Some of you might think I do not write my blogs until I return home when there is no internet. The way I do it is a write my blog every night on either my iPad or laptop. In that way I remember details that I might forget. Don’t forget I am 69 and the memory does not work the way it used to. When I feel comfortable with publishing onto my website, I then copy and paste the day onto my website, do a final read and maybe insertion or edit and off it goes into the wild blue yonder.
When I got into bed last night, I found a hot water bag waiting for me under the blankets. Wore all my clothes, but eventually it got too hot and I took the hot water bag out and peeled off some layers. Imagine sleeping in the Kalahari Desert with a hot water bag. I can tell you that the climate is very strange here this time of year. We are over 3000 feet up, so the nights are cool and after the sun rises it gets quite warm, but there is no humidity. The sun is very strong and you do not feel it’s intensity as you travel around. You are advised to still drink lots of water and always wear a sun treated large hat that also protects the back of your neck. I purchased one for this trip from REI and sun protected clothes are a necessity.
We were woken up at 6 AM by one of the helpers who brought coffee for me and Alan had tea. We dressed quickly and met everyone for our trip to visit the Meerkats. The meerkats we were to visit are a family of fourteen and spend their nights in their dens and then crawl out after sunrise to warm themselves and then go hunting for food. Our local guide, Bones, gave us a great narrative on the family structure of meerkats. There is one alpha male and one alpha female. The alpha female is the one who normally gives birth to offsprings and the others help raise them. Meerkats live eight years. We eventually arrived at their den, after sunrise, and just waited around for the first one to appear. The way you normally take pictures of meerkats is that you get down on your stomach and lower yourself to their height. I was the first one to do so. I wanted them to come out and get to know me. The first one appeared. When they come out they turn their heads almost three hundred and sixty degrees looking for any predators such as foxes, eagles and small mammals. Eventually the whole family came out, including the young, to warm themselves. By that time most of us were lying on our stomachs waiting for them to do something and clicking away. They then started to move away from their den and forage for food. They dig for insects and scorpions. They started to crawl all over us. They started with our bodies and worked their way over our heads and cameras. I was taking pictures with a new camera I had purchased around six months ago, but never had the time to use and learn it. The first day or two of all photography workshops consist of a learning curve. You have to get to know your location and how your equipment needs to work in that location. My pictures always get better as the days go on. Eventually a meerkat jumped up on me and scanned the area. I finally had my wish. A live meerkat on me in the Kalahari. Some of the other photographers took pictures and I will be sending them. At about 10 AM we decided to head back for some breakfast. We drove and stopped to take some amazing pictures of the local wildlife. Zebras and wilder beasts were the main subjects. They were so beautiful in this environment. By this time I had gotten used to my new camera and took some great pictures of these beauties. This camera is a specialty camera that is primarily used for fast action photography and is the perfect camera for Africa.
We arrived back at Camp Kalahari to a woman who handed us some warm wet towels to refresh ourselves. It is so dusty here. You have to shoot with two cameras and two lenses. I would not risk taking a lens off in this environment. As it is, I constantly clean my lens and cameras in the field and when I return. Breakfast and hot coffee was so good. The coffee is from Central Africa and you can taste the richness.
We then had downtime until 3 PM. What do you do during downtime? You take a shower, rest, maybe a nap, download your pictures and recharge all your equipment.
We all met at 2:30 for afternoon tea and coffee. This is a ritual in these Camps. A nice break from the day.
At 3 PM, a group of San people came to the Camp. There were men, women and children dressed in their normal traditional clothing. Their skimpy clothing consisted of hides with some ornaments. We all introduced ourselves. Only one of the men spoke English. They then took us for a walk and spoke to us about all the grasses and plants they eat and use for other purposes. A woman stopped at a spade of long grass and started to dig. She eventually dug up a huge tuber or sort of potato. She handed the tuber to one of the men and he shaved off some of it and ate it. He then handed it back to her and she reburied it to grow some more. These people live off the land. They are not farmers, but do hunt. They showed us a tree that they make poison from and then put the poison on arrows to hunt game. They eat everything they kill and are very responsible towards the land. They then led us to a large watering hole where we took some great pictures of them as the sun set. The sunsets here are truly awesome. The colors cannot be described. Nightfall had come and it was now time for dinner.
Dinner was very tasty beef and a potato pie. I then went back to my hut to get my computer to charge. As I walked back, I almost walked into George. Remember him. He is the local elephant that roams around Camp. George walked right by our hut and as I write this I can still hear him outside roaming around.
Africa has started to get into my blood with more to come. Tomorrow we get up early to shoot another family of meerkats and then it’s onto the “Island of the Baobabs” via quad cycle. Camping out for two nights taking night photography. The sky and stars here are unbelievable. There is no pollution here so it seems that you are in a large planetarium at night. The stars are by the thousands and shooting stars are the norm.
Hope everyone is well