Thursday, February 26, 2009

Return to Klein Aus Vista

The drive back from Sesriem down to Aus remains a bit blurry. I remember a dead sheep, the ill-smelling camelthorn (with the usual detritus peculiar to obvious roadside shade trees in Namibia, of litter and gnawed bones) we stopped beneath for our sardine lunch, and then...nothing, aside from this field of tsamma melons.

They really do look extraordinary, lying on the blemishless red sand. I am now sorry I did not pick more. The first one I'd tried, days before, had been so bitter that it seemed pointless at the time to open any others. It was only later, in the Kgalagadi, that I learned more about them, and realized that the bitter one may have been an exception.

I pounced upon this, though. Prickly sea creature! I was quite sure it was edible. Its spikes were like rubber and very pliable. Such spikes surely protected very delicious that went into the back of the car, somewhere between the axe and the gas bottle.

At regular intervals we had to slow down to cross stock grids where the road would narrow though a gate. This particular gate was tall and firmly shut, in the middle of nowhere.

A fruit garden opposite an isolated farm house contained figs, pomegranates and oranges under netting to protect it from the birds. Two mousebirds were trapped inside.

And when we arived back at our favourite campsite just outside Aus, we noticed that their few grapes, too, were bagged.

The sociable weavers welcomed us back and we put crumbs in our hands. Shy at first they got the hang of it in no time.

And the little striped mice that inhabit each bush shared with weavers.

I couldn't help it. It was such fun being being so close to them...

We went for a walk on the Sunset Trail, starting from the camp and listed as an hour-and-a-half long. We were hoping to see the wild horses that make the area famous...but the trail didn't take us over the hills as we thought it might, to look over the plains beneath (another one does, if you have four hours for it).

Instead we made a wide loop, seeing, frozen on the rocks, two klipspringers, the sweet little gazelles that leap vertically up rock faces. Vince spotted them in the rocks and we snuck up a little closer. They stared. They choose to stand in the most rocky place, all four feet on one pebble, even if there is a flat piece of ground nearby.

I saw quite a few of these wine-red, succulenty shrubs. In spring, I imagine, they do something very spectacular...

Below: very small, round, succulent leaves, and surprising red, yellow or salmon pink flowers.

Like this...

And this shrub looked as though it might be at home in an English garden. NO idea what this is...

Any ideas?

And then this fascinating midden: piles of poo. Everbody's. About 3' x 3' wide.

When we got back we had gins and tonics in our trusty mugs. It really does taste better out of glass. But the glass was in the Namib. Yes, we did clean it up...

Time to slice open the foreign fruit.

It looked very fetching with our tropical collection.


Huh. I licked. Cucumber. I nibbled. Cucumber. I decided not to swallow the seeds. Just in case.

Now, back at home again, I started reading Don't Die in the Bundu, by Col. D.H. Grainger, O.B.E., E.D. [Howard Timmins, Cape Town and no indication to date, though it is the 8th edition and the price is R2.50 printed on the flyleaf. It was given by my father to my eldest brother Anton in 1976 wih the inscription ,"In the sincere hope that we won't."].
It was written by a Rhodesian soldier, so there's all that baggage, but it is very interesting in a quaint and boys' own kind of way. It is basically a pocket survival guide where the final advice for most medical emergencies is Get Medical Help. There is a drawing in it of what looks like this fruit. "Cucumis metuliferus - jelly melon, muTete... eaten raw orcooked but the bitter strains are poisonous."

Or "Cucumis anguria:...smells like cut cucumber and is a valuable source of water. However there are bitter-fruited varieties which are poisonous..."


And then it was time to light the fire...

We had a beautiful sunset.

Goodnight, Aus. We miss you.

Our next stop on the way south was Grunau, where we'd booked in at The White House. But things didn't turn out that way...


  1. Fascinating! what kind of animals would valuable jumping game be? kangaroos?? springboks? The "striped mouse" looks like a first cousin of our chipmunks...and just as sweet! Your mystery flowering shrub is the only thing that looked even vaguely familiar to me...flowering quince? Am really enjoying this vicarious journey with you!

  2. I am thoroughly enjoying your travelogs and photos! Thank you so much. The weavers and mouse are precious. I've raised several fallen nestlings during my life, and know little birds can be wonderful companions. I can see why it was hard for you to leave ...


  3. Really beautiful photographs.
    Like, 'wow'.
    Cute mouse :>


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