Dawn is breaking… The ¨down to the bone¨ cold is coming to an end. It is an ominous silence with a gentle, caressing breeze. A sudden chill comes through the door! The August winds are luring you outside to the exquisite, natural beauty of the Kalahari. The breeze, so silent and mysterious, with only the sound of the rustling pods of the Purple- Pod Terminalia, is awaiting to amaze us. A bright, orange sunrise with a few wispy clouds sets the perfect early mood, introducing us to the Wow factor! Let us step outside…
During the month of August, we experienced a lot of truly, special moments and were yet again, blown away, by nature´s ability to leave us speechless. It started off with literally being kept on our toes, and fully alert! One Monday morning, the Royal Family of Lions, decided it was time for some serious supervision. After they introduced themselves early morning, with a thunderous roar in unison, they settled just behind the laundry and workshop buildings. All staff were extra cautious, and performed at their utmost abilities. Who wouldn´t want to impress the Royal Family?
Despite the lions´ immense activity in the area, the other general game still came to the lodge every day to quench their thirst. With the lack of human occupancy, due to the pandemic, the Kudus and Impalas especially, became very relaxed around one. Sometimes, when you walked on the mesmerizing, curvy walkways, they were just standing a few metres from you and watched you intensely. It was like walking in a natural museum or art gallery, constantly in awe of the beauty surrounding you.
We were not the only ones that were blown away. During mid-day the main waterhole was covered with Red-billed Queleas. There must have been millions of them. It was unbelievable! A big, dark cloud of fluttering wings and cheerful chirps moved perfectly together. And believe me, they were causing quite a rush of air if you were standing too close. Sometimes, the Kudus and Zebras just watched in utmost confusion from nearby, as they could not approach the water with these little creatures that formed such a big ¨army¨. They had to await their turn, but when their turn did come, they were like happy, little children playing in the water. One could see and experience the joy among them, in such a way that you would have liked to join, but you would have certainly got a hoof or two against the head. So it was better to just watch from a distance.
Then, there were the intriguing birds. The Yellow-billed Hornbills and Red-billed Francolins, often invited themselves into the office or our homes. The other day a Francolin suddenly surprised me by being in my bathroom, looking at itself in the mirror. Another day, when I came into the office, one sat on the desk in front of the laptop! And in Braam´s home, the Yellow-billed Hornbills constantly hopped into the door to explore the inner surroundings. They took the term ¨Make yourself at Home¨ very seriously!
One particular night, we heard a terrifying sound! It almost sounded like the alarm call of a Jackal, but much more intense. The only thing we could think of was Brown-Hyena. Although, these usually solitary animals are not that vocal, they surprise one to confusion, when they are having a disagreement. It was close to the house, and when we peeked out, they were right there. Two big Hyenas that had a serious argument. At first, they completely ignored us. All of a sudden, they became aware of our presence and us staring at them. Like two guilty and naughty beings, they looked ashamed, and each ran off in a different direction. Luckily neither was injured.
The Porcupines also made themselves truly at home. On one special evening there were 5 of them outside one chalet! One of them being a youngster. We watched them closely, as they are actually truly interesting and rather cute rodents. The Porcupine is the largest rodent. Two of them must have been shot by Cupid´s arrow, as they wandered off alone into a darker area. However, we watched them closely. A moment later we realised why they moved off. They mated! An occurrence so rare to see, that people often wonder, how does the porcupine mate? The most common and accurate answer is ¨Very carefully!¨. This is of importance, more so for the male, but they do mate in a conventional way. The female initiates copulation by drawing her tail up or to one side, exposing the quill-free bottom surface. The male mounts the female standing on his hind legs , not as close to her as in other animals, and uses the forelegs to grip the tail for balance. His relative long penis facilitates mating. Porcupines are one of the few animals, that mates every day for other reasons beyond breeding. It may be for maintaining bonds, social organization and most important to ensure the female continues to cycle regularly. In some species, the male covers the female in a shower of urine as soon as she accepts his courtship. Not so nice!
I have just been called to come look at the Black Thorn. They are starting to flower! Spring is on its way! Some of us always tend to think negative of wind. But the wind, just as with all of nature, can be truly inspiring. We can be blown away by the small things in life that make us happy and grateful, and be frozen in those moments, even though it is only in our minds. And then, we use the wind as major encouragement. The one thing we all needed and still need during 2020. So, give us wind, let it blow in our faces, absorb it. The more we confront it, the more strength we will embrace. Just like the Kalahari animals embracing the harsh conditions. Remember, it is easy to sit back placid and calm, comfort only being a relative balm. But, progress needs movement, energy and drive. There is no chance for improvement it you do not strive. So, let us be blown away by the amazing things life has to offer, and also be fierce like the wind and face challenging and difficult experiences!