Red Dust and Diamonds
Day Three (28 December)
On Wednesday morning we travelled to Lilydale in the northern part of the reserve, en route to Kimberley for the day. The self-catering chalets at Lilydale are perched on the edge of the escarpment, overlooking the Riet River. The scene reminded me of Olifants in the Kruger and I half-expected to look down and see elephants wading in the water below. Must admit, I was missing ellies.
On the way to Kimberley, we passed a game farm with herds of black wildebeest, the better looking of the species with their long golden tails, and some funny looking buck which we identified as black (melanistic) and white (leucistic) springbok.
Putting images of animals aside for a few hours, we toured the Big Hole which is one mighty enormous ‘gat’ in the ground. The depth of the hole extends way below the green water we saw at the surface.
A video at the start of the tour painted the picture of what life in the diamond rush was like: thousands of hopefuls from all over the world perilously working their claims and living in unhygienic conditions with a scarcity of water and an abundance of dirt and disease. All in the frenzied quest to unearth sparkly stones deposited millennia ago by an erupting volcano. SB was happy to potter around the old mining equipment but I was eager to see the sparkly stuff even if they were only replicas. The best stones found at Kimberley are sitting tightly embedded in crown jewels all over the world.
After a stroll around the old mining town, set up much like Gold Reef City, and a visit to McGregor’s museum, I was all ‘citied out’ and ready to return to the bush.
We returned to Lilydale and meandered down to Mosu Lodge, stopping frequently to watch fluffy baby wildies, some with umbilical cords still dangling, nudging their mothers’ udders to stimulate the flow of milk.
Nursery groups of mini red harties, numbering up to ten or so, frolicked unsupervised, occasionally dashing into the road in front of our vehicle. They were all gangly limbs as they disappeared into the bush.
In two instances black-backed jackals shot out of the bush and made a run for it down the road before ducking back into the shrubbery – too quick for us to get a decent pic.
Suddenly, SB hit the brakes and pointed wildly, unable to get the words out. There, 50 metres away, was a white rhino, or more accurately a red rhino in its coat of dried mud. It began to trot straight towards us picking up speed as it drew closer.
‘Looks like we better move the car– and fast’, I exclaimed.
‘Relax’, replied SB. ‘There’s no calf in sight. It’ll probably go past us’. And this he did, calmly crossing the road right in front of us, giving us a view of his rather impressive horns. I sent up a silent angel request to keep him safe and out of harm’s way.
‘Well, that seals it,’ exclaimed SB. ‘The Magnum for the first rhino sighting is mine.’
‘Indeed’, I agreed, not relishing the thought of watching him enjoying his ice-cream treat.
‘Cheer up’, he said, seeing the look on my face. ‘You’ll have to find the black one again to earn your Magnum.’
Sadly, Blackie, as we nicknamed him, proved to be as elusive as the Higg’s Boson – that elusive particle that scientists are looking everywhere for in order to prove the Big Bang theory.
Rounding another corner, the Subaru came face to face with the Incredible Hulk, a shiny wet black buffalo bull. There was a tense stand-off before the buff took out it’s frustration on a nearby bush. After rubbing his face in the leaves to rid himself of excess layers of mud, he stomped off.
Our last sighting before Mosu camp was a family group of Kudu browsing at the side of the road. Windows were quickly rolled down to snatch a few pics before they bolted. For some unknown reason, SB decided to whistle for them. They froze en masse and stared at him as he trilled away through his repertoire of Christmas Carols. I snapped away.
‘Now we know what the secret is’, SB chuckled. ‘Maybe they’re related to Rudolph.’
With storm clouds hanging low, SB declared he wasn’t keen to risk braaiing in the rain again. So the fillet steak was sliced thick and pan fried in butter. Baby potatoes, baby gems, small onions and carrots were tossed into the same pot to cook and dinner was ready within twenty minutes.
Another satisfying day!