Kalahari Kaleidoscope

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August 9th 2010
Published: August 9th 2010
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“The journey not the arrival matters”.T.S.Eliot…..had to use this quotation again but it is indeed fitting…what a journey it has been.Arriving on 4th August at the Matswere Gate meant that we were on the last leg of this wonderful wild life experience as this is the northern entrance to the Central Kalahari Game Resereve(CKGR).Effectively our last stop.Now this is no run of the mill game reserve.Ponder on this!It covers an area of 52800 square km’s which puts it in the big league of game reserves.In fact,it is the second largest truly wild game reserve in the World with the largest being in Tanzania.To put it’s size in perspective…it is larger than Denmark.Traversing it’s vast plains are huge numbers of animals,some of which we hadn’t seen yet on this trip.The one absentee is the elephant due to the chronic lack of water in the dry winter months.Our first camp site was at Deception Valley and,located on a small rise off the pan,it provided a superb view in all directions.This was one of the interesting aspects of all the areas we covered….because it is flat you have a 360 deg view of the horizon.The camp site was situated under a few acacia trees which were definitely doing a lot better than most of their stunted kin out on the plains.The soft winter sun provides an amazing colour contrast with creamy coloured grasses swaying in the breeze,grey to brown mostly acacia trees in all directions and then small islands of acacia’s which are much taller and covered in their small green leaves.The geography is fascinating with numerous vast flood pans which dried up aeons ago when the large rivers which flowed into this region stopped due to seismic shifts.The grasses on these pans are short providing relatively easy game viewing and we saw large numbers of Springbuck and Oryx(gemsbok)out in the open.But I digress…back to the camp site.An afternoon game drive was followed by our familiar routine which has an uncomplicated sequence…sundowners,fireplace,al fresco dinner and then a drift to the increasingly comfortable roof top tents.We had heard the Pearl Spotted Owl earlier in the evening and were content.As the lights were doused for the night ahead a true “Out of Africa” experience unfolded.The deep,guttural roar of lions was heard close by which ruled out any ideas of instant slumber.The sound of running hooves through the camp site meant that this pride of lions were actively hunting.Thrilling stuff which notched up significantly when these awesome roaring sounds were being made alongside our vehicles and sleeping quarters.For whatever reason they decided to rest up right under our noses and there are some things which we humans still hold in awe and fear and here they were all around us.That roar meters from one gets the pulse racing and suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck behave very differently.The other sound I swear I heard was Sue’s racing heart beat.The roaring went on intermittently throughout the night and my routine of being first up each morning at 06h30 to heat water for coffee moved out by half an hour.I needed a bit more light to do a thorough surveillance of the camp site to make sure the lions had moved off,which,indeed,they had.In the process of this lion vigil at dawn I witnessed an African sunrise the likes of which I will be hard pressed to see better.The grayish light in the east slowly turned to purple and then a light pinkish tinge washed over the horizon.As the light increased a gentle reddish sky heralded sunrise.But I digress…..what a night!There were lion spoor all over the camp site and a cameo to this experience was a group of Americans on safari driving into our camp a day later.They were following lion spoor.The early morning drive took us straight to three lionesses lying on Deception Pan and these are in the photo’s on this blog.The roads are much better than those experienced in Moremi and with good signage to guide you,we traversed some spectacular countryside in search of whatever was out there.New sightings for the trip(apart from Oryx and Springbuck)included Honeybadgers,Black backed jackals, and Caracal.The mammal count stands at 32.Very different bird species occur in the CKGR probably due to it’s dryness and the unique types of vegetation.We saw large numbers of Kori Bustards and Northern Black Korhaans which along with other sightings has moved the bird count to a final tally of 201.Despite putting in the hours on early morning and late afternoon game drives up to our last day we had not been lucky enough to see Cheetah or Leopard.In a park of this size,considering that we were traversing effectively a pin prick of it’s surface area,it would undoubtedly be sheer luck that enabled one stumbling across these two elusive cats.After two nights at Deception Valley we moved on for the last two nights to Passarge Valley and hopes were high that a new camp site would herald some new excitement.Not to be…….except for an invasion of bees which were drawn to our water and became something of a nuisance.Bruce reminded us from one of his biology classes a long time ago that when they find water they rush back to the hive,do a highly animated flying dance around the hive and the rest of their mates,somehow set their GPS co-ordinates and then rush like hell back to the water source.As it started to get dark and with three of us having being stung,they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.The truly amazing thing about being in a true wilderness area like this is that there is an unnerving sense of space and timelessness.As one gazes out across the vast plains or across a roaring fire or into the brilliantly star lit night sky,it all seems to take on a meaning more than just being here to view wild life.Each day in the wilds is about survival and has a certain predictability to it and it all seems to make so much more sense than our often chaotic,unpredictable lives.I would imagine that in one’s search for the truly wonderful sights,sounds and moments you may just start to discover a little bit more about who you are.Catharsis.Think of all those people who dedicate themselves to the confines of wilderness areas for whatever reason and then stay forever.They must be very contented souls.The final afternoon drive inevitably led us to a magnificent pan,spreadingas far as the eye could see,in front of us.A fitting spot for the last sundowner as the setting sun’s shadows lengthened across the pan.Almost a surreal moment standing out there in that beautiful setting with not even a whispering breeze providing any sound.With somewhat heavy hearts and thought filled silence in the vehicle,we set off in the fading dusk light for our camp.But the African wilds always seems to dish up a surprise when least expected.Rounding a corner there he was standing in the road….a superb,fully grown male Cheetah which watched us with keen interest before gracefully moving off into the thicker grass.Another dinner around a roaring camp fire under a million stars provided an opportunity to share individual insights on our final evening.Then it was time to bunker down one more time.No doubt we were all harboring different thoughts as we drifted off to sleep but I’m sure one final roar from a lion would have been a superbly scripted finale.Sunrise on the morning of 8th August was superb as the colours went through their choreographed change from pink to red and orange on the distant eastern horizon.This was the curtain rising on a new day in a unique and beautiful part of Africa and one cannot but have a deep sense of how privileged we had been in being able to be a part of it all.Even if it was for such a short time.The wilderness areas of Africa will always be there and beckoning.It is how we respond that truly matters.For good measure,on the three hour drive out of CKGR,we saw a Brown Hyena standing in the road ahead of us.A rare sighting of one of these largely nocturnal,secretive animals.Our ratings for the two camp sites were:Deception Valley: 4.6/5(the clear overall winner)and Passarge Valley(4.3/5).One of the “innovations” we agreed on up front was to discuss our “Big Three” moments,experiences or insights on the final evening. Clearly there was some commonality but in no particular order they were�)Deception Valley camp and the unforgettable night shared with a pride of lions(2)The exceptionally beautiful sunsets on a calm,late afternoon standing on a boat fly fishing on the Zambezi River(3)The sighting of a Cheetah after sundowners when all were in a reflective mood.Unexpected but that’s what the wilds are all about(4)Dinners by candlelight with a glass or two of red wine and a carpet of brilliant stars peering down from the clearest sky imaginable(5)An African Skimmers nest on the white sands of a Zambezi River island holding 3 perfectly shaped and camouflaged eggs(6)Arriving at the Nambwa Camp in the Caprivi.First stop,the element of the unknown and an idyllic camp setting looking onto a pristine river and it’s bank side vegetation(7)Watching an African sunrise painting a perfect multi coloured picture on the horizon wondering where the lions are(8)The final sundowner looking across a vast darkening pan.Memory bank infusion.Shared moments with special friends.(9)Island View sunsets with all the sounds of the river close at hand.Makoros providing ghostly silhouettes against the river’s edge.Final word……thank you to all for the messages and comments which we really enjoyed.

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9th August 2010

awesome well done! very envious!
9th August 2010

it has been an awesome experience reading your journey many thanks look fwd to seeing you soon susie
9th August 2010

Meeting in Durban
Dear Tim and Sue - Di would not have managed a moments sleep with your mates with big teeth! Great Bloggs I love waking up to them. I will be in PMB from Wednesdy next week for about three weeks. I read somewhere you have Tegwans meeting in early september - is that true? I would love to catch up with some of group - I still have my Tegwan tie!
10th August 2010

The Day That Dawns
Hi Tim, Sue, Megan and Bruce, Thought i might send my favourite thought! The Day That Dawns "I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world" We cant wait to hear the unedited version of your adventure! love Sue and Col

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