Sunday, November 30, 2008

8 September 2008

Gharagab [a camp within Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park]

We're low on water and cash. Saw a couple of bat-eared foxes this morning, but nothing else of particular interest. The drive to Gharagab was partly on a 'jeep track'-like road...

...BIG break here... got distracted by various things, including a brown hyena at the watering hole (after 2 jackals and some Gemsbok and a very wary Ostrich earlier), sunset from the lookout tower, gin-and-tonics with our neighbors Susan and Jared and the 'tourism assistant,' Eric, a leopard (!!!!!!!) at the watering hole in the rapidly fading light, then again in the pitch dark, and also a Steenbok (I think) and a Gemsbok. And, dinner of fried potato cubes, naartjies, and mint crisp Cadburys [chocolate]. Yummy.

Okay, back to the drive--definitely needed a vehicle with good clearance on that road, and 4x4 would have helped at times (we drove with 4x2)... we almost didn't make it up the last ridge to camp, then we got stuck near Eric's cabin when we checked in. Eric had to drive our vehicle for us to our cabin, after we switched to 4x4 and were still stuck in the sand.

The 'jeep track' leading to Gharagab.

It was the hottest it had been get when we got here [found out later it had been 35°C (95°F)], so we had lunch (got here just after 12 pm, I think), then sat around until I got so tired I had to have a nap (!!) [this is remarkable because I don't nap]. I can see why there are siestas in hot countries! The nap lasted ~1/2 hour, then Jesse has a shower, then me. For the time when I was wet, I was actually cool (the 'windows' (screens) let in a nice breeze). But, I dried pretty quickly! Then, more sitting around, going through our bird lists and reading the park brochure we bought. I saw the pair of jackals while Jesse was in the shower, and he saw a pair of Lanner Falcolns while I was napping. The ostrich (a male in breeding colors, pink on his shins) took ~1.5 hours to actually get water--very wary. 

Our chalet and 4x4 at Gharagab.

Around sunset, Jesse suggested we go up to the observation deck, so we did. Just before sunset (~6:30 pm), the neighbors got back from a game drive (didn't see anything, though we saw the brown hyena here--very cool) and Susan, the woman, came to join us. She met Jared ~10 years ago when they were both working on a rich person's yacht (he as a marine engineer, she as a stewardess) but had recently got back together (she lives in Sydney, Australia, he in Paulshof outside of Johannesburg) and are now engaged. Jared will emigrate to Sydney, and it sounds like kids are planned. 

Brown hyena approaching the watering hole.

Susan invited us over for gin and tonics, including Eric when he showed up on his evening rounds. Jared is very into photography--he has a massive zoom lens with camouflage around the hood [I found out later it was a 600 mm lens!], and a professional Nikon body and an SB-800 [fancy Nikon flash... I'd recently bought myself a used one on eBay]. He passed us at a couple of waterholes yesterday and took out the big lens and mounted it on a door mount for stabilization. He took photos of the immature Bataleur Eagle we saw yesterday (when they pulled up in their 4x4, it flew away, so Jared tried to photograph it in flight) and of the pair of Lanner Falcolns we saw on the ground. They had come all the way here after we saw them at that waterhole, which was the last one before Grootkolk [it was a long way still, and not too long from sunset]. Susan was very chatty, and it was interesting to hear about life on yachts (some >100 meters!). RICH clients, by the sounds of it. 

Eric joined us, so I learned that he spends two weeks here, then has one week off (during which time he lives in Twee Rivieren and enjoys playing soccer--he had a Kgalagadi Eagles shirt on) and his favorite animal is the cheetah. He went to Etosha ~1 year ago. I think from something Susan said that Eric has been doing this for ~2-3 years. Strange lifestyle!

The leopard was amazing--drank LOTS of water and took its time. Moved around the water hole, then drank some more. Left for a while then came back... apparently it lives with a female and cubs nearby and the female has brought the cubs to drink in the morning before... they only need to drink every 2-3 days. My first leopard, that I remember!

We have a helluva long drive tomorrow (~9 hours?), which I'm not looking forward to. Let's hope Mata-Mata is worth it!

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