We finally reached Oudebaaskraal dam in the heat of the day. The friendly lady at Reception had informed us that this was once the largest privately owned dam in the Southern hemisphere – that was before Sanparks took it over. Even so, we were not prepared for the size of it! With a length of 1,2 kilometres and a capacity of 34 million cubic metres it seemed oddly out of place in such arid surroundings.
Flocks of birds and ducks were visible from the distance but took off en masse as we drove up, making photographs impossible with my pocket-sized ‘mik-en-druk’. I resorted to snapping pics of the different coloured lichens instead. They certainly weren’t going anywhere.
All the fresh air had made me ravenous and it was time for lunch but there wasn’t an iota of shade anywhere. We followed signs to ‘Die Jag Hut’ in the hope of finding somewhere to shelter from the unforgiving sun. We were in luck. The hut was unoccupied due to being renovated and we settled in under the gazebo and picnicked on left-over fillet steak and salads. The last of the juicy cherries, which we’d picked in Ceres before we left, provided a refreshing end to the meal. SB challenged me to a cherry pip ‘spoeging’ competition. He regretted the challenge but at least it wasn’t ‘bok droll’e he had to contend with!
Suddenly, SB was on his feet, pointing and spluttering, unable to get any words out.
What?” I begged.
“Look! Over there . . .”
Firstly, I had no clue about what to look for and, secondly, I didn’t know in what quadrant of the unending landscape the object of his attention was located.
Still he flapped his arms like a mad traffic controller and pointed.
“What the heck is it? And where?” I cried in frustration.
“Oh, damn! It’s gone now.”
“Well, thanks a lot,” I muttered. “Now you can tell me what it was.”
“A cat of some sort. It walked along the top of the ridge there. Bigger than a domestic cat, smaller than a leopard. No spots, just a brown in colour.”
I despaired at the thought of possibly having just missed a caracal and no matter how hard I continued to stare at the ridge, the mystery cat didn’t reappear.
We set off to look at the Tankwa Guest House which we’d declined to book because we didn’t fancy sharing a communal cooking and lounge area on New Year’s Eve. However, when we saw the guest house, we felt a little twinge of regret, especially since they had electricity and we didn’t. Oh well, another time!
Scattered around the guest house were a couple of wagons, a corroded old steam engine and some pretty quiver trees which always remind me of Namibia, specifically the Quiver Tree Forest near Keetmanshoop.
While exploring a few more abandoned farmhouses built from mud and straw bricks we stumbled across the cemetery of a forgotten farming family. What misfortune had driven them from this land and what hopes and dreams had been destroyed in the process? Humans have inhabited this area for at least 10 000 years, first hunter-gatherers and then pastoralists, but today residents are scarce in this harsh environment.
Next on our rambling agenda was the pan, aptly named Blink Vlei Vlakte. Looking at the expanse of dry, caked mud we vowed to return one day in spring to see it filled with water and shining like a mirror. Photographs of the flower season at Reception showed breathtaking vistas of sunshine yellow dotted with bright, cheerful vygies in purple, white and orange. In this Succulent Karoo Biome, nearly seventy percent of the park’s plants are found nowhere else. No wonder it has been named one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots.
Thanks for sticking with me thus far. One more epsiode to come on the weekend.