Rivieren: In Keimoes we stopped at the Kalahari Vleishuis for kebabs and sausages. It's an impressive place where the dynamic Tricia van der Merwe told us about her husband's wonderful wines and her penny polony, which is sold all over the Northern Cape. For our first night in the park, the menu therefore consisted of grilled meat and sausages with boiled squash and baby potatoes. But not penny polony.

Day 3, Mata-Mata: We had wraps, with salad leaves, vegetables, mayonnaise, mustard and tinned ham that had been waiting to be eaten since Christmas. It was perfect at the end of a hot day. It was accompanied by Germanic hops beverages.

Day 4, Mata-Mata: Grilled meat and butternut. It's a strange combination, I know. But at this stage I was already fed up with the chatterboxes in the hide and a raw butternut was just the thing to throw at them. The wise route was therefore to get temptation out of the way. Cut lengthwise then sliced, seasoned and drizzled with olive oil and butter, wrapped in foil and baked over the coals. The leftover butternut was used in a salad the next afternoon.

Day 5, Nossob: Blue cheese tomato pasta, for two reasons. The first was that we arrived at the camp in the afternoon when all the shaded campsites had already been taken. At 4pm it was 45ºC in the shade, except there was no shade. No one felt like making a fire that night. We drained the store's sparkling water. Yes, also the beer. The second reason was that you can't eat meat every day, and I was afraid of the lions' roar in my own tent…

Day 6, Nossob: The next morning we found a better campsite with nice shade. In the afternoon we grilled chicken breasts, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice and seasoned with a mixture of herbs, salt and pepper, over the coals, under the shade of a tree. Also pan bread made from purchased dough and baked on a cast-iron pan, combined with steamed cauliflower, broccoli and baby potatoes with garlic butter.

Day 7, Nossob: Vetkoek equals holiday, so it was an inevitable item on the menu. I bought bread dough in the Cape and froze it. We ate it in the afternoon with jam and cheese.

Day 8, Twee Rivieren: After a long day of driving, we ate pita bread stuffed with the last leftover crumbles of cheese, chicken, salad and vegetables.

Day 9, Kuboesberg, between Loeriesfontein and Nieuwoudtville: Pork sausages, boiled potatoes, mustard, and beans in tomato sauce, spiffed up with fried onions, garlic, bell peppers and hot peppers. The next morning we had a big breakfast of bacon, eggs and pancakes — and had enough left over for the road back to Cape Town.

Our other meals of the day looked something like this:

Breakfast: Coffee or tea with biscuits, muesli with yoghurt and fruit.

Snacks for the road and light meals: Boiled eggs, cold grilled meat, wraps or pita bread filled with leftovers and sliced ​​fresh vegetables. There were also rusks, biltong, tasty cookies, salty crackers and cheese. Also fruit and vegetable crudités and flavoured cottage cheese. We often sat with a glass of wine, salty crackers and cheese at a watering hole and watched the sun set. There are few better ways to end a day.

You can order fresh roosterkoek and bread at Nossob and Mata-Mata. If I had known that, I wouldn't have bought bread dough beforehand. 

Other practical food tips for amateur campers like us:

  • A gas bottle with a plate is indispensable for an early morning coffee in the Bialetti, or another cup at a picnic spot. We will have to buy a wind shield for the gas plate.
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, butternut, onions, garlic, apples and citrus are fresh foods that keep well outside the fridge and are robust enough to withstand the long journey and heat.
  • Fresh food that kept well in the fridge included carrots, firm lettuce (gem or cos), broccoli, cauliflower, shredded cabbage, tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • We found that we ate a lot less than usual — probably because we ate too much in between meals when the road got long. Next time I will take less food.
  • My cooking equipment consisted of a kettle, a 3-litre saucepan, a cast-iron pan and a wok, plus the spoons, knives and things, as well as a plastic dish (5 litres). I could have done with a smaller mixing bowl, but luckily there were plastic containers with lids that became available as the cookies and rusks disappeared.

Nuts and raisins

One of the favourite snacks was nuts and raisins, with a mixture from my childhood:

  • 500 g datal or hanepoot raisins (with seeds)
  • 2-3 cups of nuts of your own choice, for example raw almonds, roasted cashews, pecans or good quality mixed nuts.

Blue cheese tomato pasta

Make the sauce in a wok or deep pan while the pasta is cooking. We used 1½ packs of pasta screws for five people.


  • 500 g bag of small tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • dash of olive oil and/or a dollop of butter
  • 2 wedges (100g each) creamy blue cheese, diced or crumbled
  • 250ml cream
  • enough salt and freshly ground pepper


For the sauce:

1. Heat the tomatoes in the oil/butter in a wok.  

2. Add the cheese cubes and cream and heat slowly to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. 

Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce. Grind over a little more pepper. We didn't have fresh basil leaves for garnish and I forgot the pesto I wanted to drizzle over instead. The pasta was still very tasty without it.

Apricot and almond squares

Friend Wieke took good care of treats, including these delicious cookies made from DeeDee Stovel's book, Picnic.



  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup soft butter
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ⅔ cup cake flour, of which 2 tablespoons are set aside
  • ⅔ cup whole grain flour (preferably finely ground, such as that of Gideon Milling)
  • 2 eggs, whipped
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup almond flakes
  • few drops of almond essence
  • ¼ t baking powder


1. Set the oven to 180ºC. Grease a square bowl of approximately 23 cm.

2. Briefly boil the apricots in the water and leave to rest for 10 minutes until nicely plump. Drain and finely chop the apricots.

3. Meanwhile, beat the butter, sugar and flour (except the 2 tablespoons) together, press firmly on the bottom of the greased bowl and bake for 20 minutes until light brown.

4. Mix together the eggs, brown sugar, almonds, leftover cake flour, seasoning and baking powder. Stir in the apricots. Spread over the crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the topping is set and the edges start to brown. Let cool and cut into cubes. Store in airtight containers.

Back at home, the bearded man told me something else I didn't know: he stumbled to the ablution block one night, blissfully under the impression that he was the Roaring King of the South. To his shock and surprise, a lioness let loose from the woman's side with an effort that made his sound like a fart against thunder. He still shudders when he talks about it. I will have to pack even more salad next time.

♦ VWB ♦

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