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Local is lekker - a pseudo-safari


Kalaharikind

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KiwiGran
9 hours ago, Kalaharikind said:

In a sense, Askham was, for me, the highlight of our trip: a river that made it through more than 300 kms of drought-stricken countryside, forcing its way down a dry riverbed, shedding water in dry sand, retaining enough to travel on, bringing hope to desperate farmers, farmworkers and townsfolk alike, giving them something to revel in, a story they could tell their grandchildren - because this was an event that rarely happens more than once in a lifetime. 

 

Beautifully written @KalaharikindAs a farmer in a land with ample rainfall I found that very moving. Really enjoying your trip report, thank you.

 

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Kalaharikind

Sunrise...

 

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The previous day, the receptionist at the lodge mentioned that there was a limit on day visitors into the Park. What? I knew that Sanparks limited day visitors to the Kruger during school holidays, but I suppose Covid played a rule. It was pretty close to gate-closing time, so we drove to the gate, reserved our places for the next two days and were also given Covid checklists. Getting into the Park was relatively easy: sanitise, temp check, hand over all forms, back to the bakkie and place bets on what the welcoming committee would be. In the Kruger it's usually either impala or zebra (or both). In this case, we both won:

 

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The grasses were so tall that only the gembok horns were clearly visible - and look at the almost hidden calf: 

 

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Was this back-backed jackal running away from, or running towards, something? 

 

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This gemsbok with the droopy horn has inspired countless memes about listlessness and the Kalahari heat, and here it was, alert on a cool and fresh morning:

 

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Beauty and the beast, both taking things easy. 

 

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Red hartebeest

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Scuffling about: no harm intended, no harm done, but the sound of the horns hitting travel quite far.

 

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Now, this is a photo that I've been wanting to take for ages and ages and ages. Except that instead of (travel programme voice-over) etched against an azure sky, a gemsbok - an icon of this barren land - stands on a bare red dune, it's rapier-like horns held aloft (return to normal voice-over) we have green shrubs, tall grasses, not a speck of red sand and an overcast sky - and I'm elated at this rare lushness. 

 

1648222879_KTNP2021(927).JPG.4d9458d54df0fa7a63a4a3a6c25bc305.JPG 

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Kalaharikind

 

Pale Chanting Goshawk, preening

 

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This is the bird of my childhood holidays: it seemed that every section of telephone wire had its own Black-shouldered Kite, keeping watch on the traffic and anything that could be called a meal. They seem much scarcer nowadays.

 

1467734416_BlouvalkieKTNP2021(878).JPG.b9a2c5a9c6a972726a8f6702c75ece57.JPG

 

Kori Bustard showing off its flying skills: first a running start

 

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... then a frantic flapping of those enormous wings as the feet leave the runway

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... a big sigh of relief

 

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... I (almost can't) believe I can fly...

 

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and off I go!

 

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The Red-headed Finches had no problem fluttering around a water hole, however

 

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while a Yellow Canary was keeping watch:1296926244_GeelkanarieKTNP2021(908).JPG.3a5cc27c1f062e1b06d9abb5bfa518e5.JPG

 

It was drizzling on and off, and this Secretarybird was really wet and bedraggled by now:

 

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Baby-sitting duty in this case involved keeping the chicks in the clearing and away from the gemsbok 

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while the chicks only wanted to explore their new world

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And before you start thinking that you got lost in a BY thread: a farmer stopped to say that we should be on the lookout for two lions, high on a dune to our right. We did, we saw them, we ticked them off with a sigh of relief, and said something along the lines (lions?) of "Well, at least we got to see them, even if they were far away". 

 

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We'd entered the Park at 8:44, the lion sighting was at 9:28, so really not a bad 45 minutes' worth of game viewing at all!

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Kalaharikind

We are still following the Nossob River, it's still drizzling from time to time, and we are still having the time of our life.

 

This Lilac-breasted Roller was the only one close enough to photograph

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Naptime for this blue wildebeest calf

677649046_KTNP2021(864).JPG.7e88d4bbdf08c274f7aa62019ab2e5f4.JPG

 

...while the adults also don't seem to be doing much of anything:

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Either the photographer had completely lost the plot, or this scene came out as intended:

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Not enough sun for these ground squirrels to require a sun hat:

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Kicking up dust

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Camelthorn tree sheltering a good crop of blue wildebeest youngsters (and the adults responsible for them) 

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A well-known Safaritalker taking a stroll, a long way from home:

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Namaqua Doves

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We stopped at the picnic spot near Dikbaardskolk for padkos and, of course, the usual picnic spot specials, in this case Cape Glossy Starlings and White-browed Sparrow-weavers, were alert for whatever crumbs came their way.

 

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The White-broweds obviously did not pay much attention during Nest-building 101; this is quite a neat example compared to some I've seen

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Kalaharikind

From the picnic spot we decided to take one of the roads that cconnect the Nossob and Auob rivers - and what a beautiful drive that was! We didn't see much game, but the veld was so breathtakingly beautiful that we didn't mind.

 

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These trees were kind enough to keep still and stay in focus B)

 

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Pale Chanting Goshawk juvenile

 

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Not quite 50 shades of grey...

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The architects couldn't agree on a design style, so tried everything in the manual

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Dad and chicks, through the windscreen

 

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Northern Black Korhaan, disappearing into the bush as quiickly as possible

 

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Kori Bustard putting on a show, with the volume turned all the way up

 

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I don't remember ever seeing giraffes this far south, but I'm not going to complain at all

 

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Martial Eagle juvenile (I think) raiding a sociable weaver nest

 

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From murder to a serene late afternoon scene

 

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... and time for a fire, a potjie, wine and reflecting about another beautiful day in Africa.

 

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Kalaharikind

Our second - and last - day in Kgalagadi. It was overcast, threatening to rain. Were we disappointed? 

 

Rain in the Kalahari is like your birthday, Christmas and the last day of the school term, all rolled together and tied with a bow. So no, we were not. We were elated!

 

We again took the Nossob road - we actually saw very little on the Auob road the previous day. (Also, if we took the Auob road, I'd be on the 'wrong' side of the river bed to take photographs.)

 

So, let's get started. 

 

Right inside the gate, we saw this PCG juvenile - no springbok welcoming committee for us today.

 

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and taking flight - either he had seen something more interesting than a dirty bakkie or he had had enough of the occupants of the bakkie staring at him.

 

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And here's the adult version:

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Was this going to be a day of juvenile raptors on the ground? Martial eagle and blue wildebeest.

 

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It was bucketing down and this youngster did not look too happy: 

 

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The adults seemed to take it in their stride

 

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and just continued grazing: 

 

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Before you grow tired of gemsbok (is that even possible?), here's a juvenile Lanner Falcon:

 

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Back to the gemsbok again. (The park was, after all, called the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park before it was joined up with Botswana's Gemsbok National Park to form the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.)

 

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With the good rains, the red dunes were covered in grass. This was one of the few times we actually saw a bare dune - and then not even too much of it. 

(And for some reason (my own stupidity, most probably) my portrait pics all come out on their side.)

 

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Kalaharikind

The 'bare dune lion' lion looked really old (or perhaps he was just too wet and cold to feel like doing anything). When we drove back later in the day, he was still in that exact spot. Our third lion in the park! To his right was a service road, with a team of workers standing around their vehicle, unable to work with the lion so close to them. I guess it's a national park version of 'Sorry I'm late, but the traffic was hectic'!

 

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The rare bare dune!

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From predators to scavengers... 

 

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These White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures in the tree had some company in a clearing right next to tree

 

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Not much further along, just past a bend in the road, partly sheltered by some bushes was yet another lion! We could not believe our eyes or our luck! It was raining lions!

 

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Kitsafari

Love it when it is raining lions, even the ones sleeping like logs.  

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Kalaharikind

@Kitsafarino complaints about the lion - sleeping or otherwise - or about the rain! Talking of logs, I quite liked the look of this dead tree: 

 

931267815_KTNP2021(393).JPG.bb041b9a4ecbffd410dcdd67a73fb983.JPG

 

Leaving the lion, we continued in the rain. This Kori Bustard shot was through the windscreen. What a wingspan!

 

1396947392_GompouKTNP2021(423).JPG.f67365a89c8779965d58768b510ba5c4.JPG

 

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Was this yesterday's black-backed jackal, still running?

 

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The road soon started to look as if frogs could use it for swimming and diving lessons, and we decided to turn back.

 

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Our lion was still where we'd left him - slightly more alert than earlier. 

 

 

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His legs were coverered in open sores, which he licked continually. Back at Kgalagadi Lodge, we mentioned it to the other campers. The most plausible fireside theory was that he'd been licking at tick bites, which then broke the skin and became infected. Has anybody come across this, and know the actual cause?

 

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Kalaharikind

Just a few minutes' drive from the lion, we saw the springbok showing the rump flap that is more often seen when they pronk.

 

1905488793_KTNP2021(295).JPG.dfc7ecf9aea402a14482eef0d1fc2a31.JPG

 

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Here they are jumping and pronking:

 

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The 'vulture tree' was still popular

 

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... except with this Lappet-faced who wanted space and peace and quiet

 

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We had earlier seen two Bateleurs, but they were hidden behind a tree trunk. This one obliged by sitting in the open.

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Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

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Black-chested Snake eagle

1960068940_SwartborsslangarendJKTNP2021(249).JPG.347c3321026aff348511007f82565b5e.JPG

 

'Don't walk so fast, Mom!'

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Was the sandbath to keep insects away, or is it the latest in blue wildebeest beauty treatments? 

168464630_KTNP2021(190).JPG.3f1f793622939bd9c1cb88767716f0f0.JPG

 

We saw a lot of tortoises in the road, drinking water from the puddles there.

 

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I've tried to avoid 'wet and bedraggled', but there is no other way of describing this Secretary Bird

 

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... until it got the bright idea to use a wing as an umbrella!

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Dad 

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and his offspring

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We some some amazing sights in the two days we were in the Park, but being there while it was raining, was an incredible experience.

 

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These clouds promised some more rain! 

 

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And then it was time to enjoy our last sunset in this harsh and beautiful part of the country. 

 

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Kalaharikind

I was more then happy with the four lions we'd seen, but quite frankly, they did nothing more than lolling about. 

 

Not these two, though. In fact, they were pretty fit and active. Very active. Let's leave it at that.

 

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We left after Round 4, to give others a ringside seat too.

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Peter Connan

Wow! Brilliant sightings and photos!

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Kalaharikind

@Peter ConnanThanks! We didn't see any spotted cats, but the lions - especially these two - more than made up for that.

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very exciting artistic writing, @Kalaharikind!   accompanied with beautiful photos! Love your report and I am jealous ;) theoretically you can travel ad-hoc because you live there (almost in the bush)

I have been to Africa 15 times and I must say I find Kalahari a special place. Like a home of my soul. If I need to choose one place in Africa, the last one, I can visit it will be Kalahari. I don't know what the spirit it has; maybe because of open space? because of that arid, hot and scraggy appearance which can turn to lush and full of life? Like some secrets blown by the wind? Probably the secrets we want to find, to discover. But it is really somehow magic. Well, Mana Pools is also magical but Kalahari is the first choice...

Oh! I must try your wash-machine! And you have a kitchen..?  I'd love to see your camping setup! ;) Is there such a thread?

And yes, I agree, to see a river flowing once in 30-40 years is the best sighting indeed...

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  • 5 weeks later...
Kalaharikind

@ElenaHThanks for your kind words - and I absolutely agree with you about the Kalahari being the home of one's soul. 

 

There's no thread about our camping set-up, so let me tell you about it. In short, its very very basic, but we like it that way.

 

All food-related stuff goes in ammo crates. I decant whatever I can into plastic bottles: they stand upright and take less space than the original packaging, are less likely to break and are easier to pack. The crate-packing system is easy: like with like. Apart from the food crates, there's one for cleaning stuff, one for cooking tools and containers and the most important one: the bar. (The bar serves only boxed wines - imagine the smell from spilt wine after a few days...) The ammo crates, our luggage, camera bags, binocs and a small cooler box for cold drinks and snacks and the first-aid kit go in the back of the passenger cab - all strapped down of course. I really don't want crates-turned-missiles slamming into my seat back when we have to make a sudden stop.

 

The kitchen is a misnomer: it's more a stow-all for things that don't have a home. The pots and pans, kettles, braai tongs, candles and candles ticks and various odds and ends go in there. If it sounds messy and untidy, it's because it is messy and untidy, and something I've learnt to live with. 

 

The bakkie's load box houses the fridge, a second spare tyre, chairs, the washing machine, wood, ground sheets, gas bottle, a wooden crate with space for crockery, cutlery, and a flat-bottomed pot, and other funny but necessary stuff. The camping table and solar panel slide into a frame mounted on the canopy's 'ceiling'. We - or rather Johan, since he's the Head: Bakkie loader - now really need minutes to load or offload everything. I once timed the offloading: from stopping to sitting with a gin in hand was about 5 minutes. 

 

Johan's workshop is on the side opposite to the kitchen, and houses, well, the workshop... 

 

This is probably much more than you wanted....

 

The only pic I could find of the bakkie, fully loaded, from a few years ago. 

 

_DSC0023.JPG.84adefb7cb76ceb81fa3ef6e00874f35.JPG

 

 

 

   

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