It was my third trip to South Africa, and it always exceeds expectations, it never disappoints. Last time we’d explored the lush Garden Route, this time we headed north towards the arid lands. Even before we got to Springbok in Namaqua, I was wondering just how desperate and just how determined the Voortrekkers must have been to even attempt farming in such a harsh landscape. The nomadic life of the Nama and San peoples they displaced was much better adapted to the heat and the dry.
Our journey was in itself a bit of a trek – a big loop north from Cape Town via the Cederbergs and Springbok, east to Augrabies National Park and then south again through Karoo National Park and De Hoop Nature Reserve. But it was a very soft wilderness experience from the comfort of cottages and cabins and an air conditioned car. We saw so much but what will stay in my mind are:
A group of ostriches outside our isolated cottage in West Coast national park as we returned from the bird hide where we’d watched a line of a dozen eland moving quietly through the scrub towards evening pasture.
A bat sipping from the swimming pool near our verandah in the Cedarbergs as we waited for the full moon to rise and bathe the garden in bright light.
Watching six springbok graze on our Namakwa hotel’s well irrigated lawn underneath our bedroom window at 1am, then waking to see two Cape hares with enormous ears had taken their place nibbling at the grass.
Admiring the ambition and construction skills of the social weaverbirds, whose nests on telegraph posts punctuated the long dry route east from Springbok to Augrabies.
Two young giraffe twisting their long necks to strike each other with their horns in playfight as we watched their family group of ten in the early morning light in Augrabies National Park
The coral snake resting on the track at Karoo NP warming itself under the lamp held by our guide and then sliding away from us with a sinuous liquid motion.
The ease on the eye of the rolling landscape of fertile fields and vineyards beneath the Langeberg mountains on Route 60 from Swellendam to Robertson.
The chatter of the water birds as they settled down for the night at De Hoop reserve while we sat just above the expanse of the vlei (or lagoon).
Momentarily spotting a Cape otter’s head as it surfaced from fishing near the shore of the vlei, an experience I’ve never had despite so much searching around Scottish lochs.
And almost every night, the sight of the Southern Cross and its two pointer stars clear in the dark night sky, beyond them the Milky Way stretching south and north in a great band of infinite stars and space.
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