Sunday, December 7, 2008

10 September 2008

10 September 2008

What a difference a day makes! This morning, I got up at ~6:15 am and had to fight my way to a sink because the bathroom was packed with German women from Das Rollende Hotel. We got on our way at 7:30 am, after getting a lecture from the East Londoners about how SA is "heading the way of Zimbabwe."

Within a couple of kilometers, we were passing a stopped car when we noticed why they were stopped--2 cheetahs lying in the grass!!!!!! Jesse slammed on the brakes while looking at the cheetahs so we ended up going over the edge of the road with one tire and made quite a dent in the gravel. For ~5 minutes, we watched them lie there, then as one got up and walked to the other, who had a radio collar on*.
Cheetahs in the grass.

The cheetahs start moving about.

Soon after that, they both got up and started walking away, getting quite close to another stopped car just ahead of us. And who should roll up, but Das Rollende Hotel. Actually, perhaps the cheetahs departure was a bit timed by their arrival. The cheetahs paused at a fallen over tree stump and both jumped up, the smaller (younger) one without a collar not being quite as successful at first and having to leap right off. Then the collared one got down and started rubbing her neck against the tree. After a while, they both walked off and up a dune, giving us a great silhouette view. 

One cheetah is in the tree and the collared one is scratching her neck.

We continued on our way and after a few kilometers we came across some parked cars--a sure sign that there's a lion in the neighborhood! On our left was a massive male lion with a black mane, posing very nicely. He got up and walked over the hill as we watched, around the same time that Das Rollende Hotel showed up (we'd passed them a little way back). They caused quite the traffic jam as they tried to position truck and trailer around the parked cars. We actually had to move our truck to let them get ahead, then they penned in another vehicle that we had to reverse for, to let it out. Craziness. But, we then noticed two more females (maybe three) and a male on the right, who all started to pose nicely before conking out in the grass. We watched them for quite a while (D.R.H. didn't stay for long), then got moving. 

A happy-looking cat.

A *BIG* cat.

A female lion showing how well her coat color matches that of the grass.

We came across a herd of giraffe in the distance and watched them for a while, but then someone pulled up and told us there was a lion kill just up the road. We watched the giraffes for a couple more minutes then headed for the lion kill. Sure enough, there were eight lions around a dead baby giraffe :-( with five males (all with stubby manes [a sign of youth or old age]) nibbling on the giraffe, and three females flat on their sides in the shade. The upper and right parts of the giraffe's head had been eaten away, so we could see its lower teeth/jaw. They'd really gouged out the giraffe's belly and exposed more and more of the rib cage as we watched. The two cars with the best view didn't move while we were there, so I didn't get great photos, and I was looking through the windshield, so Jesse had to take the photos out of his window for me. The lions and giraffe body were 2-3 meters from the road (the other pride we'd seen was ~5 meters from the road).

Lions at the breakfast table.

Well, to top of our "good" animal day, we saw a mommy and daddy ostrich taking a stroll with their eighteen chicks and I got some good photos of swallow-tailed bee-eaters. And we saw some cardinal-breasted shrikes. And we saw Namibia and Botswana on the same day (without actually entering either).

The ostriches and their 18 kids out for a stroll.

We're back at Kalahari Trails tonight, but are sleeping inside the house because Prof. Anne Rasa [the proprietress] thinks there'll be a frost tonight. I got to take a shower and that feels very nice! We've repacked all the camping gear in preparation for returning it tomorrow. Then, there will be the bus ride to Cape Town.

Oh--ran into Jared and Susan [who had been our neighbors at an earlier camp in the park] at Twee Rivieren... Susan said Das Rollende Hotel showed up at the picnic site they were at earlier in the day and that they'd totally taken over the place. Of course. We also saw a museum of the dwellings of early settlers today--must have been tough folks! It was a 14-day oxen ride to Upington...

[*I sent information on our cheetah sightings to some people who are studying them in Kgalagadi and they sent me the following:
"Thank you so much for the photos of the cheetah. They are of a female
Elena that we first found in September 2006 with her mother (they parted
ways shortly afterwards) and her one remaining cub of her first ever
litter. She had the 4 cubs in September 2007 and unfortunately they
slowly got whittled down to just this one son. We think that she was
struggling to feed them and they were struggling to keep up with her. It
sure is tough out there!! Her son is now beginning to play a bit of a
role in her hunting attempts and he will be with his mother until he is
about 18 months old, so 6 more months to go before he is on his own".]

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