And then some…

The third and final Papkuilsfontein instalment (dear subscriber…hold your breath for our imminent Kgalagadi trip!)

We were lucky enough to spot two Black Harrier adults in two separate locations. Later when I chatted to Rob Simmons of the Fitz Institute (Mr Black Harrier himself) he mentioned that he and a student had not managed to see a single Harrier in a trip up there 3 weeks before. Lucky, lucky us!

We also spotted a gazillion Rock kestrels. They are such wonderfully agile little raptors. This one (and his partner) was very agitated with us as we sat and had a snack on the edge of the canyon. There must have been a nest close by. They eyed us out constantly, leaving the rocky ledge frequently to hover and swear at us on the wing.

There were one or two other really big sighting highlights for us on this trip….an African Wild Cat leaping across the road (striped tail and all), a Freckled nightjar doing its bat-like flitting and calling outside our cottage just after dusk, a glorious little Bat-eared fox family (two babies) with Mum and Dad right on the side of the road and then a Cape Fox….very skittish and leaping away from us, across a field.

I left the Groot Karoo with the image of that little Bat-eared fox family in my mind, and I had to wonder how much of a struggle it is for these and all the other creatures to survive in this environment.

The odds are stacked against them, what with the traffic (we came across this very sad road kill casualty from the previous night – a large hare), fences at every turn, and, tragically…farmers with guns and traps.

(Being rather squeamish, I asked Warren to move this poor guy right off to the far side of the verge and off the road. This way it is less likely to cause more damage when another scavenger (four legged or winged) comes along to gobble it up and in doing so – gets hit. Possibly a good idea when/if you come across similar carnage on your travels.)

BUT, we saw so much and this means that creatures are incredibly resilient and (I live in hope on this one) that farmers are starting to come around to friendlier, more sustainable ways. Seeing so many raptors is always a very good indicator indeed.

A rarity in the rain…

As promised, some more on our little journey north to Papkuilsfontein…and the rare rain that followed us there!

As we drove into Clanwilliam it started spitting politely. By the time we hit Vanrhynsdorp, it was sheeting down… and large lakes (with waves) were forming in the main road. We looked at one another wide-eyed. We had thought we were coming to the parched Great Karoo, where it NEVER rains! The thought of being cooped up in a cottage for 4 days with a hyper 7 ½ year old was NOT good, so we screeched to a halt outside a modest little shop (one of about 2 in the town) that caters mainly for farmers and asked if they had any rain gear (we had packed nothing for wet weather).
We walked out happy, with three bright yellow rain suits (made for farm-workers) – ready for action.
(The guys in the shop were all looking quite delirious – the rain, although ridiculously unseasonal, is a Godsend to the farming fraternity in these parts…)

All kitted out in yellow the next day, on our first very soggy hike, we came across the most brilliant little creature. One which we feel completely blessed to have seen…and were able to watch for a good 10 minutes! By all accounts they are rarely encountered and certainly do not usually just hang about to be admired as this one did.

The Armadillo Lizard is quite an extraordinary reptile. When threatened, it curls up into a ball much like its namesake – the Armadillo!
Warren kicked himself for not having his camera on him (it was bucketing when we had set out)…but we have the memory of this little chap firmly planted in our minds. This is a photo I have borrowed from the ‘net just to show you how special he is.

This was just one of many other superb wildlife sightings on this farm…more of those tomorrow.

For a laugh, this is a pic of us getting completely stuck on Day 3….on our way to the start of one of the hikes. My poor little car just couldn’t quite pull off the 4×4 thing for this particularly soggy stretch. The farmer, Jaco, very kindly came down a couple of hours later to haul us out with his Toyota Landcruiser. He too got very impressively wedged in the mud for a good half an hour before he was able to get to us!!