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 Post subject: Arks' Augrabies Adventures: September 2007
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:47 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3753
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
7 September 2007

I last visited Augrabies Falls National Park in early November 1992, which was during a period of drought, so I was hoping that I'd get to see more water over the falls this time. However, in fact, the volume of water in early September 2007 was similarly sparse, which was disappointing.

I had originally planned on three nights at Augrabies, but my unexpected KNP detour meant that I had to drop one of those nights. Thus, after an early departure from KMIA, which is a delightful small airport, and a change of planes at Johannesburg, I arrived at Upington's cramped and utilitarian airport — but unfortunately one of my bags did not. Even more unfortunately, the bag that did arrive was the one I really didn't need until Cape Town, whereas the one that had gone missing contained all of my essentials, including all of my power cables and chargers. Lesson learned: Never again will I pack all the cables and chargers in the same bag!

Another problem was that my hired car didn't have electric windows, which I feel are absolutely essential when traveling in a game reserve — and even moreso when traveling alone. Elmarie, the Avis manager, agreed and within hours had arranged a VW Polo with electric windows, which I could collect on Sunday, en route to Kgalagadi. While I never received any further word from SAA Airlink about my missing bag, thankfully it was also waiting for me when I arrived back at the airport on Sunday.

I picked up some groceries at the excellent Upington Pick ‘n Pay and also stopped in at the highly recommended Skaapland butchery, to check on their Sunday hours, as I planned to do the bulk of my shopping on Sunday before heading to KTP. Once my shopping was done, I headed west to Augrabies, en route passing many more vineyards than I remembered from 1992.

After settling into chalet #56, I took a walk along the boardwalk to have a look at the falls. Along the way I saw a few lazy dassies sunning themselves on the rocks. While I knew that there had not been much recent rainfall, I was surprised to find that there was perhaps even less water coming over the falls than on my last visit, which had been at the end of several years of drought. I was both surprised and disappointed that there was so little water both at the falls and at the various viewpoints in the game area, as I'd expected the river to be higher overall. Perhaps this lack of water is due to the area's agricultural growth, particularly the vineyards?

sightings
in camp: dassies, rock pigeon

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chalet #56 is 4th from the right, with the white car
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8 September 2007

I was up early and heading off into the game area by 07h30. Amazingly, apart from a SANParks bakkie, I saw no other vehicle until after noon. And surprisingly, I also saw fewer birds than I'd anticipated and no animals apart from quite a few klipspringers. Before today, I'd only seen a klipspringer once, in KNP and at a considerable distance, so I was delighted to see so many here and so relatively close as well. However, I'd particularly been hoping to see the Augrabies giraffe. To see no animals at all apart from klipspringers and dassies was a considerable disappointment.

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I decided to head first for Echo Corner, having read such glowing reports of the excellent bird sightings there. It's a visually quite lovely viewpoint, but unfortunately I neither saw nor even heard any birds at all — just lots of overpowering silence. In hopes of finding some more animals and birds, I drove the long loop to the west as far as the "escape route". I saw a few more klipspringers, some unusual plants, including plenty of quiver trees, and a variety of fairly common birds, including several chats, dusky sunbird, sabota lark, sociable weavers, pale chanting goshawk, forktailed drongo, whitethroated canary, Namaqua sandgrouse and palewinged starlings.

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Echo Corner
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On my return trip back towards the restcamp, I stopped at the other viewpoints: Oranjekom, Ararat and Moon Rocks. Sightings continued to be sparse, but at Ararat I had a sighting that fully compensated for the sparseness of the rest of the day — my first ever black eagle, soaring out over the gorge and later perched on a ledge along the road that exits from the Ararat carpark.

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I'd hoped for news of my missing luggage when I returned to camp, but there were no messages — I would have to wait until I returned to the airport next day. Meanwhile, I had a longer walk around the camp and down to the falls and amongst several bird sightings, saw my first ever Orange River white eye. Later Rudolf, the GVI Augrabies volunteer, stopped by for a glass of wine and a chat, a very pleasant finale to my brief Augrabies visit.

sightings
in camp: redeyed bulbul, palewinged starling, hoopoe, laughing dove
game area: dassie, palewinged starling, klipspringer, LBJs, mountain wheatear, pale chanting goshawk, familiar chat, Karoo chat, whitethroated canary, dusky sunbird, laughing dove, Namaqua sandgrouse, forktailed drongo, sociable weavers, sabota lark, black eagle
in camp: rock pigeon, dassies, Augrabies flat lizard, Orange River white eye, Cape robin, southern masked weaver, palewinged starling, greyheaded sparrow

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9 September 2007

I had a long day ahead of me, so after enjoying the sunrise and the antics of a few redeyed bulbuls foraging on my braai grid, I headed back to Upington to collect my replacement car, and, I hoped, my missing luggage, followed by shopping at Pick ‘n Pay and Skaapland, before the long trek north to Kgalagadi.


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 Post subject: Augrabies then and now: 1992 and 2007
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 4:36 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3753
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
I've found some of my 1992 pix (scanned slides) that illustrate my "then and now" experience of Augrabies. When I visited in 1992, it was at the end of an extended drought, so there was relatively little water flowing over the falls. I had hoped to see more dramatic falls on this visit, but in fact I think that, at the end of a dry winter, there was even less water flowing over the falls.

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Notice that in the left (1992) photo, there is a narrow falls on the far left, but there were none of these smaller falls in 2007.

Here are two further "then and now" pix of the falls taken from a similar vantage point. The boardwalks and viewing platforms are relatively new. In 1992, IIRC, you could walk pretty much anywhere on the rocks in between the camp and the falls and river.

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Finally, this is the viewpoint at Ararat, with 1992 on the left. Interesting that the shrub on the right doesn't seen any larger after 15 years!

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