Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Goths on Safari: Day two

Received our wake-up call at 6.30pm this morning but the husband was suffering from the start of one of his infamous migraines again, so I abandoned him, had breakfast and joined the early morning game drive and an exciting but fruitless hunt for the lions, who'd decided to go to ground in a river bed.

And wow, what a morning, a rare spittling of rain pin-pricking my face as it can only in the Karoo, the mist shrouding the koppies and making everything mysterious. A good catch was the pale chanting goshawk, a raptor that appears to be very much in evidence here.

All I saw of Harry the hippo was a bit of his snoot and twitchy ears as he regarded us from his pond. No showing off for the vehicle today. But we did see elephant, a whole herd of them, which was a good sighting as they demolished the acacia thickets. As well as the three-month old baby ellie who gambolled a bit.

Enjoyed views across the valley with hot chocolate and very nommy home-baked biscuits before we made serious inroads hunting the lion. You'd think finding white lions is a fairly easy business since they're white. Well, more off-white, really. They're just tawny sans the pigment in the fur and they do a bloody good job blending in with the vegetation.

Back at the lodge to collect Thomas, we were then whisked off by Trevor to view the other accommodation offerings, which includes Gondwana, which is the more relaxed family lodge and Tilney, which has a more colonial air to it. Very pretty overlooking the Warmwaterberg but I must admit, I'm totally sold on Dwyka's tents.

Sighting of this drive: African wild cat at Tilney. I've never seen one in the wild so this was a first for me.

On the way back along the dry river bed, Trevor stopped so that Thomas and I could see one of the rock art sites. This area is not as rich in paintings as the Cederberg but a casual search on the ground provided me with numerous artifacts (which I left behind like a good little archaeologically conscious individual). I was particularly blown away by the profusion of Aloe mitriformis and Thomas made a good spotting of a type of Haworthia clump in a crevasse.

Next sighting: A herd of ten kudu right by the side of the road. Magnificent!

No sooner had we eaten a divine lunch (springbok carpaccio; potato with blue cheese dressing and skinny fries) washed down once again with La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, we were off again, this time on Trevor's next trip out to hunt lions.

Yes, we saw the white rhinos are called here but we drove right into a journey of about 13 giraffe, who regarded us with great interest while we watched them browse.

Then, off hunting lion and, this time we got to see the male white lion's rump as he lounged under a bush. He lay there and lay there doing absolutely nothing with Trevor assuring us the others weren't far away. Of course, when lions don't want to be found, there's not much you can do about it and you're certainly not going to climb out of the Landy to go look for them.

Enter Mr Jackal, who'd figured out the lions were lounging about due to having made a kill earlier during the day. Mr Jackal has never been one to work too hard for food when freebies are on offer, so he ghosted about Mr White Lion's spot until the big cat decided he'd had enough of this nonsense and bestirred himself to chase the canid... for a short while.

Then he got bored and lay down again.

Eventually we figured out nothing else very exciting would happen so it was off to the lookout point where I enjoyed an Allesverloren (all is lost) port while schnacking on almonds and cashews, taking in the big dry river bed and hills. We watched a large flock of springbok graze against the wind and generally just appreciated the space.

The Karoo is not the bushveld. You're not going to find the ginormous teeming herds you'll encounter farther north in Kruger, but it has a beauty all of its own. I am a Karoo baby. Half my family originates from this area, so I guess the land is in my blood and bones, and I'm at home here.

As far as lodges go, Dwyka is one I WILL return to. It has that rare blend of five-star luxury but chilled-out hominess that doesn't leave me on edge. Some establishments you enter and immediately worry about smudging the furniture. Not so here, and the staff are friendly but not invisible. They're people who fast become friends within the 48 hours of a visit.

So, my verdict: if you can spend time at Sanbona and want to really feel like you've escaped the city and all the madness, the Dwyka Tented Lodge hits the mark. My only regret: that I didn't sit still long enough to really steep in the Karoo stillness, but I'm walking away with a genuine Karoo wilderness experience garnished with the kind of hospitality this area is legendary for.

Five out of five, guys! **wink**

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