14 & 15 November (Part I)
What do we deem as luxuries in life? And by the same token, is not the everyday things we take for granted, that becomes precious in its own right?
We arrived back at Nossob by mid-afternoon and by some touch of magic, camping site 19 was available, dark with shade. After seeing mirages formed by the heat – ostriches prancing on the horizon like Dali paintings, we were happy to head for the pool. It was almost impossible to do good photography in 43 degrees – one could clearly see distortions on the thumbnail, which meant that an enlarged picture would even look worse.
At the pool we were soon joined by familiar faces, and the discussion went in the obvious direction – sightings and experiences. Since we had left Nossob for Grootkolk and Gharagab, sightings had become scarce. Our lion encounter at Grootkolk sparked a whole river of memories, and so the conversation flowed whilst we were cooling down.
A late afternoon drive to Marie’s Gat yielded a lot of tracks, cheetah, hyena, jackal and lion – but it was curiously quiet. A lone eland stood on the bank of the Nossob river across from the water hole, unsure of its safety, and that was the sum total of our sightings
A restless night at Gharagab had us in the rooftop tent by 21:00. The heat was taking its toll. Partner laughingly referred me back to our time at Table Mountain National Park where I said that I could not wait to go back to KTP to feel warmth again. The human spirit is amazing – we can take a moment in our lives and make it good. I remembered the freezing temperatures we experienced in the Western Cape and then realized that the heat was not so bad – at least we could open all the tent flaps and sleep underneath the light of stars and the moon…
During the night the warm breeze cooled down to such proportions that a cotton sheet was simply not enough, thus a full-scale blanket search ensued. Going down the stairs of the rooftop half asleep is one thing. Meeting two Black Backed Jackals unexpectedly was enough to wake me for the rest of the night. Yes, the rascals come into the camp and scavenge on whatever they can get. A headache for the staff and one which will never go away. We are the visitors to their world after all, and jackals will continue to do what jackals do.
We woke as day was graying in the east – it was the first time in many days that the morning air had a slight chill to it. Perhaps our bodies were so acclimatized to high temperatures that a ten degree drop made us shiver. We left as the gates opened as we were intending to travel to Dikbaardskolk picnic site for work that still needed to be done there.
Needless to say that we took Marie’s Loop on our way there. We were the only vehicle on the Loop – it seemed as if everyone at Nossob was heading in the direction of Kwang where lions were sighted the previous day.
A few meters into the loop had partner doing the caracal STOP! All he could utter was; CHEETAH…! I looked in disbelief, finally the enigmatic spotted one presented itself a few meters from us in the gentle light of morning. And we were all alone…with a female cheetah and three cubs who were being taught about the discipline of the bush. A half an hour later we were a kilometer into the loop, following them as they cautiously progressed in the direction of the waterhole. A few cars caught up with us and followed in tandem, respectful of such an incredible sighting, no one wanted to put a foot wrong to disturb these magnificent animals.
After almost an hour, they had progressed to the water hole where the female took a small sip of water and carried on. The cubs were lagging behind to quench their thirst. Partner clicked away and sighs of delight filled the vehicle as the young ones posed. The mother stopped and glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the romping cubs, which immediately had them on their way in her direction. They continued on their mission for another 400 meters and then flopped down underneath the shade of a Camel thorn, but rest did not come. After a few minutes, the female jumped up and in a flash – almost too quick for the eye to comprehend what had happened – caught a rabbit. Four hungry cheetahs shared a tiny rabbit in less than one minute. We watched them as they settled down and started to groom themselves, having the luxury of a few moments of relaxation before heading for cover from the ever-roaming lions and merciless summer sun.
It was time for us to turn around, to greet our “family” in Nossob as it was our last visit there on our journey for 2008. We were heading for Bitterpan wilderness camp and then the Auob river. It is sometimes hard to say goodbye and yet, the knowing smiles of the staff said everything – they knew that it was only a matter of time before we would be standing in the very same place again. After all, they were certainly not handing out vials of Kalahari antidote…
I bade Nossob goodbye as I closed the gate behind me with a lump in my throat. The tracks of a set of bare feet crossed over the last evidence of the jackal’s visit to the camp. Something of me stayed behind, but there was so much inside of me that came along. Simplicity, appreciation for life and a stillness in my soul that I will carry like a precious gift and unwrap in moments of solitude. Life as it is meant to be, and its wisdom waiting here in desert where we only need to open our hearts…
The road to Bitterpan lay ahead – another exploration into the heart of the red sand dunes. There was an excitement inside me I could not define, and with this feeling, we negotiated our first dune, one of many that awaited two people on a journey of dreams…