No, seriously, one would assume that the small folk in the bush would stand together and protect each other from the large, vicious ugly ones like the lion, cheetah, and Hyena (have I mentioned the Brown Hyena? Nanananana…). But Nooooo, they are like the final days of the Roman Empire, back stabbing, scheming, murderous little bastards, all of them!
I am driving along, as one does in the Kalahari, and spot a lovely serene looking Tawny Eagle, perched (see, English getting much better) on a Sociable Weavers nest. Now one would assume he is the large predator in this little band of robbers. But wait, next thing a Pigmy Falcon swoops in and starts attacking him! And with every dive bomb it does, it makes the sound equal to, or actually surpassing the London air raids of WW2! Poor Tawny, sitting there minding his own business does not attack back, it does not defend itself. It sits there like the big eagle he is, and takes it! Now one can understand the Falcon’s conundrum as he gets free room and board and very nice fat snakes from the sociable weavers in return for protecting the nest. And he was most probably fearing a horses head on his pillow the next morning, one can not break a contract with the Don. So, yes, he should have at least put some attempt into it, to show Joey times 200 that he does NOT want a Horse head on his pillow. But this over the top display of ferocious mental determination from the Pigmy Falcon would have won WW2 in three months! With no sirens needed!
But it does not stop there. Three Kestrels (small little raptors really, not even worth the word raptor, more like raptits) attack a dove. That symbol of peace, of flying out over wedding guests, of lily white breasts, and serene smiles. Two of the Kestrels tear it apart (PG rating please) from different directions. Then the third also wants his share, so they divide it again. It was blood and feathers, an aerial blood fest, over in seconds. With one lonely feather drifting sadly to the ground the only testament of the peace that reigned over the valley before the attack of the Hitchcock Kestrels!
But oh wait, there’s more! If you call now, I will tell you all about the two striped mice. You know, those cute little kite surfers? They are basically just cannon fodder for Goshawks. It is like wholesale slaughter! I get all exited, with the sighting of a Goshawk, on the ground, and before I can grab my camera to get a nice shot of this pretty Raptor, it takes off, with one of the cutie mice clutched in its Talons! Well, as they say, one mouse in the Talon is better than two in the pocket! But knowing these Goshawks like I now do, chances are he has three chained to his nest already, and every time he brings in a new catch, he taunts them all with promises of torture and mayhem! Fodder I tell you!
But the pinnacle of atrocity must surely be the hour and a half standoff in the dunes. Not lions stalking Springbok, not cheetah on the hunt, nooo, it is the bloody Goshawks again! A family of Suricates left their hole digging (for sleeping purposes) a little too late. So while the three adults industrially try to find hard ground (sand dunes have a tendency to cave in on your head, or so I am told) to dig in, three itty bitty babies frolic about in the grassy knolls. But, like the shooter in the observatory, or behind the grassy knoll, the Goshawk stalks, in slow sweeping circles. The next thing, the Chief Suricate starts making the most distressing warning sound ever heard. Even compared to the aforementioned air raid sirens! Babies make a beeline for mom, adults pop up like Jack in the Boxes, and general pandemonium ensues. It is babies tripping over each other, and adults running so fast in circles, that tail hairs are still fluttering over Kalahari dunes. And Mom is the only one who keeps her head, and stands ready, hind legs splayed, arms out in front of her, to repel the deadly attack from above! And evil goshawk swoops in! Chaos. They run, they stop, turn around, run again, mom spits and screams, and babies try to burrow into her stomach, and one adult furiously tries to make the dune sand hole stay a hole, but the more he digs, the more it caves in. Now I am standing with my window facing this whole drama! So, when they start running forward, I have to slam on reverse. But I am hanging half body out the window, so basically have to steer with my knees. And get Bullet into reverse with the toes of my left foot, while looking through the view finder, as all of this must happen. Blue Bullet at some point took matters into it’s own hands, or steering, so to speak, and just tried to stay in a straight line. But making things more intricate, is the fact that I have two other cars surrounding this attempted kill sight, one being the Sri Lankan man and his 5 kids, wife and mother in the vehicle. He basically put his 3 year old behind the steering wheel, in order to get his NASA built lens out the window. The other car had an American woman behind the wheel, and she apparently missed the obvious full frontal attack from the Goshawk and was still viewing this scene as a pastoral peaceful little tableau! So, from steering with my knees, changing gears with my big toe, hanging out of the window, for an hour and a half, shouting instructions to the American to WATCH THE DAMN HAWK BEHIND YOU and at the 3 year old, to move, Bullet is coming in, taking about 300 photos, I can STILL not feel my legs, my back is in a spasm type cramp, akin to paralysis. The Suricates now had to contend with a Blue danger, reversing over dunes and a Gemsbok, two Leopards, and 9 kite mice (well, the amount of bumps, and blue sky photos only clearly indicates that something died, and it was not a Suricate). Mom finally got the troops together, got two to dig, ran back to the first nearly successful attempt at a hole, 2 km back, and kept babies under her the whole time! Horrible Goshawk tried three more times, and was repelled! Way to go Suricate woman you! I am woman, can make fire and defend against Goshawk!
Meanwhile, I am scarred for life, the Sri Lankan Kids are still hiding under grandma’s armpit, and 3 year old now has visions of Le Mans! Oh, and American Lady, was crying through half of it! Either because Bullet reversed over sensitive vegetation, and or Gemsbok, leopard and Mice, or because the underdog won! Well, rather, the under Suricate.
Moving over to a Mongoose of a different colour! A couple of nights ago, a slender mongoose stole a whole piece of chicken from my neighbours, the new friends from my valley. We all thought he would disappear behind the closest bush, and finish the chicken, but strangely not. He runs about half way into the park, with the chicken in hand, or rather, in mouth (in hand was the Ground Squirrel who also stole a whole toasted sandwich, pretty much at the same time, but it was way too heavy to clutch in his mouth, so he was running at breakneck speed, with the sandwich clutched in one hand, dragging behind him). So, we then amend the story, and think shame, he is feeding a whole household, and wifey told him not to show up empty handed, or mouthed for another night. So he was running home with his treasure, to appease wife, and feed kids. This story made us happy. But, being a typical male, his true colours came shining through! He sits blankly staring into space, on a braai step platform thing. The next moment, a female comes running in, looking over her shoulder. He calmly steps off the platform, grabs her by the arse ( BIG PG rating please) sits down with his hind legs stretched out and proceeds to, well, hmmm, make tender love to her, while sitting on his bum, with no tender words or flowers! Again small little fellow, one would think that he would be done in about 1 minute flat. Again, surprise! He goes on, and on, and on! Humping away. At one point, he even stares up at the sky, in case some eagle or whole piece of chicken should fall on his head! But, girly got her own back. When he finally gets done, she turns around, and whacks the living chicken out of him. And not a woozy open palm smack, she clobbered him over the head!
This of course lead to a very long debate as to the purpose of the stolen chicken. Andre and Maritza, the new friends from the valley, recon he used this as a “gunsie”, to get her more amenable to some action! And what a cheap little She Mongoose! To fall for it! Granted, with no food in the Kalahari, and only small lizards and small folk to eat, I see her point. A piece of chicken for her is like a trip to India, a dip in the Ganges, and a free spa makeover for us. I would have considered the offer. Or maybe she is an emancipated Mongoose, and did it for free! Just because she wanted to!
Well, he is now known as The Neanderthal Man.
Meanwhile, it is baby time in the park. Hene. Baby Cape Fox, baby Springbok, baby Black backed jackal, baby Ostrich (classic, Mom takes a sand bath and leaves dada to check the chicks, which he does, but very nervously!), baby Suricate, baby Blue Wildebeest, baby everything! Cute man.
So, final count:
Lion ( did I mention, 5 of them, at sunrise, on a red dune. Two big black maned males)
Cheetahs. Last count about 9. Yee, ne na na ne na!!
Brown Hyena. Again as above.
Suricates plus babies.
Springbok plus babies
Blue wildebeest, plus babies
Red Hartebeest, only their bums.
Pale chanting Goshawk. Miserable pieces of …..
Possible Dark chanting Goshawk.
Two men who saw two leopards.
Tawny eagle, plus immature
Two drunk Frenchmen.
Stanley’s bustard ( stuffed in the Twee rivieren restaurant)
Two striped mice
Ag demit, I cant remember all!
Another tip for the weary traveler, make lists of what you see!
Oh, I forgot the tortoise. After seeing about 20 000 signboards to say, please drive careful, and don’t drive over Tortoises, I started to believe that the boards went up a day too late, and they were all killed. Most probably by other small Folk. Pecked to bits! Thrown onto sharp rocks to break the shells. But, I saw one!
I am very sad to leave this amazing park, and will treasure and recount, and retell the stories for years to come!
I made some friends, saw some deep sheeeet, and learnt again, to sweat the small stuff.
Cherio red dunes!
Don’t miss your piece of the action, find out more about our 9 Day, Karoo, Kalahari and West Coast Tour here!!
Day 5 did not start well, and also did not end too well either…
On top of the flu, I also contracted a serious case of food poisoning! Serious! One lamb chop later, and my stomach colluded with Damien and sent me straight to hell. Eish! Not to get too much into the gory details, I woke up, realized my stomach woke up way before me, and so it started.
But, trooper that I am, I got some water, camera, and lots of ciggies (cause who does NOT smoke when seriously ill?) and went off on the first game drive. Luckily I met a farmer and his wife, from North West Province the previous day at the third Cheetah visit of the day, and ran into them again on my way out. So we drove in convoy. But I was basically bent double over my steering wheel, clutching for dear life, and hoping that Farmer North West was more awake and aware than I was. And as luck would have it, 20 minutes in, at the first watering hole, a Brown Hyena! Those that don’t know what they look like, it is a cross between a Desert Yeti, and a Lassie dog! Uncomfortably ugly, and incredibly shy. Basically like I was feeling at that point! Except for the shy bit. I took about 300 photos, but did throw up in between. I know. Gory. But reality bites!
After the Hyena sighting I bravely decided to continue on a bit, and about an hour later realized this was one of those not clearly thought through decisions! Turn around, and get to a Bathroom, PRONTO! (When I get ill, I do speak in foreign tongues. Pronto.). The road I was on, from Twee Rivieren Rest camp to Mata Mata rest camp was in a seriously bad shape. Luckily, Blue Bullet is an Automatic transmission, so I could cross my legs. Every car driving past making the mistake of wanting to ask me what I saw in back direction got a meek wave of the hand and a very pinched face, and an incredibly sour stare! As I am driving, with cold sweat running down my spine and trying very hard not to sneeze (with flu and dust, not a likely prospect), all I can think is, can this road please magically get better! You will not believe. The next thing I know, I am speeding past a road grader! Fixing the road. So, speed limit be damned, I put one foot in the corner and made haste for camp! And just in time.
Lesson one for our intrepid travelers. Please pack medicine for all occasions? As Twee Rivieren had Lewens Essens, and Red Lavender. One for wind, and the other for overeating! I did not overeat (well, ok, I did), I have food poisoning! I need some serious medicine. “Well,” Says the lady at the counter, “Ashkam has a clinic.”. Yes, this is if I want to drive 70km, crunched around my steering wheel!
So, next best thing to a doctor, phone Mom. At this point I am feeling pretty sorry for myself, and as Mom answers, I can barely contain the gulp, swallowing my tears. Ma, help! Eina. What my mom came up with was: “Eat Maizena. It will set in your stomach. Only drawback, you will be plugged up for at least two weeks afterwards.” Ok, Ma, no Maizena here. Right, eat mash. This, for some strange reason, I actually packed, although I never eat mash. But, says Mom, if that does not work, eat jelly, luke warm, so it can set in my stomach. Ok, now what about the cramps part. “Well,” Says Mom, “get something warm, and put it on your stomach.” Ja Ma, I did not pack the warm water bottle. Thanks. But, I can always roll one rock in from outside and put that on my stomach, seeing as it is about 45 degrees outside, and any rock would be oven temperature by now. Yes, says Mom, grand plan.
In the end, I basically slept most of the day. Ate mash, threw that up, and drank heavy pain pills, and threw that up and slept again. Luckily, emergency services Nomad came to the rescue, and moved my booking to another two nights Twee Rivieren. In my pain filled state, I walk to reception to check if I can just stay where I am, or can move. By this point word has spread, and all were asking how I was feeling, and their sisters cousin also came down with a stomach bug, she lives in Pofadder etc etc. Shame, very caring.
Bottom line, with mash and pain pills, and some caring spitting from Damien, I got over it.
Meanwhile, I made friends with my neighbours, also from the Helderberg area. They carried in some immune boosters, and pills and all kinds of stuff not relevant to flu, food poisoning or stomach bug, but still helpful. They went off on a game drive around 4pm, and about 40km out, they saw some lions. Then, they drove BACK, to come fetch me, to also see the Lions. Unfortunately, I was out for the count and did not even hear them! But that is above and beyond the call! See, making people and influencing friends. No, sorry, influencing meetings and friendly people. Ag, yes, Carnegie knows what I mean!
That excitement over, I have been blissfully writing about places, and most probably none of you know where the hell I am! Please don’t feel alone, I very rarely know either. But, to put me on the map, I am currently staying at Twee Rivieren Rest camp. This is the main rest camp for the Kgalagadi transfrontier park. And that is also a whole new story.
Years ago, the South African Parks Board, and the South African Government decided it would be a fantastic plan to merge (love that word, Meeeerge) a National Parks that connects to a National Park on the other side of the border. Country border. So, they started with the Kruger National park. Which became the Limpopo Transfrontier Park. That merged (love that word) Kruger and the counterpart on the Mozambique side. Funny little aside bit, after they lifted the fence in-between the two parks, they realized that the outer boundary of the Mozambique side did not actually have a working fence. They promptly put the middle fence up again, but I am sure a couple of old elephant geezers are currently lazing about with a sundowner on Bazaruto Island (you may find him on our Mozambique tour).
After that a few smaller ones were done, and then came the Kgalagadi. It was first known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National park. This merged (hehehehe) with the Kgalagadi Park on the Botswana side. So now one can actually travel from the SA side, through to Botswana. Well, not really. Only if you have a 4×4 and only if you stay in the park for two days. Not sure why. Maybe they think, if you are going to smuggle cocaine through the park, sitting in 45 degrees for two days, surrounded by Suricates, would make any person snort up the stock, and thus keep Botswana clean of the scourge of Cocaine? Or, perhaps they want to make a little money first before letting you loose on poor Botswana (not so poor really, they have nice diamonds). But, that is the back story of where I am now.
The Kgalagadi has three main rest camps, Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata (close to the Namibian side) and Nossop, close to nothing. I am sitting in chalet number 5, in Twee Rivieren. Please, no stalking!
Now I am hearing you all moan (well, the two people reading this at least, of which one is family, so really, you, out there moaning), why am I not staying only two days, like it says in the itinerary? Because I can! But, please don’t feel cheated out of 4 days in this wonderful, semi arid (hene, but I am throwing those English words now) park. Any visit is like an introduction, you can always come back again!
Enough explaining, if you are still not sure where I am, Google it!
Back to Damien. You know, the hissing, barking gecko in the rafters? Not a gecko, but, wait for it, a freaking bat! And either Damien is the only bat this side of the equator without the ability to echo locate (Google it), or he has a serious case of Narcissism. Damien just got loose, and starting flying wildly through my bedroom! I kid you not, he flew into the mirror, and with possible concussion, now flew into me! This went on for a while, and every time I think he has things under control, Wham, into the mirror again! (this does sound freakishly like George Michael, oh no, his problem was with the restroom, sorry, my mistake). I now called the Parks Board people. No, not a ranger with a 345 elephant hunting gun, the normal lady at reception. Now I though the only way to catch a bat is with a tennis racquet, and although I normally carry one in my handbag, I just clean forgot to pack it this time, it seems there is another way. I always thought there was something just plain wrong with toilet spray! Well, proof! Bats flee for their lives when sprayed with toilet spray! Handy hint this, write it down! So, tata Damien!
And Tata me. I am pooped. Excuse the pun.
Lessons learnt today: Always carry a Tennis racquet.
And toilet spray. The nastier the aroma, the better.
Always carry stomach medicine. And flu medicine. Next to the toilet spray.
Brown Hyenas are lonely too. Not just R.E.M.
Botswana has diamonds.
And I am in the Northern Cape, in the top little bit, and not with the Bazaruto drinking elephants.
Epic I tell you!