Feb 27 – Mar 1
Our first day started out cool and cloudy in TW, but that changed as the sun rose higher in the sky and burnt off the clouds to give us another beautiful Kalahari day. We made our way out to the trail passing herd after herd of antelope – gemsbok, hartebeest, springbok, and wildebeest were all there to bid us well on our journey. Once at the trail, this day was dominated by a few excellent bird sightings, catching wonderful views of a juvenile bateleur sending a sociable weaver’s colony into a tizzy while a pale chanting goshawk watched from the sidelines, several Kori Bustards the flew up at our passing, and a male Pin-tailed Whydah which posed beautifully in the top of a tree….. right up until I got my camera ready (figures!).
Beyond the birds, we also saw plenty of gemsbok on our way to Witgat camp, including one herd which were being escorted through the dunes by a pair of eland. The one thing we didn’t see a lot of were steenbok – I only saw one the whole day! I’m not sure where they were all hiding, but it’s most likely that they were hidden by all the grass, which is up to my mirrors throughout most of the trail! I ended the day covered in grass seed and pollen, and looking forward to winter when all the blasted vegetation stops playing havoc with my allergies!
We relaxed in camp, again making use of the “swimming pool”, enjoying a leisurely dinner while watching the stars above us and the lightning on the horizon. We were awoken late this first night by an amazing thunderstorm all around us, but aside from the lightest sprinkle of rain and some gale-force winds, we were left untouched.
The next day dawned beautifully clear, with the night’s storm having blown itself out, leaving us with wonderful blue skies entering our second day. This day, unfortunately was fairly quiet, but what we did see were excellent sightings. The steenbok came out of hiding and were nicely relaxed, affording us some wonderful views of them grazing from quite close. The gemsbok were also in abundance, and we saw two cases of quite extreme horn deformities, with their usual stately long horns instead curving forward into something looking much like a spear. Also along the trail, we came across a fresh set of brown hyena tracks, which followed our road for several kilometres before disappearing into the dunes.
The birds were also cooperative, with some hornbills flying around us, the koorhaan as loud as ever, and some scaly feathered finches tending to their nest while we stood by at watched from scant metres away.
We were chased by rain clouds the last 10 kilometres of the trail on this day, and we made it to the second camp, Rosyntjiebos, with just enough time to throw up our tents before we started getting wet. Thankfully, the rains only lasted for a few minutes – just long enough to send the humidity soaring – before clearing into another beautiful evening, with large thunderclouds in the distance entertaining us with a spectacular light show.TIMG_6341 - Sunset at Rosyntjiebos
by Miros Photography
, on Flickr
That night, we were awoken by a black-backed jackal, who started yeowling and yelping very loudly just around our camp for a good 5 minutes. The next morning we set out to look for its tracks, but instead came across the tracks of a hyena, which walked around our camp! I believe the jackal had been surprised by the hyena and had been voicing its displeasure at coming across the greater scavenger.
We continued to have good luck with prints on this third day, coming across another set of hyena tracks along the trail just before lunch, as well as a fresh set of cheetah tracks – the first I’ve come across!
We took our usual lunch stop at Eileen’s pan, again accompanied by the herd of gemsbok and hartebeest who seem to have made it their permanent residence. It was another beautiful stop, with big puffy cluds rolling across the sky and giving us some welcome relief from the heat.
The birds were also very cooperative today, with 3 large male ostrichs near our trucks, a swallow-tailed bee-eater flying nearby, and an African hoopoe sitting out in the open and calling his little heart out.
We arrived at Swartbas, our final camp of the trail, just in time for another small cloudburst – a light rain that lasted for all of 5 minutes. We set up camp, again with the sound of thunder in the distance, which is now becoming a staple sound of the trail.TIMG_6384_HDR-PNTRLY_Sunset over Swartbas
by Miros Photography
, on Flickr
Our fourth day was sadly abbreviated, as my guests needed to head well into Botswana this morning, but we drove the last portion of the trail quickly enough to get them to the end before 9am, and did so while getting an excellent view of a juvenile martial eagle right near to the trail!
Another excellent trail completed!
There is no trail scheduled for this week, but next week I've got several cars booked already, and we're swapping our start point to begin in Nossob and head south. Until then!