Yesterday Renette spent most of the day bedding down the new caravan. Today she joins me at 6.30am as we leave camp just as the sun’s rays are setting the hilltops ablaze. No ice today – just a heavy dew on the windscreen as we wind up the steep road, following the same route as yesterday.
Of course Mountain Zebra is not real Big 5 country but only elephant are missing. But if ever it is the ‘small things’ that matter then today graphically illustrates this. We stop for coffee overlooking the same spectacular valley that I photographed yesterday. Not far ahead we spy a Pale Chanting Goshawk sunning itself on a bush.
Thereafter we enter the grassy plains of the high plateau bathed in the golden light of early morning and everything becomes a photographic target.
A common feature of these grasslands is the sound of the Eastern Clapper Lark which rockets skywards clapping his wings followed by a drawn out whistle.
After a while we see a dark shape in the road ahead in the shadow of a tree and drawing closer we find it to be a magnificent cheetah.
After marking his territory, he strolls off through the grasslands.
We next come across two exquisite Double Banded Coursers in the grass.
The light today is hazy with the wind picking up from the north – typical of September. We turn for camp but first pass a few other interesting sights.
We are in need of some groceries and some running repairs so after another early lunch at the excellent camp restaurant I take off for Cradock, some 20Km away. Here I am forced to remove my head from the sand as I sadly note the grandeur of the old town buildings surrounded by shockingly potholed streets and general squalour – the fate of so many SA towns. Mission accomplished I thankfully return to camp at 2.30pm.
At 4pm we set out along the same route as yesterday – towards the entrance gate. We pass the site of yesterday’s mystery bird.
And yes, son Warren got it spot on – the “melanistic” form of the Gabar Goshawk. I have never seen this before and was completely stumped until and normal coloured specimen alighted in the same tree.
Rather a difference.
Our trip back to camp is interrupted by two magnificent lionesses that come padding past us along the road. These Kgalagadi lions are spectacularly beautiful with teddybear, immaculate coats. It is such a pity that the Kruger lions are generally so scruffy and mangy by comparison.
Gate times fortunately are rather casually enforced and we arrive back late but with no problem at the open unmanned gate. Another splendid day.