By Phyllis Dawson
Botswana - Part 11
The Kalahari Desert

February 19

The Southern Cross was still out when we got up at five, and Venus hung low in the eastern sky. The air was cooler in the morning here in the desert, and crystal clear, with not a cloud in sight. We drove into a red dawn. The sunrise sky was a gradient from fiery orange at the horizon, to magenta, mauve and finally fading to a dusky blue.


     We came upon a lone female ostrich, side lit by the early morning light. She turned and ran straight toward the sun, zig-zagging comically from side to side, dipping and bobbing. A bit further on we caught up with her when she stopped to preen her feathers.


     A small brown bird perched on a thornbush and sang out a single note, repeating it over and over, unvarying.  Gee told us it was a Monotonous Lark, named for its one-note song. Kind of a mean name, I thought.   

Monotonous Lark

     We came out to the open grassy plain, and a whole herd of springboks were grazing there, hundreds of them, right near the road. The adults mostly just grazed, but several of the young males were butting their heads together. We watched as they went about their business, close enough to see the golden morning light gleaming in their eyes.


     Then some of the younger springboks started to play, running back and forth in the cool morning breeze for the sheer joy of it. Several of them began leaping in the air in a series of very high, straight-legged bucks, with their backs rounded and their heads down. Gee said this is called pronking.  It was very comical to watch; their leaps would have done a bucking bronco proud.


     The road led us past a lovely copse of trees where there was a little sign that said No Camping. Gee told us that this was the spot where Mark and Delia Owens had set up their camp, as described in their book The Cry of the Kalahari. Having been captivated by reading their books and intrigued by their lifestyle while living in the Kalahari conducting wildlife research, I thought it was really cool to see their campsite.

Mark and Delia Owens' campsite 

     A trio of gemsboks grazed by the road, and we got our first really good close look at them. These antelopes are large and strong; they look a little like a cross between a small horse and a Brahma bull. From the shoulder back they look rather horse-like, with rounded rumps and a black bushy tail. Their necks and heads appear more bovine.  They are a pale greyish brown color with white stomachs, a slanted black stripe on their sides, and vivid black and white markings on their legs and head. Males and females both have immensely long straight spiraled horns.


     Gee told us that lions have to know how to hunt the gemsboks, or they would be killed. The oryx kneel down and put their heads between their front legs with the horns pointing forward, and use them to spear their foes.  Lions from outside the Kalahari would be killed if they try to hunt gemsboks the same way they hunt other antelopes.

      The morning was rich with bird song. We identified a Chat Flycatcher, as well as three new types of lark. Occasionally, hearing the song of some bird that we couldn’t see, Gee would whistle like a pearl-spotted owlet to see if the bird would come out - sometimes the birds will fly out to drive the owl away so he won’t rob their nests. Kori bustards were everywhere; there were more of them here than anywhere we had been. We also saw many more of the pale chanting goshawks; the lovely colors on their wings were visible when they flew.  

     Shaft-tailed whydahs were everywhere; these beautiful birds look so exotic you would expect them to be rare, but they proved to be quite prevalent in the CKGR. When they sit in a tree their long tails blend in with the branches and are hard to see, but when they fly those magnificent tails trail behind them like a banner.

 Shaft-tailed whydah 

     More gemsboks walked the plains; they were beautiful and fascinating, and in the clear morning light they looked like something from a fairy tale. Their horns really are amazing, incredibly long and lethal-looking. I can’t imagine carrying the weight of them around all day; I guess that is why they have such strong muscular necks. Gee told us that the females have longer horns, but the males’ are thicker. We asked him why we didn’t see any baby gemsboks; he said that the mothers with young babies would be hiding in areas of bushes and trees.
I had been hoping we would get the chance to see gemsboks in the CKGR; I had already gotten way more than I could have wished for.


      Gee spotted a Red Hartebeest in the distance, slowly walking across the plain. He said they are among his favorite Kalahari animals, and quite rare to see. Indeed, we could see just this one; that seemed unusual for antelopes, as we usually see them in herds or groups.
A bit smaller than the gemsboks, he was still a fairly large antelope, and very similar to the tsessebes in shape. He was a dark reddish-brown color over his back and neck, lighter brown on his flanks, with black markings on his legs and face. But the most notable thing about him was his horns; they were crooked and incredibly thick.

 Red Hartebeest

     A small group of gemsboks walked behind the hartebeest; Gee said they follow him to use him as bait in case of predators. His path brought him on a tangent closer to the road, so we were able to get a good look at him. I thought he seemed lonely.

     Gee pointed out a tiny bird called a Desert Cisticola. Now our bird list was up to four types of cisticolas; Rattling, Chirping, Zitting and Desert. And that’s not counting the leaf cisticolas we often saw, when we thought we had sighted a new bird but it turned out to be a leaf. These are cousins to the branch whydahs.

     The sky was a clear brilliant blue overhead as we came to Deception Pan. This is a wide flat barren expanse with very dark soil and no vegetation except a little short grass; it must have once been a large lake. Gee said it is named Deception Pan because the shimmering heat waves and mirages make it look like water. He said that there is sometimes water in it after heavy rains, but in winter it is dry. We could see some huge ruts over 18 inches deep where a vehicle had been stuck when it was wet – those poor shmucks must not have been very careful. 
On the far side of the pan a flock of 15 ostriches mingled with a herd of gemsboks. A couple of giraffes strode by. We watch a pair of black-backed jackals picking their way across the pan. As we drove forward to leave, the land cruiser suddenly started sinking. We almost got stuck; Gee’s skillful driving barely got us out. Looking back, the ground appeared solid but we had made ruts over a foot and a half deep across the edge of the pan. Those poor shmucks were now us! I remembered that in The Cry of the Kalahari book, the Owens had been told, ‘Whatever you do, don’t drive across the pans.’

Bat-eared Fox

     Three Bat-eared foxes saw us and took off running. They are very shy, so we got a lot of photos of their round bushy backsides as they ran away from us. Even from that angle we continued to be impressed by the size of their ears.  
We saw more gemsboks and springboks grazing in the wide former riverbed. For a moment we thought we had found one of the elusive baby gemsboks, but it turned out to be an adult springbok standing next to one of the oryx, looking like mother and baby.    

     A pair of jackals trotted along in the distance, and we spotted several black and white Pied Crows. I tried to get a photo of a shaft-tailed whydah as he flew from his tree, but without success.
We came across a small group of gemsboks with a youngster about a year old; he looked just like a miniature version of the adults. An old oryx with the points broken off both of his horns chased a younger bull across the plain; raising great clouds of dust.  


     The CKGR is vast and the roads tend to run straight and long, with few side roads. In Savuti or Moremi if you saw an animal in the distance there was usually a network of small tracks and side roads you could use to get closer; here this was not possible so you must view it from afar. This made it feel more limited, with less opportunity to explore.
We often noticed elephant droppings in the roadway, but we saw no elephants. Gee said there are some that live in the CKGR, but they are very shy and you never see them - they stay in the bushes and only come out at night. And with so few roads in such a huge park, it is easy for them to stay in areas where vehicles never come. Gee told us he has never seen one here. Still, the droppings were there, so the elephants must be around somewhere – we kept a sharp eye out for them.
We stopped for a tea break around eleven. When I went behind a bush to answer nature’s call, there was a sudden flurry of motion and a large owl burst out of the scrubby trees, being mobbed by a small flock of Fork-tailed Drongos. I didn’t know those cute little black birds were so brave.


     As we drove on, we saw a springbok standing alone, guarding his territory like the wildebeest bulls do. Again, I was struck by the slightly satanic look of his hircine head and horns. A tiny steenbok stared at us, all alert eyes and huge ears, and then dashed away out of sight. His mate must have been nearby; they always live in pairs. Gee said they bury their poop to avoid detection. We saw three more hartebeests in the far distance.

Greater Kestrel

     I looked up at the cobalt blue sky.  A tiny round white cloud was visible, the first we had seen all day. We gathered it is clear and sunny here most of the time. Before long another small cloud appeared, and then another; soon they were dotting the sky. They would change as we watched, forming or disappearing into the wild blue.
We passed a juvenile dark chanting goshawk. A Greater Kestrel sat in tree. We watched a Northern Black Korhaan in flight; these biggish birds are quite attractive on the ground, but look somewhat awkward when they fly.      

At last we found the baby gemsboks, the first really young ones we had seen. It appeared there were two young babies with one mom; we weren’t sure if they were twins, or if the other mother was hiding. They were small, cute and caramel colored; they looked more like Jersey calves than gemsboks.


     We drove back past the former campsite of Mark and Delia Owens. A grove of trees stood like an island amid the wide flat plain that had once been an ancient river. A herd of gemsbok grazed in front of it. In their book the Owens’ often mentioned a lion or hyena walking up this riverbed; it looked very different from what I had envisioned.
There was a carpet of yellow flowers strewn across the plain, and a herd of springboks grazing. A couple of the youngsters wrestled, heads down and horns locked. A lone gemsbok galloped across the plain, kicking up puffs of dust behind him. The fluffy white clouds amidst the deep blue of the sky were larger now.


     Returning to camp, there was a beautiful Crimson-breasted Shrike sitting on a small broken tree, his red, black and white plumage adding brilliance to the scene. This was another new bird; Sally told us the count was now up to 218 for the trip, so we had already surpassed her goal of 200. KK, always the well-adorned clown, greeted us wearing a headdress he had made from a palm frond.
We had lunch, then rested a bit and organized our kit. The guys had filled our bucket shower, but I both decided to save showering for later.


     We set out again at 3.30. We encountered more ostriches right away, a group of four of them. We watched with amusement as they pranced about, fluffing their tail and waving their wing feathers like starlets in a burlesque show. They were delightfully ridiculous.

     We stopped to watch a kori bustard that was walking right beside the road; he was bigger than a turkey, and beautiful. He kept turning his head and looking at us warily, but made no move to run away. Then deciding we might be a threat after all, he suddenly crouched down on the ground in an effort to make himself invisible. This strategy might have worked if the grass was taller and browner, but against the green well-cropped turf he stood out vividly.


     The brilliant blue sky was now dotted with fluffy white and grey clouds; we watched their shadows move across the plain. The humidity was low and the air felt cooler. A jackal was curled up sleeping in the sun. 
Three juvenile yellow-billed kites sat in a tree, their feathers all fluffed out and fuzzy.  We added a couple more birds to Sally’s list; a Kalahari Scrub Robin and the Ant-eating Chat. The scrub robin was a fairly plain looking little brown bird, but with a beautiful song; he sat in a thornbush, tail perkily up and beak open, singing his heart out. 

Scrub Robin

     We stopped to watch a herd of springboks. We were hoping to see some more pronking, but it was still a bit too early; Gee said that early morning or just before sunset is the best time for it. But we did get to see something just as special; a tiny baby springbok was curled up in the grass. This was a treat, because the moms keep the really young babies pretty well hidden. Like the other baby antelopes we had seen he was a light fawn color, and he did not yet have the vivid markings of the adults - the better for camouflage, I suppose. He was not near the road so we couldn't get close, but even from a distance we could see that he had enormous ears.
Gee told us that the springboks, like many of the animals in the Kalahari, can survive without water for years at a time, subsisting on the moisture they get from plants.  

     Another hartebeest walked along in the lovely afternoon light; this was number five. We could tell it was a different one than we saw earlier because his horns were longer, more crooked, and not quite as thick. Suddenly the hartebeest gave us a show, picking up a gallop and bounding across in front of us, throwing in a few half-bucks for good measure.


     We came across another baby springbok. This one was a little older, and to our delight he was lying curled up near the road. He was still quite small, but he had developed the springbok color and face markings, and we could see tiny nubs of horns on his forehead. He was exquisitely beautiful.


     We stopped to watch two young gemsboks mock-fighting in the road. They stood head to head, lowering their necks and intertwining their long horns. They pushed and shoved for quite a while, every so often taking a break to look up and make sure we were still watching.


     Suddenly a yearling gemsbok sailed past and crossed the road in front of us; he seemed to be floating. He was doing the most amazing extended trot. Lifting his legs up high in a slow rhythm as if he were performing a piaffe, his gait had magnificent suspension, and he finished each magical stride by extending his forelegs out in front of him flamboyantly. I felt he should have been winged - and really, he nearly was.
Gee was as amazed as the rest of us; he said he had never seen anything like that. A dressage gemsbok!  Gee said they can jump two meters, as well.

The Dressage Gemsbok

     We noticed a strange zig-zag mark in the sand, sweeping back and forth across the road. Gee told us it was where an elephant had walked along swinging his trunk, the tip of it dragging in the sand. We got a glimpse of honey badger number eight.

     Gee suddenly stopped the vehicle; he had seen some ears sticking up through the bushes off to the right. Out came a bat-eared fox; this was the best look we had gotten of one, and in good light. The size of their ears is unbelievable. I just had time enough to get a couple of photos before he turned and ran off. Another good spot by Gee! Nearby we saw another pair of foxes, hidden in the grass taking a nap.


     Two male gemsboks were in the road fighting. This pair seemed more serious in their intent; they were down on their knees shoving and bashing into each other, trying to determine which one was boss. Meanwhile, a wise old bull with scars on his sides and a knowing look in his eye watched on serenely.


     A lone wildebeest bull hung out with a herd of gemsboks, guarding his territory for his ladies, who were off elsewhere. We saw an oryx with one straight horn, and the other curved down over his back in an S-shape; Gee said this must have been caused by an injury when he was young. A bit further on we saw a red hartebeest with especially thick horns; it may have been the same one we had seen in the morning.  

     We noticed a very odd looking springbok. From the middle of his back to the bottom of his tail, a thick swatch of white bushy hair was standing straight up. We learned that they display this weird mane-like hair on their hindquarters when nervous or excited.


     A striking black-backed jackal trotted down the road in front of us, and then moved off through the tall grass; we stopped and watched him hunt. We noticed a bush completely encased in dense spider web; Gee said it was a Community Spider nest. To Paula’s delight we found another leopard tortoise.


     The sun was getting low as we headed back toward camp. All of the clouds had disappeared, leaving the sky a clear deepening blue. We drove back past the springbok herd. There was a doe with a very young baby near the road. The fawn reminded me of a newborn foal, all long legs and tiny body. He seemed to be fascinated by our vehicle, and started walking up the road toward us. When he got quite close, he turned and scampered off.


     Then the springboks started pronking again! One would start to run, and then suddenly he would do a series of leaps, rising six feet off the ground with his back humped up, and his legs and head hanging straight down. It was amazing to watch, but almost impossible to photograph – if only they would give me a few seconds warning when they were going to pronk so I could be ready to focus. They leap up in such a weird pose that even when you do manage to get a shot, it’s hard to tell they are high off the ground - it just looks like they are standing funny.


     As the sun lowered toward the horizon, the jackals were out hunting in force. We watched them trotting across the plain or hunting in the grass, leaping up and pouncing on some small prey. The slanting rays from the setting sun edged each leaf and blade of grass in golden light, turning the veld into a magical dreamscape. 


     Back in camp, I took the shower I had skipped at lunch; the water was still pretty warm from sun. We had drinks around the fire and watched the full orange moon rising over the land cruiser.  
We heard birds and jackals in the night, and lions calling in the wee hours of the morning. The light of the moon painted the bushveld in shimmering silver.

February 20

The sky was crystal clear as we set out. Gee headed in the direction from which we had heard the lions roaring in the night. Springboks were grazing in the rosy pre-dawn light. A scrub hare crouched by the road, hoping to avoid notice. As the fiery rising sun peeked up through the trees and turned the sky scarlet, the full moon hung low over the western horizon. The morning was filled with anticipation. I wonder what will happen next?


     The sun was just coming up when Gee found the lions.  Two regal males were lying quietly in the grass, their heads raised, looking around in savage splendor. As the sun topped the horizon, golden light fell across the huge cats. Their manes were full and thick; the upper portion gleamed gold and caramel in the sunlight, and underneath they were black.


     The nearer lion lifted his head and shook his magnificent mane. There were no water droplets flying off him, no stormy backgrounds nor god’s rays nor rainbows, but nonetheless I knew that this was the shot I had been looking for. Then the lion turned and made eye contact with me for several fleeting moments. I felt he could see into my soul.


    Gee had briefly taken a little track to get closer to the lions, then we returned to the main road so as not to disturb them. There was one other vehicle in the area, a self-driving German couple; they approached us later and were very rude to Gee – I guess there are jerks everywhere.  
We watched the springboks and gemsboks in the morning sun. We watched another baby gemsbok put in an appearance, and more springbok calves. Getting to see all the baby antelopes was one of the best things about visiting this time of year.


     A group of five juvenile but full-sized ostriches, accompanied by an adult male, were preening and prancing around. They looked very comical. They chased each other in a circle, and then three of them took off running - they are incredibly fast. We had seen an amazing number of ostriches here in the Kalahari; Gee said they like the wide open space where predators can’t hide, and they are able to live without drinking water for months on end.


     We stopped at a big puddle in the road and spent some time watching the birds that came there to drink. We saw Great Sparrows, and a pretty little purplish bird called the Violet-eared Waxbill. A whole flock of red-billed quelias flew busily from bush to bush, and a Laughing Dove came down to drink. I particularly liked the Namaqua doves; they are smaller than others, with black faces and throats. A rufous-naped lark was singing beautifully, and Gee pointed out a Yellow Canary, which he pronounced Can-a-ry. 

 Northern Black Korhaan

     We got a good close look at a northern black korhaan; they are striking birds with mottled grey and white feathers on their backs, and black necks and chests. They are quite noisy; this one opened his mouth wide and squawked at us. They make loud frantic calls when they fly.  
We admired a Greater Blue-eared Starling in a tree, his dark blue plumage brilliant in the sunlight. We were serenaded by a Fawn-colored Lark. A family of adorable ground squirrels were busy foraging; we watched as they scurried back and forth furtively, periodically standing up tall on their hind legs to scan for predators.

Fawn-colored Lark

     We drove over a sand ridge and traveled a long way through a forest of denser brush and scrubby trees. The terrain was slightly rolling. We were heading for Passarge Valley. We saw many birds but few animals.
A Lesser Grey Shrike perched on a twig; he had a black mask like the lone ranger. We got a close look at an aptly named shaft-tailed whydah; his tail consisted of three gloriously long shafts that ended in narrow feathers. A pair of red-headed finches watched us from a tree, and we saw a European Bee-eater, larger than his ‘Little’ cousins, with lovely brilliant colors. A pale-chanting goshawk flew overhead.

     I had not realized there was so much wooded area in the Kalahari, but when we came down off the sand ridge to the Passarge Valley area it was wide open again. We drove down a slight hill and Leopard Pan was stretched before us. The ancient riverbed valley was a wide flat grassy expanse; it must be a mile across. Gee said the whole system of rivers connects in a big loop. 
We drove on through Passarge Valley. This looked like a place for cheetahs; they love the wide open plains where they can see a long way, and use their incredible speed to hunt. Gee explained that cheetahs only need to get within 50 meters of prey before starting a chase, as opposed to lions who need to get within 5 meters before pouncing. 
We carried on around the edge of the pan searching for their lean feline shapes. We did not find cheetahs, but truly it didn't matter. Gee says that some visitors are only interested in the big predators, and in checking them off their list. But for our group, going on safari is about seeing everything, all the small things as well as the large. It is about the search to find the animals, and then spending time with them and watching them interact.

     Paula spotted yet another honey badger – number 9. We noticed it’s back seemed brown; Gee said the young ones are like that. We also found leopard tortoise number seven; it had a beautiful patterned shell, more yellow than the others we had seen. 

A Double-banded Courser, perfectly camouflaged.

     A double-banded courser was camouflaged in a patch of dry grass; he was a beautiful long-legged bird with brown feathers edged in white, and huge eyes. A dainty steenbok posed for us. He had sharp little horns, and the colors inside of his large ears reminded me of seashells.


     After we stopped for tea, Gee asked me if I wanted to drive again. I was not sure if he really wanted a break or was just being nice – but I jumped at the chance! I was a little better at it this time, smoother with changing the gears. But I wasn't sure how fast to go - it felt like I was going too slow, but every time I tried to speed up I would invariably hit a bumpy patch in the road and jar everyone’s teeth out. But I was having fun!


     At a certain spot Gee asked me to stop and he got out of the vehicle; he picked up cheetah skull to show us. He told us about how a leopard had killed this cheetah; on a previous trip he had seen the dead cheetah and from the tracks had deduced what had happened.   
As I was driving along two ostriches suddenly burst out of the bushes and crossed the road at a run right in front of me - I had to brake hard to avoid hitting them. After an hour and a half Gee took over driving again, so that we would make it to lunch on time. I guess I was going to slow!  

     We continued to see many birds. The korhaans were everywhere; the males would fly up in awkward flight patterns with raucous noisy displays. An ant-eating chat was sticking his tail straight up in the air in an effort to attract a mate. A pale chanting goshawk looked down at us from a treetop with a fierce stern expression. We saw a couple more new ones; a diminutive African Pippet, and a Cape Crow, his black wings so shiny they looked white in the sunlight. 


     Gee turned on a tiny track up a hill to a vacant campsite, and at the top were BD and KK with lunch. The serving table was set up under a large tree, with our camp chairs waiting for us in a semi-circle. The guys had made a sculpture of sorts out of some branches, seed pods and an old bird’s nest. We had an excellent lunch as usual, and a one hour rest stop. A white-browed sparrow weaver was flitting back and forth on the tree limbs above us. I expect he was hoping for a handout, but Gee had impressed upon us the importance of not feeding the wildlife.

This little Sparrow Weaver wanted to share our lunch.

     After lunch we went to the Sunday Pan waterhole, which had a borehole with a solar pump. We watched the gemsboks and springboks came down to drink. The springboks daintily sipped from the edge of the waterhole, while the gemsboks waded in like they owned the place.
Shaft-tailed whydahs were flying back and forth; I was trying to get photos of them in flight, but they are small and quick so it was really difficult to focus on them. Gee got some good shots, but mine were all blurry. Gee pointed out some fingergrass, and said it is why animals come to Kalahari.  

     It was a long drive back to Deception Valley, and we took a different route home. Occasionally I found myself nodding a bit and almost dozing off; it is amazing how you can do that in the bouncing truck. The road went straight over a number of sand ridges; we could see it ahead of us topping each hill, cutting through the trees before descending into the next valley.
Paula read the maps and did some calculating, and became concerned that Gee might be going the wrong way; we knew he had not guided a lot in the Kalahari, and could be forgiven for not knowing his way around every road. But then we came down the last ridge and Deception Valley stretched in front of us; we should not have doubted Gee’s navigating skills for an instant.


     Suddenly a gemsbok dashed across the road in front of us, alarmed by our vehicle. He stopped and turned to look at us angrily, and then he savaged a small bush. Mad with us, he took it out on the shrubbery, repeatedly attacking the bush, kneeling and tearing it to pieces with his sabre-like horns. Once he had flattened it to his satisfaction he looked at us smugly, and having clearly shown us who was boss, he dashed off into the trees.  

Red Hartebeest

     Back in Deception Valley, we saw all of the usual antelopes: springboks, gemsboks, and our friend the hartebeest. We watched as a herd of gemsboks approached a small waterhole, but then they seemed indifferent about drinking. They would come to the water and lower their heads as if they were going to drink, but then decide not to bother. They can survive on the moisture they get from grazing without drinking water.

A young Gemsbok, not bothering to drink.

     We scanned the plain as we drove slowly along. Whenever we saw a tawny flash in the distance that we thought might be a cheetah or a lion, it usually turned out to be a kori bustard – they were everywhere. We saw another male in full display mode, tail up and neck puffed out like a huge muff.  
Gee spotted a leopard in the distance, beside a large bushy tree. Most of us didn’t really see it; just a glimpse of motion as it vanished into the brush. The count for leopards and lions was now tied at 13 each. We drove around the block hoping to catch another glimpse of either Gee’s leopard or the lions from the morning. We found two more honey badgers, and watched them as they snuffled around side by side looking for food. The honey badger count was up to ten now. Crazy.


     Close to camp there was a twisted fallen log under a spinney of trees; at a glance the silhouette of it looked like a standing lion. . We called it the Lion Log, because every time we drove past it there was an instant where one of us thought it was a real lion.

     The Kalahari has less variety of animals than Savuti or the Okavango, but it does have some great ones that are not seen in those places, such as the gemsboks, springboks, hartebeest and bat-eared foxes, as well as dozens of different birds. We also saw ostriches, jackals and kori bustards in much greater numbers.   
There were very few other people or vehicles in the CKGR and the distances were vast, but still somehow it felt more regulated, and the lack of small side roads made it hard to explore. Also, we noticed our rude German friends seemed to be following us.


     We drove straight towards the setting sun. The sky was crystal clear, like Savuti in winter. Brilliant colors painted the horizon, with a palette of orange, rose, mauve and blue. Back in camp we loved the artistic touches; our napkins were in our wine glasses, folded into swans.
The waning moon did not come up until later so we could see the stars bright overhead; this was the first night they had not been obscured by either clouds or a near-full moon. The one thing I had really missed from the winter trips was the intensity of the stars. But now we could see the Southern Cross and Scorpius overhead, glittering like diamonds strewn across the sky.
The moon rose during dinner, fat and orange, one day past full. We could hear jackals yipping in the night, and the squawky loud voices of the francolins. Looking out in the early morning hours, Orion and Canis Major were radiant overhead, and Venus and Jupiter shone like bright beacons.  

 ~ Continued on next page ~

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