D81….Get it Up on Your Own

Blog — By on December 12, 2012 9:06 am

Well the rhino trekking did not disappoint. Another crack of dawn start. Down the perilously steep track to the road…it must be a 1 in 3 strewn with huge boulders. We are really looking forward to tackling that in the morning on the bikes (joke!). A few kliks down the main dirt road and then into the Conservancy. The road simply echoed the terrain. Boulder strewn. Everywhere you look in this place the ground is covered with boulders, some the size of basketballs, some footballs and some grapefruit! Who knows where they came from. It is a strange geology. And the rock is a red, sandy colour.

We travelled, or should I say bounced and careered, along this rocky road for well over an hour. We were in pure wilderness. Lots of scrub mopani trees, popular with grazers, some cactii, and lots of birdlife. I hit 395 species this morning, the last one being the Rosy Cheeked Lovebird (I kid you not). It is spectacularly colourful and credit to Tim for the spot. You should look it up!! The target if you recall is 400.

We travelled in two beaten up Landravers with 2 trackers on board. Around a bend and they both alighted having spotted a fresh track. A bull, a female and a calf they surmised. We togged up with cameras, binos, ski boots etc and set off behind them. The going was tough over countless stones and rocks. We checked one valley, then another. Nothing doing. 2 hours gone. The trackers wanted to try one more before capitulating. Again we followed quietly in single file. Suddenly we were signalled to stop. There were 2 rhino lying under a tree about 60 metres away. One was enormous, the horn maybe 600 to 700mm long. We crept closer with the trackers. We were out in the open. Little to hide behind if the rhino took our scent. We got to within 30 metres. They seemed largely unaware of our presence.

The next move was a surprise to all of us. One tracker picked up a stone and tapped another stone on the ground. The larger rhino twitched its ear. He repeated the tapping and his colleague kicked a fallen branch. The rhino was clearly not deaf. It rose up to its full height. It looked very large. They weigh in at just short of 2 tonnes. The calf stood also. Rhinos are more aggressive with young. The rhino then started coming at the group. Directly. Its pace increased. It covered the ground easily. No stumbling on the boulders for rhino. The 2 kept coming rather menacingly now at a trot. The 2 trackers suddenly picked up a rock each and hurled them at the rhino shouting. There was little distance between us now. And then, thank God, they veered off to the right and the third one emerged from the shadows and followed. We calmed down for 5 minutes and then started to make our way down to the road when we came across them all again. This time they were chilled and we were able to watch the big bull maybe 30 or 40 metres away.

A magnificent animal. Sandy coloured and armour plated to the hilt. He never took his eyes off us.

I doubt it is possible to have a better sighting of black rhino. We certainly will never forget this experience.

This part of Namibia is the only place on earth where the black rhino has survived. Everywhere else it has had to be reintroduced. Man has slaughtered virtually every black rhino on the planet. One of the trackers, Lazarus, was wearing a T-shirt entitled ‘Be a Real Man.’ ‘Get it up on your own, leave our rhinos alone!’ Said it all I thought.

And in the afternoon we took a small plane for a trip along the Skeleton Coast. Seal colonies by the thousand, whale bones bleached in the sun, orxy surviving off nothing in endless desert and dunes, desert adapted giraffe, springbok and Hartmanns Mountain Zebra. All pretty cool. Tomorrow we start with that unnerving descent, and then South to some caves where we camp the night. Greggs idea!! J


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