Continuing our Safari, our Adventure!….(please bear with me … many more photos are to be added in the next few weeks, but I am going offline to my bush house for a while…meanwhile I have also created a blog on the Cyclone Idai and flooding of our Save River! so keep visiting, enjoy, and watch this space!)
we stop at Askram, a desert town with San bushman shelters here and there at the side of the dusty road, and the occasional fleeting glimpse of a San man in loincloth and with classic San peppercorn hair. How I would value being able to converse with and meet some of these true people of the bush, with their real knowledge of arid survival and star stories, and how sad that they seem so marginalized in their own world….
At Askram Clive fills the fuel tank and I wander off to discover the local coffee shop- a treasure trove of Kalagadi salt for sale, second hand books, filter coffee and baked treats. Two welcoming local ladies are working away in the immaculate large adjoining kitchen rolling out dozens and dozens of biscuits and laying out trays of rusks…and Oh! a cut and glistening lemon meringue pie beckons me to taste but Clive wants to press on to meet our friends Dirk and Carol at Twee Rivieren- we are already late. With a last regretful look at that pie, I quickly purchase coffee and salt and am dragged away… but am at least partly consoled by the incredible colours of the landscape…
and heartwarming signs honouring the presence of owls…
We meet Carol, Dirk and Corrie at Kalahari Lodge, Twee Rivieren, wow wow such gorgeous desert scenery..
and are later joined by Trish and Bob all the way from Natal. Happy reunions, meeting of new friends, and after a cool swim, I get close up to yellow mongooses..
followed by a magnificent thunder cloud sunset …
and I begin to fall in love with the desert grasses…
The Parks shop yields a wonderful book by our friends Gus and Margie Mills, which I dip into with relish….
re-inforcing my fascination with these misunderstood and much maligned creatures, the Spotted and the Brown hyenas…such characters and so socially complex!
Whew…we pass and admire the stunning Sociable weavers nest on the way to Nossob…
our eyes are peeled for pygmy falcons who co-exist within these amazing nests…
30 and 31 Camping at Nossob- after a bit of discussion (!) we discover the best way to set up our new tent, then head for an afternoon drive of amazing beauty-
deep gold lion-mane grass stirs my imagination…
pale chanting goshawks abound…
They are watching for the lizards…..
…rats and mice that form such a huge part of their diet…
Stately Red hartebeeste are new species for us..glorious red coats..
A hyena lollops past…
and I discover how the stately Oryx scratches an itch….
the weather changes…and enveloping dust storms swirling up the dry Nossob riverbed.
Followed by heavy scattered rainfall and rainbows, rolling thunder…..
This river is reputed to run only once every 100 years or so I am told, so we are incredibly lucky to see this life-giving water lying on the thirsty earth…..
One stretch of the dirt road is tyre deep in water and pools quickly collect on the Nossob sands.
Life-giving rain does not seem to impress this lioness and her bedraggled cub…
Watch out for tortoises!
We get back to camp and are impressed to find that our newly acquired tent has withstood the rushing water that deluged it! View of a sad and battered male lion with a blind right eye from the hide at Nossop. Wonder if he was the victim of a thorn or fight…
The next day, a drive reveals many Kgalagadi wonders- the previously barren three thorn Rhizogum bushes are awash with delicate white/yellow flowers…
a leopard tortoise plods along on the newly wet earth,
a yellow Cape Cobra peeps out of a burrow and just behind it a Barking Gecko cheekily digs a hole, puffing up spurts of desert sand…
wow! water everywhere…Then we have wonderful views of a classic Kalahari black- maned lion striding along the river bed and roaring his challenge to an unseen but distantly-heard rival,
as a young and elegant female strolls along the river bed in the opposite direction towards our camp, peeping back at him every now and then (and he is very aware of her)!….
All evening we are powerfully serenaded by the magnificent male and others unseen.
1 and 2 Feb we head towards Polentswa -Camping on the Botswana side of the transfrontier park, no fence, giving a sense of freedom which I know I will like!
No tapped water and a long drop, with views forever – a Hot day when we arrive- guessing well over 40 degrees, and the mice and birds dive into the water we provide,
but we soon pitch our tent and drive to sit at the waterhole,
where I sketch….
we are honoured with a sighting of the two local king cats- black- maned lion brothers-for over an hour they lie comatose under an acacia tree but once the sun loses its bite they twitch tails, roll over, scratch themselves and get up….
to rapidly approach the Polentswa Pan for a long drink of water.
A lean younger male is flanked the older heavier brother, and as they approach we can see that the older male is battle scarred and time-worn, Clive estimating that he is nine or ten years old.
We notice that he keeps twitching his right upper lip- why?
After he drinks, he approaches a tree near us to sharpen his impressive talons ….
He collapses close to us, and yawning wide, gives us a view right down his impressive throat- maybe we can see the possible source of his irritation- a bad back molar or a gum infection …?
for solace he rises and collapses heavily against his brother-
this gold and grey grass seems to echo the colours in the brothers’ manes…
the night brings a spectacular sunset
as we rest contentedly in our campsite
Returning to Polentswa Pan next morning – the lions have moved on- but we are entranced by a clever black-backed jackal lying near the pan- deceptively dozing..
he acts disinterested as clouds of doves, who are flying in and waiting in the surrounding acacia trees build up critical mass and courage and descend to drink en masse,
but he has a plan… as they sink their heads to drink he trots forward then dashes madly at them, surprising them to frantic flight …
and wow! He catches a flapping bird!
A raptor, a hungry juvenile lanner falcon, hurtles past opportunistically, hoping to catch an unwary fleeing dove… (or pinch the Jackals catch?!), and it takes clever Mr Jack only minutes to devour the whole thing, feathers and all…
Doves gather in droves on nearby trees, building up the courage to try drinking,
Mr Jack returns to his dozy looking vigil and makes a few more dashes as we watch, but seems to lose impetus, merely scattering the birds without coming near to gripping one in his jaw. Has his first dove meal slowed him down slightly!?
To make matters worse, the juvenile lanner falcon perched on a nearby vantage point keeps bombing the drinking flocks and sabotaging the little canid’s efforts!
The gorgeous Namaqua sandgrouse seem more clever than the doves, more wary, perhaps because there are less of them, and they have a faster reaction time or take-off than the doves? They drink their fill, but with cautious eyes to the skies…
An evening dinner of homemade Naude boerewors and Sadza around the camp fire ends the day, with a delicate young Cape fox joining us and Tree mice nimbly clambering around in the Acacia tree above us as the sun sets.
3,4, and 5th Nossob Camping
Early morning on the 4th, two opposing prides of lions roar and rumble at each other just outside the camp site, the roars bouncing off the canvas of our tent..and each time the yodels and songs of the jackals rise in a crescendo to finish the serenade. An early morning drive reveals multiple lion and jackal tracks then we observe over 30 jackals parading and nibbling at unseen things, (insects?) on the newly sprung green grass on the Nossob riverbed.
Driving along the river bed, baby wildebeest abound…new signs of life everywhere
we then spot a cheetah crouched in thorny kalagadi thorn scrub staring longingly at a herd of springbok who graze on the newly spring green grass, courtesy of the rains we have been experiencing,
but the antelope seem to sense the evil intent and move steadily away down river….
The cheetah gives up her initial approach, and crosses the road in front of us to pace past me between the thorny bushes following a parallel path to the springbok. Clever, she is now well-hidden by the thorn scrub…Wonder if she’ll be successful today?
For dinner I heat Buffalo Bolognese
and we drink the Pinot noir wine from Belzalel Estate. A Pearl spotted owlet roosts right above our heads in the shade tree- he moves to wherever we are, posing for photographs and peering down past us- is he looking for bugs in the light or just enjoying our company?!
The clever and opportunistic jackals that usually arrive at dusk and weave sinuously around the camp chairs and tents are strangely absent- then we hear multiple Jackal voices singing in the river bed nearby- an amazing chorus. Perhaps the Jackal convention that we observed earlier in the day is ongoing?!
I love sleeping with that glorious sound as the yodeling snd yipping continues off and on for most of the night. Song Dogs of Africa, I call the Black-backed jackals. Barn owls and white faced owls call constantly, a lovely addition to the Jackal-Song
5th February at dawn finds us enjoying La Lucie filter coffee and Denise Sparrow’s homemade rusks in our car as we leave north from Nossob and almost immediately we are rewarded for our early start by the view of two elegant Cape Fox kits playing and grooming each other in the sandy road.
I am enthralled by these delicate creatures as they tumble and lie flat than pounce on each other, breaking off their game to patrol a thorn bush for possible unwary mice, than resuming their games of catch and tag on the road. The epitome of grace and beauty.
New found friends Alan and Sally, (with whom we shared a drink and chocolate last night round the campfire), are back in camp as we arrive late morning and report that they have patiently again watched and followed our female cheetah. As a gift for their patience after two and a half hours of observation, they watched her successfully stalk and bring down a springbok, fight off the descending jackals and eat. Of course they have a vantage point in spotting the spotted cat, being a head taller than all other vehicles in their glorious Iveco Italian home-on-wheels. I want one of those. What a mobile art studio that would make….. dreams dreams….
6,7 and 8th Rooiputs camping,
6th February – many tortoises abound -trundling the roads after the sporadic rains..some with sun-bleached shells
we find a suricate colony with multiple burrows on the far side of the road, and one suricate enthrals us- standing apart on our side of the road it calls an alarm, staring into the blackthorn bush next to my window…
then runs onto the road in front of us, with a companion, to summon help!
and immediately the rest of the team join it, dashing across the road from their burrows with tails erect and ready for action….
after a lot of scrabbling and lots of vocalizing within the thick bush suddenly an eruption occurs on our side….out pops out a young cape fox!
The suricates are in co-ordinated attack formation, hot on his heels…
but the fox is clever, disappears in a flash and leaps to hide in another bush…the suricates are confused! (I begin to get the feeling they are easily confused?!)
but they know something I don’t…back to the black thorn bush they dash, more scuffling and chattering from the depths…
and out pops another fox, an older animal this time, perhaps Mum, and again hotly pursued by the intrepid team!
The suricate team chase her across the road but she disappears so fast that they lose focus, and clearly distracted by the sound of crispy beetles or some such delicacy rustling in the grass, they start rooting around and digging… short attention spans!
we have outdoor showers, long drop and no fencing, with a shower outlet at which the resident lions and a jackal regularly drinks. Lion rumbles have been our wake-up call this morning, but the only trace of them we have seen so far is their footprints between our tents and the ablutions I am entranced with a bat ear fox den, three foxes stare- incredible wide ears directed at us, first flat and then pricked upright in our direction. They soon move away, joined by a fourth, and disappear over the dune.
9th February-We take a rolling dune road through red and pink dunes traversed by stately oryx against the Cobalt skies, purple grey scrub and yellow grass, to get from Rooiputs to the Kgalagadi Tented Camp on the Auob river.
10th Kalahari Tented Camp – luxury tents …and yellow mongooses cheekily join us at dusk, as we sit on the verandah of our lodge, hoping for a taste of our birthday burgers…
On this day, the 10th, we start early and find a wild cat kit staring at us with blue eyes in the fork of an acacia tree which adorns the banks of the Auob River – nestled on a stacked heap of dry thorn twigs which was probably a long-tailed tree mouse nest…
Further down the road I spot a
Giant Eagle owl, face to the trunk of the huge Camel thorn tree he roosts in…
Leaving the ranted camp after a night of thunderstorms and rain we depart en route to Mabuasehube.
Two young male lions recline on a dune flanking the
Two cheetah preparing to hunt purposefully pace past us up the river bed…
Turning onto the dune road to Nossob, we spot a fat Puffadder oozing across the road and just further on a egg-yolk Golden Cape Cobra slithered in front of our car, fast disappearing down a joke at the base of a small thorn tree, then rapidly climbing its way up through the thorny branches, mobbed by excited little birds.
We sleep the night at Nossob.
Mabu 12/13/14th feb
On the 12th February we depart at dawn For 3 nights camping at Mabuasehubu Pan -along 4c4route they the dunes with a few halts along the way to pull our following vehicle and caravan up a few steep dune slopes. Wonderful puddles of rain on the roads near testimony to last nights storm- eagles and antelope loving the fresh water—we are a mixed herd of Hartebeestw eland and Oryx I. The deep yellow grass- and another heard ifhartebeestw with many many babies at heel. Jackal and lion floor everywhereon the roads then stop for a padkos lunch at Matppe Camp site en route . Arrive at Mabuasehube Pan via Mapya Ozanne – stunning scenery with the Ian’s holding patchy sheets of water.
Camp site 2abd 3 are delightful -Aframes shelters ( that lions live to lie in to escape the heat of the day!) and a long drop with a grey scarred toilet seat ‘why the scars?’ you ask- well definately lion toothmarks by the size of them…some bored cat was obviously chewing on the plastic recently. I hope any human occupants were long out of the toilet area at that stage…