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Welcome to Riverswind notes

I hope you will join in my adventures here in Humboldt County and elsewhere as I explore nature & people.



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Friday, April 9, 2010

Kalahari,Botswana part 2

On our last night at Deception Valley Lodge (Deception comes from the mirage affect seen when looking at the dry surface of a pan from a distance giving the appearance of water until one approaches more closely) we went on a walk with two San Bushman. We watched them demonstrate survival methods used by their ancestors and talk in their native language dressed in their traditional clothing of animal skins and plant fiber. Archaeologists believe that the San people lived in the Kalahari over 50,000 years ago making them the oldest race on earth. We were taken back in time as we watched them dig deep in the Kalahari sand to reach the root of the Bie plant. They chipped away small pieces from the root then squeezed water out of it. They demonstrated how an Ostrich egg was used for food and water storage. After the egg is scrambled in the shell by using a stick through a half inch hole the contents are poured onto hot sand where it cooks. The egg is filled with water and plugged with a plant (Kalahari Currant) which acts as a preservative. The egg is buried a foot deep in damp sand and marked so that they can find it at a later date. The bushman used poison on their arrows which is obtained from the pupae of a “Flea” beetle. It requires 8 pupae per arrow head and “can remain active for 50 years”. The Aardvark hole is often used by African Porcupines and Warthogs which the Bushman hunt for food. The Bushman stand outside the hole with sticks probing inside and making noise to irritate its occupant. When the Porcupine is irritated enough it comes out of the hole while the Bushman wait to spear it. We watched mesmerized in the evening stillness while the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon as the Bushman demonstrated how they started a fire by friction of stick to sand and stick using straight pieces of Corkwood and dry grass. After the fire was going they danced to an ancient rhythm and hand made musical instruments.
Today only about 3000 out of a population of 95,000 San continue to follow a totally traditional lifestyle of gathering and hunting.
Land that the San used to hunt is being increasingly lost to cattle grazing by farmers. Wildlife that the San depend on are changing their migration patterns due to the fences constructed to protect cattle.
The issue of fences is very contentious between the cattle farmers and environmentalists and San people.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kalahari Desert, Botswana, Africa

After 2 days of flights from San Francisco to Frankfurt, Germany then on to Johannesburg, South Africa totaling over 20 hrs. in the air we landed in Maun, Botswana.
It took us only 10 minutes to go through the line showing our passports then a quarter mile walk to a Bush plane where we were met by the Pilot and his Co pilot.

Bush Pilots
Within an hour of flying over arid and semi arid land below we landed on a small dirt airstrip near the Deception Valley Lodge in the Kalahari desert.
It is situated in a landscape so vast and untouched by civilization or as another author wrote “one of the last places on earth to be corrupted by humans”.

It is not a true desert but rather a semi-arid land covered by drought resistant plants such as the dominant Acacia Thorn bush and several grasses.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that we were the only guests during our 2 night stay. As a result we were treated like special guests by our guide Adriaan his future wife Wanda.

Our room was reached by a boardwalk and had an enclosed outdoor shower and a deck overlooking the water hole 50 yards away.

Just outside our room I photographed exotic birds never before seen by either of us.

Crimson-Breasted Shrike


Fork-Tailed Drongo


Shaft-Tailed Wydah
On our first evening we went on a “Game drive” in a beat up Toyota Landrover with Numsi a Sans Bushman descendant as our point guide/tracker.

Numsi sat in a small seat mounted in front of the Landrover where he astutely looked for tracks and listened for sounds that would alert him of something nearby. Adriaan a South African of Colonial descent and ex professional Cricket player told us that he always wanted to be a guide and here he was in his prime proving that he knew his subject well.

We stopped at a large water hole for our “Sundowners” (South African Sauvignon Blanc). I had just sipped my first taste of the wine when Adriaan said “Get back in the Land Rover, Lions!”

I quickly sucked the entire glass of wine as I scrambled back into the vehicle to grab my camera. Kimberley calmly got back into her seat with full glass in hand filled with joy and excitement to see her first Lions in the wild.


Before us less than 20 yards away were two huge Black manned adult male Lions. According to Adriaan they were 7 year old brothers. They sauntered by us on their way to drink side by side then came back and lay down to relax and were completely oblivious to our presence.

What a beginning we both thought of what would turn out to be a continuing adventure of a lifetime.
On our return to the Lodge we saw a Nightjar in the middle of the road and stopped to get a closer look.
Rufous-Cheeked Nightjar
We were in the vehicle when a heavy rainfall hit and lasted for about an hour.
While enjoying good food with our hosts a large African Porcupine entered the dining area giving us a chance for photos.


The next day our expert guides were attracted by the sounds of alarm calls by birds that told them something was up nearby.
It turned out to be one of the most poisonous snakes in Africa and it was apparently not welcome by the birds. I photographed it as it slithered up into the bush.

The Boomslang is active during the day and feeds mostly on birds and chameleons.


Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) Large green eyes indicate juvenile

Helmeted Guineafowl
The Guineafowl were plentiful usually on the road and would run fast (25 mph)in front of the Landrover for well over 2 minutes before escaping into the grass.

Tawny Eagle
We were never without a new bird or mammal to look at or photograph. I was snapping away at every opportunity but would find out later that many of my photos were out of focus despite the fact that I was using a lens with optical stabilizer and usually automatic focus. Fortunately I did manage to get a few good photos.

Southern White-Faced Scops Owl
I am particulary grateful to the owner of The Deception Valley Lodge for pointing out the owl that was perched during mid day near our room.
The water hole near the lodge was visited by Warthogs,Kudus and Impalas.

Greater Kudu

Warthog running with tail straight up are reffered to by the locals as "radio Botswana".
I will continue this in another post soon and talk about the Bushman and our adventures in the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls, Zambia.