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!!