birdsurveysbyvincentparker

A bird survey of the southern Kalahari

Southern Farms, November 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and other parts of the Northern Cape. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Tuesday 30 October 2018 S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.16’

It was mild and windy. I began preparations for moving on tomorrow, including a trip to town to stock up with provisions. I am watching weather forecasts, and have a difficult decision to make as to whether to go ahead or wait for more favourable weather. The forecast indicates winds that will be somewhere between just uncomfortable and impossible to operate in. My destination is Southern Farms, which is on the river between Bynabo and Raap-en-skraap, and being on the river there would be at least partial shelter from the wind, but on the way there I will spend some days on exposed and barren plains, where finding birds is difficult in the best of conditions. If I wait for windless conditions though, I may have to wait a full five days.

I have been involved in a discussion with the bird atlas project (sabap2) management about a proposal to tweak the project protocol to possibly attract wider participation (the management are paranoid about a possible decline in participation, which according to the available data is not even happening). I have indicated that I would reconsider my participation if that were to go through. Perhaps that is a drastic move, since the effect of the proposed change could be minor and could be accounted for by computational adjustments, but my motivation for supporting the project is to make a contribution to science and I am in principle opposed to any compromise with the science involved. I also think that it is not good to allow the project to be my whole life, and good to be able to at least consider doing something else.

Wednesday 31 October  S 28° 35.65’ E 20° 08.37’

It was cold at first and windy. The wind died away eventually, and then it was warm. I drove westward through the village of Augrabies and on along the road that skirts the Augrabies National Park.

When I stopped, it was too windy to observe any birds. I sat cocooned in the cab of my vehicle with a good novel, and the trouble with that is that inertia sets in and when conditions improve, it is difficult to rouse oneself and get on with the job. I did rouse myself and did some bird listing and then stopped to camp farther along that road.

Thursday 1 November  S 28° 35.18’ E 19° 56.15’

It was cold at first and warm later. While continuing along the southern boundary of the National Park, I passed scattered patches of light woodland, where bird listing was moderately brisk, but when the road swung southward later in the day, it passed through more barren land, and there were some bird-less intervals when I stopped.

Friday 2 November   S 28° 33.54’ E 19° 46.07’

It was cold at first and warm later (almost hot). I reached the turnoff to Southern Farms, and spent time around the farmyard and the patch of woodland there. That stop was productive, but for the rest of the day, birds were very hard to find. I drove through a desert-like landscape with splendid views of rugged mountains ahead on the Southern Farms road, and stopped to camp still some distance short of the river.

The CEO of the Southern Farms company (driving a truck) stopped and informed me that I was already on private land, but that that was OK, the company supported wildlife initiatives, including bird surveys (I had tried to phone Southern Farms before setting out on this trip, but the numbers on the road signs were no longer valid).  He advised me that I would reach an electronic gate ahead, and that I should then phone him for admittance.

Saturday 3 November  S 28° 29.80’ E 19° 43.37’

It was warm. I soon reached the electronic gate controlling access to the Southern Farms vineyards. If I had not met the CEO by chance on the road yesterday, I would have turned back at this point. I phoned him for access, but the gate did not open. After a while, the driver of an exiting vehicle allowed me to enter, explaining that the phone system to the gate was down.

I drove on a long way through vineyards to report at the main office, a very grand and beautifully furnished building, surrounded by manicured gardens and a duck pond. The duty manager led me in his vehicle a long way through land recently cleared and being prepared for new vineyards, to reach a private campsite by the river, with big indigenous shade trees and a hot spring with a pool.

I walked around a little, but my legs had become leaden, and I spent the afternoon mostly sitting still and watching the river. I heard occasional snatches of tinny music and amplified voices from somewhere upstream, where there was a weekend gathering of the Zionist Christian Church.

Sunday 4 November

It was warm and partly cloudy, with an intermittent breeze (it was probably very windy up above, out of the river valley). Not having to pack up and move (for today and one more day) I slept in until almost daybreak.

During the morning, I walked about on the farm. I did not try cycling because the going is soft and thorny. After that, I watched the river.

I cannot get into the river bed at the campsite, for that bank is steep and densely vegetated, but by walking a little way downstream I could get onto the river bed and sit on a sand-spit with the water lapping around me. After sitting a while, I became aware of a Black Crake and a Little Bittern in the reeds. There is some alien vegetation lining the banks, Port Jackson Willow I think, as well as Mesquite. There were a couple of fishermen at the rapids upstream, with hand-lines, makeshift rods and a net.

Monday 5 November

It was cool at first, warm later and windy in the afternoon. I walked upstream along the river bank, between the riverine thicket on one side and steep rocky slopes on the other, with some deep gullies to cross. There was some taller woodland there, and I added some woodland birds to the grid-cell species list (Golden-tailed Woodpecker and Karoo Thrush among others). There is a substantial wine estate across the river in Namibia. Its workers’ accommodation is in rectangular mud houses scattered haphazardly up the slope, resembling a typical African village.

Tuesday 6 November  S 28° 51.97’ E 19° 54.86’

It was warm. I packed up and drove out of the campsite. I had some anxiety about a sandy stretch of road through a dry river bed that I had to negotiate, but managed without losing traction (the slope had been in my favour when I came the other way).

I stopped near the main office for a look at another stretch of the river. A group of female field-workers were singing a pleasant melody while they stood around awaiting their assignment for the day.

I left the river behind and headed once more into the dry-lands. I turned south and my final stop for the day and roadside campsite was near the junction with the N14 Pofadder/Kakamas tar road, where a line of low trees along a dry watercourse breaks the monotony of the plain.

Wednesday 7 November   S 28° 49.25’ E 20° 22.60’

It was cold and windy at first, and warm by the end of the day. My first stop along the main road was almost a repeat of my last visit here some weeks ago, with me sitting inside my vehicle waiting for the wind to subside. The wind was a little kinder this time and I did get an adequate list together on occasional forays out into the cold wind, and then I moved on.

My next stop was at a particularly barren piece of countryside. There had been a house near the road, marking the place where I had stopped on my last visit here, I thought, a modest farmhouse, unoccupied but well kept. There was no house. I was fearing a serious deterioration of my mental faculties until I identified the place where it had stood, where there is now only a small heap of rubble.

At first I sat in my car waiting for the wind to slacken again, and when it dropped to a breeze I spent several hours scouring the barren plain with intense concentration, to detect the slightest bird-related movement or sound. As a rule, I will not leave one of these very barren grid-cells without listing at least 10 species, but this time I had to move on with only 9. I did not stay on there overnight, because the road through was busy, and the distance was too great to consider coming back there in the morning.

I drove on, turned off on the quiet back road to Augrabies and made camp at the end of a hard day.

Thursday 8 November  S 28° 45.77’ E 20° 38.79’

It was cool at first and warm later, and a pleasant day, without wind.

Driving towards Kakamas, I stopped where there a few trees, not quite a woodland, along a dry stream, where I was able to augment the bird-list for another otherwise barren grid-cell.

I shopped for supplies in town. There are two supermarkets with rather similar stock, but I needed a few items from each that were not available in the other, making it a double strenuous operation. I went on to set up camp at Die Mas, the campground by the river, under large indigenous shade trees on the riverbank, to stay for five days. I then had to repack my supplies, another strenuous task. I moved old stock items that were at the bottom of trunks to where they would be used sooner (most ‘non-perishable’ food items come with the instruction to ‘store in a cool, dry place’. Dry, I can do.)

Watching the river, I detected a Purple Heron and a Green-backed Heron, previously rare for the region but becoming more common (or at least more often seen), also a Goliath Heron and a Little Bittern.IMG_1509 (1280x960)IMG_1513 (1280x959)IMG_1517IMG_1519 (1280x950)IMG_1524 (1280x960)IMG_1540 (1280x960)IMG_1544IMG_1560 (1280x959)IMG_1562 (1280x960)IMG_1570 (1280x959)IMG_1580IMG_1591

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The R359 Neilersdrif to Kakamas

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and other parts of the Northern Cape. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Saturday 20 October 2018 S 28° 42.94’ E 20° 57.36’

It was very windy. I had been tipped off that the windy conditions were likely to persist for two or three days, so I cut short this expedition and drove on to Keimoes and the relative shelter of a formal campground (I had planned to spend one more day on the road between here and Keimoes), stopping in town for fresh supplies on the way.

Sunday 21 October

It was warm. I have checked into the campground for three days because forecasts suggest that strong winds will persist over this region for that period. This campground is well protected from wind though, and here I have been aware only of occasional moderate gusts. I used my time here to catch up with data capture and communications, and rested.

On previous visits to this campground, the cats were a constant nuisance, begging and stealing food. They are here to control rats in the vineyards, but it seems that their numbers have been controlled, and this time I was hardly bothered by them.

Monday 22 October

It was warm and windy. I spent another day in camp attending to some admin and maintenance chores. I did some repacking of my vehicle, checking my inventory of supplies and looking for cockroaches (of which I found only a couple of strays). I am carrying a lot of stuff that I do not use. Some of it will become useful when I settle down to the extent of having a fixed place of abode. I have a trunk-full of tools and spares, none of which I have used for more than 12 years. I needed all that stuff when I was travelling alone in remote parts of Mozambique in the period immediately following the end of the civil war, for then I would not have been able to call for help in the event of any kind of breakdown.

Tuesday 23 October

It was cool, overcast and windy, and I checked into the campground for an extra day to see out the windy conditions. I went to town briefly for supplies, and stopped at the Old School Guesthouse, which has a used book stall, and exchanged some books. I stopped also on the bridge over the main channel of the river and gazed at the river for a while. Otherwise, it was a leisurely day in camp, which I needed.

Wednesday 24 October  S 28° 45.88’ E 20° 51.68’

It was a warm day with a light breeze. I woke very early and could not get back to sleep.

I set off on the back road to Kakamas, the scenic route, along the south side of the river, meaning to take two or three days to reach Kakamas (45 km away). I paused once more by the bridge over the main channel of the river, and a Goliath Heron flapped slowly and laboriously by.

I stopped and walked about among rocky hills, and also among vineyards and reeds by the river banks. I did not get as much time in at the riverside as I would have liked, due to one of the tracks that I had previously use to go there now having a locked gate.

In the afternoon, I stopped in a rocky place by the roadside with a view of the small pass where Black Eagles have a nest atop a pylon. The eagles were not present now, presumably having completed a breeding cycle and gone away temporarily. I was informed by a passer by that that nest has not been a successful one, because each year the young had fallen out of the nest before fledging. I stayed there overnight.

Thursday 25 October  S 28° 46.58’ E 20° 45.02’

It was clear and warm. On these beautiful mornings, I resent the time I have to spend packing up camp and getting dressed etc., but make a point of sitting still for a while over coffee.

I drove on, making stops among farmyards and among rocky slopes, and by late morning had reached the neck of a short pass which overlooks the confluence of the channels of the river, perhaps my favourite place in this region. There was a lot of bird-noise from the reeds below, and there were some White-breasted Cormorants nesting in the same tree where a few weeks ago I had seen a colony of Darters breeding (some of the Darters were still present).

I spent the rest of the day and the night there. There is a wide space at the top of the pass where one can park, but I struggled to find a level spot and had to settle for a bit of a camber.

Friday 26 October  S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.16’

It was hot. I went on into the farm Neus and stopped by the riverside. I saw a pair of Cape Shovelers, which are not usually river birds, usually found instead on dams and pans.

I went shopping for supplies in Kakakmas, and that was hectic. There was heavy traffic and I had some difficulty finding parking by the new shopping centre. Inside the shops, there were trolley-jams in the aisles. It was the last Friday of the month, payday for some.

I reached Lake Grappa and checked in to camp for five days (a heat wave is forecast for the duration). I repacked supplies in different places in the load area of my bakkie, according to whether they were for short-term, medium-term or long-term consumption. In my haste to get finished and rest, a couple of eggs went astray, but I recovered them unbroken, and some oatmeal bran spilt and disappeared through gaps in the floor mat to become food for cockroaches.

Saturday 27 October

It was hot. I had a cold, which is silly. Real explorers do not get colds (I last had one about 12 years ago). While it was still only warm, I cycled gently into the undeveloped, stony part of the farm. Thereafter I attended to chores and documentation, keeping to the little bit of shade cast by my vehicle and roof-tent.

Sunday 28 October

It was hot. I got on my bicycle as the sun was rising and cycled to the riverbanks. There was a big gate with a padlock across the bridge over the first mostly dry minor channel of the river. On closer inspection, I found that the padlock did not engage the gate, and was thinking about pulling the gate open and going on, when a farmer arrived and did that for me. They close the gate sometimes to keep motor-cyclists out.

I crossed two more small bridges onto the various islands in the river. There was no human activity there today. The vines are not yet bearing grapes, so there is no need for labour on a Sunday.

I returned to camp and stayed in the shade for the rest of the day, drinking a lot of fluids (I thought about how to say that, for what else would one drink but fluids, but if I were to say more simply ‘drinking a lot’, that would be misunderstood) and taking a cold shower from time to time.

Monday 29 October

It was hot at first, but cooler later, and windy. I repeated yesterdays excursion to the river, and onto the islands between its channels, and got back before it got hot, or windy.

I sheltered in camp from the heat and the wind for the rest of the day, and took care of some admin. I am shocked by the annual increase in the fees for my medical cover, and looking back at the previous increases realise that those costs are increasing faster than the value of my investments, and that is not sustainable. I began looking for more affordable options.

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Doringknie-se-vloer – October 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and other parts of the Northern Cape. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Wednesday 10 October 2018 S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.16’

It was warm. I slept very little. I got involved overnight in a heated discussion by email over a bird atlas management issue, and once I am involved in such a discussion or disagreement over anything, my mind will not let go of it, will not let me sleep.

I got up long before dawn and worked on bicycle punctures. The tube in the back wheel has some big gashes that throw off their patches. I have been punishing myself by repeatedly re-patching them, instead of inserting another tube, which I have. I inserted the other tube. At dawn, I cycled to the river and over bridges onto some of its islands.

By mid-morning, re-visiting, the discussion I had been involved in overnight, I realised that the other parties involved were at least partially in agreement with me, and I felt sheepish for having been more vehement than I needed to be.

I had to lie down in the afternoon, too tired to cope, but I am usually unable to sleep during daytime, and managed to close my eyes for no more than 10 minutes. It got windy meanwhile. I roused myself at sunset to walk to the end of the lake and saw a Squacco Heron, a new species for an already well-surveyed location. I did sleep well when evening came.

Thursday 11 October

It was warm, and windy in the afternoon. I drove to town for provisions, and prepared for my next expedition.  I will head out tomorrow through Kakamas on the Loeriesfontein road and turn left at Geelvloer to reach Doringknie-se-vloer. I will return to Kakamas via Kenhardt and Keimoes, after about 14 days.

Friday 12 October  S 28° 59.79’ E 20° 29.84’

It was a grey day, cool and overcast. I packed up and set out on the road. After passing through Kakamas and taking the Kenhardt road, I turned right on the road to Loeriesfontein.

Leaving behind the hills that line the course of the Orange River, I passed across a grey and mostly treeless plain. The road had been recently graded and the going was smooth. There were no midges about and the wind did not blow.

At my midday stop there was indeed not a tree in sight, but in the afternoon I was able to pause where there were ribbons of low trees (or tall bushes) along dry watercourses.  In all three farmers stopped in passing, to enquire how I was getting along. They had each seen me at the roadside before, in various places.

I stopped to camp by a disused quarry which was surrounded by Mesquite bushes and trees. There was a slice of open sky in the west, allowing a view of a red sunset.

Saturday 13 October  S 29° 09.17’ E 20° 24.96’

It was clear and cool at first, becoming overcast, warm and windy later. There is a dry riverbed lined with some large trees which winds across the landscape and intersects this road from time to time, and it is at those points that most birds are to be observed. One must however also pay attention to the open plains, where the endemic species of the region may be found. Today though, the plains appeared to be mostly lifeless.

In the afternoon, the wind became too strong for further bird observation, and being tired, I lay down and rested. Dark clouds gathered and a few raindrops fell, but too few for one to say that it actually rained.

Sunday 14 October  S 29° 18.79’ E 20° 18.76’

It was warm and clear, and windy in the afternoon. The road south continued to intertwine with the dry course of the Sout River, but whereas yesterday the large trees lining its course were mostly indigenous Acacias, today its course is mostly marked by a thicket of Mesquite.

I passed several unoccupied farmhouses, with clusters of abandoned workers’ cottages. How different this area must have been when all of the dwellings had been occupied, and how isolated must be the lives of the few who remain. The land would have looked different too, without the Mesquite, which is a recent invader.

During the afternoon, I took care to drive at least four kilometres between stops, aware that too frequent stops would progressively deplete the charge in my car battery, and anyway I did not pass any place that looked particularly worth a stop during those sections.

From my penultimate stop, I cycled ahead a bit, and came across a dried up marsh with reeds, which must be full of life when there has been a lot of rain (but that would be hardly ever). Beyond that was a cluster of houses (substantial houses, not labourers’ cottages), almost a village. The houses were in good repair and although there was no-one about, there were signs of recent occupation, including barking dogs. I made camp at a point between the dry marsh and the settlement.

Monday 15 October  S 29° 25.01’ E 20° 08.86’

It was cold at first with a breeze, becoming warm in the afternoon. My daily routine is to pack up camp, get dressed and have coffee and breakfast before the sun rises. After watching it rise, I drive on, stopping from time to time, to walk and cycle back and forth along the road, and along any side tracks where access is not restricted, and to sit still for a while with a cup of tea, with a lengthier spell of sitting still around midday. By 4 PM, I will have selected an open level space at the roadside where I will make camp. Whenever I am within range of FM radio transmissions, I will then listen to news and current affairs. Having dined, I will watch the sunset, enjoy a cup of wine and do some reading before retiring to bed.

I passed two graders parked near my overnight stop, and from there on the road was a little bumpy. I continued through an open plain that was stony with low scattered grey bushes and occasional tufts of dry grass, and Mesquite thickets. Among other plains’ birds, there were several Stark’s Larks and a couple of Black-eared Sparrow-larks.

A policeman responding to a report of a strange vehicle in the area, stopped to check on me. He recognised me, had encountered me on the Riemvasmaak road a few weeks ago. While making small talk, he not very subtly sidled over to a position where he could peer inside the back of my bakkie without admitting to doing so, to satisfy himself, I guess, that there were no stolen sheep there (or at least none that were not well hidden).

I reached a crossroads where I turned left towards Kenhardt, and then the road became smooth again.  I had bicycle punctures to attend to, from thorns that entered the sides of the tyres. I put sealant in both wheels.  I made an omelette of onion and bits of stale bread fried in canola oil, eggs, cream cheese, tuna, powdered milk and salsa. For once, I managed the consistency and cooking time so that it came out of the pan in one piece.

Tuesday 16 October  S 29° 31.48’ E 20° 23.99’

It was cold at first, becoming warm with some light cloud cover later. I drove on across a plain that was alternately stony with scattered grey shrubs, or a sea of tawny grass. The grassy parts probably support more sheep, but there are more bird species in the shrubby parts.

By midday I reached the dry pan which is Doringknie-se-vloer. There appeared to be water on its far reaches, but that was a mirage. While cycling about, I came across another cyclist, much to my surprise, a farm worker out doing maintenance on fences.

I thought I may have entered the Astronomy Advantage Area (AAA), the greater area surrounding the site of the Square Kilometre Array, the international multi-mega-telescope project (still under construction), where no cellular or radio transmissions are permitted for fear that they may interfere with the telescopes, but the AAA does not extend in this direction, there just are not any cellular or radio signals in this area anyway.

I stopped to camp at the crossroads with a back road to Brandvlei. It was a very stony, barren looking place, but on a slight rise giving a bit of a view. There was a farmyard nearby, with a few scraggly trees.

Wednesday 17 October  S 29° 33.27’ E 20° 36.12’

It was cold at first and warm later. I stopped by a farmyard with a few trees and a rudimentary garden, and again where there were thickets of the alien invasive Mesquite. There were signs that an attempt had been made to clear the Mesquite from the roadside, but the attempt had been abandoned, or the Mesquite had already re-grown. It seems futile anyway to clear the Mesquite at the roadside when it is not also cleared from the adjacent farmland. I came across a water-hole still holding some water, with a pair of South-African Shelduck and a flock of Red-billed Queleas alongside it.

Thursday 18 October  S 29° 28.25’ E 20° 49.51’

It was cool at first and warm later. I stopped by a farmyard that was unoccupied but not abandoned (the infrastructure appeared to be intact), by livestock drinking-troughs where birds were gathered (almost all of them were Lark-like Buntings) and by a dry watercourse with a thicket of Mesquite. Several large trucks from a quarry passed by, leaving behind dense clouds of dust which hung in the air for ages.

I passed a large solar-power installation, and beyond that the road was bumpy, and the land became progressively more barren-looking. I stopped to camp on ground that was mostly bare, within sight of the busy railway-line that carries iron-ore from the mine at Sishen to the sea-port at Saldanha, and also within view of some woodland along a water-course, which I will explore tomorrow. On these barren plains, the constant vigilance that is needed to get the bird species total up to an adequate level is very tiring.

Friday 19 October  S 29° 24.91’ E 20° 58.83’

It was warm with a stiff breeze. As I drove towards the main Kenhardt/Brandvlei road, crossing the Sishen/Saldanha railway-line, patches of woodland (mostly Mesquite) became more frequent, and the intervening plains even more barren. I had one of those mornings where I kept getting brief glimpses of birds that flitted away before I could get a clear view, not to return.

I have learnt a new trick at my relatively advanced age. I was beginning to get a sore hip, from frequently throwing a leg up over the crossbar of my bicycle. I discovered that by first putting the bicycle down, then standing astride it and lifting it, I could get up on to the saddle without having to swing a hip. Perhaps everybody else already knew this?

The afternoon was extraordinarily bird-less. As evening drew on, the wind picked up and blew strongly all night. I was kept awake for a while by the wind shaking my rooftent and flapping the eaves, but I got used to that, and slept.

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Midges and wind – October 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and parts of the Karoo. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Sunday 30 September  2018 S 28° 37.62’ E 19° 30.34’

It was warm and humid. I cycled to the northern end of the farm. I veered slightly inward as I waved to a tractor driver who was passing me from behind, and saw him look back sharply with concern. I had not realised that the trailer that he was towing was very wide (it was a crop-spraying machine) and I had almost veered into its path.

I had to go a long way through vineyards to reach some natural vegetation around the perimeter of the farm, but I got there.  When the track around the perimeter became sandy and soft, I parked the bicycle and walked.

There is an elderly couple in a big tent in a corner of the campground. They come here every year for a month. They have a big deep-freeze, otherwise it would be a long way to go for supplies from here.

In the afternoon, clouds gathered, and there was thunder and lightning, and later, quite unexpectedly, it rained.

Monday 1 October  S 28° 50.76’ E 19° 34.98’

It was warm, with a few clouds about. I found that long-life milk, once opened, no longer stays fresh in my cold-box, thus marking the beginning of summer.

I had a last look at the river and headed out. I made a couple of moderately productive stops on the way back to the Onseepkans road, and then stopped near the intersection for the rest of the day and the night. That was rather a dreary spot, and although I walked and cycled about from there, I observed hardly a bird.

Tuesday 2 October  S 28° 52.36’ E 19° 54.95’

It was warm and windy. I stopped near the intersection with the main Kakamas/Pofadder road. At first, with the wind blowing, there was nothing to be done but shelter behind the vehicle and drink coffee, but when the wind moderated, I cycled about and completed a bird-list for the location.

Later I stopped along the Kakamas road near an unoccupied but well kept and freshly painted farmhouse. A Toyota Hilux bakkie was broken down at the roadside with a broken clutch-release bearing. It was a company vehicle, and the driver was able to call a support team who would eventually rescue him and recover the vehicle, but his passengers, seven or eight hitch-hikers, would have to be abandoned. After a while they got a lift in a big truck, all but one of them, who set out on foot. Perhaps he did not have the cash that the truck driver required of him.

For my final and overnight stop, I turned off on the Nous road at Bladgrond and stopped a little way along it (a spot where I had camped on my last trip this way).

Wednesday 3 October  S 28° 51.98’ E 19° 54.86’

It was cold at first, warm later, and very windy. Once I was up, I broke camp and drove a short distance to park facing into the wind at the intersection with the main road and close to a bridge over a tree-lined dry stream bed.

I sat in the vehicle, drinking coffee and reading, and occasionally got out to walk about briefly (and even observed an occasional bird), waiting for the wind to subside, but it did not. Between here and Kakamas, I have some very barren land to cover, and it would be hopeless attempting that in a strong wind. I thought about skipping that, driving on to Kakamas, having a meal at a restaurant and reconnecting with electronic communications, but I stayed put, determined to complete the coverage planned for this trip. I have consumed some costly fuel to get here, and must make that count. A day of not going anywhere also helps me to stay within budget.

I drove back up the Nous road and made camp a little way beyond last night’s camp.

Thursday 4 October  S 28° 43.53’ E 20° 24.75’

It was cold and windy at first, becoming warm later with a breeze. The wind had moderated since yesterday, making bird observation more possible, but it remained uncomfortable. I reached that barren stretch that I needed to cover, and once there walked and cycled about, and sat still in between, for hours on end, to eventually complete a very meagre bird-species list for the location (10 species).

I drove on as far as the Droegrond turnoff, and there turned the other way on the back road to Augrabies. I continued to near the end of that road, to make a stop where there is some light woodland and a goat kraal with drinking troughs, and then back-tracked a little to make camp on the plain.

As the wind dropped in the late afternoon, midges became bothersome. By then, I was tired, had a headache, and had a bicycle puncture to deal with.

Friday 5 October  S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.16’

It was warm. I did some bird-listing at two roadside stops on the way to town, then shopped for provisions and went on to check in for a week at the campground at Lake Grappa. There were other campers, three families with children, and I am used to having this campground to myself.

Saturday 6 October

It was warm. I had an easy day of maintenance chores and rest. I did some washing (now that it is warmer, there are fewer clothes to wash) and caught up with data capture and other electronic communication.

I spent a while tracking down and photographing an unusual looking small wader that suddenly arrived on the lakeshore, but on studying the images found that it was a Little Stint (only slightly unusual here).

The Clapper Larks have recently been split into two species (Cape Clapper and Eastern Clapper), with an apparent gap between their respective ranges. My observation of a Cape Clapper near Kakamas yesterday fell into that gap, making the geographical separation of the two species less clear-cut.

Sunday 7 October

It was warm, and I had another day of relative inaction. I cycled slowly around the undeveloped part of the reserve, which was very quiet (I saw a herd of Hartebees and a few birds), and attended to electronic communication.

The campground too was quiet (the other campers left in the morning) and I had a swim in the artificial lake.

Monday 8 October

It was warm, humid and partly cloudy. I cycled about in the undeveloped part of the property again, using a slightly different route. It is not a bird-rich area, but I regard all parts of the region as equally interesting, whether there are many bird species or few.  I do this particular outing often because it is near and I can go there without using any petrol. The bird atlas methodology and methods of analysis allow for differences in density of coverage across the region.

In the afternoon, I worked on some bird atlas admin, and swam in the lake. I noticed that the ground staff were wearing gauze masks over their faces, to keep off the midges.

Tuesday 9 October

It was warm and partly cloudy, and it became windy in the afternoon. I cycled out of the resort, down to the river, and across several small bridges onto the islands that are separated by channels of the river. On the islands, I followed tracks that separated the vineyards from the river banks with their reed-beds and strips of woodland. These highly man-modified environments are of special interest to the bird atlas project. Having established a baseline with the first bird atlas survey (1986-91), the prime objective of the current survey is to record the changes in the distributions, especially those due to human activity.

I spent the afternoon at the lakeside, doing little. I needed that, for I have been sleeping poorly during these warm nights.

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Raap-en-skraap – September 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and parts of the Karoo. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Thursday 20 September 2018 S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.15’

It was clear with an icy breeze. I dawdled a while in camp, waiting for it to warm up, but then set out on my bicycle in full winter gear.

I cycled out of the resort down to the river, and over two small bridges onto an island, then back to the mainland and along the canal road to the village of Marchand and the main road bridge onto the large island Paardeneiland. This is a regular outing for me whenever I am in this part of the world, and as always, a productive one.

It had warmed up by midday and the afternoon was pleasant. I was still tired, and spent a while lying down. Later, I walked around the artificial lake (really a farm dam).

There were other campers, three elderly couples in a caravan and tents, part of a high-school reunion (Upington High School). The other attendees were in the chalets. This is a pleasant campground but not well known, and I am used to having it to myself.

For several days now, and in different places, I have been hearing the bubbling calls of European Bee-eaters as they fly by overhead, returning from their annual migration. Most migrants returning to South Africa follow an easterly route, following the great escarpment and avoiding the dry west, but the Eorepean Bee-eaters seem to be an exception, with at least part of the population coming in over the Kalahari.

Friday 21 September

It was a mild day. I had slept well and awoke refreshed. I cycled once more to the river and Paardeneiland, using a different route. I went directly to the village of Marchand, crossed the main road bridge onto the island and cycled northward along the island, using the tar road (and avoiding thorns on the minor roads). Back in camp, I caught up with some bird atlas admin.

The reunion function is still going on at the resort, and the number of revellers has swelled. The attendees are people of around my age, and it was depressing to see the number of large bellies among the men. We are a sick society (perhaps I have a claim not to be part of it?). It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed watching the sun set.

Saturday 22 September

It was overcast at first, soon clearing and becoming warm. It is easier to get up in the mornings now that I do not need to wriggle into extra clothing before emerging from the tent.

I cycled slowly into the nature reserve part of the resort. It is stony and very barren looking now. I saw five Eland and very few birds, but it is unspoilt, and I enjoyed the quiet (the campground is very busy now, with more campers having arrived for the weekend). Most of the game has been removed from this reserve area, due to the dry conditions. There used to be a pair of Giraffes here, but one died of natural causes and the other became a nuisance by knocking over the high floodlights around the artificial lake, and was removed. I had lunch at the restaurant (they do a good burger and salad here).

Sunday 23 September

It was partly overcast and warm. I drove into town to buy provisions, but first made a detour out on the Pofadder road to do some bird listing (covering another part of the grid-cell which overlaps the nature reserve part of the resort).

Back in camp, I prepared for an expedition westward from here, along the southern boundary of the Augrabies National Park and then on back roads to ‘Raap-en-skraap’ (if I can find the correct turnoff), a campground on the Orange River, upstream from Onseepkans, and returning to Kakamas in 10 to 14 days.  The re-union revellers and other campers left, so that all was quiet in the evening.

Monday 24 September  S 28° 35.00’ E 20° 02.21’

It was overcast and uncomfortably warm and humid, and midges were active all day. I found that the blood-sucking gnats can be deterred by applying citronella to ankles and wrists (I found a bar of citronella soap that has been rattling around in my luggage for about 20 years), but there is no deterring the midges, which constantly fly in my face, whine in my ears and drown themselves in my tea. I especially hate the ones that land on the lenses of my spectacles and walk about.

I drove west through Augrabies and along the southern boundary of the National Park. The land was stony, mostly barren and bleached by the sun, but there were strips of woodland along dry watercourses. I stopped to camp at the roadside near a telecommunications tower.

I had a bicycle puncture to mend, caused by the tyre lining which is supposed to prevent punctures. With time and constant exposure to heat, the ends of the lining go hard and begin to cut into the tube. I trimmed the ends of the lining and taped them.

The midges finally dispersed as darkness drew in, and I was glad then, not only for their departure but also for having got through a difficult day with all objectives accomplished (adequate bird-species lists compiled for all of the targeted grid-cells).

Tuesday 25 September  S 28° 34.67’ E 19° 58.37’

It was overcast at first, soon clearing, and warm and windy in the afternoon. The midges were onto me before the sun rose, and I had to make a conscious decision to accept their presence and be content anyway. The land I travelled through was extremely dry and barren.

In the afternoon, the wind blew the midges away, and also inhibited bird activity. In response to the new inconvenience, I took a nap and did some light reading. By then I had reached the turnoff to Bynabo (which I had approached from the other direction on a previous trip) and I camped at that intersection.

Wednesday 26 September  S 28° 40.65’ E 19° 51.18’

The wind died away during the night and the morning was clear and cold, and without midges. The afternoon was warm, with midges, but they were not as overwhelming as on the previous days.

I progressed through land that I remember from a previous trip this way as particularly birdless (but managed to compile a bird-list anyway). I later reached a farmyard (at the turnoff to Southern Farms) with much bird activity, including a noisy flock of Pale-winged Starlings feeding on scraps around the goat kraal (as on the previous visit here). I stopped to camp by a little cluster of hills, or rather of piles of boulders, looking as if they have been deliberately stacked so. Apparently these boulder piles result from the weathering of a solid granite lump that cracks and splits up into separate boulders (not deposited so by glaciers, as I fist thought).

Thursday 27 September  S 28° 51.05’ E 19° 42.97’

It was cool at first and warm later. I approached the village of Nous. In its vicinity there are a number of well-wooded dry watercourses (or perhaps the same one that winds and re-crosses the road several times) and by stopping there I rapidly increased the bird-species list for the location.

At Nous, I took the turnoff that links to the Onseepkans road, and crossed a wide plain. It was grassy there (though the grass was dry and yellow) in contrast to the bare earth of the land that I had passed through on the previous days.

By afternoon, I was approaching the steep hills that surround the Orange River. I paused by the gate of a wide, well-used side road, and when a bakkie emerged from there, I asked the occupants whether that was a private road (it was). One of them was Chinese, dressed in red overalls, and neither spoke Afrikaans. They were apparently workers at the big quarry that I could see on a nearby hillside.

I stopped to camp on the lip of a shallow valley of another stream bed. Several trucks passed by, carrying massive granite blocks away from the quarry.

Friday 28 September  S 28° 37.62’ E 19° 30.34’

It was warm, and it got windy for a while. I stopped by the intersection of the Onseepkans road, but by then the wind was blowing strongly, so I moved on. A little farther, I was able to turn off the road and pull into the lee of a steep hill, where I was sheltered from the wind, and I spent some time there. There is a large solar power plant across the road from there, with solar panels covering several hectares.

I found the turnoff to Raap-en-skraap, and drove across grassy plains surrounded by steep rocky hills, down to the riverside. When I reached the entrance to the wine-farm, guest-house and campground, I was confronted by an electronic gate, and my phone call to the advertised number was not answered. I waited there for a while, for other traffic, but when a vehicle emerged, it passed me by without pausing, and the gate closed again behind it. When two cars approached from the other direction, the first driver ignored me, but I was able to engage the second, because he had to stop behind the other car. He gave me the phone number of a security officer, who in turn gave me a code to open the gate.

The estate is large, and I drove a long way past vineyards to reach the campground at the riverside. I made camp in the shade, on a green lawn that stretched down to the river. There is a river rafting operation stationed here. I met the four river guides, who are preparing their boats and equipment for the group of clients who will arrive this evening, to set out tomorrow to spend three days on the river. They live in George, and have been coming here during the holiday seasons for 20 years. A couple of days ago, they saw African Jacanas at the riverside for the first time.

Saturday 29 September

It was warm and clear. The river rafting clients who had arrived overnight were a group of about 25 from Hoer Landbouskool (Agricultural High School) Oakdale, all white and all male (is that surprising in these times?).

I could not find my phone, and starting unpacking my vehicle in the search, before it occurred to me to use the other phone. Very unusually for a remote location, there is a strong signal for both networks here, so I called the missing phone, but I could not hear it ringing in the immediate vicinity, so thought that I would have to search more widely. The kids that were preparing to go out on the river were watching me, and when the phone that they had picked up began to ring, they realised that that was what I was searching for, and returned it to me.

I cycled through the farm, along the main farm road, with vineyards and date palm orchards on one side and steep rocky hills on the other, and then spent time watching the river.

The river rafters had not secured their refuse bins and the leftovers of their breakfast, and monkeys were soon strewing that around. I cleaned up and secured their bins. Apparently there is a worker designated to clean up around their camp, but it was the day after payday, and he only appeared later in the day.

A lone boatman arrived in a dinghy and began to unload a mountain of gear. He was the advance party and labour for a party of fly-fisherman who arrived later in three dinghies. There support vehicles arrived and they were driven away.

 

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Swartmodder, Cnydas and Biesjespoort – September 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and parts of the Karoo. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Monday 10 September 2018 S 27° 48.09’ E 20° 13.90’

It was cold at first, and I was camped in the shadow of a hill, so that the sun was well up before the warming rays of the sun could reach me, and it took me until then to get going. This was one of those days when the cover of my rooftent would not slip over it as it is designed to, and I spent some time fighting it with numb hands.

I drove through the gorge at Swartmodder, where the bed of the Malopo River passes through rocky hills, then parked and cycled back through the gorge (seeing Rock Kestrels, Rock Martins, Mountain Wheatears and Pale-winged Starlings, and there were Rosy-faced Lovebirds around the farmyard where I had parked)). I came across the carcass of a goat that had stood on its hind legs to feed on the upper leaves of a bush, got a hoof caught in the fork of a branch, and died there.

I drove on to Vrouenspan and turned west on the road that runs to the border with Namibia. I experienced a dead patch in the middle of the afternoon, when not a bird was to be seen or heard.

By the time I set up camp, it was warm. I was close by a farm gate, and after a while I noticed that there was a camera attached to a fence pole, trained on the gate, and that I was blocking its view of the gate. Such hidden gate cameras are becoming common, and I am already used to being captured on film (or memory card).

Tuesday 11 September  S 27° 46.10’ E 20° 04.83’

It was warm. I drove on towards the border. At midday, I needed to sit still in the shade for a while. In the afternoon, I cycled slowly back the way I had come, but added hardly a bird to the morning’s list, and flies bothered me all the way.

I eventually camped on a spot that I had used on the previous trip along this route. I cycled on beyond a derelict farmhouse and passed from stony, flat land, sparsely vegetated with shrubby Green-hair Trees and the hardy Driedoring shrub, into low red dunes of Kalahari sand.

Wednesday 12 September  S 28° 01.19’ E 20° 33.14’

It was a mild day. I made my way slowly back to the main road. At one of the stops along the way, I was struck by how very quiet the surroundings were.

A couple of times while driving, I startled a Steenbok on the verge. They usually run on ahead until they reach a place where they have scraped a gap under the fence and will dart through there, but sometimes they keep going ahead along the road, and then I accelerate to overtake them, for fear that otherwise they will run themselves to death. The animal has a moment of panic as one draws level, and stands still, before realising that the danger has passed. They are drawn to the road verges, because sheep do not graze there, and so the tastiest herbs are to be found there. During the day, they escape the traffic one way or another, but many are killed on the roads at night.

I turned back towards the N10 highway and stopped to camp at the top of the pass above the Molopo River bed gorge at Swartmodder. There is a wide clearing there where presumably the road builders had once camped. From there I enjoyed the view of the sun setting over the gorge.

Thursday 13 September  S28° 06.25’ E20° 17.81’

It was mild. I drove back through the gorge to the N10 highway and had a couple of productive early morning stops along the way. I turned west on the N10, heading for the Rosenthal farm, where there was one grid-cell requiring another visit to reach the minimum coverage goal. I tried to call Emanuel to inform him of my visit, and left a message. I turned off at Esterhuysensput, to drive through that farm onto the Rosenthal farm. I passed the carcasses of two Springbok that had got entangled in the fence while trying to clear it and died there.

There was nobody about at the homestead except the ancient Jack Russell, who ignored me. I drove deeper into the farm before stopping to cycle onward.  The stony plain was looking fairly well grassed for now.

I had punctures to mend before I could start cycling, and then it was nearly midday and getting warm. The going was heavy on a sandy road, not many birds were active, but midges were. I heard the bubbling call of European Bee-eaters passing by overhead, the first of the summer. They had probably not come all the way from Eurasia, but were more likely of the sub-species which breeds in Africa. I did not cycle very far, and coming back something gave at the back of my left knee so that I could not apply pressure to that pedal, and had to dismount and hobble back to my vehicle.

I returned to the farmyard, and called Emanuel’s number again. He was in Cape Town, and agreed to notify his staff that I would be on the farm overnight. There are two workers on the farm, brothers, and they came over to greet me. They do not get much company here when Emanuel is away. One of them was interested in the design of the bicycle carrier which attaches to the back of my vehicle. He has an old BMW at his permanent home in Upington, and wishes to attach a large speaker to its rear end. He is a lay preacher, and he intends to spread the word via the speaker while driving about in his BMW.

Friday 14 September  S 28° 21.78’ E 20° 32.99’

It was warm with some light cloud that looked like cirrus at first but became fluffy later. My left leg hurt when I put weight on it but I could still function and I could still ride a bicycle on hard surfaces (when the surface is soft one has to apply constant pressure on both pedals or fall over).

I stopped by the farm entrance at the main road for a while. A railway line runs parallel to the road nearby and I noticed that the road that runs along the railway that used to be of restricted access is now open for general use. I cycled along that road for a while, and because it runs at a lower elevation than the main road, it was a little bit bushier there and I found a few more birds there than I could find along the main road.

I drove back eastward, and took the turnoff on the back road to Kakamas, to stop and camp at one of my favourite spots, among a big stand of Camelthorn woodland by a dry stream bed, by the farm Cnydas. A pair of Black Eagles was perched on a rocky hilltop nearby and Rosy-faced Lovebirds flew to and fro. I received an FM radio signal for the first time in a week and could catch up with the news.

Saturday 15 September  S 28° 32.20’ E 20° 33.09’

It was cold at first and then a warm day, almost hot for a while around midday, and there were a few wisps of cloud about. My left leg had mostly healed and was just a little tender.

On the way to Kakamas, I stopped where the road passes through a small gorge (Biesjespoort), another of my regular stopping places, and walked about in the gorge, watched from above by a Klipspringer and a Black Eagle. I drove on and made camp on an open plain with good grass cover of a tawny yellow colour and occasional outcrops of black rock.

I had run out of fresh foods and had to burrow deep into the load space of my vehicle for the non-perishables and repack them in a more accessible place. Dinner was noodles fried in olive oil and vinegar, with butter beans in curry sauce and sauerkraut, and was quite satisfactory.

Sunday 16 September  S 28° 40.52’ E 20° 34.51’

It was warm. I stopped at various places on the grassy plain and cycled to and fro, and there were many birds about, including Tractrac Chats, Stark’s Larks, Black-eared Sparrow-larks and dense swarms of Red-billed Queleas, and many midges too. This road has been smooth since I left the N10 highway on Friday, but it is getting bumpy now that I am approaching Kakamas.

I stopped to camp at the neck of a small pass where the road drops down into the Orange River valley. The view from here is not as impressive as that from the other pass a little to the west of here on the Riemvasmaak road, where I have camped from time to time, but it was pleasant enough.

Monday 17 September  S 28° 42.90’ E 20° 28.15’

It was a mild day, but windy in the afternoon. Before moving on, I walked about in the light woodland and open pasture between the pass and the vineyards.

I drove into town for shopping and some admin. A new shopping centre has opened, with a Spar supermarket, offering mostly the same goods at the same prices as the existing OK Grocer.

I proceeded to Lake Grappa, to set up camp for a week, and was suddenly very tired, having reached another journey’s end, but I still had some repacking of supplies to do, involving heavy lifting.

Tuesday 18 September

It was a mild day but windy in the afternoon. Now that it is warming up, it was pleasant to sit out before dawn and watch the light slowly strengthen. The night watchman strolled by on his final round, wrapped in a greatcoat and carrying a large staff, his constant companion, a beautiful glossy-coated Border Collie, trotting on ahead.

I washed clothes and got on with data capture.

Wednesday 19 September

It was overcast, with a cold wind. I was not feeling very strong and had a headache at first. Instead of setting out for the river and the island (Paarden Eiland) as planned, I decided on a less strenuous excursion, into the undeveloped (nature reserve) part of the resort property. I cycled there slowly and enjoyed that, although birds were scarce and no game was seen, but later my headache returned. I spent much of the afternoon resting and retired early to bed.

 

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Kakamas to Upington, the scenic route – September 2018

An alternative lifestyle and a bird survey of the southern Kalahari and parts of the Karoo. Data are shared with the southern African Bird Atlas project (http:\\sabap2.adu.org.za)

Friday 31 August 2018 S 28° 45.88’ E 20° 51.68’

It was warm. I had originally intended to continue with this road to where (according to Google Earth) it meets the Kenhardt/Louisvale road, but since the continuation is a four-wheel drive track over dunes, I drove slowly back to the main road instead, stopping for a while by a reservoir where birds were gathering to drink.

I continued on the Louisvale/Kakamas dirt road, passing among spectacularly rugged rocky hills. Around midday, I took a turnoff through vineyards to the riverside and stopped there.  The farmer found me there and did not mind my presence. Generally, access to the riverside lands is not restricted. I guess that may be because they are irrigated by canals that are public property.

I travelled on and made camp on a rocky hillside with a generous scattering of Quiver Trees, and a view of the sun setting over the river valley.

Saturday 1 September  S 28° 46.58’ E 20° 45.03’

It was mild and partly overcast. My legs felt heavy today, and I had to drag myself about.

Spring is a season whose arrival is welcomed in most parts of the world. Not so in the Kalahari. Here, it is the season when the relentless winds blows most fiercely, and cold fronts sweep through in quick succession. It is dry and dusty too, the rain does not come until much later, if at all. During this season, the weather forecast for this region usually starts with the advisory ‘extremely high fire danger’, meaning strong and persistent winds. For much of the region there is not actually a danger of fire because there is not enough grass to sustain a fire, but in places among the dunes where there is good grass cover, the fires can be unstoppable, for they leap from dune-crest to dune-crest, unhampered by roads and other would-be fire breaks.

I was now among grid-cells that already have significant bird-atlas coverage, but I have previously worked them only on the other side of the river. I have driven sections of this road in the past, and each time I have commented, I believe, on its scenic properties, and although I have been to Kakamas several times, I had not previously approached it along this road. There is a place where the road passes through a gorge, and where below it the channels of the river converge, each lined with golden coloured reedbeds and green ribbons of woodland, against the backdrop of a green mountain (perhaps officially it is only a hill), altogether a scene of great beauty. I went on beyond that point to stop at the riverside farther downstream, but returned to that spot to spend the night. I think that I will often come here.

There were Darters nesting in a couple of trees by the gorge, more than 20 pairs in all. I guessed that these would be the same birds that had previously nested near Oranjerus (a farmer had pointed out that deserted site to me a couple of days ago).

Sunday 2 September  S 28° 44.71’ E 21° 01.12’

It was cold and overcast in the morning, and a strong wind whipped up swirls of dust. I started back towards Upington. In a grid-cell where I had spent time at the riverbank yesterday, I now stopped on the plain away from the river, to make the bird-list for the visit more comprehensive by trying to include the plains birds. I did manage to find some, despite the wind (Karoo Long-billed Lark, Sabota Lark, Karoo Korhaan and Desert Cisticola).

The sky cleared in the afternoon, and it was warmer, but still windy. I drove on beyond the intersection with the Kenhardt/Keimoes road, and stopped to camp among rocky hills.

Monday 3 September  S 28° 22.86’ E 21° 09.32’

It was cold at first, and mild later. At dawn, I dawdled for a short while near the river banks before driving into Upington. I shopped for provisions and went on to make camp at Spitskop, checking in for six days. I made camp, repacked my provisions and got started on data capture.

Tuesday 4 September

It was a mild day. I had to get up well before dawn, to repack my vehicle, clearing all the stuff out of the cab in preparation for handing it over to the workshop for its service.

In town, I set about getting a haircut and buying bicycle spares. Having walked across town, I found that the bicycle shop had relocated to the other end. The walking to and fro helped to pass the time while my vehicle was being worked on. I noticed some homeless youths squatting on a pavement. I have noticed an increasing presence of the homeless in Upington since I first came here five years ago.

I lunched on bone-marrow and Ciabatta toast at the Zest Cafe, in a courtyard with a fountain, flowering pot plants and soft music. The ambience was spoiled though by the sound of workmen relaying the floor around the entrance.

Once I had recovered my vehicle and driven back to camp, I had to repack it the way it had been, so that I would know where to find stuff.

Wednesday 5 September

It was partly cloudy with a cold breeze. I washed some clothes, and in the afternoon when it was a little warmer, I cycled briefly along the main road.  I saw only Lark-like Buntings and Sociable Weavers, the most common birds in the region, but they are not present in the campground, so I needed that little excursion to get them on the bird-list for this visit.

Verity and Carryn came by on their way back from their tour of the Richtersveld and stopped over in a chalet, and a pleasant evening was spent there.

Thursday 6 September

It was overcast, cold and windy and there was a very brief shower of light rain. I sat huddled in the cab of my vehicle for most of the day and did some reading. The sky cleared towards evening and there was a fine sunset.

Friday 7 September

It was cold. I spent the day on data capture and electronic communication and rested my legs.

There had been a break-in during the night. Thieves had come through the fence in a corner of the campground, broken into a chalet and taken a television and the wiring of the geyser. That was shocking, because I had always felt that this was a safe place, and did not lock up at night when I retired.

Saturday 8 September

I was deceived by the warmth of my bedding. I had already got up, packed my bedding away and began to stow the tent in preparation for a trip to town before I realised how cold it was. There were thick grey clouds and an icy wind was blowing. There had been no warning. The forecast for today was cool, but warmer than yesterday.

I drove to town to fill water bottles (the campground borehole water is brackish) and stock up with supplies. I plan to move out tomorrow, westward and north, into the Kalahari proper, passing Swartmodder and Vrouenspan, and then due west towards the border with Namibia. From there I shall meander southward, to reach Kakamas after eight or nine days, provided that tomorrow is at least a little warmer than today, else I shall not go anywhere. I had decided that I was done with the Kalahari proper for now, but the remaining uncompleted grid-cells there are an itch that I cannot ignore, and the couple of grid-cells just north of Kakamas that I would be doing anyway point me in that direction.

The campground has been busy all week, with a few caravans and camper-vans coming and going each day.

Sunday 9 September  S 28° 05.34’ E 20° 34.95’

It was cold at first, but without wind, so that I felt comfortable enough to set out on my planned expedition. The day warmed up gradually and the evening was quite balmy.

I drove westward on the N10 highway and took the turnoff on the dirt road to Noeniput. I had made a stop for observation along the N10, and another along the dirt road, and finally stopped to make camp at the edge of the dry floodplain of the dry Molopo River.

Swarms of midges flew in my face all day, and blood-sucking gnats nibbled at my ankles and wrists. I have been going to bed early during the cold spell, to escape the cold, and then not sleeping very well, so that by the end of this day I was tired, but at peace with myself and the world.

 

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