I had a feeling we’d come to the edge of the Karoo a little east of Prieska. It might have been that now we were seeing Kalahari birds like Pygmy Falcon, Red-crested Korhaan and Kalahari Scrub-Robin. Or it might have been that OFM had been added to RSG as an alternative radio station. Or the electric fences with monitoring cameras at the farm gates.
Or it might have been the men with the balaclavas over their faces, military webbing, tapping their fingers on the triggers of their automatic weapons.
I walked over to the bearded, hard faced man getting out of the bakkie that had pulled up behind me, extending my hand in customary Karoo welcome, trying to appear nonchalant but at the same time making a concerted effort to control my sphincter as I eyed the armed men at the back of the bakkie.
In Afrikaans: “What are you doing here? Who do you work for? Why are you stopped here?”
You’d think I was trespassing on some private land, but actually I was on a public road to the west of Steynsburg that cuts through to Prieska. No more invitations for coffee and rusks here it would seem. Turns out that this was a reserve manager for a private reserve on high alert for poachers of our iconic one-horned mammal. Even after answering all the questions and explaining in minute detail what I was doing, there was still no invitation forthcoming to extend the survey onto their property, but rather a request to sms him when I’d finished, and to not post any picture with gps coordinates should I happen to see said iconic mammal.
So after that fun encounter: back west, through the near abandoned dorp of Marydale, past teaming nests of Sociable Weavers, through the abandoned dorp of Putsonderwater, to Kenhardt with its Camel Thorns, donkey carts and friendly people.
|Unusual round Sociable Weaver nest suspended on a telephone line rather than the telephone pole|